Contemplating the men’s rights flounce

Last night I scored my first “proper” full-on misogynist blog comment. It was, to put it mildly, a shock to the system. While up till then I’d had the odd attempt at a sexist put-down – “no sense of humour”, “PMS”, even the word “feminist” itself – this was something else. Although not remotely on the scale of the misogynist taunts and threats I’ve seen hurled at other women on Twitter, this upset me. Thankfully some lovely tweets and comments from some lovely people soon put it right. Oh, and some wine – that helped, too.

I’m not going to write a long post about this because other women have experienced far worse and have far more revealing stories to tell. What I am going to write about is the one remaining type of sexist comment I’ve received, the one that actually amuses me. I call it the Men’s Rights Flounce. Continue reading

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Comment on my new blog design (not that I, like, care or anything)

Official statement:

Following several in-depth pieces of quantitative and qualitative research, backed up by the findings of a focus group (all of which took place in my head), I have decided to reposition the Glosswatch blog brand. I do so not without serious misgivings. The overall brand identity – and the feelings of familiarity this can inspire in loyal followers – is not something with which I would wish to dispense. However, I have, for quite some time, been thinking that my blog looked a bit shit and furthermore that the rubbish design may even have led some to assume that I’m more of a twat than I actually am.

Basically, I have changed the theme and tagline of the blog. And I am really, really embarrassed about having done so, because it looks like, you know, I actually care about this blog. Whereas what I’d want people to assume is that it just kind of “happens”. Continue reading

My 2004 Band Aid dilemma revisited

Do you remember that version of Do They Know It’s Christmas which came out in 2004? The one with the Sugababes and Dizzee Rascal taking the place of Bananarama and Tony Hadley, and everyone in the video competing to look the saddest when faced with footage of starving children?* It was shit, wasn’t it? I mean, they hadn’t even bothered to improve on culturally patronising and offensive lyrics written twenty years ago. But if you’d been a pop star and they’d asked you to be in the 2004 version, you’d probably have said yes, right? Because otherwise what sort of a cunt would that make you?

Since I often picture myself as a pop star I thought a lot about this particular dilemma (in case you’re wondering what kind of pop star I am, I’m the female Morrissey, only I’ve not gone bitter and racist. On the contrary, I’m a moral beacon. Plus I don’t need a Marr; I’m my own Marr, and I can play the piano too, for my more mellow numbers). Anyhow, Morrissey-me would worry about using Band Aid 20 in a self-serving manner and question how much her contribution would actually ease suffering in Africa given that greater structural changes are needed. She’d worry that the song and its message were in fact counter-productive, dehumanising a vast proportion of the human race by lumping them together as the apparently ignorant-of-Christmas Africans. She’d consider doing her own cover version of Flag Day by The Housemartins, with all proceeds going to a charity with a real edge. But then she’d worry that that was even more self-serving, and perhaps also a bit chippy, a needless slight against other pop heroes only doing their best. So in the end she’d think “fuck it” and do that line about how “in our world of plenty we can spread a smile of joy”, as that’s relatively inoffensive (and Morrissey-me is a megastar, so she gets to choose which line she does).

Anyhow, I went through that moral maze eight years ago, albeit in a completely imaginary world (one in which I was also struggling to cope with a love quadrangle involving me, Bernard Sumner, Jarvis Cocker and someone who looked like Morrissey but obviously wasn’t because in this world Morrissey never happened, at least not until me). I’m reminded of it now though because it’s kind of how I feel about charity or political blog hops, at least in part.

I do take part in them, but I feel a total cow for doing so. Like, who do I think I am? Not an expert on massacres, or infant mortality, or sexual exploitation, that’s for sure. Am I really doing this out of the goodness of my heart, because I’ve got something useful to add? Or do I just want to increase traffic to my blog? I don’t think it’s the latter (I get far more traffic to my blog when I upset people, which is just fucking great). But I do worry that I’m jumping on the bandwagon, a bandwagon started by people who know what they’re talking about whereas I don’t.

