On her iPad I found torrid messages between her and two other men, including a nude full-frontal of one of them, which she dismissed as a joke. Can I trust her?. After a lifetime apart from my college darling, we reconnected by chance and picked up again, each of us divorced with grown children. I thought we were happy and in love until, scrolling through photos on her iPad in search of more of her selfies, I found a recent full-frontal nude of another man. I then discovered torrid writing between her and at least two men, one of them the naked one, which she has apologised for but defended as “merely a joke”. While I love this woman, not least for our past, I cannot get over how she has told me she loved me, while saying the same thing to at least two other men. Can we really have a future? . When leaving a message on this page, please be sensitive to the fact that you are responding to a real person in the grip of a real-life dilemma, who wrote to Private Lives asking for help, and may well view your comments here. Please consider especially how your words or the tone of your message could be perceived by someone in this situation, and be aware that comments that appear to be disruptive or disrespectful to the individual concerned will be removed. . Comments on this piece are premoderated to ensure discussion remains on topics raised by the writer. Please be aware there may be a short delay in comments appearing on the site. . If you would like fellow readers to respond to a dilemma of yours, send us an outline of the situation of about 150 words. For advice from Pamela Stephenson Connolly on sexual matters, send us a brief description of your concerns. . All correspondence should reach us by Wednesday morning. Emailprivate.email@example.com (please don’t send attachments). Submissions are subject to our terms and conditions: see gu.com/letters-terms.
The older I get, the more I’m drawn to the absurd and the harmless – it’s a tonic to all the nastiness in the world. Recently I joined TikTok, the social media app in which users post short video clips set to music. It’s mostly young people doing arts and crafts, singing, dancing and playing pranks. Like jazz, many TikTok creations are improvisation on a theme – you’ll hear the same songs over and over, knowing that what is going to be performed speaks to that motif. Except with jazz, you do not get video after video of teenagers stuffing pillows into the backs of their trousers, then laughing about the size of their own butts. Think of it as the most mind-numbing variety show of all time, performed at a decidedly low level, for ever. And I love it: it is endless cat videos and silliness without the bots, bullies, fascism and fake news of Twitter. We are in short supply of silliness these days. In my teenage years, I eschewed the silly and sought out the serious – the searingly intellectual and perhaps also the po-faced. I turned from anything too daft, popular or mainstream. I particularly hated karaoke. Enduring the screeching indulgences of a bunch of drunks was my vision of hell, made worse by the cajoling from those enthusiasts who try to make you feel weird for not wanting to participate. In my mind, the discerning grownup I wanted to be did not do such things. Yet the older I get and the more I understand how the world works, as the sheer scale of its nastiness reveals itself, the more I’m drawn to the absurd and the harmless. I still love turgid books and big ideas, but there is something nourishing in seeing people enjoy themselves, carefree. I am still yet to sing, but I have now cheered on many friends in a karaoke booth as they belt out songs from Frozen, and whooped for the dancers, pranksters and fools readily available on my phone. After all, I’m finally mature enough to enjoy them.
Meeting the world with a ‘resting bitch face’ may not be what society demands, but it protects you against unsolicited male attention in public. With girls as young as 13 years old now opting for Botox, it is clear that ageing is no longer the only thing women are trying to ward off. An article in the New York Post has noted a rise in women seeking plastic surgery to “fix” their so-called “resting bitch face”. This is a women-only affliction, where, even when wearing a neutral expression, you appear perpetually standoffish. In reality, it refers to any time that a woman’s facial expression is set in anything less than a smile. According to one doctor quoted in the piece, the number of requests for the procedure have more than doubled in the past year. This isn’t exactly shocking – women are made to feel bad about just about everything in terms of their appearance – but to me it seems many of these women are getting rid of something that is actually a great asset. In a world where simply being a woman is considered an invitation for unsolicited comments and unwarranted conversation from complete strangers, looking unfriendly is useful armour. It can, at times, be the only barrier between a woman and unwanted small talk on the tube, or a bar. Or on a run. Or on the high street. Or a public bench. Or even while in the middle of conversation with someone else. Heckling and catcalling are rife – should we not at least be allowed to look less than pleased about it? But that would grossly overestimate the amount of emotional intelligence and shame some men have. Because, like anything else, looking grim-faced can be, in and of itself, an invitation. If I had a quid for each of the times I have heard: “Smile, love, it might never happen” shouted at me across the street, I might have the money to rid myself of my own “resting bitch face”. When men say this, it never seems to occur to them that whatever the “it” in question is, it has probably already happened – one look at the world around you should be enough to realise there is often little to smile about. Yet Victoria Beckham’s signature scowl and Kristen Stewart’s tendency to mean-mug have merely culminated in more column inches requesting they turn that frown upside down or, at least, into something that is slightly less offputting. What all this tells us is that women must be amiable and approachable by default. Even when we’re not interacting, we must be poised and primed to do so. Tellingly, there is no “resting grumpy bastard face” equivalent for men – people are far less concerned about faces they don’t deem public property.
