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    I don’t care who it offends – blondes DO have more fun. Stars from Sydney Sweeney to Beyonce prove we’re back on top

    THE following words come with a trigger warning. Fasten your seatbelts, my woke friends, because I’m here to remind you that it is in fact true: Blondes have more fun.Stupendous Sydney Sweeney shows that the classic blonde look is back – and it’s here to stayCredit: GettyThe White Lotus star Sydney poses in a pic uploaded to InstagramCredit: Instagram / Sydney SweeneyI know, it does rather fly in the face of all this modern-day jiggery wokery to even suggest such a thing.How very dare I? I’m sure it’s highly unfashionable. It’s positively archaic. And probably even offensive to some.Because in these politically correct times in which we live, it’s been great to see that we have finally come to accept that women come in all different shapes, shades, colours and sizes, so to suggest that only the fair-haired variety are capable of having a great time is insulting.It’s a slogan that’s been nigh-on banned and one that, I suspect, might only be whispered in hushed breaths in quiet corners of secret blonde members’ clubs.READ MORE ULRIKA JONSSONPlucky courageBut after The White Lotus actress Sydney Sweeney practically blew up the internet with her performance on US TV chat show Saturday Night Live, proving she has zero qualms about hypnotising the world with her ample assets, paired with her platinum tresses and enviable sexiness, it could just be that the tide is turning on Generation Woke.She showed there was no shame in being blonde. Beyonce has long been a fan of the blonde lookCredit: Cécred / PAAnd Kim Kardashian has also been trying it outCredit: Instagram / Kim Kardashian / @alaninutritionPop star Sabrina Carpenter is also fully embracing the retro blonde lookCredit: Jack Bridgland Studio / SkimsAnd she was utterly unapologetic about using what God gave her — and the world loves her for it.Even her family know the value of her incredible look. Most read in CelebrityIn a recent interview, she told how her grandparents had complimented her curves after seeing her on the big screen.Or as Sydney, 26, put it: “They said I have the best t*ts in Hollywood.”Sydney Sweeney looks incredible in plunging pink gown as she joins an unrecognisable Emma Corrin in VeniceCoupled with the recent Barbie movie — which turned what used to be an idealised, sexualised and objectified version of what we were told a woman should look like into a whole new feminist movement — Sydney might just be making being blonde into something we can once again be proud of.Pop star Sabrina Carpenter is fully embracing the sexy, retro blonde look, where being platinum and wearing tight clothing is no longer a crime against fashion or taste. It’s a sign of pride and plucky courage.Let’s face it, even Beyonce and Kim Kardashian have adopted the blonde bombshell look — clear proof that there really is only so much fun you can have being brunette without at least giving blonde a go.I speak as a blonde, of course. I wasn’t around when the slogan was created in the 1950s to advertise a certain hair dye brand with the question, “Is it true that blondes have more fun?”, creating tension between blondes and brunettes and establishing a hair colour hierarchy.The suggestion was definitely that blondes did have more fun and were more desirable. And the most famous blonde of all time, Marilyn Monroe, embodied everything you could imagine that would be fun and ample and flirtatious and alluring.She has never been replicated. We all want to have that Marilyn factor, and if it means dyeing our hair blonde, then that’s what we’ll do.Marilyn Monroe was one of the most famous blondes of all timeCredit: GettyFrench ‘sex kitten’ Brigitte Bardot also helped set the standard for the lookCredit: Kobal / Rex FeaturesLove Islander Molly Smith has been flying the flag for peroxide pride in more recent timesCredit: Instagram / mollysmith19Soon after Marilyn set the standard for blonde perfection, into the spotlight stepped French “sex kitten” Brigitte Bardot — another brunette who saw the light in terms of hair colour, changing her shade for a 1956 Italian film and sticking with it. She was followed in the Eighties and Nineties by blonde Hollywood sex symbol Heather Graham — Austin Powers’s love interest Felicity Shagwell — and Baywatch swimsuit icon Pamela Anderson.In more recent times, Love Islander Molly Smith has been flying the flag for peroxide pride.I have to confess, I didn’t at all get why it should be true that blondes have more fun. I came from Sweden, where (without exaggeration), virtually every single woman is blonde.And some of them looked quite miserable at times. As a blonde you were nothing special. You weren’t the exception. You were the rule.Until I came to the UK, that is. That’s when I stood out like a Belisha beacon. I definitely got a lot of attention. And by the time I found fame as a weather presenter at 21, I’d grown a decent pair of knockers, too. So I really was the whole package.Sun writer Ulrika back in 1993Credit: Scope FeaturesUlrika explains that she’s no bimbo – but that blondes really do have more funCredit: Olivia West – The SunAnd it turns out there is even scientific fact to back it all up. In 2008, research at Nottingham Trent Uni found that blonde women feel more attractive, are more daring, have higher levels of self-confidence and are even likely to be more adventurous in the bedroom.We also know that gentlemen prefer blondes. So all this points towards 1,000 reasons why being blonde is something to be proud of.However, over the past decade or so, it hasn’t entirely been the case.Of course, it’s quite right that we should have diversity and inclusivity in our vision and images of women.Not all females are Barbie dolls with tiny waists, big bazookas and long, blonde hair.I always felt like a reluctant blonde, because I always felt the proximity of the words blonde and stupid was a bit too close for comfortUlrika JonssonI love that we see older women on billboards and those with wide waists and thighs that could crush a walnut.But it may just have been at the exclusion of the good old-fashioned blonde.She’s been sidelined a bit, I fear, and people have delighted in reminding us that blondes are often dumb, too.Maybe that’s why I always felt like a reluctant blonde, because I always felt the proximity of the words blonde and stupid was a bit too close for comfort.The assumption was that you couldn’t possibly be blonde and clever. In short, we were bimbos.Thanks in part to Sydney Sweeney, who is Making Blonde Great Again — and others on whose shoulders and highlights she stands — it’s OK to be loud and proud about being blonde. Think what you like, but there is no way you could accuse Beyonce of being dumb just ’cos she’s blonde.And for me, the greatest of them all — greater even than Monroe — who has blown everyone else out of the water over the years with her songwriting, comedic and acting talent and business acumen is the wondrous Dolly Parton.Despite being a pocket rocket at only 4ft 11in, she has ensured she has never been overlooked because she is so unequivocally unashamed of being blonde and colourful. The wondrous Dolly Parton has kept her image going for decades, and it’s become part of her identityCredit: Rex FeaturesAnd while her feet may never have seen daylight due to her huge breasts, she has never changed her image, as being blonde is her identity.And Dolly has the ultimate answer to the snide comments: “I’m not offended by all the dumb blonde jokes because I know I’m not dumb . . . and I also know that I’m not blonde.”READ MORE SUN STORIESShe is my hero. She has always paved her own road and never deviated from her blonde persona.So I’ll hold my blonde head up damn high and recall Dolly’s words loudly and proudly: “You’d be surprised how much it costs to look this cheap.”Pamela Anderson was one of the most famous blondes of the NinetiesCredit: Rex Features More

