• Stephen Collins on Larry and Dilyn – cartoon
    Style
    The Guardian

    Stephen Collins on Larry and Dilyn – cartoon

    Stephen Collins on Larry and Dilyn – cartoon

  • Sad face: New Zealander takes clown to redundancy meeting
    Style
    The Guardian

    Sad face: New Zealander takes clown to redundancy meeting

    Josh Thompson hired clown – who reportedly mimed crying as the paperwork was handed over – as emotional support aide. If you think emotional support animals have got out of control, prepare yourself for news of an emotional support clown. An Auckland advertising copywriter brought a clown to his redundancy meeting, as first reported in the New Zealand Herald on Friday. New Zealand legally requires employers to allow workers the option of bringing a support person to serious disciplinary meetings, usually relating to an employee’s prospective dismissal. After FCB New Zealand lost a significant client and began layoffs, Josh Thompson, who had reportedly been with the company for five months, received an ominous email from his bosses that read: “Bad news. We’re having a meeting to discuss your role.” Faced with the task of securing an appropriate support person for the potentially tense meeting, Thompson, an aspiring comedian, said: “I thought it’s best to bring in a professional, and so I paid $200 and hired a clown.” The clown, who Thompson refers to as “Joe”, crafted balloon animals throughout the meeting, including a poodle. His antics were squeaky, and Thompson’s bosses had to request he quieten down several times. “It’s further understood,” reported the Herald, “that the clown mimed crying when the redundancy paperwork was handed over.” A picture of the meeting, taken through a boardroom’s glass doors by an unknown spectator, is of compromised quality, though one can detect that Joe, the clown, is wearing a colorful hat and a yellow bib, and that Thompson, leaning back in his chair, indeed looks relaxed for someone in the process of getting laid off. Thompson told Magic Talk radio: “I mean, I did get fired, but apart from that it was all smooth running.” Fortunately, Thompson will not be out of work for long. The Australian ad agency DDB confirmed Thompson will start a new role in its office next week. As of publishing, no reports have suggested what’s next for Joe.

  • Mattel's sold-out 'Day of the Dead' Barbie called 'cultural appropriation at its worst'
    Style
    Francesca Specter

    Mattel's sold-out 'Day of the Dead' Barbie called 'cultural appropriation at its worst'

    Cultural appropriation or a celebration?

  • I’ve turned my hand to matchmaking
    Style
    The Guardian

    I’ve turned my hand to matchmaking

    ‘True compatibility lies in our values, temperament and other digital dark matter – the human stuff that can’t be transmitted online.’ Photograph: Getty Images/iStockphotoBeing British Asian, the role of the “matchmaker” is perhaps more familiar to me than to others. Usually, what you hear about south Asian matched relationships is the extreme end: forced marriages, weddings between strangers, loveless pairings built on shame and subterfuge. But for plenty, the tradition is much closer to a suggestion – a kindness – and what you should do for those you love.I kicked against any type of matchmaking when I was young. Not for any grandiose reason; I simply did not trust the judgment of my relatives. I thought they had truly terrible taste (one of them remains a huge fan of Mrs Brown’s Boys) and I felt their picks were about them and their image of who I should be, rather than what I wanted.But recently I decided to matchmake my friends. I couldn’t bear listening to these two brilliant people sink into another sadness after yet another bad experience via an app. He would say it, she would say it, shell-shocked: “I thought they were one of the Good Ones.”I, too, have previously thought I could spot the Good Ones (previous “surefire” signs include: is nice to his sister; does charity at Christmas; has read a book written by a woman once). But this was nothing more than superstition, a crude way to make sense of something unfathomable: finding love in our weird modern world.And it is weird. Online matches are inspired by boredom, biases and superficial preferences. Meanwhile, true compatibility lies in our values, temperament and other digital dark matter – the human stuff that can’t be transmitted online.How did I do? There are few things as satisfying as hearing that two people you matched are happy. I imagine it was beginner’s luck, because I am no expert. The stuff of love is too elusive to be mastered.

  • School pupil sent out of lessons for wearing 'incorrect' black shoes
    Style
    Francesca Specter

    School pupil sent out of lessons for wearing 'incorrect' black shoes

    The Old Skool Vans are said to break the uniform policy.

  • Child’s play injures more than 7 million parents
    Style
    Marie Claire Dorking

    Child’s play injures more than 7 million parents

    And more than 13 million working days are lost.

