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 Manners

Manners is a subject that falls straight into grumpy old woman territory so it’s guaranteed to see me resort to deep sarcasm and occasional snarling. My theory (of course I’ve got a theory) on the demise of manners is due to a combination of new money, time pressures, different cultures, and shifting values. Please humour me for a minute and I’ll do my best to explain.

New money – we live in an increasingly affluent society, and with this affluence comes a degree of arrogance. The only way I can describe the effects of having money, money that perhaps our parents didn’t have, is that it warps how people see themselves. Money appears to give people a sense of superiority, but it’s a false supremacy. A veneer. And it makes them behave in a deeply unpleasant way, especially to those considered to be less affluent, (generally retail assistants, waitresses, nurses, and basically anyone ‘in service’).

Time pressures – it’s a hackneyed phrase, ‘time poor, cash rich’ yet being busy is used to excuse the need for manners. This habit for everything to be done at breakneck speed seems to have no restraint, and one of the casualties appears to be ending an instruction or request, whether by email or in person, with a please or thank you. It’s almost as though it’s seen as a sign of weakness

Different cultures – now, before I get accused of xenophobia I must explain this view is based solely on my experience, and of discussing this with individuals whose different culture I’m referring to. It’s best summed up in an exchange I recently had “you British. Always with the please and thank you, please and thank you. Why not cut it out and just get on with it like we do”……perhaps it’s a little like the British need to begin sentences with ‘sorry’ ?…….

Shifting values – I was brought up by parents who insisted on good manners. For them it was an imperative, an indicator of style, character, and elegance. Good manners said more about you than your car, your house, or your clothes. It was far more subtle than that. It is my belief that good manners demonstrate a respect for one another, a valuing of our fellow beings. Ultimately it shows kindness.

And like dropping litter, bad manners isn’t something I’m prepared to overlook. I will call people out on it. Currently I use sarcasm to make my point. It’s not big, it’s not clever, but it helps me feel better, and if it makes someone think for a minute then my work here is done ……

My list of the worst offenders on the manners scale are

  • Not saying please or thank you – I will say this out loud for you. And then I’ll glare
  • Not acknowledging when I’ve held open a door, let you out at a junction, or given way to you – I will say “you’re welcome….arsehole” (which is pointless in the car because they can’t hear me)
  • Not saying excuse me or sorry when you walk into me in public – karma will sort you out
  • Interrupting, me or others – DO NOT get me started!!
  • Not sending thank you notes, or an email, or even a text – you will get f*** all else from me

 

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 Muppets ….on the road

No, I’m not talking about the delightful creations of Jim Henson, I’m talking about the incendiary behaviour of arseholes who appear not to give a shit about others, are just plain stupid, completely thoughtless, infuriatingly selfish, or so full of their own self-importance they leave you (read me, they leave me) foaming at the mouth and ranting like I’m possessed ………now, tell me again, why do I have high blood pressure???

As is my way, I’ve compiled my top 5 worst muppet behaviours –

  • Drivers who flout the ‘must not enter’ law of a box junction, in particular, when they do so knowing it blocks the road for other drivers. I’m convinced they see the highway code merely as a suggestion, as something they can choose to observe depending upon what sort of day they’ve had. The same applies to drivers who block exits on roundabouts, especially when they then don’t have the balls to look you in the eye as you’re screaming at them …….they’re the worse kind they are, fucking cowards
  • Drivers who hog the middle lane of the motorway, doing 60mph, all the while animatedly chatting away to their passenger, oblivious of other drivers. Same applies to drivers who overtake at the last second, believing that because they’ve indicated (at the last second) it makes it OK to drive like a complete knob-end
  • Drivers who park, blocking the road, thereby creating the highway equivalent of Russian roulette as you’re forced to pull around them. Same goes for those who park on the pavement, forcing pedestrians, wheelchairs users, pushchairs et al into the road
  • Drivers who speed through residential, built-up, or narrow country lanes. Clearly they drive at high speed believing they’re playing an Xbox game, or they’re on a scale sized Scalextric. Either way, I will them with all my heart to crash violently without involving any other person, creature, or tree
  • Drivers who don’t indicate. Drivers who fail to acknowledge when you’ve let them out out of a junction (they won’t ever let anyone out as they reckon it makes you weak and a complete loser). Drivers who overtake on bends. Drivers who overtake in the path of oncoming traffic. Drivers who are attempting to apply lipstick/mascara/eye drops/take clothing off/retrieving something from the passenger foot well/off the back seat. And finally, the total dickwads who use a mobile device