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    We Need to Talk About Joining a Gym When You’re Plus-Size

    It’s a constant joke that I was athletically challenged most of my life. I skipped school on the day of every single Pacer test, and when my parents told me I had to play a sport to get into college (my parents both didn’t attend college and genuinely thought you had to play a sport to get in—how pure), I attended one tennis practice and couldn’t show my face to the team ever again. But that doesn’t mean I’m inactive, and after a year of working out consistently at home followed by a short stint in my (better than average) apartment fitness center, I was ready to finally join a gym again.
    I never attended a gym until I was in college, but I quickly learned that weight training was my favorite way to work out. So, when I was home on summer break one year, I joined a gym. They asked all the typical questions: what is your favorite way to work out? How often do you plan to come? What are your fitness goals? But then they ask the worst question of all:
    “What’s your height and weight?”
    I remember thinking, how on Earth is this relevant to me joining the gym? What does saying my weight in this tiny office with this stranger in a gym do to help me achieve any fitness goals? It made me feel uncomfortable every time I saw that gym attendant, knowing that he knew really personal details about me and possibly made up his own judgments about me and my health, all because I told him a few numbers.

    I remember thinking, how on Earth is this relevant to me joining the gym? What does saying my weight in this tiny office with this stranger in a gym do to help me achieve any fitness goals?

    I put off joining a gym for a long time after that because it felt so daunting to put myself out there. I’m a mid-size cis-woman with a little bit of experience at the gym, and I worried about the judgments that might ensue walking into a weight room full of jacked bros and their protein shakes. Everyone talks about gym intimidation and how awkward being in the gym for the first time is, but no one talks about how uncomfortable and overbearing it can be to just join. After months of working out in my apartment gym, I was starting to feel a little stagnant with the level of equipment available to me, so I decided to join a nearby gym. And it was… in a word… horrible.

    My Experience
    I have never felt so uncomfortable as I did when I tried to join this gym. When I arrived, I met with the owner of the gym at a tiny kiosk in the middle of everything. Seriously, a man was like doing squats right next to my face. Not only was I prompted with the dreaded “What’s your height and weight?” (in the literal middle of the gym in front of everyone), but I was pestered and berated about my physical health (by a person who isn’t my doctor!) and questioned over and over about my fitness goals. When I said my goal was to just be healthy, I was, again, berated because I didn’t have any fitness goals. Eventually, I told the owner of the gym I have an eating disorder, and at one point (while tearing into me about my BMI and how I’m at risk to get cancer and have a stroke—again, not a doctor!), he said he wanted to be “gentle with my eating issue.” Then, he proceeded to tell me that if I have no fitness goals, there’s no point in joining the gym. Working out is fun for me and a way to de-stress—is that a crime?
    I stood in the middle of this gym while this stranger wrote down some of my most personal health information and threw it all back at me… and then dared to be upset when I wasn’t really feeling it and didn’t want to join his gym. Like sir, you just laid into me about how “unhealthy” I was and how joining a gym was pointless if I wasn’t trying to do a 180 on my body… what makes you think I’d ever want to come back here?
    I was so taken aback when I left that I called my mom and told all of my friends how horrible this experience was, and a lot of people echoed my thoughts on how agonizing the experience of joining a gym is. But until then, I’d never heard anyone talk about it. When men join a gym, it’s about them getting ripped, and as much as cis-men experience body image issues too, they’re not taught from a young age that how much you weigh is something to be embarrassed about in the same way women are. And the pressure is even worse when you’re above the threshold of what is an “acceptable” size as a woman.

    When men join a gym, it’s about them getting ripped, and as much as cis-men experience body image issues too, they’re not taught from a young age that how much you weigh is something to be embarrassed about in the same way women are.

