Sequinned Mannequin

Small thoughts that have become too big to keep inside my brain. Small things that asked my camera to make them big. Music that makes my insides feel big and my outsides feel small.

Ban Bossy

I posted a link on Facebook to the Ban Bossy campaign, because I liked it. And then a friend replied with a link to Hadley Freeman’s critique of the campaign. And then I wrote a comment in reply that, when I read it back, was definitely too long for Facebook, so I have put it here instead.

Absolutely – I by no means think that campaigns should stop with banning ‘bossy’ and obviously the bias of this particular piece of activism is towards fostering female leadership and trying to prevent confident girls having their ‘bossiness’ squashed out of them, but I still think it’s a good campaign for what it is. Mostly because I think if you draw attention to language in this way, it sparks consideration of all the other words that have negative, and gendered, connotations, and the way in which one throwaway word reveals so much about culturally-embedded prejudices.

I suppose a similar example of an attempt to highlight the importance of single words is the reappropriation of ‘queer’. Changing vocabulary on its own isn’t going to change everything, as the political correctness debate proves, but it does, I think, do something far more significant than the small effort it takes to think for a moment about what’s really being said when we say things. If people start paying more attention to one word, I think it follows that they pay more attention to all words, and that can only be a good thing in my opinion.

But yes, Hadley Freeman’s ideas would have more dramatic effects and I’d love to see all of them implemented, but they also take more to implement – and stuff like policy changes, which isn’t something we can all get involved with. I see the point she’s making, but I’m not sure how useful it is to pit these different feminist projects against each other. The Ban Bossy campaign is specifically about female leadership, and sure, Sheryl Sandberg could use her position of power in any number of different ways and put any kind of spin on a campaign that she wanted, but I’m not sure I agree with the general feminist belief that any feminist, and specifically any feminist in a position of power, has a responsibility to speak/act/campaign for ALL women. Sandberg has experience of being a ‘bossy’ woman, of being a high-flying super-leader, and she’s using that experience to try and open that particular door for other women/girls. In some ways I almost feel that the problem with feminism at the moment, and the reason it seems to have lost momentum and focus, is because it’s trying to do too many things. I don’t want to say the goals are too ambitious – that makes it sound like I’m saying that we should settle for what small gains we can make, which isn’t what I mean – but at the same time I think trying to manifest large-scale social change top-down is a) difficult, near impossible, and b) challenging to negotiate, because everyone has different ideas of what they want and what they think is most important. Personally, there are a million changes I would prioritise over banning the word ‘bossy’, but I welcome the campaign nonetheless because it’s still doing something, and it’s still raising awareness of feminist issues.

I don’t think it’s a problem that Sandberg is ‘aiming to help little girls who were like her’ – it’s quite natural to want to help other people like ourselves, and as that’s what we know best, quite logical, too. Sandberg could go out and interview a bunch of teenagers and work out what they really wanted, what the majority of them cite as being an issue, and maybe none of them would cite being called ‘bossy’ but I feel that’s missing the point. For one thing, it assumes that Sandberg sat and thought hmm, I want to launch a campaign to help young women, what can I possibly do? Then came up with some small-scale half-baked idea based only on her own memories of being young, showing just how out of touch she is with the youth of today and massively missing the mark in a well-intentioned but useless kind of a way because she didn’t do any research. More likely is that the desire to launch the campaign came from her own ‘bossy’ issues. It also assumes, somehow, that she has a responsibility, as a woman in power, to use that position for the good of other women – in fact, for all women. And whilst I would like it to be true, and not just in the case of women, that people in positions of privilege use that privilege to pave the way for those with less privilege, our society, and the capitalist economy, does not see it that way. Well, except in the case of figureheads who belong to marginalised groups, who are expected to work far more for the cause of those groups than mainstream leaders, and who tend to attract criticism if they don’t take up that mantle. I feel uncomfortable with that, because although I personally (not that I’m high-profile, obviously, but every little helps…) feel a sense of responsibility to be public about my various ‘abnormalities’ in the interests of increasing visibility and making them more normalised, I don’t think anyone should be pressured into that – in some ways it seems that it reinforces prejudice by giving more social responsibility to the minority than the majority. If you’re gay, you must stand up for gay rights! If you’re a woman you must join feminist campaigns! If in an ethnic minority you must lobby against racism! If you have a disability you must get involved with disability awareness-raising! And if you’re a high-profile example of any of these you must foreground this aspect of your identity at all times and all your actions must be encouraging to other members of the minority group you belong to – in fact, probably to all minority groups, because you obviously feel sympathy with marginalised peoples in general.

