Memoir

Tales of Christmas Past #2 – Living With Ebenezer

By on December 6, 2017
Ebenezer Scrooge

Top 5 Ways to Fuck Up Christmas for Your Family

For many years I adored Christmas (see my earlier post), then after I got married and had my eldest child it all went belly up.  Baby’s first Christmas was fabulous, but that was really the last positive experience I had of the season for the next 15 years or so.

Essentially I lived with someone who not only hated Christmas with a passion and refused to let me indulge my own enjoyment but was so anti the whole thing that I began to hate it too.  As our family grew so did the angst and the extent of his mean-spiritedness. I could probably fill a book with hideous stories about awful Christmases past, in fact, I may well do one day, but I’d like to at least make it amusing.

#1:  The ‘Ills’

Always ensure that you refuse to engage in anything remotely to do with Christmas until about a week before, refuse to let anyone else plan ahead either, then take to your bed with ‘the ills’.  This can be essentially anything –  headache, sore throats or, my particular favourite – a  boil that has probably given you blood poisoning.  In this way, you can avoid doing anything at all.  Your significant other can instead run themselves ragged putting up decorations, buying food, wrapping presents and doing the 101 other things to make the kids happy at Christmas and hold down a full-time job and you can swoon in your boudoir.  Result!

If you are really clever you can avoid any kind of disaster in this way throughout the year.  Those who hit Mage Level ultimately work out ways of combining the 2.  An outline of the sort of epic skill you can develop:  When a pipe bursts 2 days before Christmas, necessitating the removal of furniture, carpets and men with pickaxes digging up your dining room, just take to your bed with a bone in your big toe or some such.  When you get up it’s all sorted.

If people complain offer to cook Christmas dinner and then demand sex.  Good times!

#2:  Spend all the cash ahead of time

No point letting that money sit in the bank waiting to fund gifts for your children –  instead why not spend it on crap from the local charity shops, another bag perhaps to go with the extensive collection you have amassed, or maybe some porn.  Don’t let your partner waste it making other people happy when you could just make yourself happy!

Better still insist that your partner spends the money her parents gave her for Christmas to buy gifts for everyone else.  That way no one loses out, especially not you.

Whatever you do ensure your mother-in-law gives you a supermarket gift card 2 weeks before Christmas, you can use this to buy all the food that you like and quibble about all the chocolate and snacks the kids want and what a waste of money it all is.

If people get upset, it is because they are mad, just sulk and demand sex.  Job done.

#3:  Become a Santa Claus Denier

No point letting children enjoy Santa be sure to announce with a suitable amount of malevolence that actually Santa is made up.  And remember, it is for their own good, we can’t be going around living in a delusion even if we are only 4 years old.

Anyone who can’t see the veracity of this is deranged.

#4:  Just don’t show  up

A good way of really fucking up Christmas is to simply refuse to get up and participate (see, #1).  However, you can insist your partner videos it for you so you can watch it later when you feel well enough to cope with the horror of your children opening their gifts.  If you want to go that extra mile – move on to #5.

#5:  Bring out your inner Hitchcock

HitchcockThis is a Christmas shafting technique that has been developed for those who really want to go that extra mile when screwing up the day for all those around them.  Simply set up a video camera and force people to open their gifts in a set rotational manner, in a specific location and to ensure that they remain in the shot.  You may need to really channel a Sargeant Major for this one but it is so worth it to add that extra dose of misery.   If they don’t comply you can then justifiably get annoyed and go back to bed.  Thus you can not only avoid the festivities but completely sour it for everyone else.  Nothing says Christmas cheer like being forced to open your presents at gunpoint.

So these are my top 5 tips for your very own Narcissistic Christmas Celebrations.  Enjoy!

 

 

 

Read my disclaimer.

 

 

 

Please follow and like me:

Continue Reading

Memoir

Tales of Christmas Past #1

By on November 20, 2017
Christmas Paper Chains

As a child, I adored Christmas like most kids do.  It was a magical time full of excitement and expectation, Santa, Reindeer, presents and all the shops sparkling and glittering bedecked in their fairy lights and tinsel.  Of course Christmas didn’t start quite as early back then, it was unusual to see stuff in the shops much before mid-November but of course, once it did appear the time dragged on in a way it only can for children.  Probably for my poor parents, who were frantically trying to find gifts for 3 children and an extended family that time positively whizzed by.  My mum was super-organised however and often had her cards done and her gifts wrapped by the 1st December after which she could kick back and relax whilst everyone else panicked away.