I am left with a feeling of disgust and lingering guilt, but I don’t know what else to do. I’m a 20 -year-old woman and my boyfriend is 21. We have been together for a year. While I didn’t masturbate until I was 16 and I watch pornography once every few months, I still have to fantasise about porn scenes to be able to climax when we have sex. It disgusts me, but I don’t know how else to do it . After sex, while we are trying to relax and cuddle , I am left with a lingering feeling of guilt. Help my diseased millennial mind! Taking a practical approach in order to achieve orgasm during sex with a partner does not constitute a disease – or even something worthy of guilt. Most people make similar decisions at different times and in different situations. You are lucky to be able to trigger your own orgasm through fantasy – some people cannot. There is no perfect way to make love; when people are invested in trying to please each other and create a relatively brief sexual exchange, they often choose expediency over pleasure. But, if you want to have truly satisfying sex with sustained pleasure, you will both have to fully relax, allocate more uninterrupted time and approach lovemaking without the goal of orgasm for either of you. Your task should be simply to enjoy; you will have to banish distractions and focus solely on the giving and receiving of pleasure. Even so, you may feel the need to use separate fantasy to climax. This habit can be broken if you take the time to train yourself to be truly in the erotic moment. . Pamela Stephenson Connolly is a US-based psychotherapist who specialises in treating sexual disorders. . If you would like advice from Pamela on sexual matters, send us a brief description of your concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org (please don’t send attachments). Submissions are subject to our terms and conditions: see gu.com/letters-terms . Comments on this piece are premoderated to ensure discussion remains on topics raised by the writer. Please be aware there may be a short delay in comments appearing on the site.
Bad memories of PE can give people the lifelong impression they’re not cut out for sport. But plenty of adults have left behind sedentary lifestyles – you just have to find the right approach. When Sarah Overall was a child, a PE teacher held the entire class back because Overall would not do the high jump. She was tiny – as an adult, she is under 5ft (1.5m) tall – and was scared of hurting herself on the metal bar. “I was too short to get over it,” she says. “I remember the whole class watching.” Netball was “pure hell”. She enjoyed hockey, which suited her body better, but she felt written off by her PE teacher. “I was like: ‘Do you not get that I actually work really hard at the things I can do?’” Now, years later, Overall is a personal trainer and sees the damage that bad PE lessons have had on her clients. “It’s pretty much everybody who comes to me,” she says. “I don’t think I’ve got anybody, especially a woman, who has said: ‘I was good at sport at school.’” It is something other trainers see, too. “Kids at school are not like babies and toddlers who try to crawl, fail, try to crawl, fail,” says Joslyn Thompson Rule, a personal trainer. “They sense embarrassment and shame, and it’s easier not to try than to try but fail. Unfortunately, it becomes a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy and leads to them not being able to do it.” Teenage experience, she says, “can affect your perception of your ability”. The things we are told as children and teenagers stay with us. I was not particularly sporty at school, although I clearly remember being praised by my PE teacher one day after a volleyball class. The idea that I am good at that one particular sport has, weirdly, become a small part of my identity – even though I have never played a game of volleyball since. Likewise, I hated cross-country running with a passion and, for years, told myself it wasn’t for me, only to discover a love of running – especially over fields and hills – more than two decades later. “Kids pick up all kinds of stuff, whether or not anybody actually labels them – they make comparisons with their peers and draw conclusions,” says Wendy Johnson, a professor of psychology at the University of Edinburgh. “There’s nothing intrinsic to say these kinds of labels have to get wired into our identities, but sometimes they do – when kids are often last to be picked for teams or laughed at for being slow or clumsy. Things