The M-word – Men!

This all began with an exchange between my niece and I. Principally laughing at our respective menfolk. Well, I say laughing, more an hysterical-I’m-going-to-wedge-a-blunt-instrument-in-his-head kind of laughing.

Anyway, the question was then posed by my niece “should I admire women who’ve had the courage to say f*** this shit, I’m off! And are they any happier in the long run? And where do you draw the “f*** this shit I’m off line? Why is life so hard?” (technically this was four questions, but she was on a roll and who was I to stop her?)

And so I replied “it’s so pointless the things that really wind me up. Mostly, I’m left seething with resentment, raging against his apparent fuckwittedness, while said male is in his blissful little bubble of ‘man world’ happy and carefree, seemingly oblivious to the fact that I’ve developed pathological levels of anger towards him (which is also deeply annoying. He doesn’t even notice I’m mad as hell!!) I’m the one left feeling like crap. I’m the one having a sleepless night. I’m the one feeling sad and lonely. I’m the one wondering if this is all there is?

I have my own theory on ‘f*** this shit, I’m off to Narnia’ and that is we lurch from one unfulfilling and unhappy relationship to another, looking for the one male who isn’t pathologically irritating, only to discover it’s an urban myth. Like a unicorn, or none-fattening chocolate, and that we should have stuck with the first one and saved ourselves a heap of angst and money.

Why, oh why, is life so hard indeed? I keep being told ‘life’s not all Walt Disney” Well I disagree. In my world every day is Walt Disney, and anyone disagreeing can just f*** off to Warner Brothers!

The M-word Manipulation

Definition – 1 handle skilfully 2 control or influence in a clever or underhand way

Manipulation – it’s so loaded with negative associations, most of which is entirely justified. However, manipulation can also be employed for good as well as evil. Perhaps it’s quicker to start with the ‘good manipulation’, then we can really get our teeth into the evil ……

Effective leadership requires the ability to ‘handle skilfully’ to ‘influence others’ and to have a degree of ‘cleverness’ in order to achieve results and secure futures. I’ve been guilty of manipulation on several occasions during my career, something I feel entirely comfortable with. I felt a responsibility to those around me to encourage them to become the best they could be, and if this meant manipulating them into achieving their full potential (way before they could see it) then this surely has to be a good thing? Positive manipulation is where there is an equal balance of power, a constructive give-and-take as part of the relationship, and the central intent of the manipulator are the interests of the manipulated, with growth, fulfilment and triumph as the primary objective.

Time now for the negative aspect of manipulation, using my own experience of life with a negative manipulator….or, as I prefer to call them, evil, bull-shitting, guilt mongers.

Having survived this relationship, I’ve developed a pretty strong sense of how to spot them, and how to neutralise the insidious effects of these sad bastards. These people aren’t gender specific but they are awfully clever and highly practiced. They’ve possibly spent a lifetime refining their behaviour, and you will have been targeted because of the behaviours you have –

  • they’re great victims – often disclosing deeply personal information to establish intimacy early on. You (and others) often see them as sensitive, emotionally open, and slightly vulnerable. They’re not. In fact, they’re about as vulnerable as a mosquito on meth
  • they’re expert at saying one thing, denying it in the next breath, and explaining everything away while turning it around so you begin to doubt your own sanity – do not fall for their bullshit!
  • they’ll take your insecurities and use them to undermine your self-worth – seek and listen to the opinion of others. The mental distortion they set out to create means you’ll trust their judgement more than your own – resist, trust yourself, and give them a silent f*** you
  • their most potent weapon is guilt – they exploit your goodwill, generosity, conscience, sense of duty, obligation, or protective and nurturing instincts in order to extract unreasonable advantages or concessions – take back your power, be in control, and stop them from exploiting your kind nature
  • their constant focus is on what you’re doing wrong, and what your weaknesses are, concluding with how they can do things better – all part of the devious and abusive coercion they use to gain power over you. Trust your senses and see them for the inferior creature they are
  • they hold you responsible for their happiness, failures, weaknesses – which is deeply ironic when you consider they see themselves as superior to you. We have a responsibility to others, we are not responsible for others (or how they feel)
  • they sulk, or give you the silent treatment to leverage control. Ignore them
  • they play the martyr or victim to wield undue influence. Ignore them
  • they react with sarcasm or humour when their behaviour is called-out, (with the implicit suggestion that you’re a humorous dim-wit for not ‘getting it’). Ignore them

Shutting them down, starving them of attention, disregarding them, and denying them the power they crave, is the most potent and valuable deterrent to manipulative behaviour. Once you’re able to see them for the weak, inferior, and sad individuals they are, the stronger and more resilient you will become. Knowledge is power. You now have the power. Use it.…

The M-word – Mediocrity

I recently received photo of a certificate presented to my great-nephew. It left me totally exasperated by the need to applaud the unremarkable and the mediocre.

