Review: Kiley Reid’s ‘Such a Fun Age’ – and why we need empathy now more than ever

If you’ve ventured into any kind of bookshop in the last couple of months, you will probably have noticed several copies of Such a Fun Age stacked near the front of the shelves.

For a debut novelist, Reid is already near-ubiquitous. Journalist Pandora Sykes (of The High Low fame) even thinks the book will have ‘the same impact as Sally Rooney’. 

This is for very good reason. Such a Fun Age is an exceptionally thoughtful and meticulous analysis of ‘liberal’ racism. Reid focuses the watchful eye of her razor-sharp prose upon everything from the ‘harmful Mammy stereotype’, to the ‘broken systems’ of American society and the ‘low-to-the-ground and domestic terror’ that continues to shape the everyday lives of African Americans.

The story begins with its young protagonist, Emira, being apprehended in a grocery store and accused of ‘kidnapping’ the white child that she is actually babysitting. From this gripping opening, the story takes various twists and turns in order to arrive at an unexpected yet near-perfect ending. The book is in turns both darkly funny and deeply poignant, and will lodge itself in your mind for days after you turn the last page.

What Reid gets so right in her work is her deliberate lack of finger-pointing. She says in an interview, included as an epilogue to the book, that:

‘One thing I tell my students to do is something I try to do myself in my writing, which is to give every character a win at some point in the story. To find out what nice and helpful thing that character would do, and then have them do it. Whether it’s paying for someone’s coffee or complimenting someone’s dress, having empathy for every character humanizes them, and also makes their less-perfect moments appear more charged and real’.

Reid’s tactic helps us to engage with some of her less likeable characters, and to understand why they do the things that they end up doing. As certain figures in the book start to go ‘horribly adrift’, we can still empathise with them to a certain extent. Their actions are not in any way excusable, but we understand that they are founded upon human flaws as opposed to deliberately malicious intentions. We see circumstances becoming more and more ‘strained’, and people being pushed closer and closer towards the edge of doing something awful. When they do finally take that leap, we at least have the context as to why it happened, and how they’ve justified it to themselves.

When asked what she hopes ‘readers take away from [her] novel’, Reid explained that she hopes it will work as:

‘both a gateway and a mirror; that readers can therefore become interested in reading about all types of characters, ones of various races and incomes. I hope this book can gently nudge readers on a personal level to stop, look inward, and say, ‘Yikes. I do that, too,’ but I also hope it makes them look more broadly at systems like helath care and childcare and how they actually affect the people who need them most’.

This ‘gentle nudg[ing]’ of her audience is Reid’s masterstroke. Most people can probably admit that they don’t like to be told they’re doing something wrong. Gradually coaxing people into examining their own prejudices is probably a lot more fruitful in tackling racism than any hard-line approach, because it doesn’t force people anyone into automatic defensiveness. When people become defensive, they lose their capacity for empathy. Reid’s forgiving approach when dealing with her characters reminds her readers that she will probably be forgiving of their missteps, too. 

That is not to say that racist attitudes are excusable, and Reid makes this clear. But they are sometimes unintentional, or at least undetected by the people who hold them. 

If prejudice is rooted in a lack of empathy, Reid takes pains to nudge her audience into a more empathetic mindset. By the final pages of her book, she has gradually equipped her readers not only with the questions that they should always be asking themselves, but also with the tools that they can use to improve themselves. Everyone is worthy of both empathy and respect. We can all do better, and Such a Fun Age is a perfect reminder of that. 


Revisiting the ‘Sunken Place’: Jordan Peele, W. E. B. Du Bois, and ‘Double Consciousness’

In one of recent cinema’s most disturbing scenes, a young man sits down for a casual chat with his new girlfriend’s mother, only to realise that she is slowly hypnotising him. Chris, (brilliantly played by British actor Daniel Kaluuya), can only watch in horror as he is dragged away from his own eye sockets, and left to float in the darkness of his own mind. He has entered the ‘Sunken Place’: a harrowing creation of Jordan Peele’s in which a person becomes trapped inside their own head. Chris is able to observe everything that is happening to him, but he is completely powerless to act, and entirely unable to ‘get out’ again.

