Posts Tagged ‘power’

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edgier.

December 10, 2009

Having been on my new university course for 3 months now, and having made some really close friends who are generally a few years older than me (my closest friends on the course are 33 and 35), I’ve really been able to see how far I’ve come as a person.

Looking back at myself even 4 months ago when I had only started writing this blog, I knew myself, but myself was unsure and nervous.  I felt as if I was in a rut professionally after graduating with a good degree from a prestigious university, personally I had had “friends” who turned out not to be friends at all slander me and accuse me of things (theft, bullying) that I had and have never done, and would never do in a million years.  I took it all on the chin and just had faith that things would get better, but I knew in my heart that I didn’t know what would happen.  Would this careers guidance course be the right decision for me?  What was going to happen to me?  Had I peaked already in my life?

The answer to that last question, now I see, is an emphatic NO! Obviously I was only 23 (now 24) and to paint myself as an underdog who had it all and then lost it was more than a little unfair to myself.  I now know that I have so much going for me, so much to offer, and I am not an ugly or stupid person no matter how much certain people may endeavour to make me feel that about myself.  I deserve the best, and with this new qualification, new friends who seem to value me for me from the jump, and new confidence, I feel that I can get the best.  Once again, I’m back on track, and more than anything I’m so relieved.  I may paint myself as confident and assertive – and I am those things – but underneath I still get nervous and insecure.  Now, I finally see that I really am worth more.

I guess it’s a part of natural evolution.  I’ve grown up a lot, and although it took pointing out, I am older than my years.  I don’t feel out of place hanging out with 30-year-olds, because we have the same mentality and experiences.  People generally have trouble guessing my age (I still get ID’d for buying cigarettes on the one hand – which makes Mike LOL and envious at the same time!; on the other hand, a couple of people on my course originally thought I was late 20s because of the fact I can articulate myself and hold my own in discussions), but although I may tease my colleagues at university about receding hairlines, wrinkles and old age, I don’t feel any difference between us.  Aaliyah really had it right – age ain’t nothin’ but a number.  Usually it correlates to maturity, but not always.  At the end of the day, people are people, and we are all human.

These are things that I already knew to be true, but having them held up in front of me has forced me to accept these things as positives about myself.  It’s finally really sinking in.  And the truth of who I am as a man, as a human being, is finally coming out.  This is what I wanted to write about really, but it took the backstory above to get there! (Sorry… but I always give you the main course – no snacks here!)  I thought that I was an adult after university (by which I mean my undergraduate degree at Oxford), but it took me a bit longer.  Working at the Perfume Shop gave me a taste of the hard grind, working for not enough money and being treated like I didn’t have a brain (the saving grace was superficially decent friendships and getting to work with fragrance and deepen my knowledge of it).  My newer job at the hospital has made me see how people can be valued in their work, both monetarily and in terms of being treated like an intelligent human being.  My new course at university has helped me see what I really want to do, and now having that thrust forward has completed me and erased some of my doubts (not all, but some is certainly a step forward) about my future and my life’s purpose.

As things around me have been moving in the right direction, so I’ve been able to spread my wings and become more of who I am.  I love smoking – I’m not a moron and I know it’s not good for my health nor my voice, but I enjoy the feeling from it, the fact it kills time, and the socialising aspect of it – I think it goes hand in hand with being confident and conversational, as you often get approached by people who want a light / spare fag, and you end up conversing with strangers because you share an appreciation of nicotine!  In turn, smoking has reduced my hunger (allowing me to stick to my no-evening-snacking policy) and I’ve dropped a waist size – people at uni have christened me “good looking”, “pretty boy” and lots of other complimentary things referencing both my physical looks and my fashion style. I feel more confident in and out of my clothes – although I’m such a perfectionist that I’ll never be satisfied!  But looking at my vanity and my past issues with my own body and self-esteem, I’ve come a long way.  I feel happier in my skin physically as well as emotionally – and I’m feeling more confident to express the edgier, darker sides of myself which set me apart from others.