can happen along the way to reverse impressions like this, but for some kids, these identities can last a lifetime.” All of this is not to bash PE teachers, although many adults who still hate exercise blame the teaching methods of decades ago. There is a lot of good practice out there, says Stuart Kay, schools director of the Youth Sport Trust. Schools are under immense pressure, and PE is suffering (according to research last year by the trust, 38% of secondary schools in England have cut the time dedicated to PE for 14- to 16-year-olds since 2012). The stereotype of the sadistic games teacher is probably largely unfair, but, says Kay, there is “room for improvement in some areas”. Historically, PE lessons were “largely about physical ability”, he argues, but for older children it is equally important for the lessons to cover social and emotional wellbeing. “If you think about some of the things that turn people off sport, they’re probably the same things that turn people off competition,” he says. Competition can be made more inclusive beyond physical ability. “We’re not trying to get rid of competition; instead, we’re saying what can you do about the rules, the environment, and how are you going to decide on a winner? By reframing competition, you can make it more inclusive, and make sure that things other than sporting prowess are celebrated.” These could include allowing everyone to play, rather than only a select few making a team, or changing the scoring so it is not only about goals or runs – the outcome of a game – but also giving scores for behaviour or skill. Johnson says she always told her children: “Exercise is good for our bodies, and everyone can find some exercise they can enjoy; it doesn’t matter if you’re particularly good at it.” As an adult, you can shift your identity around whether or not you are “sporty” by simply doing it, she says. “Pick up any issue of Runner’s World – it’s full of people who have come to running in their 40s or 50s and ended up getting into it and running marathons. I don’t mean winning, but they see the benefits not just of the exercise, but joining a club, where the focus is on the community rather than being the best.” Labels such as “sporty” have particular connotations, she says, and it is not necessarily useful to think of yourself in those terms. “Not just about exercise and health, but about fashion, values, lifestyles, athleticism and sexual identity. Physical exercise that boosts physical health and psychological wellbeing comes in many forms that aren’t sporty – dancing is exercise, as is gardening, carpentry and housework. If the goal is physical exercise for health, one doesn’t have to have a sporty identity. Think broadly about anything that involves getting yourself moving.” Overall rediscovered sport after enjoying aerobics classes. Hannah Lewin, a personal trainer, says many of her clients suffer from a lack of confidence around sport and exercise, usually instilled in them as teenagers. Instead of something to be enjoyed, sport became “a stressful experience. An early negative experience around being shamed, or being forced to do something you weren’t naturally very good at – and then belittled for not being very good at it – is something I see every day. It really does carry through into adulthood.” Adults tend to find their way to her – and exercise – once their confidence has improved. “They may have had other successes in work or relationships,” says Lewin. Overall adds: “You’re now doing this for yourself. You don’t have the pressure of teammates, and nobody is judging you. Don’t compare yourself with anybody else. Once you find the activity that is right for you, and a situation you are comfortable in, you can be surprised at what you can do.” She has had clients who have gone from sedentary lifestyles to running marathons. All the personal trainers I speak to say you should choose something you enjoy – this isn’t about compulsory rounders any more. “Gyms can be daunting places and you can feel the same as an adult as you did as a child – not being good enough, fit enough, strong enough,” says Thompson Rule. If being shouted at in a HIIT class isn’t working for you – or brings back bad memories – do something else. “If you keep forcing yourself to do something you’re really not enjoying, it’s going to become another source of stress,” says Lewin. “You’ll give up and come back to that old idea of: ‘I’m not sporty.’ That’s not the case. You just haven’t found what’s right for you.”
