Hellosie, it’s Maisie. Every girl needs a best friend to help her laugh every now and again, but should you date her?

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The dilemma this morning is I am a woman in my early 20s hoping at some point in the future is to have a long-term relationship and then eventually to get married. I have been single for a little while, but recently I was surprised by a good friend’s admission that she was “in love with” me and has been for some time.

However, I’m inclined to follow my feelings and let her down, but should I give it a chance to see if deeper feelings follow the considered rationale?

I appreciate there are many who think it’s highly sophisticated to be able to pull out their smart phone and find a partner for passion in the vicinity within moments. Phone apps like Tinder, Grindr, Happn, Findhrr and other vowel-eschewing online destinations have taken the legwork out of our sexual liaisons but have they in any way improved the quality of the encounter?

Putting sex on a Google Map for those in the mood for love is one thing, but it’s curious, isn’t it, that when we’re looking for a partner for more than an instant fix we tend to employ the same criteria? Top of our list of essential components is whether or not we are overcome by desire: a state of being that has nothing to do with reason and thought and much to do with base instinct of sex. However, sex (though on the “to do” list) slips down the list of priorities for daily harmony pretty soon.

It’s definitely important to be able to countenance coupling with the person you select, but long-term passion will dwindle and if you haven’t got respect, friendship and a genuine interest in the person you’re with there’s not a chance of the relationship surviving. That’s why unions embarked on in the haste of desire and sustained on little else, more often in teen years, tend to be the first to crumble.

I’m not usually one to advocate alcohol, but imbibing something that might briefly liberate me from rational decision-making could be the key to figuring out my options. Or a night out with no holds barred could mark the beginning of a new life, and, dealt with decently, doesn’t need to end my friendship if not.

 

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Hellosie, it’s Maisie. Should you fall in love online? These are some things all romantics should know.

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Not long ago, online dating was a bit embarrassing – an implied concession that you’d exhausted your options among friends, friends of friends, and the children of your parents’ friends “in the real world”.

Personally, I’m all for it: handwringing over the “death of romance” brought about by these apps often boils down to technophobia or moralising over casual sex, when in fact they help people date outside their immediate circle. If you’ve ever been in a group setting and realised, with no small horror, that everyone present is either your ex or a friend’s ex, you will attest that this is no bad thing.

Look at photos they’re tagged in, not just those they post – and pay attention to who consistently likes their selfies.

Plus, the algorithms employed by more formal online services such as OkCupid do a lot of the groundwork of establishing compatibility, pre-empting deal-breakers by asking “Should gay marriage be legal?” and “Does living on a sailboat sound like a good idea?”

But even outside online dating platforms, it’s easy to register – and solicit – romantic interest on the internet. There is a dance one performs on social media to turn a platonic friendship, acquaintance or even “internet friend” into something more.

Just as a bird of paradise might display his plumage to attract the attention of a potential mate, a potential partner interested in you might like your three-week-old Instagram post, or send you a direct message (as in, “slides into your DMs”).

“If you’re really putting yourself out there, you could comment on their picture with a heart emoji.”

“When I have a crush on someone and I want them to know I go on their page and like a lot of pictures in a row.”

“Like all of them. Like, like, like, like, like, like all the pictures.”

Several of my own romantic dalliances have been initiated or progressed over social media, particularly Facebook. Allow me to convince you that this is less sad than it sounds: at its best, the platform is like a lively bar – it’s easy to meet like-minded people; you can eavesdrop or join in on others’ conversations; everyone is a bit funnier and more attractive there than they are in daylight.

And from observing banter that’s then gone conspicuously silent as the conversation is moved to private messaging, like a couple who think they’ve very discreetly removed themselves from a house party, I am confident I am not the only one. (Tip: it’s never the people blowing up your timeline with their tedious flirtation who have taken their friendship to the next level. It’s the people who were.)