This list is by no means definitive, and it is subject to change depending upon what is currently pissing me off. Ultimately, this is about behaviour that directly endangers another person simply because the driver is a thoughtless wankstain. And, although there are laws against everything I’ve listed (or there ought to be) the law is pretty pointless unless it can be enforced.

If you believe in karma then we can only hope and pray with all our collective hearts that they will indeed get their comeuppance, that all of their teeth will fall out, except one, and in that one remaining tooth they have a deeply painful abscess (with no access to a dentist, just to make the curse worthwhile)  …….then my work here will be done.

The M-word Millennials

It is popularly accepted those born between 1980–2000 are the millennials. Also referred to as Generation Y …..or should that be Generation You’re Totally F***ed? The way I see it, it’s thanks to the efforts of Gen X (my generation) that life has dealt a double-whammy to these lovely folk.

Having worked alongside several millennials I found myself increasingly falling into the use of phrases and expressions my Dad was inclined to use, principally about having to get off your arse because life will gift you bugger all. In the style of Monty Python, “trying telling the youth of today that and they won’t believe you!” …….

……they just didn’t appear to believe in ‘working your way up’ or ‘earning your stripes’. Oh no, none of that shit for them thank you. These guys and gals are f***ing awesome. So lucky, lucky me …they chose to come to work in my company. Although, not for them a starters salary/menial work/subordinate position/junior status. No siree. They expect, nay demand, a minimum 30k starter salary, a new car (preferably BMW), exciting and diverse projects, and managerial title, Why? Because they’re special. Because that’s what they want.

In the beginning I just laughed, (generally right into their shiny, wrinkle free, fresh faces), but as time went on there was a dawning – this was now the way of the world. Jumped-up princes and princesses who behaved like the world owed them something. In an act of utter incredulity, I once asked a young woman, who was behaving like a first-class prima donna “are you like, a real, actual princess?” Suffice to say she giggled, sighed, shrugged her shoulders and declared ‘it wasn’t fair’. That’s right princess, it really isn’t.

So, how did Gen X screw things up for these guys so spectacularly? Because we were the parents, teachers, guardians, TV producers, magazine editors, and significant others who fed them the line that they were special, and that they could be, do, and have whatever their little hearts wanted. They simply had to want it badly enough.

But we all know the sad reality is that most people truly don’t give a crap what they want, especially in the horrible, roughtee-toughtee world of work. They discovered they’re not special. Stuff will not simply fall into their laps by sheer will of wanting of it. That flash car, the designer lifestyle, the big house they covet, will have to be earned. They are going to have to work their arses off for several years, they’re going to have to save, and embrace the notion of delayed gratification, and generally do everything previous generations have had to do to get where they are.

So my profound and sincere apologies to the millennials, who were so comprehensively duped ……karma will prevail, have no doubt. All I shall say is geriatric care, old-people’s homes, ageing population …….revenge will be sweet.

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!?!

The M-word Maternal Instinct

Hands up, I’m a disgrace to the female sex. I never wanted children.

I do remember not really liking dollies, although I longed for a Tiny Tears just because I wanted to see it wee, but I can’t honestly remember ever dreaming of having children. As a girl I imagined being a princess (tick, I totally am), I imagined being the bionic woman (Lynsey Wagner was my hero), I imagined being Captain Scarlett (he had a very cool car), I imagined a career in the police (I really wanted a German Shepherd dog), I imagined being a nurse (I loved the smell of antiseptic and plasters), but I don’t ever recall thinking ‘oooh, I really want babies and I’ll call them Jemima, Patrick and Harold’ (which is a f***ing good job by the sound of that lot!)

