What Does Love Look Like?

This year I’ve not been blogging quite so much I’ve been busy falling in love and trying to find out what who I am as part of a “couple”. Falling in love is amazing isn’t it? Those butterflies that you get when you meet, the idea that anything is possible and that finally all your hopes and dreams have been realised. Right? Wrong! It’s like that for maybe the first wee while, and then the reality hits that we are all flawed and fundamentally love isn’t an object that just exists, but it’s more like a living thing that has to be nurtured, fed and watered in order to survive.

I’m pretty cynical when it comes to love. Perhaps being divorced before I was 26 and then being dumped, just before the bells on midnight, is enough to put any gal in a state of constant “when’s he leaving(ness)”. Although, bizarrely, I still have the child like notion that love comes on a white horse, sweeps you off your feet and suddenly you have someone in your life to put the bins out. Disclaimer: I have a lovely neighbour Martin who puts my bins oot, but yanno a girl would like her man to take a turn (my aim isn’t high).

We all want the instalove. Hand holding photos, cooked meals together, trips, with dirty faced but adorable moppets, to the seaside, Autumnal walks with the dog and all the other “ideas of love” which make it onto the gram. However the reality of falling in love in your thirties plus is pretty different. Lives are well and truly established, mixed families tend to create new boundaries, demanding careers are already firmly in place, parents are ageing and life is already so full that even getting five minutes to look at Instagram together seems like a treat, as for that autumnal walk in the woods? Send me a postcard.

Don’t get me wrong there are moments in my new found love life which have taken my breathe away. Trips to Milan, drives in the setting sun and dinners which would make your heart melt (food is clearly a big love thing for me). These moments are magical, but they’re fleeting and what I’ve learned is that romance is when two people find a way, within extraordinary pressure, to put the other first. Sometimes that love is uncomfortable, it doesn’t feel like the movies and you certainly might not think it’s worth writing home about; but for me that’s the real love. It takes a lot to tell those around you that life will change and that they will have to adjust to the “new version of you”. People find comfort in keeping you the way you are, because that makes them comfortable. Parents, friends, children; they all like us to be stagnant because it feels secure; but when we fall in love we have to be willing to shake up the playing field and change the rules.

It can be frightening, but people adjust. Eventually. I once told someone that taking care of someone when it’s easy is “nice”, but taking care of someone when everything is against you that’s “love”. For anyone who’s followed my social media for a while you know how much I advocate “reality”. I’ve written many a humours blog about dating and raising bratty (but beautiful) weans. So you will all know that all I’ve ever wanted was to find real love and have “family”. What I’m learning is that what love is, is slightly different to what I thought it would be.

Romance now is adjusting your work day to fit in a coffee. It’s telling others that your life has changed, and that while you still love them, they have to catch up. It’s sharing your cupboard space and giving up clean, seat down, loos. It’s making sure there is always “cola” available. It’s trying to understand when love can’t be there, even when you think it should. It’s learning to bend your own rigid life style. It’s taking yourself outside your comfortable box. It’s declaring to the world that “this person is mine” even if the world has something to say about it.

Who doesn’t want Paris and flowers? Diamond and holidays? Bags and shoes? Opened doors? Chairs pulled out? Actually????? I don’t think most people do. I think what we all want from love is very simple, well at least for me it is. It’s someone to come home to. It’s sacrificial. It’s someone who can weather a difficult journey. It’s someone who catches you when you fall. It’s someone who sees the best in you. The thing about Diamonds is that they can be lost, and flowers can die but respecting someone, adoring someone and treating them with a kind heart; well that never loses its shine.

My final, little but worthy, bit of wisdom is slightly selfish for a love blog. Love yourself. Imagine you’re the most amazing human being on the planet, then picture yourself as a little child sitting a lone, lonely on a step. Ask yourself “what kind of love would I expect for that beautiful little person?” I’m sure your answer would be, only the best. If we love ourselves enough to expect the best then we will be much more able to give that kind of love in return. You are already good enough, if you have children then you already have family – so the cake is already made, it’s just waiting for the cherry on the top. Love yourself and expect nothing less than butterflies.

I dedicate this to Peter. To our journey. To our good times, and our bad. To beating the odds together. To adjusting even when it’s hard. To Celino’s. To growing. To loving each other. Always.

