Saturday, 30 March 2013

Jilling off.

SO! Masturbation. That's a thing. And if you've put your hands over your eyes and ears and are singing LA LA LA NOT LISTENING LA LA LA at the very idea of someone touching their genitals for pleasure, then it's probably a good idea if you leave now and never look at anything again. Classic Disney movies? The animators were all serial masturbaters. Just letting you know. Everything you love has been created by people who've loved themselves, FYI.

However, there's still a collective silence about female masturbation, unless you're like me and live on Jezebel and Though Catalog where all the girls don't give a fuck and will happily talk about their sexual proclivities the way men have been doing since stand-up comedy was invented. And that's awesome! We need more people like that! I strive to be one of them! But some people reading this blog know me in real life (hey girl, hey) and I'm assuming they don't want that mental image. So, instead, I'm going to talk about something a bit more general... the words.

All words to do with masturbation are fairly specifically gendered to the male act of yanking/slapping/whatever else they do to their dick. Or maybe they've just gained gendered associations due to the whole encompassing silence about female masturbation. (Did you know movies with female masturbation in get higher age ratings than movies with male masturbation? Isn't that fucked?)

This is what wikisaurus has for male masturbation synonyms:

This is what wikisaurus has for female masturbation synonyms:

Why are there only 4? Why are two of them listed as "vulgar, slang" when none of the male ones are? WHY IS FRIG CONSIDERED A MALE WORD? I call sexism on this.

This is what we talk about when we talk about how we talk about masturbation.

Masturbating
This word is an oldie. It's been around since the 1700s, and even earlier as "masturpation", and is pretty much directly from Latin manus (hand) and stuprare (defile). Though the multisyllabic nature of it is quite nice to drop into every day conversation, in the same way it's fun to say "fornication" rather than "fuck", it's a word that always strikes me as clumsy. It's hard to get your mouth around the clunky syllables. Mass-tur-bay-shun. You get Catholic guilt and fishing hooks. This is the word that you find in medical textbooks, and it's too dispassionate for an action which normally ends in technicolour climax (or sobbing into your pillow, whatever).

The biggest point in its favour is that it's truly gender-neutral. Jiz Lee masturbates, and they fall outside the gender binary! So girls can definitely masturbate, even if The Patriarchy thinks we can't. Next, please.

Wanking
It's a word that's been around since the 1940s but of unknown etymological origin. It's British - of course it is; we're so repressed we just spend or whole time with our hands down our pants because it's too hard to persuade anyone else to put them there. Wanking is the Pot Noodle of masturbation synonyms, cheap and ubiquitous. It's my go-to word for masturbating. I like the way it sounds, the hard and slightly comic "k". People who use wanking as a word for all autonomous shenanigans though are probably the people who universally call sex "screwing" and breasts "boobies".

The problem is that, if I said "I wanked last night", it still conjures images of pulling a penis (maybe because of its similarity to "yanking"). I'd probably be asked if I meant to say "I wanked someone off". I am totally down with trying to claim it for the ladies, but it definitely feels like trying to steal a word from a hostile environment. A lexicographical Capture The Flag mission.

Tossing
Possibly from the Norweigan tossa, the word has been around since the 1500s, and has been recorded as specifically applying to self-sexytimes from 1977... as an insult. Sidenote - isn't it weird how "wanker" and "tosser" evolved as insults? They're not! They're just accurate descriptions! It's like trying to insult me by calling me a "blogger" - it's just what you do in your spare time! Slang is weird. Tossing, to me, sounds faintly Biblical: and so he lay alone and his room; and he tossed, until quite suddenly the Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he was scared; and the Lord told him to find a woman to lay with, and he vowed never to toss again. 

Yeah, I've now managed to put myself off ever using the word "toss" again. Good work, me.