There’s a whole bunch of stuff contained within those sorts of assumptions. For one, it seems almost counter-intuitive to put so much emphasis on difference when the idea, really, is to make that difference less important. It’s like we’re trying to say hey it shouldn’t be a big deal that this big powerful person is a female/gay/not white/disabled/etc. person and at the same time saying OMG female/gay/non-white/disabled leader OMG! And then the person becomes defined by their difference rather than by what they are doing. News articles abound in which the relevant descriptions focus on these ‘remarkable’ aspects of these people’s identities – ‘female CEO blah blah’, ‘gay actor blah blah’, ‘disabled athlete blah blah’: they are always marked by their difference, and if something goes wrong, if they fuck up, this is still the relevant information, with the inference being that somehow there is a connection – ‘gay actor arrested for drink-driving’, ‘female CEO found guilty of fraud’, ‘disabled athlete tested positive for drugs’. On the one hand there is visibility at stake and it’s important to see that yes, female, disabled, gay, non-white, etc., people CAN be in all these important and high-profiled positions and they ARE out there, but on the other hand it obscures a lot, too. Articles and interviews inevitably focus on identity politics, so a female CEO will likely end up being asked how it is to be a female CEO, where a male CEO will probably be questioned on, you know, what he will be doing as CEO. Although of course I do think it’s important to talk about those things as well because how else do we know what issues need addressing? But it’s complicated, and I suppose to some extent that IS the responsibility of being trailblazing.

There is also a double-standard here – public figures who belong to minorities are assumed to be less prejudiced, and are censured all the more viciously if they aren’t. Most of the time I’d hazard that those on the receiving end of discrimination and stigma ARE probably more likely to be tolerant of other stigmatised groups, but it’s by no means impossible to be a narrow-minded dickhead whatever flavour you come in. Our positions of privilege are all relative. I’m a woman, so in relation to men I have less privilege, and I have a mental illness or two, and I’m not heterosexual, but I’m white, and I’m middle-class, and I was raised in a monocultural, middle-class area where university education was an unquestioned assumption. When I was a kid it was just me and my mum, and we lived on benefits, and between the ages of 8 and 11 we were probably the poorest and most looked-down-upon people who lived in the small village we inhabited at that time. By the standards of that village, a single-parent, unemployed family living in a rented house with a clapped out old car (bright turquoise – how vulgar!) that had to be pushed down the hill to bump-start every morning was simply the pits. But the standards of the main town two miles away, or of the small independent primary school I attended, this was perfectly normal. So, anyway, my point is that positions of (dis)privilege are relational and shifting and we can only really know our own experience. Whilst I empathise with the cause of other stigmatised groups and have had the experience of being bullied and sneered at and disadvantaged, I still don’t know what it’s like to be anyone else. Other than being female, there are few outward signs of my difference (although somehow I seem to attract attention, positive and negative, regardless, so maybe there is a je-ne c’est quoi of difference), and although I’ve experienced racism a couple of times by virtue of living in a black-majority area, I can’t possibly know how it is to live with that daily in a society that still considers skin colour important, just as a man can never know how it is to be a woman every single day despite having experienced a few occasions of street harassment or sexism. Discrimination, stigma, and bullying are as various as are the kinds of features that attract those behaviours. To have experienced stigma in one capacity doesn’t qualify you to comment on other stigmas. I know what it is to be bullied, and I’ve been bullied for many things, and each felt different, each cut in a different way. This is a very convoluted way of basically saying that a) misogyny, racism, homophobia, etc., are all different things, and b) the experience of misogyny, racism, homophobia, etc., is not the same for all who experience it. Which is obvious, I know, but yet doesn’t seem to prevent the view that ‘we’re all in it together’.

