The easiest job

*lifts chair, sighs*
“Oh, it’s a tough life!”
Sarcasm notes detected, “Well… it would be if you had to do it full time,”
“You’ll be alright then. Part time?”
“No, I’m full time.”

Do you know, I have finally figured out why retail, hospitality and laborer staff are paid so little money. It’s not because the work is easier by any means- what difficulties you have in office work are swapped out for physical exertion. It’s that people think your job is easy.

I should have known it would come back to that Bloom imperative; money is good faith. It’s the emotion you pour into it when you earn it, give it away or hoard it. There’s work that needs doing, so the managerial staff in bars and shops stay and do it thereby pushing hours worked well over the lawful 50 max a week. Even with the profits margins built for building up-keep, other staffs wages and development of the venue there is still not enough to pay these hard working members their due. They all do it for different reasons, but it’s in cities and towns all across the country. The love of the job, the ambition to progress, the duty to the company or the support of the team, whatever it is that keeps them going just for them to do it all again the following week. It’s good enough that they believe in what their doing and so continue, whether it is only a belief or not.

It’s the customers that haven’t the faintest clue that really make me laugh. There’s a bartender looking at you, who has just gone past her 60th hour that week, who has a combined caffeine and nicotine craving, who is still smiling despite the fact she should have lost patience for you 5 minutes ago, and your response is to patronizingly repeat your entire order for a family of four exactly the same way you said it the first time because she asked if it was to be a large or small glass of pinot grigio for your wife. Had it been me I would have cut him off by rudely repeating the order louder than him, but no… She allowed him to finish and asked politely again with an added explanation as to why the volume is an important thing to mention. Would your wife like to get drunk quicker or slower? Do you know what, I think she’ll want it to be quicker- the sooner to her not registering your obnoxious BS.

My apologies that this post is so negative. I should warn you, it continues on the same vein. I’m in a bad mood.

Stag nights. I can’t say much for the hen parties; I’ve never been cajoled by the ladies. If what I describe applies to the treatment of male bartenders hosting for hen do’s then at least we can say that there isn’t a gender disparity. The Gents love to tease their engaged mate something rotten, and the theme tends to follow the notion of reminding them that they are going to be with the same woman for the rest of their married life (however long that ends up being) and that there are a wealth of beautiful women they will never be allowed to go anywhere near, but may well want to. A lot of the time, as we know, this is why strippers are hired as if the enforced lap dance is going to make them long instead for loveless sex that never satisfies them. If one has not been arranged it tends to devolve instead into a pretty bartender being singled out and cajoled for the rest of the evening.

Do you know what, the Grooms-to-be tend to be alright guys, hence why they have managed to build a successful enough relationship that they will soon be declaring to their God, family and the law. They know what their mates are trying to do and have varying degrees of appreciation of how irritating it is for the bartender. Where they can they will get you to play along or conceal so as to keep the rabble manageable.
The degrading objectification is hard to deal with, however. What no one seems to get is that this is not the first party of people you have served that day, and isn’t even the first party to try and distract you like that. It will be the most objectifying thing that’s happened to you that week, but rest assured someone else is getting married next week and will also visit with a group of womanizers. Your wedding, your stag do does indeed only happen once (or at least that’s the intention) and congratulations; have a great time. But the bartender is neither your party organizer or a stripper, so leave them the fuck alone.

Things like a shot of coke for their jager, a fake name and number do no harm. But tips for bartenders in that situation: blowing kisses instead of a peck on the cheek is no better, just don’t play along for that; don’t lean over and touch them; don’t let them lie on the bar; and if you just can’t someone else can serve them, that’s perfectly alright. A lot of the time if you start to play along with no reservations it will only escalate and won’t be long before they are asking you to do things that are totally inappropriate.
People say that it’s just good fun- and that’s cool. If you’re comfortable playing along, go for it. You’ll be well loved, get plenty of tips and trip adviser kudos. Just don’t forget why they started singling you out in the first place. It’s not because they knew you’d be cool with it or that you’re fun and entertaining. They had no idea if you’d be okay and didn’t care to find out. It’s because you’re pretty, and that’s all.

