Gyp

I have spent a lot of the weekend in pain, with my splendid leg giving me gyp. I love the word gyp. It is so very English. It is a word of the world of Victoria Wood, and what’s not to love about that? So there’s that to be grateful for.

Saturday night’s sleep was massacred by a winning combination of leg pain and hot flushes. It’s hard to be sanguine about the days when I don’t have insomnia being shat on, sleep wise, by other things. I am trying, because it doesn’t look to be abating any time soon.

I have to report, in the interests of science, that hot flushes are exacerbated (for me, anyway) by extremes of emotion and/or pain. Which is nice. I am trying to look on the excessive sweating as a reason why I am, despite eating everything, still looking reasonably trim. I think I sweat off about a pound a night at the moment. Let us not talk of women glowing. I suspect that if we duct taped a dozen, menopausal women together whilst in the midst of a flush, we could keep a small town warm for a week.

Trying to look on the positive side, I get a lot of reading done, and the cat is overjoyed that she has someone to stay up late and hang out with, because who wouldn’t want to be prmmping (this is the noise she makes. It’s not a typo) about at 3.00 a.m. whilst galloping up and down the hall like a pack of tiny ponies in mid charge?

My sleep patterns were so fucked up that Sunday was spent falling asleep in inappropriate places and eating. This is ok. In fact, this is generally a perfect way to spend a Sunday, except that it has done nothing to help me pull my sleeping patterns back to some semblance of normality, so I sit here, typing this, only having been awake for about an hour, and still in my pyjamas, while the day is half gone and I have achieved almost nothing.

You may be able to sense that I am feeling a little low. You may be right.

Recovery from anything is, I find, a series of ups and downs. Some days I feel like it’s all going in the right direction and I can conquer the world, and waiting to be fully well again is fine and I can be patient.  Other days I feel like it’s all gone to shit, and why am I not well now? And when is my life ever going to start up again? I feel paralysed with fear  over doing ‘normal’ things in case I ‘can’t’ do them anymore. I feel tired, and in pain, and anxious that this is going to be it forever and ever amen.

That’s today.  The good thing is that my rational mind is humming away in the background telling me that things are already better than they were. It’s telling me that nothing is different from yesterday when I felt fine, albeit knackered. It’s telling me that the two, big events I have planned for this week are both with friends who love me, and if I fall apart, they will look after me and not think that I have failed them and myself and I am being a massive, stupid baby about being frightened of fucking up something that simply cannot be fucked up, because that’s not how friends work.

It’s telling me that I am recovering with every day that passes, and what I am feeling now is a thousand times better than what I was feeling in the summer, when I still had migraines, and I couldn’t do my clothes up because my fingers didn’t work, and my breasts were full of cysts and my hormones were trying to kill me etc, etc. It’s telling me that being sweaty with a sore leg is pretty, fucking good, considering. It’s telling me that I am feeling this way because I am over-tired and if I can get my sleep sorted, I will be on top again. It is right. I know this. It is all true, and yet I am feeling pretty sad and very overwhelmed today.

Nearly all of it is tiredness, it’s true. It will pass. Some of it though was down to chasing the letter for my endocrinology appointment this morning in a series of fairly futile phone calls (8 weeks since I was referred and told I would have a letter in 4 weeks) only for a letter to plop onto the mat just as I’d put the phone down.

To be fair this is the second letter I’ve had. It doesn’t help when the first letter was a cancellation letter for an appointment with an entirely different department, when I never received the initial appointment letter at all, and this letter is a cancellation of an appointment that I was told on the phone I probably had on December 12th.  There is no probably about it now. I did have the appointment on December 12th, but it has been pushed back to January 16th.

The good thing is that it is not in the middle of the one week of holiday I get this year. The bad thing is that it is now next year and I am not convinced they won’t cancel this one either.

The worst thing is that the only way I have found I can cope with the whole blood pressure saga is to ignore it and this has pushed it to the top of my mind again, and I am struggling.

I have coped all these weeks by refusing to take my blood pressure, whilst taking the pills as prescribed without thinking about what they might or might not be doing and what it means. I have basically stuck my fingers in my ears and started singing ‘la, la, la I can’t hear you,’ because I simply cannot cope any more with people on the one hand telling me I am at high risk of a stroke, and on the other hand shouting at me for not ‘relaxing’ while they’re telling me I might die of a stroke. Especially when these are the same people who keep giving me conflicting information about medication AND failing to give me the one hospital appointment that might start to deal with the issue. If I die of a stroke, please crowd fund Jason so that he can sue them. It’s only fair.

I will be fine. I am fine. I am better when I don’t hoard the crazy in my head. I am putting the crazy out there so that I can look back at my bat shit ways and shake my head in a patronising manner at myself.

I am going to work hard today to bury the anxiety about my blood pressure, back in the deep cave where it belongs. I have a fun week planned and even though I am anxious, I am going to do all the things and have that fun because I am a stubborn cow.

