Monday, September 25, 2017

I Will Never Be Clean

I wanted to buy a bar of soap this week. I’ve had this soap before and I hadn’t really thought much about buying it.

I went into Debenhams and I went over to the really bright bit where they keep all the woman dressed like dentists. The ones wearing ALL OF THE make up.

I think what’s happened there, is that the companies have designed that area to look like a surgical theatre on a space ship, and then panicked that people won’t know they’re selling make up so have asked the representatives to use a bit of absolutely everything they have.

All the make up you can fit between your hair and your neck is on those women.

And it’s terrifying, because no matter how alright you thought you looked that day you walk in to Debenhams and immediately wish you had a thousand per cent more make up on to try and keep up.

I just shuffle through, wishing there was a sharpie or a yoghurt in my bag I could use to just cover up a few more bits.

So, I get to the woman and say, “Hello, can I have some soap please?” And then, she should be like, *reaching in a drawer, getting some soap, here you go madam you can have some soap*.

But then she asked me:

“What skin type do you have?”

I had NO IDEA what the answer to that question was, so I stood there staring at her, just trying to dredge up any words for the next bit of the conversation. I was trying to think of an answer that would sound right, but really what I was thinking was, “Huh, all these years I’ve been getting cross in yoga because I can’t do the mind clearing bit, and it would have been really easy if they’d paid a cosmetics lady to stand there and ask me questions about my own face.”

She asks the questions again, thinking I’ve answered and she’s missed it somehow.

And I’m still standing there, and then, just with a sort of totally blank mind I said…

“I’ve always been white.”

Not even “I’m white.” Which would be weird enough. But I’ve said, “I’ve always BEEN white.”

As though she’s accused me of having a very rare Michael Jackson type syndrome and I’ve gone - no, no - contrary to popular beliefs I’ve always ticked White-British at job interviews.

She is smile staring at me.

You know that thing where someone is quite clearly nervous of you but they’re still smiling?

Her head’s kind of on one side… it reminded me of… when I was at at primary school there was this kid who had a bit of a problem with pooping and he’d do it weird places.

And one time my teacher found he’d taken a poop in the Sticklebricks - which is the hardest toy to clean. It’s like waterboarding a hedgehog. And she did the smile like the dentist lady.

I was so mortified. The problem is, that fear that they’re going to make you feel insecure takes over because you don’t want to lie but you also don’t want to give them any space to try and sell you something else for your obviously awful face.

Normal skin, is what I want to shout at her. It’s just skin. It’s skin skin skin skin.

She tries a better line of questioning:

“How does your skin feel at the end of the day?”

Woman - I have no idea what to say to you at this point.

That’s like asking me what oxygen tasted like yesterday; it didn’t occur to me to consider.

What does my skin feel like at the end of the day… It feels like frigging skin!

Mostly it depends what I’ve done that day… if I’ve had a shower; it’s wet. If I’m in bed; it’s comfy. If I think about anything that’s been voted on or elected in the last two years; it’s crawling.

It’s skin… I’ve never really thought about what it feels like.

My thought process has now gone so far down a rabbit hole that I’m just STANDING THERE with this poor woman.

I look like a robot shutting down. Like it’s the scene in the film where the robot realises it’s not a human after all because it can’t answer any of these questions about human feelings.

And this woman is a professional, she is trying her best… She’s throwing out all her best lines “What’s your skin regime like currently?”

And this time, I at least know what not to say, I know you’re not meant to lean in with a really honest look and say “Well, depends if I’m visibly sticky…”

Do people really have skin regimes that last longer than it takes to read the magazine article that guilted you into getting one?

Regime is not a positive word… You never hear that a country has had “regime change” and think, “Oh good for you Korea - that bodes well.”

I don’t have a skin regime. But I can’t tell her I only even started taking my make up off before bed when I bought white pillow cases and I could get out of bed and leave my face in it.

There are no right answers because whatever you say, there’ll be a reason you need to buy something else…

I tried sort of mumbling something to her about moisturising whenever I can, missing the words “be arsed” off the end of that sentence and she perks up.

But then, you can see the sales pitch coming, she says…
“And, if you don’t moisturise… how does your skin feel? Does it feel tight?”

Instinctively, I want to say “No, it’s not tight at all.” It is the one thing I wear every day that I don’t look at my reflection and wish I wasn’t filling out quite so snugly.

