i have the biggest hair in the world. i think too much. my attention span and self discipline need a lot of work. this is why the internet is as good a place as any for the likes of me.
I am bodily tired at the moment, aching shoulders, and soundless sleep that never feels like enough. but it feels good, tying my hair into a topknot and throwing on jeans to run out the door to work, necking coffee and getting on with things. nevertheless, today, having had time to wash and condition my hair, oil my legs, and sit, eating orange wedges and listening to purple rain and thinking about everything, I feel like I have had a spa break. it’s rare for me to be home more than a few hours at a time, and right now, that’s a relief, since my house is becoming the kind of hostile, note-leaving environment I don’t like being in. it’s a relief to know i’m not here enough for it to affect me beyond minor annoyance.
at the moment i’m very much in one of my inward phases. I write in the diary I bought in berlin on the bus to and from work, I spend my time off reading Sylvia plath’s journals and feeling less alone in navigating the world as a young woman; it normalizes my behaviour and thought patterns in a way I need, I am not the first girl who has thought this way about achievement, about men, about career, about family. I am not as strange as alone as I sometimes make myself feel. I don’t drink, except on days I have off and know I don’t have work the next morning. it is making me more clear-headed, more analytical about what I want and how to get it. I have talked about this a lot with jeff, about how I feel focused, less anxious, more in control. I am more serious about myself than I have ever been; and I can feel the effect almost immediately; everybody takes me seriously, I am treated with respect, I am actually deferred to. in a more definite way than I have ever experienced before.
it means, as well, that when I do drink I appreciate it. I have gotten back to that stage where I can feel the booze sweep over me, where I know i’m getting drunk before it happens, where I sink into losing my reserve a bit and let myself go with feeling. it meant, this week, that I did what I do best, letting myself get picked up by a stranger for the sheer hell of it. I am not as bad as I used to be, it’s been well over two months since I went home with anybody, but there are certain parts of the formula that remain in place.
my taste in men remains unusual, this one, a toxic bisexual Australian bachelor, my dad’s age or maybe older. tall, and commanding, but i’d still have trouble pinpointing to my friends how he got me. when you remove all the usual trappings from the picture, the ‘do I have anything in common with this person?’, the ‘could this go anywhere?’, your tastes are free to be more eccentric. and I’ve realized that sexually, at a base level, i’m attracted to people who are self sufficient, will dominate a conversation, a room, who would do just as well without you there. I can and do occasionally find them emotionally repellent, but that has no bearing on the pickup schemata, where emotions don’t matter and you’re looking, not to become a part of a person’s life, but to be able to come and go out of it at will.
I remembered how much I enjoyed slipping off into the night without thinking about consequence, because I don’t have to. I remembered how much I liked someone trying to be masterful, to impress me. that sometimes being the small, cute thing, in too much eyeliner, with wide eyes and the upper hand is fun. I remembered fun. I remembered that older guys fuck differently, that they need more physical contact. that you feel almost like their pet as they touch your hair, your back, your thighs. that you feel admired. I could probably write a book on the different demographics of men and how they fuck. maybe I will. it worked for anais nin. there’s something luxurious about being treasured in the bedroom, and something reassuring in the self confidence of the perennial bachelor, the non proprietary nature of this admiration. plus, they’re more defined people, they know what they want, the years and experience having bought into sharp relief, there’s no ego-bruising unspoken negotiation of the territory. they talk to you. ask you things, listen to you.
they’re usually better at the morning after, too. in the case of this guy I lay, sprawled on his chest, rolling us cigarettes while we watched the news and made jokes about it. he asked me what I liked to eat, and I sat, dabbing my smeared eyemakeup off with Vaseline and a cotton pad, chirpily talking to him as he cooked, and he laughed at my answers, saying ‘you’re not used to being waited on, are you?’. the truth is i’m not. rather tellingly i’ll state that you only get good at easing someone into the morning after if you’ve done it a lot. I couldn’t actually finish my food, so I let him run his hands under my clothes as we watched Sophia loren be devastating in the fall of the roman empire, idly musing on how much money it must’ve cost to make.
I spent the last few hours at his sprawled on the balcony, both naked in the blazing sun, amongst the uncharacteristically domestic tomato and strawberry plants. eating frozen grapes and talking about the nostalgia associated with the eighties music he had playing. his real, mine at a vintage-revival remove. aimlessly rolling dice in a short-round game he learned in Thailand, based on luck, which I won, every time. I don’t know what it is about summer in London, but I always end up sleeping with men who live so far at a remove from my existence that it’s like I’ve slipped into another life, be that financially, generationally, or socially. these brief dreamy interludes all come rushing back when the first rays hit the city, and I stretch out like a kitten into the next one, not knowing what will happen and enjoying it, because this is the one arena in my life I feel comfortable relinquishing control and watching what will happen.
