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My way or the highway

Copyright Jeff Krouwel 2014I love going to the cinema on my own; especially to a movie that’s been out for a while that everyone else has seen, and thus I get most of the cinema to myself. I pick a seat slap bang in the centre, take my shoes off, spread my scarf over my knees and settle back with my sweet & salted mixed popcorn that I paid for by selling a lung. I like being able to concentrate entirely on the film without worrying that I am breathing too loudly. But what I like MOST about going to the cinema on my own, is that afterwards, if I really loved the film, there is no one to disagree with me about it.  I can happily cycle home thinking about all the things I liked about it, composing never-to-be-written blog reviews in my head.

If this sounds dysfunctional to you, that’s probably because it is. I have always, ever since I can remember (and Mother DinosaurPirate would probably confirm from before I can remember), had a problem with people disagreeing with me. Continue Reading

Nine months in – return of The List

2014-09-21 15.17.55Wednesday 1st October marks the 9 month point of my booze free experiment, and so it’s time for the regular tri-monthly debrief!

Previous installments:

When the idea for this project first began to ovulate in my brain, in between the bouts of dry retching and wishing I was dead, it seemed like the best idea I had ever had literally in the whole entire history of time ever. Of course, at that time I was both still drunk and horrendously hungover all at the same time. We all know that we make poor decisions while drunk (and sometimes have to make those decisions leave in the morning before they realise we don’t remember making them) and we make poor decisions hungover (pizza topped with paneer tikka masala, BRILLIANT) so decisions made under the influence of both at the same time must be SO terrible that they go past the point of ridiculous and cancel each other out and make some sort of sense. Right? Continue Reading

Single girl, who would want to be a single girl

I have now been single for one month. It’s gone by in a flash, and even though it was the right decision it still feels surreal, as if it’s not really sunken in. As if I’ve just pressed ‘pause’ somehow, and am spending the frozen time doing something else until I get back to my life.

It’s not that I’ve been sitting around staring at the wall, or moping. I’ve got right back to doing things I do when I’ve been single before – paying slightly more attention to my single friends, volunteer work, cycling the long way around to things just because, going to the cinema on my own (holy crap you guys Guardians of the Galaxy! It’s really good, right?) I am filling my days with activities I enjoy, trying new things, saying ‘yes’ to adventures even if I am a little nervous. People ask me how I am doing with that sympathetic head tilt and it feels kind of wrong to say that, actually, I am pretty good. I am really enjoying having my own space, my own time and not having to compromise or share things. I grew up an only child of single mum who is basically me but older so never really got very good at having to negotiate, where negotiate means not doing exactly what I want and other people  going along with it. Continue Reading

When you can’t sink another drink to give you time to think

Copyright Jeff Krouwel 2014

Copyright Jeff Krouwel 2014It’s been a difficult week this week for the Rockstar Dinosaur Pirate. Difficult conversations have been had, and there are many changes ahead. There is no longer a Mr RDP. Well, there is, but he’s not Mr RDP any more. While this blog was always by definition very personal, being about my year of giving up alcohol and trying to change my life, it was never meant to bare to all the private lives of those close to me, so we’ll just leave it with this; that it is sad, that we are sad about it, but that it is the right decision for both of us.

I’ve done all the usual things one does when one goes through a breakup. Continue Reading

baring body, baring soul

drawn by a 35 year old

One of the things I have had to face up to over the months of sobriety is how much crap I am carrying around in my head. I suspect a large amount of the alcohol consumed pre-party was to drown out the voices telling me

  • You are too fat for this outfit
  • You’re not funny and have nothing interesting to say
  • You will say and/or do something irredeemably stupid and everyone will laugh at you

Much of the alcohol consumed at a party would then be used to cover up any stupid things I might be saying or doing.

  • Fell on my face? OMG I AM SO DRUNK.
  • Interpretative dance to ridiculous song, HAH MY GOD I WAS SO WASTED.
  • Got two people I know perfectly well mixed up or forget their names? FUCK DUDE I AM SO HAMMERED I CAN’T EVEN

Continue Reading

Procrastinatorsaurus

Today is the first post-birthday-party-Sunday in more than 20 years where I have woken up without a hangover. Every birthday I’ve had since I was old enough to  have friends with fake ID has involved significant amounts of alcohol. The venues of my birthday parties over the years have varied, but the plan has not.

