I went to a writing workshop run by one of my clients last week. Writers and account managers from 4 creative agencies, all of us there to pick up their new tone of voice guidelines.
I thought it would be a listening/taking notes kind of thing. Oh no. We had to do live writing exercises. Ugh. I am not a performing monkey. I craft, I consider (at work, at least – you guys get the stream of consciousness shit). And I HATE reading my work out loud to others. Double ugh.
So I did it, and then in the car on the way home, I indulged in a good half hour of self-loathing. WHY did I say that? Why did I behave like THAT? My copy was shit – and had to read it out to all of those PEOPLE! WHY am I doing this job? I am shit at it. God I was ANNOYING in that meeting. Why can’t I be less… ME?
I just wanted to crawl out of my own skin and die.
One of my friends has just started seeing an account manager from one of the other agencies there that day. I’d never met her before the workshop, and my friend and I caught up on the phone earlier this week.
“So you finally met X, then… She said you came across really well in that meeting. She really liked the way you tackled the copy exercises, the fact that you took a different approach, that you obviously thought about it. She really liked you – and she was impressed.”
It’s entirely possible she was being kind. Or that we were in different meetings. Or that she muddled me up with someone else.
I used to be confident about my pure writing skills. The conceptual side of my job always brings out the self-doubter/hater in me, but the writing comes easily. Which means it’s not something I’m especially proud of. There’s no effort involved, it doesn’t really stretch me.
And when you lose confidence in something that’s always come effortlessly to you, well… that’s bad.
I hope X was right.
PS. The cat survived her surgery. She only has 4 teeth left now though. Eep. She comes home next Tuesday…
I have put myself under intense scrutiny over the last 6 months. No-one has been more self-absorbed and self-obsessed than me. And while I mostly see a tangled thorny knot of horrible things, there are bits of good too. The best bit being that I am essentially good.
This doesn’t mean I’m nice. I can be a real bitch. I have a temper. I’m not especially straightforward. But I *am* quite good. I am honest. If someone gives me too much change in a shop, I’ll tell them. I could never make a false claim on my home insurance. I understand why other people can, it doesn’t bother me, I’m not sanctimonious – I am just physically incapable of doing it myself.
I will do anything for anyone. I might instantly regret agreeing to because I have too much on, it might take me a while if I’m busy, but generally I am generous with my time. And I am generous with money, too. I wouldn’t think twice about lending my last £10 to someone else.
I look for good in other people. I am more tolerant of abrasive personalities than most people I know, because I ask myself why they are being so abrasive, and it generally comes down to insecurity, and I can relate to that. In my industry, there are a fair few abrasive types. I’m probably one of them. I cut people slack.
I trust people, unless I’m given reason not to. I am loyal, and I believe that people have my best interests at heart until evidence proves me wrong.
And I think all THIS is why I have been so… taken aback by HWSNBN. I spent a long time making excuses for him. He’s depressed, he’s emotionally inarticulate, he’s never been in a proper relationship so this is all new, he’s busy, his Mum died at a formative age, he’s practically bankrupt… And all of these things are true. He has a lot on his plate. He’s complicated.
But… And this is an important ‘but’. A watershed ‘but’: This doesn’t mean he’s a nice person who just happens to be going through a shitty time.
Nasty, manipulative, selfish, rude, cruel people also go through shitty times.
Shit doesn’t discriminate (although it could be argued that bad things happen to bad people purely because they aren’t putting any effort into nurturing genuine reciprocal relationships with the family/friends/customers/suppliers that could get them out of the shit and into the clover…). I digress.
It’s entirely possible that everyone isn’t like me. That everyone doesn’t assume the best of everyone else, and give all they can to them, expecting only… decency in return. Some people’s motives aren’t pure. Some people just aren’t GOOD.
I don’t know why this has come as such a huge surprise. The really stupid thing is, I asked him. On our first date: are you a good man? And he said yes, I don’t believe I’ve ever deliberately hurt anyone.
And I believed him!
