Things what I have learnt this year…

2013 hasn’t been the best year, too many people I love have had a horrible time and at midnight tonight I’ll be thinking about the people who aren’t here any more. But I’ll also be feeling really grateful for the ones who still are. In the middle of all the bad stuff there’s been some really good stuff too and I can’t write off a year that’s made me new friends and brought me closer to old ones. And I’m ending the year happy and healthy in a lovely warm house with a lovely warm husband, with two happy, healthy children, so I can’t complain.

But here are a few things that I have learnt this year:

There is such a thing as a penis beaker. Really, if you are capable of even thinking up the idea of a penis beaker after sex, you’re not doing it right.

Twerking is a verb. I have nothing to say, except stop it, now.

It is actually possible to finish the year hating onesies and cupcakes more than I did at the start. Particularly onesies with cupcakes on them.

I can write more than short stories. This year I’ve started the two novels that have been going round in my head forever. Whether they’ll ever be finished or not is a different matter, but I’ll worry about that later.

I like blogging. And this year I’ve had more non-fiction published than fiction so I feel like I’ve finally found my voice, even though it seems to be the voice of a slightly bad tempered old woman with grammar issues and a potty mouth.

I am happy to admit I am a feminist. I learnt that contrary to popular belief, this does not have to involve looking at your vagina in a mirror, unless of course that is your thing, in which case go ahead. Freak.

I’m getting more ranty as I get older. This is slightly related to the above. Imagine my daughters delight when I ranted all the way home from watching the Smurfs 2 movie, complaining about how it played into damaging female stereotypes. I also talk at the television and write letters to the newspaper. Deal with it.

Most people do actually get my sarcastic sense of humour. But the ones that don’t, really don’t, which led to my very first troll this year. I feel like I’ve finally made it.

When things are going really badly, there will always be something to laugh about. My family have really been through it this year and we’re finishing the year feeling exhausted, every one of us. But in the middle of it all we’ve laughed. You have not known funny until you have stood fully clothed in a shower with your big sister, believe me.

Life is very, very fragile. This is the main thing I’ve learnt and at the risk of sounding like one of those annoying motivational quote people on Twitter, you need to learn it too. So,

Make that call.

Send that email.

Tell that person you love them, even if you see them every day and you’ve told them before and they should know it anyway.

Don’t keep that dress for a special occasion, today is that special occasion.

Wear hats if you want to.

Wear more leopard print if you want to. (This should be law)

Be nice to people because you want to be, not because you want people to think you’re nice.

Start writing that novel and clear some space in your head. Who cares if it’s shit, it’s your shit.

Don’t stay together for the children. You’re their blueprint for relationships, they deserve better.

Remember that fairy lights are not just for Christmas, keep them out all year.

Say no more often.

Say yes more often.

Tell your children how amazing they are, and let them see how amazing you think you are too.

And never, ever, accept a drink in a plastic cup from someone who looks like they might be a penis beaker type of person.

Happy New Year, everyone, thank you.

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Breasts, bangers, boobs, baps….

Whatever you want to call them, breasts are a funny thing. We are obsessed with them; their size, their ability to stick out of tops, their uncanny knack of popping up in a car ad. They are like little bouncy space hoppers bouncing around our magazines and advertising boards. They’re either too big, too small, too saggy or just too weird looking (you know who you are…)

As a society we have a very confusing relationship with them, we are full of mixed messages and contradictions. I personally got along quite happily without mine until sometime in my teens when I gradually realised that people no longer looked me in the eye. That was the start of a love-hate relationship that mainly consisted of hate for the next ten years or so. Tolerable on most days, hated on others, in the winter they made my jumpers look awkward and meant I couldn’t fasten my coat up properly, and in the summer they prevented me from wearing little vesty tops with no bra whilst playing volley ball. Clothes that look quite classy and stylish on the hanger can look positively indecent once these babies are stuffed inside them. From Audrey Hepburn to page three lovely in one swish of the changing room curtain.

People assume certain things about women with big breasts and you need to be pretty thick skinned to be able to carry off such a huge statement. And there are no role models. In books and films you never get a serious/interesting/clever character with big bababbas; they are always the flighty one, the ditsy secretary, the femme fatale. If a character has big breasts then that is what she is, there’s no room for anything else in her personality. If a character is going to be murdered, it’ll be the one with the double-d’s.