My skin has always had my back, quite literally, in terms of making a note of where I’m expanding and modifying production to fit the order.

But then I don’t want to get the answer wrong and give her the impression that it’s baggy…
I’ve never looked at my skin and thought, “Ooh I wish that was a bit nearer.”

My skin has always felt as far away from me as I need it to be. It’s not overly clingy, but it’s not going away for long weekends without texting.

So, I don’t want to say “Yes” and have her tell me I that I need aqua-plumpus skinus youngus pro-b formula that Davina Macall swears by.
But, I don’t want to say, “no” and then have her eyebrows… I say eyebrows, have her drawings of eyebrows, shoot up because I’ve inadvertently wandered into a shop and declared myself a Caucasian leper who desperately needs the new Jennifer Aniston range of Pro-vitamin wastus moneyus that 84% of 12 teenagers described as “inedible”.

I don’t want any of it. I just want the bar of soap I have been using. 

And I don’t want to be judged for not wanting it… I don’t want to have to pretend there’s a reason I’m not buying it today, or that I’ll think about it for another time, I want to be honest and say, “I thought I was doing bloody well buying the god damn soap in the first place and now you’re making me wish I’d just bought brown pillow cases and been done with it.”

In the end she showed me 3 bars of soap, I chose the colour I thought I recognised from the last one and she asked me to find someone else to pay.


I shat in the lipsticks on the way out.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

In White Satin

Nights are not my friend at the moment... days I can handle; days are full of friends and sunshine and ticking things off my to-do list. Nights... nights are full of rampant, animal sex followed by criminal loneliness.

Unfortunately, only the criminal loneliness is happening to me.

One of the joys of living in a building full of flats is hearing every bodily function that happens to the people in the shoebox above. In my life, I am lucky enough to live beneath not just one, not just two, but THREE student males in their early twenties. I know right?!

Just when you reach that age when you're drifting happily towards thirty-something and OK with the changes - here come three virile reminders that you used to be cool.

The music, the smoking, the shouting and the stamping I have dealt with. The flood I have dealt with. This new thing they're doing where they fuck exclusively between the hours of four and five in the morning to such an astonishingly painful sounding beat and exuberance I am not dealing with.

I don't think waking up to sex happening can ever be good - I like to be warned if it's going to happen to me, and I like to be warned if it's not happening to me so I can not be there.

I want to sit them both down and patronisingly explain why what they're doing is:
a) too fast to be as enjoyable as sex can be
b) too forceful to not be doing kidney damage
c) happening between four and five o clock in the fucking morning so pack it the fuck in until you own a house in the middle of a field you sociopaths

I lie there at night listening to them love each other and wonder why they can't be head aficionados... head is so quiet. Head is what you do between 4 and 5, isn't it? Who has the energy for a fully blown fuck after 4am?

Oh my god I am 30 years old. I am a married 30 year old moaning about the happy go lucky people upstairs enjoying their lives.

Yes, yes I am. Because you know why? It's so god damn loud and it's happening above my face.

The only saving grace of their night time adventures is that a side effect of interrupting my sleep is that they interrupt my dreams.

At least once a week I dream that my husband has left me and I can't have him back. Sometimes I am dimly aware I used to be happier and that something is missing but I don't know what it is, sometimes I think I am with him but then I realise it isn't as good as I thought it was and then I realise it's not him, sometimes it's just a regular break up story and I can't stop sending him texts I shouldn't send in case it works and I can have him back.

Last night he agreed to let me have one more date for old time's sake and dream me lived through the most bittersweet night. Real me woke up heartbroken with no reason to be; because we're still together and his fond texts telling me I'm dippy for dreaming it are blaring from the screen.

I don't know how to get rid of these dreams. No amount of reassurance or happiness in our lives gets rid of them and I hate always knowing exactly how it will feel for it to be over because I have already done the emotions. I hope I never have to know if I've got it right.

He tells me it will never happen. He tells me again and again and so often that I start to worry this is how it will happen; he will grow tired of the endless reassurances. My bullshit will engender more bullshit and I will drown in my own bullshit.

Then, on that day, when it finally happens for real, I will wander round desolately hoping the sky is about to start thundering into sky-sex to wake me and tell me this isn't real bullshit. It's just more of my bullshit.

