Thursday, 16 September 2010

Swots and Sinners

Whenever I’m writing or doodling alone I think of that super-confident, sassy, vaguely skanky girl from my memories of Year 7 with whom I had the misfortune of once sharing a classroom. I think it was one rainy lunchtime where she was escaping the rain and I was escaping people, not really being fussed about chasing boys or cigarettes at the age of 11 like my peers. I was doodling faces in my form’s diary planner thing that they handed out in an attempt to encourage the doing of homework and remember filling the outlines over and over to see what would happen faster, the pen running out of ink, or eroding the paper completely and leaving me with cut-out heads. Fun!

Upon spying this exciting filler activity of mine she gleefully cackled to her twinnish friend, “Oh look, she’s drawing people to keep her company!” I probably tried to laugh along and show my appreciation of the great joke and mask my embarrassment, failing to realise what a see you next Tuesday she was being. There’s still a part of me that always processes put-downs as mistakes of their makers; I have this na├»ve faith that people can’t possibly be that mean. Can they?

I still sometimes hear her unkind ‘observation’ echoing in my memory, or sometimes shrieking over my shoulder whenever I sit down to draw something (or rather more frequently these days, write). Am I really only creating things to keep me company? Too escape the fate Roberta Sparrow described: “Every living creature on earth dies alone”. Or rather didn’t describe, she too being fictional.

If you want to get all analytical about it, maybe it represented an unconscious desire to mutilate. 4REAL. But I think honestly I just liked doodling. Still do, all over post-its at work when trapped on the phone, in the margins of notebooks when I get bored of writing about myself (it can happen).

Attempts at demoralisation were frequent at that school, on a much larger scale of course than the incident I have described above. I was lucky enough to be whisked from this school to one where intelligence and hard work were rewarded. Friendly competition between students also encouraged the breeding of A* results. An obvious side effect was me being rapidly delegated from teacher’s pet/uber-swot and unfortunately there were no music, media, drama, or art classes in which I could doodle a tent to cut out and live in as a young friendless Tracey Emin. But I left with much better grades than I would’ve had if I stayed at that previous school.

Something needs to be done to make knowledge seem cool. Learning and creativity need to be celebrated, not made fun of. And I don’t mean the creativity of how short school girls can wear their skirts these days or how many different colours they can put in their hair or layers of make-up they can slap on. Have I done showing my age yet? I think so.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Shout, Shout, Let It All Out

Over the weekend I witnessed the inspiring sight of a miniskirted blonde shouting back at staff leering out of a nearby kebabery, who had taken a fancy to her hot rotating meat. Her accusatory “WANKERS!” drowned out their hisses of “sssslut”. They reminded me of snaky Spanish boys who would hiss at anything female, like nondiscriminatory malfunctioning kettles.

I also recently discovered HollabackUk, a site for woman who’ve (stupidly or otherwise) braved their verbal attackers and want to share their experiences. I too have fallen prey to the white van collective and scorn the opinion that I should take their abuse as compliments. Nor do I want to drown them out with headphones, as I’ve found wearing headphones only serves to make me more aware of the outside world. I’d dare say many of us have experienced the embarrassment of ignoring someone’s requests for attention when we’re encased in sonic solitude, and the heart-stopping fright of being narrowly missed by a vehicle because we didn’t hear it coming.

As this site and its predecessors have pointed out, these ‘compliments’ only serve as a form of intimidation. Why do people go out of their way to make strangers feel uncomfortable? What satisfaction can it possibly bring them? What kind of mindset must you possess to think that these sorts of personal remarks are by any means appreciated? If girls go out together and spy an appealing manly morsel, they’ll mostly merely giggle and whisper to themselves, the object of undulation/adoration being none the wiser. I’ve asked my friends how they fancy escalating this by driving around and honking at boys for kicks but the response to this proposal has been less than encouraging.

I read recently that most crimes are likely to happen between 6am and 6pm (I’d do further research into the accuracy of that statement, but meh, I’m not getting paid for this) so you’re actually safer at night. Creepy remarks have mainly been directed towards me in the daytime, with female friends reaffirming it seems to occur on the way to work (a time when you’re at your most vulnerable, because you can’t see straight yet).

Recently I was making my way from Victoria Train Station to the nearby coach station. Not much of a stretch, but still plenty of time to give at least one predictable weirdo chance to tag along, muttering “Ooohh, baby...” I can understand, to an extent, the safety in numbers thing where it is largely a demonstration of heterosexual affiliation, but what of these babbling predatory loners? My time working in mental health led me to believe that the entire population has ‘issues’ and these pavement pests don’t do anything to assuage me. I mean, do they just decide they’ve watched enough Ultimate Big Brother for one night and decide to see how many people they can scare on a stroll? Is it some kind of ongoing competition with a like-minded underworld who award binoculars and balaclavas to the highest-scoring participants?

I’d like to think Hollabacking girls will one day unite and the force of verbal reciprocation will make would-be admirers change their approaches. I’m hoping for chocolates and money and flowers in the place of offensive missiles.

Well, she was asking for it, going out dressed like that!

However, if she didn’t dress like that she’d only be called frumpy and frigid instead.