You’re more likely to use Instagram and Facebook to investigate crushes in your outer circle of friends, particularly to establish whether they’re single or not. (Another tip: look at photos they’re tagged in, not just those they post – and pay attention to who consistently like their selfies.)

Now, after all that, you’ve got to work out if you actually like them, particularly if you’re meeting for the first time. Some people’s online presences are not representative, which can be a good or a bad thing. Sometimes you meet someone who is as good value online as they are in person: you should hold them tight and never let them go.

Other times it’s painfully obvious that you’re better as internet friends. When you’ve communicated more – and more intimately – with someone over text than you have in person, it can create a gulf that’s awkward to bridge, and sometimes insurmountable.

How do you cast someone back into the internet from whence they came?

You might try “ghosting”: cutting off contact with zero announcement or explanation. According to the experts, it’s “common and not considered particularly impolite … usually a mutual, conscious uncoupling” (“If you start losing juice, they’ll start losing juice”).

I have mixed feelings about it as a tactic, having seen too many hearts broken more by the absence of explanation than the depth of investment, but it’s not an inappropriate course of action after one fireworks-free first meeting.

If you’re too old school or fundamentally decent to disappear entirely, you can get out of this mess the way you got into it: by pushing them back down the totem of chat. Answer missed calls with texts, respond to texts with messages on Twitter or Facebook and, eventually, public posts. They’ll get the idea.

Hellosie, it’s Maisie. Here’s the latest about a single girl from London and her sex life.

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An ex-girlfriend wants us to go on holiday together this August. The problem is that I’m having second thoughts about saying ‘no’. Bearing in mind that we are both 22 years old and we haven’t seen each other for four years, but do keep in touch by email and the odd text.

But should I bury my scepticism and go ahead with plans knowing that this may create further resentment in our relationship, or do we just keep going our separate ways in hopes of living our desired futures with someone different.

The dream of dating the same person from your mid-teens and then settling down, while a common expectation in life, feels like it comes from centuries ago. It wasn’t just a conundrum for me but for everyone at my school.

The greatest seismic shift in society seems to be not how much longer we’re living but how much slower we’re maturing. Moving out of home, let alone settling down to being a twosome before you’ve hit your 30s, is increasingly unusual. Fifty years ago, if a woman wasn’t married by my age, words like spinster (and lesbian) were bandied about. Nowadays what’s the hurry? We live much longer than we did when the institution of marriage, still our favoured way of pairing up and shorthand for future-building together, was invented. Fifteen years feels like an achievable goal when it comes to sharing a bedroom and bathroom for all but the most mismatched couples, but beyond that the odds of survival are much reduced. With expected lifespans now hitting nine decades and beyond, settling on one person and promising to honour and cherish them, potentially for seven decades, is quite a tall order.

In fact, I can’t help wondering if all relationships desiring that official stamp of approval should be certified on a year renewable basis with an extended warranty available on request. A wedding day and all of the promises made stays fresh in the mind for only a few years. After that, with nothing to look forward to but more of the same, a renewal of vows seems a sensible and salutary reaffirmation. You don’t need to worry about any of that yet, but you do need to bear in mind the hitherto unimaginably long lives you are likely to be living. If you did decide to stick with someone, you could end up celebrating 80 years of devotion. For that to sound like less of a threat you need more certainty about the union in the first place.

Not that I’m unmoved by the potential of extremely young love evolving into long-term unions.

Travelling together will certainly examine our strengths and weaknesses, but with cracks already there it may, turn them into an abyss of no return. But my choices are simple to outline and harder to choose: use this upcoming adventure as a great bonding experience; travel together and see if we can last the course; take a total sabbatical from each other and hope that absence drives us back into each other’s arms with increased relish; or continue to be friendly, on the basis that I’m not planning to make commitments to someone new.

Hellosie, it’s Maisie. Here’s the latest about a single girl from London and her sex life.

