Monthly Archives: June 2012

Going Back To My Roots

Dramatic weather, DM boots in fashion, football fever, landline phone calls, streaming hayfever… during the last week I have been successfully transported back to a simpler time in my life – the 90’s – when the anticipation and expectation of the future meant that every moment of the present was lived in a heightened state of exhilaration….or so it feels with hindsight.

When I look back at my teenage years there is a sepia tinged haze, as if I’ve been using the Hipstamatic App in my mind to create the memories. One of the first images that comes to mind is of me actually skipping through a field of buttercups with a boyfriend…as if that ever happened! I know for a fact that I was actually quite miserable for most of my teenage years, but somehow the Pollyanna in me has taken over and redefined that decade as one of joy and hope. I think on balance it probably was, so am happy to go with this interpretation… as long as I can recognise the pain and difficulty that was surely there, if not actually than surely in a hormonal teenage angsty way…all that longing to grow up and desire to remain a child was so confusing!

If I think about how I viewed the world it horrifies me how naïve I was while doing such worldly things in my quest to become a woman. For example, here are three things which I strongly believed:

  1. That men and women had equal opportunities in all aspects of life.
  2. That there could never be another war, that genocide couldn’t ever happen again. (we learnt about history at school but not current affairs so I had no idea these things were actually happening as I sat in class)
  3. That we had invented everything we could possibly need in the world so there was no point in inventing new things and technology would not advance much further.

Can you believe what a moron I was? Sometimes though I would love to still believe these things, if only for a moment. This is why a return to 90’s sensibilities has been a welcome distraction this week.

I promised myself I wouldn’t go on about ‘pickpocketgate’, but from the initial gut-wrenching feeling of anger and failure having lost every contact I’ve ever had in 2.5 seconds, I have now reached a state of transcendental acceptance about said loss and feel grateful to have had the opportunity to let it all go. My current date is not scared to use the phone. He has called me a few times for a chat this week, on the landline, and there is something so ‘normal’ about answering the phone and not knowing who it’s going to be, and then just having a chat about nothing in particular. I know this is hardly a revelation, but when you are so used to being connected you are just, well, connected, and there is nothing you can do about it so having a chat often feels like a chore. Not having a phone has also meant that I haven’t been able to bail on appointments with a single text like I might have done in the past – you make an arrangement and you have to be there, you can’t even be late, I like the finality of that.

I also realised this week that I have been essentially recycling the same favourite outfit for twenty years. Flowery dress and heavy boots is my staple go-to look. It was only when I caught classic teen rebellion flick ‘Pump Up The Volume’ at the weekend, in which Christian Slater plays a late night radio DJ who fake masturbates to his listeners (really), that I noticed I had copied Samantha Mathis’ character’s look and have never looked back, or, clearly, forward. Not an easy thing to admit, but fortunately fashion does return, and DM’s are back…if only I hadn’t chucked those amazing bottle green ones.

When you spend at least 40 hours a week in an office for years you start to forget the power and beauty of the weather, especially in London where it is usually bland. Back in the 90’s though I saw so much more of it. Much of it was spent outside on the Upper school playing field in the wind and the rain, knees knocking together and knuckles barely able to grip the enormous hockey stick. I stood there on the left wing singing ‘More Than Words’ under my breath, fantasising about the novels I would write and how it was ok to be tortured in this way because one day I would use it for inspiration. Then, one day, the ball suddenly appeared at my feet and I had no choice but to run with it…as I heard the crowd and my teammates going wild, I reached the goal and swinging with all my might took a shot… GOAL!!!!! Only it wasn’t. When I looked up to bask in the glory my teammates were just walking away shaking their heads. Oh yes, I had scored a spectacular own goal. As you can imagine that was the end of my sporting career, but I do miss the weather those forced games sessions subjected us to, time to get out of London more often.

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When I was living in it, I thought the 90’s was a nothing decade. There was no fashion or music to define us (of course there was, I just couldn’t see it because I was it) and the disenfranchised youth really had nothing to be disenfranchised about. But now I recognise that was the beauty of it. Compared to the world today it was innocent, and in 20 years time the world today will seem innocent to the grown ups of the future, that’s just the way it goes. So be it.

I had a joke about Southgate taking a penalty (remember Euro ’96?) to end on, but sadly times have not changed that much and the England team have bowed out already so the joke might be in poor taste. Instead I’ll leave you with a link to THE song of the 90’s which still has a tinge of rebellion to it, compared to the manufactured music of today.*

*Gawd – I knew I couldn’t finish this post without sounding like a grumpy old woman saying ‘wasn’t like this in my day’, sorry!

 

 

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The Art Of Losing

A colleague told me on Friday that it had been scientifically proven that it was the happiest day of the year. Ok, it was also his birthday so he may have just made it up, but I’ve heard of these equations, designed to make those of us who aren’t deliriously happy on that day feel inadequate so maybe he was right, although it felt like a fairly ordinary day to me.

