Madonna or the Whore? I’d rather be a Tart with a Heart.

So I wrote a rather risque blog at the weekend. Under the influence of wine and with the encouragement of an old friend. It was a lot of fun to write and it is very funny, even if I do say so myself. Afterwards though, there was the niggling sense of regret. The awkward creeping fear that people might look at me differently now. Could they have less respect for me because I crossed a line. The line that says that good women and good girls don’t talk about these things.

The line drawn in the sand comes from the Madonna and Whore complex. If you’ve not heard of it, that’s unfortunate because it feeds into women’s lives on a daily basis, so pervasively that much of the time, we don’t even know that we are respecting it. If you want to see it illustrated, go watch The Physician, it’s an enjoyable film, featuring an adorably youthful Tom Payne, but there is a dearth of female speaking parts. Basically there is Rebecca, the love interest, and a bunch of bare breasted whores. That’s it. Rebecca and the whores. Actually, that’s a really good name for a band, someone should use that.

The Madonna and the whore complex divides women into two groups, the ones worthy of love and respect and the ones who are just worthy of desire. There is no obvious way to tell who will fall into which category, one man’s goddess is another man’s whore and vice versa. Statistically large breasted women are more likely to fall into the whore category because a very large portion of the population think they get that way through pumping, possibly everyone apart from the large breasted women themselves. But large breasted women are also more likely to be thought of as good wife and mother material, which is most definitely a Madonna thing, so it really is all in the air and it can change with the turn of a word.

The Madonna and Whore effects how women dress, speak and behave. It influences their behaviour, even in the most intimate of relationships. Why do women not approach men in bars? The virgin and the whore. Why do women struggle to initiate sex in a relationship? The virgin and the whore. Why are there long discussions about when to have sex in a new relationship? The virgin and the whore. The obvious answer of, when you want to, gets lost in the fear that she may lose the respect of a man that she wants to get close to if she gets too close too quickly.

The virgin and the whore is why women’s clothing, drinking habits and sexual history can all be up for analysis in a rape trial. She falls into the whore category your honour, she was clearly asking for it.

It strikes me as well, that while it’s clearly catastrophically bad for women, it’s horrendous for men too. It’s bad for relationships, it’s bad for intimacy, it’s bad for happiness. Picture this…Man falls madly in love with his Madonna. He puts her on a pedestal, she is his goddess. He works hard to give her everything she needs, he’s respectful, he’s attentive, he’s considerate. But he’s never quite himself. He can never fully relax. Maybe he bottles his feelings because he doesn’t want to appear weak. It all sounds rather exhausting to me. Maybe, also, he can’t ask for everything he wants in the bedroom because he’s worried it’ll appear disrespectful. She certainly won’t ask. So that gets boring too. He still loves her but he’s miserable and moody and she can’t work out why and they split up. Or maybe he cheats with a comfortable whore and breaks everyone’s heart. What a sorry state of affairs.

Now consider the alternative. There is no Madonna, there is no Whore. There’s just a man and a woman, enjoying each other and supporting each other. The End. Well, not quite the end. Monogamy is tough, but you get my meaning.

You see, feminism isn’t just about girls wanting better stuff for girls. It’s about girls wanting better stuff for everyone. Or at least it should be. So that’s why I won’t take down that blog, and I won’t apologise and I will risk being labelled a whore. Because I don’t want to be a Madonna. I want to be a woman. This woman. The lovable tart with a heart that I really am.

An abysmal time to reach my sexual peak…

It feels like an enormous cosmic joke that women reach their sexual peak in their early thirties and early forties. Like we didn’t have enough to contend with? Like there isn’t a more convenient time for sex than when you’re running around after children and aging parents. Of course the reasons for it make perfect sense. In your twenties you’re far too worried about being sexy to actually be sexual, by your thirties and forties you’ve moved a bit beyond that and your hormones are digging you in the ribs, trying to convince you to squeeze a few more babies in before the change.

The logic does not, however, help with the crushing reality of feeling rampant when you’re frequently tired, often sharing a bed with a child and the pinnacle of your excitement for the week is sneaking in a quicky while the kids are watching TV or being prodded in the back and asked if you’re up for it by a husband who gave up on foreplay more than a decade ago. I can’t speak for anyone else but it’s like my sexuality is leaking out of me, making me a bit deranged in the process.

Sometimes it’s in the shape of intrusive thoughts. You know how they used to say that a man thinks about sex about three seconds? That sounds like me right now. All the time. On the walk to school, cooking the dinner, hoovering the floor…if I zone out while I’m talking to you, that’s where my head is at. Sorry, I just can’t help it. I’m not even sure I’m safe to drive. You can imagine how that conversation would go can’t you? Sorry Officer, I couldn’t see the road, I was temporarily blinded by an erotic panorama.

