THE BAD MOTHER by Charlotte Marriner

I’ve been a little bit quiet in the last few weeks, as I’ve been trying to do some ‘real’ work; to write less erratically and shake off the thick-tongued slowness that comes with cramming my brain with nappies, pureed vegetables and winding the sodding bobbin up. It’s made me realise that juggling it all is going to be challenge. I’d even started writing another blog about the joys of being able to ditch your baby (more on that another time), but with my, however feeble, attempt at rejoining the working world and the sudden realisation that it’s now December and my maternity leave is drawing to an end, it didn’t really feel right.


I’d always planned to go back to work in January. “You’ll be so ready to get back to the real world by then!” people trilled. I’ve been asked over and over again how I feel about it; so much so, that I can feel myself wheeling out the same old tired phrases: “I want my daughter to know that Mummy’s job is just as important and valid as Daddy’s.” “I don’t want her to think that my life stopped because I had her.” “I’m a feminist. We’ve been taught we can have it all.” “I’m not ready to give up my career yet.” Yada yada yada. And I believe it, I really do, but the deliciously snug safety blanket of time protected me from the emotional complexities of any of those words. I’ve not really had to process my decision yet – until now. Now it is December. Which means I’ll be back at work in less than a month and my teeny tiny (though she isn’t, not anymore) baby will be at nursery full time. I want to hide behind a joke and say I’ve not felt this conflicted since the 1998 Spice Girls Christmas song (I wanted to like it, I really did, but the talking bits are just screw-your-face-up-and-hide cringe – and of all the Christmas songs you could have chosen…) but the reality is I’ve never felt this conflicted about anything. Ever. And it was only when my skin broke out like a sulky teenager and I got my third, wincingly sore mouth ulcer in the space of a few days, that I realised my body was yelling at me to stop hiding behind empty platitudes and to acknowledge what was happening.


Deep down, I know why Edie will be okay at nursery. Better yet, why she’ll be great. I know that plenty of mothers go back to work, far earlier than I have, and their children turn out just fine. I know that even though it’s the right choice for lots and lots of women out there, if I was a stay-at-mum now I would get bored and complacent. But this new chapter is like a great, yawning precipice. I can’t see the bottom, but I just have to believe that everything will be okay. And believing – really putting your faith in something that doesn’t offer certainty up front, is much harder. For anyone who’s seen the brilliantly funny Motherland, you’ll know the bit in the pilot when the frighteningly perfect and well put together mother (i.e. the heinous bitch) gawps at the main character and pretends to marvel at her ability to “switch off” her kids, and that she’d just die if she had to leave hers. Yeah, she’s a fictional character in a comedy show, but it’s funny because we’ve all met those people; the ones who reel with horror at the selfishness of getting someone else to raise your children while you continue to work. When I watched that scene I could feel my heart twisting into hard little knots. Is that me? Am I a shitty mum? Because the reality is there’s loads of things I’m looking forward to when January rolls around. I’ve missed my bracing walk from the station, jostling for pavement rights with the rest of London as I marched past Borough market, breathing in great lungfuls of flaky pastry, fresh bread and fatty bacon. I’ve missed the Friday flat white I’d treat myself to with rounded up friends, dashing out mid morning and dawdling back slowly as I licked the foamy underside of the lid. I’ve missed gazing in at the shop windows across the road from work, spending imaginary money on floaty shirts or marble drinks coasters I don’t need. I’ve missed that first charge head-on to a new brief, trawling through ideas while curled up on bean bags or feet perched on tables, searching for that warm, tummy glow you get when you’ve landed on something brilliant. I’ve missed the bustle of the lunchtime stampede in the office kitchen, securing my spot in the microwave queue and then lolling at the table swapping weekend plans and moaning about clients. And perhaps most of all, I’ve missed feeling genuinely useful outside of the context of a mother.


