Sunday, 30 August 2009

Shock and awe: a girls' night in with his Mother

On Friday evening, my boyfriend joined me in the pub around 7.30. “So.” He said, looking nervous, “What were you and my mother talking about last night?”.

“Oh, nothing really, you know, just chatting.” I replied.

It isn’t that I’m lying as such. The “girls’ night in” we’d organised to amuse ourselves while the boys went to watch the football (please excuse the outdated gender roles; we live in Surrey and we don’t know any better) was a merry affair full of “just chatting”. And to suggest that we’d had any deep and meaningfuls would be to imply that we’d stayed on one topic for more than five minutes, which due to the depth of confession (on my part) and shock and awe (mainly from my boyfriend’s mother’s side) was really quite impossible.

The trick is, when clearly shocking your boyfriend’s mother with some not very important details about yourself, like, I don’t know, "I used to be a nude model for an erotica website", for instance, is to quickly change the subject before too many questions can be asked.

Something along the lines of: “Yes, but it was all very arty. Would you like another bottle of wine? What was my boyfriend like when he was five?” would undoubtedly work a treat.

What you shouldn’t do is assume that in order to divert her stern gaze from your terribly crass self is that a topic carrying a sure weight of interest must be thrown onto the table. What I wouldn’t recommend you say, following your confession of something like posing nude for cash, is to silence her line of questioning with a confession along the lines of, for example, “I went to a sex party once. It was quite fun once I got over the initial embarrassment. Modern world and all that; got to try these things, don’t you think?”

Of course, if you do make this grave error, don’t panic. Just stick to the original lesson and move quickly and swiftly on. By this point, you will probably need to quickly drink a lot of white wine in order to still your beating heart and momentarily block out the reality that you have just created for yourself. Once that is done, however, move quickly and swiftly on.

At this stage, it would be best advised to stick to safe topics, like Christmas, The Thorn Birds, and the pros and cons of eBay. Topics to avoid at this stage include:

- Swinging; and how I used to
- Drug-taking and it’s role in my college suspension
- Sex and her son’s “great big manhood”

If, you somehow manage to accidently find yourself talking freely on any of the above topics, it’s time for the Last Resort solution. Take control of the wine and keep her topped up until she slurs some equally dreadful confession. This done, your secrets are safe and so are hers. Tied together forever by the “girls’ night in”.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Google judges me

Taking up writing a blog as a therapeutic out-let for neuroses otherwise left to expand deep within and ultimately cause some kind of tumour or nervous breakdown, is that it adds an unwelcome level of importance to them in my head (not anyone else’s head).

‘Tis true that unlike most secure and normal women, I worry about the kinds of things the people associated with them barely notice occurred. For instance, if I make some off-the-cuff remark about my desire to reproduce, or conversely, my desire to
be free from unnecessary compromise, as I fall asleep that night, I will be haunted by my remarks and taken to conclusions far more significant than there originating remarks could ever have hoped for.

Take the two aforementioned remarks and follow the journey.

I say: “I’d like to have children one day.”

A week later, I end up thinking that I have said: “Please have children with me now; I am desperate.”

I say: “I think it is important for people to be free from unnecessary compromise in relationships.”

I end up thinking I have said: “I am a bitch and we do what I want, when I want, and if you don’t like it, you can go to hell.”

So what happens in between the original remark and my resulting anxiety? I presume that my boyfriend spends the next few hours wallowing in this comment looking for hidden meaning and unwelcome hints. I presume that he thinks I am as mental as I think I am, when actually, I’m quite good at hiding it.

What actually happens is that he takes the comment as it was meant, at face value, and that is that.

So, I am aware of this, and trying to train my brain to accept this knowledge and stop the thought-process from spiralling out of control. This would also stop me from saying, out of nowhere, a week or more later during a conversation about what to have for dinner: “I don’t want children with you now, you know?” or defensively, “I’m not a self-centred bitch, so just stop thinking that right now, ok?” to his poor surprised face. “Ok, er, I know, I just said I’d prefer Chinese…” It’s cruelty to the man-brain is what it is.

The root of the problem lies in my childish belief that I am the centre of the universe and that everyone cares about what I say and stands in unforgiving judgement. And I don’t think that I actually think that, but some part of me must, surely, otherwise why would I care so much about how I am understood by others?