But then here’s the other side: even if I feel a sell-out, or than I’m ignorant, or that I’m posturing, does that actually matter? Indulging personal qualms about the exact positioning of my post within a wider drive is, let’s face it, a total luxury, and a total irrelevance. Who am I to decide charity isn’t “my thing” and that maybe it’s a bit cringe, or a bit compromised, and maybe it’s best to stay away? If I was doing something else of value, that might make sense. But generally I’m not. Ranting on this blog is the closest I get to activism. And given some of the rubbish I write, it’s a bit self-serving to get all protective about that.

If I’m 100% honest, I am a bit cringed about the post I wrote on Houla yesterday. I’m uncomfortable, for instance, with the fact that I mentioned visiting Belsen. The sentiments were sincere, but it also feels a little like I’m cynically raking through my past in search of a moment which allows me to portentiously say “I, too, have pondered man’s inhumanity to man”. I mean, I have. But not in a way that adds much value. But still, “a bit cringed”. On all possible scales of human suffering, it is nothing.

* Admittedly Bono was still in Band Aid 20, singing exactly the same line about thanking God “it’s them instead of you”. Disappointingly, though, Sting wasn’t. Is it just me, or did you find it weird that he got the line about “the bitter sting (Sting? me?) of tears”?

Blogging, madness and rubbish jumpers

Warning: an official up-its-own-arse blogging-about-blogging post

Summer 2011: Buying shoes on Ebay

Autumn 2011: Silk painting

Winter 2011/2012: Knitting

Spring 2012: This.

That’s the trouble with me. I always have to have a “thing”. By that I don’t mean a simple hobby. A hobby would be nice, a good way to pass the time every now and then. By “thing” I mean a full-on, takes-over-your-life obsession. I’ve always got one on the go and I don’t know why. It’s not like I’ve even got the time.

I have a partner, children, a full-time job and a house so appallingly dirty that even the slugs from last year have left in disgust. With all this going on, why can’t I at least get an obsession that would be halfway useful? An obsession with cleaning, for instance. That would help, but no, here I am, still writing as even more dust gathers around me. Blogging has officially taken over my life.

It’s not like I’m not trying to change. I’ve asked to be on the Mumsnet Research Panel, meaning I can review products via the blog. When asked for my interests, I ticked “cleaning”, on the basis that if they send me some free Cillit Bang, I’ll have to test it out before I can write a review. See, that’s a way of getting at least a little bit done (Mumsnet, are you reading this? If so, please note that I only said “Cillit Bang” for humble, comic effect. What I really want is a carpet cleaning machine. I’m sure I’d also be able to write a good review of a home help, or even a manny).

This blogging thing is one of my more absorbing obsessions. With this, I’ve got it bad. Still, I’m better at it than I was at knitting, and I don’t mean that in an arrogant way. I think I’ve written some okay posts whereas all of my jumpers are rubbish (it’s the tension – I just can’t get the tension right). But the thing about knitting was, I didn’t think about it at work, or when I was out shopping, or when I was out with the kids. I just did it of an evening. With blogging, even if I’m not in front of the computer it’s there, in my head, all the time.

Can blogging drive you mad? Can you end up in a state where nothing can happen to you without it becoming blogging fodder? Where real life is just something to blog about? Where you’re living life at one remove, through the blog, with all thoughts and feelings filtered down through your blogger voice? I’m a bit scared this might happen to me. And so I’m gonna step away from the laptop, for a couple of days at least. Till Sunday evening, at the earliest. And now, time to hunt out those knitting needles. There are more crap jumpers to be made!

Blogging and anonymity: Can you say what you like when you’re not being you?

Having always been an opinionated sod, I used to spend a lot of time writing to newspapers. This was back in the days when I’d read them in hard copy and didn’t have forums or comment streams to respond to. I’d always sign off using my real name, because that’s just what you do with letters. Usually my letters would get published and it would freak me out, a bit, but not too much. After all, my parents would usually hear “your daughter had something controversial to say about abortion in the Guardian” second-hand from someone they met in town and they’d never look into it further (since that would have involved actually buying the Guardian).

