Posts Tagged ‘Oxford’

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last Christmas.

December 15, 2012

I remember when I started this blog that I would write quite lengthy, detailed posts about my personal life and about all of my feelings and experiences. This blog has been around for over 3 years and during that time my life has transformed in a lot of ways: I did a postgrad, started working in jobs I actually wanted, learned to drive and bought a car, entered a long-term relationship, moved to London and supported myself, moved in with my boyfriend… I made the decision not to talk about my relationship in too much detail because I feel that my private life is just for me and for Toby – but he informs everything I do now and is such a big part of me that every post on here, more or less, is influenced by him or concerns him to some degree.

Although I am certainly more mature and guarded about what I choose to post on the internet, sometimes I miss the honesty and openness with which I used to post. Sometimes, when I have dilemmas in my life, I find myself typing my question into Google in search of some advice. And sometimes I find some decent food for thought, whereas other times there’s just nothing sensible or nothing that quite touches the nature of what I am going through. But on those occasions where I do find something that can help me, through offering a kindred voice or shedding an alternative perspective on a situation, it’s really valuable. And so I have decided that in this post, I am going to be honest and talk about what is on my mind, in the hope that one day someone else might find my post and it might help them to know that they are not alone.

Yesterday I was speaking to my mother on the phone and apropos of nothing, she asked me that when I am in Bristol for Christmas, that I don’t voluntarily reveal the fact that I am gay and in a healthy, happy long-term relationship with my partner. The reason for this is that my uncle and aunt are coming up from Melbourne for the holiday to visit my grandmother. My cousin (my uncle and aunt’s daughter) has been living in Bristol with my grandmother for the past six months, and during this time she has demonstrated that she has grown up a lot from the irksome child and teenager that she was when I had previously met her. And yet the other day, my mother was having a conversation with her and my grandmother, and my cousin asks “how is Alan getting on with his flatmate?” Toby is my boyfriend, my lover, my partner with whom I share a flat – but he is so much more than my “flatmate” that I paused a little bit – because surely this is obvious, and my cousin (whose recent displays of emotional intelligence lead me to believe that she would have caught onto this) must know that Toby is my boyfriend. My mum then told me that my cousin has revealed in the past that my uncle (who has hitherto always been nice to me) “hates certain celebrity chefs because they are gay” apparently. And so, my mother has asked me not to volunteer any information about Toby to “keep the peace on Christmas Day” and to keep my grandmother happy, because otherwise relatives’ reactions “may cause a scene and my grandmother will get upset.”

What the fuck.

I am not at all angry at my mother for wanting a peaceful Christmas – it’s perfectly understandable. My mother’s side of the family is Italian (and therefore Catholic, although I wouldn’t describe them as religious with the exception of my grandmother who goes to church twice a week – but only since my grandfather passed away 5 years ago). But I have introduced Toby to my father (who has made crass comments about gay people in the past but has never been anything but welcoming of Toby and supportive of me in my relationship – I feel that his macho posturing isn’t really indicative of his views, which annoys me somewhat – why does he even need to act a certain way therefore? But I appreciate the fact that he is accepting of me) and everything has been fine – Toby has never felt uncomfortable or unwelcome in my parents’ home. My grandmother has met Toby a few times now and they get on ok too – neither is my grandmother stupid; she knows who he is to me, even if she doesn’t say it out loud. But here lies the crux of the problem – everybody knows, but nobody wants to talk about it. Everybody is actually fine with my sexuality, but everybody seems to think that they are the only “enlightened one” and that nobody else approves. So it remains a big open secret. Which to me is partly laughable, but also quite painful because I have absolutely no shame in having found a man that I love with all my heart, and having established a strong and secure relationship with him. Shouldn’t this be something that could be appreciated, if it’s too much to ask for it to be celebrated? Why do I have to keep quiet about the most positive (out of a range of very positive things in my life) part of who I am today?

I have always been the Beyoncé of the family, if you will. (Prepare for me to toot my own horn in the next couple of sentences.) Not only because I’m musically talented, but I am the only person on my mother’s side of the family to go to university, let alone to the University of Oxford and then on to achieve a postgraduate qualification afterwards. I am the only one who has successfully moved out of Bristol. I’m the slimmest and most fashionable out of me and my cousins. I have an interesting job which pays a decent wage (but more about that in another post, as I have an announcement to make!). I am 27 years old and I have done pretty well so far (with some wobbles along the way – but hey, that’s life right?). With all of this hard work (which was for myself, but it didn’t hurt that it pleased others also), it would appear that the fact that I am gay, that I happen to be attracted to men, and that I have now built a life for myself with another man whom I love deeply, resets everything. I will never be good enough, and no matter what I did or what I achieve in the future, I never had a chance at being “good enough” because of my sexuality, which is something I cannot control. I love being gay, I love Toby, I am very happy with my life and with myself (apart from the fact that I ought to quit smoking and that next year I am going to lose weight – but there’s a forthcoming post for that too because my musical goals and my aesthetic aims are going hand in hand in 2013).  And I can’t talk about any of it, because other people may react to it, and it may upset someone else. Well, it upsets me! What about that?