    Aside from a horrible experience with management, I knew pretty early on this gym wouldn’t be for me. When I walked in, I saw guys who resembled Hulk or at the very least men whose dream was to look like the Hulk, and all the women were fit beyond belief. I didn’t see a single person in the gym who looked anything like me, and it was 7 pm on a weeknight, their busiest time. I knew I’d feel self-conscious going to a gym where I was the only one who didn’t train for marathons or body-building competitions.
    I ultimately left the gym and never looked back. It was so frustrating because they had a great facility, but I knew I’d never feel comfortable. Why do these gym owners think intimidating me and making me feel like an unhealthy sack of sh*t is the way to get me to join? I’d rather never step foot in your facility than ever feel that way again. Even if I was unhealthy, it’s truly none of your business why I’m at your gym.

    What I’m Going to Do Next
    As an avid exerciser, I simply can’t swear away the gym forever, even though the thought of walking inside one and signing up sounds like my personal hell after what I went through. Instead, I joined a nearby gym (we stan Planet Fitness in this house) that allowed me to easily sign up online with ZERO weird questions, pestering, or upselling at all. I’m able to go into my gym now without a care in the world and feel completely normal. Plus, the gym is filled with people just like me: just normal people who like to work out, some who look really fit, and some who look like your average Joe, and I love it. I also plan to start going to a few classes once a week or so to change it up and get my fix of working closely with a fitness professional without all the judgment. Plus, classes are so social and fun to do with friends, and I’ve missed it so much in the pandemic. 
    As far as how I’m coping with this negative experience, I’m choosing to focus on how happy I feel after a workout and remembering why I was so excited to move up in my fitness journey rather than keep up with my same routine. That’s progress, even if some rude, muscular guy at the gym doesn’t agree. Even taking the step of wanting to join a gym is progress! If you have a similar experience, pay attention to all the progress you’re making and get excited about what you’ll make in the future. And I highly recommend writing it out. This article was deeply cathartic. 

    I’m Plus-Size—Here’s Everything That Goes Through My Head While Having Sex More

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    5 Reasons Why Your Career Does Not Define Your Identity

    For as long as I can remember, I’ve always associated my self-worth in conjunction with my job. Whether it was because of how our society views certain positions or because of my pride, I made sure to work hard enough to get a job that I (and my mom) would be proud to identify with. To say “I work for [employer]…” or “I am a [job title]…” made my heart fill with excitement. So when I finally accepted my dream position that was far from the involvement of serving tables, I felt like I earned the right to let those words slip off my tongue to show the world that I did, I made it. But even when my dream scenario came to fruition, I eventually realized that I was no longer in love with the job, which thus resulted in a life-changing moment.
    I was eventually let go from the company that I was only holding onto because of its status. While I felt burnt out and lacked the enthusiasm to work for them, I didn’t listen to my gut and decided to hold onto the position because I loved how I felt accepted by others when I’d mention my position in conversations. It was an addiction I wasn’t willing to let go. I felt like my identity was closely tied to this job, and if I’d lose it, then I was a nobody and I would have no proof of all my hard work. However, when I was let go, a new high took over: relief. While one part of me wanted to hold on to something that wasn’t making me happy for prideful reasons, a weight was lifted off my shoulders because I was finally following my truth.
    For most people, this experience would tear them apart: if they’re let go from a job, it means they’re incompetent and their self-worth has taken a nosedive into the pools of hell (yes, I’m being dramatic). However, while it did hurt a little to receive the news, I was more hurt that I didn’t initially follow my heart and, instead, allowed someone else to control my fate. I soon realized that my self-worth isn’t defined by a nice-sounding job, it’s defined by my values, my truth, and what happens beyond the typical nine-to-five timeframe. Yes, it was nice to be associated with a well-known company and, not going to lie, sometimes I miss that “accepted” feeling. But deep down I know that my career doesn’t define my identity, because the only approval I need is my own.
    If you can relate to any of this, here are five reasons why you shouldn’t define yourself by your career or job — because, honestly, your self-love is totally worth way more than that paycheck or job title. 

    1. Because having a well-known job isn’t your only success.
    Working for a renowned company does look good on your resume, but it’s not the only thing that you should consider to be successful. Success can be rarely measured by someone’s job or wealth. The true definition of success derives from the ability to do something that you truly love, to be able to care for others, to overcome your greatest fears, or to find blissful happiness. One person’s definition of success could look completely different than someone else’s. And that’s totally okay. Because in the end, you should always aim to be yourself and not replicate what you believe to be considered successful just because of someone else’s journey.

    2. Because your truths and values are the only things you should be defined by.
    Wouldn’t it be lovely to not be judged based on your profession? Immediately when we meet someone new, we want to know their name and what they do for a living. Why? Isn’t there another way to define a person? Yes, it’s great to know what they’re passionate about, but shouldn’t we just ask them that upfront?
    Your identity should be defined by what you love, what you dream of, what you value, and who you cherish. Think about it: Your true friends and family don’t care about what kind of job you have or how much you make. All they care about is your happiness. Treat yourself as you would want your friends to treat you, because you should value your happiness before any job, paycheck, or boss. Period.

    3. Because most jobs are a temporary state and can change at any moment.
    While life is known to be filled with uncertainty, most of us believe we have complete control over our circumstances. Today you may identify yourself as a hardworking architect, but four years from now, you may want to be a dairy farmer, milking cows for a living. You just never know what kind of experiences you may go through and how they’ll change you. Essentially, nothing is permanent. Life is full of surprises, and there are more things that make an impact in your life than your career.

    4. Because this is something you do and not something you are.
    Whether you work as a cashier for a store or as an illustrator for an advertising company, these are things you do — they don’t define you as a person. There are plenty of ways to identify yourself, especially if you’re not in love with your job. For instance, in addition to your career, you could also be known as a mother, a lover of puppies, a video game enthusiast — anything you admire or hold value to is a part of you and your identity. At the end of the day, you should be known for the things you love to do and be, not for the type of positions you’ve held.