When reading online and adding comments became more popular, I carried on using my real name for a while, because it never crossed my mind not to. It was only when I became aware that complete strangers ended up having vicious verbal fights that I began to think twice. Still, I felt there was something quite noble about refusing to resort to a pseudonym. It meant you were standing by your ideas and taking responsibility for yourself in every medium.

One thing I ought to mention at this point is that in real life I have an unusual name. It’s not a particularly interesting one, but it’s one that I don’t think anyone else has. It’s the kind of name where, if you met me briefly and then heard my name mentioned again in a completely unexpected context, you wouldn’t think “oh, that’ll be a different [my name]”. You’d think “crikey, I’d never have thought [my name] would be into that, but it’s gotta be the same person” (i.e. Dave Gorman I’m not).

Several years ago I had a letter published in a national newspaper, alongside several others by different authors. They were all on the same controversial issue, taking broadly the same position, but each making different individual points. A blogger took exception to this, and decided to “take on” the correspondents in a post of his own. Alas, he found it impossible to google the others and get the dirt, since they all had nondescript names and he might have ended up accusing the wrong people. The only person upon whom you could launch a vaguely reliable attack was me – he actually admitted this in his post. Thus the whole thing ended up being about me alone, via a highly selective trawl through everything I’d ever written over the previous ten years (including things which, if he’d asked me, I wouldn’t even stand by myself – I’m happy to ‘fess up when I’ve been a twat. But he didn’t ask). There were things which disproved certain of the wilder claims he made about my political beliefs, but he missed those out. He included other stuff, though, such as the title of the thesis I was writing and why it was a shit title and musings as to why universities let tossers like me in anyhow. Those adding comments to his blog agreed: what a terrible student I must be! (the original letter had bugger all to do with any of this). Anyhow, I discovered the whole thing one evening, alone, drunk and idly seeing what would happen if I googled myself. See? That’s where off-your-face vanity gets you.

If he’d just criticised my letter – that one letter – that would have been fine. I already knew some people didn’t agree with it anyhow, since I’d written it in response to one such person. He could even have said I was a bigoted moron for thinking the way I did, because yes, I knew that would be some people’s interpretation. But that’s not what he did. He suggested my entire life was a total joke and he did it a) because he’s mean and b) because he could since I have a stupid name.

I don’t know if that post is still there. If I were to google myself again, I’d imagine it’d be many pages further along the search results than it used to be, what with me having done stuff myself and not being that interesting a target in the grand scheme of things. My partner found the post before me. He wrote a comment, but the blogger never responded. I considered responding myself, but the sniping about my thesis had upset me more than anything (it was back when I’d failed the first time around, although thankfully, the blogger was not aware of that. A tiny part of me was terrified he was right). I thought about returning to the blog once I had passed and once my book was published, just to go “ner! Where’s your book, sucker?” In the end I never did, because once I had achieved these things it seemed unimportant and petty. I didn’t want to look like I cared and, largely, I didn’t. But by god, if that experience taught me one thing, it was of the value of pseudonyms if you want to maintain some kind of life in online debating circles and you happen to have a name like mine.

The thing I wonder now, though, is whether using a pseudonym means you should restrict what you say about those who are still using their real names. I worry it creates an imbalance; you are hiding and they are not. I mean, if you are responding to them on a single topic and not googling their whole life stories to use as “evidence” against them, it’s probably okay, right? It still leaves me with a sense of unease.

I suppose on one level you could say that people who make money by putting their names to opinions are already advantaged compared to those of us who make money from other things. For instance, if I were to put my name to opinions akin to those of Richard Littlejohn, Carole Malone or Melanie Phillips, it would seriously affect my professional standing. But these people get paid thousands to write these things; being controversial enhances their professional status. It wouldn’t enhance mine (not that I dream of saying the things Richard Littlejohn comes out with; but even the things I say wouldn’t play well with everyone, and I know that). I don’t feel guilty about criticising these people; to me they’re fair game. It’s more problematic when it’s not the big fish. What do you do in a situation such as that? Where does the power lie?