I want to go back to work, but I don’t want to leave Edie. And there’s my conundrum; the little bastard. I’ve loved my maternity leave, I really have. I’ve been lucky to live in an incredibly family-friendly area, with loads of activities and things to do, within a five minute radius of two, now incredibly close friends of mine with babies the same age as Edie. I’ve felt lots of things over the last six months, many of which are documented in shouty rants on here, but I’ve never felt bored and I’ve never felt lonely. We’re in a little routine now, me and her, cosy in a bubble of unspoiled mummy and daughter time, where I get to greedily hold her close and keep her all to myself. But going back to work changes all of that. Going back to work means I have to hand her over to someone else (a someone who is, admittedly, absolutely lovely) and know that she’ll be the one comforting Edie when she gets fed up, or cross, or tired and teary – not me. I have to learn to divide myself; to be a responsible, loving parent at home and a diligent, professional creative at the office. Working doesn’t change the fact that I’m her mother. I know that. I’ll always be who she calls for and looks to, and my role will continue to change and develop for years to come, but it’s the beginning of her being a little less dependant on me and that much more dependant on herself. However great that is on paper, the reality makes me feel a bit queasy.


We all have to balance the multiple selves we neatly store inside us. Being a mother is amazing and I love my daughter wholly and unabashedly, but it’s also just one part of me. Seeing Edie grow into a capable, confident, sociable little child will be all the confirmation I need, but until I feel a little braver about it all, I reserve the right to gaze at hour-old baby photos of her and cry into my tea a bit.

PLEASE GO TO FUCKING SLEEP by Charlotte Marriner

[I should preface this whole ranty tirade with the fact that this all happened two weeks ago now. Two weeks that felt like two years. Two years of under-eye bags and glazed expressions, where the days of the week rolled into one another and I woke up every day with a head thick with jumbled, interrupted dreams and a confused hum in the background. Sod waterboarding. I have no idea why torturers haven’t made effective use of The Eternally Sleepless Baby. Said baby, however, has now just spent the last three (three!) nights in a row sleeping beautifully and I have literally sprung out of bed every day feeling refreshed and aliiiive again. Though I don’t want to jinx it by saying that. Ah fuck. I definitely jinxed it didn’t I…]


It’s stab-yourself-in-the-eye ironic when, at three in the morning, the words to When You’re Happy And You Know It, sung in Elmo’s ball-clenchingly, helium high voice, are stuck on repeat in your head as you try and soothe your baby back to sleep for the fourth time already that night. Teething slash sleep regression slash classic baby stuff has descended upon our house; which means the lovely, happy baby I used to have has morphed into a raging, dribbling lunatic who no longer conforms to any kind of reasonable sleep pattern. My baby is broken. Unlike the dodgy watch I bought in Brighton with the smiley panda face, I can’t just take her in to be fixed. We have to ride it out together, like a fuckoff big, angry wave charging towards the beach. A wave which is a hundred feet high and full of killer sharks with gnashing teeth. (Which is ironic, as she is still very much toothless, and is instead being plagued by three, teeny tiny, white dots. If the bad bit – when the tooth actually cuts through her poor little gums – is yet to come, we’re screwed.)


Edie used to be a champion napper. Her morning naps were like clockwork; 45 minutes snoozing sweetly in the sitting room, an hour and a half after first waking, while I wafted around the kitchen leisurely eating my breakfast before taking a shower. And that was the short one. Unless we were out and about, afternoons were usually spent quietly snoring in the corner while I nursed a pint of Earl Grey and binged on First Dates and Escape to the Country. (Yes. Yes I am making the most of my maternity leave thank you very much.) Naps for days! Just liker her father! The housework got done. (Sort of.) The blogs got written. My underarms were clean. Everyone was a winner. She was even getting pretty good at nights. Sure, she’d wake up the odd time, but by and large I was getting in solid fix to six-hour chunks of sleep every night.