    5. Because other people won’t remember you by the job you have, but by how you make them feel.
    How you decide to treat others and express yourself is glued to your identity way more than your jobs ever will be. When other people talk or think about you, the thought of your career might come up, but your personality and character will resonate with them more. You’re on this earth for so many other reasons aside from having a job. Maybe you’re meant to help someone else through their own journey, or to make a difference in your town and inspire others to do the same. You’re doing yourself an injustice if you only identify yourself by your career. Try to open your world and help others to do the same. The more we realize we’re more than our jobs, the happier we all may be.

    Quarter Life Crisis or Comparison Trap? What to Remember When You Feel Lost More

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    I Online Dated the Entire Pandemic—Here’s What It Was Like

    A mere week or so before quarantine began, I finally felt ready to start dating again. An abusive relationship, a negative self-image, stress, life changes—it all kept me single for a while. But just before the pandemic, I downloaded all the apps, took some good selfies, updated my profiles… and then I had to figure out dating during the pandemic.
    Fast-forward a year, and I’ve spent the entire COVID-19 pandemic online dating (spoiler alert: to no avail). When I was stuck at home watching every Netflix show that existed or trying to learn a new hobby, my phone was near, picking up all my little matches across the city. I’ve had quite the go of dating throughout the past year—here’s a peek into my process and what I’m taking away now that I’m vaccinated:

    The Apps I Use
    I’m bisexual and use way too many dating apps. I use Bumble for meeting men, Hinge for men and women, and Tinder and Her for women. I feel like I get the best results this way. But of course, I have favorites: Bumble is the easiest interface and has been the most helpful throughout the pandemic because they have options to put what your comfort level is around COVID dating, and I find it helpful to be able to see the person’s political affiliation. If that’s not important to you, then it doesn’t matter, but it helps me weed out people that I simply know that I won’t mesh with romantically. I want to love Her, but I simply never meet anyone, and I have this horrible fear that every single person I speak to is a catfish because I’ve met an odd number of catfishes on there in the year I’ve used it.

    Spring 2020
    The first couple months of the pandemic, I had apps on my phone but I didn’t put too much stake into it. I’d swipe if I got really bored watching TV, but I couldn’t imagine meeting someone and having to talk to them for an unsure amount of time before we’d be able to safely meet. I remember telling my mom that I was worried my dating life would get put on hold for a few months (lmao) because I couldn’t see a “reason” in online dating while I was stuck at home. For everyone, this time period was so isolating and confusing, and those emotions aren’t conducive as a foundation to build a relationship on.

    Summer 2020
    But then, once outdoor dining opened up, I started seeing my friends again, and being outside in the real world didn’t feel like a death sentence to myself and everyone I know. I started using apps a little bit more, but meeting was really difficult. One aspect of COVID dating has been constantly having to worry that this new person you’re bringing into your life has the same thoughts around COVID that you do. It’s one thing to worry my partner won’t like the same music taste as me or prefers to stay in instead of going out, but with COVID, I’m worried I could be bringing someone into my life who could get myself, or worse, one of my close friends or family members sick. And that’s a risk I haven’t been willing to take for almost anyone this pandemic. So, this involves a lot of weeding out.
    First, you have the COVID deniers. My friend saw a guy whose literal bio was “COVID is a hoax,” which actually is probably helping people to make sure to swipe left real quick. I’m horrified of meeting someone who doesn’t take wearing a mask seriously or is going on wild vacations or simply just has very different views and boundaries around COVID from how I do. This worry has caused me to not meet up with tons of people on apps in the last year because I can’t risk hurting someone just so I can have one hot date.
    But there are also the people who *only* want to talk about COVID. Their opener and every message after is about how their sister got COVID and gave it to all of her friends and might give it to three sets of grandparents and how you think we’ll never go back to living normal lives ever again. It’s bleak sh*t. I am already worrying about 3897237 things at all times, including COVID—I don’t need it to take over my messages too.

    Fall 2020
    After months of swiping, I actually met someone. But because of COVID, I was hesitant to do anything in person. Turns out, this guy explained that he was regularly tested for COVID through his job, and after a 10-day quarantine, we hung out. I was uncomfortable and nervous the first hour or so; I was already preparing to quarantine again so I didn’t accidentally get someone else sick. That all said, when it went well, I planned our second (and third) date immediately to “limit the exposure.”
    It was a whirlwind of a romance, but ultimately ended in him making up this elaborate lie that he had a secret job in the government and had to move that very night. All this to say, I felt pretty defeated after that for a couple of months. I finally meet someone in the pandemic, and it was all so fleeting. Dating in the pandemic feels like a constant push and pull: you put in tons of effort and get excited about a match, all for it to end and you’re alone again. Pre-pandemic, rebounds were a little easier; I had a whole office full of friends to see every day and I made regular visits to see my family. The loneliness of the pandemic really got to me in those moments when I realized the simple act of meeting one person gave me so much serotonin (and then how easy it was to all go away).

    Spring 2021
    There’s been a bit of a light at the end of the tunnel recently, though. As soon as people I know started getting vaccinated, it felt like maybe there was hope for in-person dating soon. This made me, and I’m sure other people, get a little more into their apps. Instead of closing it and not swiping again for days every single week, I’m using the apps more consistently, and I’m getting more matches too.