And of course, how I am viewed through the eyes of others is only a matter of perception and will certainly vary from poor subjected observer to poor subjected observer, each creating their own versions of reality. And as my own self-image is just as transitional and subjective, and of course ultimately everything is essentially meaningless and we are born and die alone, what can I take to the bank? Nothing! Argh, won’t this damned existential crisis fly from my over-burdened shoulders? No wonder one can find so much to wrestle with; leaving a good impression just isn’t that straight-forward.

Back to reality, a more rational approach would help me to see that the eyes of others are usually focussed on their own centre stage rather than mine. And, that everyone makes foolish or misunderstood comments so most are forgiving when they are the recipient of said comments. And the rest just don’t care that much about what I say, which is fair enough.

But easier said than done.

So I continue worrying too much about how others view me but bravely carry on my fight to stop worrying about the judgements I presume they damn me with. I might even be making some progress. I’ve only spent about 50% of my time worrying about what my boyfriend’s mother must have thought since I said last weekend, “You’re the sort of woman who’d probably be able to tell a tale or two.” Wink, wink, nudge, nudge. Horrified stare ensued.

Then, out of nowhere, Google started to judge me. Now, you may think my paranoia is reaching new levels, but alas no! I forwarded my blog through gmail and the ads chosen by that clever little computer to appear alongside the email were for good bacteria and incontinence pads. I am the kind of woman who endorses products that alleviate the symptoms of not being able to poo and peeing in your pants.

If Google, a search engine – not even a proper person, judges me as the type of woman to not be able to cope with basic bodily functions, then how am I suppose to believe that others don’t take my ramblings to be proof that the NHS sectioning department is under strain and not performing to full capacity? Just imagine if I had someone to section me privately?

Thank Christ for lefty parents and impoverished boyfriend.

Mother Hen

Perhaps it was an inevitability of my genetic make-up, or perhaps I need to get out more, but it seems that I am turning into Mother Hen.

Ironically it is almost certainly to do with my career, which enables me to work from home, unchecked and totally free to be Mother.

But, despite my love of kittens and determination to avoid being Bridget, I never saw myself as the Mother Hen type. Idle by nature, and slovenly by choice, I love the word slut when used to describe a woman who leaves the washing up and wears yesterday’s make-up.

I’ve always rather relished in my filth, feeling that my reckless attitude to hygiene and order reflected my freedom from convention and my abandonment of the rules. Admittedly, I do have a habit of reading too much into things.

But lately, I have been talking about myself in the third person to the kittens. Bad enough to do this, but my self is now known as “Mummy”. Worse still, I have introduced the concept of “Daddy. “Mummy’s just making some Chilli for Daddy’s tea.” I actually said to them yesterday, at 11.30am, as I prepared the evening meal, knowing I would be back late from my meeting in London. “Well, we can’t have Daddy going hungry now, can we?” I remarked to the kittens.

So, here I am. I am “Mummy”; a woman who cooks meals for Daddy in advance and stores them in Tupperware.


The danger is, of course, that playing Mother Hen, will backfire. I work from home, so I get to stay in bed later than most, play with kittens all day, and look after the housework and cooking during daylight hours, rather than on My Time. So, naturally I don’t mind doing the lion’s share. In fact, oddly enough, I’ve found myself rather enjoying it. It's probably the same pleasure that we get from playing house in pigtails and velcro-fastened shoes.

Since my boyfriend has moved in he has washed up three times, which is very nice of him. But I have cleaned weekly, done all the washing, cooked every meal bar two, mopped, Hoovered, and dusted. I even made him put his clothes away last week, which were washed and neatly folded on the side. Soon, will he call me “Mummy” too?

Returning to the potential backfire, the danger as I see it is two-fold. Firstly, if I ever work outside the home again (one can hope not, but given that I spend most of my working hours writing blogs, facebook-stalking and playing Mother Hen, who knows?) my boyfriend will be distinctly unprepared to live in an equal house. He probably doesn’t even know that the shine in the bathroom isn’t natural.

Secondly, my role as Mother Hen may come to define me, enveloping and greedily digesting my other roles (sexy minx, slovenly slut, armchair philosopher, drunk). In fact, it is this second manifestation of danger that reared its head for the first time this morning. My boyfriend had got me a present. “I’ve got you a present” He said. He reached into his bag and revealed 100 bin bags. “Tie-handle, heavy duty, just like you said you needed.”

I’m going to get a new Hoover for Christmas, aren’t I? Emmeline would turn in her grave.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Who told her?