Fapping
Have you guys ever read Questionable Content? Because there's a porn-loving robot in that called Pintsize, and I'm pretty sure "fap" is his masturbatory word of choice. There doesn't appear to be any good source for this; in the same way as "nom" and "derp" seemed to spawn spontaneously from the depths of the interwebz, so too did fap. It might be a pseudo-onomatopoeic word intended to resemble the noise which male masturbation makes? I don't know, I'm not an expert on this. It doesn't sound terribly pleasant though - like there's a lot of friction involved.

I think girls can fap. It's not how you'd describe your own antics - it's more how you'd call out someone else, like "God, Rachel, stop fapping, we need to leave now or we'll miss the train!" - but it's such a new word that it's yet to deeply entrench itself in the collective social consciousness.

Jacking off
Again, I can't find any etymology for this at all, but I'm assuming it comes from the motion of male masturbation, i.e. its similarity to jacking up a car or something. My biggest issue, of course, is with the fact that it's "jack"ing. It's a dude's name. Jack-the-lad, Jack-be-nimble, Jack of Hearts. Jack Spratt and Jack Frost and Jack and his phallic fucking beanstalk. It's just such a DUDE thing, you know? I mean, I'm not sure I've ever heard anyone use it in every day conversation outside of American television shows, but that's probably because I'm on the wrong side of the ocean.

There is a very easy solution to this one, though: if boys Jack, girls Jill. We might both go up hill, but while Jack breaks his crown, we come tumbling after.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

I am scared of everything.


I know I haven’t been around for very long. Eighteen years is nothing. The universe has been around for billions of years. I am less than a blink of the grand celestial eye. I am like, a millionth of a blink. A billionth. I am such a small part of something so big that the numbers make the mind boggle. I am so insignificant that it’s a wonder I write anything, or that you read it, because none of it matters – not really. None of this is going to change the world.

But why should you trust what I have to say? I, after all, am nobody. I don’t even trust what I say, and I’m the one spewing this shit twenty-four hours a day.

The one thing I am sure of is this: we are all scared. We are scared of losing what we love, or not realising we love it until it’s too late. We are scared of the future, of the past, of having life fuck up, of having it turn out exactly the way we want it to.

We are scared of disappointment. Disappointing ourselves, our friends, our families. We are scared of the fact we are scared. We are scared we don’t love ourselves enough, that we love ourselves too much, that we don’t listen enough or talk enough or think enough. We are scared of things that contradict each other. We are scared into paradoxes of fear, where any decision could be the wrong one. We get too scared to even make decisions sometimes, and end up just playing Temple Run 2 for hours on end because it’s easier than doing something and getting it wrong.

And anyone who isn’t scared is a liar. We should all admit it. I’m scared of you, reading this right now. I'm scared you'll think my writing is so pathetically mediocre that you've wasted your life by reading it. I'm scared you'll troll me, or leave some perfectly articulated criticism that perfectly describes why I hate my own writing; I'm scared you'll say something that cuts so deep it makes me never want to write again. I'm scared nobody will read this and it'll all be pointless, and I'll essentially be yelling into the night forever with nobody even pretending to listen.

I'm scared of the people I love and what they think of me, and what they would think of me if they knew about the horrible thoughts that live inside my head. I'm scared of my plans for the future - what if I'm wishing for all the wrong things? What if I achieve my dreams - then what? What if my dreams are actually really disappointing? What if I love the wrong people and do the wrong things? I have nobody to blame but myself.

I'm scared of going blind! I have no logical reason to be scared of going blind! But what if one day I wake up and boom, my retinas have detatched and dissolved into the jelly of my eyes, and I can't see ever again? And going deaf! I'm scared of that too! What if, one day, I can't hear music anymore? WHAT IF I LOSE ALL SENSORY EXPERIENCE AND CAN NO LONGER EMPIRICALLY PROVE ANYTHING. WHAT THEN?

In fact, I'm scared of pretty much everything. Autonomy is a big scary thing and being in charge of our choices is also big and scary. But when I get really, really scared, I go outside at night and look at the stars – or, really, Google Sky, because England is too fucking cloudy all the time to see the stars – and I remind myself that I can fuck up. I can fuck up so many times that there is nothing left in my life that I haven't fucked up. Literally everyone in the world could hate me. And it wouldn’t matter, because those stars are going to keep shining*. Nothing I can do is going to affect them. The universe is still going to be there. And it’ll be scary, but there will always be the chance to strike out into the world again. We are all under the same sky; those stars remind me that I always have a second chance.