 

Pummelling

Let’s have a catch up shall we?

Tilly is still in Venice. She must be having a good time, because we have heard very little from her and nobody has called us to say that she has contracted cholera from falling in a canal. Yesterday she did send us a photograph of a huge egg with a face on it, captioned: ‘This is the president of Finland.’ We’re taking this as a positive sign.

Oscar is up to his eyeballs in Shakespeare. He won the part of Laertes in the Shakespeare for Schools audition and is performing at Leicester’s swanky, Curve theatre on Friday. We are all (except Tilly, who is still holed up with Finnish eggs) going to see him tomorrow. Dress rehearsal was yesterday. We asked him if it went well. ‘It was good except that Louis (who is Hamlet) moved too far up stage when I had to kill him and I couldn’t reach him with my sword.’ Hopefully this small detail will be ironed out by Friday.

Tallulah was supposed to be going to see Paddington II with her best friend this evening at the cinema. There was much waily, waily when it transpired that Bea is poorly and can no longer go. I quite fancied going to see it myself, so solely in the spirit of philanthropy I said, ‘I could take you instead.’ The look of sheer horror on her face was instant, and followed swiftly by ‘No thanks, Mamaloo (I hate that nickname for me. I thought Mooma was bad), I’d rather just not go.’ This was followed by an apology when she realised quite how terrible it sounded. I care not. I think it’s quite healthy for children to be horrified by their parents. If they weren’t, they’d never leave home, and as much as it distresses me when they do leave home (see my last post), I also want them to go eventually.

Health wise I have had a few ups and downs. I still wait, like patience on a monument, for my endocrinology appointment. There are rumours that it may be on 12th December. I am not holding my breath. I have had a couple of ‘normal’ days over the last week or two. These are followed by days of being as tired as a tired thing, because my energy is finite at the moment, and I have to be careful how I spend it. It’s a bit like hangovers. Now, if I drink to excess on one evening, I pay the price for three days afterwards. That.

After a few days of normal sleep, my insomnia has returned, which is clearly not helping the tiredness. The hot flushes have been receding for the most part, although last night they were terrible, so what sleep I did get was interrupted every hour by my need to drip about the bedroom shedding clothes.

I have not really mentioned this much on the blog, because frankly, there is only so much ill health one woman can witter on about, but for a few months now I have had a pinched sciatic nerve. It started when my joints decided they didn’t like the Decapeptyl drug I was on and went on strike. My hands were in a much worse state, so I limped on, ignoring the leg. It got worse with all the resting I had to do around my surgery, and despite stretching it and walking more during recovery, it has not really improved.

I can get about, but I do it with a fair amount of shouting ‘ooohyableeder,’ which is a very Leicester response to pain. Because Jason is not a native of these parts, he has found this quite annoying, and finally snapped this week, booking me in to see our friend, Peter, who is a physio. I went yesterday afternoon and spent what seemed like a decade, lying on his couch on my belly, while he thumped my buttocks. In between thumping, he would leave me to ‘go off’, and tell me to relax.

I am not very good at relaxing, particularly when someone is about to hove into view to wallop me on the arse, albeit in a therapeutic setting. It was exceedingly uncomfortable. I wriggled, and squirmed and lay there and tried to think soothing thoughts. Like so.

‘Breathe. Breathe. Slowly. In and out. That’s it…Bugger! Why did I put mascara on when I should have realised I’d be face down on a couch. Shit! I’ve got it all over the couch cover now. I bet I look like a panda.  Breathe in, 1…2…3. Fuck! My bra underwire is really digging in now. Would anyone notice if I hopped off the couch, took it off and stuffed it in my bag? Of course, because you can’t hop off the couch, because your leg is in agony and you’d be mid bra removal and then Peter would come in to whack you on the buttocks, and you’d have to explain yourself. God! Why can’t I just RELAX? Argh. Think of beaches. No. You hate sand. Think of trees. I wonder if Oscar remembered his cloak for rehearsals. Ah fuck! Here comes Peter. This is going to hurt.’

This. FOREVER.

Coupled with the desire to punch him because he kept prodding at my tender, hurty, bits, and the conflicting knowledge that punching your friend/physio is definitely bad karma. Plus the fact you’d have to roll over, probably piercing a lung with your errant underwire, and that would be karma right there, just for thinking about punching him.

Anyway. It was much looser when I left. It didn’t fall off in the car park, loose, for reference, but I could put my shoes on without screaming. So this was good. Last night though, I ached for England and when my hot flushes woke me, I limped, dripping around the bedroom shedding clothes. For the avoidance of doubt, it was not erotic.

To summarise. Yesterday, as I was lying on the couch, being pummelled like dough, Peter said to me:

‘Katy. Basically your arse is fabricating pain.’

My reply? ‘Peter. That is an apt metaphor for my life to date’.