Recap: The running theme of this blog is that I’m a Perfectly Normal Woman with credentials. The point of this blog is to allow me to wallow in worry and nurse my neuroses about my relationship as if the bras hadn’t even smouldered a bit.

And all this without shame. Or, at least, with only anonymous shame and my real-world image of myself as an intelligent self-sufficient modern-type firmly in tact, in both my eyes and those of
The Others...

So, imagine my surprise when it turned out that my terrible secret isn’t a secret at all. How dreadful it felt to see my veneer slip before my very own eyes, and my naked self lain out for disapproval.

“Honestly?” Said the woman who bore my boyfriend, then
tricked me into admitting that I didn’t like her art, as my boyfriend and I foolishly encouraged her to say exactly what she thought of me, The Girlfriend.

“Yes, honestly.” What the fuck were we thinking?

“I think that beneath your confident veneer of a Perfectly Normal Woman you are an Insecure Little Girl.”

I’m pretty sure that isn’t good. My boyfriend jumped to my defence, and I to hers. My feeble insistence that I understood and even appreciated her reasoning didn’t bode well for my planned dissection of her statement as soon as I got home. All I missed out was an accompanying cry, “Love me! Validate me! Mummy!”

So, today I took crucial time out from my facebook-stalking habit (I have no idea what my boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend was doing today and I feel strangely detached from my own, slightly odd, reality) in order to dwell on possible not-very-well hidden meanings.

I’ve managed to come up with several possible explanations.

1. She hates me.
2. She hates me because she thinks I’m putting on a show but that actually I’m quite pathetic and immature (an analysis, I must admit, shared by ex-boyfriends, but the scorned can’t be trusted).
3. I am pathetic and immature and (worse still) my ex-boyfriends were right.
4. She doesn’t hate me, but she feels sorry for me and my inner little girl. We’ll probably have to have family counselling together.
5. It was a compliment. My vulnerability is endearing and who doesn’t like little girls? All things nice and all that…

Number five, even to me, looks slightly unhinged from the real world.

My boyfriend insists that she simply meant that she’d like to give me a hug. Apparently she has a strong spiritual connection with
my id or something.

Self-loathing level: High.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

The waiting game

I hate the waiting game.

My boyfriend has gone out for the afternoon. He’s gone to a play rehearsal because he just got a great part in an Alan Bennett play.

This is wonderful and all well and good. But I feel terrible, because he left on a bad note. Not a real, quantifiable or tangible bad note. No plates were smashed or insults administered. I didn’t cut up his favourite suit, and he didn’t tell me that actually my bum does look big in the purple dress.

Rather, he left on the worst kind of bad note I know. I went out to the shops to buy bacon, and then I cooked poached eggs and bacon on English muffins. He thanked me and kissed me and said goodbye.

Although it sounds like a perfectly normal morning, it wasn’t. You weren’t there. You didn’t feel the tension.

It all began at 8.30am.

During my boyfriend’s first lie-in of the week, I let the kittens in. They walked on his head. Having amused the kittens for three minutes to enable my boyfriend to have his lie-in, I decided that I was sleepy and so closed my eyes for a moment. Kitten number one decided, at that moment, to show his affection for the man of the house and scratched my boyfriend on his back, drawing blood (he has a lot of affection for the man of the house). My boyfriend turned over and growled loudly shouting something about kittens and open windows and throwing technique. He batted his hand towards the kitten. Instinctively and reactively I smacked his arm. “Don’t hit the fucking kittens”. I hissed.

This was a Big Mistake and resulted in much early morning swearing.

I took the kittens out of the bedroom and we went back to sleep. I curled up behind him. He seemed cold. When we awoke, we hardly mentioned The Incident. Had I just treated my boyfriend like a naughty child? Or was it just a natural tap-away, to be immediately forgotten? We “discussed” the kitten’s early entrance. He explained that he needed a lie-in; I explained that they needed love and attention. We both assumed that the other was angry with us. We dealt with it this in the way that our great British Ancestors have done so for centuries: by stiffening our lips, drinking tea and eating poached eggs and bacon on English muffins. In silence.

We had breakfast, he left, and now I’m here, with furrowed brow and nervous tummy. Because until he returns and reassures me with his lovely smile, I shall assume, naturally, that every mouthful of my cooked breakfast was like a smack on the arm.

Assumed damage to relationship: Blown it.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Neurotic neuroses.

Yesterday I had a drink in London with an old friend and then spent three hours wrestling with Southern Rail in an attempt to beat their determined ineptness.