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It’s Saturday morning which means it’s laundry day, because there becomes a day in your week where you have to do your laundry or you just decide to smell for the coming week. There also comes a point when I have to have sex because I want it, but then I end up feeling ashamed with myself for not exercising patience when it comes to love.

I slept with someone Monday night and they haven’t called yet. Should I call first? Should I be concerned? Though just to be clear the date should be classified as a one night stand.

We’ve all been here, haven’t we? Your fingers hovering above the number in your contacts list, wondering how you can call and make it sound ever so casual. I once called someone and when she answered I pretended I had dialled her by accident (a subtle and cunning plan). So was then all, “Oh! I must have butt dialled you!”, thereby achieving the amazing double feat of making her think of my bum and forcing her to speak to me. It really is astonishing I’m still single.

The thing to remember, is that you don’t actually want to call this person. You want them to call you, which is pretty much the opposite of you calling them. You know all this. You know this, don’t you?

But is casual sex bad for you? Casual sex or one-night stands: whatever you call it, more than half of us will have sex with someone we barely know or don’t expect to date in the future. We’re most likely to do this at college or uni. Sex within relationships is said to improve cardiovascular health, reduce depression and boost immunity, but social science research has often linked casual encounters to feelings of sexual regret, low self-esteem and psychological distress, especially among women. Studies show that while men regret the sexual opportunities they missed, women often regret some of the casual sex they did have. These regrets focusing on shame and self-blame.

Some factors associated with this increased risk of feeling bad afterwards are – having sex with someone you have known for less than 24 hours, drinking heavily or taking drugs beforehand, feeling you ought to rather than you want to, and hoping for a relationship afterwards.

That said, I’ve got girlfriends whose every relationship began as a one-off. But it just isn’t a good basis for anything long-term. If sex was what kept relationships glued together, we’d be lucky to be still coupled up after three months, let alone three years. Sex is something you learn how to do with someone who’s worth the effort. Not another form of aerobics to be squeezed in between gym and your yoga class. If you’re going to go for sex first, introductions later, you’ve got to be sure you’re a really great lover for starters. I mean, most of us get away with our performance because the person beside us really likes us. On a one-night stand you’ve got one shot at proving you’re a bobcat in the sack. So, does your partner. That kind of pressure and responsibility can’t be good for anyone. It’s not like you can roll over afterwards and say, ‘Normally I’m really good at that.’ Who’s going to believe a virtual stranger who didn’t have the self-restraint to wait for a date?

I think I should know by now that casual sex is not like making decisions about your laundry.

Hellosie, it’s Maisie. Sex, Bratz Dolls and the Lolita effect.

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Girls, in their early and pre-teens, are really given a tough time by society. On the one hand, they are sexualised from an early age, but on the other, they are expected to ignore society’s influence and if they attempt to express their sexuality in any way, they are victimised and ridiculed.

I don’t know why people are surprised by the fact that some girls take on the message that the media gives them: that in order to be worth anything, a girl has to be ‘sexy’.

We sell them push-up bras, thongs, ‘Paris Hilton kits’ and Cosmo magazine, and still expect them to act like perfect little virgins. They keep track of the female role models that the media gives them and see that they are judged on how ‘sexy’ they look, and how these seemingly perfect celebrities are pushed off their precarious pedestal if they dare to go out without putting makeup on, or wear something unfashionable on the red carpet.

Amongst their peers, they have to walk the tightrope between ‘frigid’ and ‘slutty’, and god forfend if they fall off. At school, a girl who developed breasts ‘too soon’ was ridiculed and assumed to be ‘slutty’, and the late bloomers were bullied and were less likely to be popular.

People are labelling young girls who send a boyfriend a ‘sext’ because they were coerced into it, as ‘stupid’ and ‘sluts’. They say that these girls have no self-respect because they act the way that they do, but these girls have never been taught to respect themselves or their bodies. Go into any toy store and look at the difference between the ‘boys’ and the ‘girls’ toys, with sexualised dolls and makeup kits for the little girls, and science kits and stethoscopes for the little boys. Pick up a magazine aimed at pre-teen girls and look at the messages that they send out. Fuck, look on the internet.