After years of deliberation, changing my mind and refining my ideas, I’m finally set on getting tattoos!  One is a stylised A, which you can see here; the other will be above my left collarbone mirroring it, and will be a gun.  I’ve been inspired by Rihanna‘s gun tattoo, but I want it because to me a gun is a symbol of strength and power, of aggression and conflict, of edginess and darkness.  These are all things that I embody – I am tougher than some people initially assume, and I want an emblem of that grit and fire.  I feel it’s applicable to me, and also quite exciting and sexy.  And whereas before I might have balked at the permanence of a tattoo like that, now I feel mature and comfortable enough in myself to be able to wear it and pull it off.  This is me – maybe I’m a good boy gone bad, but I still have a good heart; I have just spent too long in my life pleasing others, and now I’ve finally lunged for myself with this course and am reaping the rewards much more than I ever did listening to other people’s opinions on what was best for me, I believe in my own capacity to make decisions.  I’m not an angel, I’m not a good boy, and I’m tired of portraying that.  I am me and I have a good heart and an intelligent mind, but sometimes I enjoy being provocative or sexy or pushing the boundaries.  That is just as valid a part of me, and my new friendships embrace that part of me too and love me for it.  My infatuation with a married man who has become my best friend and is actively ok with my affection and flirting and actively returns it has been a revelation to me.  We understand each other, we can control our affections (he feels the same way about someone else) and be mature adults, but we also have fun with it – we accept each other and I never felt so comfortable to be able to be so emotionally honest with someone I knew would accept me for who I am. From him I learned what it is to be a good father, a good husband, a good man, and also that whatever I’m feeling, I am a rational person and I should never feel guilty for my feelings.  I should never feel stupid, and the sign of a good friendship is being able to admit how you’re feeling and that other person accepting you for it and not telling you it’s wrong or silly.  Again, these are things I superficially knew, but feeling and living them is a whole other revelation.  I hope that my friends can one day think of me in the same way.

So my embracing my dark side instead of being afraid of it; my becoming edgier is a natural emancipation, a natural evolution of me.  I am free to be who I am, and I am proud of who I am.  I’ve felt ashamed, even in small doses, for too long.  It took a long time to get here, and I’m sure in the future I will still make mistakes and waver, but hopefully I can come back and read this post and remember my feelings right now, and that’ll keep me going.  Once a good boy goes bad, we’re gone forever – but I wish I’d gone sooner and I look forward to where I’m going and whom I’m going with.

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power couples.

November 17, 2009

Looking at the current music industry, I find it interesting how a lot of the biggest stars have attached themselves to one another.  Beyoncé and Jay-Z are considered the golden couple of R&B / hip-hop, and although they are both megastars and extremely talented in their own right (and have lots of independent ventures, and carved out their own careers independently before getting together), it’s the fact that they are together which makes them seem almost invincible.  When you listen to some of Beyoncé’s love songs, you can imagine her singing about Jay-Z; when she has a song like “Diva” which exudes confidence in a hip-hop style, you assume that Jay-Z had something to do with that attitude.  Even if it’s not the case.  Likewise, on Robin Thicke’s new song “Meiplé”, Jay-Z raps about Beyoncé being the “black Brigitte Bardot”.

Running with the Beyoncé example, she teams up with artists such as Shakira and Lady Gaga (whoever’s hot, basically) to cement her status as one of music’s elite.  Just like Timbaland and Justin Timberlake, or Timbaland and Nelly Furtado.  Relationships-wise, remember the furore over Britney Spears and Justin back in the day?  Their relationship elevated them to supernova-level megastardom, and was a massive element in their fame and success.  Interestingly, when they broke up, things just weren’t the same.  I think as members of the public, we like a couple who are balanced musically and seem to fit each other personally – it seems like fairytales can happen.  And when they self-destruct and we’re forced to admit that the fairytale was something created by the public and the media that the celebrities could never live up to, it’s just not the same.  I’m sure that there are some people who would attribute Britney’s entire marriage to Kevin Federline and her subsequent meltdown to the fact that her and Justin broke up, regardless of the reasons behind that breakup or the other factors in Britney’s life that added to her downward spiral (and subsequent resurgence).  I think that the same is happening with Rihanna and Chris Brown at the moment – however good their music / dancing / fashion might be, the fact that they were part of a couple – however much they would deny it to the paparazzi – made them seem that little bit more gilded in superstardom.  Now that they’ve split up, regardless of who beat who, they’re both experiencing some backlash (despite the fact that in both cases, their new material is certainly up to par, if not better, than their previous work).  What’s up with that?