The ‘Sunken Place’ is a fresh and pointed visual, allowing Peele to deliver a powerful jolt straight into the mind of his audience. Much of the scene’s strength lies in the fact that the viewer is held hostage alongside Chris. As he sinks into his own mind, we sink with him: the visual frame of the screen becoming shrouded in darkness, leaving space only for the newly sinister face of Chris’s hypnotist, Missy (Catherine Keener), to peer into the eyes of her unwilling captives. It is unnerving viewing, even for veteran watchers of the film.

The ‘Sunken Place’ is not, however, a wholly new invention. Peele’s imagery clearly echoes the idea of ‘double consciousness’, a concept first written about by W. E. B. Du Bois in his 1903 work, ‘The Souls of Black Folk’:

It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others […] One ever feels his twoness,-an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.

W. E. B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk, (Chicago: A. G. McClurg, 1903).

Put simply, Du Bois is referring here to the damaging effects of racial stereotyping. Double consciousness is the awareness that the view you hold of your own self does not align with the view that others hold of you. The impossibility of reconciling these two points of view places an immeasurable strain upon the African Americans who have to endure this type of racial discrimination for centuries.

This is what Du Bois refers to when he describes the ‘sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others’, and it is this aspect of ‘double consciousness’ that Jordan Peele picks up on in his illustration of the ‘Sunken Place’. It is not hard to see the similarities between the two concepts: the ‘Sunken Place’ is simply a physical manifestation of ‘double consciousness’, trapping Chris within a state in which he is acutely aware of his own reflection in the ‘eyes of others’, and feeling that he can’t fully inhabit his own identity because of this.

Further parallels between ‘Get Out’ and ‘double consciousness’ abound as the film draws to its horrifying conclusion. As it turns out, Chris’s new girlfriend, Rose, has lured Chris back to her white hometown so that he can be lobotomised. He will have the mind of a white person implanted into his body, whilst he is relegated to the ‘Sunken Place’ forever, powerless to halt the forces that put him there. 

Why do these white townsfolk feel compelled to transplant their minds into the bodies of African Americans? Simply put, because of racial stereotyping: a white photographer in the town has chosen Chris as his new ‘host’, because he thinks that, as an African American, Chris has a more creative and artistic eye than his own (Chris is a successful photographer). Rose’s grandfather, Roman, was an Olympic runner, beaten in the 1936 Olympics by none other than Jesse Owens. He is apparently so disturbed by this fact that he implants his own mind into the body of another African American, ‘Walter’, and spends the rest of his life frantically exercising in the hopes of redeeming himself from this thwarted victory. 

The parallels between this horrific plot and Du Bois’s ‘double consciousness’ are, again, all too clear; especially when you consider this particular claim: ‘One ever feels his twoness,-an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body’. What Peele has done in ‘Get Out’ is to place the white ‘American’ quite literally inside the body of the black African American, and the struggle between these ‘two warring ideals’ serves as the film’s most unsettling illustration of racial tension in America today.

Peele here points to the uncomfortable reality of ‘post-racial’ America: the townspeople at the heart of ‘Get Out’ are people who are ostensibly educated and liberal, people who think that they’re being complimentary when they claim that African Americans are more creative, or better at sport than they are. You wouldn’t have to look too hard to find a similar type of person in society right now, (albeit without the evil and deranged lobotomising scheme). These are people who probably don’t realise that they are contributing to the oppressive culture of racial discrimination which still shapes the lives of African Americans today; in fact, they probably would have ‘voted for Obama a third time if they could’, but this complacency can be dangerous if left to fester. Having outdated and unfounded stereotypes constantly imposed upon you is not a comfortable experience, as Peele here takes pains to demonstrate. This is the critical and timely message of ‘Get Out’, in all of its surreal and terrifying glory.

(Read about the cultural legacy of the ‘Sunken Place’ here: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2018/mar/17/trapped-in-the-sunken-place-how-get-outs-purgatory-engulfed-pop-culture).


Nothing Gold Can Stay: The Disjointed Time of Robert Frost and Lana Del Rey

At this time of the year, when coats come out of the cupboard and leaves start to crisp on the trees, it becomes easier to imagine the sort of landscape that might have inspired Robert Frost’s 1923 poem, ‘Nothing Gold Can Stay’:

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

Robert Frost, ‘Nothing Gold Can Stay’, 1923, published in New Hampshire, 1924.