    How I’m Using Apps Going Forward
    I was lucky to get vaccinated recently. Although this doesn’t make the entire pandemic go away, there is finally some hope that, eventually, we’ll get to meet up in person and maybe even take our masks off! For so much of the last year, there were a lot of communal feelings about what was going on. At some points, it was all hope and excitement that things could get better soon (i.e., in the beginning when every week it felt like maybe we’d be going back to work in a few weeks), but other times it felt extremely bleak and sad (such as when I officially started saying that I didn’t know if I’d ever go back into work). And in a time of hopelessness, I think dating felt that way too.
    I can’t lie and say that I’m not pumped for the first person I meet out in the world again. It’s so much easier to tell context and interest and connection in person, and not having to wait hours for someone to respond sounds like heaven. But I also know that online dating is the way of the times and the future, and people will likely still populate apps like crazy, even once the pandemic is over. More

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    You Don’t Need a Better Half—and This Is Why

    We’ve all seen it, whether in someone else or in ourselves: a woman (or man) falls in love and, somewhere along the way, forgets themselves and fades into half a person. Someway, somehow, the wants and needs of another human being becomes more important than their own. They disappear into themselves or, more accurately, disappears into the new romance, not to return until the initial sense of magic fades.Falling head-over-heels in love is an exhilarating and exciting feeling, one that’s all too easy to get caught up in whenever we’re lucky enough to recognize the sensation. But while love and partnership can be amazing if you want to have those things, they should never come at the cost of your own sense of self.
    We are a generation raised on the words: “You complete me.” Romantic movies and media have shaped the way we regard and celebrate love. We see the language everywhere: Other half, better half, soulmate. In this world, love is seen not just as a wonderful part of life, but an achievement necessary to reach a level of full, complete humanity.

    We are a generation raised on the words: You complete me.

    Frankly, I hate this idea. You don’t need a “better half” because you are not half of a person. You are a whole person. A healthy relationship isn’t made of two broken, incomplete halves becoming one. It’s made of two wholes, both fully formed with their own plans and dreams and ideas, choosing to navigate the world together. And here’s the kicker: holding on to yourself after falling in love won’t just make you happier down the line—it will also make you a better, more honest partner.
    I’ll be the first to confirm that staying in a successful, working marriage is more difficult work than any job I’ve ever had. The people my husband and I were when we married five years ago are not the people we are now, and we’ve had growing pains as our new goals and plans shifted us together in some ways, and apart in others.

    Holding on to yourself after falling in love won’t just make you happier down the line—it will also make you a better, more honest partner.

    Long-term commitment is never easy, and it’s compounded by the fact that, in the early stages of a relationship, we work really hard to make it look like it is. In those magical first few months and years when your partner can do no wrong, we ignore personality traits that will bother us later (and disguise our own bad habits that will later reemerge), put our own goals on hold to make more time for our partners, and generally change ourselves in ways that make for really blissful short-term relationships and really difficult long-term ones.
    Remaining fearlessly ourselves: the good, the bad, the trying-to-untangle-headphones-while-you’re-in-a-rush ugly, might scare off more than a few potential partners who never would have worked out anyway. It might make the initial phases of dating scarier and more vulnerable, and it might make it seem more difficult to find someone special in the first place. But then you can rest easy knowing that the ones who stick around are the ones who are truly compatible with the real you.

    Source: Polina Tankilevitch | Pexels

    Some things to remember:

    1. Remember your goals
    While it’s natural for your goals to fluctuate and change as you re-envision a shared future with someone else, remember that it’s OK (and necessary) to have goals that extend outside of your relationship. You owe it to yourself not to get complacent after settling down.

    2. Make family and friends a priority
    When you start a new relationship, it’s too easy to leave your family and friends in the dust. As you start seeing someone new, double your effort to maintain connections with loved ones. Ask yourself, “Am I saying ‘no’ to them more than ‘yes’?”

    3. Have your own hobbies
    You don’t need to have everything in common with your partner. I will repeat: you don’t need to have everything in common with your partner. You might like reading while he or she prefers video games. You might be an outdoor person while he or she likes staying inside. Sure, these things can help you determine if you’re truly compatible or not, but it’s perfectly healthy for aspects of your lives and interests to exist independently from one another. It’s far more important to be honest and supportive of each other than it is for you to both like camping. I promise.

    Do you change at all when you start a relationship or is this a non-issue? Start a discussion in the comments! More

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    It’s Hard to Watch the Growing Interest in Asian Food After Being Shamed for My Culture as a Kid

    Everyone has a handful of memories that are painful to remember. I have a fistful of memories that are shrouded in guilt and shame. These memories lie deep within my belly, and among these darker memories, there are several of them that are connected to being Asian American. In between the shrouds, I remember being ridiculed for my eyes and being told to “go back to where I came from.” To be frank, growing up Asian American was difficult for me. I grew up in the early 2000s; in a past world where I often felt marginalized by my classmates. While not all Asian-Americans or BIPOC share my experience, based on my candid conversations with my peers, there seems to be a feeling some of us share; this is a feeling of shame. Whether it’s shame over our bodily features or over our heritage, this feeling, I’ve felt many times, lies within the recesses of our bellies. My shame is often surrounding my Korean heritage and the “pungent” foods we eat.
    In the early 2000s, Asian food was not as popular as it is today. Anglo-cized Asian staples, such as Orange Chicken and California Rolls, were around and accepted, but Asians and their authentic food were not. I’m talking about Asian Barbeque, Hot Pot, Xiao Long Bao, Dduk Gook. I was taught by my family that if I ate Korean food in public, that people would shun me. The shame I felt started at a young age. 
    I remember the night I learned that my Korean food was not accepted. It was a cool September “school night.” I was in first grade and would be experiencing my first lunch period since graduating from kindergarten. 