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Lifetime Dirtbags

What happens to teenage Dirtbags? And why were they teenage Dirtbags to begin with?
I met my best friend in math class. My skills had been underestimated and my ability stood forth enough that I was moved into the top class. It was strange to think that I might be rubbing shoulders with those destined to be doctors and professors. It had never occurred to me that as a researcher math would actually be a very important aspect of my career, therefore it was by luck that I was proficient without applying myself. I was lead along the corridor, apprehensive of the social duress that might be awaiting my arrival two doors down. Mrs Hendrick welcomed me in and offered that I might choose my own seat, which proved that I was now in respectable company- trusting an eleven-year-old to sit where they will work best without distraction displays a lot of faith in the student. And there she was.
Bright red hair, big brown eyes, spindly fingers weighed down to table height with large rings of skulls and the grim-reaper. At this age we wore our style as an identity badge and this girl was screaming without saying a word. She is quiet, my best friend- she’s gentle and excitable at her best. But she is also bi-polar. She has an inborn chemical imbalance to her system that results in giggling highs and strife filled lows. My attention was drawn to the idea that we wear ourselves and our personalities in our taste and style. I was ordinary looking, pliable. I always had been. If you spent enough time with me you might have thought from the notion of taste and style that I was the bi-polar one. Or perhaps that I was never sure what I liked or who I was. A colour a week keeps my vitality at its peek- I wore clothes based on what colour I liked that morning. Sometimes I wore grey eyeshadow, sometimes pink lipstick. There might be a blue butterfly around my neck, or there might be a guitar pick on a black chain. Teenage me was a Dirtbag in disguise. The music was my badge. That did result in being referred to as a ‘mus-o’ and some cliquey/hipster behaviour (because no one had heard of my bands and I liked them before they were cool). Although my Mama often accused our music of being ‘slit-your-wrist’ worthy there were lyrics within a lot of it that talked of being full of life and feeling truly alive. We loved the songs that felt like you were screaming your emotions from the rooftops, and admittedly the only thing that fit how she felt whenever she was down was music that discussed depression and suicide. Our taste was not dictated by the friends we’d made or our rebellion from our parents. It was all about the songs that already seemed to be speaking about and for us.
One of the best lectures I have ever attended was one on the Psychology of music taught by a man named Adrian C. North. I was majoring in applied marine biology at the time so attending a different life science lecture was a welcome break from the intense ecology, microbiology and chemistry courses. He spoke about a few relevant studies he and his PhD students had done- but the jist of it was what left an impression. He compared work by Raymond MacDonald, David Hargreaves and Dorothy Miell with his own to try and ascertain the best angle of approach to study the importance of music in our lives. It’s a bit deep for a personal blog [Developing identities in music education, David J. Hargreaves, et al. Volume 5, Issue 3, 2003. Music and Adolescent Identity, Adrian C. North & David J. Hargreaves, volume 1, Issue 1, 2006- pg 75- 92.] but in essence one of them believes that music develops us and the other that we look for music as we develop- both agree that as adolescents we then use this music to show others who we are. In his lecture he hypothesized that we choose music for the aspects that we identify with and that once we have done so, it creates a shield or hiding place that we might use while we figure out the parts of our character not yet defined.
My best friend dressed the part of course. Most of the time it was to avoid too much interaction with kids who were not of the same taste. It cut out a lot of the leg work and requirement to make connections and it worked very well. Although, a lot of her time was spent hiding at home when she couldn’t find the courage and energy to come to school. As expected, she was chastised by our classmates and other close friends. They would call her out and tell her she wouldn’t do as well in exams, but she always did. Eventually they changed tact and said it wasn’t fair that she got to stay home. As the spoken poet Shane Koyczan wrote so well, “as if depression is something that can be remedied by any of the contents found in a first aid kit”. We were very much a clique in the sense that we only tended to blend with those who professed to like similar music whether they dressed in black or not.
I have not yet had the opportunity to visit another high school to see how they as a chain have changed. Have the types of cliques that you will find be different? Have they merely absorbed current culture? If they have, then I can imagine that the schools play host to NEDs, Hipsters and Anti-Hipsters as current archetypes of what were NEDs, Preps and Dirtbags. As a concept, how old are cliques? Preferences have probably always separated the alligators from the crocodiles but it’s more than likely that before the 60’s you just kept your interests quiet if you were too different from your peers. Is being NEDish, preppy or gothic a phase? My mother told me that my trench-coat wearing friends would stop wearing them when they tried to find work.
We are not so much older that Mama has been entirely proved wrong. All of us are looking for work or have it though. Therein lies the story. What happens to teenage dirtbags? All the ones I knew still are Dirtbags. It’s because liking music, whether it’s hardcore or not, has very little to do with ‘what is cool’ or ‘what is popular’. Many of our parents would think this crazy, but it’s true. Did our long black coats, funky hair and tattoos stop us from following our dreams? Well… my best friend is a gaming programmer. Some of the others have gone into psychiatry, physiotherapy, photography, physics (ph-ph, ph-ph-ph). It’s just me that’s hanging onto my ambition by the tip of my fingers. So on the hole, us lifetime Dirtbags do alright.