I looked forward to writing as many cards as I could lay claim to.  At middle school, we were able to buy blank cards and colour them in, which we did,  obviously embellishing them by glueing on as much garish glitter as possible.  My brother and I would sit and make paper chains which mum dutifully hung up only to have them fall apart after 2 days…Every. Single. Year.

Present opening always happened in the morning – we would come down to find little piles of presents with our names on and then we would all take it turns to open ours.  In one of our houses, we had a large bay window which was closed over a night by the curtains.  My Dad would always tell me to open those curtains after the presents had been opened and I always knew that my ‘big’ present would be ‘hidden’ behind there.

Christmas was very much a family affair back then; my memories of that time are of huge family dinners involving my sister and her husband, his parents, me and my brother and my parents, and I can vaguely remember some other relatives from time to time, sitting down to a huge feast.   Then there was the ubiquitous James Bond movie and the obligatory game of Monopoly to be had.

Long after the magic of Santa had vanished into the mists of early childhood, Christmas was still a wonderful time of year.  Family dinners became smaller, and we started to go out on Christmas Day so mum and dad could escape the kitchen and the inevitable clearing up afterwards.

As I went into my teens I would look forward to both receiving and giving gifts of course, but then as you got older there was the endless round of social events and opportunities for dressing up and trying to look cool.  I didn’t always succeed at the latter but I gave it a good go.

My love affair with Christmas continued right up until after I got married when it all started to sour rather quickly.  That, however, is another story and one for another blog.

 

 

 

Please follow and like me:

Continue Reading

Life | Memoir | Relationships

On Being “Crazy” – Gaslighting 101

By on November 15, 2017
Gaslight

I was having a look at some old writings of mine and I found this from 2013 on the subject of Gaslighting and I thought it was worth re-blogging here.

Gaslighting is a form of mental abuse in which false information is presented with the intent of making a victim doubt his or her own memory, perception and sanity. Instances may range simply from the denial by an abuser that previous abusive incidents ever occurred, up to the staging of bizarre events by the abuser with the intention of disorienting the victim.

 

Ingrid Bergman Gaslighting
Ingrid Bergman from the film ‘Gaslight’ (1944)

Gaslighting as an experience is devastating to your sense of sanity and self-esteem. It can creep into a relationship early on in such a mild form it is imperceptible. By the time it becomes entrenched as a way of interacting the victim already believes the abuser is probably right. It is hard to explain to others because the more you try to explain it the “crazier” you start to sound, even to yourself. Eventually, you believe that maybe you are mad, so mad in fact, you need this other person around to help you keep your tenuous grip on reality.

Gaslighting is essentially a form of manipulation and control, and it is not exclusively perpetrated by men against women despite what the media may have you believe. It is a form of domestic abuse, but one that has only relatively recently been taken seriously by medical professionals. social services, and law enforcement authorities. Despite this, in my opinion, it is often still perceived as a poor relation of “real” abuse such as physical and sexual violence.

Before everyone starts picking over the last row they had with their significant other and wondering if his/her shouting “you’re a fucking crazy bitch/dickhead” counts as serious domestic abuse; it probably doesn’t. Sometimes a row is just a row. It’s not nice, but real gaslighting is much more subtle and is not something that exclusively happens when one person is angry at another. Although this can be the case, in my personal experience it tended to be a more normal part of the daily communications.

Many years ago I started to write a book on recognising when you were being gaslighted. I may resurrect it but in the meantime a few of my own experiences of gaslighting in a very small nutshell were:

    • Minimising my personal concerns: Always on the basis of a “caring” discussion, this would start with “What’s up?” and end in “You’ve got a bloody screw loose”, or “It’s all in your head”, and also for good measure “Well, with the history of mental illness in your family, and your depression, it’s not surprising you are so irrational, there really is no hope!”.

 

    • Ensuring compliance: If I ever objected to anything within the relationship eg, where the money was spent; sexual issues I was left in no doubt that these were my issues either with my parents (?!) during childhood, my own personal repression/hang-ups and so on. Not legitimate concerns. Really I should have been in the loony bin. Eventually, you just do what they want you to do because what happens if you are really mad? They will come and take you away….

 

    • Giving Instruction: On every little thing. Nothing you do is ever right or good enough, in fact, you are so stupid you even need to be taught the “right way” to cut vegetables or load a dishwasher. The subtext: If you can’t even do that right, you obviously can’t function in the real world without me can you?