Right now, I appear to have had something of a succès de scandale by attacking a book written by one of the smaller fish. As successes go, it’s very, very minor; daily hits on this blog are modest and this particular post seems to have gained more hits after the main body of the offending text was removed than before. Added to that people have been genuinely upset and it’s all way too much hassle. If this is success, I’d rather have failure (or, ideally, proper success, which would involve no one being upset and, as a bonus, me getting some money). But hey, to be fair to myself, I have at no point googled anyone and attempted to find out “the truth” about anything. I like to think it’s because I’m not a total cow, but perhaps I’m just not arsed enough to be that mean. And anyhow, no one involved has as stupid a name as me.

But that, anyhow, is the reason why I’m Glosswitch. Which again is a stupid name. So I’ve fucked up once more. Should’ve gone for yummymummy27890 or something similar. Ah well. Perhaps that’ll be the next me.

The personal element: How to shut up everyone you hate

Earlier today I removed a post from this blog for the first time ever. Oh, okay, not the first time ever. There was another post. But that was early on and I’m not saying what that was about. Anyone who’s read it will know but mustn’t tell (damn, I must keep this “trying to look mysterious” impulse under control when I’m actually trying to keep something a secret). Anyhow, the post I deleted today wasn’t the earlier post. It was one I wrote two days ago, on a men’s pregnancy guide called Goodbye Pert Breasts (…).

Like the author of the aforementioned work, I’ve had a book published under my own name. It’s on Amazon and in various university libraries and anyone who wants to criticise it is perfectly within their rights to do so. There have been a few journal reviews, and one or two academics have got a bit sniffy about certain points. Still, no one has accused the book of being actively offensive, which is nice, because I wouldn’t want to be the author of an offensive book (tip for the willfully ignorant: offensive books make people sad). All the same, it’s early days. Perhaps one day my arch nemesis will go onto Amazon in a fit of rage and write reams and reams about how useless it all is. There’s the odd dodgy area where I’d back them up, but as long as no one else has noticed yet, I’m saying nothing. I wouldn’t take any criticism personally, largely because I’ve not made myself the hero of my own book.

I feel very uncomfortable about having deleted what I wrote about Goodbye Pert Breasts for the simple reason that I meant every word of it (even down to me owning a breast pump that plays the theme tune to Byker Grove). I am genuinely bothered by what a book like this suggests about women and pregnancy, and believe there needs to be some corrective to fawning reviews from the Good Men Project. I only deleted the post because it upset one of the people mentioned in the book. Which on the face of it seems a crap reason. Am I saying it’s legitimate not to challenge an expression of misogyny on the basis that hey, misogynists have feelings too?

It’s a difficult one. While I have strong opinions about pregnancy, I’d never write a pregnancy guide as there are plenty of people far more knowledgeable than I. And even if I were an expert who identified a genuine need to write such a guide, I wouldn’t base it on my own partner and children, since then any criticism would necessarily be, or at least feel, highly personal. And is personal criticism legitimate? Surely if you have made your personal narrative the basis for a contentious argument it has to be? If not, isn’t inserting your partner and children into the story essentially using a human shield? A cowardly way of getting to say what you like about humankind, and women in particular, before announcing, primly, “hush! think of the children!” the minute anyone questions you? Or, when that doesn’t work, “jeez, doesn’t anyone know how to take a joke” (while maintaining the same “hurt” face you used during the previous argument)? (Hell, I thought the thing about the breast pump was funny! Humourless sexists!)

So to be honest (in this rather self-obsessed-but-posing-as-thoughtful post) I am a bit pissed off about having censored myself. And a bit pissed off about responding to ad hominem attacks with genuine responses only to be told I’m the one who doesn’t take criticism. And even more pissed off at passive-aggressive suggestions that the person who cries loudest deserves the last word, even when they’re the person seeking to make money from hateful literature and pushing whatever positive reviews they can find. But I’m not saying any more about it. Because that, of course, would be personal and that’s not allowed.