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Single. Mother. Survivor.

The words “single parent” often strike an instant image into your mind. What do you see? A mum with lot’s of kids living off of social security contributions? A dad who has lost his wife to illness and is just holding it all together? Do you see an image of pity? Do you feel love and compassion? Or, if you’re honest, do you feel scornful and judgemental?

I remember growing up as the youngest daughter of a 2.4, 1980’s, small C conservative family and thinking I had it all. Yes, my dad worked away all the time, and yes my mum was so ill with depression that she couldn’t even get out of her bed every day; but they were together right? So yes, I had it all. I often looked at the kids in my class who had to go to their dads every second Sunday with real pity in my heart; “look at that sad soul, bet they wished they could lie in their own bed watching Glen Michael’s Cartoon Cavalcade with their mum and dad downstairs making breakfast”. Now, I’m not sure where this idea came from because I was never allowed to stay in my bed on a Sunday, and rarely was my mother able to rise from her poor mental health to make me some sort of Walton’s style breakfast; but there you have it, even at primary age I was judging the children and parents from lone parent families.

Fast forward to my mid-twenties and picture a young mum with a five year old, a two year old, a Louis Vuitton handbag and no money; sitting in a housing office in Wishaw desperately seeking somewhere to live. Just a home of my own to raise my children. There were no houses, well none where I thought I should be living, but thankfully I was given housing benefit and sold enough of what I had to secure myself a private tenancy in a two bedroom ex-council flat. You should have seen this flat, it was all mustard kitchens, mint green bathrooms and swirly carpets; a far cry from my four bed semi and Audi supporting driveway. I had, overnight,  become a single mum living in a scheme. That’s how quickly it happened, and I was still judging, judging myself, judging my life and judging my future.

I had two choices in that period I could become the label and just lay down to it “single mum, no work, no life” or I could fight. I could beg to work on TV shows for whatever they paid, I could borrow enough money from my dad to start an online company which would let me work and parent, I could accept the small amounts of benefits I was owed which would often stop us from starving till the end of the month. I could survive. I could ignore the millions of voices giving me “sound advice” (which is more often than not from someone who lives in a two income house and who’s never had to sell said “Louis Vuitton” handbag on ebay). I could make being a single mum fabulous.

Don’t get me wrong there are moments when its far from fabulous; a lot of lone parents hear this phrase from coupled up friends “seriously though, at least you get a break at the weekend”. That’s right because I don’t spend the weekends catching up with the millions of chores which society sees as “mans work”, cleaning the car, changing all the broken light bulbs and sorting the mountains of bills. I also don’t spend my weekends missing my children and the chatter that comes from “normal” family life….. Think about that. People tend to forget that when you’re a lone parent, and maybe even a parent with a spouse who is working or living away from home, you never get a break. I’ll give you an example, last night child two had a fever, she was up all night and there was no one to hand the reigns to. I had no one to say “could you run and get her some water to take these paracetamols with”, no, I had to run gazelle-like down two flights of stairs while shouting “there there beautiful girl, I’ll be back in two seconds” while simultaneously trying not to break my neck in the jet black night. I get that not all partners are useful in these situations, but often even knowing there is another grown up gazelle-like runner in your home, well it just helps. I got up this morning, I washed my face, I pulled on some very strange clothes and I got my ass to work. Why? Because not only am I the carer, but I am the sole provider and I blooming love it.

I could lament about being a single mammy for hours, I’ve not even got on to the subject of “finding love”. If you have children you will never hear a more loaded question than “Who do you live with?”. This is a grownups way of asking if you have more baggage than terminal one at Heathrow. Oh, and if you do find someone who (often by the way thinks they’re doing you a huge favour taking on your children) would like to date you, sorting your diary to suit work, life, children and romance, would make you feel like you’re the Private Secretary to Nicola Sturgeon…. “I can fit you in for two hours after dancing on the Second of March?”

Yes being a lone parent isn’t always fun and games but guess what? I’m managing not to mess up my children completely! Mad isn’t it? A woman who gets tax credits and a discount on her council tax, with two slightly eccentric but remarkably brilliant human beings, who are contributing to society before they are even old enough to move out (which they better had do because I don’t plan on running gazelle-like after them forever). It’s maybe not the way society, or my mind, thought I would raise a family but I live with a joy that I could never have obtained if I hadn’t experienced parenting on my own. I have sense of “I did that, me, look at me!”