Because in my fluffy, decent world, you can take such things at face value. Ask *me* a question and you’ll get an honest answer. Any question. I’ll answer it. Hell, you don’t even have to ask me; I’ll tell you anyway. This blog? You asked for none of this.
I am SUCH a twat.
I went to Center Parcs with my boy the other week. He is a good person too. He waited his turn for the water slide. Waited, and waited, and waited, as bigger boys just barged past him and charged on down. And then turned to me with a look of mute outrage. But still he stood there, until I went up and made sure he got his go. And then later on in the week, he sat in a ball pool while a bigger boy repeatedly threw balls at his head. He’d still be sitting there now if I hadn’t bawled the little ball-throwing shit out.
It worried me. He needs to grow a backbone, stand up for himself, find a way to still be that lovely good boy without letting other people take advantage of him.
It would be good if he had a positive role model, right?
I have nothing to report other than my continued, deepening hatred of myself. Being able to turn your own stomach is impressive.
And I need to write about it. I get self-harming now, I get why people do it. All of the… anger, the hot anger that rolls and twists in your stomach and rises up to form a solid wall of rage from your chest to your throat… It needs to go somewhere. It needs a release.
And so read these words and know that they are silver lines tracking my arms and the tops of my thighs. They are red scratches running down my cheeks and chunks of hair in my sink. I’m not there, but I don’t know what else to do. I don’t know how to stop hating myself. I can’t get away from myself. I’m here, all the time, going round and round in my own head, and I am SO FUCKING ANNOYING.
I tried not writing, using the same logic that not writing about He Who Shall Not Be Written About makes him less tangible. It’s not the same. I haven’t seen HWSNBWA for months and months now. I’m looking back at me from my own mirror every bastard day.
I want to get out of my head. I don’t know how.
And God, life is tedious at the moment. Work is manic, The Boy is beyond exhausting, I don’t get a minute to myself and then I do, when he goes to his Dad’s, and there is nothing in the world for me to do. I don’t have a place, and I have never, ever felt so lost and irrelevant, so alone. Without my boy, I don’t exist. I’m sitting here in tears and there’s not one person I can ring to come and see me and tell me to stop feeling so fucking sorry for myself. Everyone I know has made their life now, made their family, and I’m starting again and I just don’t know how. I haven’t got a clue.
It’s coming up for a year since I met The Pirate. At best, falling for him has got me absolutely nowhere. Truth be told, he has set me back a long way.
This time last year I was relatively confident in my own skin. I went on dates, talked to strangers, bought new clothes.
Now, I hate myself. I avoid mirrors. I do my make-up in semi-darkness. I don’t give a shit about what I’m wearing. When I catch sight of myself in shop windows, I feel physically sick. The words ‘I hate you’ go round and round in my head. I thought I was saying them to The Pirate, but I’m not. I’m saying them to myself.
And I don’t feel like I have anything interesting to say to my friends, let alone strangers. I went for lunch with one of my closest friends today and the best I could manage was listening. The only thing I could think to bring to the table was to ask whether yellow tiles would be wrong in my bathroom. (No, but yes was the conclusion.)
The Pirate makes me feel worthless. When we were seeing each other and I wasn’t worth his undivided attention. When he decided he’d had enough and just disappeared rather than talk to me. When I email him and he doesn’t reply. When I call him and he doesn’t answer. His continued presence – yes, there are still emails, mostly at his instigation, when he wants something webby – makes me feel worthless.
It is not entirely his fault. I project it all back onto myself when I suspect that he’s sitting 35 miles away right now feeling pretty worthless and miserable himself. His withdrawal is as much to do with his own depression as anything to do with me. I don’t imagine for one minute that, had we met at different times in our lives, he’d have been any less of an emotionally retarded commitment-phobe, but I do think he might have been less cruel. He’s not a cruel man, I don’t think. He’d have recognised the place I was in and stopped taking from me a long time before he did, and stopped it decently, in a way that I could have moved on from with a shred of self-respect. I need answers from him that I just won’t get.