 

You can often start to do ‘crazy’ stuff to try to prove you’re not crazy: In one particularly toxic relationship, the man was being unfaithful. He swore blind that the affair had stopped. I could see all the evidence that it had not, but of course I did not trust myself to be able to process information accurately by this time: Obviously, I was imagining it all. In fact, I was constantly being told it was all in my head. On one occasion I was literally acting crazy and got myself driven round by a friend (so he wouldn’t recognise the car!) to check where his work vehicle was parked. Lo and Behold! There it was where he said it would be, so obviously I was completely mad after all. Except I wasn’t. I just couldn’t see it, and then I felt guilty for doubting his word, and that maybe I was just mad after all. Even reading this makes me think “OMG bunny boiler!” and that is completely not me at all. I was literally being driven mad by someone who wanted to have their cake and eat it and had no concept of anyone else’s needs but their own.  I found out later that he was doing this to the ‘other woman’ and to his ex-wife.  And apparently, I was the crazy one!

Often the manipulation and control are accompanied by standard “passive aggressive” communication techniques to make the victim feel bad, that they are in the wrong, and that they are actually the one who is abusing their partner. This is easy to recognise once you know what you are looking for, sadly during the worst of the gaslighting style of abuse you tend not to see what is in front of you; instead you supply them with the required platitudes to soothe their “hurt” feelings and end up feeling really bad that you “made” them feel so unhappy.

It really is only after you are not in the relationship anymore you start to look back and realise the extent of what was going on and how the warning signs were there early on. For example, in one relationship at the very beginning, I said I had no interest in a subject which the other person did. I was subjected to hours of sulking – the result being I caved in because I felt bad and then ended up being bored shitless by these endless ramblings for over a decade.  At the time I didn’t realise, being young and incredibly naive, that if my needs were not important right at the start this did not bode well for the future.

I ended another relationship after 3 months because passive aggression seemed to be his standard form of communication. Sadly for him, I had learnt to say “no” by this point and mean it, so it was pretty much doomed from the start!

My experiences (and this is a very brief overview) were unpleasant and I would not wish it on anyone but it has served me well and I am pretty much impervious to passive-aggressive forms of manipulation. Having lived with masters of the technique, everyone else seems pretty amateurish after that. I am not saying that they were “crazy” but I do think they had some pretty serious issues they need to deal with in terms of their attitude towards other people in general, and women in particular. Sadly, they are so wrapped up in their own sense of self-importance I doubt they would ever feel the need to examine their own psyche to the extent to which they would realise this.

For my part, I just learnt to make better decisions concerning who I do and do not allow into my life. My gain.

 

Reproduced from the original here
Please follow and like me:

Continue Reading

Life | Memoir

Living With the Food Police

By on October 22, 2017
plate food

It started off as compliments, which were always suffixed with a ‘but…’. ‘You actually have nice legs….but….’, you get the idea.  This was the start of my strange relationship with food.

Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, I was essentially placed on a variety of crackpot diets. This was all ‘for my own good’ because I ‘didn’t want to lard up’, did I? No one wants a fat woman after all. Or, apparently, one with breasts or that looks remotely like anything other than a boy.

The first dietary controls were tentative – portion control – ‘we could both do with losing a bit’. That was fine but it was the thin end of a very, very large wedge. Over the years the control over what and when I ate and food, in general, became a major focus of control, domination and abuse.

Every week my self-styled nutritionist would come up with some crackpot diet he had read about somewhere. First was the, ‘just have some toast in the morning and an apple for lunch, then have dinner’. It had to be a green apple, not a red one because apparently red ones are more fattening (!?). The fact that I actually don’t like green apples was irrelevant. This was my duty and my responsibility – I had to make myself more attractive.

This was followed later by the fried egg and mars bar diet. I kid you not. For this, you had a fried egg on toast which apparently was, ‘enough for the day, if you kick-start your gut again with the mars bar at lunch’. I don’t like Mars bars.

Over the years there were more and more ludicrous diets all based on some strange concept of the human body and nutritional pseudoscience. The beetroot soup diet happened for a couple of weeks which involved having a bowl for lunch and another for supper. This was actually quite nice because I got to eat 4 small meals a day and felt less hungry. Sadly I put on a pound on this diet, ramping myself up to an enormous 7 stone 9 lb so that had to be shelved.

Weigh in was every morning without fail. As soon as I woke up I had to step on the scales – how my day was going to pan out bore a direct correlation to the amount of loss or (god forbid) gain. If I’d lost weight all would be well, but if I had gained there would be lectures and bitter recriminations about how I didn’t care how I looked, didn’t care about him or his needs and was letting myself go.

Of course, he could eat what he liked. His paunch was obviously relaxed muscle.