Ok wow I’ve strayed miles from my original point here – no surprises! – so to get back on track what I’m saying really I suppose is that there seems a certain pettiness in criticising the efforts of people who are trying to change things, even if it is in a very minor way or not the way we might have prioritised. It always feels like one-up-(wo)manship when as I see it there is SO MUCH work to be done and anyone who wants to do some of it, in whatever way, is very welcome to join in. Ban Bossy might be the activism equivalent of tunnelling through a landslide with a plastic spoon but it’s better than standing back going ‘cor, that’s a lot of rubble, no idea how we’re gonna clear that’ and hoping if you stand there stroking your beard in contemplation long enough someone else will come along with a fuckoff great bulldozer and take care of it for you. Start off with your little spoon, recruit other people to come along with their little spoons, and you’ll soon be doing the work of a bulldozer. Well. You know. That’s the dream anyway.

Essentially: something is better than nothing. And whilst Freeman isn’t wholesale slagging Sandberg off, I do take objection to the tone, which seems unnecessarily negative. I’d love to see, in general, more support of people’s ideas, both in the media and in human beings. I fully acknowledge that I’m quick to criticise and hard to enthuse and I hate that about myself. Sometimes the internet showcases the best aspects of humanity in a manner that fills me with joy, but it’s also a platform for cynicism, whinging, and back-seat driving. So much comment, so much passing judgement, so little actually doing anything (no, it is not lost on me that I’m doing precisely this right now). I feel like at the very least instead of sitting here poking holes in everyone else’s ideas, if we aren’t going to come up with our own we can be supportive. In fact, even if we are going to come up with our own. We can add them instead of having to see it in terms of replacing. Less ‘well I have a better idea’ and more ‘I have an additional idea’. Building, collaborating, expanding – there’s more than enough space.

You know. We all have a spoon. And we can all use that spoon. And I just wish that we would focus a little less on what other people are doing with theirs and more on what we’ll do with ours – because if they’re digging in the same general direction, it’s just bloody great that they’re using it for something more than feeding themselves. Sure, the reason we’re at the current state of affairs is because those with the power to help other people help others like themselves and thus the higher echelons of power look pretty homogenous, but I don’t think that means it’s per se bad to help in that way. In the long-term I suppose what we’re fighting for is for the notion ‘people like me’ to be broader and less based on easily-catalogued identity traits, so that it comes to include simply ‘people’, but for where we’re at right now, I’m not going to criticise Sandberg’s focus on female leadership. It’s still taking us in the right direction. It’s still getting people thinking about the implications of language. It’s not going to revolutionise the whole world, but nothing is going to do that. And yes, it privileges a certain kind of leadership – a masculine conception of what a leader acts like – and it still only reformulates that to make it more acceptable for girls to wear that behaviour, and it doesn’t challenge our ideas about ideals of leadership in general, but still. It’s something. And maybe it does spark off other thoughts too – maybe we do start thinking well if a certain behaviour is seen positively in boys but in girls is devalued with the negative ‘bossy’ then perhaps the matter at stake here isn’t only whether girls performing ‘masculine’ attributes are denigrated but whether those attributes are actually as desirable as we thought – in anyone. You can read it both ways – a positive attribute that’s only negative in women, or a negative attribute that’s only positive in men. Which way you look at it, I suppose, changes whether or not you think ‘bossy’ should be banned or equally applied to boys, and now I’ve started thinking about that I’m going down another rabbit-hole of contemplations. But in any case I’m obviously being very black and white about it when there’s really no such thing as an unequivocally ‘good’ or ‘bad’ trait, just to highlight the point that the Ban Bossy campaign does nothing to challenge the automatic correlation between leadership and ‘bossiness’, nothing to make way for new styles of leadership, so of course it is narrow and slightly short-sighted in remit- but it’s not claiming to be anything more wide-ranging than it is, and nor does it need to be.