That’s not the extent of it either. My libidinousness is shooting out in random directions and, because I’ve always had a problem separating my heart and my hormones, that means excruciating school girl crushes. I actually cried the day I found out that Tom Payne can play the guitar and sing. He’s just too beautiful. What the f*** is that? I’m forty f****** two. Get a grip woman. Shirley Bassey sings my middle aged theme song…I I I’m mad about the boy. But it’s okay, I kind of got on top of that one, just in time to crash straight into the next and, no, I’m not telling you who it is because it’s all far too embarrassing. I’m just praying that I can survive this era of my life with at least some shred of my dignity left intact. The truth is that I am far too much of a control freak for that kind of adoration to sit well with me. It makes me really cross to be forced to plumb the depths of my own neediness.

Have you also considered how utterly, utterly depressing it is to be so contorted by desire at a stage in my life where the generally, news worthy verdict is that I am no longer desirable? Yep, over forty, over the hill, and while logic tells me that no one would know that if I didn’t tell them and that I am, in point of fact, far fitter, thinner and more flexible now than I was at twenty, the thought of that haunts me and makes me feel so very, very old. Of course, there’ll be no more adventuring for me because, you know, marriage, but it would be nice to think I could if I weren’t compelled by a moral compass that comes armed with knives.

I could go on. But there’s the Sunday dinner to cook and I really can’t allow the kids to watch too much more television. Yep, that’s how sexy my life is. Still….there’s always Love Honey and the search for super quiet sex toys to look forward to.

All About Monogamy (for Coyla).

I told a friend I would write this ages ago, along with posting her a book. Apologies are owed, I did neither. The truth is that when I came to write this monolith of a blog, it suddenly seemed much, much bigger and I procrastinated, first with thoughts of submitting it to somewhere and then with thoughts of not writing it at all. The question that it stems from is one that appears to rest of the lips of a lot people at the moment. In a world that favours personal growth over responsibility and commitment, we have come to question what was once one of the great pillars of our society: Monogamy. We are asking, is monogamy natural?

In a word: no. Of course it isn’t. We’re bipedal apes with big brains. Life long monogamy does not come naturally to us, not at all. But not being natural doesn’t necessarily make it bad, just difficult, maybe even unlikely. Definitely not bad though. We have this crazy misapprehension that somehow that which is natural is beautiful and comfortable, almost magical in its overarching rightness. Nature is nothing of the kind, nature is cruel and brutal. Nature makes you fight every day for your survival and cares not a jot about beauty.

To work out what comes naturally to human beings we need to start out by looking at them for what they are: animals, compelled by biological imperatives. Obviously there’s more too us than that. We’ve create philosophy, art and culture, imagined whole worlds and created and destroyed them too. But we have to start with the base line if we want to talk about what is ‘natural’ because all of our higher notions are the bits which are unnatural, right? We are animals. Like many species in the animal kingdom, human males are larger than human females. Where males are larger than females they generally use their mass and strength to fight for access to those females. The bigger and stronger the male, sometimes the more able he is to gain support from the wider community he is, the more females he is able to gain access to. This is absolutely regardless of whether these females want to be accessed by him in any way, shape or form. Because human males also must contend with something we call paternity uncertainty, the fidelity of their mates is rather important to them. In the modern world, we call that building a relationship based on trust but we’re looking at the animal world right now, and what that means in animal terms is dominance and potentially homicidal jealousy.

So this is what a natural scenario might look like for the animalistic side of human beings. Large male dominates a variety of females, many of them much younger than him. Not all of these females will like him. They’re probably more interested in the younger, prettier ones. Human beings aren’t good at containing their feelings, particularly not the libidinous ones. So they sneak around. Some scientists hypothesize that the bell end is literally designed to act like a scoop to remove the spunk of rival males, vile isn’t it? So the young lovers disappear off into the woods where they believe they will not be discovered and maybe, for a while, they aren’t. But, of course, love’s young dream can never last. They get caught, she gets beaten into submission and he is brutally disemboweled.

I think we can all agree that female choice and monogamy are preferable to beatings and disemboweling?

The truth is though that the larger part of relationships comes from somewhere else. We yearn for so much more than just an opportunity to procreate. Our brains are too big, we are bursting the banks of what we evolved to understand. Relationships are messy and complicated because human beings are messy and complicated. A return to nature, even if it was beautiful, won’t fix that.