 

I am mixing gallons of metaphors here

When your children are small, you basically become the mistress of your domestic sphere. You learn that you have to do everything, think of everything, be everywhere and either know or pretend to know it all. You cannot, for very long anyway, abandon this plate spinning act, or chaos ensues. It’s not a role many of us (me) naturally fall into, and learning how to do it is hard work.

As they grow up, the knack is then to learn which plates to let fall, which plates to take off the pole and hand to them and which ones to keep spinning. You also, most importantly need to learn when your turn on the stage is done, and it’s time to take your curtain call and fuck off.

What makes this hard is that for so many, many years, weeks, hours and seconds you have had to think voluntarily or involuntarily of every last detail of their lives and hold it in your head.

You have had to wipe bottoms, hold hands, counsel sagely, ignore, shout, order or jolly them on. You’ve remembered a thousand PE kits, permission slips, school performances, birthday presents, likes and dislikes. You’ve taught them how to tie their shoes, use a knife and fork, say please and thank you. You’ve kept them safe from traffic, child molesters, best friends who turn out to be worst enemies and hospital visits. You’ve sat up all night with them as they’ve sweat out fevers, or cut teeth, or scratched chicken pox. If you’re me, you’ve combed thousands of nits out of never ending tangles of hair. There is nothing about their lives that you have not been a part of in some way or other. Your existences are woven together.

And then comes the letting go, the untangling.

And it is hard. So very hard.

It’s not that I want to be doing all of those things, by the way. I don’t miss their tiny childhood in quite the same way other people seem to. Frankly, lots of it was a grim endurance test of staying awake long enough to keep everyone alive till bedtime, and then trying not to murder them myself when bed time rolled on into the wee small hours.

But I am trained, dammit. I am absolutely trained for the job now. I could, and did, do it in my sleep. It has become habit, and habits are very hard to break.

And there are bits I miss. The weight of small, warm bodies. The smell of the tops of their heads. The absolute trust that you know everything and will save them. Watching them sleep. The openness of their expressions.

Now, I have to consciously and sometimes physically step back from asking too many questions, worrying too much, trying to make everything alright, micro managing lives that are increasingly their own affair, and private. Rightly private. I have to do the next bit of parenting, the bit after turning them from feral beasts into social animals, which is releasing them into the wild.

On Monday morning I got up at 2.00 a.m. and took Tilly off to her university where she was catching a coach to go to the airport with a load of her course mates. She’s in Venice for five days, visiting the Biennale, mucking about, having the time of her life. Living.

It’s brilliant. It’s some of what I dreamed of for her, this independence, this willingness to be adventurous, this travel, this exploration of everything life has to offer. It’s all perfect. She’s perfect. I am so proud of everything she is and everything she is becoming, and yet, as I sat in my car, in the dark of the early morning, watching her stagger down the pavement with her bag, my heart broke just a little. Just a very little.

Because it’s my time to step off her stage now. It’s time for her to be in the spotlight alone. I’m not jealous (well, of Venice, maybe). My own adventures await me, just as hers await her. And yet it’s so hard not to fret about whether she’ll forget her lines. It’s so hard not to worry, not to think of all the things that could go wrong, despite all the evidence of everything going right, and understand that even if they do go wrong, she needs to learn how to manage that too.

As I watched her figure recede into the distance I thought of myself at her age. I thought of all the times my parents patiently dropped me off and picked me up at all times of the day and night as I started my own adventure. I thought about how they too must have worried, and not shown it for fear of spoiling my excitement, and how I sailed off into my future, blithely unaware of the hopes and fears and dreams that were a safety net underneath me if I ever fell. And that’s how it should be, and that’s what I will do, but my heart is still a little torn.

And I cannot help but think of this poem by Adrian Mitchell.

BEATTIE IS THREE
At the top of the stairs
I ask for her hand.  O.K.
She gives it to me.
How her fist fits my palm,
A bunch of consolation.
We take our time
Down the steep carpetway
As I wish silently
That the stairs were endless.

November Books (So Far)

If there is one thing insomnia is good for, it’s catching up on the ever growing to read pile, so that it doesn’t quite kill us all in a book related avalanche. Here’s what I’ve been reading in the last few weeks.

 

The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer – As regular readers will know, since I gave up celebrity gossip magazines, I now get my fix of star stories from autobiographies. I didn’t know much about Schumer before I read this, except that she had been in a few controversial news stories over her content, and she gives people who think she’s fat a hard time, which seems fair. It’s a patchy book, some chapters fly, some thunk to the ground, but there’s some powerful writing in here, particularly about domestic violence and gun laws. It was thought provoking and funny, and sometimes just terribly, terribly sad. Always readable though.