Please allow me to explain before sending me to Katie-Hopkins-hell.

My great-nephew is just 3 months old. The certificate was for a Sensory Class Sports Day (don’t ask, I haven’t the faintest idea). I was left asking who’s this for? What’s the point? How did I make it through to adulthood without a sensory class? And am I now officially a cheerless killjoy?

It also reminded me of a school awards ceremony I attended recently. It began well enough – rational awards paying tribute to children in recognition of achievement and improvement ……..

But then it disintegrated into something a little bit foolish. An award for being smiley. One for behaving nicely in class. Another for doing their best…… and so the madness went on. Had it not felt so totally depressing I’d have LOL.

Can no-one see how this need for inclusiveness totally diminishes the currency of receiving an award? Is it not inevitable that this will lead to a deterioration of striving for excellence – there’d be no point, they’re going to get an award either way.

But the saddest aspect of all was the sure knowledge that the children involved knew perfectly well they were being rewarded for bugger all. How demeaning.

Lavishing facile praise upon a child who’s produced something mediocre does little for their confidence ……the child knows you’re giving them a croc of shit, because they know they could have done a whole lot better. I’ve seen it so many times, and instead of building confidence it has the opposite affect …..they lose trust….. in themselves, in you, and in knowing when praise is truly deserved

…….Personally, I blame the Americans…… they give a standing ovation for taking a big breath!

The M-word – Moisturisers

There are an increasing number of modern day phenomenon’s that awaken the grumpy old woman in me. Moisturisers are one of them, or at least the marketing hype and total bullshit which accompanies the sales of them.

I often ask myself do women actually believe this absolute shite? Yet it appears yes, many do. Sane, apparently intelligent women I’ve spoken to are willing to part with huge sums of money in exchange for this elixir and the promise of youthful, glowing, repaired, age reversed, shrunken pores, wrinkle free skin.

Really??? I find it startling that women can be quite that gullible, or is it desperate, that we can be so easily seduced and duped by falsehoods and hyperbole? It’s a f***ing moisturiser for crying out loud! It will not replicate your DNA, shrink enlarged pores, reverse ageing, remove wrinkles, or any other BS claim. What it will do is temporarily plump skin, it will smell nice, it will leave your skin feeling peachy soft, and it has the capacity to leave you feeling a little bit lovelier.

For the record, and in case you’re wondering, I use a facial oil in the winter and a lovely smelling moisturiser on the bits that need it in the summer. I’m a stickler for using face products relieved of chemically derived substitutes, or perfume. This is a personal choice based on an extensive knowledge of skincare ingredients, our anatomy, nutrition, exercise, stress, and other shit that affects how healthy skin looks.

Instinct and experience tells me that there are brilliant, naturally occurring fragrances (personal favourites are neroli, rose, geranium, frankincense, and ginger), many of which have been used for millennia to produce glowing, healthy skin.

Some hints to stop you from losing the moisturiser plot –

  • Apply moisturiser where and when you need it – if it ain’t dry it doesn’t need moisturising
  • Remember to moisturise your neck and décolleté (the boney bit below your neck and before your breasts) – from an ‘age give away’ point of view these are the first to shrivel like a prune
  • Use one with an SPF ……..yes, even in winter and dull days. Check out those with natural UVB filters such as minerals zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, or propolis, walnut derivatives, or alder buckthorn
  • Be smart – it is a moisturiser not a miracle in cream form, irrespective of the claims made or whichever beauty editor/celeb is raving about it
  • Drink more water
  • Wear sunscreen
  • Stop smoking
  • Avoid sugar

The M-word Mourning

 

Truly, I have little in the way of humour to offer you on the subject of mourning – it’s a shitty feeling, and doesn’t really have much going for it if I’m honest. I appreciate it sounds bizarre, but in so many ways I consider myself deeply fortunate to have reached my mid-50’s without experiencing the wretched feelings of loss, grief, and deep, overwhelming sadness. The sense of longing, of utter helplessness, and just desperate heartbreak is something I would happily avoid for the rest of my days.