Ban Bossy has its flaws, its scope doesn’t reach to the heart of the issues, but I’m not going to say ‘hey Sheryl Sandberg, you should’ve done something else!’ I’m going to say Hey, Sheryl Sandberg, thanks for getting your spoon out.

Song for 7th February 2014 [Jozef Van Wissem & SQURL – The Taste of Blood

Last night the Mr and I went to the premiere of Jim Jarmusch’s latest film Only Lovers Left Alive (annoyingly at one of London’s worst cinemas, Odeon Leicester Square), followed by a gig at Heaven (probably one of London’s worst venues) with Jozef Van Wissem, who we saw first at ATP back in November, and SQURL, the band made by the Jarmusch and the Van Wissem, a lady called Yasmin who did lots of snaky hips and flicking her hair around in a manner that would have been more sexy if it wasn’t like OOH LOOK HOW SEXY, and a band called White Hills who we didn’t see because we are old and by the time it got to 12:30 we were ready to go home.

Anyway, the film is very good and when it is officially released on the 17th of this very month I strongly suggest you go and see it. Very funny, gorgeous soundtrack, brilliant literary in-jokes (yeah I do feel like a bit of a snob and I sort of hate myself for that but eh, I can’t help but chuckle), Tilda Swinton being a vampire version of that Narnia lady she plays, the guy from Thor smouldering and looking generally quite pretty in a dressing gown, and Mia with the name I don’t know how to spell playing a trouble-making teenage Swinton-sister who gets drunk on a guy from the music industry (laugh out loud moment for all, right there).

The Mr nearly had some kind of coronary/penile combustion when he spotted not only Alison Mosshart but also Kate Moss standing not three feet away from us at Heaven, watching Mr Van Wissem with his mental 26-string lute. I mainly thought that they looked sulky in an unattractive and disaffected kind of a way, but I think maybe there are some women that boys who like girls are more taken with than girls who like girls. Or maybe it’s just girls who like boys and girls, because somewhere in that sulky confidence is a look that says ‘if I wanted your guy I would totally work my magic on him and feel no remorse’. It may just be me. I may be projecting. But. You know. Not all girls are very in the spirit of solidarity, and I’m aware that there is an irony to me bitching about girls in the name of criticising them for not being girls’ girls, but the thing is that there just are some girls who you can’t help feeling you simply can’t trust because they would run you over with a truck and reverse back over you again just to make sure in the pursuit of what they want. And not that I know Alison Mosshart or Kate Moss at all but I get the feeling they are truck-running kinds of girls and for some reason that makes me take offence at the level of rubbernecking salivation exhibited by my Mr at the sight of a pair of grumpy oversized teenagers, but you know, I’m aware that I’m basically just jealous. Not really of them, because honestly I’d rather look like me, but at the fact other people, namely my boyfriend, think they’re hot. Yeah I’m insecure and unreasonable. Who knew? I’m getting well off the topic at hand here, but for some reason I’m not bothered by boys fancying girls that I also fancy, but boys fancying girls that I think are ordinary/overhyped/contrived really pisses me off, which doesn’t make much sense because surely girls I think are attractive would be more of a threat? Probably I just want everyone to think all other women are lacking in comparison to me. Not that I’m egotistical or anything. Female jealousy and competitiveness is a weird thing. And so destructive. But. You know. I’m not going to pretend I don’t feel these things because when have I ever successfully pretended anything?

ANYWAY golly sorry I hope you made it this far so you can listen to the beautiful piece of music I’ve brought forth for your attention. The soundtrack for this film is going to be really special. I could listen to this all the live-long day. It probably doesn’t help that the first time I heard it (the lute-only version, at least) was on a fragile Sunday morning at ATP, but it’s hard not to feel that every string-pluck is tugging on a thread of gut/heart. Just gorgeous. Even if your boyfriend is so distracted by drooling over the moss people that it ruins your focus when it’s being played before your very eyes.

Song for 4th February 2014 [Electra's Tongue - Radcliffe]

So today’s song is one of mine. HA! Something of a departure from usual, where I recommend you something actually good that I think you should go and listen to, but what the hell, it’s the most relevant track I can offer.