1 – go to a place were we can drink

2 – drink

3 – drink

4 – drink

5 – ????

6 – where are we?

7 – how the hell did I get home and whose are these shoes? where’s my phone?

8 – oh god someone kill me Continue Reading

Six months in – The List progress report

It has now been six months since I gave up drinking. My review date of July 1st approaches, marking the day where I decide to start drinking again or carry on free of booze.

Therefore it seems appropriate at this point to review  The List , seeing as we’re halfway through the year. (Halfway through the year? What the hell? I swear it was March last week, and I am pretty sure that someone has stolen the first three weeks of June.) Continue Reading

Fired up

So I went along to the “Firing Up Squad” session ran by my MP Stella Creasy that I mentioned last week, partly because I think ourFiringUpSquad MP is awesome and partly so I might have something to write about. I wasn’t sure what to expect, and was quite nervous about having to speak to Unknown People.

 

I walked in to see a screen with I (HEART) FEMINISM. Good start. I do indeed (HEART) feminism, as you probably already know if you’ve been reading for a while, although lately I have been finding it increasingly more difficult to find the confidence to write about it.

Last week I wrote that I was struggling to find things to write about. I now have to admit that this isn’t strictly true. I  have so many things to write about. For example:

  • About how angry I am at some of the vile sexist t-shirts on sale for the world cup  that objectify women and magnify a ‘lad’ culture.
  • About how mind-boggling I find the continued misogyny denial is from all quarters in the wake of the Isla Vista tragedy.
  • About  the incredible impact of the #YesAllWomen hashtag, and how the discussion is pushing feminist discussion into the forefront in an unprecidented way.
  • About how the strange twisted logic of the “MRA”  movement can be seen as a closed ideology echo chamber, much like certain other hate groups, and why we seem to find it so hard to accept sexist groups as hate groups.
  • About how the longer I don’t drink the more I realise that alcohol has far too much od a grip on our society
  • About Rupual’s Drag Race and the light it throws on the concept of the ‘male gaze’…

All of these things were going around in my mind over the last few weeks but I felt unable to write about them and for one reason. I read too many comments “BTL” (below the line) on other wonderful articles about similar subjects by other writers – both male and female – and was so disheartened by those comments that it made me fear putting my voice out there. People can be really cruel, and dismissive, and downright scary in their BTL comments but that wasn’t just what put me off – it was also the sheer volume of comments from people who simply cannot grasp the issues at hand. Who use straw man arguments, whataboutery, demands for ‘evidence’ and their own personal anecdotes to disprove the writer at all costs, without really ever being able – or even willing – to consider the points made by the writer. I started to feel tired and overwhelmed at the task of writing about these things when writers more successful and more eloquent than me have failed. I’d even started to doubt myself in the face of the relentless bashing of feminist ideas on the internet.

In the first few minutes of her introduction Stella Creasy blew away my unspoken fears and doubts. “Let’s get one thing straight” she said. “You are discriminated against.”  CVs are more likely to be considered highly if they have a male name on. Orchestras are increasingly holding blind auditions to eliminate gender bias. Women bosses are judged more harshly and are paid less than their male equivalents. You want evidence? There’s plenty. Stella also discussed how women are not brought up to be ambitious, or celebrate our successes, or put ourselves first when it comes to making big changes in our lives. Her point was proved when she introduced one woman as a “hero” and the woman shook her head and rejected the accolade. And yet, when she delivered a short but passionate talk about her experience of FGM and her ambition to raise awareness of it within the the UK, it was clear she *was* a hero, she just wasn’t able to comfortably hear that.

So far, so inspiring. And to have been inspired to get writing about things I feel strongly about is a pretty big boost. But that’s not all I got out of the evening.