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I’m not Hemingway.

A while ago I re-posted a quote from a blogger who spoke of the importance in not worrying about your level or lack of wordsmithary. The truth in the matter is that that is wholly right. The style of publication we have here doesn’t require you to pause over every word, and it gives it all this very real and truthful texture. That’s all logical, and I like that.
Yet I have not being writing because of the opposite emotional pull. Part of me strives to express thoughts I know I have shared with others- or ones I think will be- but there’s this store of pride that’s holding me back. It’s not for lack of things to say and in a way I do know how, but I scramble to achieve those beautiful moments when what is often thought is expressed in the best way that it ever could be. But why for Pope’s sake am I trying so hard? I’m not Hemingway.
When I hit the publicize button I am never truly happy. I am truly finished trying, but it’s never as poetic as I hoped. I fight to craft line by line, word by word and try to round off the entire post where in truth I have made references and irrelevant tangents all over the place. They’re irrelevant and I still refuse to remove them, just as vehemently as I refuse to take any post down. When anything is edited it’s for spelling or grammar even where any normal person would scrap the whole thing. Now I have the unpleasant option of looking back at videos, lyrics and journal entries that drip with youthful ignorance, and my skin crawls with the embarrassment. Still, I won’t burn them. …Sometimes I hide them from particular prying eyes. As I have mentioned before, I don’t like people I know in real life knowing about this blog never mind reading it.
WordPress has had a good few words of encouragement for me via my email box. There are several interviews with “successful bloggers” that I have been linked to. I get about half way through reading before realising most have similar advice only worded in each individuals own way. Things like creating a schedule, knowing your audience, knowing your style, writing what you know, not worrying but reassessing after not before publication, blah, blah. I get it.
When I wrote my new blog outline I set a schedule and said I would explore subject lines x, y and z. Just as when I first started this thing I have not followed it. My outline should probably not exist, but how then to let people understand what I’m about without traipsing through my previous posts to find out how indecisive I am. What am I? A university drop-out, a half-blood with matching experiences, and someone who writes posts like they’re a mind map. The best way to describe it is like each post is a game of tetris; it always starts off without a hitch but a few misplaced building blocks later and the whole thing is screwed up and off-looking. How’s that for style awareness.
So… I work in a pub (I have a point, I promise) and we use boards to let people know about availability and seasonal dishes as is customary. The issue we have been having is that the boards must be updated twice a day and in nice handwriting. After much debate the team consensus is that only 3 of the 18 members of staff have nice handwriting, myself being one of them and the other two being on holiday. The reason my hand is desirable is because all of my letters are joined and have definite form. Graphology makes little sense to me because I write the way I do on purpose. I chose when I was learning to write to craft how it would look. I know that there are certain hand contortions that come naturally thus having an affect on the look of your letters, but nurture can defy some of this. Learning to read and write was difficult for me and I still can’t identify typos (thank you spell check, your Infallible Red-squigglyness). One of my various work arounds was to follow writing form. Certain words had a certain correct shape in my head and to imitate this I defined them not as separate symbols that made words. Instead each word was a picture of definite flow. This made reading in different font difficult, but that didn’t matter because I already blubbered reading aloud anyway- when I didn’t blubber I mono-toned and misspoke. It was to my higher English class’s great amusement when I said “the devil is a willy one” when reading Arthur Miller’s Crucible. So much thought has gone into my writing single words as I have grown up that now I can’t stop myself. Each word has had to be worthy of the time it took to paint it. In what I type, the words must now be worthy of saying to strangers. It irks me that they so rarely manage to be worthy.
That’s pride talking of course. It shouldn’t irk me. It shouldn’t be that you ask more of yourself than your capable of. Or of anyone for that matter. Much of my first social experiences were filled with embarrassment of behaviours I couldn’t help, so the only way I could beat my peers was in striving for the best. I was only not embarrassed if I beat them at things and even then they still managed to make me ashamed of achieving every so often. Shame of achievement is easy to lose but the fear of embarrassment stays with us. Fears always do. The skin crawling feeling I have gotten looking back has meant that the things I planned to write about have gone unexpressed. The conclusion in all this is that sometimes it is better to do a half-assed job, than not at all. Also that perhaps it is best not to look back. You can’t achieve those beautiful moments of expression when you don’t try. You also can’t achieve them when you have nothing to say at all. So a timetable means little for me. I have decided that the advice these bloggers give about schedules is silly. If you have nothing to say then you end up talking about fuck all, and if you rush something you have to say you might miss opportunities where your mind is working at it’s best.
Do you know… I haven’t ever read Hemingway’s work. Society has enshrined his name and although considered a great American novelist his work hasn’t come up during my education. Only his name. Oddly enough, the synopsises don’t entice my curiousity either. I guess as far as audience is concerned, Hemingway and I have at least one thing in common- there are a lot of folk who just won’t be interested in the the things we have to say.