But then one night she just… woke up. And wouldn’t go back to sleep again. I shushed and rocked and bobbed and jiggled. And nothing. Those bright little eyes stared stubbornly back at me and after half an hour of trying to shake her to sleep as gently as I could muster, I succumbed and shoved her on the boob. If in doubt, feed her into a sleepy coma! Trying to ignore the “you’re making a rod for your own back” whine in the back of my mind, I let Edie guzzle until she passed out in a milky heap on my lap. I gently, gently placed her down in her basket and tiptoed back into bed before – shit. Kicking the basket. Is the baby awa – yes, yes she is. Right. More boob it is! Waiting until she collapsed again I placed her back in her basket and counted her gentle snore for a few minutes before closing my eyes. Job done. Angry growling and slurpy fist sucking woke me as I slowly came to in the darkness. Jeez, winter is coming in fast. It’s like the bloody middle of the night still! I checked the clock on my bedside table to confirm that it was most definitely still the middle of the night, and not morning as I’d assumed. To be precise, half an hour after I’d put her back to sleep. Fucking bollocks. I groaned loudly, wondering if the snoring lump next to me would sense his wife’s distress and pain and come swiftly to my sleep-deprived aid. Nope. I picked up the hungriest baby in the world and set about jiggling again. We did this little dance for the next three or four hours – up, jiggle, boob, down – until she finally fancied more than half an hour of sleep and slept for about two sweet hours. When Carlo woke the next morning I was sat bolt upright in bed, hair a la Something About Mary, eyes little piggy dots on top of puffy wrinkles, mouth open and dribbly. Not to worry, a day on the sofa doing nothing would sort me right out and she didn’t tend to sleep that badly for a prolonged period of time. Tonight would be better.


Only it wasn’t; it was very slightly worse.


The evenings got longer and shitter, my heart sinking as bedtime rolled around and I knew I’d be spending the majority of it bobbing up and down like a yo yo. I devoured sleep books and suggestions from friends, but babies need to be introduced to change slowly, so I couldn’t exactly just fling her into her nursery and be done with it. At least when the weekend finally came I had Carlo’s help; a fellow soldier in the trenches who could tough out the enemy’s wailing and be employed to do some serious rocking/shushing while I hid under the covers in shifts. The second week rolled around and I began to fantasise about running away to the closest hotel and closing all the curtains, turning off my phone and burying deep under the covers. I started to categorise my Top Best Sleeps Of All Time and would loll on the sofa, zoning out to old lie-ins, replaying them over and over again like some weird, sleep masturbator. Remember when I slept until two in the afternoon on a Sunday and got all upset because I’d wasted the day? HA! Boo hoo. Fucking selfish wanker with my ‘too much sleep’ problems.


And then Edie had her last round of immunisations at the end of the week. They’re never pleasant, but the last two had been hiccup-free so I wasn’t expecting any drama. She was a little cross and grizzly that day (fair enough, she’d been turned into a pin cushion earlier) but fell asleep easily enough at her usual time that night. She woke me at 1 that morning with a banshee wail and a forehead you could fry an egg on, before being Exorcist sick all over herself and me. Usually when she wakes up in the night I sigh and swear under my breath. This was horrible. This was suddenly wide-awake and trying not to panic as your baby starts breathing rapidly, crying desperately and turning into a miniature fireball while you struggle with the bastard Calpol syringe. This was that simultaneous stomach sink and panic rise. We stayed up with her all night, her limp little body plastered to one of us at all times. We cleaned up the seemingly endless tide of vomit and mopped her sweaty brow, gently rocking her as the fever bashed her relentlessly and left her mewling and moaning. Fever made her eyes glazed and quiet, stealing their little twinkle and leaving her stoned and empty. If she wasn’t shrieking and wailing she was quietly creaking and groaning. Babies don’t understand being ill. She was confused and frightened and all I wanted to do was swap with her. That night, I was never so happy to get so little sleep. The next morning was still tough, but something about the simple light of day made the whole situation less nightmarish. By late morning, we got a watery smile. By early evening, we got a symphony of giggles. We had our baby back.


As I said at the beginning, the last three nights have been dreamy – she’s been sleeping like a pro. But that one, sleepless night, where she frantically clawed at the air and threw up and up and up, has made me realise I’d take a million restless nights, where she wakes up noisy and starving, over that awful one.

THE POOL by Charlotte Marriner

Not just the Good Bodies here -

taut sections of middle, stretched tight over racks of top and bottom bones

- but handfuls of sunburned, freckly, damaged, pillowy skin.

Funny Bodies.

Mismatching Bodies.

Old Bodies.

Strong Bodies.

In the sun, the rules are different.

Skin can be brandished, burnished, proudly displayed for whomever.

A faintly gruesome line of headless bodies ring the glittering water, like a conveyor belt of lumpy sausages.

The more resiliently lazy the hunks of bodies are, the more the hot, Sardinian sea wind blows.

Under a berry tree She and He order sickly sweet mojitos that make their fingers sticky and their top lips tingle.