During pregnancy I was left alone, I ate what I liked. This changed literally as soon as I gave birth. Although I was breastfeeding I was essentially placed on a diet because basically, ‘all women are bitches who let themselves go after babies because they don’t care about satisfying their men’. I was unable to breastfeed – the lack of calorific intake led to my milk failing. I managed 2 weeks with all my children, then they had to go onto the bottle. But hey, at least I was thin.

food pick and mix chocolatesI can remember being so hungry once that I scoffed a whole bag of pick and mix chocolate from Woolworths while I was out shopping. I nearly threw up at the time but God, it was great just to eat something.

Or the time I snuck a bowl of Weetabix while he was at the shop. That time I got caught though – he found the crumbs on the worktop and went insane. How selfish I was, how he had put himself out trying to help me and I threw it back in his face.

Of course, I tried numerous times to protest but this was obviously me misconstruing his expression of love and caring for me, my body and how I looked, as cruelty and control. Getting upset when your husband tells you that you’re a fat slob and he is disappointed every time you take your clothes off is obviously a sign of both ingratitude and clinical insanity.  I was not only a behemoth at a whopping 7 and a half stone, I was also completely mad and should be grateful for him trying to help as much as he was.

But I did lose weight, that’s the main thing.  He was only really happy when I was losing weight, becoming lesser, diminishing in size and in the amount of space I took up in the world. He became more as I became less.

After years of this (probably at least a decade), with yo-yo dieting and endless working out, I went to a show by the Spare Tyre Company and was subsequently given a book by a friend of mine entitled Fat is a Feminist Issue. I wasn’t keen because the title made it sound like it was going to be a bit of a bra-burning fest, but I did read it and I was glad I did.

Essentially it discussed the psychological aspects of our relationship with food and the physical and mental toll these stupid eating habits have. If you have a weight or body image issues, please consider giving it a read.

That was the last time I participated in a stupid dietary fad. I felt that I at least had the book to back me up. It worked and although I still had what I ate controlled, it went back to portion management and the removal of anything considered remotely fattening from my diet. This was at least a step up from constantly feeling starving hungry.

I was also pretty fortunate because at this point in time I was surrounded by a lot of strong women.  He was fairly keen to impress them with his ‘feminist’ credentials mainly because he thought he was in with a chance and it is pretty hard to impress women if you are basically starving your wife. One of these women later gave me the book What Do Women Want? and was told in no uncertain terms to stop putting ideas in my head.

One of the best nights in I had after I had finally extracted myself from this prison of a marriage was a pizza, wine and movie night at a friend’s flat. We stuffed our faces – I literally dunked the pizza in mayonnaise – just because I could. I had not been allowed mayonnaise for about 15 years and boy it was delicious!

The upshot of these years of dietary-based abuse is that I now have really bad problems controlling my blood sugar, plus I have no concept of reality when it comes to my own body. I am constantly criticising every aspect of it, every perceived flaw, every tiny bit of flab. I no longer have the body of a 25-year-old and it is my fault for letting myself go!

Oh, I know on an intellectual level that this is complete bullshit; I’m 53, my body has carted me around for over half a century and time, gravity, loss of hormones, tired DNA and general wear and tear will have its way. But deep down somewhere there is still that nagging belief that if I only ate less and exercised more I would be a ‘better’ woman than I am, and that if I do not achieve this I am letting other people down. No matter how much I know my husband loves me (and my flabby bits!) I cannot help that underlying self-loathing and that belief that I am in some way letting him down.

I feel so angry: Angry that someone who claimed to love me treated me that way, angry at myself for putting up with it, angry that I can still so easily drop back into that conditioned response. Angry that somewhere deep inside I still believe the old ‘less is more’ adage as far as my body is concerned.

Just writing this and I can feel the anxiety in the pit of my stomach. It is unbelievable that it ever happened, let alone that I put up with it. I know some people feel that blogging is not the place for this but it helps me to tell my story. I know that he tells his version of events in which I am painted as the mad woman from hell and I know some people continue to believe certain elements of what he says.
Will I be believed? Will he read it? Why would I still care? This is my story to tell, so tell it I will.

Please follow and like me:

Continue Reading

Life | Memoir

Mirror

By on October 1, 2017

A couple of days ago I acquired a full-length mirror.  So what?  I hear you say.  Well to me this is a bit of a big deal and I’ll tell you why.

mirror
Credit: www.elephantjournal.com

I’ve not had a good relationship with my mirror for rather a long time now.  Decades, in fact.  My mirror is simply not my friend.  Unlike a real friend a mirror never lies, not even a little white one now and again to make you feel better about yourself.