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To be colour blind

Here I reblog an outstandingly insightful piece that really made me consider how fortunate it is not just to be colour blind but to live in a country where that is the norm.
Having spent most of my youth in Scotland and only summers in the U.S., I am more accustomed to people being outspokenly appalled in the face of immortality like racism than I am to the kind of separation S.K describes.

I Am Not a Black Woman: One White Woman’s Perspective on the Progress We Have Made Regarding Racism and Seeing Color.

But I did see it. I have seen both norms.

I recall a train ride I once took to Edinburgh when I was a young teenager. I used to travel through to the capital every December- my friends and I made it a Christmas ritual to go to the German market held there in winter. What I witnessed was an incident that made me consider that violence isn’t always physical and neither is it always wrong. One of the Scottish imperatives that we are famous for is aggression, which actually can be useful in the right time and place. Our answer to a man trying to bomb our main airport gate was for an ordinary (slightly dim witted) civilian to grab him, head butt him and restrain him. We don’t consider the civilian an extraordinary hero, only a banal one. What he did was considered the right thing to do and also perfectly predictable. The Scottish answer to immorality is swift aggression, decisive violence, and concluding indifference; no pride for having done something within the grey-area and no shame at having hurt another human being either. We consider it as if they brought it upon themselves by being immoral and so they suffer the social consequences. In Canada similar situations have led to lawsuits and by any moral standard the person in the right still ends up getting sued for resorting to less than polite means. A while back I remember a story that hit the media from Canada about a man who had defended a young boy from a beating by his father, and in so doing hit the father. After police arrived the defender was arrested, the boy was left with his abusive father and later the defender was sued. Brits aren’t fond of suing others or of child beaters, so a story like that is far more unusual to us.