I wonder if the fuckers upstairs feel like this about each other - so painfully wrapped up in each other that separating their personality back out even in a dream is so forcefully painful I think I might have made my husband a horcrux.

Everything hurt more in your twenties didn't it? Except hangovers. Hangovers were 45 minute affairs easily solved on the drive to MacDonalds while you laughed and talked about what you were really crying about on the front porch smoking the fattest roll up you could afford. Which was extremely thin. America by Razorlight is playing.

It doesn't sound like they kiss during their sex. I cannot fathom a human body that could co-ordinate that level of happening at someone as well as some sensitive lip action. Short sharp blasts of action followed by some silence in which she and I are both praying he's done and we can go back to being un-invaded.

Maybe it's the heat - they'll go back to a normal timetable when autumn blooms and I will sleep through the night again. That would be nice. If I have to be an emo in the dark hours I would like the dignity of doing it alone.

Monday, April 24, 2017

The Dolphin Chamber

The left get accused a lot of living in an echo chamber; surrounding themselves on social media with people who agree with them. This is thrown at them as though it means they're out of touch and idiotic; preferring to feel sanctimonious instead of listening to the very real complaints and opinions of the right wing.

I consider myself pretty left wing; sort of leaning so hard on my left wing that, had I actual wings, I'd be going round in tight little circles.

The problem with the echo chamber complaint is that it ignores the very real issue for left wingers that, every time they step outside of their homes, switch off their computers or use the real world in some capacity via TV or radio - they are ejected from that echo chamber at an alarming velocity. We've had years and years of right wing government now, we have triggered article 50, one of our closest political allies has elected an incredibly right wing leader and the French seem to be on course to do the same. So, excuse me if I choose for my Twitter feed to be one of the few places I can go that doesn't cause a spontaneous nose bleed.

I have a small theory that a lot of entertainers and artists are left wing because it's easier to feel liberal about your money and about society supporting each other when you like the way you earned your money. If I spent 70 hours a week in an office, away from my loved ones slogging away for a pay cheque I'd be less inclined to want to give a proportion of that money away to people who haven't done the same. I like how I earn my money; it doesn't feel like I'm having big portions of my freedom taken away from me to get it, so I feel like it's right that some of it goes off to people without my privilege.

I like to boil society down to make it more logical in my head... if I lived in a tribe of 10 people, would I prefer to give a bit of my meat every day to someone so that, instead of hunting, they could learn what herbs and stuff would heal me if I got sick, or, would I want to wait until I was sick and then hope I had enough meat that day to persuade the person with the herb knowledge to help me out; praying that they'd had enough meat recently from other people to have been able to study. I reckon, I'd go with the first option which makes me kind of sure I'm happy with a taxation system in my tribe of more than 10. Same goes with teaching my children, putting out my fires and building my roads. Especially, as the amount of meat I get when I hunt already has the bits to give away factored in.

I firmly believe that 99% of people make their political decisions based on what they truly believe will keep them and their loved ones in houses with food and a TV. All that divides the population is the route that they believe will take them to those things. Some people believe if there is too much immigration they will lose their jobs and their homes will be in danger; so they're labelled right wing. Some people believe that without government support and intervention their houses will be controlled by shady businessmen and their wages will go down; so they're labelled left wing. At the heart of the decision, though, I don't think many people vote to hurt. They vote to keep their own safe.

My own philosophy on politics is to boil it down to something that's probably way too simplistic to be right, but it makes sense in my head... It has never been easier to be alive. It has literally never been easier to be alive; vaccinations, food production, warmth production, water transport, energy creation... it has never been easier to be alive. Therefore, whenever money is scarce and therefore services or provisions "have" to be cut for people that need them; it is a man-made scarcity.

When the economy "crashes", I'm pretty sure it doesn't mean no corn got milled and no energy got produced therefore everything had to cost more. The same vast quantities of easier life are still floating around; they're just not all still flowing in the same ways. The easy living must be with the people who are living easiest.

Meals, medicines, beds, machines and computers have all become easier and cheaper to make since the beginning of the NHS... so I fail to compute how it can be harder to run the NHS now than then. What must be happening (according to my limited head logic) is that when things get easier to make, instead of that ease being spread, that ease makes a few people richer.