*(Unless you’re The Doctor. In which case, you fucking up really COULD destroy the universe, so I recommend exercising caution. You do you, Doctor..)

Thursday, 21 March 2013

How am I supposed to leave?


We all have to leave sometime.

I have lived in this village for as long as I can remember. It is too small to have a train station, and the buses to the nearest towns only come once an hour. It is big enough to get lost in, but I haven’t for a long time. I have lived here for seventeen years and I don’t know the names of most of the roads. Once, on the day of my first driving lesson, my instructor asked me where Fish Street was.

Fish Street? No, I don’t know Fish Street; it’s The Common, which changes names halfway down for no apparent reason. It’s the little curved apostrophe of a road where all the terraced houses have window-boxes full of cheerful pink carnations, and cars parked in front with two wheels up on the pavement. It’s a road I can describe with my eyes closed, but I’d never paid any attention to its name. I saw the road name on a sign every day, and it was so obvious that I never noticed it.

When someone says “home” to me, I think of the High Street in the summer, when hanging baskets adorn every lamppost and shop front, suspended on fragile chains beside the door of the chemist or the chiropractors’, and the whole street smells like a garden centre. Home is the gravel path of the church I used to walk up every week as a child, before my creeping antipathy for religion rendered me an atheist. My mother still walks that path every Sunday, and the nave is where we sat the last time we said goodbye to her own mother. It’s a safe place for her.

There’s the bench next to the needle of the war memorial, the criss-crossed paths cutting across the Common that are surrounded by a canopy of trees, the cratered road my childhood best friend lived at the other end of. Driving down her road was an exercise in how to ruin your car’s suspension and her parents always used to mutter darkly about how extortionate it would be to repave it. But I loved it, and loved how running over the bumpy surface could make it feel like you were flying, never quite sure where your legs would land.

My hometown is affluent, a microcosm of suburban paradise where children play in the river and climb trees, and where my elderly neighbours still stroll with impunity. The worst thing that’s ever happened to me here was when I got honked at by a passing car when I was walking home from the shops at age fifteen; it’s that sort of place.

And with each day that passes, I get closer to leaving it. I’ll be flying the nest. I don’t yet know where I’ll be going, but it’ll be two hundred miles away or more. I won’t be living in a place where I can go for a walk at 2am, on my own, and feel utterly unfazed. I’m excited for the city, for the new people, for a room that is mine and a place where I get to be someone new. My village is dull, but it's safe. It won't surprise me or hurt me. It seems inconceivable this place could ever change: it's going to be the same forever. I know I've outgrown it.

But I’ll miss this. I’ll miss holding open the door of the post office while a pensioner closes her umbrella and we share a knowing smile about the weather. I’ll miss the white gates of my house and the feeling of being anchored, to a specific place in a specific moment of time. I suppose that moment is coming to an end, and something new is about to start.

I don’t want to go. I can’t wait to move away. I could stay here forever. We all have to leave sometime.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Ghosts of grandmothers past.

2012 was the worst year of my life, to date. Yes, it was kind of fun - I aced some exams, and got accepted into the university I may or may not go to, and found out what it was like to fall asleep next to your crush - but it was also pretty shit. I suffered from hypothyroidism for about three months before it got diagnosed, I learnt that following your heart isn't worth fucking over your friends, and I saw my dad cry.

Also, both of my grandmothers died.

To be honest, the death of Granny was a relief. She had been physically ill for a long time. She had a live-in carer, and walking sticks, and her voice always reminded me of a cat. She was deaf to high frequencies, so she understood my father and brother better than me. I was her only granddaughter, and I remember sitting with her when I was small, learning to draw horses and landscapes.