Anyhow, in place of a post that calls out nasty, misogynist writing about pregnancy with the use of genuine examples, I’ll have to make do with one that includes the essential points I’d like to make:

  • it’s not nice to talk about a pregnant partner’s breasts as if they belong to you and will, in future, be defective
  • it’s rather offensive to pretend that doing the tiniest bit of housework makes a man a hero
  • it’s misogynist crap to claim that pregnant women become nasty, violent hormone-fuelled monsters
  • it’s sadistic to take delight in women feeling uncomfortable in their own bodies as they change size
  • it’s pathetic to assume women about to be ousted from the workplace don’t care about finances because they’re too busy worrying about mere fripperies such as buying more maternity clothes

All of this is nasty, bullying, misogynist crap. That, in essence, is what I wanted to say. But ideally with the use of evidence. Lest anyone think that we humourless feminists just make this shit up.

PS Any offensive responses will be collected and put on Twitter with the #feminism hashtag. Then I’ll set Louise Mensch onto you.

Gratuitous ‘Mumsnet blogpost’

Response to Alice Vincent, who, as Liz Jarvis discusses on The Mum Blog,  insulted Giles Coren on Twitter with the comment: “Columnists basing their opinions around their children. So yawn. Your column today is one step up from a mumsnet blogpost”

Hi, Alice Vincent! Are you reading this? I’d assume so, since you’re the expert in what constitutes a ‘mumsnet blogpost’. Not your favourite genre, I understand? Still, you’ve gotta keep track of all the literary trends, even the shit ones.

That spat with Giles Coren – don’t mind him. He’s just a sexist tosspot with a more famous, funnier dad (now sadly deceased) and a more intelligent sister (now marrying the lovely David Mitchell, the bitch). I wouldn’t bother with the runt of the Coren litter, poor Giles. Stick with us, the mumsnet bloggers. We’ll cater for all your boredom needs without ever telling you to fuck off while throwing misogynist insults into the ether.

Btw, have I told you about my kids? It’s obviously all I ever blog, nay, think about, but you might have been so busy getting bored reading blogs about other people’s children that you’ve forgotten to be bored about mine. Anyhow, blah blah blah nappies blah blah blah blah cute blah blah blah blah yummy mummy blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah on her high horse blah blah blah blah don’t get all offended and uppity little mummy blah blah blah blah cupcakes gin and tears before bedtime blah blah blah blah blah.

Sorry, are you still awake? Course you are. You’re used to Mumsnet posts like this. Hardened to it, one might say.

Thanks for being there for us, Alice. In the plain, boring, jam-smeared wasteland that is Mummy Central, it’s good to know people like you are still listening out for our aimless babble.

POSTSCRIPT Alice Vincent did in fact respond to this on Twitter. She seemed very nice, for a barren old hag. Only kidding. She seemed very nice. Giles Coren, you’re a real tosser. But I’m not going to tweet you regarding this.

Your blogger persona: Is he or she, like, a complete bitch?

Anyone remember Meredith Brooks? She had a solitary hit in the late 90s with the song “Bitch”. In case your memory needs jogging further, this is the chorus, rendered phonetically to provide some extra help:

Ahm a bitch, ahm a lover
Ahm a child, ahm a mother
Ahm a sinner, ahm a saint
Ah do not feel ashamed
Ahm your hell, ahm your dream
Ahm nothin’ in between
You know you wouldn’t want it any other way

For those of you who don’t have a masters in literature, I think what Meredith’s saying is that a woman is not a mere cardboard cut-out stereotype; she’s lots of cardboard cut-out stereotypes. And men, apparently, “wouldn’t want it any other way”.

I am pondering this as I start to examine which stereotypes I exemplify in this blog (yeah, it’s one of those up-its-own-arse posts. You’re welcome to look away now). The fact is, a few days ago I mentioned the sex positive parenting blog to some friends I know from “real life”, and I’m now freaked out they may have looked at some of my blog posts there or, worse, here, and be thinking “what the fuck? She’s nothing like that!” (btw, if you are one of my “real life” friends reading this, you’re confused and this is written by someone else. If you’re not, well I am like that in real life. Don’t believe my so-called friends; as noted above, they’re confusing me with someone else).