I have a therapist now, and I am holding him responsible for this track. He’s actually totally amazing and everything I wanted from a therapist, but, you know, careful what you wish for and all. The reason he’s amazing is because he’s an fricking task master who will not let me wiggle away from ANY of my uncomfortable feelings. Like I say, exactly what I wanted, because I know I’m a sophisticated wiggle-awayer and my previous therapists have been namby pambies who let me get away with it, but Jesus on a skateboard it’s DIFFICULT. Also he’s a pretty weird guy who is either dour of nature or was born with a facial defect that doesn’t permit him to smile, which is disconcerting and doesn’t exactly scream SPILL YOUR GUTS AND CRY AT ME, but there you go. He’s good at it, despite, or perhaps because of, having all the warmth and humanity of a plank of wood.

I have had four sessions so far and we have discovered that apparently I’m not cool with anger. As in, being angry. Like, at people. While they’re there. Which is probably why, in general, I’m such an angry, complainy, negative person, deflecting it onto everything else, or internalising it, mostly converting it into hurt, which then makes me angry, mostly at myself, and so on…. Anyway I’m supposed to be working on being ok with getting angry and emotional in front of him, and in general actually feeling my feelings instead of getting rid of them as swiftly as possible or translating them into words. I realise that he is paid to sit and watch people cry but that doesn’t mean it feels anything less than absolutely squirm-inducing.

Poke poke poke, what are you feeling now, oh you had a feeling as you were saying that, I’m just going to interrupt you for the 14th time to ask you what you’re feeling, I’m going to unpick you and lay you bare and make you explore and verbalise things before you’ve had an opportunity to don your analytical hat and put them into neat little parcels of rational words. Here is your mess reflected back at you, for you to explore and examine and realise is even messier than you thought. How do you like it? Not at all? Excellent. That’s what we’re here for.

SO the relevance of this is that I had therapy today, and then I came home and let myself watch an episode of Grey’s Anatomy (I’ve nearly caught up with what’s actually airing! I’m nearly free!) with a mug of hot chocolate and a Toffee Crisp to recuperate, and then I started fiddling around with GarageBand and the lovely little synth my lovely boyfriend bought me for Christmas, and this is what came out. The instrumentals were originally in another track from yonks ago that I started adding new bits to, which I worked on for about an hour before getting so frustrated I nearly put the FastTrack through the window because everything I did made it sound worse, before taking the bits I liked (I’m quite obsessed with that bleepy synthy bit that sounds like bells) into a new project and hitting record with a mic in my hand. What happened was… surprising. A relatively ambient bit of ‘aah’ing took on a life of its own and became an angry, waily, howly, shrieky, ‘tchah’y affair. I figure that’s a kind of inarticulate expression of something that I’m pretty sure is a response to having my psyche prodded for 50 minutes.

So there you go, Mr therapist man. It’s a start.

Open Letter to My (Thieving Bastard) Neighbours

Karma is a Bitch

Song for 10th January 2014 [Mogwai - Remurdered]

I’ve only given it two listens, but I’m not entirely sold on the new Mogwai offering yet. I never thought I’d be describing Mogwai thus, but it’s a bit… mellow? Granted my preference is for the Mr Beast/The Hawk is Howling-era RRRAAGGHHHHH NOISE stuff but. You know. The new album has tracks with words. Words. Mogwai. Words.

I’m sorry, I like to think of myself as open-minded, but something just isn’t computing here. I thought that track on the last album was an anomaly, but no, here we are, people opening their mouths again. If in doubt, NO WORDS. I cannot state this strongly enough. I’m looking very hard at you, Efrim Menuck. What were you thinking making that lovely Silver Mt. Zion orchestral beauteousness only to slather your whiny gob all over it? ISIS, you are guilty also of sullying what would otherwise be near-perfect post-rock gloriousness with what sounds like an angry cartoon bog creature belching in fury.