But we met when we did, we are where we are and I have to find a way to move on. I have to stop measuring my own worth by the absence of this man. I have to stop hating myself. I can’t keep crying all the time. I can’t keep living this double life, trying to hide my depression so I don’t make other people feel uncomfortable. Maintaining the mask is exhausting.
The Pirate is one of the reasons I hate myself. Can’t do anything about my husband leaving me, can’t do anything about Dad dying, can do something about The Pirate. He has to go.
Writing about him here hasn’t helped. I thought it might. I thought facing up to my feelings for him, accepting them, committing them to paper and moving on, would help. But it isn’t helping. It’s keeping him alive and I need him to be very, very dead.
So it’s time for some good British repression, denial and bottling up. He’s already deleted from my phone. All of his texts have gone – and there were some lovely ones – and all of his emails too. This is the last post that will ever mention his name.
I don’t know how to get him out of my head. Time, I guess. But no more deliberately dwelling. No more contacting him, no more replying to his emails. No more. It’s done.
Or rather, I realised that it’s not cool to look down on someone else for making an effort when your own leg hair purrs when you brush against stuff.
There are now no errant hairs on my body. Anywhere – I shaved and strimmed and plucked and waxed. And I went and got my nails done. I dyed my hair to get rid of the greys. I face scrubbed and masked. I arranged a contact lens trial. I pulled in a favour from a make-up artist I know, and she’s going to give me a lesson.
And it was all very tiring. Not physically. There is nothing very demanding about sitting while someone files your nails for you. Lying back for 10 minutes and letting the mask do its thing? Not so strenuous. But all that thinking about yourself, and preening… It’s very, very boring. I’ve always wondered how high-maintenance women find the time, especially ones with children, but now I’m double-y in awe, because it isn’t just the time it takes to physically create the look – there’s all the time thinking about yourself, too. I am not that interesting, and I’m not that interested in myself. It was hard.
Ah… A very shoddy effort. I didn’t get past the basics. I am now a clean, smooth, presentable canvas. I should be putting something on it. I did ask the lady who did my nails about lash extensions. She said they’d probably brush my glasses and annoy me. Yeah. Probably.
Ooh! But today, a very good looking boy (20?) gave me his phone number. He was cleaning my car at the time. So maybe there is something to say for a bit of a spit and polish. I’m not going to call him. He’s way too young. But it was a very welcome ego boost.
I took The Boy to a farm park today. We saw pigs, goats, sheep, llama, cows, guinea pigs and one of The Pirate’s glamorous exes.
How did I recognise her? She’s a Z-list celeb. Had a pretty major role in a pretty major kids’ TV drama in the 90s, and has perfectly preserved herself in Botox ever since. The truly terrible perm has gone – can’t knock her for that, we all had one – but the rest is pretty much as was. She must be older than me and looks about 22.
And she has peroxide blonde hair extensions (I’d gloat that she’s a natural ginger – no point in trying to hide it, we all saw you on telly, love – but I’m the mother of a ginger, and so can’t). And false tits. And false eyelashes. And false nails. And false tan. And really heavy-handed Jodie Marsh-esque make-up.
There was probably a woman underneath all of that nylon and polyester and silicone and oil-and-emolient, but she was hiding really, really well.
I’d like to be generous and wonder what happened to make her hate herself so much that she has to wear a mask (I’d lay the blame at The Pirate’s door, yet from his description of her she was like this before they met).
I’d like to point a naggy, sanctimonious finger at the media for perpetuating the myth that this… creature… is what women should look like. I shouldn’t blame her for aspiring to an ideal.
But I’m not generous, and I do blame her.
I hated her on sight.
I’d have disliked her even if I didn’t know that she’d got The Pirate to a place I couldn’t, meeting the parents, practically living together. She is not my kind of woman, stabbing at her phone with her 3″ nails and ignoring her mute, sparkless children as they listlessly drifted around her knees.
The character she played on TV was spoiled and mean-spirited and snide and bitchy and shallow. It was hard not to overlay these characteristics on her today – not least because her face naturally looks spoiled and mean-spirited and snide and bitchy, and the Botox means she physically can’t move it into a more pleasing arrangement. Everywhere I looked, she was there, peering sourly (and somewhat short-sightedly) at her phone with her piggy little eyes.