To be honest, I am terrified that the disjuncture between who I am in “real life” and who I am on this blog will be exposed in a way that makes me look like a complete and utter twat. It won’t be like with Brooke Magnanti/Belle de Jour, with everyone going “wow! She’s a prostitute and a scientist! That makes her a nice prostitute! And a sexy scientist!”. It’ll be more “she doesn’t even wear that much makeup and her tits aren’t even that big. What kind of tell-it-like-it-is blogger is she?” (although I’m not even sure I’d fall into the category of “tell-it-like-it-is blogger”. Probably more “tell-it-like-her-bizarre-imagination-says-it-is”, but I suppose at least no one can challenge me on that).

In addition to this, though, I’m also terrified that my blogger persona will infiltrate my “real life” self and start taking over, making me rather like Anakin Skywalker going over to the Dark Side (with both of us doing it for much the same reason: it’s just way cooler). Obviously on a blog I’m much more uninhibited; I write what pops into my head (I say “obviously”; I am aware other bloggers value and use a thing called restraint, in order to make their blogs more meaningful and readable. I am a bit lazy on that score. And my head is very persistent with its “poppings”). I now worry that since I started blogging I’m more uninhibited at work, but not in a good way. A good way would be if I were more confident in telling others what to do. My not-good way involves making more puns and innuendos than are strictly necessary when updating the asset management system (ooh, assets!). And sadly, it gets worse.

This week I bought a tub of M&S mini teacakes to share with my colleagues. Once a sufficient number of people (i.e. one) had toddled over to get theirs, I went to get my share, taking two because hey, they’re only little. As I walked back to my desk, I was taken by the powerful urge to place a mini teacake on each tit, like a chocolatey nipple tassle, and do a comedy “sexy” dance. I fought this urge, and thank god, I won, but man, it was powerful. And I totally blame the Glosswitch persona for this. That, and the Good Men Project small-breasts article. I mean, I’d like to think this blog isn’t just the verbal equivalent of me dancing with teacakes on my tits but let’s face it, I’m too close to the whole thing to know.

I imagine lots of bloggers are tormented by the thought “shit! What if my colleagues found out?”. Because we’re not sure quite who we are on the blog, and we’re not quite sure who we are in “real life” either. Probably, in some metaphorical way, as Brooks observes, we’re each and every one of us a bitch, a lover, a child, a mother, a sinner and a saint. And we’re probably all those identities listed at the end of The Breakfast Club as well (the jock, the princess, the basket case, the criminal, and the one who made something in technology class that didn’t work and had a cry about it but he came in useful in the end because they got him to do all the written work). That’s us, in both environments, real and virtual, but in different ways. How do we manage it? Well, here’s my first top tip: don’t, whatever you do, do the “teacake dance”.*

* Unless you work at a fetish club and are paid to do this. Or it’s something your partner really likes. Then go ahead and do it. I recommend also branching out into Jammie Dodgers – they give good strawberry-flavoured nipple.

Style blogging hits the school run. Bugger.

I’ve always been rather fascinated by ‘style bloggers’ (not fascinated enough to ever follow a style blog, mind. But fascinated nonetheless). What really interests me are two things: first, how do you end up with a perception of your wardrobe that’s so totally at odds with how most of us see ours? Because, let’s face it, the vast majority of us think our own clothes are shit. And yes, we might have chosen them, but that doesn’t mean anything. We’re crap at this sort of thing.

The second thing is, how is being a style blogger remotely sustainable? How can you ‘rock’ a different look day after day, even if you’re using the whole “accessories totally transform an outfit” fib? I mean, if I were a style blogger, you’d notice straight away that I’m wearing the same jumper I wore yesterday. It’s fine; I’ve sniffed the underarms and everything. And my pants and tights are clean on. But still, you can’t tell that from a photo alone. If you were checking my site on a daily basis, you’d just think “wow! that woman may take some style risks with the whole 2010 retro vibe, but if you ask me, she’s just a little bit, well, unsavoury”.