I can’t think of a male equivalent, because men aren’t judged in the same way that women are. I was going to say that men wouldn’t like it if women stared constantly at their groin area, but then thought that maybe quite a few of them would. I might try shouting, ‘Oy! Get your cock out for the girls!’ at a man as he’s walking down the street with his kids. Or maybe I should stare pointedly at a man’s crotch and then ask if I can rest my head on it, telling him that you don’t get many of those to the pound. (Yes, I’ve had these things, and more, said to me). Me and my breasts have arrived at a bit of a truce now where we can both inhabit the same body without any conflict and I’m not saying that you shouldn’t look at a person’s breasts, ever, I can appreciate a nice looking cleavage as much as the next person, but just don’t assume that’s all that person is.

The paradox of breasts means that it’s perfectly acceptable to have them displayed across advertising boards if they are trying to sell us a lipstick, but then people, and that includes men and women, take offence at the sight of a woman breastfeeding in public, as if to say ‘How dare you?’ Don’t you know that breasts are sacred?!’ They are all about the sex.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. Sadly, most of us know someone who is either dealing with it, or has dealt with it at some point and it is still the second biggest cause of death from cancer in women, young and old. According to the results of a recent survey, half of the women questioned don’t check their breasts, and a third of them have never spoken to their daughters about it so there’s no doubt that we definitely need to raise awareness. What worries me though is the way this is being done.

At the moment you can buy everything in bright pink; wristbands, t-shirts, even condoms and vibrators. But how does this help? It feels like a great big marketing scam and makes me feel uncomfortable in the same way that things like Comic Relief do. People buy a pink wristband, or give some money to a man in a bear suit holding a bucket and that’s it, contribution done, you can go away and forget about it for another year feeling like a really good person.

Sunday October 13th is apparently No Bra Day where we are being encouraged to ‘set the tatas free’. Really? And this will help how? This reminds me of the women who have a picture of their cleavage as their twitter avi, again, in support of breast cancer. They’re not making a statement, they are alienating the very women who need to hear the message. I’m lucky enough to have never been through breast cancer, but I imagine that if I had, the last thing I would want to see would be women parading their healthy, non surgery-scarred breasts in front of me.

There is also a lovely slogan that says something like ‘I stare because I care’ and that just makes me want to slap somebody.

You could argue that all of this is still raising awareness, and that would be true, but I think that bombarding women with these mixed messages is damaging and missing the real issue. We need to educate women, talk to our daughters and remove some of the stigma associated with breasts.

So you go off and set your tatas free while drinking from a pink sports cup, brandishing your big pink vibrator while playing volleyball, but make sure that you also do something that really matters, not necessarily donating money, but by talking to each other and your children and your partners and your friends. And please, keep your bra on, you’ll have someone’ eye out.

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Trolling, trolling, trolling…

So. I wrote a guest blog post about feminism earlier this week, you can read it here if you want to. It was something that I had to think about a lot, partly because I don’t feel qualified to talk about so big a topic. But then if an actual woman with an actual vagina can’t talk about feminism then who can; which was kind of the point of my post, the fact that you don’t need to have special qualifications to care about it. But I was also worried about putting myself out there with an opinion about something so controversial. Most of my blog posts are pretty harmless really, a bit of ranting, some thinly veiled pops at people on Twitter who annoy me, but this one was different and it took me over two weeks to write, when normally I whip up a blog post in an evening.

It seems that anyone who fesses up as a feminist, or in fact anyone who is just a woman with a voice, lays themselves open to some pretty horrible abuse and this week they’ve been in the news a lot. Caroline Criado Perez has been campaigning for more pictures of women to be used on banknotes (which, by the way, kind of annoys me, it reminds me of when I was only picked for a team in PE at school because they felt sorry for me, not because of my athletic prowess. I don’t want them to put a woman on a bank note just so we can have a woman on a bank note, I want them to put somebody on a bank note because they are worthy of being there, whatever their gender). Anyway, this woman received rape threats and a group was set up to campaign for a twitter boycott, as well as a button for reporting abuse. While we’re talking about this, I was also annoyed by how she was described in all the newspapers as ‘Feminist, Caroline Criado Perez…’. She is a feminist, but it had to be highlighted, almost to remind us that she was more or less asking for it, that it happened because of the feminism, ignoring the fact that women are subject to this abuse every single day, regardless of whether or not they proclaim to be a feminist, or any other kind of campaigner.