It’s a good idea to lock your money away … although perhaps go for a savings account rather than a piggy bank. Photograph: joebelanger/Getty Images/iStockphoto Pay yourself firstRather than treating savings as an afterthought, set up a standing order into a separate account as soon as you get paid, says Anna Bowes, the co-founder of Savings Champion. “That way it can become just another bill, but one that you will benefit from in the future.”Jasmine Birtles, the founder of MoneyMagpie.com, calls it paying yourself first. “Everyone says they have no money at the end of the month to put into savings,” she says. “That’s why you have to put the money into a savings account at the beginning of the month.”It doesn’t matter how much it is, says Bowes, as long as you start. Some savings accounts accept payments from just £1. Set goalsWhile most finance experts advocate saving into a pension, retirement should not be your only goal. Shorter-term goals may be more motivating. If you usually pay for your holiday by credit card and pay it back over months, consider saving for it in advance.Many banks let you set specific markers that show you how much progress you are making towards your target. When you have ticked off one goal, keep saving for the next. Use technologyBirtles recommends the “savings jars” offered by digital banks such as Monzo and Starling, which allow you to separate money from your current account, but move it back easily if you need it. Many of these banks also let you set spending limits – either overall daily maximums or for different categories of purchases – then round up your spending to the nearest £1 and squirrel away the difference.There are also apps that may help kickstart a savings habit. Chip, for example, makes automatic “microsavings” based on how much you are spending. Birtles suggests Moneybox, which lets you put small amounts into an investment Isa. There are fees, she warns, “but it’s still worth doing as it gets you into stock market investing with just 50p here and there.” Lock your money awayIf you find a savings account linked to your current account too easy to plunder, open one at a different bank and pick one without a cash card. You could even destroy the online login details if you really don’t trust yourself.Alternatively, go for an account that restricts your access. Regular savings accounts often have terms and conditions that you need to stick to. “That could discourage skipping deposits and making withdrawals,” says Bowes. Have a flutterPremium bonds may not be fashionable or hi-tech, but every bond you own has the chance of winning you up to £1m. Though you are likely to get better returns from a good savings account, you need just £25 to buy bonds, and they are a bit of a faff to cash in, which should help you resist withdrawing your cash. Plus there’s always the hope that next month could be your lucky one …
Josh Thompson hired clown – who reportedly mimed crying as the paperwork was handed over – as emotional support aide. If you think emotional support animals have got out of control, prepare yourself for news of an emotional support clown. An Auckland advertising copywriter brought a clown to his redundancy meeting, as first reported in the New Zealand Herald on Friday. New Zealand legally requires employers to allow workers the option of bringing a support person to serious disciplinary meetings, usually relating to an employee’s prospective dismissal. After FCB New Zealand lost a significant client and began layoffs, Josh Thompson, who had reportedly been with the company for five months, received an ominous email from his bosses that read: “Bad news. We’re having a meeting to discuss your role.” Faced with the task of securing an appropriate support person for the potentially tense meeting, Thompson, an aspiring comedian, said: “I thought it’s best to bring in a professional, and so I paid $200 and hired a clown.” The clown, who Thompson refers to as “Joe”, crafted balloon animals throughout the meeting, including a poodle. His antics were squeaky, and Thompson’s bosses had to request he quieten down several times. “It’s further understood,” reported the Herald, “that the clown mimed crying when the redundancy paperwork was handed over.” A picture of the meeting, taken through a boardroom’s glass doors by an unknown spectator, is of compromised quality, though one can detect that Joe, the clown, is wearing a colorful hat and a yellow bib, and that Thompson, leaning back in his chair, indeed looks relaxed for someone in the process of getting laid off. Thompson told Magic Talk radio: “I mean, I did get fired, but apart from that it was all smooth running.” Fortunately, Thompson will not be out of work for long. The Australian ad agency DDB confirmed Thompson will start a new role in its office next week. As of publishing, no reports have suggested what’s next for Joe.