On giving up

I don’t think of myself as a massively determined person. Goals that I think are within my reach, sure, I’ll stick at them, but when I don’t think I have a hope in hell of achieving something, I’d rather just walk away.

I say walk away. In reality, I’m not that calm. Take cross country in PE at school as an example. This is my total idea of hell – not only are you asking me to do something that I’m going to find incredibly difficult, you’re asking me to compete against, and to be watched by, other people. The result in this particular case was usually complete meltdown: I could work myself up into floods of tears and hyperventilation in what I’d now recognise as a panic attack, but at the time even I kind of assumed was just teenage melodrama.

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Ur beautiful

I was going to title this post On Beauty, but then I realised that Zadie Smith got there first. Dammit.

Anyway. There were years and years of my life when I longed for boys to tell me I was beautiful. I’ve written before about the impact that my early nightclub experiences had on my life, and wanting to feel pretty was a massive part of that. As a teenager, I wasn’t particularly interested in fashion, but I was precociously interested in sex, and I wanted to be kissing boys. What did the boys want from me? Someone to do their homework.

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Sleaze, yes please (occasionally)

Another blog post hot on the heels of last night’s – partly to make it clear that I have no intention of this becoming a largely protected blog and also because this was the post I wanted to write last night but wasn’t thinking coherently enough to pull all the strands of together.

It started with reading Justine Elyot’s short story, Thames Link, which opens with this line:

” I sing the praise of the sleazy man.”

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Underwear: I just can’t let it drop

Yesterday, I went to the theatre and for dinner with a uni friend who’s just started seeing someone new. The night before they’d had an argument in which he’d accused her of being negative/endlessly challenging his views. She wanted to know if I thought that was a fair judgement. As far as the first bit was concerned I think he’s wrong, but as for the latter, he’s bang on the mark. Continue reading

Saying no (and yes)

I had a blog post all lined up to write this evening, and then I came across this article on Twitter, all about consent and boundaries, and it struck a chord with me to the point that I wanted to write about it straight away.

There are two parts of the article that I found particularly interesting. The first is the bit that says:

‘Ask the people you will be having sex with what their preferences and limits are. This fosters active consent and encourages communication.’

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It’s ok to be happy with a calm life

Writing about depression consistently loses me Twitter followers. I don’t care – the ‘of sorts’ part of my blog name was always designed to allow me to write about other things that are important to me, and that’s exactly what I plan to do in this post. I wrote a shorter post on this earlier, but I’ve since deleted it, because I have so much more I want to say on the subject. If you don’t like it, go right ahead and unfollow.

I hate New Year, and this year was no different. I find the pressure of statements like ‘2014 is going to be so much better than last year’ almost unbearable, especially because depression always seems to catch up with me in the weeks after Christmas. This year, I should have known it was on its way. A few days after Christmas I was in a restaurant with my parents. They made a slightly critical comment and I burst into tears. The weepiness lasted the rest of the evening.

My parents are not great in this respect: they tell me repeatedly that I’m not actually depressed because my depression is always triggered by specific, upsetting events. There’s some truth in this – it often is – but part of the reason they think that is because often when I’m low I avoid telling them, partly because I know they don’t really get it. 

What really upsets me though, is knowing that depressive episodes are almost always triggered by people I care about. Sometimes it’s my friends, more often it’s the boys in my life. A couple of years back, I was pretty involved in a complicated situation with a depressed male friend and ironically, as he recovered, I succumbed to it more and more. He ended up offering to pay for me to have therapy, thinking I was resisting it because I couldn’t afford it. Nothing could have been further from the truth: I was resisting it because I couldn’t handle the stigma that came with being depressed. He was lucky I refused his offer though: to date it would have cost him more than £2k in therapy sessions.

I’m slightly more comfortable with the stigma surrounding mental illness now (good therapy will do that), but less comfortable with the way it’s treated. Therapy is risky – I did have a great therapist, but when I moved halfway across the country I had to find a new one, and I’m pretty sure that in the six sessions I saw her for she did way more harm than good. 

Anti-depressants make me even more antsy. I take them, on and off, but as soon as I start to feel better, I stop. This is a pretty irresponsible thing to do: they’re known to have side-effects, including mood swings, as part of the come down, which is why you’re supposed to reduce the dosage slowly and under a doctor’s supervision. Sheer bloody-mindedness means I never do: as soon as the depression subsides I get resentful about reliance on drugs to control my emotions, bitter about the fact that my emotional range is so curtailed and really, really fucked-off about the weight I inevitably gain when I’m taking them. And so I stop, just like that. And just as day follows night, several weeks later I’ll have a day just like today, where I get up, shower, start to cry, and have to go back to bed because everything else feels like too much of a struggle. Today, I thought I might make gingerbread. Then I thought of the mess it will inevitably make and couldn’t face it. The same goes for cooking meals. Drying my hair is too much effort. Watching TV gives me too much time to think. Basically, I just want to be asleep, but I’m not tired enough to get there. It’s on days like this that I wish anti-depressants could be given intravenously, just so their effect would be more immediate.