Twitter is a reflection of society, whatever you might think about it personally, and that reflection is magnifying too. I find that the people who are great to talk to and funny in real life, are even more entertaining on twitter. The self obsessed are even more so, without social etiquette as a buffer; and the dull people are the ones constantly tweeting pictures of their dinner. So it’s no surprise that there are nasty people on there too, as real life is full of them. There are plenty of people around who will hate you for no reason and people, or rather men, who hate you because you’re a woman, especially if you’re a woman in the spotlight, or an intelligent woman with a point of view, or in fact just any woman who makes them feel threatened in some way, who threatens to disrupt their carefully ordered vision of the world, in which men are superior.

There are lots of types of trolls, trolls who just want to cause trouble, trolls who want the attention as well as the ones who, at some point, will compare you to Hitler. But the trolls that have been in the news this week are the most sinister kind, the kind who can’t argue back intelligently so resort to the one way they can feel dominant over women, in a violent, threatening way. Like the men who feel threatened by their clever wives who can outsmart them with words in an argument, so resort to punching them in the face. Those kind.

We need to do something about a society that makes this ok and only to be expected, because this isn’t a very pretty reflection at all. And while the rape threats on twitter are horrible, the actual rapes that are regularly taking place in real life are much worse and as we’re struggling to deal with the twitter threats, we also seem tobe floundering when it comes to dealing with rape in real life.

Today people are taking part in a twitter silence, and while I admire these people because that is how they feel they need to deal with it and in doing so they are drawing attention to it, for me it’s not the answer. These trolls want us to be quiet, they want us to feel silenced, they don’t want to hear what we have to say so today, in my eyes, they have partly won. In my opinion we need to make as much noise as possible and drown these people out. We need to challenge them and put the spotlight on them, shout out to everybody when they threaten us. Turning our backs isn’t the answer, facing it full on is. Social media is here to stay so we need to learn how to deal with this part of it.

And for the record, I don’t think a report button will work either. How do we ensure it wont get abused? Only this week I saw someone take offence at a parody account and complain about it openly. This is someone with a huge following, with lots of fans. Anybody who disagreed with him was ‘outed’, quoted out of context and in turn, subject to horrible abuse themselves. Just for disagreeing. Often the people who complain about bullying online end up being bullies themselves about it, and this makes me feel uncomfortable. How do we define the bad stuff? Because a lot of the bad stuff being said about the bad stuff is as bad as, if not worse than, the original bad stuff.

And with those wise thoughts I will leave to you deal with this as you will, as long as you deal with it in some way and not just use the twitter silence to post more pictures of your dinner.

 

 

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If you can’t say anything nice…

If you haven’t got anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all’. My mum used to say this to me and my sisters and I think I might even have said it to my children at some point. (Don’t judge me. This is what happens; one minute you’re young and carefree and rolling your eyes at things your parents say, the next you’re walking along and you catch sight of the reflection in a shop window of a woman with those funny jowly bits on her face, a woman who looks a bit like your mum. This is you. You are your mum, or your dad, possibly a bit of both. Deal with it).

Of course, we can’t always say nice things, that would be silly. Sometimes we have to say not very nice things, it’s part of life, but you can still say them in a nice way.

Some people just aren’t nice and a really good place to find those people is online. In real life we have social etiquette and manners and rules and friends and partners, as well as an inherent desire to be liked, to ensure that we think about what we say and how we say it. But sitting in front of a computer in your front room in your pants, it’s easy to forget all these things, especially if you’re that way inclined anyway.

You have to expect people to disagree with you, I’ve talked about that before. If you put yourself out there and have strong views about something, then you have to expect that there will be a lot of people who don’t agree with you. That’s good though, it’s what online debate is all about and if you don’t like it then you should maybe shut up.

We all hear about internet trolls, people who try to deliberately provoke you. I had first hand experience of this a few days ago. A friend of mine wrote a blog post called The Call Centre: Adventures in Depression and I retweeted it. It upset a couple of fans of the television programme it mentioned, people who thought I’d written it myself, people who hadn’t even read the post and who ended up comparing the writer to Hitler. Godwin’s Law is well known on the internet, it claims that all internet arguments will eventually result in someone making some kind of comparison to Hitler, (yes, forget genocide, that’s a picnic compared to writing some words about some stuff). In this case it happened in about five tweets and usually, when it gets to that stage, the discussion is over. These people are often quite entertaining, you read what they say, realise there is no logic to what they’re saying and you block them. It’s not personal, it’s what they do.