I feel like I constantly see someone with a lot, telling people with a little that the reason they have a little, is people who have less.

In a way, this lie makes sense: "Hey Laura, you have a house and a TV... this guy has no house and TV. Vote for me and I'll stop this man stealing your house and TV." I don't want to lose my house and TV, maybe you'll get my vote.

But, let me just check... how many houses and TVs do you have? You have two TVs and two houses while this guy has none... and you're telling me that because it's so hard to have stuff nowadays the people with none are getting desperate? But it's literally never been easier to be alive, so... who made them desperate? Possibly the people with two of things? Now, instead of worrying the guy with none will take my house and TV to fill his void, I'm worried you'll take my house and TV so you have three and I'm the same as this guy. Maybe you won't get my vote.

In the GE in June I will vote Green; I like Lucas. She speaks sense to me and, fundamentally, I believe if environmental issues aren't moved closer to the centre of policies then all the other ones are meaningless and I want her voice loud and clear and getting bigger in politics.

I also know that, when I'm not sure and I feel under-educated in a subject, I look to experts for indication. With the EU ref I didn't know the ins and outs of the economic, geo-political or travel implications so I looked at who said what and decided that the majority of people with informed insight thought "In" and the people leading the "Out" charge were basing their big arguments on things I couldn't support, so, whatever else their motivation; I couldn't be on their holiday.

With the GE upcoming, I'm looking to doctors, the emergency services, teachers and other people who work in industries directly impacted by governmental decisions. My teacher friends are fraught, being made redundant and quitting in droves. Doctors are screaming for help with funding and other nightmares I can't begin to comprehend. Trains are a nightmare and becoming more expensive. All the people who seem to know more than me are not happy... so I will vote for change.

I don't subscribe to the view that all right-wingers are gross old selfish tweed wearers who would skin a baby rather than give money to the homeless. See my house and TV theory about all voters above. I am confused about support for the Tory party at the moment though... I don't understand how they are not being slammed for being in turmoil and chaos.

They held a referendum they didn't want, got an outcome they didn't want, a leader they didn't want who voluntarily triggered an enormous change they didn't want and has now called an election they said they didn't want. Yet, they are viewed as the stable party. It is confusing.

If you're a Conservative who didn't want a referendum and then didn't want to Leave, why would a party that served you both those things retain your loyalty? If you're a Conservative who did want to Leave, are you not angry with Cameron's refusal to see it through or May's baffling choice to not focus fully on getting us the best deal but instead spend two months fighting an unnecessary election?

I've never voted Conservative but I was shaken when Cameron stepped down; a smooth and seemingly very talented world leader leaving just after my country was put in jeopardy? It felt like a betrayal. Then, to have May sign a letter signalling a departure that was not supported by almost half the population, only to wobble the leadership again weeks later...? Even if I were a lifelong Conservative voter this feels like madness? Completely unexplained madness. Maybe that's what bites me? The way because the Conservatives are the "grown-ups" they seem to get away with the "because I said so" logic more than Labour.

It's being painted that the sensitive, conservative with a small c, choice in this election is the party who ignored all the expert advice and their own opinions to put into action a referendum they needn't have instigated, triggered leaving when they weren't ready to and didn't really have to, and then instead of leaving with full steam and energy, are throwing an election they said they wouldn't whilst facing serious legal charges from the last one... am I missing something?

I hate that we're leaving Europe; not because I hate democracy or I like a whinge or I don't believe in the strengths of my country as an individual. I hate that we're leaving Europe because I don't believe the world can get smaller. Choosing not to live within a set of rules that is best for the majority, be that county, country or continent wide, goes against every way I've been taught since rules at school were what was best for the whole school rather than just my classroom.

Each country having its own unique sense of identity and law within a framework that supported the majority seemed like sense. However, if we are leaving, and we are, I wish we could have done it with dignity and for the right reasons. I feel like that opportunity has been taken away from me.

In June I will be voting for the way I believe is the best way to get myself a house and a TV; through sustainable energy and a focus on rebalancing wealth in the country. It has literally never been easier to keep people alive, so I'll be voting for the people who aren't pretending otherwise in order to keep two of things while other people have none.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Congratulations and Welcome

"Get tropical fish" they said, "it'll help your anxiety" they said.

