before & after

I hate to see young women post “before and after” pictures of themselves.
It’s a myth.
There was never a before or after version of yourself.
Only during.

During hardship, during heartbreak, during the best of times, during your apocalypse. During love, and bitterness and beauty and all-consuming rage.

Enduring.

It upsets me so much because it feels like we’re mocking our younger selves. Belittling them. As if our bodies were ever supposed to look anything different from exactly as they did at that point in time. If that was how we were, then that was where we needed to be, and to mock our past selves is to dishonour our wonderful life-giving bodies for doing their most important job of all. Which, of course, is simply allowing us to survive up until that point. Regardless of shape or size.

Posting pictures like that feels like we’re saying “Look at that shameful person, I am not associated with that anymore.”

Like we’re burning bridges.
Like our body was just a fairweather friend anyway, who we can cut ties with when we decide they’re no longer good enough for us.

But, if we burn all our bridges,
how will we ever find our way back home?

purpose as a woman

I think, since breaking up with my first boyfriend, just before I turned 22, I’ve had a fixation on fixing men. Or being their savior. Or, in the most recent case, “saving” him from a bad relationship. Like some sort of man-whisperer. Find someone who’s a bit broken, a bit bored of their relationship/dating, a bit messed up, and be (as Bernard Black would say) their “summer girl”. Young, confident, sassy, “not like all the other girls”, sexually available whenever wherever. Like I needed to be what they needed, rather than judging the situation to determine whether it’s something I even wanted.

I found purpose in being a man’s savior. Why? I’m not sure. Maybe because I’m punishing myself for not realising my first ex needed fixing until it was too late, and it’s like I’m repaying some debt to mankind. Maybe it’s because I thought I could fix our completely broken relationship if I changed myself. Controlled all the aspects I could control. Which, from my perspective, after what happened, was my body and my sexual availability. And to pretend like nothing was wrong when it really really was.

I look at a prospective partner and I think, “What can I do for you? How am I going to “make you see the light” or experience something you’ve never experienced before?” I think, “How can I fix you, and therefore by a valuable asset to your life? And therefore be invaluable to you. You’ll never want to lose me, and I’ll be safe from any more heartbreak.” Instead of “What does this person bring to my life?” Or, more importantly, “How can we enrich each other’s lives whilst still remaining whole people?”

I did it with my most recent ex. Yes, I did love him anyway, but maybe when I reflect back on it now, maybe I partly loved what I was to him. I “saved” him from him “boring” 4 and a half year long relationship. And he worshiped me for it. Well, he did initially anyway. Obviously all that stuff fades over time. And they forget. I was his summer girl. But in reality, I was his getaway car. And that’s why it was all so thrilling in the beginning. I was valued so much. I was exactly what this man wanted me to be. Until I wasn’t anymore. And three and a half years down the line, I’m back with my parents, unemployed and brokenhearted, miserable and lonely.

I really thought I had it all with him. But I think the sad fact of the matter was that I knew all along what I was doing. How I was deriving my self-worth from how I was helping a man and adding value to his life. I didn’t want to believe that. Because no-one wants to believe that. No-one wants to hear the truth.

“Santa’s not real”
“The tooth fairy isn’t either”
“There’s no farm where old pets go to retire”
“This isn’t real love – you’re just desperately clinging onto it because you only see yourself as worthy if you think you’re somehow improving a man’s life”.

Yikes. That stings.

Filling a hole in a man’s life is not your purpose as a woman.
Being that “summer girl” for a man with a troubled relationship history is not your purpose as a woman.
“Fixing” a broken man is not your purpose as a woman.
Being a getaway car for a man in a shoddy relationship is not your purpose as a woman.
Molding yourself and contorting yourself to fit a hole in a man’s life is not your purpose as a woman.

What is your purpose as a woman then?
I could write lots of empowering things like “championing the voices of the less privileged” and “lifting up your fellow sisters”. But, really, you can’t do any of that if you don’t take care of yourself first, and fill in the holes in your own life. Make sure you’re as full a person as you can be, so that no-one else has to be your emotional polyfilla. Like you have been to others so many times.

Fixate on fixing yourself first, instead of deriving your worth from your ability to fix others.

renewing

I think I’m finally ready to share this one.

I heard somebody once say, that it takes
the human body 7 years to replace every cell
in an endless process of
dying and renewing
dying and renewing.
Which gives me great comfort that maybe
3 years from now
there won’t be a single cell in me
not one single part
not between my legs and not my beaten heart
there won’t be one single cell in me
that let you in.

Am I taking this too far?
Maybe I’m over-exaggerating but I saw
what you typed with hands that used to touch me
in that Google search bar.

It’s funny, in a disgusting twist of irony
that in college we’d rib you
that you liked younger girls.
But I saw what was hidden in your computer screen
I saw what you typed on sticky keys
and when I think about it like that
I don’t laugh
my stomach turns.

So maybe I’m not exaggerating
maybe it makes perfect sense
you didn’t feel what I feel so let me tell you how it felt;

You didn’t feel the shock waves of that night, that
cracked
my foundations.
Tore down the walls.
Like primary seismic waves
through the heart of my liquid core
every
cell
of my
body
shook.
You didn’t feel the aftershocks that
rippled
no, ripped
through the next 8 years of my life
with silent screams
and echoes in empty college halls of
it was your fault
it was all your fault
you were not good enough
you mustn’t be doing it right
you should be thinner, sexier, curvier, raunchier.

Or more tight.

Forgive me for being crass, or rude.
Forgive me if I’m too close to the line.
But you weren’t there when too close to the line became too close to the edge.