  • This is the age science says you're a proper adult
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    Marie Claire Dorking

    This is the age science says you're a proper adult

    Late to the adulting party.

  • I’ve spent 15 years in a job that breaks my heart
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    The Guardian

    I’ve spent 15 years in a job that breaks my heart

    My workmates don’t want to know me; my boss doesn’t value me. Should I just shut up and take what I’m given?. I spend every working day in a cubicle in a bland office. My job is fairly solitary . I have tried to organise events to make work more fun, to develop camaraderie with colleagues. They don’t appreciate it and my boss is patronising. If he had his way, I would smile, say nothing and accept what I am given. It has been 15 years now – same position, same cubicle. New people have been hired and given better titles and nicer offices. Not me. I have asked for more, and been told “no” with no real explanation. Is this all I should expect from my workplace? . When leaving a message on this page, please be sensitive to the fact that you are responding to a real person in the grip of a real-life dilemma, who wrote to Private Lives asking for help, and may well view your comments here. Please consider especially how your words or the tone of your message could be perceived by someone in this situation, and be aware that comments that appear to be disruptive or disrespectful to the individual concerned will be removed. . Comments on this piece are premoderated to ensure discussion remains on topics raised by the writer. Please be aware there may be a short delay in comments appearing on the site. . If you would like fellow readers to respond to a dilemma of yours, send us an outline of the situation of about 150 words. For advice from Pamela Stephenson Connolly on sexual matters, send us a brief description of your concerns. . All correspondence should reach us by Wednesday morning. Email private.lives@theguardian.com (please don’t send attachments). Submissions are subject to our terms and conditions: see gu.com/letters-terms .

  • Margaret Atwood speaks in favour of 'empowering' strip club work
    Style
    Francesca Specter

    Margaret Atwood speaks in favour of 'empowering' strip club work

    The number of sex shops and lap dancing clubs in England have fallen by a third in the past five years.

  • Non-binary singer Sam Smith wants to be referred to as ‘they’ not ‘he’
    Style
    Marie Claire Dorking

    Non-binary singer Sam Smith wants to be referred to as ‘they’ not ‘he’

    The non-binary singer has reportedly requested friends and family use they/them pronouns instead of he/him when referring to the star.

  • Parents fined for picking up children late at Australian school
    Style
    Francesca Specter

    Parents fined for picking up children late at Australian school

    It's said to be for children's safety.

  • Internet users have discovered how cashews are grown and can't deal
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    Marie Claire Dorking

    Internet users have discovered how cashews are grown and can't deal

    A Twitter user shared her amazement after discovering how they grow and subsequently sent social media users into a frenzy.

  • Bizarre beauty trend sees women glue their top lip to achieve a plumper pout
    Style
    Marie Claire Dorking

    Bizarre beauty trend sees women glue their top lip to achieve a plumper pout

    The latest bizarre beauty craze comes with a health warning.

  • In praise of window seats
    Style
    The Guardian

    In praise of window seats

    ‘I don’t understand having the option to sit at a window and not choosing it.’ Photograph: Getty ImagesThere’s a scene in Kieślowski’s Three Colours Blue (one of the greatest films of all time) where Juliette Binoche sits in a cafe, idly pouring coffee on her ice-cream, going through real heavy shit, and looks out of the window at a man on the street playing a recorder. Personally, I wouldn’t be hugely thrilled at a man playing a recorder during a meditative moment, but it’s the sort of unexpected vignette of humanity that sitting by the window affords. I don’t understand having the option to sit at a window and not choosing it. Would you walk around with your eyes closed? Or sit in the dark? Do you watch television with it switched off?The restaurant at the top of the North Tower of the World Trade Center was called Windows on the World. But all windows are windows on the world. Sometimes they’re not great ones – as anyone privy to a neighbour’s dressing routine can attest – but more often than not, sitting next to a window is the inspiration of painters and writers; a crash course in anthropology; a catalyst for a change in mood or reflection on, like, life.It’s a proscenium, where the arch is a peeling sash frame, or the scratched, plastic edges of an Airbus, or the little blue curtains of a first-class carriage. The things you see. The people, animals, happenings. With urban windows, the everyday cordiality: drivers and pedestrians thanking each other with nods and semaphore. Amazing outfits. Friends joshing each other. Or the opposite: annoying lads doing wheelies in the road, endangering themselves and everyone else, half a decade before they’ll shake their heads about it all.Train window seats reveal green and gold treasures for miles. Thoughts appear from fields and tumble from skies. That doesn’t happen when you’re looking at an open-and-closing malfunctioning toilet door, or are buffeted by trolleys selling Mini Cheddars for £5. In a plane, sure, you have to disturb your seat neighbours once in a while – for a wee, to stave off DVT – but it’s worth it, for the pointillist pastel houses of foreign lands; the expanse of seas and undulating rivers never swum.The significances of window seats are well recognised. That’s why film cuts include characters staring mournfully past droplets of rain on glass, or CEOs looking out from top-floor offices, their feet on desks. It is why we’re all well versed in the Parisian flaneur, strolling the streets before sitting and observing. It’s why you can easily imagine me writing this, right now, watching the shadows on the pavement, the sun warming the glass, my chin in my hand, head turning slowly back to the screen.