With a bag of half eaten chicken under my arm, a few politely administered home truths at the great unskilled under my belt, and hatred for humankind in my heart, I finally arrived home much later than I planned.

But, home to a boyfriend who offered me a Bombay Sapphire gin on arrival and who then told me to take the bath he had run for me. I opened the bathroom door to find the room covered in candles and the bath full of bubbles.

The man knows his stuff.

So, today the subject of my neuroses is my neuroses. How can I worry when I have it so good? Does this mean I really can’t justify my facebook-stalking habit? What's wrong with me? When did I get so mental? Perhaps I should just hang up my mad hat and accept that I’m pretty lucky.

Chances of falling of the Sane Wagon by tomorrow afternoon: High.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

How to insult your boyfriend's Mother, part one.

Saturday night, playing Trivial Pursuit with my boyfriend’s Mum and Dad, I noticed a beautiful painting on the wall. I was a bit tipsy so I waxed lyrical about its beauty, its texture, and its moving composition.

The conversation, despite all the odds (art being a wonderfully suitable parent topic) did not end well.

Me: "I see you've put that flamenco dancer picture up"
Boyfriend’s Mum: "Yes, I just love it."
Me: "Oh, me too, it's so beautiful, the curve of her leg, the texture of her dress, I want to reach out and touch it. I mean, it's perfect, the colours are so vibrant, but set in onto the dull grey street background. It's striking; she is almost dancing out of the picture."

I go on like this for about twenty minutes, completely failing to answer any Trivial Pursuit questions correctly (but by now am convinced am on much higher level and more likely to impress with art appreciation).

Boyfriend’s Mum: "What do you think of the one over there?" Gestures to a smaller picture on the other wall. I don't like it. Having painted a picture of myself as "art connoisseur" I decide to be honest.

Me: "I don't like it. It's not my bag. It's a bit boring."
Boyfriend’s Mum: "I painted it."

I responded by trying to eat my own face.

Having failed at my attempt to eat my own face, I decided to try and undo my hurtful comments (which I had a horrible feeling might come back to
haunt me).

I couldn't undo it, no matter how hard I tried. "Well obviously, it's great, I just meant I prefer pictures of people, flamenco dancers in particular. I don't like pictures of leaves, but if I did. I'd love that one. That's actually the best picture of leaves I've ever seen. It's just not a flamenco dancer, and that's what matters, to me. You know?"

The rest of the game lasted forever.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Quote of the day

Lauren, best friend and neurotic soul-mate, on my facebook stalking habit:

"Why are you worrying? Because you are concerned it demonstrates potentially psychopathic insecurity on your part?"

Monday, 10 August 2009

A slushy moment in my sea of neuroses

A warm hearted fuzzy feeling sits in my usually neurotic heart tonight. Having opened the fridge to find it devoid of my specially hardened and cooled Twirl, which I'd salivated over dipping in my cup of tea, I asked my boyfriend if he’d seen it.

“I have seen it…” he said looking sideways like suspect cartoon characters are wont to do.

“You bastard.” I calmly replied.

Not so subtly he grabbed his wallet and keys and tried hard to make it look like he might be heading to the fridge whilst actually managing to quickly leave the house.

Five minutes later with an accompanying slam of the door he entered with the conquering and triumphant (and equally unconvincing) statement “It was in the fridge all along!”

Thanking him, I dipped the new Twirl in my tea and happily munched.

“Is it cold enough?” He asked.

“Yes.” Said I. “How so, dearest?”

A proud look crept over his face. “Did a couple of laps around the supermarket with it wrapped in a bag of frozen peas.”

Boyfriend points: Loads.

Friday, 7 August 2009

And then he read my blog...

I think I may have mentioned before that I am supposed to be a Strong Independent Woman. This is a belief shared by everyone who knows me, including my boyfriend.

Ever since a Very Important Relationship, many years ago, I’ve felt the need to project a certain image.
I was the tonic to previous releationships they complained of: undemanding, self-sufficient, pint-drinking and self-assured. I’ve been those things ever since.

Though of course I haven’t and although I’ve now been publically drinking dry white wine for years, I haven’t been confessing the sins only this blog is privy to.

And so my cover is blown.

However, a leap into the unknown it is not. I’ve experimented with exposed vulnerability before. The rational woman in no real hurry to get out tells me that to show this side is risk free. If he’s a good man he will embrace it; he will love me more for it. And sure, I’ve been told in a surprised tone in past lives that I’m more girly, softer, sweeter, than they thought. My brain may be playing tricks on me but I almost remember an accompanying pat on the head.