I know that there are those that argue that our comprehension of romantic love is entirely compelled by our cultural upbringing. We are conditioned by unrealistic expectations. If our cultural comprehension was different so would our relationships be. I’ve even heard it said that our notions of monogamy and romantic love are entirely a modern invention. Maybe they should be telling that to Shakespeare, Guinevere and Lancelot, Robin Hood and Maid Marion and all those other romantic stories dating back through the ages. Romantic love is nothing new, the heady feelings we experience are nothing new and, while we do interpret them through the lens of culture, we have little choice but to manage our feelings in the best way we know how.

Modern society is isolating. Long before covid came along, we were living in bubbles. The wider community has dissolved and we are left desperately seeking meaning and connection in any way that we can. Romantic love is often the way in which we seek to fill that void. Friendship is not enough, we push for something truer, deeper, more fulfilling. We are like Plato’s lonely Androgyne, brutally split in two and condemned forever to search for the other half that will make us whole.

The philosopher Alain Badiou argues that romantic love is the single most transformative experience that any of us go through. By choosing to share our lives with another, we change our viewpoint entirely. No longer seeing the world through one set of eyes but through two. Expanding our consciousness and comprehension to include the experiences and perspectives of another.

But while modern life pushes us to seek these deeper connections to overcome the loneliness of our individualistic notions of fulfilment, it simultaneously pushes us apart for the same reason and puts unnatural pressure on the dyad to heal all wounds. It’s the most natural thing in the world to wish for but there is no one out there who can kiss it all better. The best that you can hope for is to be held and understood while you work on fixing yourself. And there’s the other fallacy, that we need to be whole to find love at all. We are all broken, some more than others, granted, but love can still be found in the wreckage. After all, no one ever loved a perfect thing.

I feel that much of our animosity towards monogamy and our questioning of it’s validity comes from fear. To give yourself completely to another, to share on that kind of profound level is the ultimate risk because no love lasts forever. No love can last forever because no one lives forever and even the most complete love will ultimately leave behind devastation. Life is no cake walk. We all change and evolve and, when we embark on a shared journey, we have no idea of the ultimate destination. Will you grow together or will you grow apart? Will you be left for another or be the one doing the leaving? Will you die with your lover’s hand in yours or be the one left behind? Surely, however, that is part of the beauty of love. Like life itself, to enjoy it fully, you have to embrace it fully and, more than that, you have to accept the risk.

In the end, we don’t choose monogamous relationships because they are easy and we don’t choose them because they are natural. We don’t choose them because society expects us to, though that may, sometimes, be why we stay in them. We don’t even choose them as a means of mitigating the damage we may do to one another with our unruly hearts. We choose them, because in those moments, we elevate that person above all others and we want them above all others whatever that means. The question we must all ask ourselves, as individuals, is not whether monogamy is natural but whether the pleasure is worth the pain.

The unlikely connection between feminism and skinny culture.

Skinniness is next to godliness. At least that’s how it seems. It’s not all about sex. I can tell you, with absolute certainty, that not all men like their women thin as rails. Some do, granted. Some don’t. It’s all a matter of taste; long legs, big boobs, big bottoms, wide hips, visible ribs…there’s a bloke out there who dreams of a combination of any of these things. Skinniness, more than any other attractive trait however, has an air of superiority.

There is a reason for that and it’s not what you think.

Women’s bodies are not entirely their own. Women have, throughout most of history been subservient often to the point of being owned. Not that women have never been valued. More that women could be bought and sold and their value quantified. Ask any undergraduate anthropology student and they will be able to tell you that the desired size and shape of a woman’s body is compelled by the value of their work within society. In societies where women’s work is not valued at all, the wives of the rich are expected to be indolent and being a bit rounded is a sign of wealth. In societies where women’s work is valued, woman are expected to be thin. Thinness does not come naturally to a lot of women, being thin is all about hard work and discipline.

Women’s bodies, whether we consciously realise it or not, are a walking advertisement for a whole range of other traits and gifts, both real and imagined. Skinny women are higher status because they have a greater perceived value to society for a whole range of reasons. Skinniness is also connected with wealth. Wealthy women are more likely to be able to afford healthy food, it’s cheaper to eat badly, wealthy women are more likely to be able to carve out the time to go to the gym or to hire a trainer. Very wealthy women may even be able to hire help to assist with a range of domestic duties that their less affluent counterparts must shoulder alone leaving them too exhausted to exercise, even if they did have the time.

Skinniness is valued because women’s work is valued. Women’s work is valued because we’ve worked hard to make it be valued. We have a lot more work to do if we want to separate our worth from our bodies and it will be an uphill battle.