How Do You Like Me Now? by Holly Bourne – This was given to me courtesy of NetGalley. It comes out in June next year. Bourne is a well established teen/YA author and this is her first adult novel. I have read Am I Normal? which is the first  in her Spinster Club series, and really enjoyed it. She writes teen fiction with a strong, feminist slant, which is both novel and empowering (and doesn’t come across as preachy in case you were wondering). She also tackles teen mental health and does it very well. Tallulah, my fourteen year old, has read everything she has written and Bourne is her favourite author. I was curious to see how she would translate her work across to adult fiction. I have to say that there are a lot of similarities, but more sex. I found Tori, the main character in the book, quite tricky to like, although incredibly realistically drawn. I only really got to love her as the book finished, and now I feel a bit short changed because I want to know what happens next. Hopefully there will be more.

Dear Mrs Bird by A J Pearce – This was another NetGalley read and is not out until July next year. This is a shame, because I absolutely loved this, and would urge you all to go and buy a copy if you like mannered, social comedies with a serious slant to them. The blurb compares this to the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, and I can see elements of that in it, but it also much more pleasingly reminded me of Barbara Pym’s writing. Emmy and her friend Bunty are living in London, doing their bit for the war effort. Emmy dreams of becoming a war reporter and an advert for a job in a newspaper seems like the ideal solution. Except that it turns out to be a job working for the irascible Mrs. Bird, agony aunt of a failing woman’s weekly. Emmy, it transpires, is quite good at making the best of a bad job, even if things do go rather awry. Funny, sweet and at times rather sad, this is a great read, and the details of London in the Blitz really make this for me.

Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory – This was sent to me for review by the Amazon Vine programme. It is, fantastically enough, actually in print now, and I really loved it, so you should definitely consider reading it. It tells the story of the Telemachus family, who are a bit like the Von Trapp family but for mind reading and psychic gifts. It flits in time between their absolute pinnacle of fame, performing live on television for an audience of millions and the subsequent debunking of their talents, and what has happened to them in the intervening decades. The story is told from the point of view of various members of the family and contains lots of beautifully engineered twists and turns to keep you guessing right up until the last moment. It’s really funny and gripping.

Field Guide To The End Of The World by Jeannine Hall Gailey – This is a poetry collection which my dear friend Bonnie sent to me to keep me busy during weeks of bed rest, post surgery. It is a slim volume, but it’s taken me this long because I like to dip in and out of poetry collections and savour, rather than read in one go. This is a coherent, bleak collection of poems imagining how the world will end, either personally for someone with a terminal illness, or for us all through ecological disasters and other human error. It’s fair to say it’s not a cheery book, although there are moments of dark, dark humour. If you like dystopian, future fantasy and poetry this book will definitely hit the mark for you. It’s clever and well conceived.

Please Don’t Eat The Daisies by Jean Kerr – This was another convalescent gift from my friend Elliot, who knows what a huge fan of Doris Day I am. Despite having watched the film of the same name about nine trillion times, I never knew there was a book. Jean Kerr was a playwright and writer, married to a theatre critic, who had four delinquent children and a large, terrifying house. The book is a series of articles by Kerr on which the film is loosely based, and one of the joys for me was spotting where the writing and the film intersect. Having said that, never having seen the film, it’s still glorious, sharp, clever and funny writing.

Dear Ijeawele, Or A Feminist Manifesto In Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – This is more of an essay (and well worth buying on Kindle to save a few quid). It’s a letter written from Adichie to her friend who has just had a new baby and wants advice on how to bring her up as a feminist. It’s simple, practical, sensible and beautifully written.

If Morning Ever Comes by Anne Tyler – I confess that I have been reading this for months. I love Anne Tyler’s books. They have such style. They are so humane and well thought out and her women characters are always brilliantly realised. She has an eye for the domestic landscape and its pitfalls that make her a joy to read. Having said this,  I hated this book. It misses almost every mark. Ben Joe is the only boy in a family of six sisters, his mum and his gran. He has left the family home, but comes back when he hears that his nearest sibling in age, Joanne, is back home with her young daughter, after leaving her husband. The book charts the few days he is back in the family nest and the family dynamics. Except there aren’t really any family dynamics, Ben Joe is a useless article and I kept waiting for the book to start. I believe this is one of her early works, and I would avoid it if you’re interested in Tyler. Her more recent books are everything this is not.

The Whitstable High Tide Swimming Club (Part Two) by Katie May – This is by a friend of mine. You may recall I reviewed part one earlier this year. I would urge you, if you haven’t already, to get on board with this novel. It’s a delight. This, unsurprisingly, carries on where Part One left off. It always delivers. The characters are great and becoming deeper and more complex and interesting, the plot has some lovely twists and turns, and the descriptions of the beach are worth it for the price alone. And talking of which, it’s 99p on Kindle at the moment. You’d be mad not to buy it. I would hasten to add that I bought this myself, with my own money and if I didn’t like it, I’d say so.

So there.

 

This probably makes no sense

I read Giles Coren’s article in Esquire yesterday, the one where he fat shames his own son and calls him retarded looking? I won’t link to it. I don’t want to encourage anyone else to read it. It contrasts starkly with the beautiful piece written by his sister some months ago for The Guardian, which is everything her brother’s is not.