Of course, Frost’s poem isn’t just about autumn. Frost here mourns change itself, and it is this sentiment that Lana Del Rey echoes in her song ‘Venice Bitch’: ‘You’re in the yard, I light the fire,/And as the summer fades away,/Nothing gold can stay’.

The track is the third on Del Rey’s new album, ‘Norman F*****g Rockwell!’, and serves as a concise expression of the themes considered on the album as a whole. As she swerves between poignant depictions of addiction and depression, often pausing to dwell on the valuable support that music has offered her during these difficult periods, Del Rey remains (ironically) steadfast in her emphasis on transience: on the passing of time, and the gradual shift in cultural seasons. 

The tone here is not necessarily mournful; it is more a tone of resigned acceptance, as if Del Rey has, in true Frost style, realised that as much as she might will it otherwise, ‘nothing gold can stay’. Perhaps this is expressed most clearly in ‘The greatest’, a swirling, Bowie-esque track towards the album’s close, in which Del Rey croons: ‘The culture is lit and I had a ball,/ I guess I’m signing off after all’.

Raisa Bruner has described this as Del Rey’s ‘most millennial line yet’, and for good reason. The figure of ‘Lana Del Rey’ has always been a reminder of the past: her image is often one of classic Hollywood glamour, serving as a calculated ode to red-lipped girls dressed in blue velvet and drenched in gold. Del Rey’s luxurious drawl, too, might have been plucked straight from the fifties. Even her name is borrowed from Lana Turner, a classic ‘titan of red-lip, Old Hollywood’ charm. 

Recently, though, Del Rey’s image has become increasingly sun-soaked and ‘surf’-y, owing to an L.A. move in 2012. It is this honeyed Californian haze that dominates ‘NFR!’: in ‘Happiness is a butterfly’, for instance, Del Rey lusts after ‘Hollywood and Vine’, whilst ‘Bartender’ sees her driving a truck down the Pacific Coast Highway, and the protagonist of ‘Norman f*****g Rockwell’ is described as ‘resident Laurel Canyon know-it-all’. 

This California is a golden, seventies-era California: one of ‘ice cream’ and ‘ice queen[s]’, partying with ‘violet pills’ in Laurel Canyon, dreaming in ‘jeans and leather’. This backdrop is not simply restricted to Del Rey’s lyrics, either: she also takes her musical cues from ‘60s and ‘70s Californian folk, pop, and surf rock, nodding to The Beach Boys whilst also echoing artists such as Joni Mitchell (whose song ‘California’ seems to serve as a direct influence for Del Rey’s track of the same name), and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, (the cosily domestic ‘You’re in the yard, I light the fire’ chorus of ‘Venice Bitch’ is a clear nod to Nash’s portrait of his relationship with Mitchell in ‘Our House’).

The album relishes this imagery whilst also acknowledging its passing. ‘NFR!’ is a record drenched in nostalgia, written about an era which is now slowly fading from the American consciousness. Most of Del Rey’s lyrics are written in the past tense, offering portraits of a life lived retroactively, rather than one set in the present. In ‘Bartender’, Del Rey sings about ‘Crosby Stills & Nash’ being played at a summer party. In ‘Venice Bitch’, though, the party is clearly over: the sound of Crosby, Stills & Nash is conjured only for a brief moment by the chorus, before the track moves swiftly on with the claim that ‘as the summer fades away/ Nothing gold can stay’.

This nod to Frost is not Del Rey’s first. She also used the lyric in her 2015 track ‘Music To Watch Boys To’, in which she laments: ’Nothing gold can stay/ Like love or lemonade’. In fact, the two artists have more in common than might be expected. Like Del Rey, Frost was sometimes seen as a man slightly out of joint with his age, resisting the maxims of early twentieth century Modernism in much the same way as Del Rey now contradicts the trends of early twenty first century music. 

This was not always the case. In fact, Ezra Pound reviewed Frost’s 1914 North of Boston in almost exactly the same way as he did James Joyce’s Dubliners. Frost would gradually turn against the elitist stance of Modernism, though, realising that he could ‘never make a merit of being caviare to the crowd the way my quasi-friend Pound does’. Instead, Frost wanted to be ‘a poet for all sorts of kinds’, and if that meant sticking to the traditions of his earlier, ‘sentimental’ poetry, then so be it. 