Back to the phone call. So my mother asked this favour of me. I fell silent, and I said that I didn’t know if I could do that – I certainly couldn’t promise anything. I know that she understands, and I know that she didn’t like asking, and I am not angry at her. But I am angry at my family because I am never going to be good enough, and I am not able to relax and completely be myself. I told my mother that I didn’t understand why I should compromise myself. It’s not natural for one to shout their gayness or their homosexual monogamous relationship upon entering a room – this is not my intention. But I am 27 years old, and I am not afraid of them anymore – I have built my own life, and at the end of the day, I don’t live in Bristol and I don’t need the validation of my family. It’s nice if I could feel comfortable with them – but if that’s not going to be a possibility, c’est la vie. I will choose Toby over them, if it has to come to it. I am sad that it might have to come to that – but maybe we can’t have everything. I have a lot, and that’s enough. But I refuse to be intimidated by small-minded, low-aspiring people. I don’t even really know if they are small-minded – this is all just rumour and myth. But after all – I’d better not say anything, just in case.

I want everyone to have a lovely Christmas day. I want Toby to feel welcome when he comes to Bristol, and the fact that he does perplexes me even more in light of this request. I don’t want my grandmother to be upset, and I don’t want anybody to cause a scene. But it’s not my fault if they cause a scene because of their own prejudice, surely? I don’t understand why I have to conceal, compromise and sacrifice my identity in the presence of people whom I see only occasionally, and who are my frickin’ family, so as not to rock a phantom boat. Am I being unreasonable? Because perhaps it’s not such a big thing to ask, for one day. But then, to me, it’s not really about one family day – it’s about me being denied the ability to openly be myself, to celebrate all of the things I have achieved and the precious gift of Toby’s presence in my life. He is wonderful, and I don’t see why I have to downplay this. I’m not going to shout it from the rooftops (though sometimes I want to! 🙂 ) because that would be unnatural, but neither am I going to lie about it because that is no more natural either.

This is bringing me to the sad conclusion that, whether or not a scene occurs, I feel like this will be my last Christmas in Bristol with my family, for at least a while. I don’t want to hurt my family by not celebrating with them, but at the same time I am an adult now, with the right to live my own life. (I can’t lie – it will be nice to actually not do a big travelling jaunt for one year.) I’m old enough to make my own decisions and to choose to stand my ground and enjoy my life in my own home. I have proven my worth time and again, and I now have the flat, the job, the relationship – the evidence to show for it. It’s not my fault that my family members may be insecure or jealous, and I don’t see why I should compromise myself to appease any inadequacies they may or may not feel. It’s not my problem. If I cannot be myself on Christmas day, then maybe next year it has finally come to the point where I’ve got to start making my own traditions, and if it means being by myself then hey – I’ll do it. I would never begrudge Toby going to spend time with his family, and maybe I would be able to join them instead. I don’t know – this whole situation has thrown me into a realm of “I don’t know”. What I do know is that I won’t lie, I won’t hide, and I won’t be ashamed. I am strong enough and secure enough to stand alone – I’d rather not have to, but if that’s the way it has to be then so be it. A part of me hopes I’ll be pleasantly surprised this Christmas and all these worries and postulations will count for nothing. I really don’t know what will happen – I am confident that I feel the right way about the situation, but I hope that I will have the grace and the presence of mind to react correctly and in a dignified manner to whatever situation arises.

I’ll let you know.

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travelling.