So how did I do it? How did I survive? Yes, there is an internal feminist warrior in me, but the answer was support. I had brilliant parents, a loving sister and fantastic friends. People who saw my struggles but who took a load off; and sometimes kicked me up the bahookie and out of my self pity. There were times when my health, the kids health and the world around me would have led me to believe that giving up would be easier; that if I became invisible and believed that I , as a single parent, should achieve nothing then that would have become my reality. Goodness, aren’t I glad that wasn’t the road I travelled. When I was Councillor I was asked over and over and over, why are you into politics? Seriously? Why? The answer is simple, because I know what its like to almost sink and to feel like you are being swept up in a sea of cliches. Benefits. Poverty. Ill health. Loneliness. Fear. I didn’t, I was sent a a life raft of hope in the form of support. Now it’s my time to support others.

If you’re judging single parents because of the help they receive, be it from family or the DSS then remember my words, in ONE night it happened to me. As quickly as I was married to a financier, I was alone. If, you think you could do it better, or you would have made different choices, then that’s great you must have all your shit together; I’ve not met anyone like that as yet, but if that’s you well done. As for us single parents, we’re just like everyone else who’s trying to raise a nice rounded human being, we are only doing our best. If you see a single mammy struggling financially, emotionally or physically; instead of opening your judging mind, soften your heart and throw them a lifebelt. Could your act of kindness change one person, and in turn change the world entire? Parents come in all “shapes and sizes”. Young mums, grannies, aunties, daddies, grampas and more; with the right support every one can raise a child who can change the world.

Finally I would like to dedicate this blog to all the single mammys and daddies who have survived, and especially to my little warrior Kelly who is the epitome of fierce.  Parents who get up and play two parts in the same play. Who juggle work, life and love while often giving so much of them self that their tank is left empty. Love yourself more, judge yourself less. To all the singletons who have gone on dates with puke down their jacket shoulders and the mobile on vibrate in case of a toddler emergency, I salute you, you haven’t given up on love and love will never give up on you.

I’m signing off because my two are at their dads and I’m going to finish the housework and have a very deserved night of uninterrupted sleep!

My official complaint to the Labour Party and Jeremy Corbyn

Dear Mr Corbyn,

I am not a member of your party, nor am I a Labour voter however I’ve had a lot of respect for some of your recent policies and as we agree on certain subjects; I thought it best to approach you on an issue which almost cost me my life. An issue which has silenced me for so long but now I feel able to discuss.

Until the local authority elections in May I was a Councillor in an area called North Lanarkshire, the home of Kier Hardy and many other politicians of note. I was an SNP councillor, but more than that I was a single mum of two disabled girls, a woman fighting hard for her constituents in probably one of the most toxic political environments you could ever imagine. I also work at Holyrood, and while difficult to manoeuvre at times, nothing compared to the horrors that were induced from my time at NLC.

Mr Corbyn, I was subjected to a prolonged and dangerous campaign of abuse and whispers. As I tried to dig for information on events in our area, the chief executive had to approach me because “senior Labour Councillors” had led him to believe I as having an affair with married officers. Labour Councillors approached me with deep anxiety because their colleagues in your party had decided to infer that they had or would show “nudes” of me, this is revenge porn if true, but it was just smear in its worst form. They said and I quote “that it would shut me up”.  These were only some of the incidents that Labour Party members were willing to discuss with me, I admire their unwavering courage because it seems that Scottish Labour is quite a different beast, and to come forward to protect me is admirable.

I often hear you talk of the many. I was the “many”, I was the lone parent living on the bread line who believed she could be part of our democratic process, a voice if you would like, for others. I didn’t expect to face a catalogue of gender based discrimination, lecherous comments and a premeditated campaign to discredit me. That’s exactly what happened. Your party having a fundraiser to campaign for “The Many” which manifested as a great night to make fun of my distress surrounding the coming out of my fragile transgender daughter, is nothing short of vile. She is precious and she did not deserve this.