Worse than the trolls though are the people who claim to be nice, but aren’t. I call them the Twitter Police. They’re the ones who happily point out any mistakes you make, you can imagine the glee in their faces as they jump on that typo. Another friend of mine thanked a few people on twitter for re-tweeting her tweet. She wrote it as RT’s and not as RTs. Most people didn’t even notice, you probably don’t even notice and will have to look twice. But one person did. She added a sarcastic comment to the end of it and re-tweeted it to her followers. I’m sure she felt great, very smug, she’d been the one to spot it, she must be really, really clever. But was it worth it? Because it made my friend feel a bit rubbish, she was embarrassed and thought people would think she was stupid. This is a friend who is a brilliant writer, as well as being a fantastic painter. A friend who speaks at least five languages. And one person, with one little comment, completely knocked her confidence. Usually, when people make a point of publicly pointing out someone else’s faults, it says more about the person doing the pointing than the person who made the mistake. Does it really matter? Will the world be a better place if you tell someone what they’ve done wrong? I don’t think so.

It’s easy to get into arguments online. You have the ability to type before you think properly, you can’t see the person you’re talking to, you can’t read the social cues and sarcasm gets lost. I’ve done it. But I tend to notice what’s happening and I stop and walk away. It’s easy to forget how much words can hurt. It’s easy to fall into behaviour that could be classed as bullying. I’m pretty certain that nobody has died because they didn’t have the last word, and some people are never going to think the same as you, ever. It doesn’t matter. What you think is what matters. (Unless you think I really do want a regular update about what level you are on in Candy Crush on Facebook, in which case you are very wrong.)

The irony of this post is that I’ve written most of it while on hold to the tax people, feeling a bit cross. But as with all of my posts, do as I say, not as I do.

Disclaimer: I am not sat writing this in my pants.

Disclaimer to the disclaimer: Although obviously I am wearing pants.

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Shoes

The last couple of weeks have been hectic, for want of a better word. So I’m posting something that I wrote for When Women Waken, an online literary journal. When I wrote this I had no intention of doing anything with it, it was purely therapy, a way of getting some kind of order to how I was feeling. But here it is.

Shoes.

I love shoes. This is no secret. My husband rolls his eyes, my daughters marvel at how many I own, and the fact that I have a couple of pairs that I’ve never even worn. They are still in my possession because of their sheer beauty.

It’s a bit of a cliché for a woman to love shoes. There’s a hint of shallowness about it. People joke about women who talk about shoes and handbags, and as if the title Chick Lit wasn’t patronising enough for books written by women, for women, there is always a shoe somewhere on the cover. If you like shoes and handbags and make up and boys, then you can’t possibly have a proper, serious thought in your head.

Of course, I am an intelligent woman. I love lots of other things too, there are many sides to my personality and it annoys me that someone might hear me say something flippant about shoes and judge me for it. But then it’s quite likely they’ve already judged me about something else, like the colour of my hair or the length of my skirt. I have no control over that..

I like buying shoes, I like smelling new shoes. I look at old, worn shoes and push them back into the cupboard, not wanting to throw them away because they have happy memories. One day I might need their happy power to get me through a day I’m dreading. I have shoes that remind me of when I was pregnant. They are flat and more worn down at the heel than the others. I have shoes that remind me of people, of who I was with when I bought them; not just physically or in a relationship sense, but who I was thinking about when I bought them, who I pictured myself wearing them with. The two aren’t necessarily the same

I have shoes that I’ve worn to weddings that made me walk funny, shoes I’ve worn to weddings that have been discarded at the side of dance floors. Shoes I’ve worn to weddings where the shoes have lasted longer than the actual marriage. I love them all. Until now, this week. When I had to buy funeral shoes.

It felt shallow that within days of hearing about a friend dying, I was wondering what shoes I should wear. I’ve been lucky, I haven’t been to a funeral for a long time, the last time was when I was heavily pregnant and wore some old black boots under maternity trousers because they were comfortable and nobody looked any further down than my huge belly. But this time, I wont be able to get away with it. I don’t own any black shoes. I have brown, beige, blue and even leopard print. But no black.