After the football however, I suspect many people in England were inclined to agree that it was indeed the happiest day of the year so far, and they couldn’t believe their team’s luck – sorry, talent. Sadly I was not joining in with the celebrations. Oh, I was in the pub and I support England, but during the last half hour of the match (the best bit apparently) I was outside on a friend’s phone trying to get through to Orange customer support to report my phone as stolen.

I have lived in London for nearly 15 years, I’m pretty street-wise and extremely paranoid. If I was having dinner at The Wolesley I would probably wrap the strap of my handbag around my foot in case of a snatch and grab incident. Therefore it might not come as a surprise to discover that I have never been robbed…so I guess you could say I had it coming. I was pick-pocketed by a c*ntful dodger…I patted my phone into my back jeans pocket (I normally walk around with my hand on my arse to keep it in place), then I leaned over the bar to order a drink, and then it was gone. I should have screamed ‘SOMEONE JUST STOLE MY PHONE – DON’T LET ANYONE LEAVE THIS ESTABLISHMENT UNTIL WE HAVE FOUND THE CULPRIT!’ But of course I didn’t, I didn’t want to be ‘that’ girl so I looked around, pulled my friend over to one side to avoid interrupting any conversations/football watching and I quietly said, ‘I think my phone’s been pinched, let’s look through all my bags just to be sure.’

And here we have the age-old conundrum; social embarrassment or death. It seems I choose death (or bad things happening) every time. Several years ago I was on a plane with my sister – we were going to Las Vegas to meet up with our cousin who we rarely see. We were excited. We were given bulkhead seats which made us even more excited. Halfway through the flight two meatheads, Scotch in hand, wandered through the plane. They stopped just in front of our seats, next to the emergency exit door, and decided to hang out there for a bit, just chatting. The Scotch took hold and they got more relaxed, evident by them leaning on said door, and then on the big red handle on said door. What did my sister and I do? Did we call for a flight attendant? Did we say, ‘Excuse me sirs but would you mind not leaning on the handle of that door which leads to certain death?’ No, of course not, we got nervous and fidgety and then started to giggle until we were crying with hysterical laughter at our inability to confront these men who could have easily ended our short lives – but hey, at least we would have died laughing.

So I know this is a recurring theme with me, but I am still angry with myself for my handling of the phone incident. Being the paranoid bitch that I am, I have pictured my reaction to having something stolen a thousand times. I have decided exactly what I would do and how I would respond and it’s never embarrassing to stand up to the criminals but when it came to it I did nothing. I panicked, I was not a hero, I was not brave. I was simply gutted, and angry. I don’t care about the physical phone at all, but I do care about the reams of data and contacts I had in there, which were not backed up. You heard me right, it was not backed up. Guess what? I’ve been meaning to make sure it was backed up for ages, but there is so little to be rebellious about when you’re 35 that I have continually put it off knowing that it is something I should do, and therefore not doing it. A complicated idiotic justification for being an idiot, but there it is, I blame my naturally rebellious desire to not do what I’m meant to do.

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Two days on and I am finally having the calm and zen reaction I hoped I’d have. It certainly beats my immediate reaction which was to sulk for 24 hours (sorry flatmate). Sure, I hate the fact that someone can potentially access all my contacts, passwords and photos but I need to let that go…it’s just a phone, and it’s also not that likely that the desperate person who stole it will be bothered to do that. I have to accept this loss graciously and move on, and enjoy four days of being un-contactable. So, it might not have been the happiest day of my year, but it was a darn sight better than many people in the world, including the thief I’ll wager, and for that I am eternally grateful.

 

Suspicious Minds

What I’m about to say is going to make me sound positively loopy but it’s about time I admitted it, I have some serious trust issues.

I’m not about to delve deep into my psyche and try to pinpoint that one event which made me so wary and distrustful, but I always assumed that as I got older, as I became more secure and happy in myself, I would learn to trust people and be able to believe what they said….sadly the opposite seems to be true and believe it or not, nowadays I’m nipping at Woody Allen’s heels for the title of ‘neuroticism’s top dog’. There are few people I trust. Most of my family and some of my friends but it’s taken me nearly 20 years to get there. The trouble is I don’t believe a word anybody says, ever. I read copious amounts of subtext into everything and always assume the worst. Admitting this makes me wonder how I can get through the day if I am constantly second guessing every statement, trying to extract motive and cut through the perceived crap which in all likelihood doesn’t exist.

When my boss says to me, ‘We think you’re really good and we’d like you to stay on.’ do I hear that? No, what I hear is, ‘We can’t find anyone good to do the job right now so would you mind covering until we do?’

I once had a boyfriend who asked me to marry him every other week. I naturally thought he was joking and always laughed it off, but what if he wasn’t, what if I broke a little bit more of his heart every fortnight?