None of this stops me laying in to other people though: I’ll do anything, anything, to turn the self-hatred outwards for a bit, so god forbid that anyone should say or do anything that hurts or upsets me – I can rant and rave for hours because that’s what’s going on inside my head anyway. 

But as much as that’s me saying It’s not you, it’s me, I can’t help but wonder if the solution is to return to the kind of single girl independence I last had around 2007, when I was doing my finals and boys were the last thing on my mind.

I’ve mentioned in a few posts that I had more to say about this post. The way Juniper describes sitting on the harbour, wiling away the hours made me wistful as hell. I used to be that girl, the girl who could sit in a bar with a glass of wine and a book, watching the world go by and not fretting about the present, or worrying about the future. In recent years, I’ve lost the ability to do that – now I always seem to be checking my phone for messages from an AWOL boy, or worrying about the fact that I’m not doing super-exciting stuff with other people.

Depression has taken away my ability to enjoy my own company, and that’s the shittest thing of all. 

Will you please look at my face (or my tits) when you’re talking to me?

I walked around all day yesterday in scorching heat, and by six o’ clock I was knackered. I was browsing through dresses in Jigsaw and as I moved from one rack to the next, the shop assistant looked at my feet and said ‘I can tell you’ve had a tiring day.’

Ah, well yes, but that’s not why I’m limping. I look like I’ve had a tiring day just as much first thing in the morning as I do last thing at night.

People’s comments are well-meant, mostly – I know this. Women comment more often than men, middle-aged women comment more often than younger ones. I get it. It’s a motherly concern for me, probably – thinking I’ve twisted my ankle or that I’ve been wearing silly shoes again and I just need a plaster. Except this is my life all the time, and those silly shoes you think I’ve been wearing? I haven’t. I never get to wear flip flops, or stilettos or pretty court shoes, and I would kill to.

You’d think, after knowing me for 29 years, my parents would get me better than the average stranger, but that’s not always the case. Last week I went out with my mum wearing wedge sandals I haven’t worn since the summer and I tripped. This is common with the disability I have and while I hate falling, I can deal with it much better if people ignore it (if you’re worried I’ve hurt myself, ‘You ok?’ is fine, but if I say yes, drop it.)

My mum can never drop it. My mum says ‘Right, they’re clearly not supporting your ankle, let me buy you some new shoes.’ It might sound like a dream; it’s not. I hate shoe shopping, a) because I can never buy the shoes I really want and b) because it takes me ages to wear new shoes in until they’re comfy. Often, when I fall, one or other of my parents will keep on and on about it until I end up crying. All I want is for them to understand and accept that tripping and falling frequently is just part of who I am – it’s not a bit I want to focus on, that’s all.

Which brings me to the point of this post. Guys my age don’t often comment on the way I walk (apart from one guy who hit on me, realised I was limping and then asked if I’d be this way for life – he nearly got punched), but I notice them looking at my feet all the time. Nothing to see there boys – all my limbs are intact and I don’t have some huge, gaping wound that’s causing me to walk this way. Why not look at the good bits instead – my tits are amazing and I did nice eyeliner today. Plus, you not looking at my feet will make me feel so much better about myself.

This would be an easy post to write if it was as simple as ‘Let’s all pretend there’s nothing wrong with my body,’ but sadly, it’s not. People give me evil looks for sitting on the very front row of seats on the bus, the one that’s meant for old and disabled people, all the time. Why do I do it? Because my balance is shit and when was the last time you saw a bus driver wait until someone sat down before he pulled away? This might make you think that you should give me your seat on public transport, but don’t. If the front seats are free, I’ll sit there because it makes my life easier, but I can stand, as long as I’m holding on to something. Offering me your seat just confuses me – you might have spotted my disability or you might just think that my rounded tummy is a sign that I’m pregnant. Either way it doesn’t make me feel good about myself.

So boys, here are my guidelines – if you like me, try to turn a blind eye to my disability (that includes surreptitious glances at my feet) except in the following two situations. If a) I’m standing at the top of something steep and uneven, looking at it with terror or b) we’re walking along a road that’s icy as fuck – in either of those cases then please feel free to offer to hold my hand.

Is it me?

I don’t think I’m massively out of touch with the world, nor do I think I’m particularly romantic, but recently a few things have caused me to call my views on monogamy and love.

I’ve never dated in the traditional sense of the word – met someone online, through a friend, at work – and seen that blossom gradually into a relationship, so I don’t know at what point most couples discuss the subject of exclusivity. I’d imagine, and hope, that it happens once they start to like each enough that they’d rather spend time with one another than anyone else who might be on the dating horizon. That they agree to be monogamous because, y’know, they care about each other. And even then, it confuses me a bit that it requires a full conversation, or even a discussion – surely you just need to establish that you’re both similarly into each other, and that’s that?