However, the scars that remain are a testament to the love felt. And if the scar is deep, then so was the love. Eventually scars heal, and what remains is evidence that you were able to love, that you can heal, and that you can continue to live.

This is what I’ve discovered –

  • I’ve discovered how isolating the feelings of sorrow are
  • I’ve discovered the world doesn’t stop spinning just because your heart has been smashed and there’s a hole in your soul a mile wide
  • I’ve discovered feelings of absolute rage towards the injustice of lives that continue around you, while yours has crashed spectacularly and wiped you out
  • I’ve discovered the intense pain you experience through yearning for the impossible
  • I’ve discovered how differently we each experience grief
  • I’ve discovered it has to be got through, it CAN NOT be got around
  • I’ve discovered the snot-filled, tear-stained look is not one I can pull off with any great success
  • I’ve discovered how deeply insensitive people can be, particularly when they don’t know what to say
  • I’ve discovered the British are complete fuckwits when it comes to death
  • I’ve discovered many distant friends and colleagues have no idea of the difference between rest in peace and rest in piece
  • I’ve discovered I can laugh once more ……

The M-word Mistakes

Mistakes are something I’m particularly accomplished at. In fact, I could quite legitimately include ‘making mistakes’ on my CV as one of my accomplishments in life. World-class standard doesn’t even come close. Mistakes in school. Mistakes with fashion (I grew up in the 70’s what d’ya expect?!?) Mistakes with men. Mistakes with jobs. Mistakes with hairstyles (think 80’s perm). Mistakes with friendships. Mistakes with trust. You name it, if there was a way to learn something from making a mistake I would find it.

Throughout this time, I’d been equally accomplished at beating myself up about the mistake. In fact, it’s only with age that the wisdom of making mistakes has dawned upon me. They may not be the simplest way to learn something, they do however, make for a valuable and lifelong lesson. I tend not to repeat mistakes, largely because I have a pathological loathing of getting stuff wrong, but mostly because I hate how it left me feeling; the overwhelming sadness and shame was almost suffocating. All of which was self-imposed.

I was never afraid of saying I didn’t understand something, even at primary school, but I was genuinely frightened of getting ‘it’ wrong. However, I now embrace mistakes and being wrong as part of my thinking and originality (it’s all about perspective after all). I like to think of myself as a work in progress rather than a perfect (and frankly boring) individual.

Sadly, we now live in a culture where the majority of schools, companies, politics, media, and institutions view mistakes as a sign of weakness. As something to be pounced on. A blot on your copy book. A thing to be suspicious of. Which has led to the inevitable risk averse culture, or even more pernicious, the blame culture prevalent today. Many of the conversations I have with young people centre around their fear of making a mistake, to which I ask them the same question I began to ask myself – ‘what is the worst that can happen?’ – rarely are the consequences life threatening, or even life changing. Mostly they concern what people might think of us.

As a wise friend once said to me “what others think of you is none of your business”. Think about it. There is so much truth in this. Add to this the fact that others are going to think what they’re going to think and there is very little to be done about it. If I had one wish (apart from to have thin thighs), it would be to have had this wisdom in my 20’s. The energy and time I would have saved!!

I believe Helen Mirren said it best when asked what one piece of advice would she give to her younger self by replying “use the words fuck off far more frequently”. Bravo! So the next time you find yourself silently obsessing about a mistake you’ve made turn it around and ask yourself only 2 questions –

  • What have I learnt?
  • What will I do differently?

All else is madness.

The M-word Marriage

This blog is going to place me, justifiably, into cynical witch territory. I understand this, and yet feel unable to change my views. God knows, I’ve tried. Truly, I have. However, despite my best efforts I have yet to see anything to alter my view that marriage has little relevance to our lives today. For those who enjoy happy, fulfilling and loving marriages I’m sincerely blissed out for you; long may it be this way …… and before the pseudo shrinks start with the emotionally-scarred-poor-role-models-argument I can confirm the following –

  • My parents were happily married for over 65 years before passing away within 6 months of one another
  • My siblings enjoy happy, loving and (mostly) contented married lives, on average 20-30 years together
  • Many of my friends are happily married, and have been for a long time
  • I love fruit cake with fondant icing and Richard Curtis movies