Perhaps this is why Lana Del Rey also likes to situate her music in the past. It might even be the reason for her unshakeable popularity. Wafting through the sun-drenched sounds of ‘NFR!’ is still a highly pleasurable way of spending an hour, even if the album is self-conscious in its appetite for nostalgia. Although Del Rey takes pains to remind us that ‘nothing gold can stay’, people will always find comfort in the past, and the sunny golden valleys of 1970s California aren’t such a bad place to visit for an hour, even if they can’t last forever.

Further references: https://www.lamag.com/culturefiles/lana-del-rey-norman-fucking-rockwell-la-map/. https://magazinec.com/style/siren-song/


Why We Need to Stop Labelling People

‘Describe yourself in three words’: a sentence which never fails to elicit a few groans and eye rolls in a room full of strangers, but something which we are probably all guilty of doing when we first meet someone.

What colour is their hair? Where are they from? Is that the girl with the glasses, or the man with the bald patch?

As humans, we love putting other humans in little boxes. We like compartmentalising these new acquaintances. It helps us to make sense of an otherwise confusing blur of faces and voices and bodies. It makes us feel comfortable, assigning characteristics to people who, in reality, we know nothing about.

The author James Baldwin was once famously described in three words: black, poor, and gay. The journalist conducting the interview not only took the liberty of describing Baldwin in this way, but then asked Baldwin directly: ‘You must have said to yourself, “Gee, how disadvantaged can I get?”’

Baldwin laughs this off and replies: ‘No, I thought I had hit the jackpot’.

Despite his good humour, Baldwin didn’t really believe this to be true. Society had put him into a box which he spent his whole career trying to fight his way out of. His whole identity became condensed into these three reductive words.

Being black, poor, and gay is not a bad thing; it is simply that Baldwin wanted people to see him for more than that. He wanted to be known for more than three of his characteristics. He didn’t want to be unfairly stereotyped or compartmentalised just for the colour of his skin, his sexuality, or his economic background.

Baldwin felt so plagued by the public image that had been painted of him in America that he moved to Europe aged 24, stating that he just wanted to be seen as himself. As he claimed in The Last Interview and Other Conversations: ‘I was not born to be what someone said I was. I was not born to be defined by someone else, but by myself and myself only’.

Unfortunately, Baldwin’s legacy is yet to rid itself of these particular labels. Put people in boxes, and they often never escape them. If we constantly tell people that they are something, they sometimes start to believe it.

In fact, this self-fulfilling prophecy is well-documented in recent psychological studies. In one such study, Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson selected completely random students in an elementary school, and told their teachers that they had passed a test designed to determine ‘academic bloomers’, (children who would supposedly flourish academically over the next year).

A year later, they returned to find that the children who had been randomly selected as the supposed ‘academic bloomers’, especially the younger children, had now actually overtaken their peers by an average of 10-15 IQ points. Because their teachers had believed these children to be more promising than their peers, and had treated them accordingly, the experiment became a clear example of the self-fulfilling prophecy of labelling.

Tell children they are more intelligent, and they actually become more intelligent. This might not seem like such a bad thing, but the practice of labelling often has far more damaging results.

Take the case of Tawny Garcia’s Labels and the Effects on Deviance, for example, in which Garcia demonstrates that young people who are more prone to internalising labels become more likely to involve themselves in deviance. ‘Deviance’, in Garcia’s terms, covers anything from petty theft to terrorism.

Telling someone that they are less worthy, less capable, or inferior in any way to their fellow people can have an extremely damaging effect on their psyche. In short, we need to stop labelling people. We need to stop confining them to restrictive boxes, and describing identities in a few inane words.

No person can ever really be done justice in three words. If we allow people a little more room to grow, they might flourish. Or in James Baldwin’s words: ‘If one’s to live at all, one’s certainly got to get rid of labels’.

Cover image: Literary Hub


7 Things You Didn’t Know Were Invented by Women

Have you ever found yourself driving in the pouring rain and thinking: ‘Goodness me, it’s a good job I’ve got these fantastic windscreen wipers attached to my car, or else I wouldn’t be able to see a thing! I just wish I knew who to thank!’ No, you say?

Perhaps you opened your fridge this morning and wondered who was responsible for the deliciously cold milk sitting on those oh-so-icy shelves? Another no? Maybe you just took a well-deserved gulp of a nice frothy pint last night, and wished you could shake the hand of the person responsible for the sweet nectar that is the modern beer? Who could these people be, you ask?