Their feast is clandestine crisps; crushed underneath a champagne bottle that tastes of salt and vinegar. Condensation clings to the outside before giving into the heat and rolling languidly down the glass sides.

“Are we getting drunk?”

Their smiles are crooked.

The sun beds chatter noisily with the wind, clattering across the hot tiles like menacing, plastic spiders.

In between gusts they can hear tinny music from a phone, punctuating the lull in dislocated bursts, like someone singing the words to a song they can only half remember.

Warm rolls of skin smell like tropical sun cream.

Dark folds clutch onto secrets.

The waiter smiles patiently as he makes them a mojito, again.

The wind pauses and lets the sun burn over her crotch, like a warm hand.

Alcohol hums quietly through her body, spills out of her pores and bounces off the berry tree above them as her bloody gently ricochets off her muscles.

The filter gurgles and spits to itself. Fat softly jiggles as She stalks around the lines of blue, of white; contemplating her next move. 

The tentative toe dip.

Cold shooting up her foot while hot pours down her neck.

He finds She and his face folds up into a sweet smile; strong but soft. Like a kind chair. Something you can wallow in and fall into and never leave. Never ever.

The fifteen minute roll over reveals soft, white underneaths of feet covered in bits of sand and seaweed. 

A love letter from the ocean.

She laughs to herself; this democratic nature of The Pool. 

One man next to her is reading Carl Jung, scribbling notes in the margin, wearing a monocle. 

The lady next to her is picking her pubes. 

The Pool is for everyone. Everyone is welcome at this church where people worship, reverent, silently drinking in their deity.

Hot, cracked mouth kisses other hot, cracked mouth.


A lone cat skulks through the grass around the sides, curious and ignored. The Pool, he decides, is not for him after all. 

A SOBERING THOUGHT by Charlotte Marriner

Since my you-can’t-ride-a-death-trap midwife almost spat her PG Tips all over me and Carlo read one too many news story about a poor, crushed cyclist under a lorry, Sue hasn’t seen much action lately. And, as much as I love her, in this sombre and soggy weather that clings like a limpet to January, I don’t mind too much. Instead, my baby badge and me have been doing a lot of bus riding (lucky me), slash walking (actually lucky me), which has given me plenty of time for thinking. (Side note on the thinking comment: pregnancy brain is a real thing, people. I covered my entire head in Dove cucumber deodorant before I realised it wasn’t dry shampoo and that my greasy roots still looked like they belonged on a homeless cat. This is not the first time I have done this.) Thinking has meant lots of planning and I’d love to tell you that those plans involve opening a savings account for the baby; finally finding a preggy yoga studio and reading up on the ins and outs (unfortunate phrase use) of Hypnobirthing, but they don’t.

At all.

My plans largely involve what drinks I’m going to have once this baby is out. (For the record: an enormous gin and tonic with a big wedge of cucumber in it, sat outside with the grass tickling my toes; a glass of ice cold, extra dry Prosecco whose bubbles leap up my nose; an evening in front of the telly with a bottle of  warm-ish, 2008 Tamboerskloof Shiraz; a slug of my parent’s homemade silky, smooth sloe gin and and and…)

OK so they wholly involve alcoholic drinks. This is the thing that people neglect to tell you, though, when you’re pregnant. Yes, it’s wonderful. Yes, it’s still the one thing that’s going to blow your mind every time you sit down and acknowledge that you are currently GROWING A HUMAN BEING INSIDE YOU. I know, and have done since the moment that that little cross blinked up at me, that this is the best thing that Carlo and I will ever do. By a mile. But you don’t stop being you. Your priorities change and your habits change and the responsibility piles on, but you don’t morph into a parent overnight. At Christmas and New Year’s, I wasn’t ‘not drinking’ because a magical mum switch had been activated and I was now immune to booze.

“Champagne? No siree! Merlot with my cheese? Eurgh. Get that filth away from me!”

Inside I felt like a raging smack addict, leaning over my husband’s wine to get a big, shuddering whiff before smiling sweetly with glittering eyes and insisting that I was very happy, actually, with my elderflower cordial and tonic water. (Thank God for my lovely, also-pregnant cousin who got me a teetotal drinks book for Christmas. If I have one more elderflower-and-something I’m going to lose it.) I’m itching to sit in a pub again and waste a whole afternoon lolling, lazy-eyed in a velvet cushioned corner drinking wine and laughing ’til I hiccup. I fantasise about eating a cheese so ripe it’s trying to run off the board and smells like something that should be buried or set fire to, instantly. I really, really want to go to the Argentinian restaurant that Carlo and I love and drink mint-laden mojitos chased with tequila shots, that make us wince and whoop and chair dance to the cheesy DJ.