There were a number of exercises designed to get us thinking about our dreams, our achievements and our plans in a real and confident way. I really struggled at first. It was clear that many of the other women at the event were high achieving, driven, ambitious and skilled. I almost felt like an imposter. I felt that I had no real achievements to speak of, and no real ambitions. I was actually pretty content with my life. I have a job I like which pays enough, somewhere to live and some  hobbies that I enjoy. It started to occur to me as the  evening went on that being “content” with things wasn’t quite true. It dawned on me as the other women spoke, and as we went through the exercises, that the reason I’ve no big ambitions or plans, or that I am not driving myself on, is  because I am *scared*. I am scared of failure, and I am scared of being ill again. I have struggled a great deal with my mental health in the past and realised that I am living with being ‘ok’ because being ‘ok’ is safe. In an exercise about our recent achievements I discussed how I’d had my appraisal at work and got “exceeds” in all areas, and how I’d discussed with my manager how to get more experience in my role so I could perhaps in a year or so apply for a job like one I’d found on the internet I liked the look of, but didn’t think I was quite ready for. I saw this as an ambition to aim for.

My half-hearted ambition that I wrote for the excercise was the inexcusably vague “be more brave about making little changes that could make a big difference”.

It was when one woman said that she felt that it was easier for men to be ambitious because they were less afraid of rejection that I had a revelation. For one, I disagree. I don’t think all men fear rejection less. I agree that society is geared towards instilling a confidence in boys in this regard that it doesn’t in girls; but it doesn’t follow that it is ‘natural’ that men will fear rejection less. I definitely handle rejection better than Mr RDP, I thought. Mr RDP recently got a new job. It’s a great job, a step up from where he is, and he deserves is. But he nearly didn’t go for the interview, as he didn’t think he was ready. He didn’t think he was experienced enough. I told him he should go for it – it didn’t matter if he didn’t get it because it was great experience. That if he didn’t get it he could ask for feedback and work out what he needed to work on to get a similar job next time. It was clearly brilliant advice, I’d been proud of giving it and secretly took a little credit for him getting the job on the basis of my awesome advice.

As I was thinking this through, organising my thoughts to make my point about this out loud, it hit me. Why on earth was I giving such excellent advice, but not following it? Why I am rejecting a job opportunity because I am not ready when if it was anyone else I would be encouraging them to go for it anyway, because the experience is always valuable even if it’s ultimately a ‘no’. Why would I bully Mr RDP (because that’s pretty much what I did) into applying for a job when I am not prepared to take the same steps  for myself?

My partner in the earlier exercise about challenging our ambitions and making them clearer and more focussed obviously saw that something was going on in my head. It must have shown on my face as she leant over with a knowing smile. “Are you ready to talk about it?” She whispered. I grabbed a pen and wrote on the blank piece of paper in capital letters:

TO DO LIST

  • Get back into children’s theatre volunteer work
  • Do my BSL exam and apply for the level 2 course
  • Keep writing about feminism – don’t give in!
  • Get singing again

I stared at the page in shock. I’d been so proud this year of giving up alcohol and sugar and starting a BSL course it hadn’t even occurred to me that there were all these things I wanted to do. But there they were, on the page – things I wanted to get involved in but was too sacred of shaking up the status quo. “You’ve missed one.” said my exercise partner with a meaningful look. I added to the bottom of the list:

  • APPLY FOR THE DAMN JOB

And I have to, because we have to catch up with our partner in a month and tell them how we’re getting on with our plan.

Going into the event I’d had little idea of what to expect. It was astounding to leave having felt like I’d had the biggest, kindest, most loving and supportive kick up the bum you could ever imagine.

And my old List is getting a little longer.

 

 

Sugar Lows

I am sure you will all be overjoyed to hear that Mission Make The Dress Less Small was successful, and without having to resort to the weird cling-film wrap treatment that my gym offers.

I admit that the day before the wedding, fearful of mission failure and in a moment of misguided panic I tried on some ‘shapewear’ in Marks and Spencer. After what felt like 10 minutes of trying to get into a ‘form flattering slip’ and subsequently deciding it did nothing for me other than reduce my capacity to move, dance or eat pudding,  I experienced what felt like hours of terror when I couldn’t get the damn thing off. It was so tight and heavily constructed that I found myself in some sort of physical catch 22 where I couldn’t raise my arms because they were caught in a lycra vice but couldn’t take the slip off without raising my arms. I wondered if I was trapped forever in the fitting room; if the staff would find me after closing writhing on the floor, both shoulders dislocated, sobbing “I just wanted the dress to fit”. I got to the point where I almost tried to press the ‘call staff’ bell with my nose thinking they would have to come and cut me out with a pair of scissors. Continue Reading