I shan’t go on, because the list of bands who ruin their greatness by letting their windpipe get the better of them is extensive, but come on, man. Mogwai with words? It’s a contradiction in terms. I know, I know, progress, change, fresh new directions and all that but also just no. No thank you. I like your noisy instrumentals just as they are. I mean, I’m trying not to do that whiny I’m-a-fan-who-can’t-move-on-please-just-keep-making-the-same-album-over-and-over-again thing – do whatever the hell you like, Mogwai, and I will of course respect and applaud your bravery in the face of what I’m sure you already anticipated would be a surge of opposition to the inclusion of lexical items in your fine record, but I can’t guarantee I will like it.



How depressing.

Still though. Words. They definitely deserve at least one half-subdued throaty grumble of disgruntled uncertainty.

This track’s good, though:

Mogwai – Remurdered

Splendidly wordless.

But just to return to complaining for a moment, because it is what I do best, I just don’t like the production on the last couple of Mogwai albums. That guitar sound isn’t doing much for me, and I’m not sold on the increased usage of synths, either (although the bass from ~3:30 in on the above track is quite delicious). But, generally, where’s the welly gone? It’s all so flat and thin, too electronic-sounding for my ears. I guess the word I would use is reedy. I WANT OOMPH. There is oomph in places, but the overall sound doesn’t have that rich, warm, textured quality that makes earlier albums feel as if they have crawled in through your ears and expanded inside your head. Recent output has much more of a trebly, two-dimensional deal going on; my head feels more sliced through than inhabited.

Not that there’s anything wrong with a change of sound, or with that kind of sound, of course. It’s just not exactly what my street wants up it, that’s all.

Special Days

Anniversaries are kind of strange aren’t they? I’ve written before about how there always seems to be some kind of unconscious or perhaps cellular memory of anniversaries that the brain sometimes takes a while to catch up on. Why do I feel weird? Oh yeah, this time last year this thing was going on. I guess it must be all the environmental factors – the particular scent of a particular time of year, the particular light – that awaken the residual imprint.

Anniversaries, especially New Year’s Eve/January 1st, are invested with this special sort of superstition where we somehow believe the first day of a new year sets the tone for the following 364 days. I can’t quite let go of this idea, although there is clearly no evidence that it’s true. In the case of January 1st it’s especially depressing. The pressure to have the best NYE ever renders it an eternal disappointment, invariably New Year’s Day is spent in a hungover stupor, it’s pretty much impossible to drum up much enthusiasm for it anyway as it’s in the depths of winter, the post-Christmas lull, the dead week in which the world forgets how to do anything except shop and eat, and the general energy of Western civilisation feels like those barbaric mouse-traps that stick the poor blighters to the floor so they die a painful and protracted death.

The pressure on certain days to be ‘special’ absolutely fucks the chances that they actually will be. Too much is invested in the idea of their perfection, and the attendant disappointment is disproportionate. I very much fall victim to the symbolism and superstition of ‘important’ dates, and I set myself up for a fall in that respect. I like the ritual, I like to make things special, but hey sometimes it just doesn’t work out. Sometimes it’s just a gigantic bellyflop. But then sometimes you embark upon an ordinary, regulation day and it turns out to be magical. Out of nowhere, it’s perfect. I guess the key is to keep my eyes open for the unexpectedly special days and celebrate those rather than giving so much power to OMG A YEAR. It’s nice to have a milestone to give pause, to reflect upon past achievements and rethink future goals, to mentally summarise a period of time, consolidate it, back it up to disk as it were and then delete it from the hard drive to start afresh. Ok. But I can do that without making one particular day the day of all days. I’m sure I can.

On 4th January it was our anniversary, and I was disappointed because my partner wasn’t well and we couldn’t do any of the things we’d planned. I don’t know why I was so disproportionately, emotionally disappointed – I seem to have something of an issue with what is supposed to be special falling short of expectation, although I’m not sure where that comes from as although I remember feeling that way quite a lot in childhood, I don’t recall being frequently let down. Maybe it was just that I was constantly let down by my own expectations.