I don’t do all of this, because until June, I am the only person responsible for this little life. It’s up to me to make sure the baby enters this world healthy and happy. But it doesn’t mean that I don’t want to.The endless, gooey, new-parent blogs, articles, emailers and TV advertising sell us saints; mother Marys who smile with glee while their boobs get veiny and pendulous and the heartburn makes them burp like your Grandma at the supper table because her hearing aids clearly don’t work and she thinks you can’t hear. These carefully crafted robots don’t help us. In fact, they just make you feel even more selfish and awful when you wish you weren’t pregnant for just ten minutes so the constipation would let you have a normal bloody poo, or that you could have one night off to leap up and down with wild abandon on a crowded, sweaty dance floor. And therein lies my first parenting lesson I suppose; understanding small sacrifices and that from now on, every decision I, and we, make will now include another little person. And even though we haven’t met yet, I know they’re worth skipping it all for.



I’ve rather neglected this blog of late. OK really neglected. The weather’s just been so wet; so grim; so relentlessly English. Cycling to work has not been fun. I’ve not been gulping in lungfuls of fresh air, staring goggle-eyed at the beautiful houses I whizz past and trying to imagine what kind of furniture they have or what colour their walls are or what the inside of their fridge looks like. I’ve not been humming nonsensically in my head, breathing in the buttery morning croissants when I pass the Sainsbury’s bakery or the roasting coffee beans that get released into the London air every time a customer walks in or out. Nope. I haven’t been doing any of this.

Instead, I’ve been cycling with my head down and chin thrust deep into my scarf, my breath clinging to its wooly hairs in little, dewy drops. No tuneless whistling, chirpy smiles to pedestrians or letting cars turn into streets in front of me, I’ve been cycling with my teeth gritted and a permanent, grumbling mutter. It’s all fun and games when the sun is shining and you feel like you’ve won the commuter lottery because look how packed and shit that bus that just trundled past you is. But when the sky is menacing and the clouds are looming then the whole outdoorsiness of cycling rather loses its appeal. Like the shine slowly wearing off public transport for a returning tourist.

And don’t get me started on how hard it is to dress properly for the cold. A massive coat is silly. A wind proof jacket is frankly pathetic. Winter cyclists are doomed to either start their cycle freezing their tits off, longing for the bit when their heart rate picks up and their nether regions feel less like they’re sitting in an icy tundra, or toasty and cosy for the first five to ten minutes before rapidly getting uncomfortably sweaty. Basically, when it’s cold and grey and wet it’s just pants.

But last week the supposedly unthinkable happened; the one thing that all the experts and clever people and polls assured us wouldn’t really, actually, happen. And when the world did a small, shuddering grind to a halt and looked around, gobsmacked and bruised, my bike became the best thing in the whole world. My bike, good ol’ Sue, transformed herself into a little island. A Geneva of calm. Sue hid me from the endlessly miserable articles that littered the train carriages; from the wrinkled, harrowed expressions on the faces pressed up against each other and the bitter grumblings of an entire Facebook timeline who had miraculously all turned into professional, political commentators overnight. Sue gave me twenty-three minutes of blissful silence on the way to work and on the way back again; a blissful vacuum that didn’t demand anything or shout and clamour. She didn’t foist weird, conspiracy theories on me or drone on about how she saw this all coming. She didn’t ask me seven times if I’d heard about Canada’s immigration site crashing mere minutes after the results came through or tell me that anyone who was still considering raising children in this kind of a world was basically a self-flagellating idiot. She didn’t say that civilisation was over as we knew it. She didn’t awkwardly confess to admiring his “authenticity”. (HA.)

She didn’t say a word.

She just let me cycle to work. And then cycle back. Forty-six whole minutes of peace. (Yes, cycling through rowdy, central London absolutely was peaceful in comparison.) Sue was a welcoming lesson in meditative cycling and how, sometimes, it’s the simple things that make all the fucked-up-ness feel a little less fucked up.