It would be comforting to think that coronavirus might somehow have changed the game. A lot of people have gained weight during lockdowns. Trapped in their homes, bored and miserable, hoovering up the snacks to stave off feelings of hopelessness. It is, in many instances, those nearer the top of the tree who have had the luxury of being able to stay at home rather than soldiering through in key worker roles. However, the gap between the key worker and the office worker in terms of wealth is actually very small. It’s the gap between the office worker and the multimillionaire that you have to watch out for. You can bet your bottom dollar that there won’t be many multimillionaires opening up about how fat they’ve gotten over the last year. It’s not like Kendall Jenner’s gained an ounce now is it?

My fear is that the pandemic will only make it worse. Now the world is opening up, there will be fitness trainers and diet gurus proliferating everywhere to help people look like the media images that they have compared themselves to over the last several months while real human interaction has proved impossible. Just like the sudden and shocking increase in the desire for surgical and non surgical cosmetic procedures. Women will only be putting more pressure on themselves to achieve these ideals, particularly if the job market is uncertain.

The truth is though that I don’t blame men for this. Most men are actually pretty forgiving about women’s bodies. At least the ones I know. This ongoing pressure to be thin is more or less a self inflicted wound. If we all stopped caring, suddenly, overnight, men wouldn’t decide to be celibate and they wouldn’t take to the streets to protest. We are putting all this pressure on ourselves. Insecurity is almost considered a virtue in women. It’s not good to be too happy with how you look. To hate your arms, or your bum, or your cellulite (or your shoulders, I hate my shoulders) is expected. It’s almost like there’s something wrong with you if you don’t carry some burden of unhappiness with your appearance. To stop doing it, is going to take a massive amount of psychological effort.

There are women out there, debunking the illusion of the perfect body. There are women showing us the photographic tricks, allowing themselves to gain weight, leading the way towards a healthier world. I respect them more than I can say because I don’t think I am brave enough to join them. Are you?

The things I have learned from reaching my ‘target weight’.

Ever since I hit puberty, I’ve been trying to get thinner. I remember going to school with tuna fish and sliced cabbage in vinegar for lunch. I remember carefully weighing my spagetti bolognese and being bitterly disappointed with how tiny my portion was, all of this at the tender age of sixteen. Like most women and girls, it seems, I was not happy with my body.

I won’t lie, it was entirely media driven. If I had allowed my view of body and my sexuality to be driven by the reaction of the males around me, I would have been absolutely convinced of my sexual magnetism but life isn’t like that. I was also a sensitive flower with a love of Byron and Shakespeare. Sexuality at all was a scary subject for me. Wanting to be thinner to be more attractive wasn’t really about sex at all. It was about beauty and self perception, being thinner would somehow have made me better. Without me really understanding why or how.

Over the last few months for whatever reason, losing weight has suddenly become rather easy. So easy it’s almost too dull to talk about. As with all things in life however, it has taught me something.

  1. You’d better enjoy the process because you ain’t ever getting off this train. When I say weight loss was easy, I don’t mean to say that the weight just fell off and I didn’t have to do anything. Of course I did. I drink less alcohol and eat less carbohydrate, I run and I eat mountains of salad and natural yoghurt. It’s not been hard because I actually quite like doing those things and that’s important because the second I stop doing those things the weight will all go back on. Being thinner than the weight your body naturally gravitates to is an ongoing task. There is never an point after which you get to forget about it and carry on with your life. This is your life.
  2. Eat the damned chocolate. This is related to the above. If you want to lose weight, I won’t tell you not to, but make sure that you don’t make your life miserable. Breaking your calorie budget every now and again and making room for pleasure will do you far more good than it will do harm, be healthy, not crazy.
  3. It won’t change as much as you think it will. Self esteem is bigger than what you see in the mirror and, if you are unhappy with yourself, a little bit (or even a big bit) of weight loss probably won’t help as much as you think. Self-esteem is about loving who you are, whatever package you come in. If you can love you before you get on a scale and before you try to embark on any healthy eating adventure, the end result will be a hundred times more positive.
  4. You won’t look that different to yourself. You see yourself in the mirror everyday, the inches disappear slowly and you don’t see it. Then you go to put on a favourite (british) top and it’s far too big. They used to say inside every fat girl was a thin girl screaming to get out, I would argue that inside many thin girls is fat girl screaming ‘what TF just happened?!’.
  5. I can totally understand how people develop eating disorders. This is related to the above. You look in the mirror and you’re still not as thin as you imagined you would be, so you wonder if maybe you should lose a bit more and so it goes on. Where does it end?
  6. It will be a long hard struggle to get the media to change its attitude to women’s bodies. We get used to seeing bodies that look a certain way. While I can’t see myself being vey much thinner, sometimes it feels as though other people have suddenly gotten bigger. My scale has shifted in proportion with myself. People in the media are surrounded by skinny women all the time. It’s normal to them. It will take a constant and concerted effort for not skinny to be normalised. A massive cultural shift with regard to women’s bodies will be required and believe it or not, the size and shape of women’s bodies have been influenced by the culture for a long time. Long before the media even existed. That however is a blog for another day.