I had something of a catchphrase when I was little: ‘this is not what I expected’. I’ve never liked the idea of not knowing what was going to happen, so unconsciously I created a picture of what a certain situation was going to involve. What an item on a menu would look and taste like, what a place would be like, what I would do in any given scenario, etc. The problem is, especially if you’re a child and don’t have a full comprehension of how the world works, the picture is often wrong. It’s imaginary. This is why I often don’t like doing new things or putting myself in unfamiliar situations, even to the point of resisting watching new films, reading new books, going to new restaurants. I like to know what to expect. I like to know what the rules are and in a new place I have to learn a whole new set of practices. This is also why I don’t like travelling – although I desperately want to go away and experience foreign places, the fact they will come with different rules and different customs, the fact I will so obviously be an outsider where usually I would work incredibly hard to take in every detail of a new place to ensure that I fit in as seamlessly as possible, and most especially the fact that due to language barriers I will not be able to synthesise the way things work as quickly and will take longer to assimilate, fills me with intense anxiety.

I have to be feeling brave to put myself in a situation where I don’t know what to expect. I have to be feeling practically superhuman to put myself in one where I can’t even imagine what to expect because it’s so far beyond my frame of reference. I’m practicing, and I’m getting better, mostly, although it’s still mood-dependent, but perhaps this is where the feeling of being let down comes from. A continual disappointment of my expectations – not that they were lofty and everything fell short, just that so many things turned out to be ‘not what I expected’ and the very fact of this being the case was disappointing.

I guess this is why people think I’m a control freak. Because as I have become an adult and have more agency, I tend to try and control things so that I know what to expect and will not be surprised. Thus it’s very unsettling for me to have last-minute changes, when things don’t go according to plan, or when plans fall apart. I like to research things, organise them, and then be able to relax and enjoy them whilst doing them because I’ve prepared myself in advance. While other people might find that stressful and militant and find wafting around doing whatever they feel like on a whim a relaxing use of time, I find ‘let’s just see where the mood takes us’ kinds of arrangements distressing. I don’t know what mood to be in if I don’t know what we’re doing! I don’t know what to prepare myself for if I don’t know where we’re going! I won’t be able to come to any kind of decision about what I feel like doing when put on the spot and will go into some kind of autistic meltdown, internally or possibly externally depending on the situation, because the number of options is overwhelming.

Anyway, to get back to my original point, this is, I suppose, why I felt so disappointed about the anniversary arrangements falling apart. Half oh god this is the beginning of a new year for us and it’s all going wrong is this some kind of portent? And half general inability to cope with plans not co-operating with THE PLAN.

But, you know, so what? For one thing, how to you even decide when your anniversary actually is? When does a relationship ‘begin’? 4th January was our first date (although at the time it wasn’t intended to be one), and it lasted 27 hours, and neither of us were with anyone else from that point, so that was ‘the beginning’ I guess. But also we could call our anniversary the first time we had sex, or the day we had THE CONVERSATION, or the day one of us changed our relationship status on Facebook, or the day I told him I loved him, or the day he told me he loved me, or the day we promised to do everything in our power to make our relationship work, or the day we started making post-dated plans without the ‘if we’re still together’ caveat, or the day we started talking about our future as if it was a given that we would be sharing it, or the day we preceded statements with ‘when we’ rather than ‘if we’.

There are milestones every day. Every day is the start of a new year. Sure, some dates stick out, but does that really make them any more significant? I mean, in many ways the story began on June 7th 2012, which was the first time we saw each other, at a Dirty Three gig, although I didn’t know he was him at the time. This guy came and stood in front of me and I thought to myself ‘that guy looks like he might be hot’. I also thought ‘that guy is annoyingly taking pictures on his Blackberry’. I also thought ‘I swear that guy is about to talk to me’. But he never did.

And I would’ve forgotten about that guy probably, except that two days later a similar-looking guy followed and tweeted me with regards to the Dirty Three gig, about having seen me in the merch queue buying a tshirt. And I thought ‘that guy looks like the back of his head might look like that guy’s back-of-head that I saw at the Dirty Three gig, I wonder if it’s him?’. I didn’t follow him back, I think because from his feed it didn’t look like he tweeted much, but a few months later, when Dirty Three played London again, we struck up a conversation, I started following him, and through the medium of Twitter we discovered we had lots to talk about. Throughout December 2012 our conversations gained momentum and I suggested going for a drink. No ulterior motive really, although I had a sort of feeling about him, I just thought hey I have worse ways to spend my time than drinking and talking about music with someone who clearly has great taste in it. I suppose that feeling is what caused me to lay down my pride and reiterate this invitation three times before he consented and we eventually arranged our first ‘date’ on Christmas Day.