As we know, I’ve been ill for most of this year on and off. For large chunks of the year I’ve also been sedentary what with one thing and another (laziness has absolutely played its part). My weight has fluctuated from the heaviest I’ve been (with the exception of pregnancy) to almost the lowest it’s been. When I had my pre-op checks I was diligently weighed, which is when I found out I was my heaviest weight. I then had to face the reality that a major operation and six weeks of recovery which would largely involve me sleeping, were sure to mean that I would be considerably heavier post surgery. With Christmas looming after recovery it seemed unlikely any of the excess weight would be moving on this year.

I started, as many of us do, freaking out about this. I mean, I try very hard to be chilled about my weight being just a number and not some magical self-defining talisman of self confidence and worth, but it’s not easy. It’s why I threw my scales away last year. And why, when Jason bought new scales, I made him hide them.

That week I had a lot on my plate. Frankly, my clothes fitting, in the grand scheme of things was the least of my worries. I know this because people kept taking my blood pressure and screaming at me that I might have a stroke if I didn’t calm the fuck down. So what’s a kilo or two amongst friends, right? But, you know, when I had time in my schedule of paranoid anxiety, I fitted in a small worry about what the hell I was going to wear (Jason’s pyjamas).

One night, shortly before surgery I was awake and feeling freaked out about everything. I started with the whole death by stroke thing, and by four in the morning I’d motored on to worrying about being fatter (this is largely to do with having to buy a new wardrobe while bed bound, rather than anything health related. I’m sorry. I never said I wasn’t shallow). I can’t say I had a word with myself, or I reached some kind of enlightened self acceptance, because that’s absolute bollocks. What I did reach was a kind of weary acceptance.

I made a deal with myself. It was pretty easy to do because I basically had no choice in the matter. I would have my surgery and recover. I would not get my knickers in a knot about what I was eating or how much of what I was eating because I needed to cut myself some fucking slack and be kind to myself. If I found myself beating myself up I’d shout at myself for being a dick. When I was well enough to start moving around, I’d start moving around so that I didn’t die. If that didn’t shift the extra pounds, I’d wait until I felt well enough to cope with some kind of weight loss regime that wasn’t hideously self-flagellating until my clothes fit again and/or I felt comfortable in myself. Not exactly rocket science. I also decided that if that was too much effort, I’d accept the extra pounds and use it as an excuse to bankrupt myself, buying a whole new wardrobe, because by then I’d be mobile again, and shopping would most definitely be on the agenda. It was hard to feel too sad about that.

It turns out I didn’t need it. Not because I was a health goddess. I wasn’t. I am not. Not because I only ate steamed kale and hard tack. I didn’t. I ate what I wanted when I wanted. My weight dropped of its own accord. I have no idea why. I have a vague inkling that it might be something to do with my dangerously high blood pressure, which means I am constantly high alert and flooded with adrenaline 24/7 like a rabbit in the headlights, on crack. I don’t fucking know. Anyway, for some reason best known only to endocrinologists and Jesus, I am now at my thinnest. Go figure.

I am not saying this because I want you all to stab me (although I would totally understand that) because I know what a lucky fucker I am.  I am saying this because all of this stuff has made me think.

Please do not congratulate me for being thin. It’s totally undeserved. I have done nothing at all to ‘earn’ your congratulations.  Also it makes me feel odd. Congratulate me for surviving menopause without killing anyone (that has been a true effort of will and a triumph of character), but how much fat I’m carrying or not carrying? Nope.

That is absolutely not to dismiss people who are actively trying to lose weight. Fucking well all props to you. It’s just that I don’t want to take credit for something I didn’t do. It would be a bit like congratulating me on the moon landing, just because I posted a picture of it online.

I have taken a lot of photos of myself this year. I hate having my photo taken. I blogged a few years ago about how I was going to try and push through this because I wanted my children to remember what I looked like if I fell under a bus. I had realised that there were very few photos of me at that stage, and the ones there were made me look like I was next up on Death Row. I didn’t want to be invisible in their lives when they looked back. So I worked on it, and now I am only mildly distressed by it.

Deciding to go into business selling clothes means more photos. Having my life on Facebook and Instagram means access to photos, photos, photos. Photos of me for years and years and years.

What I have discovered on taking endless, bloody photos of myself, is that my satisfaction with my photos has absolutely nothing to do with my size. That confidence, for me, comes largely from the clothes I choose to wear, not my body shape.

So, this awareness that I put on my fabulous, I don’t carry it around with me, is actually bloody brilliant. It may sound weird, but it’s actually really liberating for me. I know I’m supposed to carry my confidence from within, and glow etc, etc. But there are days when I just can’t fucking glow, and I don’t want to glow, and I don’t want to play, and I feel like crap. On those days, I know that I can put on my favourite sweater, and feel better. It’s like taking a happy pill only the only side effects are just laundry.