I was thinking about this not because I ruminate daily on Beyoncé and Rihanna’s love lives, but because the same kind of thing has happened at uni.  Consciously or not, several of us within our course have paired off – not in a romantic sense, but just attached ourselves to one best friend.  There’s Pete and Emma, Penny and Daisy, Julie and Clare, among others – and of course me and Mike.  Talking about Mike and me, we’re the unofficial ‘leaders’ of our group – everyone seems to look to us whenever we speak in class, whenever someone needs to volunteer to do something in the group, organising social events.  I dread to think what would have happened if one of us didn’t smoke – we wouldn’t have had the chance to gel so instantly (on the first morning, Mike came up to me and said “Do you smoke?” “Yes.” “I thought it was you outside.  THANK GOD.  I smoke too!” and that was it!).  But I still think that because of the people we are, we would have found each other before too long.  It’s interesting how we seem to attract others around us, be they members of the aforementioned pairs, or others.  At first, there was a pair of the two youngest girls, Jenny and Sian, but as time’s gone on, Jenny has started to explore life on the dark side (i.e. she’s hanging out with me, Mike and Vikki) and loosened up to have some fun.  There’s a sense of charisma and magnetism that pairs who get on well exude without even much effort.  I wonder if those in our group who don’t come out for social drinks, who turn up to uni alone and go home alone, are enjoying it quite as much?  I know that the point of the course is not to have fun and socialise, but I like to work hard and play hard, and I think it’s a good balance for getting the most from this experience.

The funny thing was one night recently when Mike couldn’t come out.  I was still the social ringleader, but I did have a couple of comments such as “So what is Mike doing tonight?”  “How is Mike?” “You won’t smoke as much tonight since your smoking partner isn’t here.”  Me and Mike texted during the evening (he was sad he couldn’t be there, I was updating him on the scandal and gossip as the night progressed), but I thought it was interesting how people still kinda saw me as the ringleader, but thought that he and me were inseparable to the point of knowing each other’s business inside out.  I told Mike about it on Sunday when I saw him, and we laughed at the fact people seem to have the conception that we cannot exist without one another (I’ve heard one person say “Mike loves you, he follows you everywhere!” when I don’t see it as following, I just see it as a natural gravitation towards one another) – last time I checked, I managed 23.8 years of my life without Mike, and he managed even more without me.

Once you become a part of a “power couple” in whatever sense, does that make you inferior when you act on your own?  As much as I enjoy being part of the “Mike & I” leadership party, I’m still my own person.  Me and Mike have a lot in common, but we’re different in a lot of ways too, and I don’t need him to function.  And vice versa!  I think that having a companion or partner in crime makes you feel stronger, bolder and more confident, but it doesn’t mean that without the other person, you’re nothing.  I wonder what Jay-Z thinks about his position in hip-hop’s elite, and whether this position would be compromised were he to divorce Beyoncé tomorrow.  Sometimes a friendship or relationship brings along with it a certain amount of social bank or clout, but that’s not the sole reason why we should be friends with anyone – we just gel with people and connect from there.  Because at the end of the day, people may see a certain facet of us in the public eye – whether we’re celebrities or just day-to-day people – but behind closed doors or in the privacy of our own relationship, we have that connection for reasons people don’t understand unless they’re willing to plumb the depths below the surface.

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powerless.

September 12, 2009

“My life can never be anything without you.”

That is what Graham said after Jill’s death last week.  It was in the Evening Post Deaths section.  My mother was saddened and a bit confused.  My father was convinced that someone at the newspaper must have got the wording wrong.  I don’t know.  I mean, my mother knows Graham best out of the three of us (I have only met him once; I don’t believe my father has ever met him at all), but by his own admission he is a very private person and isn’t particularly upfront with his emotions.  So I don’t know if he meant to word himself in that way, if it was a typo, if it was just his expression of sadness and grief that came out a tiny bit wrong.  Perhaps it was a combination of all three, who knows.

But it got me thinking.  I don’t know if I would ever be able to say that about anyone, no matter what. I don’t know if I would want to.  I envision falling in love with somebody and the whole experience complimenting and transforming my life, but not leaving me totally powerless without that person.  I mean, no matter how smitten, no matter how rich or successful or romantic or attractive my partner eventually is, I don’t think that I could ever let myself be totally dependent on someone to the point that if they left me, for whatever reason or however it happened, I could be nothing without them.  I wouldn’t want that.  I was talking to Hannah last night about guys and about someone she’s been chatting to who seems entirely too dependent.  I asked her whether I came across as needy, and she replied no, the exact opposite.