I went to work, after a brief snatched kiss in the hallway, braless due to lack of time to find it, feeling content in my white jeans and t-shirt. there’s something about returning to workaday life in an un-made-up sex coma that I always relish. the tiredness is it’s own accomplishment. he has been past the pub, and into the pub since, and it’s entertaining to me to watch him try to catch my eye, to feel that wry grin that probably only my university friends will remember creep across my face as I wave and go back to being professional. I have always liked being watched when I am at my most impressive, and in this incarnation it feels delightfully transgressive.
this unsettled life I live, this taking my stability from my career and letting the rest write itself, well, it always seems to feel better when the sun is shining. when walking around London jacketless and seemingly at your own pace is the norm, and there are no nights spent waiting, rain soaked, for a bus that’s thirty minutes late. when there’s no minor miseries, it would seem, there’s no major misery. I am revelling at the moment, in my distance from perfection. refusing to wear too much makeup, or make a fool of myself in front of the boys i’m supposed to want to love me. I have, of late, been taking a lot of joy in my body, which, I admit, can be a source of anxiety to me. I often feel too tall, too skinny, too awkward, but lately I’ve been delighting in my visible boniness, wearing menswear or letting my shoulders be naked; not minding that my cleavage comes with a view of my ribcage. swapping either lipstick or eyeshadow for Vaseline, taking more pride in my sleepy bloodhound eyes, knowing they reflect the experience I supposedly possess. i’m enjoying my nervy, friendly self, letting myself realize I am liked more if I don’t burn so hard to be liked. my sweary, slapdash self, half dolled-up, will do just perfectly. I may be tired, but I stretch my aching bones out at night and realize that things are a perfect fit despite my imperfect self, that I am content.
i recently read a chapter in play it as it lays by joan didion which focused on single girls in a supermarket, their meals for one, their magazines, their cat food. i’m haunted by it now every time I go into a shop to fill my basket. i’m nosy enough to look at what other people buy, and am now hyper aware that anybody looking at my purchases could tell that while I don’t live alone, I eat and cook and exist alone. never more so than today; two bottles of rose, a pre-made pizza, elle magazine, and cigarettes. a really attractive man in high vis bumped into me, apologized, then, eyeing the content of the basket said ‘looks like an alright night, can I come?’, and I laughed and said I don’t share my magazines, beating an embarrassed retreat.
a former co-worker of mine once said that the reason why he has a cat is to rid himself of the desire for a relationship that springs up on those bleak, hungover mornings where physical contact feels like an impossible goal. this morning was one of those mornings where I wished to myself I had a cat. I used to enjoy my chats with him, he understood that while I wasn’t interested in being tied down, I had my moments of vulnerability, and he never respected me less for that. it was the situation i’m entirely comfortable in; that of being one of the boys.
have found myself making fun, a lot, lately, of how remiss I am at being feminine. that, and my age. I’ve gotten to the point in my career where all the girls I know are younger, prettier, more vivacious than me, and I’ve recoursed to my usual refuge; humour. I immensely value the companionship of all the girls I know through work; they’re all driven, fierce, intelligent, and funny, and I revel in their successes, thinking about where I was at was their age (re-evaluating what I wanted to do with my life, scared, and in love with somebody who cheated on me and broke my heart, if you were wondering), and being amazed at their bravery and what they’ve achieved. but it does bring out my insecurities; it does make me take a long look sometimes at what it means to spend your days off alone, with those bottles of rose and that pizza, not wearing any makeup, reading elle and watching cary grant films and not taking on the world because i’m tired. it does make me feel, ludicrously, like a spinster aunt, firmly on the shelf, with the days of vivacity and attractiveness firmly behind me. if my grandma were still alive right now she’d be making bridget jones jokes about me, still. and i’d be gritting my teeth about my resentment of that, knowing she had only the fondest intentions and wasn’t aware of how horrendously diminished it made me feel.
I was more keenly aware of this yesterday, talking to two of the theatre interns, both young and beautiful, about my masters dissertation on the regulation culturally of female appetites, languishing somewhere on a long-dead hard drive and doing nobody any good. I could see them eagerly reposition themselves, lean in for some storytime from the older sage, and I wanted, internally, to tell them not to listen to me, that I didn’t know shit, that I was still making mistakes, and I didn’t know anything really, but then I caught myself and thought about it. maybe I do know things, maybe I look in control because to a certain extent, I am.