I know this post is rambling. Writing about weight is really, really difficult because it’s such a loaded, horrible subject for so many of us and there is so much headfuckery going on about it, and the more I try to write about it, the more I realise how much of that headfuckery I still have going on myself.

I don’t want this post to sound patronising. I hope it doesn’t.

I know I’ve never been ‘big’ (and I’m sorry to use this word. The absolute tragedy is that every word for being heavier carries such negative, shaming connotations, that there doesn’t seem to be one, non-judgemental one to use), but fat shame, or lack of body confidence is not the preserve of only one type of person. It is so toxic, I have found that it poisons us all and I wanted to talk about it as honestly as I could and the only way I can do that is by talking about how it affects me, because this meat suit, with all its flaws, is mine.

I am the shape I am because of luck, not hard work. I am fully aware that this ‘luck’ could run out at any moment. I have no hormones left. I am slap bang in the middle of menopause. My adrenals are probably knackered, and these things coupled with encroaching age probably mean that this skinny period is temporary and fleeting. I know I am dodging a bullet.

So what the fuck am I saying in the end?

I am saying that what I think is that all the weight stuff we put ourselves through is largely a state of mind, and we need to stop punishing other people and ourselves so that we can accept healthy thoughts about our bodies, whatever shape and size they are. By healthy I mean loving ourselves whatever, not thoughts about kale and kettle bells. Because when we think healthily, we can make better choices about what we want for our bodies. For some of us that will be the conscious decision to lose weight for ourselves, not for other people. For some of us that will be the conscious decision to stay as we are and love the ever living fuck out of ourselves, because why the hell not? I don’t care what you do with your bodies. I care why you do it. I care why I do it.

I am saying that clothes and the body on them are more holistic than we give credit for. We do not need to punish ourselves by dressing in sack cloth and ashes if we are bigger than we want or society expects. We need to be as fabulous as fuck every day, because when we feel better, we are better. Dress for your best self, every damn day.

I am saying that I personally need to keep telling my inner, toxic, body shame self to shut the hell up, because I can and do see beauty in everyone else, regardless of shape or size, except, it seems, myself. And that’s just stupid.

I am saying that nobody should be ashamed because of their shape or size. Nobody. Not you, not me, nobody. Oh, and Giles Coren can get in the sea.

STFU

I rarely write blog posts about the news or politics any more. It’s not that I’ve stopped caring. I have found in recent months, with being ill, that I care too much, that I simply cannot get past the overwhelming tragedy of this fucked up world to write anything much that makes sense.

What I really feel, most of the time, is a huge, anguished howl inside me if I engage with the news for more than a few moments at a time. I feel like if I start writing/talking about it all, I just won’t be able to stop, there is so much that is wrong and ugly about the world my children are inheriting and it is painful, truly painful to think about it for too long.

Today though, I feel I must say something about this outpouring by women in light of the Weinstein and parliamentary news. I don’t think #metoo really covers it. I’ve written much of this before in various posts, but it bears repeating.

What I have to say is to men. I imagine few if any read this blog, but if I don’t write down how I feel, I will actually burst my stitches. If I lose readers, I don’t care. If you can’t cope with what I have to say, then please feel free to depart and don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

Dear men

I fucking know, not all men, ok? I’m not in the habit of sticking all men together as one amorphous mass and I shouldn’t need to clarify this every, single time this topic comes up.

Maybe you feel you have to say ‘not all men’ because it seems a lot of men are incapable of thinking about women as anything other than one gigantic female unit who are solely intent on ruining men’s lives, but as with most of this, that’s YOUR stuff to work out, so it would be really nice if you’d stop projecting, stop the faux outrage that I might think that you are a rapist/harrasser/abuser, and actually listen for a moment.

Unless you are a rapist, harasser or abuser, in which case I hope you fall down a well very soon. And no, I’m not sorry for feeling that, and I don’t care if it’s not ladylike. It’s very much past the time to be ladylike about this by about 200 years or so.

I do not need to justify to you why I or anyone else didn’t go to the police or report abuse, or report an employer or punch an attacker or fight back at the time. You only need to look at the figures from the Crown Prosecution Service on this to see why. You only need to look at the 3 women a week who die at the hands of husbands/brothers/fathers/partners to see why.

You do not get to grill me like a court room barrister to justify your attempts to make it ok that men cannot keep their hands, mouths or penises to themselves. The fact that even if you don’t physically abuse women, you think it’s perfectly ok to verbally harass them says enough about why women haven’t felt they could speak up.

I should not need to explain to you why it is not ok to shrug off a hand on a knee. Jo Brand said it all perfectly on this week’s Have I Got News For You? It’s never just a hand on a knee. It’s a hand on a knee, it’s a GP inappropriately ‘checking’ my breasts, it’s someone squeezing my arse at work, it’s someone feeling they have the right to caress my naked back because I dared to wear a halter top to a night club and being outraged when I asked them to stop, it’s a gang of men cat calling me in the middle of the day when I’m going to pick my son up from a birthday party, it’s a man I trust thinking it’s ok to try it on with me because I dared to be vulnerable in front of him because nothing says I want to fuck you more than a woman bursting into tears on a friend’s shoulder. It’s this and the hundreds of other indignities that women of all ages put up with all their lives. It’s constantly living on that knife edge all the time and becoming so used to it that it becomes second nature to deal with this. It should not be like this. It is NEVER just a hand on a knee. OK?