  • He, she, they … should we now clarify our preferred pronouns when we say hello?
    Style
    The Guardian

    He, she, they … should we now clarify our preferred pronouns when we say hello?

    Pronoun introductions are seen as a positive step towards a better understanding of gender – but it’s complicated. The internet is an unforgiving place. Use the wrong words, express the wrong opinion, and you can quickly find yourself “cancelled”. One of the latest victims of the internet cancellation machine is Natalie Wynn, a trans woman who has built a large following on her YouTube channel ContraPoints. Wynn is known for her smart, surreal, Wildesque video essays, which explore everything from incels to capitalism and frequently get more than a million views. Refreshingly, Wynn thinks about things rather than shouts about them; she embraces nuance. She is, to borrow a phrase the New York Times bizarrely used to describe the rightwing pundit Ben Shapiro, “the cool kid’s philosopher”. But last week, she became persona non grata. Her crime? Wynn tweeted that she wasn’t always a big fan of “pronoun introductions”: an exercise in which people go around and say their names alongside their preferred pronouns. Wynn’s issue with the practice is that even though the whole point is to foster inclusivity, it can make her feel like she doesn’t fit in. “There’s this paradox where I can go to a sports bar in North Carolina and be miss/ma’amed all night, no question,” Wynn tweeted. “But in self-consciously trans-inclusive spaces I have to explain my pronouns and watch woke people awkwardly correct themselves every time they say ‘you guys’.” Wynn added: “I guess [pronoun introductions are] good for people who use they/them only and want only gender neutral language. But it comes at the minor expense of semi-passable transes like me, and that’s super fucking hard for us.” (If you know Wynn’s work, the last words should be read with a hint of self-deprecation.) Wynn was quickly inundated by angry messages from a small number of highly vocal non-binary people who thought she was invalidating their identity. She was also accused of benefiting from “passing privilege” because she is a conventionally attractive white woman. The backlash was so bad that Wynn deleted her Twitter account. The anger doesn’t appear to have abated – this week, rumours that Wynn has been doxxed started circulating. The politicization of pronouns Little attention used to be paid to pronouns. In recent years, however, they have become a cornerstone of the culture wars. Pronoun preferences are a favourite joke among unimaginative reactionaries who use them as proof that “snowflake millennials” just want to feel special. In Dave Chappelle’s latest Netflix stand-up special, for example, he jokes: “Hey, what’s going on, fellas? Lady. Whatever pronoun makes you feel comfortable in the back.” Meanwhile, pronoun introductions have become an established feature of some progressive spaces and university campuses. Many view this as a positive step towards a more nuanced understanding of gender. As Darius Hickman, a 23-year-old non-binary poet in New York says, these introductions mean people who don’t conform to traditional views of binary gender don’t feel alienated. “Relying on clocking people’s gender based on appearances is harmful, especially since some people – oftentimes non-binary folks – can happen to look strictly binary, and a simple pronoun check makes things easier for everyone, including folks whose gender isn’t easy to tell.” But when gender is so complex and personal, is there really any such thing as a “simple” pronoun check? At this stage, I should probably note that although I identify as a Progressive Lesbian™, the pressure of pronoun introductions often makes me feel uncomfortable. Actively announcing myself as a she/her makes it seem like I’m making my entire identity about my gender, which feels regressive. Further, while pronoun introductions are supposed to be about recognizing that gender is complex, it sometimes seems as though they – paradoxically – reinforce gender binaries. Announcing yourself as a “she”, “he” or “they” would appear to buy into the notion that a “he” is completely different from a “she” – and if you don’t subscribe to traditional gender roles you should identify yourself as a “they”. Wouldn’t it be better if we just worked towards a future where “he” and “she” weren’t weighted with so much meaning? What if we worked to break those limitations down instead? Perhaps. But, notes Lal Zimman, an assistant professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara who focusses on the linguistic practices of LGBQT speakers, we can’t escape the fact that pronouns play an important role in how we see the world. Like it or not, “we tend to take a lot of social cues from pronouns. Even hearing a pronoun in a sentence can make you picture