I mean, I live to my own standards. I don’t want the same things most people want, since I started living in pursuit of my own happiness. I am confident, and draw people to me naturally with my fondness for telling jokes and stories, and that’s something in itself. after work yesterday stuck around, drinking beers and talking to all manner of people. it’s always a pleasant surprise to have so many people want to sit with me, want to spend time talking, want to buy me a drink. it’s flattering to feel at the centre of things, to have people want to tell you their stories, who they are, and where they come from. it’s nice to hear them say they don’t want you to go home, that you should stay for another. they don’t need to know that you don’t have anywhere else to be, and that even if you don’t, that doesn’t necessarily indicate a weakness. maybe what I consider to be a lack of self that I greedily fill with other people’s voices is actually a strength. maybe the ability to sit and listen and think about people, and work to their narrative is admirable. maybe my ability to be alone, to not need another person or people to lean on, actually, from the outside, looks like capability, independence. maybe it is capability. maybe it is independence.
and it’s not like things don’t touch me. I invest heavily in the stories and people I come across. the day-to-day of the people who buy drinks from me becomes mine. this week I sat on the floor talking to an old lady who had just had her legs buckle, been sick, and she told me what she was going through that had made her so tired, and I, my hand on her arm, my eyes widening at each complication of the story, just whispered ‘you’re so brave’, meaning it, and feeling ineffectual beyond belief, sat there with my bucket and paper towels, trying to raise a smile, to be soothing. I make people feel better in the smallest of ways. there’s no bravery in listening. there’s no nobility in smiling and trying to be kind. but it’s necessary. sometimes all you can do is make a person feel heard and understood. and I live in hope that it makes a difference to these people, the way it does when it happens to me. I barely know that lady, but i’ll worry about her until I see her again, and i’ll quietly hope that life shows her more kindnesses, that she bumps into a few more people who don’t mind sitting on the floor and listening to her talk, if that’s what it takes.
I sat and talked to the dad of one of the child actors yesterday, and he told me that his boy playing the child of divorce in the play was odd to watch, as he was divorced from his wife. I told him I was from a big background of divorce, that you can grow up okay from it, that you gain emotional intelligence from it. he told me he still loved his ex-wife, he told me how difficult it was to process the change in a relationship, and I realized that my positivity was being rebuffed, that really he just wanted to sound it out. and I slipped into the role I was being asked to play; the young, relatively pretty girl, quietly listening to the older man who wanted to hash out what had gone wrong. I don’t think there’s any shame in giving people what they need, when they need it. life can’t be full of go-getters, there have to be people who want to sit and listen. most of the women I admire are those who have never let go of their patience and generosity toward other people. when I think about where I am in my life in relation to that, I feel like less of a failure. I see more of my purpose.
tom always used to say I was maternal, nurturing. he had a point. as a boss and a friend I unconsciously take on the role of listener, giver. I like to see people shine. i’m good at talking to children, looking after older people, taking into account other people’s feelings. if I had a baby I would probably be very good at that. at the moment I am content in my role as the childless mother, mind.
I’ve to do an interview tomorrow. it’s a surreal thing to think that about two months ago I was on the other side of the equation, going to interviews myself, nervous and wanting to please. one of the best things that happened to me during that period was not getting a job. was going into an interview with the knowledge I wanted that job more than the others, and still not getting it. why? because it didn’t feel like my self wasn’t good enough. I sat in that interview and was articulate, funny, smart, and enjoyed myself. enjoyed being myself. I was being interviewed by somebody I really admire in the industry, and I realized I wasn’t scared, didn’t feel inadequate. I realized he wanted to hear my opinions. I was disappointed but not heartbroken when I got the email saying I hadn’t got the job. the email itself was a joy, with genuine well wishes, and a sincerely meant pleasure at making my acquaintance. I have never glowed at not getting what I want before.
i’m convinced that without that experience and how brave and proud it made me feel I wouldn’t be where I am today. I wouldn’t have had the balls to go to jeff’s party with my brother, to be confident when jeff asked me how much I wanted this, how serious I was prepared to be about taking on responsibility for him. I would never have been strong enough to thank my previous boss for his kindness and the opportunities he gave me, I would probably have cried when he said he had my corner and would always have it, and at least if I left his company we could probably get drunk together properly. as it was I held myself, responded to the hug, said my thankyous, and smiled as he left, feeling the baton be passed.