There are 2 things that changed my relationship with my mirror forever:  Puberty and bullying.  Now most of us have issues with our appearance during puberty – the bad skin, bad hair, etc etc so in that regard, I was no different to anyone else.  The issue was I feel I was bullied disproportionate to the offense that my face – which has never really achieved even a cursory nod towards symmetry – actually warranted.

Suddenly this was an issue; it was all about physical attraction, boys and fitting in.  Sadly I did not hit the bar for any of those criteria.  Of course, I had friends who overlooked these obvious flaws so I wasn’t socially isolated for which I am eternally grateful.

At this time I would go to the mirror to find reassurance and found it wanting.  All it really provided was a perfect means for me to examine every pubescent flaw, real or imagined, in excruciatingly minute detail.  I was indeed freakish!

Moving on past school my love/hate (mostly hate) relationship with my mirror continued.  Although I hated my reflection I would check it periodically to see if anything had changed, it hadn’t.  You’d think I’d just accept it at that stage and move on and maybe I would have if I hadn’t had the experience in my relationships that I did.

Suddenly I started to attract men, which made me feel good about myself.  (I was young, it was the 80s, give me a break!) but sadly my low self-esteem meant these were of the worst kind, mainly older ones looking for someone young but damaged enough to mould into what and who they wanted them to be.  I didn’t see this at the time and was flattered to be the recipient of attention considering that I was ‘nothing to look at’.  I also didn’t see that the confidence in these men often belied their own feeling of inadequacy which then led them on to find someone they could abuse, put down and generally use to bolster their own ego.

The zenith of my hate relationship with my mirror came about as a result of one of these men individuals who, ‘for my own good’, decided that he would stand me naked in front of a full-length mirror so I could see my flaws and hence work on them to become the vision of whatever it was I was supposed to be.   Apparently, ‘parading around like I was all that’, was no good to anyone.

According to my late brother, what I was probably expected to become was ‘an anorexic Greek boy not a woman, so you didn’t really have a chance’.  He was convinced that this guy was gay and I while I do understand that this type of misogyny can be a result of repressed homosexuality I actually think it was more to the point that the guy was just an arsehole with low self-esteem and mummy issues.

Since then I have avoided the full-length mirror wherever possible, however when your husband is 6ft 4″ and likes to see what he looks like before he goes out the arrival of various almost full-length mirrors has been inevitable.

The more I grow to love and accept myself the easier my relationship with the mirror becomes.  There are days when I still feel like Quasimodo on a bad hair day but I can ride them out knowing that tomorrow I’ll probably feel better.

So the full-length mirror is now in situ.  I can admire myself in it most days and berate myself in it the rest of the time.  Just the fact that I have chosen to have one is a miracle!

Please follow and like me:

Continue Reading

Life | Memoir | Writing/Creativity

Apron – Memoir Prompt #1

By on September 17, 2017

A recent book (The Butterfly Hours) gave a list of memoir prompts to assist in the writing of a memoir.

Apron

Wearing aprons for housework is no longer in vogue however back in the 1960s and ’70s when I was growing up most of my friends mums, and my own, wore some sort of apron or housecoat style covering when doing the housework.

My own mother had 2 distinct styles of apron which were used for very different purposes:

credit: doyouremember.co.uk

The ‘overalls’ were the ones she wore in my Dad’s shop and basically covered everything.  In fact it was some sort of coat affair made out of nylon which was pretty much ubiquitous at that time or so it seemed.  This sort of overall was routinely seen on women working in factories, cleaning or in fact doing any kind of labour that might cause clothing damage or mishaps.  Most of the women in the grocers and the butchers shops, for example, wore these outfits.

The ‘indoors’ apron was a completely different style:  this one tended to be

Credit: Etsy Shop: Back to the Yesteryear

either a half moon design which stopped at the waist or one that had some sort of strange bib arrangement similar to dungarees.  I never actually saw her wear these, I can always remember watching her folding the top down and wondering why she just didn’t buy the one without the bib.  This apron was multi purpose:  It stopped you messing up your clothes but I also saw it used in lieu of oven gloves on multiple occasions.  These ones were always much more fancy – floral with plenty of frilly bits.  Often the pockets were sewn on at jaunty angles or were shaped to accentuate the theme of the apron ie, a flower or a heart.  This was high fashion cleaning wear!

The thing that these aprons all had in common was the pockets – or  more specifically, the contents thereof.  In every single pocket in every single apron or overall you were guaranteed to find some tissue – kitchen roll to be exact – and a packet of mints (Trebor in the 1960s and 1970s, replaced in the 1980s by Tic Tacs mainly I believe, because she loved the adverts).

 

I can kind of see why …

 

 

Please follow and like me:

Continue Reading