someone very differently.” Being more mindful about them “challenges people’s ideas about how gender works in a fundamental way”. That isn’t to say that pronoun introductions are entirely without difficulty. “I think Wynn is absolutely right that people engage with that practice in ways that can be somewhat problematic,” Zimman says. Sometimes pronoun introductions only happen when a gender non-conforming person is in the room, for example. Naturally, that person can feel singled out. In Zimman’s view, you solve this problem by normalizing pronoun introduction so everyone is clear it is standard and hasn’t been rolled out specifically for them. It’s not just people feeling singled out that is potentially problematic, however; pronoun introductions can be uncomfortable for people who are still figuring out their gender identity. Rachel Levin, a professor at Pomona College, has observed this on a number of occasions among her students, inspiring her to write a piece for Inside Higher Ed last year that suggested “asking everyone their preferred personal pronoun is not a good idea”. “Undergrads are often still in the process of finding themselves,” Levin says. They’re often still a work in progress. Pronoun introductions can “force people to out themselves or lie in a room full of strangers. Let’s not make the most marginalized people in the room feel uncomfortable by posing as allies.” Levin doesn’t avoid the issue of pronouns altogether. “I usually make some statements to the class about the importance of pronouns and why I’m not asking,” she explains, “so that allyship and responsibility is signaled and nobody is made uncomfortable.” She also emails students before the class begins asking them to let her know if they have any concerns about correct pronoun usage, or if their name hasn’t been officially recorded. Is ‘they’ the answer to the pronoun problem? What about the growing popularity of the singular “they”? About one in five Americans say they personally know someone who prefers a gender-neutral pronoun like “they” rather than he/she, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in fall 2018. They has become so mainstream that, earlier this year, a New York Times op-ed columnist announced that we should all move away “from the stifling prison of gender expectations” and use “they”. This may seem like a neat way of avoiding pronoun problems, but it is reductive. Professor Grace Lavery at UC Berkley notes that “people outside the trans community tend to assume that ‘they’ is a catch-all – but it isn’t. For plenty of trans and non-binary people, ‘they’ has very concrete and distinctive meanings. I don’t think it’s a generalizable term. Additionally, for binary trans people, ‘they’ is often a place where we get stuck – people prepared to acknowledge some of our transition, but not all of it. Assuming pronouns in advance, even neutral ones, can lead to significant problems.” Zimman echoes this, explaining that a blanket use of “they” doesn’t align with the idea that people should have some agency in how they are referred to. “I like to think of someone’s pronouns in a similar way to how I’d think about their name. You can’t just look at someone and say, ‘Hey, you look like a Stephanie – that’s what I’m going to call you.’” “We manage to learn a lot of names over the course of our lives,” Zimman adds. “We learn names that are unusual or hard to pronounce. We recognize that’s just part of being a human being and having positive relationships with other humans. I’d like to see the same attitude applied to pronouns.” At this stage I should probably wrap everything up with a tidy conclusion. But I think the key message is that there are no tidy conclusions – other than the fact that we should treat each other with kindness and respect. Gender is messy and complicated and incredibly emotional. Pronouns are personal, and everybody’s relationship with them is different. Which, I think, is sort of what Wynn was trying to say before she was cancelled.

  • Millie Bobby Brown's latest skincare tutorial is confusing the Internet
    Style
    Marie Claire Dorking

    Millie Bobby Brown's latest skincare tutorial is confusing the Internet

    People don't believe the actress was actually using the products.

  • Patti Smith looks set to be the new face of Saint Laurent at 72
    Style
    Marie Claire Dorking

    Patti Smith looks set to be the new face of Saint Laurent at 72

    The 72-year-old is reportedly due to shoot for the French fashion house’s spring 2020 campaign.

  • Grubs up: school children in Wales are being served bugs for lunch
    Style
    Marie Claire Dorking

    Grubs up: school children in Wales are being served bugs for lunch

    Bug bolognese anyone?

  • Is it ever acceptable to break up with someone by text?
    Style
    Francesca Specter

    Is it ever acceptable to break up with someone by text?

