Is This OK?: One Woman's Search For Connection Online

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Is This OK?: One Woman's Search For Connection Online

Is This OK?: One Woman's Search For Connection Online

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You can have my eggs,” she responds, as if at a breakfast buffet. And so begins a dual journey: my quest to get pregnant, and my battle against the demon hormones. Terribly,” I reply. I refuse the drugs, leave the appointment promising to meditate and exercise, and decide to take matters into my own hands. Music Journalist, self-professed creep and former winner of the coveted ‘Fittest Girl in Year 11’ award, Harriet Gibsone lives in fear of her internet searches being leaked. Then, at 31, she started to experience symptoms she couldn’t make sense of: forgetfulness, mysterious mood swings and bouts of weeping, and being woken in the night by sudden hot flushes. The sudden bursts of aggression made her feel like Piers Morgan. Her world was crumbling – but nobody could tell her exactly what was wrong. In the weeks after the test, my husband can see I am struggling. He is, too. I can’t face putting Libby through it again; it’s a lot of time and physical and emotional labour. At this stage we are introduced to Dr Luca Sabatini by Debbie. A clean, strong, pragmatic Italian man, who is a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist. My hero.

Is This OK? is a memoir, full of finely told stories that were once secrets existing only in the writer’s mind; addictions, obsessions, weirdnesses. Gibsone came of age at the same time as the internet, her own development shaped by its strange currents. She chooses episodes from her life and makes some of them funny – laugh-out-loud-on-the-train funny; some of them are frightening and sad. Many illuminate a bigger truth about living at this peculiar time and in the grey area between the online and offline worlds. That is, of course, where many of us spend hours each day, without fully realising it, even as researchers warn us of the negative impact on self-esteem and mental health. This is a very brave book to have written. Like an alcoholic writing of their worst indulgences or a drug user telling us about their most shameful lows, she tells us about her obsessive behaviour and online stalking of partners and people she fancied. I can imagine there are a few dozen people who will feel very uncomfortable when they find out how much time she was spending bouncing around the internet trying to find out everything about them. A few months pass and, at my 28-week appointment my midwife generously asks about a birthing plan, and we are encouraged to draw up a list of requirements to ensure tranquillity and focus. Like a projector showing a Glyndebourne live stream and access to a qualified reiki instructor, for example. But not me. Not little old low-maintenance, delicate angel me. “Just get the baby out of me alive!” I jest, nervously, and she looks relieved. Her social media output suggests her child’s birth was a slightly intense poo in a paddling pool, while ours was murderousAnd yet I took care of my son during pregnancy just as she told me to; I did gentle yoga, meditation and ate whatever my body asked for, the good and the bad. We never had the bliss or rapture of that photo and I don’t think I’ll ever catch up, especially as Ella has a nanny (shout out to Janet). Something has awakened in me, the emergence of a surlier version of myself, someone more weary in the face of such temptations. This is the voice of my longsuffering, baseline soul, and it is assuring me of some facts.

We got three eggs,” she says with a conciliatory smile, and a defeated nod. “We’ll give you a call tomorrow to let you know how the fertilisation goes, and then we should be able to do the transfer.” As I sit in the waiting room, the garish pinks and blues of Loose Women punching their way out of the tiny TV, I imagine how awful it would be if I was actually fine. All the moaning and sketchy behaviour for nothing. Or maybe it’s more serious than the menopause. Could there be something fatally wrong with me? A classy funeral, maybe in Edinburgh. Intimate, but a few famous faces come along to pay their respects. Will Mark ever find love again? A doctor calls my name. She says that it is all right to sometimes feast on the contemporary wonders of global connectedness, as long as it is in small doses, and if I’ve slept for eight hours and have been outside for a walk.It’s an experience that has been twisted and magnificent, one that has provided sweet relief and also demonstrated the clear capacity to destroy me completely. But, first, let me bring you up to speed. The latter half of the book takes a turn, with talk of chronic illness, infertility, having a newborn, and dealing with a traumatic birth, just as the pandemic sinks its teeth into the world. I really felt for the author during these chapters, and I hope that she’s in a better place now. She says that it’s natural to feel jealous and obsessive, when so much of being a woman is mandatory social voyeurism, where you are forced to absorb a revolving billboard of other tantalising lifestyles pioneered by better girls that could be you if you work hard enough, collect all the right tokens and stop eating crisps. what I love the most about this book—aside from the entire chapter dedicated to being obsessed with Alexa Chung—is the humour, relatability, and vulnerability. there were several times I laughed out loud and then couldn't stop giggling at the absurd situations Harriet described, and the hilarious sentences she strung together. these remain present even as the book becomes darker when Harriet discusses her experiences with early menopause, a difficult pregnancy, and a traumatic birth that left her with PTSD. I experiences many emotions while reading this, both happy and sad, but it ultimately felt like a warm hug from a friend who understands. I visit the doctor and tell him about the sudden short-lived sadness now seeping into hours and days, as if someone has murdered my soul, or something to that effect. “Would you consider antidepressants?” he asks.

I’ve come to realise my relationship with the internet is an infidelity: a remorseless, ongoing affair with the fringes of humanity, while I am in a stable relationship with all of my friends and relatives. I find it impossible to believe that I will have the strength to give up this habit for ever. But at least now there is a growing awareness of my fortune, and of the dangers of wasted time. When I started reading 'Is this OK?' I wasn't at all sure I'd make it to the end. I found the style rather irritating and I wasn't even sure at first if it was fiction or autobiography. Once I'd settled in, and as Harriet got older, I became a lot more interested in her life. through a series of hilarious, wry and impressively inquisitive anecdotes, this unflinchingly honest memoir tells the story of two crucial eras in harriet's life so far, both of which are engulfed by social media and the intense parasocial relationships it incites.I loved this book because it is SO relatable. Harriet is only a few years older than me, so I felt like I had a very similar experience of the world and pop culture growing up – the nostalgia really hit me reading this! But what really captivated me was Harriet’s unfiltered honesty and authenticity, as she fearlessly shared the highs and lows that many women can relate to. I was 19 and in the market for a new idol when I first saw her bounce on screen with Popworld co-star Alex Zane in the mid-00s. Within months her reign as one of the last true “It” girls had begun – a force of style and personality that would later catapult her to America, launch her clothing brand and create the type of hype and mystique normally preserved by pop stars, or a natural deodorant that actually works. Honestly, I'm really struggling to work out whether I enjoyed this book or not. Is This Ok? is an autobiographical look at the life of Harriet Gisbone, a music journalist. The book follows her over a number of years and looks at how her use of the internet changes over time. as a writer myself, I found myself relating so heavily to Harriet's experiences with people she obsesses over online and thinks are too amazing and beautiful and talented to ever live up to. she's constantly acutely aware of her own feelings of imposter syndrome, feeling too basic, untalented, and stupid... always comparing herself to those around her who seem to be able to have original ideas and know how to pull the right words from their brain al



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