In answer to your question: they were all women! And what day is it today? It is International Women’s Day! So join us in celebrating the lives of inspirational women everywhere, and read on for a list of seven under-appreciated female powerhouses who changed their world for the better. (In no particular order because we love all women):

1. The windscreen wiper: Mary Anderson

Mary Anderson, (born in 1866 in Alabama), was visiting New York one day when it started to snow. She noticed that the driver of the trolley car she was riding had to keep opening and closing the windows as he struggled to clear his windscreen. Mary got to thinking, and she soon came up with a rubber clearing device which could be controlled by a lever inside the car. She was granted a seventeen-year patent in 1903. Frustratingly, this patent ran out just two years before the windscreen wiper became widely used by Cadillac in 1922, meaning that Mary never made any money from her invention.

2. The first effective treatment for leprosy: Alice Ball

Chaulmoogra oil had been used to treat leprosy before Alice Ball stepped in, but without much success. Ball revolutionised the use of the treatment by developing a technique to isolate the fatty acids in the oil, so that it could finally be administered effectively to patients.

3. Kevlar: Stephanie Kwolek

Kevlar is the material used in bullet-proof vests, so you can imagine the number of lives it has already saved. It was discovered in 1965 by the chemist Stephanie Kwolek. It is also five times stronger than steel, proving that women are not only made of strong stuff, but that they also discover it!

4. Caller ID and telecommunications technologies: Dr Shirley Ann Jackson

Theoretical physicist Dr Jackson was the first African American woman to be awarded a PhD from MIT, and her research paved the way for a whole host of telecommunications technologies, including caller ID, fibre optic cables, the portable fax, and solar cells.

5. The computer algorithm: Ada Lovelace

Ada Lovelace, (daughter of Lord Byron, but just as significant in her own right), is hailed by many as the first computer programmer. Working alongside Charles Babbage, who described her as ‘The Enchantress of Numbers’, Lovelace developed the first ‘Analytical Engine’ at the University of London in the early nineteenth century. Lovelace’s algorithmic programs were far more elaborate and complete than Babbage’s, so it was her notes that provided the basis for Alan Turing’s work on the modern computer nearly a century later.

6. The modern refrigerator: Florence Parpart

Florence Parpart was awarded a patent in 1914 for the modern refrigerator, which ran on electricity for the first time. She was also a highly successful entrepreneur, marketing her invention herself.

7. Beer: Ancient Mesopotamian women

Next time you head off to the pub, raise your pints to the women of ancient Mesopotamia. Beer Historian Jane Peyton, (yes, this is a viable career), has claimed that these are the generous souls responsible for sharing the gift of beer with the world.

Image via Planoly.com


The Questions of Jessie Burton’s ‘The Muse’

I recently finished reading the latest book by Jessie Burton: The Muse. The plot is woven around two different artists at two different moments in time. The first is Odelle Bastien, who works in 1960s London as a typist at an art gallery, whilst secretly harbouring a great talent for writing herself. The second is Olive Schloss, the nineteen-year-old daughter of Harold and Sarah Schloss, living in Civil War Spain.

Olive is a painter; Odelle is a writer. But the real difference between the two girls lies in their attitude towards their own work. Odelle is initially hesitant to let people read her stories, but her ultimate ambition is to become a published author. Olive, on the other hand, is happy for the world to see her work, but not for the world to know that it has come from her. This is partly due to the fact that she does not believe that a female artist will be taken seriously in a world full of Picassos and Dalís and Mirós, but it is also partly due to the fact that, for both girls, there is something intensely personal wrapped up in the process of creation, something which neither one, at first, feels the need to share with anyone else.

The book in its simplest essence, then, revolves around such ‘musings’ upon the importance of the creation of an artwork, and of the place of the creator within that. If a tree falls in a forest but no one is there to hear it, perhaps it doesn’t make a sound. So does an artwork lose something of its value if no one is able to appreciate it but the creator?

Why is it that, more often than not, we feel that we end up forging some sort of personal connection with unknown literary heroes, with anonymous landscapes a world away from our own? What is it that makes a work of art; whether it be a book, a poem, a painting, or a drawing, speak differently to different people? Is it a personal relationship with its creator, or simply with its content: the writer, or the written, the painter, or the painted?