August 14, 2012

I’m currently just over halfway through a well-earned two-week break from work, and I’m back in Bristol at the moment with my family. But over the past week I have bounced up and down the country, from London to Peterborough to Hastings then back to London via Heathrow!  During the car journey with Toby and his parents from Hastings to London, I played “the adjective game” with his mother in the back seat, which involves taking turns in saying the following rhyme:

I love my love with an A because he’s _____ (positive adjective beginning with A, e.g. “amazing”)
I hate my love with an A because he’s _____ (negative adjective beginning with A, e.g. “arrogant”)
His name is _____ (boy’s name beginning with A, e.g. “Aaron”) _____  and he comes from _____ (UK town beginning with A, e.g. Aberystwyth)

The next person does the letter B, then the letter C, and so on. It soon became apparent that while I could think of adjectives and boys’ names fairly quickly, my knowledge of British geography is woefully lacking. Apart from when my dad’s mother was alive and we would visit her for a couple of days in Filey, Yorkshire each summer, and travelling to the outskirts of London to see various members of my father’s family when I was young each Christmas, I didn’t really get to know much of England. School trips stuck mainly to the south west – occasionally Birmingham or Wales, but never any further.  In my late teens, when I was doing my university applications, I visited cities such as Oxford and Cardiff for the first time. I hadn’t even gone to central London and used the underground until I was 19 years old. I only like two cities in England – Bristol (more about that later), and London. I’m certainly not attached to anywhere else. Nevertheless, I feel that it’s important to visit cities in my home country (as well as countries throughout the world – Toby and I spent an hour last week making an exhaustive list of desired holiday destinations that will probably take us through to our seventies) to experience new places and broaden my horizons.

During my time in Peterborough, Toby’s mother suggested to us that we might like to go for a picnic at Rutland Water, which is a giant man-made lake / reservoir in the middle of the countryside.  Within that sentence, there are two words which unnerve me deeply: “picnic” and “countryside”. I don’t like picnics because they conjure up images of sitting on grass and mud, eating miserable sandwiches and constantly warding off bugs and insects. My preferred way of experiencing the countryside is through Google Earth or iPhoto – that way, you don’t have to smell it or get hot and sweaty walking through it, and you can turn it off once you get bored. I realise this sounds bratty, and I’m poking fun at myself a little bit – but I’m truly not one for gazing out over endless fields. I see it, my mind takes a picture, let’s move on – the fields do not do anything entertaining to hold my attention, and there’s no focal point. However, I tried to be up for something new, and I didn’t want to outwardly reject Toby’s offer of an outing, so we went along. The first hour of walking along a cycle path through clouds of midges, lumps of poo and flocks of sheep with the sun beating down on me and cyclists weaving all around us did not do much to endear me to Rutland Water, and I felt really bad. While my worst fears had indeed been confirmed, Toby had tried to do something nice for me and I wasn’t being very appreciative – he got a bit upset, I apologised and made more of an effort at conversation, we ate our nice sandwiches on a bench (at first he did come close to breaking his promise that we wouldn’t sit on the grass, but I firmly put the kibosh on that one), and soon it was a much more pleasant experience. We then drove round to the other side of the lake, which was far prettier and felt a lot more like a park.  For the record, I really like parks – we visited Battersea Park on Tuesday and it was lovely, plus we fell in love with nearly every dog that we saw (one of which, a bichon frisé, fell in love with me and followed me for about 5 minutes much to the chagrin of his owner). My mood had lifted a lot and I was actually enjoying myself, and Toby was too – as guilty as I felt for my initial ungratefulness, I am proud that I was mature enough to get over myself, enjoy myself and thank Toby for his thoughtfulness in the process. We skimmed stones (I discovered that I am really bad at this), looked at a very strange metal sculpture (apparently created purely to be aesthetically capitivating):

and walked along a dam made of piles of stones, which was very romantic. I ended up having a lovely time and after my initial disquiet, I appreciated the fresh air and open space.  Would I go again? I probably wouldn’t be the one to suggest it as a destination, but neither would I feel anxious about going. I still majorly dislike the countryside – that’s just me, I’m afraid – but I think I can learn to get along with it.

A couple of days later, we went a long drive from Peterborough down to Hastings for Toby’s brother’s engagement party (his brother’s fiancée is from there). I would personally never choose to live in Hastings, as it’s extremely tiny (I do not cope with tiny towns) and feels underdeveloped and a bit tacky, but – walking along the waterfront at night, and then picking my way down to the shore the following lunchtime, I could see that living by the seaside does have its charms:

Walking along the waterfront with Toby’s dad and Katie’s father as the sun set was truly lovely – people were playing crazy golf, a live band was playing, and there were stalls selling confectionery and ice cream. On Sunday we had lunch at a restaurant on the shore, and we went down to the water’s edge after finishing our meal and being that close to the water did feel a little bit magical. It did help that the weather was wonderful, but the venue just possessed a holiday atmosphere which I was able to appreciate. We drove back up to London and Toby’s parents dropped us off at Heathrow airport, which did feel exciting – we joked about just getting on a plane and leaving the country (and there were certainly plenty of appealing destinations on the departures board), but Toby had to be well-behaved as he is back at work this week. We each had a lemon San Pellegrino at the Caffé Nero there, and then got the tube back to Earls Court – and I ticked another underground station off my list:

And now I am back in Bristol. I am having a lovely time seeing my family and friends, and it is good to be home… but at the same time, I really feel that London is also my home now. I’ve lived there for a year (which has flown by!), and every time I return to Bristol, I notice how small the city feels, how tiny the buildings are, and how a considerable amount of the people look a bit… idiosyncratic. Obviously, you get dodgy-looking people everywhere, but I guess that until I started to see more of the world, I didn’t notice it in my own city as much. I always knew that the public transport in Bristol was a joke, but today I paid £2.90 for half an hour’s bus journey. The bus driver was on his mobile phone at the bus stop and I had to wait for him to finish his conversation before I could buy a ticket; I then asked how much it cost (as he didn’t tell me the price of the ticket – he just assumed I would know), and upon paying the driver, he practically threw my change at me, slamming it into the little money tray. I know that Bristol is a very friendly city, and that London is notorious for its rudeness and impatience, but the London public transport is far superior not only price-wise (a bus journey is less than half the price, and even the tube is considerably cheaper), but attitude-wise too – I’ve never been sassed by a London bus driver to date. So sort it out, Bristol! It’s sad that unless something major happens, we’d never be able to afford to buy somewhere in central London, because that would be a dream – but I’m looking forward to Toby and I moving into our own place (we are renting our own flat together in the next couple of months – I’m so excited!) in the next couple of months.  My sense of exploration is blossoming.

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facebook – back from the brink

January 22, 2012

Last night I went out with Toby, Christina and Pete, and we were talking about (among other things) people’s use of Facebook, how it can be quite irritating and invasive, and a new thing that pops up when you add someone as a friend (which I rarely bother doing!) – apparently you choose the ‘level’ of friendship (e.g. close friend, or acquaintance, or colleague). There is some other system of creating a “life event” and of viewing a friendship between two particular people (which Christina labelled as “spooky”, as Facebook will find all of the pictures that both people were tagged in and create some sort of pictorial / event timeline out of it).

Now, when I rejoined Facebook, I did so mainly to keep in touch with my old colleagues from Cirencester, which has been nice. But after the first week or so of being in London, I didn’t really use it! I don’t update my profile (I have twitter for that), I don’t post up pictures (because I have this blog and my occasionally-used tumblr for that) and people communicate with me via other means. Last night, Toby also stated that he hasn’t really been using Facebook properly for the past year or so, and we both considered closing our accounts (for me, this would have been the second time). I don’t know if Toby still will, but I was set on it – returning to Facebook only proved to me how much I didn’t really need it. But this time around, it’s hardly been a burden having Facebook because my presence on there is very minimal and completely for the purposes of communicating with friends of mine who use that as their main outlet.

And then, this morning I woke up to find that Victoria – an old friend of mine from Oxford – had messaged me to find out how I was doing. We hadn’t written to each other in a couple of years, and I hadn’t seen her since I graduated from uni. We were very close in our first two years, living in the same corridor and spending a lot of time with one another. She is such a sweet person, so it was really nice to hear from her! I have written her back, and this experience said to me “if having Facebook now is so light on commitment, why bother deleting it? At least every blue moon, somebody will get in touch and revive a friendship.” This approach made sense, and I feel that I have struck the ideal balance – I’m not completely detached from Facebook, but it is something that I use only when I feel like it. There is no compulsion to check it or update it the way that there used to be at university. I feel unburdened by it, and every now and then a nice surprise like Victoria’s message makes me glad I joined it again.

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paralysis.

July 12, 2010

This weekend was lovely for me.  I went to London to see Toby’s new place and also to spend some time with Nana, one of my closest friends from my time at Oxford.  I was due to be in London the following weekend (now this coming weekend) anyway as me and Toby are going to the Surrey University Grad Ball, but Nana texted me asking whether I was free and she needed to talk.  As it’s more than about time I went down to London (she’s come to visit me in Bristol a few times but between university, family and various other commitments I had never made it down), I decided to take a trip on the very cheap Megabus and spend a couple of days.  We had a really nice time eating, chilling, shopping (though I was restrained with spending money – my driving test is looming so it’s time to prioritise) and it was just great to catch up.  But anyway, that’s not what I’m writing about.