    Source: Shutterstock

    My family had just finished a giant pot of Kimchi Jigaae (a spicy, tangy stew made out of sour fermented kimchi and beef). After scarfing down my bowl, I declared: “I’m bringing this to lunch tomorrow.”
    In response, my mom quickly stated that, in fact, I would not be bringing this to lunch tomorrow… or ever. Her reasoning was that my mostly white, non-immigrant classmates would make fun of me for a number of reasons. She broke it down for me pretty quickly:

    “It smells too strong”
    “It has a weird taste compared to a typical peanut butter sandwich”
    “Your schoolmates simply can’t handle it”

    In Korean culture and in many cultures, food is celebrated, and family time can mean cooking and eating together. In Korean culture, food is our culture. After all, making kimchi with your whole family in the fall is a ritual called Kimjang. 
    I had known that food was a big deal to my family for as long as I remembered, but after hearing my mother explain that our food wouldn’t be accepted, I understood something else. At the tender age of 5, I learned that society didn’t accept who I was because of my heritage and race. After all, if my food and my culture weren’t accepted, how could I be accepted? 
    As years passed, I would remain quiet as my non-POC peers laughed at the thought of Korean people making “BBQ” and would turn their noses up to homemade mahndoo (otherwise known as Korean dumplings). I would even occasionally be the butt of the joke as people asked whether I ate dogs or not.

    At the tender age of 5, I learned that society didn’t accept who I was because of my heritage and race.

    Source: Alejandra Cifre González | Unsplash

    It took until my senior year of high school for something strange to happen. One of my friends said she tried Korean food for the first time and loved it. Since then, my friends have asked me to go to Korean BBQ with them, or have asked how to use chopsticks properly. 
    Over the years it has been hard watching my friends embrace Asian culture with open arms. There lies an underlying frustration that stems from the pain of having to hide my identity for so long. More importantly, my frustration also lies in the way Asian Americans have been treated in the United States over the last 150 years.

    It has been hard watching my friends embrace Asian culture with open arms. There lies an underlying frustration that stems from the pain of having to hide my identity for so long.

    In the past, the rise in awareness of Asian cuisine has come from historic immigration waves. President Lyndon Johnson’s Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965 allowed for more Asians to finally migrate to the United States, including the immigration of my family. The migrants then exposed non-Asian Americans to new cuisines. 
    The Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965 is something that has always made me cringe. While it’s lauded for ending a quota-based immigration system, I always felt that it’s a remembrance of wrongdoing towards the Asian community. After all it was the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 that did not allow Chinese immigrants to the U.S. (Later, in 1924, other East, Southeast, and Southern Asians were barred from immigrating also). The Exclusion Act, the first federal law to restrict immigration by nationality, later turned into a restriction by race. It took until 1943 for the Exclusion Act to be repealed, and during the 19th century, there was even a persisting stereotype that the Chinese ate rats. 
    Fast forward to present day, when the Pew Research Center noted in 2017 that there are 20 million Asian-Americans in the U.S., and Asian fast-food restaurant sales in the United States have increased by 135 percent since 1999. 

    Source: Matthieu Joannon | Unsplash

    This growth in Asian food over the last several years has been astounding to see. But after years of Asians being ridiculed, how can I not feel frustration towards this growing interest in Asian food? Why show interest now? What’s the point? 
    After being shunned for my Asian food and heritage my entire life, now the current exoticism and wonder towards Asian cuisine is something that makes me wince. When my friends mention that they want to try more authentic Asian food, I can’t help but feel like they are rubbing salt in an old wound. Where was this acceptance and love for this food when I was a kid.
    Given my uneasiness, I asked my Asian peers what they thought about the current rise in popularity of Asian food. Kevin Chen, a Tawainese-American, said, “People are being more aware of cultures now. It’s just hard because it’s not something that’s going to happen overnight. It’s more about bringing up the message [about Asian food] and having people be more aware of these cultures and the depth of them.”
    Chen continued, “It’s not easy. I had a coworker that said a certain type of Asian Cuisine, Sichuwan, is superior to all Asian food, and you can’t just write off a whole culture like that. You can’t just pigeonhole cultures. Each culture’s cuisine is different.”
    Chen’s cautious optimism towards the growing interest in Asian food is one that mirrors my own. It’s hard to envision a place where people are becoming more accepting towards the Asian community. Their curiosity is often one that I look at with weariness. This weariness comes from a fear of snide comments and a wall of shame. All it really boils down to is a wish to be respected for your culture and identity.

    After being shunned for my Asian food and heritage my entire life, now the current exoticism and wonder towards Asian cuisine is something that makes me wince. When my friends mention that they want to try more authentic Asian food, I can’t help but feel like they are rubbing salt in an old wound. Where was this acceptance and love for this food when I was a kid.