But I never knew much about her. I don't even know when her birthday was - just that it's around now, in March. I don't know how old she was or how she felt about spending her whole life as a housewife. She had lived in the same seaside village since she married into the Wells family, and it's not an exaggeration to say it's on the edge of nowhere. There is one street in the village, called The Street. My father was born in a place called World's End Farm. I visited her maybe once or twice a year, and Granny's death did not affect me in any great earth-shattering way. I went to her funeral; I saw the casket of her ashes buried next to her deceased husband and daughter in a hole which did not yet have a headstone. It was so cold that my father's tears froze on his face as he cried.

And then we carried on.

One day in June - about two weeks after I had finished my exams - there was a phone call. My gran had had a fall. My mother rushed to hospital, and my friend called me up to comfort me. She made me laugh, and then I felt guilty.

"I can't believe I'm laughing while Gran is in hospital, like, dying," I said.
"She'll be fine," she said.
"I know," I said. "I know."

I woke up the next morning to my mother sat on the end of my bed, telling me that at around 2am, my grandmother had just slipped away. It was very peaceful, she said.

Gran died of a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm. It doesn't sound very peaceful. But there was nothing anyone could have done. It was a relief in a different way, I suppose; Gran had been suffering from Alzheimers. She had started to forget the more distant relatives, who she didn't see very often, but she still remembered me. I was the middle of three granddaughters, who she saw once a week or more. Truthfully, I was seeing her less and less often before the end, because it upset me too much to see her forget.

I went into school that day and managed just fine, until we started watching King Lear in English and I stood up and quietly explained that my grandmother had just died, and walked out of the room and stood in the corridor for five minutes staring straight ahead and forcing myself not to cry. Then I walked back in and carried on as normal. I spent the week in a state of heightened emotions.

"V, you need to take out your nose stud. It's against school rules," said the overbearing deputy head of Sixth Form.
"I'm sorry, I've had bigger things on my mind this week, LIKE THE FACT MY GRANDMOTHER JUST DIED!" I replied, and burst into tears in the common room kitchen.
"I thought she died in February?" she said, confused.
"Yes, the other one died too," I replied, and she reached out a hand to console me. By this point in time, my friends had appeared in a protective semi-circle of a group hug, and they all glared at her. She withdrew her hand very quickly.

The thing is, I have never cried specifically over her death. It's always been things relating to it, like the fact that my grandfather is alone now, or the fact that she died before she saw my cousin Gus get married.

I try and see Grumpa frequently now, but it's hard because he's so actively busy. He makes a point of going out with his friends on theatre trips, or to classes about literature, or playing Bridge. He was always a Bridge pair with my grandmother; I wonder who he partners now.

Everywhere in his house though, I can see Gran. I see her sat in the upright wooden-armed armchair, asking us to turn the fire up. I see her in the upstairs bathroom, drawing in her eyebrows and telling me how lucky I was to be young and beautiful. I see her stood in the kitchen, giving food to their old dog Benji. He died in 2012, too. They buried him in their garden, next to the river.

I see her stood at the foot of the stairs. I was eight years old, and it was nearly Christmas, and I decided to slide down the handrail of the staircase. We had just finished decorating the hall, and my slippered foot caught on a beautiful new glass bauble. It was a present someone had given her. It smashed. I can still see Gran's state of alarm, and I started crying because I was scared she'd yell at me for breaking the ornament - but she hugged me tightly, and told me she'd been scared I'd hurt myself. That I mattered more than any bauble ever could.

I always meant to buy her a new one to replace it. I never did.

It's been nine months since Gran died, and we're reminded of it every day. Mum still has to stop herself from saying "mum and dad's house", and just say "dad's house". I feel a pang of jealousy whenever my friends mention their grandmothers. But the aching sadness of last year has gone, mostly.

Though, just occasionally, it resurfaces. In the faces my mum pulls, or the silences in my grandfather's conversation, the way he occasionally just trails off like he's waiting for her to finish. I know it's not fair on Granny, but I don't miss her in nearly the same immediate way as I miss Gran. But I'd be sadder if I ever stopped missing them.