    Plus, six better ways to end a relationship.

  • Why you should think twice before sharing your sex life with an app
    Style
    The Guardian

    Why you should think twice before sharing your sex life with an app

    Period trackers could be sharing your secrets. Photograph: Caiaimage/Paul Bradbury/Getty/Posed by modelNot content with knowing where you have been, who you’ve been talking to, which of your friends you want to date and who you are likely to vote for, it now looks like Facebook also knows when you have been having sex – if you have been using a period-tracker app, that is.A BuzzFeed investigation this week found that apps used by millions of women to track their menstrual cycles, including MIA Fem and Maya, had been sharing personal data with Facebook and other third-party services. The information included contraception use, physical symptoms and, yes, when users had sex. (Mercifully, it seems who we have been doing it with remains out of Facebook’s sweaty grasp.)Menstrual tracking apps can be incredibly useful, from knowing when your period is likely to come to managing problematic symptoms or maximising your chances of conceiving. But should we reconsider sharing information with them? It is no secret that we already give a staggering amount of data to platforms such as Facebook, Google and Twitter. So it should come as no surprise that we are happy to share the most personal information with our phones; they’ve got everything else, so why not?The fact that we so happily punch in highly personal information into apps we can’t guarantee are secure is really just the latest of example of how the measurement and quantification of even our most intimate behaviours is second nature. If someone told you they had written down every instance of when they had recently had sex into a notebook they kept by their bed, you’d probably start backing away pretty rapidly. But typing it into our phones seems normal, even logical.With so much of our private, personal information floating around in the cloud, ready to be exploited by advertisers, politicians or the platforms themselves, it may seem academic that our sex lives are also under the data microscope. But resisting this monopoly is one way to stop the commodification of our emotional life, to stop thinking of intimate, meaningful moments as simply data to be recorded, measured and shared. Three in a bed might sound fun – but we need to think a little deeper about who we have invited under the bedsheets when our phones are in the picture, too.

  • What do all these ‘economically unattractive men’ tell us about marriage?
    Style
    The Guardian

    What do all these ‘economically unattractive men’ tell us about marriage?

    Rush Limbaugh is wrong to blame feminists for the lack of ‘high-earning husbands’, but some women do have odd ideas about wedlock. I hope you feminists are happy! You’ve finally gone and done it. You’ve throttled the supply of high-earning husbands, and now there are severe mismatches in the marriage market. Yes, I regret to report that a study in the Journal of Marriage and Family (there truly is a journal for everything) has found that unmarried American women “face overall shortages of economically attractive partners”. Women are looking for husbands with an income 58% higher than those of the available men. Hang on, I thought marriage was about love, not combined incomes? Sure, says Daniel Lichter, a Cornell professor and the study’s lead author, “but it also is fundamentally an economic transaction”. And, Lichter says, “Many young men today have little to bring to the marriage bargain, especially as young women’s educational levels …now exceed their male suitors.” Why do so many men have such poor prospects? There are various theories including, Lichter notes, the “gig economy of unstable, low-paying service jobs”. But you know what’s easier than blaming the economy? Blaming women! The fact women are struggling to find suitable husbands has caused glee in conservative circles. US shock-jock Rush Limbaugh says this story shows feminism has come back to bite women “in the butt”. “They’re earning money, but they still have the same attitude about marriage,” he crowed. I hate to say this, but Limbaugh does have a very tiny point. I’m struck by how many empowered women regress to the 1950s when it comes to marriage. They fight for equality at work, but still have traditional expectations when it comes to men proposing with expensive diamond rings. And the idea that marrying a rich dude is something one should aspire to is still very much entrenched in society. The rise of “economically unattractive” men isn’t just bad news for guys – it reflects poorly on us all.

  • People are being sober-shamed for giving up alcohol
    Style
    Marie Claire Dorking

    People are being sober-shamed for giving up alcohol

    Sober-shaming is not ok.

  • Piers Morgan slams decision to ban Fireman Sam, calls it 'tripe nonsense'
    Style
    Francesca Specter

    Piers Morgan slams decision to ban Fireman Sam, calls it 'tripe nonsense'

    Only 7% of firefighters are female.

  • What is trypophobia and why are sufferers being triggered by Apple’s new iPhones?
    Style
    Marie Claire Dorking

    What is trypophobia and why are sufferers being triggered by Apple’s new iPhones?

    'The iPhone 11 leak triggers my trypophobia.'