    Source: Filippo Faruffini | Unsplash

    Harinder Kaur, an Indian American, had different thoughts as she reflected on her childhood. Kaur said, “Growing up, I wanted to be more white and accepted. When we came to America, we didn’t even have ‘American’ clothes. I saw more racism through the way I looked, not over food. I think I’ve gotten more comfortable accepting my culture, but there’s more to it than food and racism.” 
    Kaur’s story is one that holds true for many Asian families today including my own. The attempt to assimilate to white culture shows the amount of shame we harbor towards our own Asian cultures. 
    While Kaur and Chen may not be reflective of the whole Asian American community, they share a sentiment that needs to be heard louder during these trying times. This sentiment is that Asian stories need to be heard more and accepted more into society, but more importantly, we as Asians need to be prouder of who we are. I truly believe this is the only way forward. After years of hiding and feeling shame within our bellies I believe it’s time we finally stand proud together.
    Perhaps this can be a new step towards more equality and understanding. Instead of focusing solely on our past, it’s time to discuss and reflect on what our future as a nation can be, Asian or otherwise. More

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    6 Changes I’ve Made on My Journey to Being Debt-Free

    Last summer, in the midst of planning a wedding and a cross-country move, I found myself in a real financial mess. While I wasn’t delinquent on payments or behind on my rent, I had no clue how I’d cover my upcoming expenses. It became pretty clear that, despite having a great job and a degree from an impressive university, I was broke.I’m one of the millions of Americans who graduated from college with student loan debt. And in my case, after paying on my loans for five years, I still had a six-figure balance and monthly payments equivalent to a second rent! And in conjunction with credit card bills and a car note, I was one missed paycheck away from spiraling out of control.
    I had a decision to make. If I ever wanted to realize my dreams of buying a home, traveling the world, and—most importantly—building wealth for my future family, something had to change. So I pushed past my self-doubt, frustration, and embarrassment, and started attacking my debt, one dollar at a time. And today, I’m more than halfway to a $0 balance. Here are six changes I’ve made along my journey.
    1. I convinced myself it was possible
    Prior to embarking on this journey, I was clueless as to how bad my financial situation really was. I could pay my bills on time, enjoy local restaurants and bars, shop every so often, and still have a few dollars in my account in between paychecks. In my mind, I was doing well!
    In reality, I was barely staying afloat. And it took a few wake up calls—like barely having enough for my bills after an unexpected doctor’s visit and realizing I couldn’t scrape together the deposit for my dream wedding photographer—to get my head out of the clouds. Aside from $200 in a “savings” account that I dipped into every time my checking account went into overdraft, I had nothing to fall back on. And when I finally worked up the nerve to open all my statements and tally up my balances, I could barely breathe. 
    How am I ever going to pay this off?
    After a minor meltdown and a self-loathing session, I had a decision to make. While I had no idea how I would get it done, I knew I’d never be debt-free if I accepted defeat before I gave it a solid effort. I spent time envisioning, in great detail, what my life could look like if I was debt-free, free from monthly payments, and no longer living paycheck to paycheck. It may sound silly, but focusing on the life I can live once I’m financially stable became my biggest motivation. And with Future Me in mind, it became a lot easier to take tangible steps to close the distance between my current situation and the life I want.

    2. I said “no more” adding to my balances
    The most overwhelming aspect of my debt payoff journey was coming to grips with the daunting amount I owed. If I was somehow able to put every penny of my annual salary toward my debt, it would still take nearly two years to pay off. The reality of my circumstances helped me draw a hard line in the sand: if I was going to get myself out of this mess, I had to stop digging the hole I was in. That meant waving goodbye to my credit cards.
    I reluctantly dumped my credit cards out of my wallet (even the ones with the great travel perks) and started leaving the house without them. Going out with only cash and my debit card to rely on scared me and I started checking my balance obsessively, trying desperately to avoid the embarrassment of having a transaction declined.
    But, as uncomfortable and unenjoyable as turning my back on credit cards was, I saw a near-instant change. Getting in the habit of checking my account so often forced me to think about each purchase before and after I made it. I’d gone from using credit as a makeshift emergency fund when I ran out of money to only buying what I could actually afford. Taking credit off the table sparked a level of discipline I didn’t know I was capable of. 

    3.  I reduced my fixed expenses
    As I started looking into ways to save more money and speed up my debt payoff, it became clear that I needed to cut some of my expenses to free up some money. Despite some of the “easy” recommendations for savings, I really hated the idea of never ordering a cup of coffee on my journey to debt freedom. Instead, I looked for ways to keep my small pleasures by lessening my largest expenses—namely my housing.
    At the first opportunity I had, I downsized my apartment and signed a lease that helped me save over $200 each month. When this money freed up, with newly minted discipline on my side, I prepared to put the money toward my debt payments (as opposed to shopping, brunch, and entertainment).

    4. I drafted a realistic budget
    Before I got serious about paying off my debt, I would have incorrectly said that I knew how to budget. In reality, despite the budgeting apps and resources I had on my phone, I was simply tracking my spending. It wasn’t until I decided to start putting “extra” money toward my debt each month that I realized my approach was all wrong. I needed a true budget.
    I started by writing down the dates and expected amounts of my paychecks. Next, I listed every recurring bill or expense I had each month—like my rent, car payment, and student loan payment—and organized them by due date. From there, I bucketed my expenses by paycheck to ensure I’d have the money and my payments wouldn’t be late. Then I layered on the estimated costs of my essentials, like gas and groceries, and any other unavoidable costs I had coming up and split them across my paycheck buckets. With any money that was left, I set aside a portion for non-essentials, like brunches and happy hours, and set committed to using the rest to attack my debt.
    While the idea of budgeting initially stirred feelings of overwhelm, embarrassment, and restriction, I’ve come to see my budget as an organizational tool. Determining where my money will go and how much I’ll spend in certain categories at the start of each month takes the stress and emotion out of my payments and purchases. And I use a budgeting app so my goals and guidelines are always accessible.
    Since I’m the one in charge of drafting my budget each month, I can apply lessons learned and adapt my allocations month to month. I put a little less toward debt to fund holiday gifts, for instance, and more toward debt when I get a gift or bonus.