Upon reading The Muse, you can’t help but feel a strange, almost personal sense of indignation that Olive doesn’t receive any credit for her work. But if this is her choice, why should we see it as unfair? The art is hers, and so surely she should choose how it is presented, if at all. As you gradually come to accept that Olive may simply prefer anonymity, Burton makes you realise just how much importance society continues to place upon the cult of the creator: upon the fabled genius behind the pen, or the tortured soul behind the paintbrush. If a work of art is detached from the person who creates it, does it change? Why should we hunt for the hidden secrets of a ‘beautiful mind’ within that which is already beautiful in its own right? For as Oscar Wilde once put it, (and a fair deal more eloquently than I could ever hope to): ‘It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearance. The mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible’.

The Muse is a very good book. You can find it here.

Cover Image: Curt Merlo on curtmerlo.com, Text Image: Picador


Quiz: Which Wes Anderson Film Should You Watch Tonight?

Keep track of your answers and add them up at the end for your results! (All outcomes based upon a highly scientific algorithm).

Buena Vista Pictures/ Tenor

1. Pick an accessory…

  • a) A red woolly hat
  • b) A fur coat/ cigarette combo
  • c) A set of personalised luggage
  • d) A beret
  • e) A moustache
  • f) A Davy Crockett hat

2. What do you like to do in your spare time?

  • a) Deep sea diving
  • b) Write plays
  • c) Travel
  • d) Any extra-curricular activity you can find
  • e) Bake cakes
  • f) Paint watercolours

3. Pick an artist…

  • a) David Bowie
  • b) Van Morrison
  • c) The Kinks
  • d) Faces
  • e) Alexandre Desplat
  • f) Francoise Hardy

4. Pick a colour…

  • a) Blue
  • b) Red
  • c) Lemon
  • d) Navy
  • e) Pink
  • f) Mustard

5. Pick a book…

  • a) Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, by Jules Verne
  • b) Franny and Zooey, by J. D. Salinger
  • c) The Little Engine That Could, by Watty Piper
  • d) The Powers That Be, by David Halberstam
  • e) The Post-Office Girl, by Stefan Zweig
  • f) The Girl from Jupiter, by Isaac Clarke

Are you ready for your results?…

Mostly a)s – The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

Buena Vista Pictures

Mostly b)s – The Royal Tenenbaums

Touchstone Pictures

Mostly c)s – The Darjeeling Limited 

Fox Searchlight

Mostly d)s – Rushmore

Touchstone Pictures

Mostly e)s – The Grand Budapest Hotel 

Focus Searchlight

Mostly f)s – Moonrise Kingdom 

Focus Features

Reading the Language of Love: Body Language Explained

Have you ever been out with someone and wished that you could poke around inside their mind for a while to see what they thought of you? Now you don’t have to! The signs are already right under your nose (or their nose); all you have to do is learn how to read them. Every little helps, after all.

According to ‘behavioural investigator’ Vanessa Van Edwards, the fundamentals of this category of body language boil down to two key factors: openness and fertility (we were all cavemen once). You’re probably already familiar with the most common manifestations of these categories: things like whether they’re leaning in, or smiling at you and making direct eye contact. Van Edwards also notes a few less familiar examples, however, so we’ll stick to those for today:

  • Bags

If you’re keen to gauge how your date is feeling, one of the easiest ways to read them is by looking at their bag. If they are clutching it tightly, or holding it in front of their body in a shield-like way, then they’re not keen (sorry to be the bearer of bad news). It’s a surefire way to see how comfortable and open they feel around you. If they’re not feeling these things, the date isn’t going too well.

  • The whites of their eyes

This might be a little trickier to judge, but the whites of your eyes allegedly become whiter if you’re attracted to someone. This is all to do with blood flow, which increases in order to demonstrate your fertility to your potential partner. The more you know…

  • Feet

These boots were made for talkin’! If they like you, their feet will be pointed in the direction of your body. If they don’t, they will be pointed towards the fire exit. Although I would avoid ducking under the table every five minutes to check…

  • Hands or fingers?

Following a similar logic, look at their hands. This is especially interesting in the case of existing couples who are drifting apart: it is often argued that these couples will begin to touch each other not with their whole hand, but with the tips of their fingers instead. This is an attempt to create distance, which Joe Navarro claims is indicative of ‘psychological discomfort’.

