Monthly Archives: August 2012

Everybody’s Talking At Me

‘I am woman, hear me roar!’ In the top ten of cringe-worthy feminist phrases, for me this comes in at number one. I mean, seriously. Why does a woman have to roar in order to be heard? Why can’t we just be heard when we speak? I am a pretty ballsy confident woman but the trouble is, often I can’t be heard when I speak, even if I try to roar.

Being freelance, I have been the new girl on countless occasions. Trust me, it never gets easier. Many years ago, on my first day at a new company I wrote on a document, in 6-point font, ‘I am so small and insignificant, why can’t I speak to people, everything I say is stupid, they are going to find out I’m rubbish and sack me.’ Truly. Two weeks later I was told what a good job I was doing and had amazing new friends who are still friends today. Insecure? moi?

I was reminded of the agony of starting a new job when I spent my first week in Glasgow prior to starting a six month project there. Although it is the same company I have been working at for the last 10 months, it is a new office with new people and my social incompetence reared its ugly head. What’s worse is that they are a group of lovely people and having done the job for 12 years now, there really is no need for career anxiety…However, too often I found myself asking asinine questions, coming out with inappropriate, or worse unfunny, banter, laughing like a loony person at bad jokes or just being strangely quiet and unable to join in with the small talk. I think that is my basic problem – I don’t even know what small talk is. I can’t talk about the weather, or shopping or what you’re doing this weekend – I mean I can but it just feels so fake and insincere that I’d rather not, I’d rather talk about things that matter I guess, but that just makes me sound like a wanker. God, it’s tough to be me.

Here’s a cautionary tale. When meeting a new fella’s family and friends for the first time, do not do the following:

  • Do not scream ‘Fucking go, fucking Mo!’ into his mother’s ear, within 3 minutes of meeting her.
  • Do not tell his sister, who’s a wine expert, that all white wine is essentially ‘bitch diesel’.
  • Do not loudly label his best friend as ‘Officially Annoying’.
  • Do not beat the same sister later that night at arm-wrestling, twice, on both arms.

These may seem like basic obvious rules, and yet I was unable to abide by them and broke them in spectacular fashion. Hey, I guess it was more fun than just having a chat.

Having felt like the outsider all my life, as most of us do, and having never been able to banter and gossip like some people, I have pretty much accepted that this is just the way things are. Fortunately, usually after a couple of weeks, I have ridden out this storm of crazy insecurity and settled into a rhythm of semi-normality with people – or at least they’ve found my social fuck-ups endearing.

So, I really hope everybody keeps talking at me, even though I may not hear a word they’re saying and they are only echoes in my mind, I’ll get to where the sun keeps shining. I love that song, both heart-breaking and beautiful at the same time.

We sometimes need a reminder that we don’t need to roar, we just need to keep talking and we’ll get there eventually.

 

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Being A Grown Up

On Saturday my friend came over and we ate pizza and watched The Muppets. We are 35. I can honestly say it was one of the most fun evenings I’ve had in a while. So what if the movie’s not a patch on the ‘turn left at the fork in the road’ brilliance of the original, it stayed true to the characters and message of the Muppets and it transported us to a simpler, safer time in our lives, free of drama and responsibility.

Having said that, the life I live now is actually not hugely dramatic or responsible compared to most of my friends and I have recently been worrying that I am being left behind – the only one of my group who is not yet, and may never be, a grown up. All around me people are buying houses, getting married, having children, things which traditionally give definition to the concept of ‘grown up’ and here I am renting from a friend, single, transitory, with not a plan in sight.  I am stubbornly clinging to the conceit of youth, to the vain imaginings of Neverland, to the dim hope that I never have to change my life because I’m quite content as it is, actually.

I’m blessed with an incredible group of girlfriends, many of whom have been friends for over 20 years. We grew up together, we have so much history together that when I look at them I see the best parts of myself reflected in their eyes and their smiles, memories of all the love, advice and laughter we have shared over the years. We have always spoken candidly with each other and dinner the other night was no exception…only (and this has been happening a lot lately) I had nothing to contribute, no advice to impart, nothing to say. Of course this didn’t stop me and I ended up saying a lot of things, but everything that came out of my mouth felt asinine and irrelevant, juvenile and self centred. My drunken dating stories lost their lustre among their stories of trying to start a family, of being newly married, of planning for the future. After so many years of growing up at the same pace, I am finding it difficult to adjust to the differences between us and am having to ask myself if it’s time for me to keep up, to grow up, to settle down.

I’m not entirely sure why these two concepts – growing up and settling down – are so intertwined in my mind. I know many people who are proper grown ups who have never settled down, and plenty of people who have settled down and are as far from grown up as it is possible to be. But if they are not the same thing they are definitely related and I just don’t feel ready to do either, it feels too much like facing reality, like hard work. I know my friends don’t expect me to keep up with them – they would probably insist that they like my drunken dating stories, it allows them to live vicariously through me but I really don’t want to be that person. I want to be in their gang again, to understand what they are going through and share in their successes and failures, like I always have, but I am at such a different place in my life that for the time being I have to accept our differences and support them in other ways. One day I’m sure, my priorities will change and I will forget the name of the boy they gave a blowjob to behind the skate park and be able to remember the name of their firstborn child. One day. After all it’s not a race and I’m sure they are blindly negotiating the complexities of real life just like I am blindly avoiding them in my bubble of irresponsibility. We are all still growing, if not growing up.

So maybe I’ll grow up and maybe I won’t, maybe I’ll settle down and maybe I won’t but for now the differences between my friends and I will remain, but so will the honesty and so will the support, of that I am sure. Our paths may have diverged – I may have turned left at the fork in the road and they may have turned right but we will meet again because no matter how grown up you become, the friends you made when you were 12 will always remember who you were before life got in the way.