Days of Miracle and Wonder

It’s ten to one in the afternoon, I haven’t left the house apart from to hang up the washing in the garden and already I’ve been given six cues to not like myself very much.

When I checked Twitter this morning I had four new followers and six of my tweets had been favourited overnight.  Yay x 10!  Except no.  Three of the new followers were accounts with timelines full of before and after pictures of women who’d used anti-ageing treatments.  Three of the favourite clickers were similar accounts and another was a diet zealot with a bio urging me to get the secret now about how I too could have a body I could love.

The assumption being with all of this cack is that I don’t like myself.

It’s assumed I don’t like my skin.  It’s assumed I don’t like my face.  It’s assumed I don’t like my weight.  Ergo, it’s assumed I pretty much don’t like me.

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It’s also assumed that we can just ignore this kind of shit and pretend it doesn’t get in by osmosis.  And yet…. it does get in.  Because we’re conditioned to let it in.

I block them all but, dammit, it’s already slightly too late.  Their messages shout cheeky one liners from the back of my brain.  They’ve got into the bit where all the messages I’ve seen that tell me not to like myself exist despite the fact I regularly go back there and bludgeon them.  What can I say?  They’re persistent because they’re omnipresently backed up.

All those billboards, all those ads in expensive magazines where a woman sits wearing two grand worth of clothes, airbrushed to buggery and firmly artistically directed not to smile.  Having it all means looking like someone just pissed on your dinner – right?  Wasn’t that the message I was supposed to receive?  Whatevs.  The only thing we can be sure about is that even having it all doesn’t bring happiness and as women we’re supposed to stay thick enough not to notice that (and keep flicking our cash at the naked emperor).

Then there are the TV ads.  The ones that make you want to gouge your eyes out because they make you realise that if these ads still exist too many people on the planet think women are just naturally better at cleaning and baby-care than men and men are much better at doing flipcharts and power enhancing worky things. Duh!

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So I’m clearing what messages I can and turning on a different kind of TV.  This time I’m going for Tunnel Vision.  I will sing out loud when I come across women-hating Twitter accounts and have to spend three seconds blocking them.  It’s really hard to take in subliminal messaging when you’re singing Boy in the Bubble from Paul Simon at the top of your lungs.  I’ll keep treating misogynistically coded billboards and perfume ads as if they are shite-coated scorpions rising up in front of me; the only appropriate response being to scream and run or karate chop and spit F words.  I’ll keep watching Netflix instead of normal TV because life without the ads and the pop viewing bullshit is like gifting yourself two entirely new brain lobes.  I’ll hunt out the reality that chimes with me instead – stories that tell tales about women knowing their explosive worth and men who need more than a Playboy jumpstart to get turned on.  I’ll keep engaging in stuff that advances arguments littered with intelligence and creativity.  When the shitty parade of society rolls up in front of me to reinforce patriarchal messages I’ll turn the music up and show it my (gyrating, non-aspirational) ass.

In a hilarious act of radical defiance that’ll make men and women everywhere roll their eyes and wish I’d just get over it, I’ll continue to have the audacity to like myself.   

n.b; I was going to link to Paul Simon’s Boy in the Bubble video on YouTube here but sadly it would’ve meant subjecting you to an ad from Febreze featuring two women (and zero men) dancing joyfully around a perfect light and child filled home, generally having a marvelous, life-fulfilling time of cleaning.  Obviously I can’t be complicit in that kind of shite so here’s a subversive thrill from Malala Yousafzai instead.  I’m sure you have your own soundtrack that makes you feel great to accompany her, if needs be.

12 Powerful And Inspiring Quotes From Malala Yousafzai:

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How to Trim Your Beard

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I’m well chuffed to have another story in Scottish Product magazine this month.  This time it’s about beards and breaking up and it’s getting quite a response on Twitter and Facebook.

The story is set in Rhu Cafe in beautiful Arisaig, looking over to Eigg on the Scottish west coast.  It’s 50:50 truth and fiction, so great fun to write.

Can you relate?