What is that, you say? You want to see an example? Just take a quick glance at this photo. (Hint: the Obamas like each other).


Feature image by Alan Rogerson, via https://baggelboy.wordpress.com/about/

5 Ways to Spruce up a Student Room

Whether you’re in university halls or nestled in the depths of a student house, everyone knows that student bedrooms can be dismal at best. So without further ado, here are 5 ways to add a bit of life and colour back into your student living experience!

  1. Washi tape, washi tape, washi tape. Not only is it pretty, it is also extremely functional. Unlike normal sticky tape, washi will hold up your photographic treasures without ever marking your walls! Hurrah! Pro tip: create your own makeshift photo frame using four longer pieces on each edge.
  2. A cliché, but fairy lights. Especially the super-fine wire variety, so you don’t even notice the cable. Lighting in student accommodation always seems to teeter on the verge of flickery-blue-horror-film-lighting, which doesn’t exactly scream ‘hygge’ in those chilly winter months.
  3. Another cliché, but houseplants! Millennials rejoice! Not only are they very pleasing to the eye, but they will also fill your room with that sweet, sweet, air juice: oxygen. It’s also strangely fulfilling to look after these little green fellas; think of them as tiny green children for those of us not quite ready to have human babies of our own just yet.
  4. Fake candles. I decided to become a candle woman in my second year of university, only to discover that my beloved candles had created a giant soot mark on my white wall. The mark did not come off. This is a story for another day, but needless to say, I have avoided candles like the plague ever since. Instead, I have recently invested in some fake LED candles, which flicker very realistically with no risk of soot stains or of setting your house on fire! A nice warm glow for a fraction of the risk, these come highly recommended.
  5. Blankets. At some point in your student life, one housemate will become very angry about the heating bill. Pre-empt your ensuing sub-arctic existence by bringing lots of blankets with you. They’re also a great way to add a bit of colour to a white bed, and work well as a makeshift bed skirt (if your bed is as ugly as mine but you don’t want to pay money for a real one).

Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life Review/ Whatever Happened to Rory Gilmore?

I appreciate that substantial effort went into the making of the recent four-part Netflix series, ‘Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life’. Long-lost cast members returned from relative obscurity, writers brushed off their old writing pens, and once-abandoned sets were tended to once more. There was a lot of buzz around this series. I was very excited to watch it. Alas, this excitement was misplaced.

Innocent Rory, in a purer time.

First of all: Rory. (Beware, spoilers). Rory was always a very nice person. She worked hard, she cared about people, she was driven; she had a sense of humour, a quick wit, and a firm sense of what was good in the world. She was entertaining. She might have made a few bad decisions here and there, (*cough* Jess *cough*),  but she was, in her purest essence, well-intentioned.

Why, then, I ask, has Rory become cold-hearted, rude, and mildly infuriating? What has happened to Rory Gilmore? Rory doesn’t drag men along because she has apparently forgotten their very existence! She doesn’t look down on her unemployed peers, or have affairs with engaged men only to get angry when it turns out that they are (remarkably) marrying their fiancées. Rory has better things to do than perform in flash mobs with her tiresome college friends, and she certainly doesn’t need a man to be her saving grace, or to come up with her ideas for her. She has things to write and people to meet and places to be! I know life has its ebbs and flows, and everyone has a slump every now and then, but this incarnation of Rory is a vacuous husk: a mere shell of the Rory that once was.

The same goes for Lorelai. She was still entertaining, but seemed to have developed a similar harshness. The old Lorelai was like a breath of fresh air entering a room: brutally honest, perhaps, and ridiculous at times, but never mean. Why has such a cruel fate befallen two of the warmest, wittiest, and sharpest female leads in television? This is not the Stars Hollow of yore.

I will concede that the ending was good. The poetic irony was clever, although I won’t give this particular plot twist away, just in case you haven’t seen the series yet. Stars Hollow itself felt refreshed whilst maintaining its timeless, small-town charm. The ‘Lorelai-does-Wild’ sequence was slightly bizarre and slightly unnecessary, but it was, at least, memorable. The death of Richard and the growth of the character of Emily were very well done, and deservedly heart-wrenching. This being said, Rory and Lorelai were always the most magnetic aspect of the original ‘Gilmore Girls’, and I can’t help but feel that they have been betrayed by this new update. I miss them very much.

Images: Junkee/TenorGifs