I can see that, when it comes to discussing monogamy with someone you’ve been sleeping with on and off for several years, the situation becomes a little more complex. The fact that the existing arrangement has carried on for so long suggests that both parties find it largely satisfactory. Except, of course, if you’re having to have a conversation about a potentially different set up, it suggests one of you maybe isn’t quite as happy with the arrangement as they used to be.

When it comes to my own life, if I’m having that conversation, it means I’m really not happy with the old arrangement. I’ll avoid difficult conversations at all costs – in fact I’ve fucked someone in the Gents at his place of work in order to stall the conversation for as long as possible. The reason for this is simple: even when we’re just fucking on and off, I’m already being faithful – I have neither the desire nor the emotional capacity to handle sleeping with more than one guy at a time.

So that’s where I behave badly – if you know a conversation needs to be had, shying away from it is counterproductive and unfair on the other person, who may also have had to psych themselves up for this chat. However, I’m shying away because I don’t understand what there is to discuss. If I’ve been sleeping with you for a while, and the subject of monogamy comes up, I think only the following three paths are possible:

1) Ideally, it won’t have been me who brought the subject up in the first place. I already have feelings for you, but I haven’t said anything because I’m a complete scaredey-cat and have been doing my utmost to hide the way I feel (no, this story isn’t very ‘girlpower’). One day you realise that you have feelings for me and that these feelings are important enough to warrant us being in an exclusive relationship. It may not work out, but the mutual affection is great enough for it to be definitely worth a try.

2) I somehow find the guts/something pushes me (far more likely) into admitting that I have feelings for you and that I’m no longer happy to sleep with you if you’re also sleeping with other women. I tell you this, and you care about me enough to want to try being in an exclusive relationship with me. It may not work out, but the mutual affection is great enough for it to be definitely worth a try.

3) I somehow find the guts/something pushes me (far more likely) into admitting that I have feelings for you and that I’m no longer happy to sleep with you if you’re also sleeping with other women. I tell you this, and you say  that you’re sorry, but while you like me and enjoy the sex, you’re not interested in an actual relationship with me. Sure, I’m sad and a little bit hurt, but with time I’ll get over it and find a guy who does like me enough to want the same things I do.

Do you see why I don’t think there’s a full-on discussion in any of these scenarios? To me, monogamy is black and white – you either like me enough to give it a go, or you don’t. Yes, there’ll need to be conversations about the ins and outs of a monogamous relationship: how often we see each other, if/when we get to meet each other’s friends etc. etc., but the actual monogamy bit is much more clear cut.

Because sadly, I think that if, like me, you avoid conversations you’d rather not have, from time to time people will exploit that. I might have told a guy that I’d rather he no longer slept with other women, but if I keep putting off actually talking about it, the word can keep cropping up and yet nothing ever changes: I’m still sad and jealous as hell that he’s still fucking other people, and he too gets to carry on exactly the same way he did before.

The above situation has happened to me, and it’s made me more cynical about men than I used to be, something which in the past I wouldn’t have thought possible. Now I think they’ll all play on my unwillingness to talk about commitment, and I’ll keep fucking them nonetheless – trapped between fear of the conversation on one side and the fear of them no longer being in my life on the other.

And I do think there’s a romance side to it, too. No one wants exclusivity to become a business deal to be wrangled out with both parties trying to concede as little as they possibly can. I don’t want you to be faithful to me because you feel you have to be, I want you to be faithful because you want to be – because your feelings have developed to the point where you’re happy to give up other girls, not resentful about it.

So what do you think? Do I need to man up and tackle the issue of monogamy head on or am I right that the desire for monogamy comes from the heart, not the head, and that it doesn’t therefore need a discussion at all?

 

Self-preservation: 2 ways

So … you remember friend with the ex-fling who ‘joked’ about her being a size 14? Well, he’s been cementing his reputation as a total cunt this week by getting drunk and making more great jokes – this time about how, the morning after he slept with a girl, he drew a map to the nearest bus stop, gave it to her, rolled over and went back to sleep. That girl is my friend and they work together. It’s not like he was never going to see her again. But the deal breaker for me is that he regaled all her other friends and colleagues with this story on a night out – ok, he didn’t say it was her, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t something she wanted to relive. She was, understandably, pretty upset. But she didn’t let him know this, because this is her version of self-preservation:

Self-preservation #01

When someone, whether it’s a guy, a friend, a family member or whoever, does or says something that hurts you, you *never* let them know that it bothered you because that would just add to how humiliated and stupid you feel. You might, after a time, rant to other friends about it, about how he made you cry, or why you wish your mum would just shut up for once, but on no occasion do you mention it to the person concerned. If it’s particularly bad, you might give them the silent treatment for a while, but the key feature of this approach, to me at least, is ‘Quick! Brush it under the carpet!’