And let’s get all the predictable reactions out of the way first –

  • no there isn’t a medical reason – at least I don’t think so, although like the airbags in my car I’ve never been tempted to test things
  • no I am not a man-hater/andromorph – seriously, I’m meant to answer this??
  • no I’m not a virgin – when can I hit you?
  • yes I like sex – I really want to hit you
  • yes I must be selfish and self-absorbed – said a woman I’d just met
  • no I don’t hate children – I just couldn’t eat one all at once….just kidding

The reactions of men and women has become something of a fascination for me over the years. Generally speaking, women have recoiled in horror (what is wrong with her? What will we talk about? Is she mentally unstable? Oh God, get me away from her). Men on the other hand appear more relaxed, or better still aren’t especially interested.

Please be assured, despite not wanting my own children I adore the little people in my life. Astonishingly, I know how to hold a baby, I know how to soothe a baby or a child, I know how to play with them, read bedtime stories, and generally lark about with them. All this, in spite of never having had one of my own.

I say this because some Mother’s comment in astonished tones, like I’m deaf as well as child-free, “oh, isn’t she good with them. Isn’t it amazing?”…….I have not parted the red sea, or fed fish to thousands, I’ve behaved normally around a child.

Being child-free doesn’t mean I’m stupid, and knowing how to behave around children is not the exclusive province of being a Mum. As I see it, being able to connect with children just takes time, patience and a little bit of creativity……and as a woman with no children I’ve of course got oodles of that!

The M-word Masturbation

Even more than menstruation or menopause, masturbation is definitely not a matter for polite conversation (at least not in my world). It was certainly not something that was included on the school curriculum, or in cherished conversations about puberty with my lovely Mum. Some topics it seems are simply too intimate and too personal.

For sure, I’d have died with embarrassment and shame at any mention of fiddling with my down-below area. The majority of the sex education I received was fairly representative of teenagers in the 70’s – sneaking in to the cinema underage to watch The Stud, copping a feel behind the bike sheds, and hanging about in the 5th form toilets to discover what the promiscuous girls were talking about, (most of which delayed my foray into S.E.X for at least a decade.)

At no point was there mention of the natural instinct of exploring your own body; if nothing else, you’d at least discover where everything was and what it felt like. In fact, masturbation was the province of teenage boys with girlie magazines and boxes of Kleenex. Good girls never participated in this filthy, dirty habit lest they, well, I didn’t know exactly, just that I wasn’t meant to do it. I remember a girl in my class at school who used to stick her fingers in her lady parts and then smell them. Quite unabashed she was. I’ve often wondered if she continues to this day?!? All I recall of that time was a fascination and twinge of jealousy that she was brazen enough to indulge herself, while all I felt was total horror and abject shame. I was young, but I would learn ……

Scoot forward to my mid-40’s. Newly single and plump for seduction by a deliciously dirty, (or deeply enlightened), younger man who delighted in teaching me the pleasures to be had from self-gratification (providing I shared the experience with him). Talk about overcoming my inhibitions!!

Suffice to say it was a time of absolute filth …….and it was magnificent!

I believe every woman should know the joys of masturbating heartily and passionately at least once in her lifetime. My theory, (which of course I have, it just took me a while to get there), is that the sex lives of the nation would improve significantly if women knew what it was they enjoyed in the bedroom department. My generation appear to have laboured under the belief that men would know intuitively how to bring a woman pleasure; perhaps the boys attended clandestine sex masterclasses while the girls did double needlework? This fatally deluded belief was probably responsible for more deeply uncheerful sex lives than anything else I can think of. If a woman doesn’t know what gives her pleasure, then how on earth was a man meant to know? (Of course, at this point I’m compelled to say this could be a same sex relationship so as not to suffer the wrath of the PC police).

Or maybe it was just me??? Maybe I was so sexually inhibited I failed to notice my peers having a daily wank-fest? Trouble is, I’m not so enlightened that I feel able to fling off years of inhibition to discuss this over dinner just yet. Maybe from behind a curtain, or beneath a blanket …..oooh err matron!