03 Dec

Powder Room Q&As – Advice from Jo Hemmings

Sex & Dating:

Q. When it comes to dating, what would you say are women’s main fears and how can you overcome them?

Some of the most common fears are things like whether or not the man in question will like you and if you’ll say the right thing or not. We all put a huge amount of pressure on ourselves and many of us end up getting so anxious it takes the fun out of the date all together – not ideal when the best approach is just to be relaxed and confident. Even little things like worrying about who is going to pay can cause worry and many women have underlying doubts about how far to go, particularly on a first date.

A good tip is to remember that most of us have these worries so you’re definitely not alone. Don’t underestimate how much the guy or girl you are dating may also be worrying too. Try and be as straightforward as possible – nobody likes a game player – and do whatever you need to in advance to give yourself a confidence boost.

Q. What are your top tips for a first date?

Treat it as just that – a date. The opportunity to meet someone new, away from a crowd of friends and have a good time. If it works well, do it again. If not, you can move on to the next opportunity at another time. Don’t feel any unnecessary pressure or anxiety.

I always suggest that people try and keep the first date to an hour and a half max as this helps take the pressure off. Keeping the venue nice and relaxed can also help so maybe avoid the Michelin star restaurant for the first meet up!

If you need some added confidence – do whatever works for you. Go and buy a new outfit if that makes you feel good or stick to a tried and tested favourite if you’re more comfortable with that. Try a nice long soak in the bath beforehand and treat yourself to some pampering. Take a few items with you in your handbag to freshen up beforehand too – travel toothbrush and paste, miniature bottle of perfume or deodorant.

Q. How long should I wait before I have sex? What’s the norm?

There’s obviously no hard and fast rule with this one and the short answer is it’s completely up to the individual. So do whatever feels comfortable for you and don’t worry about anyone else. Having said that, I’d probably recommending holding on until at least date number two – in my experience nobody ever regrets waiting but plenty wish they’d saved something for later!

Q. What sort of things might hold women back from making the first move when it comes to sex?

There are loads of things but nearly all of them relate back to confidence. Unsurprisingly, a lot of the worries are to do with appearance, things like weight, worrying about one specific bit of the body you are unhappy with or even how you look down there. The truth is, guys rarely notice any of this and, if someone is interested enough in you to be getting intimate, they are not likely to be critiquing you!

Some women also worry about things like smells, embarrassing noises or the cringe-inducing fanny fart! Try and approach things with a sense of humour and, where odour is concerned, there are things you can do to prepare yourself in advance. Have a bath or shower and remember to shave your legs for added confidence. You could also consider a feminine odour gel, something that is especially useful to keep in your toiletry bag or bathroom cabinet just in case. Let yourself breathe with cotton briefs and avoid tight lycra.

Performance anxieties and worries about how far to go and what to try out can also hold women back. I’d advise taking things gently at first and introducing anything bolder you’d like to try over time. As far as performance anxieties go – I bet he has plenty of these himself so keeping things relaxed can only benefit you both.

Q. What are the biggest relationship worries for young women in your experience?

Again, most of the concerns come down to confidence. Whether it’s worrying about how you look, what you say or what someone else might think of you – it’s nearly always down to a lack of confidence, which might be down to lack of experience or remembering what went wrong at another time. Usually it’s the fear of the unknown – but that’s what a new relationship is all about. Stepping into the unknown and seeing what happens. Learning to embrace and even enjoy that process, and reassuring yourself that he probably feels much the same way, whatever show of bravado he might be expressing, will alleviate a lot of your worries.

Student Worries / Advice:

Q. Are girls faced with high “sexpectations” during the Fresher’s period and what advice would you give?

The first few weeks or even months of university can be a potential minefield where sex is concerned. There are still plenty or girls who go away to university with relatively little experience and that’s nothing to be ashamed of but can cause worries. There may be an expectation that you should be having loads of sex and you may not want to seem reluctant. Also, if this is your first time away from home, you are unlikely to have gone through an experience like this before so you might not be 100% sure how to play things.

You may also be keen to meet someone as soon as possible and settle into the security of a relationship. My advice is to weigh up what you really want and think quality rather than quantity. There’s nothing wrong with playing the field a bit at Uni if that’s what you want to do but that doesn’t mean you can’t be selective – remember, nobody’s keeping score. If you’d rather find yourself a permanent boyfriend, that’s fine too but take your time and get to know people a bit better – you don’t have to rush into anything. If you were looking for a new outfit you’d probably do a little window shopping before trying something on for size.

Q. I’ve just started Uni and have a boyfriend back home – how can I make my long distance relationship work?

A lot of people start Uni with a partner in place but it’s fair to say that keeping a long distance relationship going can be a challenge – particularly under these circumstances. In theory it should be easier than ever with mobile phones, Skype and social media offering a variety of ways to stay in touch but maintaining a relationship also takes willpower and planning.

There can be a lot of pressure and temptation when you are apart from each other and it’s much better to acknowledge that and talk about it with your other half – even if it’s a difficult topic .  You’ll both be feeling a bit insecure and, if your boyfriend is staying at home rather than going off to a University himself, things could be especially difficult for him. Make a plan together, for example, agree you’ll visit home once a fortnight or take visits in turns. Arrange to Skype or Facetime twice a week and stick to it! Send regular texts and agree to never leave the other person hanging. It takes discipline but so does any relationship worth holding on to!

Q. I’m going to be sharing a house for the first time – do you have any advice to stop things getting all “Big Brother”?

Sharing a living space with people of your own age can be a daunting prospect, especially when it’s your first time. There are worries over privacy, splitting bills and chores, whether you’ll all get on and the ‘rules’ on inviting friends back. You may not be best buddies with everyone, but a regular house meeting which addresses and sorts any issues is vital for you to get along as a group.

