With over 150k Instagram followers, Lala is the anonymous voice helping womankind through every bump in the road. An established sex, dating and relationship educator, she’s had her fair share of relationship drama and shares her wisdom on social media to a loyal army of followers.

Every week thousands turn to her to answer their questions, (no matter how embarrassing), and her funny, frank approach to love and relationships has made her the ultimate feel-good guru. Now, she’s sharing her knowledge exclusively with OK! VIPs. Register below and access Lala’s weekly wisdom.

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I got ill at the beginning of July. I had a really blocked nose, sneezing loads, sore eyes and all that jazz, I thought I had hay-fever.

I met up with my sister and a friend to watch an England match. A couple of days later my friend text me to say that she had caught whatever I had, she had all the same symptoms.

During the following days I developed a chesty cough and got really tired. I couldn’t cope with ordinary tasks without having a lay down immediately after. If I hung the washing for five minutes, I’d need an hour-long nap to recover. I was taking lateral flow tests every other day and they were all negative. I went to the doctor who gave me anti-biotics for a chest infection.

A week or so later, my friend called me to say that she had taken a PCR test and tested positive for Covid. I went online to book a PCR test but because it asked me when I first started getting symptoms (2nd July) it was too late to book a test, they don’t allow it.

So basically, I’m pretty sure I had Covid, but I don’t officially know. One of the things whatever I had has left me with, is major dark black rings in the corner of my eyes and large puffy bags underneath. I look like I’ve been punched in the face.

I started looking like that from the 17th of July. Suddenly, my eyes just swelled up. I was freaking out, but I also assumed that it would resolve itself once I was recovered. It’s now the 5th of August and in that time, I have laid down with slices of potato on my eyes, bought eye drops, had lymph drainage, bought caffeine solution and vitamin e cream, used steam masks and sinus nasal spray, taken anti-histamines, eaten turmeric, reduced salt intake, drank 50 gallons of water, and bought new concealer. It’s not getting any better. I have become absolutely obsessed by it.

It’s all I can see when I look at myself. It looks especially bad when I’m wearing a mask and all you can see is two black eyes. It is making me insecure. I understand that it is very minor in comparison to some of the things that people need to adjust to, like new disabilities, illnesses, or scarring, and that I am very lucky to have my health.

I understand that it’s not the worst thing in the world, but the fact that I have aged about twenty years over night has got to me. And that’s why I wanted to write about it here, it has thrown up a load of dating related feelings and I know I’m not alone.

One of the first things I thought about was how this might impact on my ability to date in the future. I discussed this with friends and several of them spoke about the impact of acne, eczema, and other things they had experienced that made them feel awful about themselves. They all agreed that having something that changes how you look can be a devastating feeling, and that being single and ready to mingle when that happens is even more of a bummer.

I have always been insecure about my looks. My Dad left my mum for her best friend when I was seven. When your dad chooses another woman over your mother, it feels like he is choosing another woman over you. On top of that, my dad was very judgemental and critical and spent much of my childhood telling me and my sister that we looked like tramps or that we were too fat. The impact of that on my self-esteem and the way I went on to relate to men was phenomenal.

My insecurities made me focus heavily on how I looked. I became obsessed with working out and I spent tons of money on beauty treatments and tanning. I believed that my looks were the most valuable thing about me. When I was in relationships, I would become panicky if they weren’t telling me how much they fancied me constantly. I was also a ‘pick me’ because I saw other women as competition. If they were too pretty, they were a threat. I hated myself and I strove to find self-love by constantly working on my external features.

Because I was so obsessed with looking exactly how I thought I needed to look to attract men, I inevitably attracted a lot of narcissists. Narcissists are the only ones who care about having a trophy wife. Narcissists choose partners based on how the world views their partner, they want someone who they can show off. They are also prone to leaving if someone who they consider to be better comes along. Dating narcissists increases your insecurities ten-fold.

Just before I started my Instagram page, I reached the point where I could see through it all. I could see where I was going wrong and how much I needed to change my mindset on all this stuff. I got therapy, discovered the law of attraction, and I went celibate for nearly two years. I really worked on myself, and I had to be totally man free to do that. Running my page anonymously really helped, suddenly people were taking me seriously and respecting me without ever having seen me. It made me learn to value myself beyond my exterior.

I started to really unpick a lot of the issues around the male gaze. I stopped wanting men to find me sexy because of my looks, in fact, if men centred their compliments around my looks and didn’t mention my brain I was really put off. I thought that I had done the work to rid me of being insecure about men fancying me, but then these bags appeared under my eyes and my first thought was ‘How am I ever going to meet someone now?’