I consulted the leadership in Scotland and while empathetic, the answer was “I don’t know what to do”. Can you imagine seeing that leadership in the media now condemning those who stood by and did nothing during the Weinstein allegations? Hypocrisy in full swing. As the summer of 2017 approached I was suffering from the worst period of mental health and the abuse did not stop. It was relentless. Comments in corridors. Whispering. Media stories which could only have come from inside the organisation. Sexual innuendo. I was forced out of politics, like a child hounded out of a school by playground bullies.

On June the 19th I collapsed in front of my eleven year old daughter, unable to speak or move she watched as her mum had a stroke like incident. Paralysed down one side of my body for weeks, unable to feed, wash or dress myself; the stress of my time at NLC at reduced me to a woman who could not provide for her children, take care of them properly or even take care of herself. I have a wonderful boss, who has been supportive and caring; but the fact of the matter is that your own elected members could have cost me my life and my children their mother. This has been confirmed by some of the most senior stroke consultants in Scotland, it’s not my opinion, it’s a medical fact.

I am lodging this email as an official complaint. There are probably other “procedures” but these have only served to fail me in the past. As the leadership of Scottish Labour hangs in the balance, it seems like you are the only credible destination for complaint. I am owed an apology at the least and I will not rest until what happened to me is investigated fully, and with transparency. To that end, I have copied in my lawyer as any previous concerns, as stated above, were left ignored; and I feel it prudent that I have a witness to this official complaint against the leadership of North Lanarkshire Council and any elected member who contributed to this sordid situation.

As a man who talks honestly and openly about families like mine, I very much look forward to your reply and to discuss actions which you deem appropriate.

Kindest Regards

Rosa Zambonini

The Last Date

Well if id known how this month was gonna pan out for women across the world I don’t know if I would have even started this dating blog, but I did and it was a ray of sunshine in a dark month.

Many have told me I shouldn’t be talking about meeting strangers for dates, when I’ve so freely called out harassment. So I tell you what, I’m going to stay at home forever incase I upset anyone on social media and cant call out sexual harassment without fear…. wrong. I will continue to seek romance, love, affection and passion; on the grounds of mutual respect. Who a woman chooses to love or not love doesn’t mean she’s up for grabs.

I’ve spent the month wondering if I should change the way I look, maybe move to the more conservative way of dressing, but I don’t want to! I like how I dress and I am fucking fabulous just the way I am. I don’t dress for men on tinder or men in general, I dress for me and for the spirit of Carrie Bradshaw. But if a man thinks I’m beautiful, and loves and respects the way I look then that’s just a bonus.

So did I find love? I don’t know about that but I’ve been surprised in some of the most lovely ways. I received some funny, interesting and downright bonkers messages. I had some amazing dates and some not so amazing encounters. I guess what I’ve taken from this is that there is someone out there for everyone and thanks to the internet we are a little closer to finding them.

What even is love? I read a beautiful blog during this which said “it’s not two halves of a hole; it’s reaching your hand out in the night and finding someone there”. So actually I really DO have love. Sometimes I reach out and it’s the podgy wee hand of skye (charlie is a lonely sleeper). Sometimes I reach out and it’s the rigid type body of my best pal Karen, she stays sometime when I’m sick, she is single and bloody amazing. Sometimes it’s kirsty in Dubai and The hand that is reaching out to me cupping my Lady garden. Sometimes I reach out and it’s the arms of my best boy pal conor letting me cuddle him in; just because I’m not his “type” (ie no a man) he is still solid. Sometimes I reach out and it’s the soft squishy touch of my mammy, making me feel loved and secure. So I have love and I love.

I’m gonna keep dating, maybe someone will manage to get me to commit to them. I got to know one of my dates quite well and he says “fuck it” a lot when I say something stressy. It makes me feel empowered, like yes fuck it who cares, I can do this. Maybe that’s all I need, someone who reaches back out to meet my hand, and someone who soothes my worries mind by telling me “fuck it”.

My final ever dating tips would be these.

4) if your on tinder don’t go to oneup, folk will think it’s ok to say “seen ye on a tinder hen”

3) recognise the love you already have in your life the beautiful friendships and family that surround you.

2) don’t date Tory’s, you’re better than that.