What I saw was an African man speaking on the phone and then be cajoled by a young jumped up NED (non-educated delinquent, aka Chav) as if he were speaking too loudly. When I say he was African I don’t mean descendant; he actually had a thick accent and was speaking in a different language. Understandably talking loudly on the phone in public can be irritating, and had this fellow been loud I think it less likely that he would have been defended. It stood in his favor that actually he was barely audible, the NED had a certain distasteful swagger about they way he got onto the train and put his feet on the seats, and he actually associated calling someone black with a curse word. I don’t think saying that someone is black is inherently wrong, it’s just when you know it’s been used with other terms that imply inferiority in some way. So this twat leans forward across the aisle to the African guy and says, “shut-up ye black bastard; no one wants to listen to that gobbledygook racket!” The swagger in his voice, the ownership of cursing race and not just the man, the implication that somehow the gentleman’s language was nonsense and inferior instilled absolute silence in the carriage. The African’s voice hadn’t reached all of them, but the trumped up NED’s did. So, the gentleman said something to his friend on the phone to close the conversation, but when he hung up it was clear from his expression he didn’t know what to say or do. He was the only black man in that carriage- could he be sure to be protected if an altercation broke out? If I hadn’t been 13 and timid I would hope that I would have been the one to get up and say something. Thankfully there was another banal hero on the train. This big burly white guy- very Scottish with red hair, and blue eyes- gets up from a few seats down and comes right up close to the NED. In a thick Scottish accent he tells him that he’s wrong, “naw wee man. It’s you that should keep yer mouth shut if that’s the kind of racist crap ye want te come out wi’.” Being full of swagger, the young guy did push back. He shoved the burly guy away from him and got up. But Big Burly guy had friends. When the conductor got to the carriage the ‘wee man’ was already restrained and the conductor okayed putting him off the train at the next station. I remember seeing the African gentleman’s face afterward. He was in total shock and Big Burly on his way back to his seat said something to the effect that he was sorry he had had to go through that and promised that that had not been acceptable. He wished the remainder of his stay in Scotland to be more pleasant.
So small audience- was that freedom of speech? Unacceptable violence? Does the acceptance of violence have the potential to go wrong? When there are no clear sides of right and wrong what should we do? Leave it to the law; the forever black and white law that isn’t entirely capable of dealing with grey matters? And the situation I’ve described would have been a clear win for the African man even in the eyes of law, but would it be as effective? The aftermath of the comment if no one had done anything would have meant that either the gentleman would have had to sit there uncomfortable and still an open target, move to the next carriage and then the person in the wrong would have won, or he may have ended up saying something to defend himself that would have ended in direct altercation and physical damage to himself. What I ask you is, do we not use our own freedom of speech to stand up for others as a consequence to others socially unacceptable use of it? In America, that NED would have had every right to say whatever he liked and so would be free of any persecution by the law. But should that also mean that he is free from social persecution? “If people carry on like that, they’ll get their comeuppance in the end,” only if we act. Only if we actually use our freedom of speech to enact that comeuppance. Should you not wish to put yourself in danger to protect someone else then I’m not sure you know what it is that’s worth getting hurt for. Of all the things where I would put my own safety last it would be in the face of racism or classism.

I leave you with one more anecdote, and this is to disillude those that might think that I can’t understand what it would be like to live in America. There have been racist individuals on youtube who have called me out and said that I can’t possibly know why separation is better for everyone’s safety, because I live in a country that’s mostly white. BS.
On a flight to America (why this always happens en route to somewhere I don’t know) when I was about 7-years-old I distinctly remember an incident between my Mum and an older white woman who was appalled that I had a black baby doll. The woman wanted to know why my mother would have given me such a thing. I wish I could remember Mama’s comment verbatim but I don’t. It was something like, “why shouldn’t she have a black doll if it’s just as possible that she might have a black baby when she’s older?” The responding comment was racially charged and spoke of not mixing race and also, not adopting another race. Mama must have decided it wasn’t worth the argument and just ignored her after that. What I distinctly remember though, is that this was the first thing I’d ever heard that didn’t immediately make sense. I must have believed that it perfectly possible for black couples to give birth to white children, and white couples to give birth to black children. Clearly I had no grasp of genetics whatsoever. I chose that baby doll myself in the shop- to me at the time the white ones looked kind of ugly.

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York

From: penguin_doodles@yahoo.com
Sent: ‎04/‎03/‎2014 21:12
To: oreoanonymous@gmail.com
Subject: Dad says how the shell are ya ?

Your sister was kind enough to send me your address now that I’m using email. Must have been an interesting year- we haven’t heard from you. I miss your handwritten letters. Or you could email me at this address. Either way we have a lot of catching up to do. Looking forward to hearing from you.
Love, yer Yankee doodle Daddy

From: oreoanonymous@gmail.com
Sent: 04/03/2014 23:54
To: penguin_doodles@yahoo.com
Subject: Re:Dad says how the shell are ya ?