What no one clarified, was that just after the word help, they were muttering very quietly "greatly increase".

We started out with 9 tropical fish... named after some of our favourite celebrities and fictional characters.

We had 3 neon tetras called Rayna James, Scarlett O'Connor and Juliette Barnes. Three glowlight tetras called Nina Garcia Fashion Editor of Marie Claire Magazine, CFDA Award Winner and top American designer Michael Kors and Heidi Klum. Three White Cloud Minnows called Jean Tannen, Father Chains and Locke Lamora.

Nina Garcia, Fashion Editor of Marie Claire magazine was the first to go... we completely inexplicably found her crispy as a spring roll in the middle of the carpet directly underneath the table the tank is on. How she got out is a total mystery: she would have needed to jump out of the top of the tank; vertically up 2 inches of air between the water level and the lid of the tank. Yes, that's right: lid. She then needed to squeeze herself through a 5mm gap out of the tank, down the 30cm fall, across 2 inches of table, down a 60cm fall, across 30cm of carpet and then died. Adventure fish. Major adventure fish.

RIP Nina.

Then we went for batch two of fish... We picked up some more neons so that the neons would shoal properly and Scarlett would stop picking on Juliette (so out of character). We grabbed Bucky, Glenn, Deacon Claybourne, Avery Barkley and Will Lexington. We needed a cleaning crew so we got some panda corys and a catfish; the two corys are Mac and Dennis - the catfish is Charlie Kelly. He has Charlie work to do. They all eat shit. We also got a pair of Rams (aggressive and passionate; Ron Swanson and Tammy 2 - interestingly, within minutes of being in the tank the markings on Ron faded showing that Tammy 2 was the dominant one) and a pair of platys; Jed and Abby Bartlett.

This is when the trouble started... The two platys were in their travel bag acclimatising to the water temperature when I noticed a weird squiggle hiding under Charlie Kelly... Abby Bartlett had had a baby! On moving day! What kind of superhero plans to move house on their due date?! This First Lady; that's who.

We quickly got Abby and Jed out of the bag and into the tank and checked what to do; the advice said put the baby in the tank too and if it can find a quiet spot to relax it will. If it won't... well, it didn't.

Baby Taramasalata hit the water and within seconds Heidi Klum swooped in and ate her. I know these  supermodels have to starve themselves to look good but surely you've never been that hungry that you can't stop yourself eating the offspring of your new housemates?

Then chaos errupted; babies started spewing forth out of Abby Bartlett and the rest of the tankmates were in their element. Jean Tannen had a fin sticking out of his mouth as he chewed up their second born; Michael Kors ate one when it was still half in/half out of the first lady. Heidi Klum ate at least 6 of them on her own.

Abby Bartlett didn't give a shit; it was like she'd asked herself how best to ingratiate herself into a new tank and thought she'd bring the freshest canapes she could drum up. The other fish (except Mac and Dennis who couldn't care less, and Charlie who is hiding out under a log coming up with a scheme) are going mad - chasing babies round the tank and eating them as quickly as Abby can bust them out. Jed is kind of following Abby around but taking an almighty dump as he does - much more reminiscent of later presidents than his own reign.

Things calmed down after about half an hour, several tears on my part and the total evisceration of all future Zoe Bartletts.

I'm considering writing to the pro-life anti-abortion lobbies to point out to them that they might be focusing on the wrong species when they get cross with humans for dealing with cell clusters they can't care for. Fish are WAY worse; full term cannibalism?! This is not relaxing.

I've had these fish for 3 weeks now and so far witnessed a nursery massacre that wouldn't look out of place on Fox News, and a suicide that only Sherlock Holmes could solve. Bring on the next 3 weeks.

Friday, March 10, 2017

You Be You

Last year, around September I got quite ill... my symptoms got worse for a few weeks until I was bed bound for a week or so and so I went to the doctor who put me on some medication that would get me back on my feet. I started taking the medication and slowly got better and now I feel cool again.

This isn't a particularly interesting story and I wouldn't normally tell it. Except that recently I met someone who mentioned to me they'd had the same illness and been prescribed the same pills and hadn't wanted to take them just in case they didn't feel themselves any more on them.

When they told me, they didn't know I was on them; because I haven't told anyone. I haven't told anyone because I'm scared what it will make people think of me. But by not telling anyone and not making the anecdotal information available to those who need it; I'm part of the problem.