1) most importantly, know your worth. If you have to chase him and he rarely tells you how wonderful you are, he’s not for you. You are fantastic just as you are “so never ever settle for anything less than butterflies”

The unapologetic woman!

So today there was a story about sexual harassment in the Sunday Herald, I’ve had more texts and questions than I can shake a stick at. Is it you? Who’s rocking the boat? what’s the story? A bit of me wants to reply to every single text with “none of your bloody business”. The fact of the matter is this story has touched so many women in my industry and the story belonged to all of them. Not just mine.

Since Kezia, Nicola and other known political women have come to voice their disgust about sexism in their own arena I’ve been fascinated to read the “if it’s true name them comments” or worse the “you’re responsible if this happens to others” remarks. STOP. The only people responsible for sexual abuse, harassment and violence are the perpetrators. They are the sole reason for sexual aggression. Not short skirts, not flirty women, not flirty men, not blond hair, not big boobs. Those responsible, are those who can see a bloody line but still decide to dive head first over it.

When I was in North Lanarkshire Council the chief exec asked to “have a quiet word”; the head of education had been sacked and he had been tipped off by a senior labour councillor that it was because I was having an affair with this officer. It couldn’t possibly have been that this man had approached me with damning information of the labour administration; you see I was young, single but smart and I had their measure and they were scared. I had been tipped off about this rumour by another labour councillor and told that this was the tactic they were going to use so I was prepared, in a way it almost didn’t matter to me as I was single, but this man had a wife and family. So why were they able to peddle this bullshit? Because I was blessed with having a vagina and it was a nice easy lie to hide their own disgusting misdemeanours. It wasn’t the fault of any woman who had fallen into their slimey games before my time; this was their fault and theirs alone.

When I had a stroke type thing in the summer and recovered, as much as I am thankful for my recovery, no one told me I have to become a medical researcher and cure the suffering of future victims. An odd comparison? perhaps. However that’s just how absurd it is to ask a victim to be the advocate for those who are still to be “abused”. Here’s a thought, and it’s crude, but why don’t abusers keep their hands, words, dirty thoughts and penis to themselves? Just do that and then we can all go to our work without shuddering when we open or DMs!

I’ve had this a lot “do you know men are abused too…? Do you Rosa… do you??” Yes I do but to be honest I don’t have the energy to battle for the poor white males who’ve had it so tough for so long. I mean, I feel for anyone who’s been abused, Equality is for everyone but at the moment this is a predominantly female facing issue and I will not apologise for fighting for my gender. It is mine.

Last night in Glasgow it was Halloween weekend and I watched all the beautiful young women dressed as fairies, Angels, devils etc. I heard a lot of “she’d get it comments”. Ringing around my ears. There was definitely a “she’s gagging for it” mentality. Mate, she isn’t, honestly she just isn’t. Women are proud of their beauty and sexuality these days and they can express it as an Anne’s Summers sailor if they so choose and further more they should be allowed to do it without your lecherous mind defiling her. When “taps aff” season hits Glasgow NO one thinks you are well up for it, in fact, we really do not care that you’re slinging yer tshirt round your shoulders when it hits sixty.

This is a message for my fellow girls if you are scared, if you are sad, if you are worried about backlash after abuse and if you don’t want to name names – then don’t. You call it out wherever you see fit but your story is YOURS. You have been through enough and it’s the job of those who are stronger to fight when you cannot. You don’t have to feel guilty because someone else might be hurt, that is not your job. Your job is to find a safe and peaceful recovery. Your story, your body and your vagina is YOURS to do with what YOU choose and you do NOT have to apologise for that.

There is so much to fight for in this world but I will do it on MY terms. Have I been harassed in the Scottish Parliament? Yes. Have I been harassed at NLC? Absolutely but I will not put myself under any pressure to share that with anyone other than those who I see fit. It’s not my job to make lecherous men behave. I will not be scared of a backlash. I will not be dictated to. I have fear but I am strong. I sometimes feel alone but I’m not lonely. It’s my body. It’s my vagina. It’s my story; and I will not apologise to anyone.

Note* this was in the Sunday herald and not the mail as the tweet says

She is not a number. She is Charlie.