On being embarrassed by your old work.

I have a friend who’s a comic book artist. A few weeks ago I sent him a message to tell him that my kids were really enjoying one of the books he worked on a few years ago. He told me that’s he’s not really that proud of it anymore. That’s sad, I thought, but we still love it. I could understand it though. He’s working on big stuff now and his life has changed in a lot of ways. He’s not the same man that drew those pictures and while I, who can barely draw a stick figure, am impressed by everything he does, he looks at his old work and sees an inexperienced version of the artist he has become.

That’s the thing, we learn and we grow as people and as artists and the work that we once threw our hearts and souls into begins to look clunky and immature. I deleted mountains of posts from this website when it was redesigned. I didn’t really recognise* the ‘me’ that wrote them. I could agree with a lot of her perspectives but she just didn’t really feel like ‘me’ anymore. She was a different woman, with different life experiences.

My friend has not sought to delete his past work from history. Not that he could if he wanted to. His past work is part of his back catalogue, an ongoing representation of how far he has come. I find myself questioning the choice to remove all of the past from my blog. Which is, ultimately, the better choice? To grow, and embrace all the selves we have been or to draw a line underneath and aim to reinvent? Am I reinventing anything at all? Or am I just the same only older?

Is there any sense in questioning at all? Should we simply embrace each day as a fresh opportunity to do better?

Possibly, the only sane thing to do is honour* all our old selves and all our old works because they have helped us to become who we are now. We should not be ashamed of them. Still not sure if that means we have to share them though.

  • * Seriously, we just don’t use that many zeds in England, or at least we didn’t use to (it feels like America is invading us this time, only they’re doing it by stealth).
  • * Not putting the ‘u’ in it is just lazy.

Resident Alien

So I’ve decided to write more TV and Film reviews. Partially because people seem to like to read them, but mostly because they’re easy and good practice and practice is a really good procrastination tool because it’s potentially a positive and I can pretend I’m not in fact procrastinating at all. Win/win.

So the next review is Resident Alien. I like my TV off beat and quirky, or fanciful and far-fetched. I live in reality, why in the name of heaven would I want to watch it on TV as well? Resident Alien offers me all of those things plus a good sense of humour to boot. It stars Alan Tudyk as an alien (obviously) who finds himself acting as the local medic, Harry Vanderspeel, of a small Canadian town while he searches for the doomsday device that he has lost somewhere out in the snow and the body of the man he is now pretending to be before anyone finds it. Supporting him (though often unknowingly) is the town nurse, Asta Twelvetrees played by Sara Tomko, who’s remarkably tolerant of his strangeness. To make matters worse the mayor’s son, can see the the real him.

I’ve been a big fan of Alan Tudyk ever since Firefly and A Knights Tale. The death of Wash in Serenity features in my top ten list of most traumatic movie moments. As a true character actor, he thrives when handed a part to play that allows him to spread his over the top wings. No part could be better designed for him than this one. It’s like he was born to it. It would be easy for him to take over and steal every scene but, like many Canada based TV shows, the strength of this series in not in the one, but the many. The town is populated with a cast of off beat, mildly comic characters, all of whom, because they live in a small town, have a long and complex history together. Their relationship are playing out in rivalries and tenderness, the kind of connection that builds the communities of our imaginations but which I’ve never seen in real life. This kind of simplicity and complexity of human interrelation is a necessary backdrop as our alien friend, who starts out wanting to destroy us, slowly learns about the best of humanity.

Sara Tomko is outstanding for her sheer charm. Asta, her best friend D’Arcy Bloom played by Alice Wetterlund and their wider group of girl friends, are the human eyes through which we come to know Harry. You can imagine having grown up with these girls, sharing secrets and swapping boyfriends. I swear Asta has the hips of my husbands fantasies (he always was a hip man until he met me, apparently I converted him to the boob) I’m sure if he ever leaves me it will be for a girl like Asta and that’s the sense of familiarity that they are able to create. These ladies are able to draw you into their friendship until you almost feel like it’s yours.