I hope they both haunt me. I hope they never stop.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Frustration: a vicious cycle.


It’s hard to describe a crippling lack of motivation to anyone who has never felt it themselves, but in my case, it’s something like this:

You understand completely what you need to do, how to go about it and when it needs to be done by. When you actually come to look at it, everything drains out of your head except a faint numb feeling of “no”.

You procrastinate. You re-order your sock drawer. You delete people off Facebook who you haven’t spoken to for years. You play and re-play Temple Run 2 until you beat your high score. You donate money to charity and stare at blazers on ASOS. You paint your nails. You take a long bath with a glass of wine and tell yourself to relax, that you just need to de-stress. You do everything you can physically think of to avoid having to do what actually needs to be done.

You look at it again, load up the document and stare at it for hours. You convince yourself you can magically transfer the words in your head onto your computer without having to actually type anything. You check Twitter. You close Twitter. You disconnect the internet. You check Twitter on your phone. You try again.

You find your mind thinking about all the other things that need to be done, the other projects you’ve been putting off, and the plans you haven’t yet confirmed. You realise you are behind in every sphere of your life. Then you remember how all your friends are going out on Friday, and you didn’t get invited – and that’s okay, because it’s not like you could have gone anyway, you just have so much to do – but you’re bitter, and you spend a good ten minutes planning your micro-aggressions and carefully choreographed responses in case they mention it in passing. Then you realise that's stupid, and bitchy, and you have things to do.

You realise you’ve been feeling this indolent for two months. A week, people can understand. More than that, and they look at you funny. You’re not depressed; you still function properly in all other areas of life. You still laugh and go on dates and watch television. But you just can’t work properly.

The more you think about how much you have to do, the more wound up you get, and the less you actually do – and suddenly it’s one in the morning, and you’re writing a blog post because it seemed easier than trying to find seven hundred words about something you can’t bring yourself to care about. You get frustrated and irritable, and snap over the tiniest transgressions. Then you feel guilty for being angry, and add that to the guilt over not being able to work, and you end up too mired to stress to do anything but brood some more.

You tell yourself to stop being stupid, that this work is important and your future hinges on it, but you find it very hard to think about anything as big and abstract as the future being pinned to anything as mundane as an essay.

You stand up and make a cup of tea. You sit down and drink the tea. You stand up and get a biscuit. You sit down and eat the biscuit. You wander into another room in the house and sit there instead to see if you feel any different, and then feel guilty for wasting ten minutes that could have been spent working.

So you load up your computer again and tell yourself that this time, you will concentrate. For real! No distractions! You can do this, and it won’t be as bad as you think it will, you promise! And you manage to write something – a whole seven lines! You reward yourself by putting on your pyjamas! And then you return to your computer, and realise what you wrote is irrelevant, and you delete it, and you once again have no idea what you’re doing or where you’re going.

And you’re so, so sick of feeling like this, because it’s getting in the way of doing things. You want your motivation back. You want your sense of purpose. You want to do anything that will make you finish this essay. Except, you know, actually write it.

You stare at it for another hour before going to bed. You go about your daily routine the next day looking awful, because you didn’t get enough sleep, and you say you were up late working, when really you were up late worrying about the fact you can’t work. You tell people you're finding it hard, and they just tell you to take a break and try again, and you promise yourself that is exactly what you'll do.

Then you get home and have a nap, and tell yourself you can do your work now you're better rested, and you realise you could really do with a cup of tea…

Monday, 11 March 2013

Egocentricity and attention-seeking.

One of the things that routinely bugs me is when egocentricity and attention-seeking are seen as negative traits - or, more specifically, huge gaping flaws that somehow poke holes in the otherwise perfect moral fabric you have woven.