Self-preservation #02

Personally, I prefer approach No. 2. The only thing this has in common with approach No. 1 is that it sometimes involves the silent treatment, but rarely. More often it involves ranting and raving at the person who hurt you until both of you have lost the thread of the argument and are absolutely exhausted. Why do I handle things this way? Because just as my friend says it’s embarrassing to let someone know that they’ve got to you, I cannot internalize how much I hate myself if I think someone’s treated me badly and I’ve just gone along with it.

That’s the logical thinking behind it, anyway. The reality is more instinctive. If, for instance, I get a text or see something online that I don’t like, I immediately get pins and needles in my hands and feel like I can’t breathe. For a long time, I thought this was just me being melodramatic – I’ve since realised that it’s actually a mild panic attack, and as someone who suffers with anxiety and depression, I’m not sure why that surprises me. I’ll immediately fire back a text or an email with my gut ‘How dare you!’ response, because it feels like the only way to exercise some control over the physical reactions.

I should probably learn some relaxation techniques, but I’m far from ashamed of approach No. 2. Yes, it often backfires, but hopefully it sometimes also forces difficult conversations that wouldn’t otherwise be had (sometimes being the key word). I wouldn’t switch to approach No. 1 for the world.

How about you? Which of these approaches do you think works better? Or do you have a third way? Are you , *gasp*, capable of talking things through calmly?!

Fat is an issue that I’ve not had in my relationships … thank god

Earlier this week, my neighbour came round with my Christmas gift, a bottle of marsala wine and a legendary M&S stollen – a vision of icing sugar and flaked almonds. He handed it over and wished me a 2014 that was ‘lucky in love.’ My neighbour is amazing, and if he wasn’t over 60 and married, I’d probably be making a move.

Anyway, that’s by the by. I took the stollen to work, commenting to a colleague that if I ate the whole thing by myself, it was unlikely that I’d be lucky in love next year, because, y’know, I’d be huge.

‘Do you consider your chances in love to be linked to your weight?’ she said, sounding vaguely horrified, as well she might.

I nodded and she shook her head. ‘That’s not good,’ she said. ‘Not good at all.’

She’s right – it’s not. You shouldn’t keep an eye on your weight because you’re worried about what a man might think about it, you should do so (if you want to) for your own health, sense of wellbeing, desire to reach a goal etc. etc.

A friend came round last night, after her work Christmas dinner. She mentioned that one of her colleagues, who she had a bit of fling with back in the Spring, had joked, after she’d finished both her risotto and sticky toffee pudding. ‘Wow, seeing you eat like that, it’s no wonder you’re a size 14.’

Now, this friend is petite, height-wise, and she’s a size 10-12. She said she’d laughed off his comments, told him to fuck off and felt smug that that particular day she was wearing a size 10 dress. Because that makes his comment fine, obviously.

I said this, and pointed out that that was hardly the point – how is it funny to accuse someone of being a dress size that’s smaller than the UK average? Because her attitude didn’t thrill me either, rather than calling him a cunt, which is what I’d have done, she was just pleased that he was two sizes out.

I am a size 14, bordering on a 16, and I pointed this out to her. She backtracked sharply, ‘Oh, but it’s different, isn’t it, because you’re taller, and curvier, and you have bigger tits.’ Well, yes, all of this is true, but it’s also a massively flawed argument. If we were the same weight we’d be very different sizes, but if we were the same dress size we’d be just that, the same dress size.

Her attitude isn’t quite as bad as his, but it’s still not great, and in my life I’ve found most of the pressure around my weight has come from other women (namely my mum), not from men.

The boy, for instance, has never made me feel remotely fat or uncomfortable about what I eat or drink. The only thing he has a go at me for consuming is wine which is clearly in his glass, not mine. Last week I mentioned, in passing, that the night before I’d eaten two bowls of cereal, a croissant, and then my dinner, all because nothing seemed to sate my hunger – and then I’d felt massively sick.

‘Well, obviously,’ was his only comment. ‘I’d expect a seven-year-old to know  that.’ He wasn’t at all bothered by how much I’d eaten, just by the fact that I seemed surprised that it had made me nauseous – and that was worth teasing me about. It’s that attitude which makes me happy to fuck him on top of the covers, sober, in daylight, and to wander around naked after sex without worrying about the size of my tummy, and fuck, it’s liberating.

So please, ladies, don’t fuck anyone this Christmas who makes you feel fat. There’ll always be men, but there won’t always be lebkuchen (this statement may be  slightly flawed). But seriously, if he wants to sleep with someone skinnier than you, then that’s what he should do. You don’t need to be a certain weight to make him happy.