It doesn’t stop there though. Corey Reynolds is masterful as Sheriff Mike Thompson, the cocky police chief, ably supported (some might say carried) by his deputy Liv Baker, played by Elizabeth Bowen. Their duet of The Wind Beneath my Wings before he went down on one knee to ask her to take her badge back, after she quit, will probably be one of my all time favourite televisual moments. Levi Fiehler, Meredith Garretson and Judah Prehn are also outstanding as Mayor Ben Hawthorne and his family. Their loving but sometimes troubled family life is all too relatable. There is almost too much to talk through, as each character, no matter how small, each brings their own colour and vibrancy to the story and the setting.

What makes Resident Alien special, I think, is that it is less that the story brings life to the characters and more that the characters bring life to the story. The simplest of events are made charming by the care that has been brought to bare in developing each and every one of the cast. In some ways, I’m not sure I care too much what happens next, just that it keeps happening.

Of course, however, there is much that is happening, Lisa Casper (Mandell Maughan) and David Logan (Alex Barima) represent a shady organisation (it’s an ‘s’ in England) that is trying to track Harry down. We say shady but actually it’s Harry that wants to blow us all to Kingdom come and they want to stop him. If you think about it differently they should be good guys but nothing is ever that simple. I’m sure there’s also something dodgy about Dr. Ethan Stone, no one’s that nice. Mini storylines and bigger storylines crisscross throughout the show until again it feels like there’s almost too much to address.

Resident Alien is a triumph of the subtle and the overblown, the complex, the quirky, the lovable and the terrifying. It’s incredibly well written and even better performed. You should definitely watch it, if you haven’t already.

Underwear is Everything.

Yes, I know, I’ve heard the news. Women have enjoyed the freedom of working from home, no more do they want to be tied to the shackles of uncomfortable underpinnings. Our relationship with underwear is changing. Here’s the thing though, underwear always had to fit with a variety of requirements. It never was a one type fits all affair and it should always have been comfortable. The bra you wear, whether plunge or push up or t-shirt can change the whole look of an outfit and it can change how you feel too. Never labour (I’m British remember, we spell things differently) through a day in the wrong panties, your underwear is the beginning of your journey and it always has to be right.

That’s not to say that you have to wear a t shirt bra because you’re wearing a t shirt. That’s not even to say that your bra has to match your panties, but, for me, if my underwear is drab and dreary, I feel a little bit drab and dreary too. For a long time it didn’t seem to matter. My children were born less than two years apart and life was fraught, as long as I was comfortable, I couldn’t have given two hoots about what I was actually wearing. But they’re older now. Both will be in school next year and I have a bit more time to think about me. As I become a bigger priority in my life, so my underwear has become a bigger priority too…just as it used to be, and I can’t tell you how much that has changed how I feel.

Yesterday, it was a dusky pink and pretty set. The panties were perfection, so comfortable I could have been commando. The bra was a plunge with lace running up the back with a little clasp at my neck. With the girls properly lifted my tummy looks brilliant, there’s always room for improvement, I would like a smaller waist and the little man did stretch me a bit on his way into the world, but to look in the mirror and like what I see is an indescribable feeling after two pregnancies.

Today, it’s a black lace body which shows off my bottom perfectly. I didn’t even know I had a nice bottom before I bought this but hey ho, you learn something new every day. Tomorrow I’m thinking of this little red balconette that makes me feel amazing. Of course, over the top of these, I’ll throw on some leggings or some jeans, my hair will probably be scraped back into a pony tail because I won’t have had time to wash it, let alone style it. The likelihood is that no one will even get to see what lies beneath because I’ll be in my PJs long before bedtime, but I will know it’s there and that is the magic.

My make up may be smudged, I may not always get to look as glamorous as I’d like. I may have a smear of chocolate spread on my shoulder and craft glue dried on my knee but underneath, I am a goddess, and that changes everything.

On Growing up with Alcoholic Parents Part 2: Mum

This one has been a hard one to approach. It hits very close to home and to a lot of the problems that I am battling at the moment. It hits close to home because my mother is living in my home. In my spare room, right now. I am her carer.

While my Dad was in the hospital, my mother announced that it looked like she would be moving in with me. This was not my first choice. Mother and I had not been close for a long time. The thought of her living in my house was not one I wanted to entertain and, without being mean, I told her so. After my father died, she announced that she wanted me to stay with her at least one night a week, every week. I was pregnant, with an active eighteen month old to run around after. It wasn’t going to be possible. I told her so again. It was after that that she started having falls. Lots of falls. Within weeks she went from being an independent human being to someone in need of care. I knew that she had some nerve damage in her hands due to alcohol abuse but suddenly it seemed she could do nothing, she would stand drunkenly on the doorstep, in her nightie, and flag down the neighbours to help her.