Here's the thing: we are all egocentric. We have to be. It's part of being alive, and having a single consciousness which is so acutely ours, not someone else's. We are not a hive mind, or a socialist collective - as awesome as that might be. We all live our lives in the first person present: I am writing now, you are reading now, you are experiencing these words now now now. Nobody else is inside your brain, reading this with you. We are all the heroes of our own stories, even though we're the secondary recurring characters in everyone else's. You, by definition, cannot actually know what it is like to be me, or someone else, or really anyone except you, because then you wouldn't be you. You are the centre of your own universe, and the same is true of everyone else. We are each other's little mental galactic neighbours.

So, being self-absorbed might not be the best situation to be in, but it's our standard state. And it's not necessarily a bad one. Think of all the awesome shit which wouldn't have got done unless brilliant people were so concerned with unpacking the jumbled contents of their own heads. Would we have The Great Gatsby if F. Scott Fitzgerald spent all his spare time tending his neighbour's allotment? Would we have Othello if Shakespeare had no had a compulsion to tell stories by committing words to paper? Would we have had the internet? Sure, it was invented with community and sharing in mind - which benefits the people who use it. Almost everything is created for our own benefit, and benevolent creations will still give the creator a nice little sense of moral superiority. Would we do anything if it didn't directly or indirectly help us? I'm not sure we would.

The extreme of egocentricity is, of course, narcissism, but that's a registered psychiatric disorder. Delusions of grandeur and all. You can see yourself as a main character in a narrative without assuming you have all the traditionally positive traits associated with it. It's just how things work.

It's the more mundane egocentricity we dislike, the attention seeking. We all do it. I'm doing it right now, writing this blog. It's just another way for me to scream NOTICE ME! CARE ABOUT ME! VALIDATE ME! into the roaring abyss that is the 'Net. It's why people dislike Taylor Swift and Lena Dunham so much, I think: they're like a mirror of us. When we look at celebrities, we want to see chrome-smooth perfection, all smiles and graciousness and perfectly crafted one-liners fed to them via an earpiece. Instead, with them, we see the ugly side of ourselves we'd rather avoid: the callous need to be noticed, to be complimented, to be loved back.

Most of us would rather pretend that knawing hole inside us doesn't exist. It's the part of us that makes us pine over people we can never have, do stupid outlandish gestures just for the reaction, the part of us we want to keep in the dark in our dingy headspaces. Swift and Dunham shine a light at it, those irritating OOH OOH ME ME! noises we try to keep quiet. And when we see something we don't like, a far easier option to confronting it is to shun it.

I crave attention. There, I said it. I fish for compliments. I post pictures of my hair on Facebook and feel a little warm and fuzzy when people press the like button. I've come to expect texts from certain people and I'm upset when they don't reply. I people to know who I am, and what I do, and have an opinion of me, even if it is that I'm needy and cloying. Because I know that they took the time to think about me, and devise an opinion, and so I took up their thoughts, if just for a little while.

You probably shouldn't have read this. You're just feeding my ego. But thanks. I appreciate it. Now go get on with your own story. This is nothing more than a paragraph in your day, even if it's a chapter in mine.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Don't make me get a proper job.

I come from a family of smart people. Who did proper degrees with practical applications, and got proper jobs in the real world, and got married and had families and houses and mortages. And I'm not planning any of that. And that's fine.

My grandfather went to Oxford to study Maths. He applied after his two years of National Service in the army, where he taught illiterate prionsers to read in Scotland and helped with the repairs in Germany after WWII. Originally, he asked to study Natural Sciences, because he thought he wouldn't be smart enough to study Maths - but he got in, and he graduated and got a job and fell in love. He met my grandmother at a Roman pageant. She was dressed as an archer, he as a centurion; he gave her a lift home on the back of his motorbike, which he'd bought off a South African pole-vaulter at the 1948 Olympics who needed to pay his way back home. She fell in love with him, even though he started losing his hair at twenty-five.

Gran grew up in a poor household; apparently her father or grandfather gambled away all the family fortunes. She got a scholarship to a snooty school, and wanted to study History at university. But her little sister was a musical prodigy, her parents couldn't afford to put both of them through higher education, so she trained as a teacher at Homerton College. I'm pretty sure she got an honourary degree from Cambridge before she died. I'm glad. My grandfather would write software programmes, and she would write the manuals so people could comprehend them, but she had no interest in technology herself. She preferred people.