Yes, the things that these girls do are misguided but that is because they haven’t been given any coherent guidance! Sex education at school, in the main, doesn’t teach young people how to express their sexuality in a healthy and safe way. Society doesn’t like it when women in general express their sexuality at all! Why are we telling these girls to ‘be sexy’ but not why or how? Why are we giving them this message at all?

Television, in the main, perpetuates this culture. The movies aimed at young women all too often feature a popular, blonde, large-breasted cheerleader and another, usually bookish, unpopular, girl who is bullied by said cheerleader. What does she do to overcome the bullying and become popular? Get a popular man, ignore her bookish ways and usually have a makeover to ‘become sexy’. She kisses the guy, the credits roll, and voila! We have told the next generation of women that in order to be popular and successful, they have to be ‘sexy’.

‘Ignore your brains, girls! Inner beauty isn’t a thing! Be sexy! Get a man!’, society screams at them through a Disney Princess-shaped megaphone. And what is the way to a teenage boy’s heart, readers? Are we still surprised that young girls are acting sexually? In a quest to get this ‘Prince Charming’, a young girl sends a half-naked picture of herself via SMS to a boy she thinks that she loves. He has probably asked her for it, and she probably thinks that he cares for her. He shows his friends, the picture circulates, and who do we blame? The coerced or the coercer? Many would blame the girl.

To conclude, before we get upset and holier-than-thou about the young women who act provocatively via social media, we should look at why they are acting this way. How do we expect these girls to ever have the ‘self-respect’ that so many berate them for lacking, when we tell them to ‘be sexy’ then victimize them when they actually try to do this?

Hellosie, it’s Maisie. A single girl unashamed of her relationship status.

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As a single girl, I’m no stranger to frequent discussions regarding my love life or lack thereof. If you have been single for any length of time then you will know what I mean.

These discussions are hardly ever instigated by myself but they more often than not end the same way – with me trying to justify why I am single, regardless of whether or not this information is anyone’s business.

Only recently I had one of these dreaded conversations with a girl friend of mine who, even after I had justified my situation with the usual explanations that now effortlessly roll off the tip of my tongue – The time is not right, and I guess I just like my own company. I can’t imagine myself in a relationship – stared at me with an expression I have come to know so well. That mixed look of perplexity, amusement and pity I get when I tell people of my relationship status only seems to become more and more caricatured and grotesque.

But the truth is that although I am alone, I don’t seem to be the only one. It is somehow comforting to know that I am not alone being alone. In a world where potential dates are determined by a simple swipe to the left or right, why is it that so many of us have remained alone?

My personal stint with online dating has been fairly brief, lasting around 8 or 9 months in total. I found building my own profile exhausting, trying somehow to create the perfect profile of the kind of woman someone would want to date. There seem to be so many rules regarding how to create the perfect profile: don’t post too many selfies unless you want to look narcissistic, don’t post nipple pics unless you want people to think you’re a slut, don’t send a message to someone after 10pm on a weekend unless you’re looking for an instant hook-up. When I deleted the profile, I felt relief and I think this was probably the same moment that I realised I enjoy being alone. Creating a profile was only a means of conforming to the perceived role of the modern single woman.

Popular culture is littered with societal perceptions of how the single female should behave. After all, if you’re not a Samantha from SATC, then you’re a Bridget Jones. If you’re neither then you’re probably more closely linked to Dickens’ lonely spinster Miss Havisham. Or so they would have you believe, because if you’re not promiscuous, desperate or lonely or a combination of all three, how can you really identify as a single woman? Such is the stigma attached to the lone female.

What if you don’t see yourself as any of these characters, as I’m sure most single women do not? What are the consequences you might face? Well, you’re probably no stranger to conversations similar to the ones I have already described.