What I dislike is the whole aspect of weddings and the notion of marriage. The foolish and obscene amounts of money spent for one day, the time and energy spent agonising over shite to create this one day, the not thinking through what marriage is really all about. There seems to be little reason or relevance to marriage in today’s world. Please, humour me out for a minute –

  • It used to be because a couple wanted to live together (without it being ‘in sin’ and so free from being doomed to hell) but millions of couples now live together, without so much as an eye being batted or a soul burning in eternal damnation
  • You got married because you wanted to have children. Well, it’s widely acknowledged that sex out of wedlock is now the norm, and marriage as a prerequisite to having children is positively quaint in some circles
  • It demonstrates a solid commitment to one another. Does it buffalo! If the relationship needs a circle of metal, a piece of officially sanctioned paper, and a posh frock before it can establish a firm commitment then it’s well and truly in the brown stuff
  • It makes our relationship official – officially what? I could take an ad in the paper announcing ‘we’re official’. I guess the only, and probably the smartest reason to making the relationship official would be for the tax and inheritance benefits, although this tends to benefit those in later life rather than young couples. Now, who said romance was dead?

I have yet to attend a wedding, especially of young couples, where I’m not overwhelmed with feelings of melancholy. So much so I feel compelled to leave early for a cup of tea and a lie down. It’s the heady combination of naïve expectation and a belief of happily-ever-after mixed with the unspoken certainty that there’s always divorce to fall back on when it all goes tits up.

At heart I’m an old romantic ….I want marriage for love not for economics. Yet, when it comes down to it I’m left with very little other than economics.…….bloody Walt Disney. One day my prince will come…….

The M-word Menstruation

This appears to be the last bastion of taboo subjects; although the situation is changing rapidly there remains an intake of breath in certain circles at the mention of a woman’s monthlies. The dreaded periods.

Thankfully my days of waking in the middle of the night looking like I’ve been attacked by a grizzly bear are well behind me. And good riddance I say. The whole experience was a total bore, although I consider myself fortunate. I didn’t get hormonal breakouts, or cramps, or mood swings (I was a grumpy bitch every day!) but I did have to make conscious wardrobe choices (light colours? Ha, in your dreams sister), I did have period pants, and a paranoid compulsion to check seats after standing up. Mother Nature, I decided, was a total bastard. An opinion that changed little over the years.

I do remember, aged about 11 or 12, attending a lesson in school when the nurse came to tell us about the ‘beautiful gift of becoming a woman’ (silly cow) and thinking “f*** that for a game of soldiers, I don’t want a baby so I’ll just skip periods thank you very much”.

The ‘beginners’ pad resembled a small pillow cushion, while the one reserved for ‘heavy days’ had the width and depth of a small mattress. No siree, not for me. Not interested in becoming a beginner or having heavy days thank you very much. When the inevitable happened I was too embarrassed to buy sanitary products so I’d plead with my Dad to get them for me, and love him, he did right until my 50’s ……ha! just kidding, until I left home at 18. Thanks Dad x

There were some fabulous synonyms invented by my mates to describe being on your period – I’ve fallen off me bike, I’m on the blob, the Russians have invaded, I’m living in the red tent this week, the uterus demon is home, and finally, I’ve got me pyramids (this same friend misheard the greeting ‘peace be with you’ in church as ‘pleased to meet you’ so it figures she thought they were called pyramids. Although….the Egyptians built the pyramids??) Mind well and truly boggled.

The two most embarrassing events of my life involved tampons. The first was a friends’ puppy, who’d slyly investigated my bag and then took itself off to quietly chew on an ever expanding Lil-Let before being discovered. I vigorously denied he’d got it from my bag, despite it being obvious to all concerned where it had come from (aside from the red face I was the only girl in the room!)

The second was worthy of a scene from a Bridget Jones movie….. I was being chatted up by a particularly gorgeous guy at a bar (like you do) and I nonchalantly lifted from my bag what I thought was a lipstick but which turned out to be a Lil-Let, a mistake only discovered once I’d put it to my mouth…..not so nonchalant now are we?

As a final thought, if I were prime minister I’d insist tampon producers put little gifts in every box of white cotton mice (tampons) with the message ‘here’s a voucher for chocolate you cranky bitch’ – now, that’d be worth paying the VAT for wouldn’t it!?!