My mother was less academic than her brother, who studied as a vet in Edinburgh and married a civil servant, then a travel agent. Instead, she trained as a nurse and medical secretary, and stopped working to have a family and live in suburbia. In an attempt to prove the theory that women fall in love with men like their fathers, she married my dad: a software engineer, with an Oxbridge education (but rather more hair. And no motorbike).

Even my cousins are scientific. Gus has a phD in something to do with birds, and his wife is a doctor of spiders. Cat and her husband both studied chemistry, before being forced to drop out of university.

But really, it seems a bit like I exist only to be a contrast to my brother. He is skinny and athletic, all muscle and bone with not a molecule of fat on him. He worked hard at school and is in the third year of a Physics MA. He'll be spending the summer in Didcot, where his girlfriend works in a chemical engineering company. He's going to be working on nuclear fusion, which is a pretty big task for an undergrad. He doesn't really have plans for the future, but it's a fair guess he'll get a steady job, because physics graduates are always in demand. I'd like him to to marry his girlfriend and move to Coventry and have babies as geeky as they are, and a wilted lawn with toys strewn across it, and a lazy lapcat called Molly.

And then there's me. I am not skinny, nor athletic, instead exquisitely endomorphic with a fascinating topography. I spend all my time procrastinating, complaining when things don't go my way while simultaneously telling everyone to CHECK YOUR PRIVILEGE!!! My plan for the summer is to travel around Asia for five and a half weeks before starting my degree in English and Philosophy. Then things get a bit hazy, but I'm almost sure I'll never get a proper job. And it certainly won't involve trying to solve a major energy problem. I'm more likely to move to New York, sink thousands of dollars into a post-graduate degree, and barely scrape a living as a freelance writer always dreaming of something more. I'm going to make a point of being every 'starving artist' cliche I can. Maybe I'll make a check list, so I can tick them off as I go.

I have nothing in common with my brother, but we get on pretty well.

But I always feel like a bit of the un-favourite in my family, like my parents prefer my brother because he's predictable and conventional and going to be a success. I'm more of a roulette. I honestly can't imagine ever living in the real world, full of bills and deadlines and social expectations. Maybe that's what appeals so much about writing: I can ensconce myself in a little bubble, where other people can only come if I invite them in. My family don't understand, but I don't understand how anyone could live working in an office from 9 till 5, so I guess we're even. Let me be a flake; just don't make me get a proper job.

But I wouldn't change them for the world - because I know my sensible, stable family will always be there to help me out. They'll give me a sofa to crash on, so I can figure out my life while they get on with theirs.

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Confessions of a hairy girl.

I have a very privileged life, which means I get to spend a lot of my time thinking about things which aren't very important. While I could concern myself with how best to sort out the global hunger crisis, or trying to determine if the rise of UKIP will have any significant impact on mainstream UK politics, I instead find myself contemplating rather less weighty topics.

Like hair.

It seems that part of the rite of passage of self-identifying as a feminist involves a period of time where the Baby Feminist forsakes all razors. "These are tools of systematic male oppression!" they cry, and hide the razors in the back of their cupboards - but don't throw them out. "The shaving of hair is part of the patriarchy!" they holler, and swear off ever cutting their precious leg forests again. Outgrowths of dark curls sprout in their armpits, and their bikini lines go fantastically untended.

And then - after a while, be it days or weeks or months - these Baby Feminists will find themselves returning to the safety of their razors and waxing strips, and suddenly their bodies will once again be lithe and hairless and socially acceptable. Maybe they will vacillate between the two extremes of hairy and hairless, or maybe they will settle on one side or the other.

I will vacillate.