This pleased me, and this was what I had hoped to hear.  But then I asked her whether I came across as so independent to the point of being intimidating.  Her reply stopped short of intimidating, but she said that I do come across as very self-sufficient.  Reading between the lines, this meant that sometimes I didn’t need to be so afraid of appearing vulnerable in front of anyone.  I am grateful that I can have a friend who understands me so much, she knows how to express a sentiment tactfully yet honestly, and I can understand exactly what she means.  This, to me, is much more important than a boyfriend who might come and go.  Obviously I want to have it all, and this includes the boyfriend who hopefully stays.  But whether I need to be a little more soft around the edges, I still have friends who like me just the way I am.  I think that in every relationship there needs to be a certain amount of compromise, but I also believe that it has to stop short of totally compromising yourself for the other person.  Because otherwise, before you know it, your world revolves around them and if they disappear, you’re left at rock bottom.  Perhaps it’s because I’ve never really been in love (apart from with Gucci and with Rafael Verga), but I’m just not willing to put myself in that situation.  I will think about guys and treat my friends and boyfriends well and think about them a lot, but I will never stop caring about myself.  Self-esteem has been (and to an extent, still is) a hard uphill battle for me, and I’m not willing to totally surrender it now, or ever.

It is easy for relationships to consume you.  I was discussing what happened at the Perfume Shop with Nick today, and with a little bit of perspective on it, I guess that it was easier to blame me for things going missing there because I am no longer a part of their world, than to confront their problems that the thief is still there.  I’m an easy target because I can’t defend myself, because I got out of there and they are still in that world.  When I worked there, I was doing 38 hours a week, and they were my circle of friends.  I would visit them on my days off, or at the very least phone to see how things were going.  I put my all in there for 11 months, and I was assistant manager / store manager for 10 of those.  So escaping from that environment was a blessing for me, but it also made me realise just how unhealthy it is when a job becomes more than a job.  I guess that a certain amount of restraint from total consumption, absorption, obsession with your work is a very good thing.  And perhaps it is the same with relationships.  Even if you create a world within that relationship which is just for the two of you, which is sometimes irresistible and timeless, there is a real world which keeps on turning outside of that, and we have to stay connected to that.  I want to give someone all my love.  But all my love is not all of me, and love doesn’t (and shouldn’t) equate to power.  I don’t ever want to be powerless, not for anyone, and not for myself.

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i wanna know what love is.

August 5, 2009

I am thrilled to present to you the first exclusive official taste from my mixtape and album.  (well, you’ve heard stuff from it before, but now it’s nearly ready, I’m coming “official” with it 😉 ) This is a cut I recorded tonight, and it turned out so well that it’s immediately onto my High Fashion mixtape.  It’s an acapella version of Foreigner’s “I Wanna Know What Love Is”.  I was inspired to cover it after it came out that Mariah Carey is doing her own version for her highly anticipated forthcoming album Memoirs Of An Imperfect Angel.  Although I had always liked the song, the news made me go back and really listen to it and appreciate how melodic and powerful the chorus is, and how evocative the lyrics are.  Especially in my current situation (do you think if I played it for R, he would fall in love with me? 😉 )… so I couldn’t resist creating my own version – just a lil’ acapella with a couple of harmonies and falsettos.  I truly hope you enjoy it, and I’ll drop more news about my mixtape and the whole Quiet Storm album in due course.

Download the m4a (iTunes file) here.

Stream it on my myspace (with a few other songs which are on the album) here.

Youtube stream:

I’ve also included your first look at some of my Quiet Storm artwork in the video, so I hope you enjoy that too and start to see the whole nocturnal / high fashion ideas behind the artwork I’m creating.  Please comment, share with your friends, pass it around and publicise the song, and of course let me know if the links go down or if you want me to re-up them to other servers.

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façades.

July 18, 2009

Driving home on the way back from my nan’s (oh, conundrum solved; we decided to choose a picture of my grandad for the funeral plaque after all), i catch glimpses of myself in shop windows, in the wing mirror and in people’s faces as we drive by.  I have big dark Prada glasses, a vaguely tanned face, black hair and a fitted black Zara top on, and we have a black Hyundai coupé.  I love the way it looks (everything matches!) but at the same time I see people looking and I wonder what judgment they make.  Most people who look just look away, occasionally you get the odd stare but that could tell you more about their own temperament than about what they think of you.  It’s the occasional extra rev of their car at the traffic lights, the look-look away-subtle double take that gives away someone’s competitive nature, their arrogance or insecurity.  You can never be sure which one it is, but the fact that I can elicit a reaction at all makes me feel a little bit powerful.