The latest manifestation of my inability to trust came on Saturday morning when my date for the evening rang me up to arrange where to meet. After some small talk he asked, ‘Shall I come up your way?’ It took me a while to recover from my childish sniggering but then I thought about it and decided the only reason he would be offering to go out in my neighbourhood was because it would be easier to get back to mine so he could literally ‘come up my way’. I couldn’t have been more wrong…he was a gent and I was a bitch, I was the one spouting bullshit statements laden with subtext. I was the one who wasn’t being straight up. Until the 4th margarita when truth bombs started exploding all over the table – but that’s a story for another time.

This date reminded me that although I pride myself on my honesty, it only stretches so far. I am, for the most part, too scared to tell the truth, of saying how I really feel. If you say how you feel it just opens you to the possibility of pain and rejection, and the possibility of submitting someone else to pain and rejection and I’d rather not go there. If I don’t always tell the truth for these reasons, and I believe in honesty, then how can I expect anyone else to? It’s much safer to avoid reality and live a shallow surface existence. The trouble is I am scared that by avoiding deep pain, you forfeit deep joy.

Luckily I have noticed a small shift of late, which gives me hope. With all this public therapy I’ve been giving myself (and submitting you lot to) I am more willing to face reality, to be brutally, gut-wrenchingly honest with myself, and with others.  So I hope there is progress being made and the next time someone tells me they like me I won’t think it’s only because they want something from me, but I might think it’s because they actually like me. Just because. And if I like them, or if I don’t, I’ll just bloody tell them, just because. No subtext, no drama, just trust. There can’t be a much better motive than that.

Great Expectations

Ambition. This is a very new phenomenon to me, and I’m finding it somewhat disconcerting. I’ve always rather proudly announced that I don’t have ambition, I’m not a go-getter. I just ‘fell’ into the day job, and I’m quite happy as long as I’m having a good time and my family and friends are well and happy. This has all changed in the last year. I now have something which wanky people might call ‘drive’.

Since March 2011 I have, somewhat unwittingly, set myself various goals. What is remarkable is that I have, almost without exception, achieved them all. I’m not going to turn this post into a list-blog about how brilliant I am (at showing off), but they started off small and achievable and have recently become much larger and more difficult to achieve – yet I am not daunted. I have become a go-getter, I am just like Veruca Salt – I want the world!

When I was 15, I thought I was going to be an actress. I always liked performing, and participated in every school play, even the terrible Spring term ones which nobody really put any investment into. It was in one of these plays, on opening night, that something happened, dashing my expectations of becoming a board treader. I was playing a girl in a nightclub and I was supposed to be slow dancing to the Oleta Adams hit song, Get Here (oh the irony!), with a boy who was in the year below. Our cue arrived, but he wasn’t in the wings – he was nowhere to be found. I had to go on stage and slow dance, in front of an audience of my peers, on my own. I then had to deliver my line, to nobody. There was a pause the length of eternity and he suddenly ran onto the stage, doing up his flies, and delivered his line. I remember so vividly the mortification I felt at that moment, and the knowledge that no matter what I had done to make sure my performance as a nightclub filly was the best it could be, I could never have predicted that he would decide to go for a piss at the exact moment we were supposed to be on stage – it was outside of my control. Of course I continued without blinking, despite the giggles and the awkwardness the show must go on, but it was at that point I decided I couldn’t pursue a dream if I was not in control of the outcome, no matter what that outcome was. It was much better to just have no expectations and then you can avoid getting hurt or let down. Thus I carried on my career at school and then in life.

For so many years I was scared of humiliation, scared of failure, so I never invested any of myself into anything I did, I just sat back and enjoyed the ride. But I’m not scared any more, I’m putting my dreams out there and it looks like my dormant megalomania is about to erupt spewing hubris across the internet, and then the silver screen.

I’m alive and excited and completely self-obsessed, but thankfully this is all happening at an age where I have enough self-awareness to know I don’t want to be a bad egg, like poor old Veruca. I need to manage my expectations by managing my perspective.

Here are some things that my 15 year old self expected for my 35 year old self.

I expected to be a grown up, I expected to have children, I expected to have met my soul mate, I expected to have visited every country in the world, I expected to have stopped expecting. None of these things have happened. However, I do not feel disappointed because…I didn’t expect to have such solid and enduring friendships, I didn’t expect both my parents to still be alive, I didn’t expect to have such a good relationship with my family, I didn’t expect to have been to so many countries (yes I am aware of the contradiction here) I didn’t expect to be pursuing a dream. These surprising revelations are so much better than my youthful expectations, how could I have any regrets? So before I take over the world, I need to remember what a wise man once said:

‘Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while,
you could miss it.’

It certainly does Ferris, and I’m not gonna miss a minute.