I’m left wondering whether the pity I receive as a single woman would be quite so abundant if I were male.

I enjoy the company of my friends, who I believe are a far more important driving force in how happy I feel in my life, but I am not looking for what I’m told I should. The reality is that single women should not be encouraged to explore avenues they do not wish to pursue. Being single is an excellent opportunity to discover and become confident in the individual that you are. So, take your time, make haste slowly and focus on yourself. Above all, refuse to be shamed for your singleness.

Absolutely no Tinder on Sunday.

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This year already, more than a thousand words were added to the English Oxford dictionary. Among them, “to ghost” was defined as abruptly cutting off all contact with someone by no longer accepting or responding to phone calls or messages. A bit like breaking up with someone suddenly.

On a recent Sunday morning in Starbucks, I asked my friend – let’s call her Yoga Mad Woman – about it: “What’s your go-to technique for breakups?” My friend, an intelligent and attractive woman in her early 30s, twisted her mouth and face a little, displaying internal reflection.

‘The truth is, I never break up with people,’ she explained. ‘I just disappear.’

Yoga Mad Woman, someone I had known all my adult life and who had shown consistency and loyalty in friendship, was clearly a complete buffoon with women she engaged with romantically. It was not unusual for her to be in two separate relationships with women she had (falsely) promised monogamy to.

Why do relationship breakups hurt so much?

The logic of this question has always made my brain overheat and boil down to a mush.

The number one rule about breaking up is to actually break up in person. Not telling someone? Just walking away or just to ghost is so annoying. How could you?! Can’t you at least take five minutes to call?

The worst thing about breaking up is finding out an entirely different side of a person you thought you knew well. She recalls one breakup – initiated by her – that left her a little freaked out. After she told her now ex-girlfriend, she became very cold. A week later, she received a package at her home address.

She opened the box and saw all of these receipts. She didn’t understand what they were, so she looked closer. They were receipts from restaurants, theatre and movie tickets, all these things they had done together.

Her partner of six months had been meticulously documenting every penny she had spent on her. Among the wide-ranging pile of assorted receipts, she found that there were some on which he had written, and circled, the relevant sum.

It felt like she was saying, oh, I spent all this money on you. It was a bit single white female-esque creepy. But a breakup can make you see the real person.

The minimum requirement in breakups is to voice the breakup. The alternative doesn’t just seem selfish, it’s unfair. People who are broken up with ‘shouldn’t have to do the emotional labour of putting two and two together and realizing it’.

What is it about letting people know where we are and where we aren’t that makes it so difficult? What is it about ourselves in that space of utterance that so many people would rather be silent or vanish?

Hurting people can seem inevitable in a breakup, but you can do it ‘as compassionately and responsibly as possible’.

It’s a cliché, but it is about communication, letting people know where you are and where you stand, and what you are thinking about, and daring yourself to word those things. That way, a wrong breakup is impossible.

If a person has had enough brain or brain management to tell you they have feelings for you, then they should have enough to tell you they no longer do.

Do not make it to the point where you’re cheating on someone, or feel repulsed by the person.

Do not deny the other person the possibility of meeting someone new if you’re no longer invested.

Do not be the person who picks a public space to shorten, or limit, the interaction.

Give the relationship the respect it deserves, including at the end.

Vanishing. I think it’s the rudest possible way to break something up. It’s unbelievably rude. Just let them know. Or even if you lie, it’s better. You can say something like, ‘I am really busy with work’; ‘I have too much on my plate right now’.

 Honesty goes a long way, and wrong or right timing should not be the question. There is always an appropriate time to break up with someone if you don’t like them, or you know something is wrong. It’s always a good time to be honest.

Just do it, basically.

My advice for breakups, and life, is pretty stellar. If you stay open with communication and honest of your needs, then no matter how it evolves, you’ll be fine. So much of love and relationships is about respecting yourself. If you lose yourself, it turns into disaster.