I’ve always been someone who can elicit reactions, since at school.  Praise from my teachers, makeups and breakups with my peers, hotly-debated criticisms of my voice / sexuality / fashion choices… I don’t know why, but I’ve never been able to blend in and I’ve always been a topic of conversation and rumour.  Without even doing anything on purpose half the time, I was noteworthy.  And I would much rather that, as someone with aspirations to fame, than to blend into the background – but at the same time, I was never desperate for the gossip, it all seemed to happen by accident.  I have not worked at the Perfume Shop since June 4th, but when I last went in 2 weeks ago to see everyone, there was a barrage of news for me, and also criticism of my bag and of a couple of things I had done wrong a month and a half ago.  I guess I play on people’s minds.

I realise that by this point I sound incredibly conceited, but what I have always been hyper-aware of is image. I remember a long time ago reading an interview with Christina Aguilera, and she said something very true: you have to conduct yourself as a product for consumption.  Every single thing you say, do, wear, don’t say, don’t do, don’t wear, listen to, don’t listen to etc. becomes a part of your persona.  Anything that is done in public becomes a part of your image and the conception of “who you are”.  So you need to be happy with yourself, because if you’re not happy with anything you’re doing or not doing, you’re effectively lying to yourself and those around you.  Every day that we step out of the house and come into contact with others, in a way we are consumed by the public.  You don’t have to be famous for that to happen; how many times have you seen people walking past you down the street or in the mall, and made a snap judgement about them based on their clothing or their shoes or their walk or their accent?  We all do it. And genuine or not, façade or reality, the image we project is the summary of ourselves we portray to the world.  If somebody had one tweet (140 characters) to summarise their impression of you, what would it say?  If you had that same tweet to summarise your impression of yourself at any given moment, what would that tweet say?

The power that I mentioned at the end of the first paragraph stems, I believe, from an awareness of these reactions that we are able to elicit.  The façade I try to give off at most, if not all times, is one of icy confidence.  I have an interlude on my forthcoming Quiet Storm album called “Theory”, in which I briefly explain why I have grown to like designer clothes. The status of wealth that labels emit, whether true or false, gives out a certain image that can protect the inner me.  Whether I’m happy or depressed, whether I am feeling insecure about my body or thinking about my family, the image I portray is teflon confidence. I guess in a word, it’s my armour, and I use people’s presumptions to my advantage.  I know the real me, my friends who have penetrated beyond the façade know the real me, and know that I am deeper than Prada and Armani.  The rest of the world just knows I look fly, and that’s exactly how I like it.

I often get mocked for my vanity by family, friends and colleagues alike.  I’m always checking in mirrors (only glances, but I happily admit I glance quite often – when no mirror is available, the back of my ipod is most handy) that my hair is fine, my body is complimented by what I wear, my lips don’t look dry, that all is well.  That’s who I am, and that is not a façade!  But I am my own harshest critic.  I don’t go to the gym and wear what labels I wear solely because I want to fit a stereotype or be accepted socially.  I don’t seem to be able to fit a stereotype even when I do want to, and social acceptance seems to come to me as a thing of luck in any case – I am thankful to have family and friends around me in whom I can confide, even if sometimes I prefer to let my façade do the talking because there are things I want to keep to myself.  I exercise and work to my own diet (which you won’t find in any magazine, partly because it’s just a bit crazy and uneven!) because I have a drive to be the best I can be.  I can accept criticism if it’s something I’ve already conceived (which most of the time it is) because then it’s a work in progress that I’m aware of and looking to fix.  What throws me for a loop is the rare occasion when I’ve been completely misconstrued, misunderstood, or somebody has made a judgement that I couldn’t have seen coming in a million years.  Those occasions are very rare, but it’s at those times when my façade might slip, because I am taken by surprise.  Of course, it’s food for thought, and I probably do devote too much time to what other people think, but I see my own self-improvement (or masturbation, to quote Tyler Durden) as resulting from an exchange of ideas.  Sometimes criticism is ridiculously invasive, but other times it can be constructive.  At the end of the day it’s my decision to do something about it or not, and the decision I make is in order to carve out my identity and benefit me, not anyone else.  That’s why I choose to portray myself the way I do, wear the clothes I wear, sing the songs I sing, go where I go.  If I’m happy with the final product, then whatever people think is secondary… at least on the outside.  Of course, we all have insecure moments, but then who is really happy 100% of the time?  As long as people are thinking that I’m happy / successful / sexy / non-stick, then the façade is working 😉