But, says the loud oafish woman over Miss Sentimentality in the background, this isn’t admitting to being afraid of spiders (which, if it redeems me in any way at all, I’m not), this is admitting to being a worthy candidate for sectioning. This, according to my limited understanding of the human psyche, is not an attractive trait. This might suggest to the unfortunate in question, that I am unstable, deceptive, and all sorts of other typical negative female traits.

But I don’t believe he thinks that. What I believe is that he thinks it’s ok. What I believe is that he will see a more human side to me.

In this lies the real tragedy.

In no-one’s eyes did I ever aspire to be the average human, flawed and following predictable patterns through the ages in line with my socially constructed gender identity and my biologically given sex. That is not to say that I haven’t acknowledged the utterly depressing fact that I am exactly that. But I hoped to keep my secret and remain on the pedestal.

And so I have formed a plan. I may be hanging on to the pedestal with my extended fingernails (result of early mid-life crisis; see previous blog), but I have an idea.

There is such a thing as cultural amnesia (stay with me, this is relevant), where entire cultures can mis-recall huge periods of history in order to enable them to make sense of the present. This can happen particularly following traumatic eras.

My boyfriend has been traumatised, as have I (he has discovered he is dating the personification of a potential psychotic episode and I have had to acknowledge my real self in the real world). Together, we can pretend this never happened. All I need to do is balance out the reality with its opposing fantasy.

Shoulder-pads ready, attitude primed, pint in hand. I’m ready to be the woman they adore; the woman who doesn’t need them.

Mental wellbeing score: 3/10 and rising.

Missing: Rosy-cheeked children

Things are getting serious. We’ve talked about moving. Starting afresh, building a co-existence. This ought to be Brilliant News. Is clearly akin to A Big Step. But it isn’t. It’s bloody terrible, because now I’m face-to-face with my future I realise I haven’t quite planned that far.

I went to the bank to arrange some unemployment insurance yesterday. Frankly, not as exciting as it sounds. However, the conversation with my bank manager startled me slightly as it threw into question some of my fundamental, if slightly naïve, assumptions about life. And it went something like this:

Bank Manager: So, shall we take the policy out until age 65?
Me: What?
Bank Manager: (Slower, and slightly louder). So, shall we take the policy out until age 65?
Me: What?
Bank Manager: (losing patience and wondering if I need a guardian to fill out the forms). So, shall we take the policy out until age 65? Retirement age? Yes? (Looks to check for signs off alcohol consumption in my eyes).
Me: What? No, sorry. I mean, no. I really don’t intend to work until I’m 65.
Bank Manager: (Smirks).
Me: No, I’m sure 35 will be fine.
Bank Manager: What happens when you’re 35?
Me: I’ll probably be living in an idyll with my adorable rosy cheeked children and a Labrador.
(Awkward silence).
Bank Manager: You can always cancel…
Me: (Horrible dark realisations start to surface). Ok, until 65. I’ll probably just cancel though.
Bank Manager: Yes, yes, of course, yes cancel whenever you’re ready.

But I’ll never be bloody ready will I? I have no savings, no property and no plans. My freak-out levels are dangerously high. So are those of my boyfriend who now thinks he is dating a wannabe lady wot lunches rather than an equal partner in crime. I don’t suppose my suggestion that we had “the talk” before agreeing to move away together helped matters. It was around that time I said “"In the old days, women wouldn't even put out without a ring on their finger." Someone should gag me.

Is it possible to create a life where one can stop working at 35 to
run in slow motion on pretty beaches without being a “kept woman”? I’m thinking lottery win, porn, or Big Brother.

Clearly I need to make some mature plans. Set in motion a journey towards the idyll, and as far away from traditional retirement ages as possible. I should create a career plan, start saving up, buy a set of coasters to put a stop to those dastardly coffee stains.

But that isn’t how it works. What do middle aged men do when they realise life is short and they’re wasting their shot at it? They buy a
sports car and wink at teenage girls.

Following this trend I’ve had some nail extensions done, booked a trip to a
paradise island near Bali and started to bid on a campervan for my forthcoming road trip around France where I shall write the best-selling novel that will save me from a life flitting between marketing meetings and trips to Sainsbury’s.

Progress towards life’s goals: None.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Things not to say to your boyfriend, part one.

"In the old days, women wouldn't even put out without a ring on their finger."