My relationship to body hair isn't so much driven by feelings of self-loathing or a craving for social acceptance; it's more reliant on my individual whims. Through the winter months, I make a point of cultivating body hair. I consider it an extra layer of warmth and insulation against the sudden sub-zero winter winds of Britain's temperate climate. My legs and armpits retain that little bit more warmth, and I tend to wear jeans and long pyjamas, things which hide the new growths. You'd never know, to look at me - I have the same face as I wear the rest of the year round; I haven't suddenly sprouted a beard or moustache - though that would be pretty cool - but under my clothes, I am naked. Naked, and hairy.

The exception to this rule is occasions when my body is on show. In the summer, my legs get shaved maybe once a fortnight - more if it's warm enough to necessitate wearing shorts every day - and my armpits probably every week. I don't consider dark stubble an enemy. Rather, it's an old friend, an irritating in-between stage which then gives way to the soft curls of body fuzz I've come to rather appreciate. (Currently, as it's still winter, my 'pits are only shaved if I know I'll be wearing a sleeveless shirt - something which came back to bite me in the butt recently when, on a first date, I realised midway through that I was wearing a strappy dress, and hadn't shaved my armpits. Cue awkwardly refusing to raise my arms for the rest of the night.)

However, this week, I found myself in the bathroom with some time to kill before dinner, and I wondered - what would it be like to be shaved all over? According to porn, muffs don't exist: all women are pre-pubescently shorn, an unbroken expanse of soft flesh running from their belly-buttons down to the Holy Grail of their vulvas. This, of course, is bullshit. But we as a society seem to have accepted this baldness as the norm. PETA use it in their adverts to advocate boycotting fur; razors are sold in putridly girly shades of pink and purple to be used specifically for "feminine hygiene"; girls as young as 11 have been reported going to beauty salons for a Brazillian wax. Personally, I could never go to a salon - the contents of my knickers are between me, the people I sleep with, and medical professionals; beauticians aren't included. Sorry to disappoint.

So, for whatever reason, I decided to shave my bush. My rationale went something as follows: a) Why not? It's perfectly possible. b) It's something I haven't done before. c) Next time I get my period, it'll be nice not to get menstrual blood caught up in my pubic hair. (It can't be just me that has this problem, right?) And thus, my usually neatly-trimmed fanny warmer was no more. Gone. In its place was skin I hadn't seen since I was about nine: pale, sensitive, with an almost waxy quality to it.

I didn't particularly like it. And I couldn't imagine particularly liking it on another girl, either. There appear to be no health benefits to a shaved minge, other than it makes things easier to see from a medical perspective, the same way the head is shaved before brain surgery. But the idea of eating a girl out, to be confronted by such a conspicuous absence of hair? I'd prefer my mouth to come into contact with some nicely-trimmed tangle than with the slippery skin I'm currently experiencing.

I am also painfully aware, a few days later, of the stubble growing back. And unlike the almost downy fuzz which spreads over my calves, this stubble is coarse and spiky. I'm not a fan of it, nor of the small dark polka-dots which are now spreading over the region, making it look like I've contracted an artistically-inclined STI.

I will be glad when the hair returns in its entirity, a soft silky hide I can run my fingers through and condition in the bath. But I'll also continue to shave my legs and armpits when need be - more out of a nagging sense of obligation than of genuine desire to. Maybe in order to fuck up the system, I ought to wander round proudly hirstute - and I have a whole-hearted respect and admiration for people who do - but I already work outside the system in so many other ways. I don't grow body hair to prove a point, either; it's more just arbitrary laziness. The Baby Feminists can carry on with creating long flowing thigh-tresses; I'll happily get rid of them if I've got to wear a skirt. Does this make me a bad feminist? Spoiler alert: the answer is no.

However, I have decided to keep my pubes from now on. We have pubic hair for a reason, and there doesn't seem any convincing arguments to get rid of it. I'm not sure it's a feminist issue, particularly; it's a case of You Do You. If your significant other is pressuring you to remove hair when you yourself want to keep it, that's another story - but while it's a free choice, there is no wrong answer. And if I'm ever confronted by a bed partner who doesn't like my downstairs hairstyle choices... they can suck it.