The latest thing in style blogging is, apparently, “school-run” blogging, whereby mothers give an update on what they’ve worn to drop off their kids. Personally I find the specificity of this a bit weird. Do these women keep these outfits on for the rest of the day? Are they only ever seen first thing, when they’re saying goodbye to their offspring? And if so, rather than blogging away, shouldn’t they be reading some Marilyn French and breaking the chains of domesticity? Perhaps leaving the house to do other things every now and then? Just sayin’ (or maybe the “what I wore to Tesco’s” and “my post office catwalk” blogs are still a work in progress).

Whether or not it’s the tip of the iceberg, I find this whole phenomenon pretty damn depressing. According to the Daily Mail (always a bad way to start a sentence):

The new online fashion gurus — often stay-at-home mothers — draw their inspiration instead from the High Street and friends, blogging their thoughts when the children are at school or in bed. Their blogs feature tops that are on-trend, washable and affordable, heels in which you can push a Bugaboo and jeans that won’t reveal an unbecoming eyeful of underwear when you crawl around the floor at playgroup.

Give me strength! If I could afford a) a Bugaboo and b) to be a stay-at-home mother, I’d probably still go out to work and buy designer clothes instead. Only kidding. I haven’t a clue what I’d do (run for the hills?). But please, in the meantime – there’s realistic and realistic. And none of this sounds like, um, the realistic one of the two realistics which I just proposed.

So there I am, the scummer at the gates. The woman who looks a prat at work and now, it appears, a prat outside of work as well. Just how many sodding uniforms does a woman now need? Can I not just have one of those pink housecoats like my gran used to wear and keep that on for everything? No? And while to some style bloggers a top for £50 apparently engages with the “harsh economic realities” of being a mum, it seems a bit pricey to me. My imaginary, never-going-to-happen style blog would just have just one link: Ebay, Ebay, Ebay. Ebay’s fucking brill for clothes. Mind you, sometimes when you get them in the post, they pong a bit. Evidently the former owners don’t always sniff the underarms like I do.

Blog stats: Am I bovvered?

So, I’ve been blogging for nearly a month and a half and guess what? I fucking well love it! And there, right there, is one of the reasons why I do. The fact is, I can write whatever I like. It’s my blog and I can just sit here going blah [swearword] blah blah blah all day long (apart from that thing with work and children. I do that sometimes too. In between the swearing).

Of course, this isn’t the whole story. I’ve been able to write pretty legibly since 1982. By now I could have a whole mountain of blah blah blahs in a wide array of formats. But I don’t really want to express it if there is absolutely no one who might potentially hear it. What’s the point? I might as well just keep it in my head. After all, the blah blah blah-ing’s loud enough in there to begin with. The fact is, I want to put it in someone else’s head, too (born educator or mind-control megalomaniac? You decide).

I’ve always loved writing. I’ve even authored a book, albeit under my real name. That was quite cool. I liked signing copies for my mum and dad, and checking which libraries it was in. And sometimes, if I’m really drunk, I get my own copy down off the shelf and flick through it, thinking “crikey! I have thought some hard thoughts in my time!” That’s because the book’s an academic monograph, and if I’m honest, while I like the fact it now exists, I did not particularly enjoy the final stages of putting it together. The actual process of writing a chapter meant getting from A to B without jokes, or digressions, or silly analogies, but with solid, boring old evidence. Alas, I wasn’t too keen on that (and there are sections of my book where, I’ll admit, I’m still more “creative” than I should be). At one point, I even considered putting a disclaimer on the front cover (something along the lines of “this author is not a proper academic, so don’t expect too much”). Academic publishers do not however go for that kind of thing.

Blogging’s totally different from academic writing. I mean, you do get a kind of “peer review”, but through other blogs you find an audience that’s receptive to you (and a darn sight less competitive and cut-throat than academics are, or so my one-and-a-half month’s experience suggests). There is one thing that bothers me, though, and does really make me feel judged. It’s the whole thing about stats. How many views per day you get. I really can’t stand it.

I try not to look but right now, while I’m typing, I can see a little graph in the left-hand corner of my browser. This suggests quite a few people were reading my stuff an hour ago, but no one was arsed around lunchtime, and I’m still considerably less popular than I was yesterday. I know I shouldn’t be but I’m starting to feel a bit insecure. Why was “yesterday me” better than “today me”? And will I ever reach the dizzy heights of “me last Thursday” again?