We moved her into warden lead accommodation and got carers and home help to come in. She started refusing to wash or to get out of bed. She told her carers that her drinking had only been a problem since my father had passed. Her carers often treated me like an uncaring child.

One day, when they asked me to talk to her, I decided that I’d had enough. Rushing across town each time she fell, living with constant anxiety and responsibility, and simultaneously being vilified was not something that I was prepared to accept any longer. I told them the truth. The long story of my parents drinking and all of a sudden everything changed. Suddenly I was all compassion for caring so much in spite of all, they knew people who’d cut parents off for less. It’s good to know that I’m not an uncaring, unfeeling child but it doesn’t help.

Unlike my father, who could be accidentally, drunkenly cruel to my mother and I, but was generally highly regarded by everyone else, my mother was often supportive of my father and I and casually cruel to the wider world. My mother has strongly narcissistic tendencies, she likes to have things to show off about and my father and I fit the bill. If we didn’t, she’d just exaggerate, or make it up. Oddly, I found that quite hurtful. Why could I not be good enough as I was?

It wasn’t, however, her treatment of me, that really destroyed our relationship. It was her treatment of other people. My mother always thought of herself as a cut above and felt no need whatsoever to hide her negative opinion of others. She slowly but surely destroyed relations with my fathers extended family. It started with one of my cousins, who didn’t speak to any of us for years, she and I had been close until my Mum was mean and then I lost her, just like that. It was years before I learned what had been said and, when I heard it, I felt sick to my stomach. I was horrified.

Things didn’t get better, she alienated friends and family alike. By the time my Dad died, no one wanted anything to do with my mother apart from her own cousin, who lives in Devon and checks in from time to time. It was all left to me, the only child, to do everything. To take care of the funeral, to take care of the will, to take care of mother. Without my husband and his family, I would have fallen apart. Every medic I spoke to was terrified I would develop post natal depression and I think that maybe I did. Maybe I still am depressed and fighting every day to find a way to feel in control of my own life again. To feel like there is space for me at the table.

After a few months in warden lead accommodation, mother made it clear that she didn’t want to continue to live there any longer and she started to work on my husband. Within eighteen months she had moved into a bungalow ten minutes walk away from us, but she didn’t like it there either and she continued to pressure my husband on the subject of moving in. Everyone, apart from them, thought it would be a terrible idea. I felt like I was going mad.

It was in the middle of lockdown that the final coup d’etat took place. She had a massive fall and broke her shoulder. She had to move in, and she has never left. I feed and water her, do her laundry, brush her hair, cut her nails and shower her. She is capable of showering herself, but she doesn’t like water, so we have to frog march her in every so often for everyone’s sake. In some ways life is calmer now, I know that she’s safe, there will be no more emergencies, and now that she is under my roof, she is dry. Still, this is not the life that I anticipated, my freedom is limited and my marriage is suffering.

I know that Mum’s crimes were and are as a result of alcohol and that she, almost certainly, doesn’t remember what she has done, or if she does, doesn’t comprehend the awfulness of it because her narcissism and addiction effect her empathy. I know that I, at least, need to model empathy and compassion for the sake of my children. I have, for the most part, stopped being angry. I used to shout unforgivably. It is very hard not be sad though.

When my first child was born, I remember saying to one of my cousins that, after nagging me for years, to procreate, my mother was not in any way maternal with my daughter. ‘Yeah well, she was never really that maternal with you either, was she?’. Isn’t that a sorry thing to hear? So, while I berate myself for not being a warmer carer, for being very functional in my approach. I, equally, must ask if I can be expected to repress all that I feel. Is it wrong to feel sad that my mother doesn’t love her granddaughter? (She’s significantly more fond of the boy but maybe we should dissect that another time.) Is it wrong to feel sad that she wasn’t much of a mother to me? Is it wrong to look at other women my mother’s age, who are out and about and vital, while my mother languishes in my spare room, body destroyed by her own bad decisions, and wish that it wasn’t so? Is it wrong to mourn the mother I wish I had had? It is wrong to feel bereft of the support network that I could have? It is wrong to feel very much alone in all of this? Is it?

I leave this blog to go and fix her breakfast, and sort out the bathroom for her wash. I will continue to put one foot in front of the other and to do what needs to be done. I will do the best that I can but I cannot help but wish that I didn’t have to do it.