So for the first time I didn’t get excited when they were delivered. I didn’t enjoy unwrapping the tissue paper, didn’t enjoy trying them on and walking around my bedroom. They have been placed next to the wardrobe, the wardrobe that contains the black funeral dress. They look stark and sinister and spiky against my pale carpet. They suck all the happiness from the room. I will not get a thrill from wearing them for the first time. I will not keep looking down at them throughout the day to remind myself how fabulous they are. They will purely be things that are on my feet and right now, right at this minute, I hate shoes.

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The One About Death

I had intended to write about something light-hearted and fluffy today. But this week somebody died. Somebody who had absolutely no business dying yet.

I’ve talked before about how awkward I feel when someone reports a death on social media, about not knowing how to respond without looking like I’m just jumping on a bandwagon. But this isn’t a sympathy post, it doesn’t demand a response. Also, this isn’t about me. There’s a family somewhere whose lives will never be the same again, whose whole future will now have to be re-imagined and I feel a bit helpless, I can’t make things better for anyone, but I can write about it.

Death is a funny old thing. We don’t seem to be able to talk about it properly. It’s riddled with clichés. People start talking about how short and fragile life is, about how we should live for today and stop stressing about the little things that don’t really matter.

It’s not that easy though. We fully intend to do these things, we talk about it and make plans to start just as soon as the bad stuff that made us think like that is over. Then we never do. It’s like that gym membership or The Diet or the plan to de-clutter. Real life takes over again. Also, often, those little things do matter, it’s all relative, it’s not a points system.

I’d like to think though that every time someone close to us dies we will think a little bit more about how we live. Living life ‘to the max’ isn’t always possible when we have bills to pay and jobs to do and other people relying on us, but we can still make changes.

We don’t have to stay in an unhappy relationship for the kids because one day, those kids wont be kids and we wont be here and what was all that unhappiness for anyway? Do the things you want to do, don’t put them aside for that (I hate this phrase) bucket list. Write the book, learn to play the cello, start wearing hats, tell that person you love them. Just do it.

We talk about birth all the time. We celebrate it and make TV programmes about it. There’s a whole industry of magazines and gifts and blogs out there, all concentrating on the start of life. Women sit in dusty church halls while their toddlers play and tell strangers the minute details of when they gave birth. Pregnant women and new mothers are drawn towards each other like iron filings, yet when it comes to death we hide away. People actually cross the road to avoid having to talk to someone who’s just lost someone.

Lost someone. There’s a phrase. It sounds like you left somebody outside the shop while you went in for a paper, and then just walked straight home without thinking. The kind of thing that used to happen in the ‘70s with babies in big-wheeled, old fashioned prams outside the greengrocer’s shop. But ‘lost someone’ is better than ‘they passed’ or ‘they went over to the other side’ (a phrase that always reminds me of Star Wars). We seem to feel the need to soften the blow. It’s almost as though the person who is left behind has a duty to make everyone else feel better by not mentioning ‘death/died/dead’, they are supposed to dilute it somehow. If they don’t say death we can almost pretend it didn’t happen and everyone can carry on with their day without having to do or say anything too uncomfortable. We are rubbish at this, really rubbish.

Of course, birth is the start of life and death is the end and that’s not something we can be happy about, especially if that person is younger and hasn’t even got going yet. Yet while it’s terribly sad that the person isn’t around any more, it almost feels selfish to be upset. It’s not about us, the ones left behind. We still have our lives and, depending on what your beliefs are, the dead person has either gone to a better place or has no awareness of what’s happened. But the very fact that people are upset about it means that they affected our lives in some way, they made a difference, and I think that is something to be celebrated.

So talk to that person who’s just lost someone, it’s much better to say the wrong thing than not talk to them at all. Or give them a hug, listen to them, let them talk. There’s a huge gap in their lives that you can never fill so don’t even try, but you can fill some of it up with love and memories.

P.S. I tried really hard to make sure this wasn’t a sympathy post and I think my friend would be shaking his head at me and laughing and calling me an idiot (basically 80% of my memories of him) because it took me the best part of a day to try to avoid saying it wrong.

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Ten Things I Have Learnt in my Mad Month of Crazy Everyday Blogging.