We met, and I discovered that he was indeed the owner of the back of that head, and I had a glass of wine, then several more, and talked a lot because of it, and thankfully he talked back, and there was an ease and comfortableness to it that made the time fly, and after a little while I confirmed my suspicions and decided that yes, he definitely was hot. We got so carried away talking that he missed his train, so I offered him my sofa, and yhe sofa turned into the bed – but it was all very chaste, reader, and no hanky-panky took place save a kiss the next day. We drank tea, we chatted more, we went for some dinner, and 27 hours after we first met, he went home, and, honestly, I would’ve liked him to stay longer.

From then on, that was it. There was a confusing second is-it-a-date? date but from that first meeting we didn’t have a day without texting and we never had a date where we didn’t arrange the next one. It just worked. Well, until I unleashed my crazy and things started getting dramatic, and then it started to involve work, but that’s the usual deal isn’t it? Easy at the beginning, then reality sets in. I’ve never had a relationship that way round before, but I gather that’s the standard order of play.

I like the story of how we met. It’s a good story. It feels kind of fated, especially as when I looked back I realised that I never even tweeted about the Dirty Three show we were at – I tweeted about dreaming that I was at a Dirty Three gig. All the coincidences that had to conspire in order for us to meet. In the context of that, it seems silly to place so much importance on one particular day when that day was both the culmination of many prior days and the precursor to many more.

That said, I do of course place importance on it. I just can’t help it. Like Valentine’s Day, which is clearly tosh but nonetheless exerts a grip upon me that I can’t wrestle free of. I like the occasions. I like having an excuse to be ridiculous and soppy and go overboard to demonstrate just how much I love someone. But I should probably remember that I show love every day in all kinds of ways and that isn’t going to be doubted just because I didn’t get to plan some day of wonder. On this occasion, I wrote a song – well, a ‘song’ – for him, using a poem I wrote back when we’d only been together for three weeks and sampling one of our favourite pieces, Gorecki’s 3rd symphony. It was a present, so it’s not for the ears of the interwebs, for which I’m sure the interwebs are very grateful, and I even spent time on it. Like, more than an hour. Even more startlingly, I actually quite like it. Sort of a crap present in a way – ‘hey, listen to my shitty song that I wrote in your honour!’ – but it’s the thought that counts… yes? The personal touch.. or something.

Anyway. All this excessive disappointment stuff is probably something to explore with my therapist. Yes, a new one. Yes, a highly peculiar fellow. But that’s for another time…

For now, in short, days are really just days, and it’s nice to have an excuse to make one particular day especially special, but that doesn’t make the other days any less important. I love my partner every day, I renew the promise to do everything I can to make our relationship work every day, I find some new depth of love every day, and some days it’s hard, and some days it’s easy, and some days it feels special, and some days it feels horrendous, because that’s what loving someone is like. It’s nice to observe the fact we’ve put 365 of them in a row together, but I need to get away from the idea that any particular day is any more indicative of what follows it than any other day.

2013 was a tempestuous and in many ways traumatic year. It brought great love, and also great pain. It brought me nose-to-nose with my crazy and reminded me just how much of it there is, and just how overwhelming, and just how destabilising. I feel like lots shifted in the emotional realm, my life underwent a complete turnaround basically overnight from being long-term single to being in a relationship, and that makes it feel like a lot has changed. I hope that in 2014 the emotional side of my life will settle down and that I’ll gain enough security and stability within myself to make some external changes. Mostly in the form of a new job and a new place to live. I’ve been in the same position for a long time now, and I’ve outgrown it, and I need to stop stagnating and move forward. So that’s my new year’s resolution, I suppose: forward movement. Personally, professionally, whatever other kinds of allys there are – make things happen.


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