Ye alright Doodles? :)
So… The last time we spoke I had started that sales job. The entrepreneurial job.
It managed to take up so much of my time that I slept on Sundays and was working 12 hour days, 6 days a week. You know enough of me by now to know that rather than irritate me I dove into this full(fool) heartily. Worked my butt off so thoroughly everyday that I was falling asleep talking to my partner on the phone. Which wasn’t good for our long distance relationship but I was so brainwashed that I didn’t care. I believed in the job- I thought the skills I was acquiring were wonderful. All of a sudden, I could sell sand to the Arabians- I had found my silver tongue and so I felt unstoppable.
But that was a lie really. What I was earning wasn’t enough. Slowly I realised that it was one thing to work real hard and get my due for it later when I progressed through the company, and another that my boss was earning more than me for each sale that I did. He was teaching me yes, but what he earned for doing so seemed disproportionate. I let it slide for a while, but it became impossible to pay my bills and without a cell phone I couldn’t do as many sales. Without the law of averages on sales I couldn’t make rent. I agreed to leave the flat before I couldn’t pay it. Went to stay with one of the girls I’d met in the company-a kiwi with a wicked sense of adventure. It was she that made me realise I’d worked myself into the ground and had given up on my science. She saw my books and asked why I’d given it up. When I said I hadn’t, I realised that wasn’t true. Remember I decided I wanted another crack at it? The talk we had about knowing myself better and Holmes’ “not just to see but to observe”? Well by then my idea of saving enough money to go back next year (this September) was impossible. I had delved so deeply into my overdraft to survive that it will be years before I have a good enough credit rating to borrow enough and years before I will have any savings, even if I was to live rent free on peoples couches.
The company had brain washed me into thinking anything was possible and had stolen any free time I could have had to think it through. The company had made me believe in crony capitalism while earning money off my back.
My partner’s parents hired a van and drove me and my stuff to York, where he was organising a new flat to rent that would be just big enough for both of us. There’s no couch, but because it’s ours I love it. Wooden beamed ceiling, dark tiled floor in the kitchen, lovely brick fireplace.
Within two days I had my cv into 50 job ads and responded and took the first place that answered two days after that. Now I work my butt off as a cocktail waitress but at least I get paid my due for it.
Ofc (of course) everyone back home is furious because of how sudden it was and Mama still hasn’t gotten over me moving in with someone. Hence why she ripped up whatever it was you sent to Gran Molly’s; I’m real sorry I didn’t get to see it. Soon I’ll have some disposable income and will be able to send letters again. Although as you can see, I write one hell of a long email when I want to, too. Lol (laughing out loud).

Haven’t really summarised all this to anyone until now… No one’s really asked. Been so stuck in my own head all this time that I’ve kind of jumped at the opportunity to let it all out.

Anyway! Lots will have happened with you I’m sure. You are now interneting (well done sis and Penguin). How are things with Grandma? Heard family and co made a few trips to Florida- did you all have fun? Did you go up to Maryland to see them too (it has been ages since we spoke)? Excited about sis’s baby? Guess it means we can start calling you ‘auld yin’ lol. What was it you sent in the letter btw (by the way)? How are your knees? And Heats win on the Bulls last month was a blow; please don’t rub it in :P

Much loves, and waiting impatiently to hear from you again,
Wee yin
-x-

(p.s. I included meanings for the abbreviations just in case you didn’t know them and want to learn.)

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Red bed morning

For some people this post is probably gonna be a bit too much. A bit too honest and on a topic not many are interested about or would even ever want to think about. There are some topics I wish I could be more open about with friends, but not feeling able to do so has meant that I want to blog anonymously about it. Yes, it’s strange that I can’t speak openly around people that know me, yet am perfectly comfortable writing it on the internet. You know how some women are more than happy to talk about aspects of their womanhood and others can’t even comment when someone else brings up the conversation? Okay, so I’m the girl that is quiet when her louder friends bring up sex, nuances in relationships, and things like ‘that time of the month’. Anyone normally like myself, should press the back-button right about now.