 

  1. Other bloggers are really nice.

    Not that I thought they wouldn’t be of course, I wasn’t imagining a group of nasty old bitter bloggers, giving me bad advice on purpose, telling me to make sure I made fun of Americans in my first post and making comments like ‘you’re crap’ on every post. But I’ve had so much support and encouragement in the last month from people I’ve never met, or even chatted to before. They’ve given me advice, suggestions for blog posts and have taken the time to read and comment.

  1. I can find the time to write every day if I make the effort.

    Up until a month ago I complained that I didn’t have enough time to write as much as I wanted to. I’m working and have two children and responsibilities and family stuff going on. But doing this has shown me that I can make the time, even if it’s just half an hour every evening, ten minutes in my lunch break. If I can come up with a blog post every day from scratch, then I can certainly write down some of the words that are constantly in my head, which is good. I once likened my thoughts to noisy puppies, if I don’t let them out regularly they start charging around my head and peeing on the furniture.

  2. I can be a little bit grumpy.

    I find lots of things really annoying. Who knew?

  3. Having people disagree with me is good.

    A writer I know has a regular blog. He recently wrote a blog that caused a bit of controversy, while a lot of people agreed with him, a lot of people also disagreed. He got upset and claimed to have been misunderstood and when he wrote his next post he said that he wasn’t going to read the comments. Apart from that being the bloggy equivalent of putting your fingers in your ears in an argument and singing loudly that you can’t hear, it’s also incredibly arrogant. I can’t imagine writing something and being so 100% certain that I am correct that I’m surprised when people take a different view. I might think I believe one thing, but then hear another point of view that changes that belief, it’s what discussion is all about. This is why I like having so many friends with such a variety of views. Unless people are rude, which is a different issue, I welcome people challenging what I think, I don’t want a group of people around me nodding and reaching for the ‘like’ button before I’ve even finished my sentence, that would just annoy me. Possibly. That’s never happened.

  4. I’m maybe not as much of a weirdo as I thought I was.

    Or rather, I am, but there are plenty of you out there to keep me company. It seems I’m not the only one who’s sat and read the back of shampoo bottles. I’m not the only one who’s rehearsed imaginary Oscar speeches in their head and I’m not the only one with a stationery obsession. Thank you. Freaks.

  5. It’s not always the people you expect to support you who do.

    But this is just life.

  6. The people who really need to read your blog are the people who never will.

    The hassling of agents, the retweeting of compliments, the smug tweeting about knowing exactly who has unfollowed them that very day; these are all things that are happening right now on my timeline, live! Stop it.

  7. I can maybe be a little bit more than a little bit grumpy.

    Deal with it…

  8. My husband is pretty fantastic.

    I knew this before of course, I wouldn’t have married him otherwise. But in the past month he has put up with me waking him up just as he’s falling asleep to tell him that I have thought of a ‘W’. I have interrupted conversations to rush off and scribble something down. He has washed up and made lunch boxes and stopped fist fights and sorted children out for bed and still been patient as I say yet again that I am coming to bed I just need to read/write something. He’s always supportive and even though he’s had a book published himself recently he always has time to listen and give me advice. Having said that, me blogging/ranting to you means that I don’t rant as much to him. Hmm…

  9. I still really like using an ellipsis…

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Z is for Zumba

Z is a hard letter, it’s been a hard day, I was stuck. So instead of ranting I’m posting a flash fiction piece:

I’m walking to meet you, leaving a trail of lies behind me like confetti at a wedding. A doomed wedding. One that stinks of convenience and the fear of being alone. I’m risking everything yet you treat me like I’m nothing. And still I come. My self esteem so low that I’ll accept any scraps of attention from you. For a very short while I’ll feel like I matter. But we both know that I don’t.

He thinks I’m at Zumba. No, that’s not right. I think he knows that I haven’t set foot in a Zumba class for months but he’s like me, preferring to live in a fantasy world, it’s safer there, easier.

Later, I’ll go back home and we’ll lie to each other and avoid each other’s eyes. The ghost of you will be all around us but for a while we’ll pretend that we can carry on like this.

But for now, I’m all yours. And neither one of us has any idea how lucky you are.

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Y is for Yes

I’ve said yes to a lot of things in my time and I have to say that I don’t regret many of them, even the things I probably should have said a big fat no to. I don’t think I’m very good at saying no.