Becoming a cyclist (ride one) by Charlotte Marriner

Today’s the day! I’ve passed my probation period, I’ve got my ride-to-work certificate thingy approved and I’ve scuttled out of work to go bike shopping. Gripping tightly onto my voucher, it feels like the best present ever. Even though, technically, I’m going to be paying for it out of my salary for the next twelve months. As I waltz into Evans with a very small hangover, I suddenly get a little flustered by a very handsome man (who are these men? Neither professional cyclists nor shop assistants, they’re nonetheless dressed as if they’re just about to go out for a ride; constantly walking down the stairs to The Basement or dishing out allen keys and yelled-across-the-room advice on cleats to regulars. They’re like the barmen of the cycling world.) who wants to know how he can help.

It’s then that I realise I know literally nothing about bicycles, especially since I’ve been temporarily blinded by his white, flashing teeth and have forgotten what the name of the bike I quite fancied online is called. Mercifully, I remember it after only a few minutes of slightly weird mumbling. A Bobbin Brownie! The mint green one! That’s what I want. Yes, siree. I try to engage him in what I think sounds like sensible bicycle conversation chat: So is that the kind of hybrid, wheeled, thing I should bike, around, erm, safely and daily – er, in the streets? He’s not exactly bowled over by my cycling knowledge but nods vaguely and we both pretend that I didn’t say anything. After ordering my bike he shepherds me around the shop to various accessories (helmet: check, lock thing: check, wicker basket: check) and I choose everything based entirely on its colour. He says that’s okay. We both know he thinks I’m an idiot. Finishing up is a bit of an anticlimax, as I’d had a vision of breezing out of there on my new steed. But it has to be ordered, sent to them, and then put together by them. I’m very glad I’m not expected to Put It Together. It’s then that I realise at some point I should learn how, just a little bit, in case my wheel flies off at a t-junction (you never know) and I can calmly and coolly pop it back on, no big deal.

So I wander out and a few days later I get an email beckoning me back in-store to collect it. Handsome man isn’t there and someone with less time on their hands and more spots on their chin hands my bike over. She’s so pretty. I do a little clap and turn to say thank you but he’s already wandered off. My basket was probably a dead giveaway that I would have nothing interesting, cycling-related, to talk about with him. I want to name her (she’s definitely a she, since she’s all pastel-y and pretty) but I resist the urge until we’ve had the first cycle ride and I know her a little more. (Yes. That’s a perfectly normal thing to say out loud to other people.) Before I even leave it takes me fifteen minutes to work out the allen key properly to adjust my seat, almost knock over the same bike twice, back into an unassuming human foot and nearly send my bike crashing three times. Suddenly, the realisation that I need to cycle home from the shop – on actual roads with actual cars, lorries and buses – dawns on me, and I want to vomit into my basket. I only know one way home (the way I’d walk or bus to work) and feel like the one-handed use of Google maps whilst cycling is probably frowned upon, so I take a deep breath and decide to copy all the other cyclists going home. I only get almost-squashed by a bus once (going round the fairly horrifying Elephant and Castle roundabout) and I’m fairly sure the high pitched screaming was all done in my head. Arriving home less than half an hour later, I pull off my helmet (white, with one green and one purple strap) and walk dizzily into my house. Yes I have flop sweat. And my hair looks bedraggled. And I will definitely need some modesty shorts the next time I wear a dress. But I’m in a good mood! And my journey was free! Take that, public transport. These cyclists had been on to something all along and now I was in on it too. *karate chop*


3 men in a van: why we do, actually, still need feminism by Charlotte Marriner

Yesterday, I wore a skirt. This is not very note-worthy in itself. Wahoo. A skirt. Bore off. It is worth noting, however, that it almost always leaves me feeling self-conscious and awkward; yanking and tugging at the hem or swooping my coat over as much of it as I possibly can, to create a fabric fortress between the world and my lady bits. 


I see that judge-y glint in your eye.