it’s complicated, this negotiating my insecurities and how I think I present myself versus how I am perceived, but actually, I have realized that despite my overthinking everything, I come across as a bold, optimistic and supportive young woman. i live to listen to people, get joy out of talking to them, and while i hardly live a model adult lifestyle, there are worse things a parent could wish for than for somebody to turn out like me. i feel like the older i get, the more reconciled i am to the fact i’m not a loser, that there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with the things i do. this might seem like an odd tightrope to walk to a lot of people, but i am so used to it that every time i take a few steps without wobbling it feels like a really massive deal to me.
settling into some slightly annoying habits these days; my twitter account is, of an evening, becoming a grievance bank, mainly focused on my journey home. and I know how habit forming and bad for me it is to get so loose and lax with my negativity. how quickly it becomes a speech pattern and frame of mind. I’ve a lot of friends who relish my rants and my nastier side, laughing and lapping it up, and there’s something scary about the fact that part of the reason they find it funny is the fact I can do it so freely, the words are within my reach and I can arc out a quirkily worded criticism with an arched eyebrow quicker than most can blink. I’ve tried to move on from deploying that to entertain people, to get them on my side, because it’s cheap, and dirty, but occasionally when i’m tired it slips out more.
and it’s not like there’s nothing to be annoyed about. twice yesterday I had older men demand directions of me, responding with all-out rudeness when my honest answer about how to get where they needed to be was difficult. as though it was my fault that to get all the way across this city in under an hour required the use of the tube, or that there wasn’t some magical bus from the exact spot outside Holloway road station to way out east. if people just said what they meant, these men ought to have approached me and said ‘please reassure me I haven’t made a mistake in planning my journey’, and I could have said ‘i’m afraid I can’t’, and then continued my day abuse-free, letting them take accountability for their actions or silently fume at tfl, depending on how big they were on personal responsibility they were, obviously.
i’m always fascinated by the weird, minor components of a day that influence my mood. the brain’s a funny thing; a lot of things can go well, and yet it will still cling on to a missed tube resulting in a delay of five minutes, or someone spilling a red wine stain on a skirt you’ve had for five years that if you’re being honest, makes you look a bit fat anyway. the human brain, at least, mine, can be such a brat.
so I initially popped open a tab and started typing today to try and cling on to the good things, to try and flesh them out. everyone else rewrites history, consciously or unconsciously, i’m not sure why I should be any less in control of my story. there was plenty to like about yesterday.
there was the sun streaming into the pub, as max and I had a cigarette outside before opening. there was the personal triumph of having a man-to-woman talk to the builders across the road about how if they want to be served politely in the pub they’ll have to stop whistling and shouting obscenities at me in the morning, in which I asked them how my mum and dad might feel to know their child was being spoken to/about/at like that. there was the hug I got from Michael, doing his last shift interning at the theatre, a boy from America I have known barely a month, that was touching, a nice reminder that all you have to give me is a small space and some time and i’ll infuse it with my personality until it seems, to me and everyone else, like I was always there.
there was annie, my favourite regular, coming in, and like all my favourite regulars, telling me stories. annie is a big character, always in fur coats, perfectly manicured in a style she has clearly cultivated since she was a girl, red lipstick, winged eyeliner, liz taylor volume paste rocks in abundance. I couldn’t tell you how old she is, she’s lived in earl’s court since it was still Patrick Hamilton’s tragicomic shitheap, and she stands at the bar drinking double vodka and water, telling me stories about rotten cheating husbands and a workaday will to live and take no shit. she winks at cute boys and encourages me to flirt with them, and sasses about her gay friends that she knocks around with. I notice she’s always wearing something white, and it never seems covered in dirt. there’s something untouched about annie, time and change haven’t scuffed or worn her down. if I was tenacious enough to be the novel writing kind i’d be sharpening my pencil for a portrait, but as it is I stand at the corner of the bar soaking up her irreverence, my eyebrows shooting up my hairline at some of the stories she tells me, letting myself be the sounding board she needs to go on talking. I always grin at her ‘oh go on then love, do us another one’ as I ring the last orders bell. last night she told me if I ever needed a place to stay in earl’s court to call her. the city has generosity and goodwill around every corner it seems.
and today i’m going to make a concerted effort to focus on these small, good things, as carver would have it. I am working hard to be attentive to the path i’m carving career wise at the moment, and it wouldn’t do to let minor incidents alter my approach. I might be indifferent to details that used to matter, only texting people I want to sleep with when it suits me and hardly caring what they say because i’m tired, but I oughtn’t to fill that empty space with things that should hardly matter enough to make me frown. I took my curtains down last night because they’re hanging by a thread and i’m fine with letting the light in rather than seeing them and letting it annoy me that I haven’t bought new ones yet. and let’s just leave that as the metaphor.
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