I have had to have a conversation with my partner about ‘that time of the month’. We’ve been dating a long time, and have just started living together. And I had an incident.
Up until now, the two of us had an understanding. We referred to my menstruation as ‘them lady-times’. It was like an in-joke. We could laugh whenever I seemed moody and he would get to joke, “you must be having your lady-time, hu?” The funny part was that not once when he has ever made that joke was I ever actually on my period. When I was getting the killer cramps he would immediately know it was my lady-times and come back from the corner store with paracetamol, chocolate and Dr Pepper. He’d also make up a hot water bottle for me. All without saying anything.
So the other morning I woke up with a less than pleasant feeling around my pants. (And legs.) To add to how mortified I was I had to dirty a towel just to get to the bathroom.
When he woke up and saw my side of the bed… he tried to make light of the thing. Tried to make it funny. But in so doing he almost made it sound like my lady-times were my own fault. The logical side of me knew it was funny and yet I couldn’t bring myself to laugh. Why? Because I realised then that a man can’t really understand.

When you get your first period it can of course… be messy. Thanks to not expecting it you may well have soiled your pants before you realise. Not only do you not have the sanitary items you need, but hell! Depending on how sheltered you have been by your parents you wouldn’t even have known what they were, what to do with them, or what the etiquette was. The reason I know that’s true is because there are plenty of women that apparently don’t know; having worked in bars there are plenty of times cleaning up the bathroom wasn’t unpleasant for the vomit, but the lack of sanitary hygiene. For men that don’t know, next to the toilets in the ladies room there is a special bin. Being drunk is no excuse for not using it- sometimes women don’t even wrap up the used stuff in tissue paper! Etiquette ladies, etiquette!
Anyway. I was (sort of) ready. I grew up in a single mother household with a woman who was very clever and wanted to prepare me for anything that I might have to go through that would cause me embarrassment. Very lucky, because I started my periods before any sex ed classes. I knew where my Mum’s lady-time basket was and how a sanitary towel worked and so I went the whole first day without ever having to mention it to her. A little like Anne Frank; it got to be an empowering little secret that I had started to become a woman. Alas, mother nature is a bitch and couldn’t just leave it at that. Nope; she had to make it messy and painful. Mum being open, patient and understanding of how mortifying the whole thing can be was great.
My cycle was/is significantly shorter than most womens’. The bleeding is ridiculously heavy but then occurs over less time than other women, which makes up a little I guess. The painful cramps are enough to floor me (often having been criticised by my Grandma telling me it wasn’t as bad as labor). Something that’s always been very important to me is being clean, tidy and for all I am clumsy I try to hold myself with dignity. Being prepared for lady-times, therefore becomes very important.
All this being the case you can then imagine how I felt waking up like I did where the expression ‘caught with your knickers down’ became totally irrelevant; my body still managed to be the cause of gut-wrenching embarrassment with my pants perfectly in place.

My partner couldn’t understand that the emotional baggage that comes with that kind of incident isn’t worth the joke. It’s one thing for a comedian on stage to joke about “not trusting something that bleeds for days on end and doesn’t die” [See Frankie Boyle]. Or acting out the problem a woman might come across if she goes out dancing with a sanitary towel on [See Whoopi Goldberg]. With these kind of jokes you laugh because they can be insightful- we all know it’s icky and embarrassing and so the fact that other people go through it too, makes it okay. It’s a female collective emotion. So whatever you do, don’t single a woman out as if it only ever happens to her. In the case of what happened to me, I’m sure very few women are in a position of having to buy a new mattress before they even wake-up. But for fuck’s sake, don’t point it out.

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Google–> images–> atari breakout. Enjoy.

On talking about gaming I can’t help but realise I’m one of these casual gamers. And yet this post may have references you don’t get.
A lot of critics can’t help but dislike games like candy crush and bejeweled. They will often sing the merits of having more people into gaming because of the legitimacy it brings to the gaming community. The view of these people is no longer of teenage boys and middle aged men living in their parent’s basement. Families have nintendo wiis sitting by their television (unused in my family now that we have them, but there you go), they play at the arcades when on holiday and yes, the games like candy crush and farmville are ridiculously popular on social networks. I say ridiculous with reason. About 100 million people were logging into candy crush at it’s height and it was bringing in a couple of million in cash everyday. Everyday! Of all the games to pour your money into.
Of course iphones and smart phones being as popular as they are adds to this with platform gaming- if Metro can make a platform game about safety next to trains and people play it [dumbwaystodie.com], then gaming has even become a type of marketing… Forget having to market the games in the first place- they kind of do it themselves by being so enjoyable and accessible.