I shouldn’t wear such short skirts, should I? Well. Let’s see. My skirt is, yes, above the knee. A teeny, tiny bit. However, it flares out all French and cutesy like and, short of it being covered in polka-dot bows or lacy frills, is easily the girliest, most feminine thing I own. It’s irreverent. It’s a bit whimsical. It swishes when I move. I wear it at the same height your mum wears her jeans and I always wear it with something slouchy and shapeless. This is not a sexy outfit. (Or what my mother would call a ‘pussy pelmet’.) And yet…


Bouncing off the bus and over to work, headphones in and music blasting, I caught the eye of a bloke in a dodgy looking white van, slathering over me. [SIDE NOTE: This post is not some shallow, self-indulgent, thinly-veiled narcissistic puke-fest where I drone on about how men are just, like, always staring at my boobs. Like. It’s sooooo embarrassing, guys. I promise. I guarantee that this wazzock was ogling everything in a skirt that walked past.] Anyway. I gave him my most withering look that I hoped would say I don’t want you to think I’m a boring feminist, but duuuude and, nothing. About as unfazed as my dog is when I catch him eating fox shit, he even craned his neck around for a better view as I kept walking. I know it kind of sounds funny and, hey, boys will be boys, but it was a bit awful. I turned bright red (curses on my terrible blush), shrank my head as low into my body as I could - like a terminally shy turtle, trying to make myself as small as possible - and succeeded in arriving for work feeling a little bit grubby. 


Bowled over by a barrage of work as I sat down at my desk, the Van Creep disappeared from my mind. No biggie. Shake it off. As lunch rolled around though, I ran out to grab a sandwich. (And two packs of biscuits.) (And a giant bag of Percy Pigs.) The sun was out. The sky was blue. Every Londoner knows that this combination makes your heart do a little skip. Grinning like a weirdo, I waltzed face-first into another Van Perv, so fixated on the lower half of my body, that he didn’t even notice the mortified look plastered all over my face. Trying to act natural and hide the rash creeping down my neck I kept walking, just as a fuck monkey leant out of his van and yelled OY OOOOOY in my face, so loudly and so precisely timed, that I could smell his cheese-and-onion-crisps breath. When, ever, has this method of Talking To A Woman worked? And when, if the aim is not to communicate but intimidate, did that become OK?


What’s worse, is that this kind of behaviour is so small, so commonplace, that we don’t even tell our friends about it any more, let alone someone who might actually be able to do something about it. It’s inconsequential. It’s nothing compared to the horrors of brutal, sustained attacks on women that, also, tragically happen across the world on a daily basis. But I know that I never want my daughter to feel the way I feel when this happens to me; cheap, small, weak. And I definitely don’t want her to feel like that every day, when it happens over and over, again and again. 


And trust me, if someone attempts an amusing, half-considered chat up line on me, I’ll be the first person to laugh. (Or more likely, snort.) When the old man in the corner shop across the road that I often buy wine from, says ‘darling’, I find it kind of endearing and charming. I don’t hate men. And I don’t hate compliments from strangers. But men like the ones above don’t want us to feel complimented. In fact, they would like us to be as passive about their experience with our bodies at possible. As I was writing this, I looked up the word emasculate. A feminine equivalent doesn’t technically exist (another rant for another day), though some use the term ‘defeminized’. When men yell and stare it chips a little bit away from the girl inside us that decides that today, actually, she wants to wear a skirt that swishes when she walks. It defeminizes her. This kind of seemingly harmless, culturally entrenched behaviour is hard to shake and even harder to banish. But until men, and women, have the lady balls to be feminists, to actually take pride in that and to address this kind of behaviour on a massive scale, we’re dooming our daughters, and our daughters' daughters, to that same shitty feeling. And I don’t think, deep down, any of us are OK with that.

How not to kill yourself when unemployed by Charlotte Marriner

1. Don’t be a drama queen.

Ever, ever, ever. Even though your soul is dying a tragic and particularly long, drawn-out death; beginning to resemble that wrinkly grape you found in the back of the fridge when you were cleaning, you’re not actually dying. Besides, weeping and wailing all day is exhausting and will distract you from job hunting and playing Solitaire online. You’re also bound to get a sore throat and now that you’re an unemployed bum you can’t afford Strepsils, dammit. Which leads me to -


2. Stick to a budget.

No one is saying you have to stop spending money altogether. That’s silly. And quite hard. Just try to cut down on the things you don’t absolutely need for a little while. Maybe stop going to those fencing lessons. Hang around in coffee shops and pounce on people’s leftovers. (Five sips basically adds up to a small coffee - if people give you funny looks, tell them it’s the new Taster Menu.) Avoid expensive club entrance fees by standing outside with your ear pressed up to a glass on the wall instead. And so on.