On the Friday night after we’d been for cocktails (Toby & Nana got on superbly, and they were able to talk about science while I smiled and vacated my brain and just looked pretty), Toby and I got the tube back to his.  We got off at Earls Court, and due to him not usually getting off at that station and it being vaguely confusing in the night-time, he ended up walking me slightly the wrong way.  We went down one road in particular, and in the entranceway to the first house on the road there was a man slumped, ostensibly asleep.  It was about 10:45 in the evening, he had a backpack still on his back, and he was strewn across the entrance to the house with one arm covering his face.  His clothes looked vaguely dirty (probably from the ground) but other than that I couldn’t tell much of his appearance, from my vantage point of being stood up.  In other words, it just looked like he’d had too much to drink and passed out.

Toby and I stopped, and Toby wondered if the guy was alright.  At this point, I urged Toby to just keep walking, as he was probably just drunk and would be fine. As the words came out of my mouth, I started to question myself: Why was I so eager to just carry on? What if something bad had happened to the guy? What if he needed someone to call the emergency services? And most of all, what was I so afraid of? I can’t deny that I felt a strong intuition to just keep walking and not get involved in something that was probably not a problem and certainly not my business. The media report and project so many stories about people who’ve wound up injured, hurt or worse by getting involved in other people’s tribulations when they were only trying to help.  But what if that man were me? What if I needed somebody to call for help on my behalf, and they just kept on walking?

The dilemma swirled in my mind even as I convinced Toby that we should just leave the guy and keep on walking. As luck would have it, Toby was using the GPS on his mobile and discovered we needed to walk back down the same road and take a different turning to get to his place, so we were due to end up passing the unconscious man again. To assuage my conscience, I said that if the guy looked like he was really in trouble, if we could see blood or signs of something dangerous (we had already noted that the guy didn’t appear to be bleeding, and seemed to be breathing ok), we would call the police. As we approached the entrance to the house again, we passed many other pedestrians on their way home / wherever, and none of them seemed to be the slightest bit concerned about the guy. At this point, I wondered whether I was just naïve: I’m from a decent-sized city but it’s not London, and things are different there. Perhaps it was even more commonplace than in Bristol, and perhaps they had judged it more dangerous to get involved than to keep walking.  Maybe they hadn’t even noticed. But the combination of other people’s lack of concern, the fact that a lot of the houses had lights on so it wasn’t as if the guy would be in danger nor did any of the occupants seem to be particularly bothered by his presence, and the fact that when we did pass him again, he didn’t seem to be in any distress or be injured (in other words, he did genuinely appear to be passed out asleep) meant that we didn’t call 999 but just went on our way.

I hope that he was alright in the end. I just can’t help but wonder if I did the right thing: obviously putting my own safety (and Toby’s) first is important. But at the same time, how much danger could a barely conscious man who was probably stinking drunk pose to us? Why did I feel an instinctual sense of alarm, and was I right to trust that instinct? I believe myself to be the kind of person who would help a person in need, but in this instance should I have done more? Or am I just being naïve and thinking about a commonplace incident far too much? Am I right in thinking that if nobody living on the road nor the other pedestrians walking past seemed to be alarmed, I didn’t need to be either? Is that just being realistic, or is it a dangerous blind eye to turn? I wonder what this says about me as a person, about us as an urban society, that we’re afraid of making a social blunder that could cost us our own personal safety, even when the situation probably is less dangerous than we fear and the person might need our help? Is the media to blame for hyping such incidents to the point that we are too afraid to help others for fear of the consequences that a misguided retaliation might mean for ourselves? I suppose the most telling thing is that if I could do it again, I would probably do exactly the same and play it safe for me and Toby. I just wonder if it was the right thing to do.

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switch off and breathe.

May 17, 2010

For all of the time that I do spend on my Macbook, texting on my phone, and attached to my iPod, lately I’ve started feeling that my personal reliance on technology, as well as our dependence on it as a society, is getting on my nerves a little bit.  I freely admit I could not live without my iPod, but to me that is an addiction to music rather than an addiction to electronics; music is something I know I could never give up, as I’ve always been around music since I can remember. As a child, if it wasn’t on TV, radio or the stereo as my mother and I danced around the living room to Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody”, then I was singing it.

Even though I had my first mobile phone at 14, I can remember not even wanting one initially – I got it for my 14th birthday with a sparkly cover (my penchant for shiny things has always been well known) and I said to my dad “I told you I didn’t need one!”.  I didn’t really use it until I started my first part-time job at WHSmith when I was 16, and suddenly I had an exciting, interesting friendship group outside of school – people who were cool, who hadn’t known me for the last 5 years and had therefore formed preconceptions and misconceptions about me, and with whom I could socialise.  Suddenly I was texting and spending my credit like water, and my mobile phone seemed to come into its own.  Today, again I couldn’t be without one, and I use it to tweet, send messages, call people if necessary, record song ideas on the go and generally kill time.  But then, life simply seems to have changed in the last 10 years; it’s just expected for everyone to have a mobile phone, it’s convenient for meeting people (in the days before texts to say you’re running late or there’s been a change of plan / venue, you had to arrange meets in advance and be where you said you were gonna be, when you said you were gonna be there!), they can come in invaluable in unforeseen circumstances or emergencies… they’re a logistical and social necessity.  And yet we survived fine without them 10 years ago… Well, I’m glad in that instance that we’ve come 10 years further.