#alcohol #alcoholabuse

Post Brexit Identity Crisis

Before you read on, I’m a remoaner. I’m a bleeding heart liberal. I am a left wing snowflake. Think of that what you will, it will tell you a bit about what’s coming and gives you the opportunity to make a choice. Make it now. Done it? Good. This much I know about myself and I have no plan on changing.

Here we are. Post Brexit. A time, that part of me, never really imagined I would see. A kind of disbelief has carried me through the last few years, it wouldn’t happen, couldn’t happen. Surely there would be some kind of last minute save. But no, we’re here, and the world has somehow shifted. It’s hard to know exactly what is different and how life is going to be impacted moving forward. Something is different though and my place within the world and my view of myself within it are altered too.

Mundane things have changed. I have a freezer full of frozen vegetables. I never buy frozen vegetables. I was brought up by upper middle class, alcoholic, foodies. Vegetables don’t go in the freezer unless they have the words ‘petit pois’ written on the packet. Nevertheless, I am the proud owner of a vast array of backup frozen food because my husband (who has been doing the shopping while I stay at home with the omnipresent lockdown children) tells me that the vegetables I want are not always available. Is this the beginning of the shortages we were warned about? Shortages in foods and vital medicines. Is this the beginning of the tough road through to a new normal that I, personally, did not vote for. Will I need to change how I do things in order to survive it? How will my lifestyle be impacted?

But wait, no, that’s not what it is. I’m not that shallow. I never was that wedded to a lifestyle. Life is an experience. We don’t need to be wedded to certain ways of doing things. We need to be open to possibilities, even if they only exist in our heads (such is the world of the writer sometimes). We roll with the punches and embrace our reality, whatever reality happens to be. The problem of identity is less tangible.

There was a time when being British sat well with me. I wore it comfortably like casual alcoholism and a love of improv and stand up comedy. It felt like a natural part of who I was. At the moment, I’m not even sure I know what being British means, or indeed if it will even be a thing moving forward. I’m preparing myself to apply for dual Scottish nationality because why the **** would an independence referendum produce a negative result now? I don’t want to be just English. I always was a product of mixed heritage. I don’t want my identity to get smaller. I want to be the person I was before and somehow that is far more mixed with geography and politics than I ever imagined was possible.

I feel disconnected from the country of my birth. While I sit here, trying to think what I want to write, I find myself subjected to a slideshow of all the times when my country and countrymen have let me down. Click. The time I hid in the toilet because my colleagues were discussing ‘bloody towel heads’ and I felt powerless to fix the injustice. Click. Talking with the Eastern European staff, at the hotel I was staying at, and hearing how alienated they felt in this country and their sage nods when they heard I had a Russian grandfather because decency clearly doesn’t come in British anymore. Click. Watching ‘Adolf!’, the one man show, and being horrified by how swallowed the audience were by the actors seduction in the final act, the hidden racism in so many of them. Click. The time I was walking down the street with one of my best friends and heard someone call her a ‘black c*nt’.

I know that the brexit vote was not entirely compelled by racism and xenophobia and I also know that liberals, like me, are far more likely to see those who disagree with us as being genuinely wrong and evil, and that such closed mindedness is, in itself, opposed to everything I believe in. I know that I need to be open minded. I know that there are people, in my circles, who voted in favour and I haven’t disowned them. I know that I need to put my best foot forward. To do anything less would be an even bigger loss of identity. But, it’s hard not to see the world as being fundamentally changed. It’s hard not to feel out of step.

To me, a developed nation should be proud to share it’s wealth and success with those who are less privileged. We should be prepared to open our borders to the dispossessed, to offer shelter to those who are lost and alone. We should be open to new points of view because we are unafraid of evolution. We were never a purist nation. We are a melting pot of conquerors and the conquered adding their language and cultural flair to the richness of our own. Stronger together than we could ever be apart. That is part of who I am, as was being British. But now open mindedness is not part of the British identity or of British values. British values are far smaller than I thought. So if my values are not British values then what does that make me?

The campaign to rejoin starts here some say. I admit, that at the moment, I am too deflated to add my voice to that cause. I have an instinctive desire to reflect and to understand. Maybe even to seek out a new tribe and a new way to belong. Just because Britain has chosen to close it’s borders does not mean that I need to close mine and, there, sits the heart of the crisis. Being British no longer sits well with me. It feels confining, and I never have liked to feel confined.

Change is the natural state of things. Nothing stays the same and, maybe, my identity has been long overdue an overhall. I’m up for the challenge.