Install/Uninstall

I’m working on clearing a great big thing right now.  It’s tightly bound with a lot of the things I thought about last year along the themes of self-actualisation, self-esteem and self-sabotage.  The thing I’m clearing is the programming of a few hundred ideas and memories that all lead to one beautifully pleated but ultimately useless conclusion about womanhood and martyrdom being intertwined and about my time somehow being less valuable than my husbands or that of my kids (and, on some days, that of my neighbours, friends, yadda yadda, you get the idea…).  The bottom line is that I seem to have a default position of being quite keen on pushing myself to the end of the list and then moaning when I find myself, quelle surprise, grasping at the farts of my dreams.  In essence, I still have some dodgy software on board and it’s fucking up my printer.

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As my kids start to really think about their futures as adults I’m acutely aware of bunging in as much good modelling as I can before they take wing.  I want them to see that home is a place they can come back to in any version of themselves.  I want them to see that they need creativity like they need vegetables, movement, sunlight and laughter.  I want them to witness that all people are equal until someone starts playing out a scenario that oppresses others or oppresses themselves and that often that oppression is unintentional but to never become complicit in it.

So how to model all of that?  I find the answer is increasingly simple – by living it.

You’d be forgiven for thinking all of this sounds familiar because you’re right.  I’ve been here before.  It’s a station my train frequently pulls into because I find this deprogramming work needs constantly revised.  And why wouldn’t it?  Every time we switch on the telly, see a billboard or thumb through magazines we’re fed messages that women do children, cleaning, sex and body hate while men are for work, play, money and adventure.  A huge percentage of older people in our society reaffirm constantly that gender balance is something new age to have a wee giggle at.  So I figure that until the messages going in are balanced we’ll have to keep re-balancing them for ourselves.

I remember the first time I went for a run.  I was shit at it.  I had to do it again and again and again and again (repeat for about 2.5 years) until I started to feel like it was part of me – that the being a runner was at least as ingrained as the not being a runner.  Forming new habits takes time, especially when we have a whole cacophony of crap going on in our thoughts urging us to jump off the merry go round and into the crash mat every time we get disorientated.  The thing that makes me persist is the idea that I really want the result because intuition is determined that it’s the right thing and who the hell said it would be easy anyway?  

My thoughts are playing hide and seek on this whole deprogramming sexism thing.  It reminds me of standing in the playground at school when I was wee, turning 360 on the spot and trying to catch a glimpse of any movement of someone else in the game who was trying to get back to base without my detection.  Sometimes it was the flash of a jacket sleeve that didn’t match any of the other sleeves in a gaggle of girls.  Sometimes it was the glimpse of a bare knee above a white sock hiding among a huddle of grey trouser legged boys.  Sometimes it was someone’s face appearing from halfway up the corner of a white harled wall and then snatching backwards again, out of sight.

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I think we have to train ourselves to keep seeing it, to start remarking on it every single time in order that it gets absolutely no sanctuary in our decisions or changing self-image.  To scan the playground and notice the thoughts so they don’t get back to base before us.

This deprogramming work can, of course, be a little unsettling.  Unpicking beliefs that have shaped identity, experiences and personality is like walking into your comfort zone as if it were a cosy room and setting at bits of it with a pickaxe.  Shelves fall down on one side.  A previously perfectly propped cushion lands face down on the rug.  The tie back goes missing from one curtain and pages get ripped out of your once tidy stack of magazines.  Then there’s a phase of simply learning to sit down anyway; getting comfortable within the uncomfortable followed by reorganising things so they’re less fragile.  Putting up a new pickaxe proofed shelf.  Choosing new magazines or chucking the lot in the bin with a yee-haa of liberated delight.  Ripping down the other curtains and getting someone who knows what they’re doing to make you roman blinds for the joy of their simplicity, common sense and beauty.  Putting the cushion back unpropped and unplumped, because it’s easier to relax and sit back like that without a thought to what appearances you’re despoiling.

This morning a Twitter friend shared this wonderful footage of Jada Pinkett Smith talking to her daughter about life balance.  Whether a woman has children or not, what Pinkett Smith has to say is undeniably powerful.

Bottom line: when we fail to act upon our own need for happiness, nothing works.