Just because we dealt with it in the past does not mean it’s ok. We dealt with it in the past because what else were we going to do? Life has to be lived. You have to get on a train to go to work or school, even if you know there’s a chance a man will think you really want to see his penis if you’re in a carriage alone with him. You have to earn money, even if you know that your boss is a lech and that you have to avoid his wandering hands so that you can eat and pay your gas bill. You have to have a social life, even though there is a chance that you will be groped or attacked if you go out, because the alternative is a domestic prison. You have to go to school, because it’s the law, so you deal with the wandering hands, the constant ‘banter’, the slagging off, the bra strap pinging, the dropped pencils. You deal, because what else can you do?

These are choices women have always had to make. It doesn’t mean it’s right or fair. It doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t stop. It doesn’t mean that it’s ok because we survive. Survival is not a prize.

I do not need to justify to you why I went out at night, or in the day, or went to school, or wore clothes, or what clothes I wore, or how I spoke, or what I drank. This is all deflection. This is all about men failing to take responsibility. How about understanding that you NEVER have the right to put your hands on a woman’s body just because YOU feel like it. You NEVER have the right to fuck a woman just because you want to and she has some available holes. You NEVER have the right to demand that a woman stay a prisoner in their own home so that YOU are not tempted to abuse her.

Are you genuinely that weak that you cannot figure out how to manage your own body and brain in a shared public space? If you are, why can you not accept that this is your fault, your responsibility, your problem? It’s not for women to look after themselves AND you.

It is time that the spotlight was on men. You. What are you doing to stop yourselves looking up schoolgirl’s skirts? What are you doing to stop yourself raping pensioners? What are you doing to stop yourself beating women black and blue because they ‘deserve it’? What are you doing to stop yourself verbally abusing a woman if she knocks you back in a nightclub because she doesn’t want to have a drink with you? What are you doing to stop yourself putting your hands all over a woman because you think you have rights over her body? What are you doing to stop yourself acting as if women are objects at your disposal rather than human beings in their own right with their own rights, needs and wants that might not intersect with yours?

I am absolutely sick and tired of men having to be asked when another sickening story breaks: ‘But men. Stop. Think. What if this were your wife or daughter?’ It’s utter, contemptible shit that the only way some men can stop themselves being dicks about this  stuff is to suddenly make the connection that one day, some man might not realise that these women are some man’s property, because that’s what it’s saying really, isn’t it? These women are ‘YOUR’ women, and because they are ‘YOUR’ women they are suddenly real and valuable in a way that ‘women’ in general are not, but if you’re really imaginative and creative you might just be able to make the leap between ‘YOUR’ women and ‘women’ in general and understand that it isn’t ok to stick your dick in ‘women in general’ either.

I am absolutely sick and tired of men shouting ‘but does this mean I can’t ever ask another woman on a date?’ or ‘but how will I ever know if it is appropriate to touch a woman again?’ and ‘It’s p.c. gone mad.’ NO. It is not pc gone mad to think that you need to ask a woman if it is alright to stick your hands all over them. Let me ask you how many women of your acquaintance pinch your backside at the photocopier, put their hand on your knee and slide it that little bit higher, or grab any part of you during your working day, or while you’re on the bus minding your own business or at any other time when you would never dream that it is alright for someone to manhandle you? And the word ‘manhandle?’ It says it all.

Women are not asking you to become monks. Women are asking you to show the same respect for their minds and bodies you would show another man. I think the best rule of thumb I have seen recently is these words by a comedian whose name I cannot remember now, but he said (and I paraphrase): ‘Men. Do not do to any woman what you wouldn’t like another man to do to you in prison.’ That. Right there. That’s your rule.

This petulance? This outrage at women speaking out? This insistence on using the terms ‘hysteria’ and ‘witch hunt’ to denigrate the fact that women everywhere are coming together to try to put an end to this abuse, is shameful. It is shameful because it shows quite clearly that so many men think that women are basically spoiling their fun, that their games, their rights, their unspoken privilege to treat women as toys is coming to an end. It shows at bottom what many, many men still think of women, and that is almost as sickening as the physical abuse to me.

If you haven’t got anything useful to say on the subject may I suggest that you shut the fuck up and stop mansplaining, excusing and whining. I highly recommend, listening and accepting that maybe, just maybe, you have something to learn.

Kind regards

Me.

 

 

Dressing up

Halloween is done and dusted. Many sweets were eaten. I forgot to carve the pumpkin, but dumped it outside anyway after I’d drawn a sketchy face on it. Now I’m planning on how to eat it, face and all. Jason is home from his holiday looking relaxed and tanned. We shall soon beat that out of him.