So… marketing… that’s a thing. When game design companies like EA were young they were run by creative young minds who wanted to raise gaming to the level of respect and understanding that story art such as paintings, books and movies have. They had a vision of interactive art that could not only entertain us but also immerse us into a world of escape. Instead of having to imagine characters and scenarios by their description they would be brought before you like a movie- but unlike a script or plot the saga is flexible and pliable to the story you would like to see played out. We’ll leave that kind of gaming to Bioware these days but I’m off topic.
When gaming popularity started to grow with the accessibility of computers and 80’s technology it was inevitable that the game companies would eventually want a sense of direction. They wanted to understand their audience and provide for that audience as any good artist would. It was of course in part with money making in mind, but also about demand and supply. There is a fulfilment level in an artist that can only be gotten by others appreciating their creations. That’s all fine. What these companies did was market research. The results from these projects would go on to drive the industry into the saturated crap we have today. As I’ve tried to point out it was only with good intention and who’s to say saturation is bad? … Necessarily…?
The results showed that boys made up a greater percentage of the market. So of course- make games that appeal to boys and make money, yay! What I would question is whether they really thought that the only kind of games that would appeal to boys were ones where you shoot continuously. Whenever I play these modern shooter games I am constantly in a state of paranoia. And that is mainly because I am very easily immersed in a story or frame of reference. I play minecraft, and there was this one time… OKay, story reference that only a few people will understand. I was flattening a piece of land to build on and I was about to dig away the last grass tufted block of dirt. I was so immersed in playing the game and my eyes so blinded by not having blinked in 5 minutes that I didn’t notice that behind this block of green was a different shade of green. I dug the dirt block up and threw the keyboard away from me so hard into the wall you would have thought that the creeper had actually come out of the screen and started sizzling irl. So can you imagine what I would be like in combat? On edge doesn’t even come close.
The lack of marketing to girls in the beginning now means that games that do try to grab onto this underrepresented sector are way off the mark. They came up with shiney, colourful puzzle games that are connected to social media based on the presumption that girls are more driven by emotional ties to their social groups. The games are also coded childs-play even though I would hope the kind of age level they seem to be marketing too wouldn’t have facebook pages. Then again, old classmates of mine do have pages for their newborn babies. All the gamer girls I have ever talked to don’t need the game to be MMO to like it. What they like is Role Playing Games (referred to as an abbreviation), which when you think about it runs from that same emotional basis. Getting to live out a story that’s not your own to see what it feels like? Sounds about right. Then of course it has to be concluded that there doesn’t need to be gender orientated marketing at all. Males are just as into RPGs as females. And guess what games industry? Girls play shooter games too. Shock horror.

Not me of course. I happen to steer towards the very games I am describing as being thought of as casual games. It isn’t that the marketing worked on me nor that I was brainwashed. I just like simple puzzles where the game is set from the outset, and then I don’t have to interact with other people or even fake people; even the artificially intelligent characters don’t interest me. Recently I watched a vlog by MovieBob on the Escapist website called ‘Pink is not the problem’. He talks about the fact that girls shouldn’t be ashamed of liking things that are coded feminine, just as boys shouldn’t be ashamed of it either. In truth people shouldn’t be coding things male or female in the first place. But while we wait for the knuckleheads in the industry to catch up with that fact we should just like what we like, and allow ourselves to be entertained that our lives might be enriched.
I get it… my life is not gonna be enriched by the monotonous games that I like- tetris, bejeweled, solitaire, breakout etc. The gaming critics would cringe that I would pour so much of my time into these games. In fact, me playing these games at the speed I do and as often as I do is probably a sign that I’m putting so much else off. I’m procrastinating away a depressed state. But do you know what? At least it offers me that coping mechanism.
Now please go enjoy the quirks of Google like celebrities bacon numbers and ‘do a barrel role’ or atari’s ‘breakout’.

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