3. Avoid Jeremy Kyle.

I cannot stress this enough. You think you’ll never stoop to those levels but there comes a point in everyone’s lives where, after flicking mindlessly through the one hundred and seventy six Freeview channels, wondering whimsically if you could perhaps pull off those jazzy looking clogs on the shopping channel, that you feel like it might, actually, be OK to watch Jeremy Kyle. Just for a minute. But that one minute turns into waiting for the lie detector results; which turns into seeing the next unfortunate lump of human discussing I’m A Binge-Drinker And A Crack Dealer But I’ll Be A Great Dad Honest; which inevitably leads to you, covered in Doritos crumbs, slathering over the eight-hour long marathon, squealing with delight as Jezza barks viciously at each poor sad sack, booing and hissing from the sofa like a deranged Panto-fan.


4. Wash.

I don’t think this needs explaining.

(Fine, a small bit of explaining.)

Sometimes you want to lie on the sofa, your paw pressed to your forehead, and sigh dramatically. You won’t feel like showering. Because, after all, WHAT IS THE POINT OF IT ALL. This is OK. But fling a bit of hot water and soap - you could even break out the fancy stuff and open that one with the ‘real fruit’ in it - your way every few days or so. You’ll definitely feel 3-15% better about yourself. Plus less people will reel away from you in horror when you stumble outside in your slippers to get more milk and lottery tickets.


5. Do some exercise.

Exercise releases endorphins and blah blah blah. Gyms are quite expensive, so to get around this simply ask one of your friends to run in front of you dangling a carrot (or slice of cake if you prefer) for you to gently jog after. If you have no friends because they’ve all abandoned you, simply knock on one of your neighbours’ front doors and yell something rude at their face. They’re bound to chase you down the street for at least five minutes.


6. Make achievable goals.

If your sole goal is to get a job, then you’re guaranteed to feel like a failure for a while. Create small, achievable goals on a little list that you can extravagantly strike out in big, red pen. For example: Wake up / Carry tea back to bed without spilling any of it / Sing first verse of Baby Got Back to self in the mirror / Put socks into matching pairs / Lie on sofa and think about life for 10 mins / etc. Ticking off each task will do wonders for your confidence and ensure you don’t accidentally start watching Jeremy Kyle. (See point 3.)


7. Have a back-up plan.

Is that dream job simply failing to materialise? You need a back-up plan. Yes, yes it’s all very well and good to aim for the stars and go for your dreams, but being an architect is hard and requires at least five hours of thinking a day. There’s no shame in picking up a leaflet from your local Chicken Cottage or checking when the circus is next in town. Or -

7.ii. Eliminate the competition.

Don’t actually eliminate anyone. This is even more distracting than Jeremy Kyle and slightly more awful. If you find you’re not getting a job because a thousand other people are clamouring for the same job, why not invent a new one? Then you will get both the satisfaction of proudly telling people you’re a VIP Artisan Jaffa Cake Consultant, as well as the relief in the knowledge that you’re the only person who can get that job. For now.


8. Don’t be proud.

No one likes to admit that they’re poor - no one likes a peasant - but pretending that everything’s fine and dandy and that yes, you will split a bottle of Prosecco at the engagement drinks in the bar you’re pretending to afford, thank you, is not big nor clever. In fact, the only thing worse than the bubble-induced hangover the next day, is looking at your wallet and weeping over the fact that you spent your whole week’s grocery bill on FAKE CHAMPAGNE.


9. Have a hug.

Hugging gives you all the feels, as well as making you feel less like an empty shell of a human being. A little hug about two to twelve times a day will reinforce these feels. If you’re that person who needs to be chased by their neighbours because all their friends abandoned them (keep up), then simply stand in the middle of Clapham Junction* platform between the hours of 7am and 9am, or 4pm and 7pm. This is as close to a hug as you will get. However - bonus point - you may get yourself a cheeky fondle too, depending on how busy the station is.

* You may vary the rail/tube station depending on your location/whether you’ve been to the same place too many times and commuters are beginning to recognise you and panic.


10. Avoid sharp objects or tops of buildings.

Just in case.