I adore my Macbook, and I couldn’t imagine getting through my university degrees without it.  I remember when my dad gave me his black ex-work laptop to take with me to university; I felt so grown up, 18 years old in a new city with my very own laptop!  When I knocked water all over that laptop approximately 3 weeks later and destroyed it beyond repair, I had to survive two weeks (!!!, though this felt like an eternity at the time) completing essays by hand, watching DVDs on my friend’s computer, and checking emails in the communal computer room.  It was a massive inconvenience, and it really made me appreciate just how much easier computers have made my working life.  In terms of pleasure, music allows me to keep up with (and download) all of the music that I’m interested in.  It allows me to write this blog and share it with you all.  It allows me to produce and record my songs and create albums like Quiet Storm which is my pride and joy, and I’ve felt so privileged to be able to share that with all of you.  It’s allowed me to make new friends through myspace and twitter, some of whom I now hold very dear to me.  I wouldn’t have gotten to know my boyfriend and realise just how compatible we are without MSN.

And yet, despite all of these obvious considerable pluses, I’ve felt myself getting a teensy bit annoyed.  I deleted my facebook a week and a half ago because all of the constant notifications (most of which I had turned off, except then they were clogged up on my profile every time I logged in), the tension between having high privacy settings and resulting awkwardness from restricting certain people who believe they have more of a right to my life than they actually do, the user-unfriendly profile format updates and general invasiveness of it all had just got to the point where I wasn’t enjoying it anymore.  Unlike twitter, which is quick, easy and on-the-go, I found that facebook was becoming a cumbersome site which does everything very well (and I will miss the photo-sharing facilities it had), but sorta places an onus on you to join in with every single aspect of it.  I like that only a select few of my friends have twitter; it allows me to have a little in-crowd, without having to either censor myself or let everyone in the whole world know exactly what’s going on with me.  On facebook, I found that people whom I barely knew were adding me as friends, and after a short period of rejecting them, eventually I just acquiesced because if they were that desperate to be my friend, they might as well inflate my friend count.  In short, it just wasn’t fun anymore.

And yet, I felt scared to delete it, because it’s become such an institution.  When deactivating my account, facebook’s last stand was to show me pictures of my closest friends along with “Nana will miss you.” “Sarah will miss you.” “Nathalie will miss you.” “Hannah will miss you.” “Toby will miss you.” “Mike will miss you.” My heart panged for a fraction of a second, and then I realised: all of these people have my mobile number, my email, my address.  If they really wanna talk to me, or I really wanna talk to them, I will make an effort to do so in a more personal way than facebook offers.  At that point, I got pissed off by facebook’s attempt to emotionally blackmail me into using their service, and decisively deactivated my account.  That was a week and a half ago, and I haven’t really missed it nor felt tempted to return.  I feel emancipated… I’ll let you know how I get on and if I eventually return to the fold!  But I’d like to say that I won’t 😉

I spend a lot of my weekends with my laptop taking advantage of the wi-fi in Starbucks in Cabot Circus.  Usually I’m getting work done that I can’t get done at home, but sometimes I’m blogging or doing various other things.  I remember having to steal neighbours’ wireless internet at home, and the signal constantly cutting out because I would move my laptop a fraction out of range.  I appreciate now how lucky and how convenient it is to have a stable internet at my fingertips.  But sometimes, if I don’t need to do work, dragging my laptop everywhere is somewhat cumbersome (and my laptop’s not exactly huge!).  Between laptop and power adaptor, it takes up a lot of space in my bag (leaving less for necessary cosmetics, obviously) and gets quite heavy.  So the last two weekends I’ve made a point of leaving my computer at home.  I use my Macbook most evenings, I usually fire it up in the morning while I’m getting ready for uni / work / placement / whatever I’m up to.  So in retrospect, I don’t need to carry it wherever I go (especially since half the point of my most recent mobile phone was that it has mobile internet browsing).  And that’s exactly it.  Technology is a massive convenience, a fantastically useful tool that has revolutionised my life exactly as it’s revolutionised yours.  Or if not exactly, then in similar ways.  I appreciate it and I can remember enough instances of it failing that I generally don’t take it for granted, despite being under 25 and therefore a “digital native” (if you’re over 25, you’re a “digital immigrant”, so now you know!!! 😛 ).  But I don’t want to turn into somebody who doesn’t know how to live without technology.  I used to be happy just singing songs, doing jigsaw puzzles, watching TV and reading books – no internet, no cell, no computer, no iPod, no Playstation.  I could spend days doing simple things like that, and while I’m sure that these days I’d get bored after a while, I want to know from time to time that I’m still capable of living independent of these things that I feel I need, that we’ve all become used to thinking that we need, but we don’t really.  We may need them to survive in our contemporary social landscape, but our lives won’t physically end without them.  I’m currently trying to teach myself that.