It is exactly 29 days since I said yes to the A to Z challenge. I agreed at the very last minute, just before the deadline for entering. 29 days ago I didn’t even have a blog, never mind 30 blog posts. My friend, Barbara, helped me put something together as I am useless at anything to do with computers. I just sit, flapping my hands around in the general vicinity of the keyboard and hope something useful happens by chance.

I came up with a name, she did all the rest. I should point out that Barbara lives in Spain, so this was all done via Facebook messages which started out calm and fun with her gently encouraging me, but ended up stressed and sweary with her typing madly at me ‘Just shut up about widgets and f-ing blog!’ I could sense her wanting to slap me, I wanted to slap myself. I didn’t have a topic, I didn’t have a theme, my eyes hurt and I had no idea what I was doing.

29 days later I still have no idea what I’m doing. I’ve thought about blogging on and off for a few years but never actually got round to it. There’s a bit of a pattern. I seem to be better off doing things that I don’t actually have time to think through properly. If I think about something, and over-analyse it, it’ll never get done. When I have to submit a piece of writing, I nearly always end up doing it just before the deadline, I’m not really a planner. I don’t have mind maps and character descriptions, I just do it and hope it’ll all turn out fine in the end. Thinking about it, this is sort of how I live. But it’s worked so far.

I had a vague idea of what I was going to write about for a few of the letters. The rest were thought up on the day. Sometimes I had to ask my husband to suggest a title, sometimes I looked through a dictionary, often, I tried to fit a letter around a topic I wanted to rant about. And yes, quite a few of them were written with someone in particular in mind. (Some of them I’ve ranted at in real life, which sort of makes it ok, right?) Not that it matters, I’m pretty confident that the people I was thinking of are never going to read my blog, they’re far too busy retweeting their compliments and cack-handedly ‘approaching’ unsuspecting agents. Also, even if they do read this and recognise themselves, they’re not going to admit it.

And so I blogged. It’s very therapeutic. I’ve been hanging around social media for a long time, there are a lot of rants in there. This blog is sort of performing a public service; I blog and then go out into the world unburdened and less likely to slap someone.

So my message is, try saying yes more often, even if it scares you and you think you’ll mess it up. There are downsides to being unable to say no of course. I’ve ended up taking the minutes for meetings I don’t understand. I have a funny duster thing in the cupboard under the sink because the man who came to the door ‘looked nice’. Last week, I chatted on the phone to a woman for 20 minutes about a new digital tv service. It made me late for a meeting. I don’t own a television.

But I have made new friends through this and learnt a lot about how I like to write and have hopefully got into a routine of setting some time aside each evening to write something, which, at the moment, when I’m working every day and have children and stuff going on, is a miracle.

Also, if anyone can come up with a topic for Z, I’d be really grateful…

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X is for …X

X is for Ex. Or cross. As in making someone cross, or crossing someone. Either way, I have some questions for you.

Have you ever been in a relationship with a writer?

Have you ever been friends with a writer?

Have you ever worked with a writer?

Have you ever been at a party with a writer?

Have you ever walked down a street at the same time as a writer?

If you answered yes to any of these questions then the chances are you are in a book somewhere, albeit nicely disguised. As in, you’ll have different coloured hair and a slight name change, you may even have a smaller/bigger nose/ bottom (delete as applicable), but you’ll be in there somewhere.

You can relax though, I’m sure they wrote about you in a good way. I’m sure that once you work out which one you are, you’ll be proud to show your grandchildren and work colleagues. Unless of course you upset them in some way, in which case you’re doomed.

Writers are often quite introverted, they’re not really your typical confrontational shouty kind of person. You might think that when you dumped them/said something slightly mean/annoyed them a bit, that their quiet unassuming manner would result in a bit of moodiness, some sighing and a few passive-aggressive ‘It’s FINE…’ comments.

Think again. They are quiet because they’re wondering whether to make you the murderer or the victim. They’re imagining you in a sex scene where you can’t get it up. You are that mean girl in the story, the middle aged man with an arrogance problem. This is what they do. They immortalise you forever in the worst way possible. It’s cheaper than therapy, more socially acceptable than punching you in the face and it feels great.

But please don’t let this worry you, I’m sure you’ll be fine. Just remember this. You are never more than five nasty comments away from ending up as ‘the fat naked man/woman who died in the bath, holding a vacuum attachment/cucumber’. You’re very welcome.

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