It made me realise that I still have work to do. I had reached a position where I felt like I didn’t need male validation and that if a man couldn’t take me as I am then I didn’t want him, but this has completely thrown me off. The saddest thing about it, is that it’s because it has made me feel like I’ve drastically aged. The way that ageing women are treated is starkly different to ageing men. Nobody describes this better than Susan Sontag in ‘The double Standard of Aging’ (1978):

The great advantage men have is that our culture allows two standards of male beauty: the boy and the man. The beauty of a boy resembles the beauty of a girl. In both sexes it is a fragile kind of beauty and flourishes naturally only in the early part of the life-cycle. Happily, men are able to accept themselves under another standard of good looks — heavier, rougher, more thickly built. A man does not grieve when he loses the smooth, unlined, hairless skin of a boy. For he has only exchanged one form of attractiveness for another: the darker skin of a man’s face, roughened by daily shaving, showing the marks of emotion and the normal lines of age.

There is no equivalent of this second standard for women. The single standard of beauty for women dictates that they must go on having clear skin. Every wrinkle, every line, every grey hair, is a defeat. No wonder that no boy minds becoming a man, while even the passage from girlhood to early womanhood is experienced by many women as their downfall, for all women are trained to continue wanting to look like girls.

I know 25-year-old women who get botox, such is the pressure to look as young as possible. Many young women are terrified by the emergence of anything that might suggest that they’re a grown woman not a girl. My friends are all in their late thirties and I don’t have many who aren’t trying to delay the signs of ageing with fillers and botox. The only men who I know that get aesthetic procedures are gay. There is simply not the same pressure on straight men. Every advert that’s aimed at us tells us that we should be spending money on something to reverse the signs of ageing and it is hard not to buy into the narrative that you decline with age.

I felt the pressure of ageing before the eye situation happened. I have had moments where I have seen a picture of myself and thought it was my mum. Or where I’ve looked in the mirror and noticed a deep line appearing on my chest, or when I’ve tried to lose weight and realised that my metabolism just isn’t the same as it was before I turned 35 and I have panicked. I have felt like I’m losing my attractiveness.

Most women will tell you that they got more male attention when they were children. Walking down the street at 16 generates far more male attention than it does when you are thirty. Of course, it is not a compliment to receive street harassment and unwanted attention but the dwindling of it can leave some people feeling unconfident, this is why some women enjoy being catcalled, because it feels like validation that they are still hot. It’s the same on dating apps. Something definitely changes as you get older, there are less matches and less suitable people. I’m 39 and my age range on apps would be 35 to 45, but men of my age often set their age range from 25 to 35, or even younger.

I have spoken to a lot of women who find themselves single in their forties and fifties, and whilst some are having the time of their lives, many others are bogged down by the mental weight of believing that they are never going to find anyone again because they don’t look the same as they did in their thirties. It is especially hard if your 45-year-old ex-husband ends up with a 25-year-old woman. And even harder when the menopause begins. The menopause changes your body shape and looks, but it can also bring on mood changes and depression. It’s much like having really bad PMT all the time.

Trying to gather the confidence to put yourself out there on the dating scene when you are contending with all the mood and body changes, including vaginal dryness which can really mess with your head, as well as the societal narrative that you are now less valuable is beyond tough. Pictures of Jlo looking flawless and claiming that she’s never had anything done and that olive oil is responsible for her looking fresh as a daisy really don’t help.

We cannot change the disgusting male gaze and the celebration of collagen over wisdom and pert boobs over life experience that dominates our media and our cultural landscape, but we can change how we internalise it all. We can rebuke the notion that our physical bodies represent our value, spirituality really helps with this. We can follow accounts that show beautiful women of all ages who celebrate their ‘flaws’.

We can do our best to avoid narcissists and people who increase our insecurities. We can remind ourselves that in twenty years-time we are going to look back at photos of ourselves as we are now and wonder why we ever felt insecure. We can reflect on the things that helped to create our insecurities and try to undo them. Inner child work can be very helpful for this. There are some great inner child guided meditations on YouTube.

We can remind ourselves that MILF is the second highest search term on porn sites (on second thoughts, perhaps let’s not remind ourselves of that) and that we really haven’t lost our looks at all, we just look like a different version of ourselves because we are a different version of ourselves – a better, wiser version.

We can focus on all the things that make us wonderful. We are worthy, we are wise, we are beautiful. The only men we might lose from our dating pool as we age are creepy weirdos who exclusively date young women and that is really no loss. Not being wanted by Wayne Lineker can only be a good thing.

For more of Lala’s wisdom follow @Lalalaletmeexplain on Instagram.

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