This is my attempt at doing what I can, and if one person reads this and gets help then it's totally worth it for me. First, a few warnings:

1. I'm fine, so please don't think I need sympathy. I don't want it and I'm not asking for it. But thanks anyway, guys, you're THE BEST.

2. If I know you personally and I haven't told you about this; I'm sorry you're knowing this way but I didn't really want to make it a huge thing that I would have to talk about with everyone I knew all the time. I was afraid it would make me one dimensional and I wanted as many friendships and relationships as possible to continue without this looming on it.


The illness/issue whatever you want to call it I'd had was depression. Quite severe depression that left me completely unable to live my life and looking for a way out. I fell down a rabbit hole or whatever beautiful imagery you want to use, and I couldn't carry on with my life. I felt numb, empty, despairing, panicked and hopeless and all I was really sure of was that I didn't want to drag anyone down with me.

I've lived with anxiety and panic attacks for my whole adult life but this was something new. This wasn't the manic tantrums followed by complete ecstasy; this was weeks and weeks and weeks of utter desolation and my only respite being sleep. So I wanted to sleep all the time.

Anyway, the symptoms of my body's deficiency are not really the bit I want to focus on because it isn't the same for everyone so that bit is kind of irrelevant. I got help. Let's talk about help, baby.

Luckily for me my sister came a-visiting during my extended visit to mental Mordor... she spent a day with me and then, with that tact that all older siblings have said... "You are not well. You need help. What's going on?"

I cried for... oh, a few days. Maybe half a life time? Dunno really. A long time anyway. At least an episode of something long.

A pincer action of my husband, my sister and a very close friend, got me to call a doctor, who had me in within about 6 hours and had me in a queue for some therapy and on anti-depressants.

They didn't automatically give me anti-depressants; they asked if I wanted them. I said no. They said, Ok, great; we'll go with therapy and said I was on a waiting list and it would be a few months.

I didn't think I could make it to that first meeting without immediate help. Knock me out with a mallet, put me in a box, freeze me; do whatever, I couldn't have carried on living 24 hours a day in my brain without help for months.

I asked for the anti-depressants. I'm really only adding this detail because I know some people will be of the opinion that doctors want to shove drugs down people's throats to fuel big pharma... I don't know enough to argue with you, and also I don't want to argue because arguing is awful, but I'm just saying; my anecdotal evidence/experience did not support that conclusion.

The pills made me really, really nauseous for about a week. About 5-6 days of feeling very sick for about 8 hours after I'd taken them. But I didn't really care; a physical issue was sort of a relief after the panicked abyss of emotional bleugh.

I've been on them since October, I think, and I feel fine again.

My work has not suffered; in fact, no one in my industry knows about it and I've been nominated for an award and picked up some incredible work whilst medicated. I've still been able to write jokes; my creativity hasn't suffered and neither has my mental agility on stage when I'm improvising and dealing with an audience.

My friends with children haven't stopped asking me to look after them... I'm embarrassed to say I was terrified that they wouldn't trust me with their babies if they knew. I underestimated them but they didn't do the same to me.

I still laugh at things until my stomach hurts. I still want to have sex. I still have the drive to do a gig that's four hours away and then sit at a computer looking for new gigs for hours when I get home. It's all still there now the help I got has brushed the concrete off the top of it.

I still have panic attacks and sometimes I still have the odd shitty, depressed day where I cry and have to sit there looking at my husband wondering what he can do to make me smile while I wish I didn't put him through this. I'm sort of glad for those days (when they're over) for showing me that, while these drugs are changing the deep, life ending depression I was in, they're not changing me.

My personality; the good bits and the bad are still there even with the help.

So that's it. Do with it what you will. As I say, this was entirely sparked by meeting someone who had the help they needed and wouldn't take it, so I just wanted to put my hand up and say; the help is good if you want it and please don't be scared that your personality won't exist once you've helped with the depression. It won't be the same for everyone but this is how it was for me; just in case it helps.

Always. Ask. For. Help.

Draft a text asking for help and send it before your brain can stop your thumb. Ask a stranger so it's easier and won't fog friendships you're not ready to change yet. Ask me. Ask a doctor.

Just say any words that get the ball rolling.