Life is speeding ever forward and I feel a bit out of the loop with everything. I am largely unprepared for most things, but I am trusting that I will muddle through in the end.

With regards to my fledgling business, I am being slow and steady.

I am gradually adding bits and pieces to my Depop shop. I’ve made a couple of sales already and another couple of sales through people seeing stuff on my Facebook page. I’ve also found some items someone asked me to look out for, and I am hoping that she will be happy with them when she pays me a visit this weekend to try them on. I’ve got a few other people already asking me to look out for specific things, which is a great vote of confidence.

Considering I’ve been going for a week, and I put in very erratic hours, I am happy.

I have ordered my first business cards, which should arrive on Monday. I’ve used Moo, which a lot of people have recommended, and I am very excited about seeing them. I have also booked to attend a vintage clothing event in London next Thursday.

I feel really nervous about getting out there on my own if I’m honest. I’ve done things before, but always rushed on my own behalf or done things grudgingly for other people and it’s always crashed and burned. This is largely down to me managing to put a spanner in the works every time. It has been a combination of running before I could walk, and/or working at things I don’t really love, I think.

This time I want things to be different, so I am attempting to do things differently. I am mostly working hardest at not burning out, or making myself ill, or setting myself impossible targets. I am attempting to make sure that this thing that I enjoy turns into a business I love rather than a gigantic millstone round my neck that ends with me sitting in a hessian sack, sobbing.

I was talking to someone today about what clothes mean to me and why I love them so much.

What I learned (again, I’m sure I already knew it in some way or other) while I was convalescing from this whole year of illness, is that on the days I got up and got myself dressed, I felt better. I felt even better when I looked at my clothes and thought about how I wanted to feel, and what I had in my wardrobe that would help me feel like that. I felt best when I dressed entirely for myself to be my very best self, even if that very best self was a bit second rate that day.

I learned that whole holistic thing again but in a different way. I truly believe we need mind and body to work harmoniously together (despite the fact that mine seem to fight together like weasels in a sack most of the time) for true happiness to be achievable. I have also come to believe that external forces are much more powerful than I had given them credit for; the people we choose to have in our lives, the jobs we do and yes, the clothes we wear. We can make these things into some kind of conflict or stick to beat ourselves with or we can work with what we have to give ourselves the best we can have. For me anyway, clothes are a huge part of that.

I realise, as I have gone through my wardrobe, looking at what to sell and what to keep, how much each item is full of memories and stories.

It’s not just my wedding dress that’s important in this way (although it is, and I still wear it from time to time). It’s that I pull out the jeans that every time I wear them I feel like a slender goddess because they always seem to fit, and I know I’m never letting them out of my clutches, even though the knee is gone and the zip is buckled.  I pull out the skirt I wore to my friend’s festival and think about dancing barefoot in the garden in the dark with my friends.  I pull out the coat that makes me feel like an elegant, Thirties starlet, and I realise that as much as they are things to clothe nakedness, they are literally and metaphorically woven into so many moments in my life. They are magical things, because the right things can enhance what’s already there, or make something terrible into something salvageable.

Some of these things I want to cherish forever, others were fun while they lasted, but they all enhanced my ordinary little life for a sparkling moment or two, and I am grateful and happy that I have something at my disposal that can make me feel so good, and yet which is so easily available to me.

feel the same way about biscuits.

I thought today, how lucky I am that I have never really (except during childbearing years) lost that absolute pleasure in how clothes (and accessories) can lift you.

I posted a picture on Instagram today of a bangle. It’s a simple, metal bangle made of about twenty, slender bangles all looped together. I saw it last week and bought it because seeing it gave me such a vivid memory of my childhood, I couldn’t not have it.

When I was a little girl, my granny used to take me to Leicester market and buy me bangles from a stall run by an Indian lady who had all the bling. You could buy them for pennies, and my gran would patiently wait for me to browse the hundreds of bangles and choose a handful for myself.

I would go home with them on my arm, feeling like a queen, because I had jewels, and so many, and they made such a pleasing noise. Gradually over the weeks I would lose them one by one, until we had to go and stock up again and my queenly reign could continue.

It’s my first real memory of owning jewels, and it made me feel so special for so little. The bangle I bought last week cost me £1.50. It has given me back this jewel of a memory, and every time I wear it I feel like that queen-like little girl all over again. It’s almost as good as the memory of the day I got my first pair of high heeled shoes and knew that I must truly be a grown up because I could make that special click clack noise that only grown up shoes made. I still feel like that too, every time I wear a pair of heels.

What a treat, what a treasure, what a gift.

Even if you never buy a thing from me, I hope, if you pop by my page or my shop, that you get a sense of what I’m talking about, or even better that you begin to choose clothes for yourself, from wherever you want to get them, that make you feel half as special as the things I own do for me.