Make sure you have a set of house rules that everyone will stick to and, if they don’t, this needs to be raised at a house meeting. Ensure you get your privacy and value others right to have theirs.

Q. How can you raise embarrassing issues or taboo topics with your housemates?

If your issues seem too personal to share at a group meeting, then it would be better to have a discreet conversation with one of your housemates and tactfully discuss your concerns. Don’t let it build up into a head of steam and cause you further anxiety or resentment.

Q. I’m actually quite shy? How will I make sure I still make friends in Fresher’s Week? Should I just drink my way through?

Probably not the best idea! But sometimes one drink will help to relax you. Whether shy or seemingly brimming with confidence, remember that everyone is in the same situation. Think about joining a few societies that interest you or perhaps offering to help out in some way. Often organising for other people can help alleviate that shyness.

Overcoming Embarrassing Moments:

Q. Why do some people seem to have a much higher embarrassment level than others? How can you best deal with an embarrassing situation?

This is usually to do with the balance between self-esteem and confidence. Often people who have seemingly high levels of confidence but low levels of self-esteem can get more embarrassed by things, while people with higher self-esteem who may seem less outwardly confident are actually less likely to worry.

The thing to remember is, whatever your embarrassment threshold and no matter how bad you think your story is, someone else’s is worse! The best thing to do is try and share your story and show that you are able to laugh at yourself. This can be quite empowering and can help others warm to you.

Q. Do women find talking about certain issues embarrassing? What issues would you still say are taboo or carry the embarrassment factor?

For some people almost everything seems embarrassing, especially amongst people you barely know. A lucky few seem to be able to discuss anything without any fear of embarrassment. But most struggle with anything that might make them seem different to or alienated from their peer group – this can range from political opinion to personal hygiene or their sexual behaviour.

Q. How about feminine odour or other related topics – are women too embarrassed to discuss this?

I do think there is still a degree of embarrassment around anything relating to down there. Because women don’t tend to discuss their vagina at all they don’t realise that there are lots of reasons why the odour may change – including what they’ve eaten, pH balance or infections. Obviously an infection is best dealt with by a doctor but PH balance can easily be addressed with a feminine gel and certain foods can be avoided if you notice a pattern. It’s worth bearing in mind though that all women have a natural smell and that’s nothing to be ashamed of.

Q. When I was drunk I sent a text to my ex telling him how much I miss him and want him back even though he’s moved on and is seeing someone else. I’m riddled with embarrassment and don’t know what to do next time I see him. What do you advise?

Tipsy texting is something everyone goes through at some time. Don’t feel uncomfortable – you were just speaking the kind of truth that being sober makes us reign in! And I bet he’s done the same thing at some point. Next time you see him, make sure you look as though you’ve moved on too and are perfectly happy without him.

Q. I’d like to try something new in bed but I’m too embarrassed to raise the topic – how can I overcome my embarrassment?

Keep the conversation out of the bedroom – some guys can feel quite judged if you tackle this kind of subject before or after sex. Instead try raising it when you’re sharing a drink together at home. Tread gently and test the water – don’t just blunder in even thought that can seem the quickest way. Try a subject out and, if it gets rejected in horror, laugh it off. Having said that, fears around this sort of things are often unfounded and for all you know your other half may be desperate to raise the topic and not know how to!

Confidence Issues:

Q. I feel really unconfident when I go out with my friends – they are all so much prettier and more outgoing? I’m beginning to avoid going out and make excuses – what should I do?

I am sure a lot of this is in your mind, but the trouble is once we’ve convinced ourselves that this is true, it tends to make things worse and we can get even less outgoing. Ask a trusted friend to tell you both the qualities that she likes in you and your most attractive physical features. Remember these and make the most of them. Everyone has something lovely about them – whether it’s their eyes, smile, sense of humour or kind nature. And not everyone wants to spend time with the life and soul of the party – it’s always a balance in a group of friends so be yourself and have more one on one time with pals if going out in a crowd seems daunting at the moment.

Q. How can I boost my confidence, particularly with the opposite sex?

Sometimes you have to fake it to make it so try acting confident even if you’re nervous underneath. It might feel weird at first but over time you’ll discover that pretending to be confident turns into actual confidence and becomes second nature.

In terms of the opposite sex, body language can be a big help. Lean into the conversation rather than out and sit upright with your chest out rather than hunching over. Mirroring is a classic but effective body language tool and eye contact is really important. Hold his gaze for just a fraction longer than you usually would to signal interest – though don’t hold it too long as this can be a bit intense! Not many people think of this but focusing on someone else and really listening to them can also be a good way to strike up a rapport and can prove a subtle and effective way of flirting.

Q. Do you think women find it harder than men to be confident in themselves?

I wouldn’t necessarily say that was the case as many men lack confidence too. What I would say is that women have a tendency to get more wound up about confidence as an issue whereas guys tend to be more relaxed and accepting of their confidence levels. They just don’t think about it as much!

Q. I’ve started to notice a smell down there and it’s really beginning to affect my confidence – I’m worried others will notice too – what should I do?

Body odour, including feminine odour, can really sap a girl’s confidence so you’re not alone in this. Often when women notice an odour they get a heightened awareness of themselves and a feeling that everyone else is noticing which generally isn’t the case – so try not to be paranoid. However, if it’s making you self-conscious then it’s definitely worth addressing. To help you regain a sense of balance and wellbeing you could make sure you are as fresh as you can be, for example, take a shower before going out to give your confidence a boost. If you don’t have time between work and your social schedule, try using a feminine odour gel for that extra reassurance. Cotton briefs and anything that lets the area breathe are also a good idea.

If you are really worried though and think the smell is very noticeable a visit to the doctor to rule out an infection could be a good idea.

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