This is not what I signed up to.
I didn’t ask for this.
That warm summer’s night on the trampoline
sixteen.
A first kiss
that I thought was magic
everything that my playlist of country songs taught me it should be.
But not this,
not twisted and broken and tragic.

This is no eternal sunshine.
There is no magic button or cheat code
that could make it skip to the end.
No up up down down left right left right
B A start

So I’ll mend
I’ll fix and I’ll patch and I’ll tend
To this broken head and this broken heart.

And I’ll wait.

dying renewing dying renewing
I’m counting the days
til there’s no more
you in
me.

c • r • e • a • t • i • v • i • t • y

I listened to an episode of The Guilty Feminist about creativity. Our lord and saviour Deborah got the audience to participate in an exercise of creativity. They simple had to make a sound and see what word came out of their mouth. Not planning the word, just trusting that the right thing (that being anything) would come out. So I did it myself. In alphabetical order, and I wrote it down.

apparently it’s difficult to come by
but maybe the problem is him, not you
could it be that maybe…
doesn’t matter anyway…
even if i tried to explain myself…
for fuck’s sake
get on with it
how about we start over again?

i never pictured any of this happening
just try and put yourself in my shoes
kids
let me get it out of my system, please
much of what i feel always comes back to that night
never a day when it doesn’t come to mind
oh, if i could go back and shake myself
perhaps things would have been different
questions like this always circle around my mind
radiating out from me
shall we go back to it?

text message. teens.
underpinning, undermining, undervaluing
visceral hatred and shivering skin
what happens now?

x‘s at the end of our messages still
you’ve won.

stop blaming women for how you chose to mistreat them

i saw the title quote embroidered on @kingsophiesworld instagram page. it struck a chord with me. and i started to write. if it sounds like i’m still hurting, it’s because i am.

do not blame me for how you chose to mistreat me.
i was crazy, obsessive, up-tight, emotional, needy.
or maybe you were a disloyal, manipulative, disingenuous, pathological liar? a using, cheating narcissist?

the words that came out of your mouth were
“this is your problem. the way you have reacted is your fault, not mine”

even my “friends” protected your behaviour. because you were the good guy. the sensitive one. “you totally over-reacted to the way he behaved.”

no.
you lied.
repeatedly.
to my face.
paraded her around in front of me a week after we’d broken up, like a fucking trophy and then lied. said “no she has a boyfriend” and “she’s staying in my spare room”.

YOU DON’T EVEN HAVE A SPARE ROOM.

you then pretended like i’d made that part up. said “why would I say that, my new house doesn’t have a spare room?”

WELL YOU’VE SUMMARISED MY BONE OF CONTENTION PERFECTLY THERE.

but no, you’re right, it was my fault.

you played the boyfriend card very well. you must be proud.
taking me out for dinner.
cooking for me.
inviting me round spontaneously but telling me i didn’t need to bother getting ready because i was beautiful in my leggings and big jumper.
telling me you missed me.
letting me cook for you.
watching harry potter with me.

but then,

refusing to show affection in public.
because you’re not
that type of person. 
well, you were
that type of person
a week later when you couldn’t keep your hands off her.
i expect you didn’t think your boyfriend game would be so effective.

but sure. it was my fault for falling for it. my fault that i thought you cared. my bad. wrong end of the stick. crossed wires.

i was just tiding you over, wasn’t i? i walked straight into your trap and all you wanted was someone to fuck until you made the move on the girl you really wanted. isn’t she lucky.

don’t make me collateral damage in your endless quest to massage your augmented ego.

i should’ve known,
the moment
the word
“fuckable”
fell
from
your
lips
thinly veiled as a compliment.

Do not blame me
for how you chose
to mistreat me.

things other people have said about my body

I compiled a list. Of things I can remember being said about my body. It’s not an exhaustive list, of course. (And originally I had done a handy coloured-coded key to go with it, but sadly I’ve not yet mastered colour formatting on this thing.)

You should be a model with a body like that.
If I were you, I wouldn’t wear baggy clothes like those.
You can’t talk. You’re skinny.
You’re “the skinny one”.
Why can’t you just eat more?
I’d fuck that.
Corrr – legs on that!
Oi oi, sexy!
Why didn’t you wear something tighter, to show off your body then?
You look very….fuckable.
Your body is ridiculous.
Your arse is amazing.
I like it when you wear tiny little gym shorts.
Pig tails are so fucking sexy. That little school girl look.
You’ve got nothing to worry about, you’re tiny.
Anorexic bitch!
Skinny cow!
Do you just not eat?
You look like a squirrel.
Slutty giraffe-esque housemate.
Legs on that.
You were the hot, angry new teacher.
Oh shut up, you’re skinny.
Look who’s got boobs now. Careful, the boys will be throwing things down your cleavage soon too!
You’re fit.
Yeah, you look nice.
That arse!
Well, you don’t have any problem attracting male attention, do you?
You look healthy*
*read “like you’ve put on weight”.

It upsets me that I know how many of those comments were made by family members, close friends or even intimate partners.

At what point do we become saturated with what we hear being said about us? About our bodies? I would like to add that at no point when any of these comments were made had I asked somebody to openly pass judgement about my body. I’m sure I’m not alone. These comment range from when I was about 13/14 to very recently. They served to teach me that my body is not my own. My body was for other people’s satisfaction, in one way or another. And more so that those comments were to be tolerated, like some sort of rent to pay for existing in a young female body.

I’m a machine, not a fucking ornament.