(God, it feels good to get all of this out. I’m not naming the TV programme, or her character, or indeed her, as she looked just the WAGgy type to have a Google alert set up for herself. But the programme was set in a youth club in the North East and launched the careers of a double act who have changed the face of Saturday night TV forever with their shitty inane game shows. Her character – whose name rhymes with ‘Bonna Dell’ – had a ginger perm . PLEASE DO NOT SPECULATE IN COMMENTS, British peeps. She is like Voldemort. We will not summon her through search. I already fear for the traffic ‘bestiality’ is going to generate…)
And ever since The Boy has gone to bed, I’ve sat on my sofa and cried, because I’m not a size 6 with false… everything, I can’t be arsed to type it all out again. Because this is what men want. I don’t know whether the lads’ mags are feeding or creating demand, but their pages are full of women who look like The Pirate’s Glamorous Ex. Nothing about her was real. She’s a walking cartoon.
An entirely different species to me. Fucking me really must have been like fucking a pig, if that kind of woman is what The Pirate gets off on… Kind people have tried pointing out that she is an EX, and I came after her, but she made a mark on his life, and I didn’t. I wasn’t worthy of a mark.
And this could well be because I am in fact a neurotic, judgey, snide, bitchy, shallow mess rather than because my boobs and nails and hair are real, but for tonight, I’m hating myself for the way I look, not the way I am. That can have a go tomorrow.
UPDATE It occurred to me a week later to do some proper Google stalking and I found her on Facebook. She is wearing full drag queen make-up in all of her pictures, has shared a wicked photo of herself in which she is blatantly trying to upstage a bride ON HER WEDDING DAY and actually has a very scary face. Predatory. Like she wants to eat you, and not in a good way. So I feel less inferior now. I may be bitchy and snide and shallow and neurotic, but I have a nice smile and all my own eyelashes.
Got to be done. Got to be committed to paper – or t’interweb – in order to be able to properly beat myself up with them when I fail. Ah, that’s the spirit…
Notes to D for 2012
1. Stop sleeping with inappropriate men. It makes you feel worse. And you might catch something. Ugh.
2. Go to bed before 11pm more nights than not.
3. Try and exercise for half an hour every day. This will involve walking round and round the field near work at lunch time. Even in the rain. Are you listening? Even in the rain.
4. Take multivitamins every day. EVERY DAY. EVERY FUCKING DAY, D. Why do you find this so ridiculously hard to remember to do?
5. Write more. Your blog, the novel (as if!), at work (it’s kinda what they pay you to do…). More words. They do good things to poor broken souls.
6. Wear make-up more days than not, so when the man who comes to service your boiler is unexpectedly the most handsome creature you’ve seen in a while, and is also single and quickly becomes besotted with your boy, you aren’t standing there looking like shit on a shovel with unbrushed teeth and hair and the dowdiest grey dress on you own, because it didn’t need ironing. Make more of an effort. Not for anyone else. But for you.
7. Burn that fucking grey dress.
8. Find ways to fund your L’Occitane Immortelle Divine habit that don’t involve breaking resolution number 1. Good skin makes everything much, much better.
9. If (when, I fear when) The Pirate reappears, be strong. BE STRONG. His last email may well have ended in 2 kisses. Please for the love of all things holy, stop fucking analysing them. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx. There. 20 kisses in 2 seconds. It’s that fucking easy. His finger probably slipped, or he had a terrible cold and he was dying and far too weak to even lift his finger off the ‘x’ key. BE STRONG.
10. Play with your son more. Even brumming, which has a whole circle of hell dedicated to its unique brand of random, soul-destroying tedium. And even though he makes the ‘rules’ up as he goes along and never lets you be the car/fire engine/ambulance you want to be. It won’t be long before he’d sooner spit on you than brum with you.
That’ll do. There are 4 minutes to go before I break number 2 and about 20 minutes of chores to do before bed. Oh well. I’ll start tomorrow.