I should be writing for the pleasure, and for the responses, and I am, but there’s also a “notches on the bedpost” mentality that’s creeping in (not that I think of you, whoever you are who’s reading this, as a one-night stand. You mean more to me than that. Hey, you know that, baby. I’ll give you a call sometime).

If I actually dare to click on the WordPress “Stats” tab, it will provoke, I guarantee it, one of the following responses:

  1. Fewer visitors than usual Damn! What have I done wrong? Either I’ve committed some massive blogger’s faux pas that no one will ever explain to me because they’re all too offended, or I’ve said all the interesting things I had to say. Either way, the heady days of blogging fun are over. Sob.
  2. Average number of visitors That’s okay, I guess. But why is it fewer than last Wednesday? What is it I did on last Wednesday that was different? Can I bring “Wednesday me” back to life? Because otherwise, while this looks fine, the very existence of Wednesday means my numbers are in fact going down.
  3. Massive surge in number of visitors Cripes! What’s all that about? I haven’t even written anything good today. Don’t these people have any taste? Where do I go from here? Should I just start writing bollocks from now on to feed the masses?

I think it over a million times and I never make any sense of it. I suppose that’s because, on a daily basis, there isn’t much sense to be made.

On a day when I have a lot of visitors, it could just be that one “influential” person has liked and tweeted the link to a post of mine. And perhaps lots of people have visited my blog but actually read three lines and thought “this is shit. My influential friend appears to be having something of an off day”. And on other days, when there are fewer visitor, it may just be that people have better things to do. I mean, I don’t know what could be better than reading my stream-of-consciousness rantings (a trip to Disney World, Florida? But they can’t all be there, can they?). Anyhow, what I mean to say is there’s no point whatsoever in trying to interpret it. No point at all, but hell, I’m going to keep on trying anyhow.

And what is the real point of this? Am I letting it become some measure of my worth as a person? Hell, I told everyone about that shag I had with Andy off CBeebies and nobody even deigned to like it?* When I’m writing stuff I really, really like doing it but I can’t stand the analysis afterwards. And the fact that I can’t stand it says something bad about me. Being bothered is all so vulgar. It shows I’m not in it for the passion, man. I just wanna collect numbers.

Well, this is all getting a bit self-obsessed. This is probably the point at which everyone decides never to read a post of mine again. And hell, I deserve it. I’ve no doubt committed that massive faux pas already by broaching this very topic. Maybe I am actually the only person who worries about this crap and everyone else just glances over now and then, out of vague curiosity. But not me. The truth is, I’m so vain, I probably think this blog is about me.

* Don’t bother looking for that post. I’m still finalizing the draft.

Worshipping the Spirit of the Stairs

The French call it l’esprit de l’escalier. The English do not call it the spirit of the stairs. But we should do. It’s a lot less wordy than that-thing-that-makes-you-think-of-the-right-thing-to-say-once-you’ve-walked-out-of-the-room-and-it’s-too-late-to-say-it.

I have the spirit of the stairs in buckets. This is largely because I am crap at talking. I am always the person sitting in meetings thinking how did they just come up with that? How come everyone else is so in the zone? I think this even if people have said things I don’t agree with (there’s a bit of me that always appreciates total crap if it’s nicely phrased).*

If I’m totally honest, it may be that the reason that I’m not saying ace stuff is I’m the only one in the room having the stream-of-consciousness why can’t I say ace stuff? inquisition in my head. And then I start thinking about that in itself and it all gets way too meta.

Over the past couple of weeks I have got pretty much addicted to blogging and twitter as suddenly I’ve discovered a way of, well, just saying stuff without the pressure. It’s also a means of saying stuff in a format of my choosing (not academic or business-speak). Hence I’ve learned that the way, deep down, I really want to communicate involves a lot of swearing. I never realized that before but fuck me, it feels good.

Anyhow, this post is all getting a bit self-absorbed, or up its own arse, as I should say now that I’m communicating as “the real me”. I’ll probably be back later to edit it. Once I’ve thought of something really ace to say.

* Julie Burchill, I love you.