    5. I decided on a plan of attack
    Once I got organized and identified additional money I could put toward debt pay down each month, I needed to decide what to pay off first. After a bit of research, I decided between two popular debt payroll methods: the avalanche and the snowball. 
    If I used the avalanche method, I’d make additional payments on whichever debt has the highest interest rate. Once my highest interest debt was paid off, I would add whatever I was paying on it to the payments on my account with the next highest interest rate. This strategy would save money, as I’d pay less in interest over the course of my journey. 
    If I used the snowball method, I’d make additional payments on whichever debt had the lowest balance. Once my lowest balance debt was paid off, I would add whatever I was paying on it to the payments on the next lowest debt. This strategy would help me build momentum in my payoff journey, paying off my smallest debts quickly before focusing on my largest balances.
    My debt balances and interest rates really varied and, initially, I wasn’t sure which payoff method made the most sense for my situation. But when I considered how long my journey to debt freedom would be, I knew the snowball method would be my best bet. By focusing on my smallest balances first, I was able to celebrate a few “small wins” early on. When I paid off my first credit card (a $1,200 balance), for instance, I felt incredibly energized around my goal—I could do this! And after a year of following this approach, I paid off five separate accounts and am putting more money than ever toward my payments.

    6. I shared my goals with my girls
    Along this journey, I’ve learned just how tough it is to say “no, I can’t make it” when I actually mean “I’d love to come, but I’m broke!” But I knew that making real progress with my finances would mean scaling back on the (really enjoyable) money traps I set for myself each month. That meant fewer weekend brunches, weeknight happy hours, and aimless trips to Target. And it ultimately meant learning to say “I can’t” when my friends invited me out.
    Initially, I struggled with the embarrassment of being the (seemingly) “broke” one of the group and then the guilt of blowing my friends off. But after a few months of vague excuses and declined invitations, I gradually lowered my guard and let my friends know why they were seeing me less often. And despite my initial hesitation, sharing my goals with my family and friends was one of my best decisions since starting this journey. 
    While a few people couldn’t make sense of my efforts, most of my friends were quick to offer their support and understanding. And in the time since, many of them have stepped up to cheer me on or ask for advice on their own debt-free journeys. Even though I’m on a different personal finance journey than some, I loved that money has become less of a taboo topic in my friend groups. More

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    How My Hair Shaped My Identity

    One of my favorite things about my look is my pixie cut. If you asked me to describe it, I would say: short, edgy, and professional. As a disabled woman, it’s effortless and time-effective. I have the advantage of waking up and not having to brush my hair if my bedhead isn’t too visible. Some days I add a little style, but I love having a hairstyle where it’s easy to manage. My ultimate hair goal, however, is to shave my head and have a buzzcut. Jazzmyne Jay, a BuzzFeed content creator, is my inspiration; she’s given me the courage to experiment with fashion. I’ve wanted to do it for a while; I’ve just been waiting for the right time.
    Honestly, I’ve been waiting for an accepting work environment. I want to work in an environment where diversity is valued, where there is an open-mindedness to individuals who have disabilities and endure mental illness, and where there are strong core values and beliefs; where these things are instilled in the company. In the past few years, I’ve been trying to live intentionally. I’ve always been authentic in who I am, but I’ve tried to be more intentional these last few years with everything that I’ve been through. It’s hard to go into spaces where you are accepted, however, you feel that you still have to hold back a part of your identity, or when you have to hide your entire identity because you are not sure of the reaction, especially in this political climate where you’re often discriminated against for being LGBTQ+. 

    In the past few years, I’ve been trying to live intentionally. I’ve always been authentic in who I am, but I’ve tried to be more intentional these last few years with everything that I’ve been through.

    Chopping off all your hair is a way for you to start afresh and emerge a new person. I feel rejuvenated and on lighter feet after every cut. My hair wasn’t weighing me down anymore. Look at it this way: it’s like when a caterpillar becomes a butterfly. Each haircut is as if I’m escaping from all of the anxiety and the depression that has happened since the last haircut to start a new season.
    Society pushes many stereotypes about the short-haired woman: she’s damaged, she’s aggressive, she’s manly, she must be a lesbian. As a society, we attach so many parts of a person’s identity to their hair: their sexuality, history, gender, and even personality, and when women have short hair, people tend to think of that as almost being political. She’s making a statement. Long hair is depicted as feminine and beautiful, whereas short hair is not. 

    Look at it this way: it’s like when a caterpillar becomes a butterfly. Each haircut is as if I’m escaping from all of the anxiety and the depression that has happened since the last haircut to start a new season.

    As an individual with a disability (I have cerebral palsy and hemiplegia), I do not have the use of my right arm. Because of this, I have difficulty styling my hair, and what began as a move for more independence became a move for self-expression. I had long hair up until college, when I started getting pixie cuts. In high school, I’d had to ask my family to help me style my hair (ponytails, braids, etc.). On my own, I could get at best pin the bangs out of my face. Disabled women’s hair is just seen as yet another inconvenience in terms of independence, and at times we aren’t even given a choice around our hair length and style.
    When I attempted to pull my hair into a ponytail by myself, I ultimately failed. I had to deal with loose long hair in all weather and environments. I loved my long hair, and it was beautiful, but it was a source of inconvenience and discomfort. I’m never going to fit into a box. I’m never going to fit under a label; I’m never going to be anything anybody wants me to be, I’m always evolving. I’m all about breaking boundaries. Breaking barriers, breaking labels, and allowing myself to be free.
    And that’s what my short hair is to me. More