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calorie counting.

May 3, 2010

Please be frank, and if you think I’m in the wrong, please tell me.  I’d almost like to be wrong, I’d like to feel that my family do respect my intelligence and that I’m somehow being unfair to them by believing that they insult me and feel that I am foolish.

The past few months, I know that I have lost weight, but I am hardly underweight.  I have a nice shape, a slim waist, but I still have muscle tone and at 6 feet tall, I wouldn’t want to lose that and become skinny.  I eat enough without stuffing my face (unless I’m indulging – for example, on Saturday night I had a large Meateor pizza from Dominos as a treat). I have never starved myself, nor do I induce myself to vomit.  In other words, even though I am certainly vain and may have a smidge of body dysmorphic disorder, I certainly do not consider myself to have an eating disorder.

So therefore, at 24 years of age, why do my family (specifically my mother and my grandmother) insist on me giving them a rundown of what I have eaten that day, and then accuse me of being bulimic, or decide to prepare me a meal despite my protestations and specific statement that I don’t want anything to eat? Now, I know that they are family and trying to look after me, but it’s getting to the point that they are deciding what I want, or what I need, regardless of what I express.  When what I really need is for my voice and opinions to be respected.  Do I really have to wear my calorie count across my head like the scarlet letter? Perhaps it should be on a flashing LCD display? I don’t know, but I am getting to the end of my tether.

I have accomplishments to my name.  I have always passed my exams, I have lived away from home both in Oxford while I was at university, and in Spain during my teaching assistantship.  I have held down a job since the age of 16.  I handle my own finances, pay my mother a token rent of £100 a month, and I have always been able to make friends.  Therefore, should I be insulted that my family apparently doubts my ability to feed myself? Should they themselves be insulted, since they are the ones who raised me (though like I said in the previous entry, I am 90% alien / my own influence) and therefore taught me either to be intelligent and have common sense, or alternatively did not teach me how to take care of my own well-being?  I have never let my parents down the way that many other people my age seem to, so do I really deserve to be put under such suspicion, such surveillance?

I am aware that moving out would solve this problem once and for all, and I am working on getting a job which can help me afford a car and a place to live. But despite the fact that I live at home, this doesn’t mean I should be treated like a child, especially as I do pay for the privilege of staying here – ok, again it’s not much, but I feel that it should earn me the right to my privacy and autonomy.  Isn’t that basic human decency?  My mother rarely asks how I am or what I’ve been doing in a casual, interested way… but she thinks it’s fine and not at all intrusive to ask for my dietary intake. I don’t think I’m the one with the problem here… am I being unfair? Even though this is my family, and one might argue that they are just concerned about my well-being, I counter this argument with the fact that I am rarely asked how my day has been: I usually ask after my parents’ days, and if my mother’s argument for that is that she does not want to infringe my privacy and independence, what does she think that inquiring after my eating habits is doing?

So I’ve had about enough of it. I find it insulting to my own intelligence, common sense and independence; I find it almost insulting to my mother / grandmother’s own ability to raise me.  It infringes on my privacy, which should not only be a basic human right but a right that I in fact pay for; if I were a lodger, would it be acceptable for my landlords to constantly ask minute details about my calorie consumption? I don’t think so. Should I be more accepting, more understanding, or am I right to feel aggrieved? Please let me know.  Thanks for reading, as always 🙂

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onyx paradise.

April 11, 2010

Those of you who know me will know that my screen name for 85% of the forums that I use is “onyxparadise”.  Originally I only liked the ‘onyx’ aspect of the name (since the word looks and sounds pretty), but the name ‘onyx’ had been taken already on the forums I was interested in using at the time, and I was inspired by Britney Spears’ Onyx Hotel Tour.  Choosing an alternative, mysterious-sounding gemstone quickly became apparently not an option: “sapphire” and “topaz” (both in reference to my mother’s favourite stones, and both pretty-sounding words once again) were far too girly, so I thought about adding something to “onyx” to make it work.  Again “sunset” and “beach” sounded too feminine, but I hit upon the idea of “onyxparadise” and it had a magical, mysterious ring to it.  When I think of what the word represents, it symbolises some sort of fantasy faceted-glass multicoloured landscape within a gemstone.  I don’t know how to verbalise it better than that, but I know that those words create nothing close to the image / atmosphere in my head.