I wake up all too often these days and see newspaper stories of trans kids. Children plastered across the front of a paper with the single purpose of making sales, and making money.

What’s my Charlie?

She isn’t one of a growing number of trans cases. She isn’t a statistic in your papers. She isn’t a prize to be discussed or a story to be told. She isn’t a case to be studied, or a prop in a some sort of drama. She isn’t weird or part of a media circus; she isn’t a subject on display. She isn’t a child on the verge of meltdown, or person in the wrong body. She isn’t to be feared, not to be dismissed. She isn’t scared of change, and she isn’t scared to be her.

What is my Charlie?

She is part of a growing number of children who are free to be themselves. She’s part of a generation who are being fierce and bold. She telling her own story, the way it should be told. She is her own wee person and her soul is more precious than most. She is brave, kind and courageous; and she is as stubborn as a mule. She’s funny, she’s quirky, she’s spoiled and cute. She’s only just a child who is perfect beyond all words. She has a fantastic body, it’s hers and it’s unique. She just needs a little adjustment.

She is a sister, a granddaughter, a friend, a cousin, a niece, a daughter and she is mine. So dear newspapers be careful what you say, these children have a force behind them…

Do not be scared of my Charlie. She isn’t infectious, although I wish everything about her courage was. Do not be afraid of what you read in the papers “sex change clinics” don’t exist. These trans men and women want exactly the same as you. They just want to be free.

I will celebrate the growing number of children being themselves, they are ferociously brave in a world which is so outrageously cruel. We tell our children always to be their own person and never to conform, then we must stand by that.

Charlie isn’t perfect but she is perfect to me.

The Weinstein Effect

I’ve been doing a dating blog and some research this month, but it’s sex and relationships on my terms. During this period the world seems to be flabbergasted that a man in power has used his might to sexually abuse women. I say abuse because that’s what it is. It’s hard for a woman to make it in this world and if you think women are equal then you’re so off the mark your hitting the wall.

I love being flirty when I fancy someone, I love kissing, I love laughing at jokes and I love feeling desired. What I don’t love is feeling objectified, cornered and unable to say anything because the man in person wields power. In my job there have been men, powerful men, who have made me cry myself to sleep. Men who have taken my outgoing personality as a geeen light to talk to me like some poor girl from a cheap porno. Why did I cry because I could do nothing about it. If I said something it would cause a huge problem and I was terrified I would be black listed. Even worse I was horrified that people would think it was my fault. I’m blonde and I wear makeup, I’ve had a boob job and fillers; so it must be right? Even now I wonder if it is, it shouldn’t be, but maybe it is. Maybe I have to realise that even 2017 isn’t a place I can be myself without harassment.

Typing this now the tears are falling down my face.

How many times did I go to bed wishing I could run away? Too many. Even as I type this I’m frightened someone is saying “she’s such an attention seeker”. Do you know what it’s like to have to avoid a corridor in your place of work because you feel sick to your stomach? Do you know what it’s like to hide tears from your children because you’re scared you’re never going to be more than the blonde girl? Do you know what it’s like to worry you will lose your job because you can’t take “flirty banter”? Do you know what it’s like to cry to your friend and beg them to let you quit your job because men cannot behave? Do you? Do you think this is self pitty? It’s not. It’s abject fear for the future of girls, my girls, your girls, all girls.

when I was 14 years old my friends brother slid his hand up my top and I vomited for a whole day. I told my parents  and they made sure something was done. My mother and father told me it was never ever my fault that someone had mistreated me, and that it never would be in the future. This incident has made an indent on me so much, that regardless of who you think I am, I find intimacy a struggle until I have deep trust.

I work for a wonderful MSP. So many times I’ve heard stories, here are some: He is fucking her. He employed her because, well look at her. He is into her. She only got the job cause she’s a flirt. Let me set the record straight, my boss has more integrity in his little finger than most men I have ever come across. He is kind, loyal and respectful. So let the rumours come back to bite you, that’s what karma does.

I am deeply flawed, insecure and sometimes I make mistakes but I am a woman who hurts. A woman who cries. A woman who has nightmares. A woman who feels deeply. I deserve to feel safe. I deserve to wear heels, lipstick and big hair in peace. I deserve kindness. I deserve respect….. and so does every other woman who walks this planet.