Returning to Britney Spears, she did teach me something interesting about the onyx: although the stone is traditionally black when we see it used in jewellery (and although black is my favourite “colour”, I’m not a fan of onyx jewellery), any light that shines into it can be refracted back out in a multitude of colours.  Now, Wikipedia tells me that this is false (or somewhat exaggerated at the very least) but I’m going to go with it because it supports the metaphor that I want to explore and essentially base the rest of this blog entry on.  Ever since I can remember, I’ve always felt like I’ve had multiple personalities.  Different sides of myself expanded as I got older and I started to give them different names: Alan; Miles (ok that was ill-advised but he didn’t last long); AC; purehonesty; onyxparadise; Chase.  They embodied different things, different representations of me, and now I reflect upon it I see that onyxparadise was really the perfect name.  Rather than multiple personalities, I am one person with all these different facets, different colours, different aspects to my being.  Just like an onyx (or Britney Spears’ version of it, anyway).

Sometimes I feel like I keep getting it wrong: I hated the movie Kick Ass, which I went to see last night, because I could only see reference after reference to Kill Bill – at want point does a parody/homage become a rip-off? It must have just been me, as the vast majority of reviews online are hugely positive, but I guess I just didn’t get the sense of humour (though I enjoyed Hit Girl). I don’t eat pizzas quickly enough for my father to have as much space in the fridge as he would like, and the first thing he said to me this morning was “who opened the back door?” as if by getting my milk from the fridge I had unwittingly committed a cardinal sin.  It’s times like these that I feel socially awkward or incorrect (like when I confused the barista at Costa by barking at Toby not to be so healthy in his choice of biscotti, as he was making me look bad with my vanilla frescato and carrot cake), and it’s only recently that I’ve taken a personal stand not to let my family make me feel so ugly, because their problems are no reflection of me.

There is a facet of me that feels tough, dark and edgy.  I now have 3 tattoos, I dye my hair black on the regular, I smoke and drink and stay out late.  I’m still a good person, I have many friends and I work damn hard juggling studies and employment. So I feel I’m entitled to play hard, and I feel that at 24 years old I’ve proved to myself (and to anyone else, not that that matters) that I am intelligent and sensible enough to make my own decisions and to stand by them and live through the consequences, right or wrong.  By embracing that side of myself, I take less nonsense, stand up for myself more (although this is still a work in progress)and I feel that it’s been key in the shift in my life over the last 9 months to being much more happier and taking control.  I feel happier indulging the edgier, mysterious side of me, acknowledging there are dark depths of my personality and essence that I have yet to plumb, because it makes the light shine that much brighter too.

And now, I have some really good friends, people who are close to me.  If my family more and more are the source of unnecessary stress and drama in my life, then my friends feel like what my family should be.  So I almost glow when my new best friend tells me how glad he is to be friends with me; when my boyfriend tells me for the first time that he loves me.  These are experiences I never had before, that make me feel almost uncomfortably good because I am valued, I matter.  Sometimes being strong, being independent, being tough – even if it’s a self-fulfilling façade at times – is really lonely.  But it’s times like that, it’s times when Mike offers me to spend the day with him and his family, when Billy gives me a big hug and kiss before bedtime, when Toby holds me tight in his arms as we watch TV and I feel so safe, that I know I don’t have to be, don’t deserve to be alone.

I never used to wear designer clothes or jewellery.  I have never been a 32″ waist since I was a child, and I find it funny to be posing as a model in Toby’s photos on beautiful days walking around Bristol, because I always dreamed of being a model and assumed it was out of reach.  After the strife of growing up between my parents and their families, the violent alcohol-fuelled arguments and mental abuse I experienced as a child and adolescent, the periods of unhappy rebellion as a 16, 17, 18-year-old, the disappointment of not really knowing where I was going with my life having graduated from Oxford University, the turmoil of a year in retail unable to fulfil my potential, I finally get to experience everything slotting into place, the lights shining from the onyx in a rainbow of the right colours.  Life finally feels good, if not how I imagined it to be! So this entry is really personal to me, because it’s how I see that I’m a whole host of different things – I am one person with many different aspects, not all of them necessarily pretty but all of them important, all of them of value.