My Pretty Dresses

I had to make what was quite an emotional decision today. I had packed up a lot of my dresses I had from when I was in Chichester. I had saved them for concerts and public appearances and at the time they meant all the world to me. Since I made my decision to give up opera and classical singing, and stop kidding myself that I am not trans, I really didn’t know what to do with them. I just put them in bin bags and tried not to think about it. Today as I was leaving the house, a bag of them fell down and spilled out on the floor. As I didn’t want them just getting kicked around the house and getting ruined, I made the snap decision to donate them.

There is a dress agency in my town which I gave them to, if they can use them, great, if not they can donate them to charity. I felt a bit sad letting them go, but also a bit relieved. When I was in Chichester, I believed that a great singing career was ahead of me. I had done well with my performance diploma and my degree, and I’d surrounded myself with a lot of people who had encouraged me to follow this path, whatever my misgivings. I remember each one of these dresses, where and then o bought them, and what I wore them for. The pale green one I wore for a music festival in Bognor. The black one was for an Armistice concert. The red one was worn for the anniversary of the local amateur operatic society, and the nude one, well, I never got to wear that, I just bought it and badged it away for a special occasion which never came. I wondered why I had accumulated such a collection of pretty dresses and ball gowns, and dozens of pairs of stilettos, but you have to understand, I believed that my future was going to be as a classical singer, travelling around the country if not the world, singing arias and being lauded as a ‘diva’ or a ‘prima donna’, being given awards and garlands of flowers, appearing on TV next to Russell Watson or Kaff Jenkins, it seemed reasonable at the time, but so facetious now talking about it, but at the time I was deadly serious.

I did a couple of photo shoots hoping I could be a model, and I wore some of the dresses in these photos, which I still have. I was talking into doing a modelling portfolio by an ex ‘friend’ I knew in Bognor, who even took topless pics of me, which would help me to get a recording contract. In fact, I just think he wanted to take topless pictures of me for the hell of it, and being so detached from my body, and not even liking breasts, I must say I didn’t really care much. It made sense at the time I guess, but in actual fact when I was dressed up, and in my stilettos and hair extensions, I kind of felt like a drag queen. Maybe that was because I knew about my masculine side, but had pushed it down, out of sight, and was determined to make the best job I could of being a woman. I knew I couldn’t be ‘mumsy’ and goo goo over babies, and knit little wooly booties, bake cupcakes and watch chick-flicks, I could never be that kind of a woman, but being an “opera diva” did appeal to me, having the lavish dresses and perfect hair and the powerful voice, and being able to hold the audience in the palm of my hand, well, that was different. I cultivated a real ‘diva’ persona, and it made me a bad person, arrogant, combative and jealous.

I’m steadily going through a lot of my ‘feminine’ clothing and bit by bit donating it. A couple of my big ball gowns I gave to a costume workshop who rent out dresses for pantomimes. Hopefully they will make use of them, and it seems quite apt, doesn’t it, that they be used for pantomimes? Much of my life as an ‘opera diva’ was pantomime. I have read of similar things other trans people have done in order to deny their trans status, and to fit in with the status quo. Like the trans women who surprise everyone who thought they were good ole boys who liked their rugby and fishing. I saw a TED talk by a trans man who had had success in a former life as a beauty queen, and I related to this straight away. I felt like over-compensation to me. I really wanted to make a success of being a woman, and to be the best woman I could be, even tho my gender dysphoria precluded me from sexual relationships, and the thought of getting pregnant horrified me. I was brought up to believe in the ‘Godly Wife’ – the life’s goal of every good Brethren sister was to marry young to a good upstanding Brethren man and start breeding, but it made me feel uncomfortable. I believed in things such as my ‘body clock’ and my ‘instincts’ and ‘hormones’ kicking in once I got into my twenties, but they never did.

I realised a couple of years ago that I was just marking time, and saving up for a day that would never come. I was no more going to wake up one day with an invite to perform at the Sydney Opera House with Russell Watson, than I was to wake up one day pining for a baby and maternal bliss. I realised that in fact, I didn’t even enjoy opera, it was something I saw that I could be successful at and be respected for. I always wanted respect, which is something I feel has always eluded me. I don’t want to do this anymore, I do not want to be like Florence Foster Jenkins, an ageing dowager still crazy for the limelight. It is not who I am, or who I ever was.

The thought of being someone who has become a caricature of themselves is not an appealing thought, and I can no longer see myself as this in the future. The dresses I’d stockpiled were never going to be worn to the Last Night of the Prom or for my winning X-Factor performance, not even for local theatrical performances or variety shows. Nobody, as it turned out, actually liked opera as much as I thought they would. I’m also throwing out most of my CD collection, most of which I have not even listened to since buying. I have thousands of CD’s of operas, full scores and solo albums by the likes of Maria Callas and Pavarotti who I thought of as ‘role models’. They were for my ‘study’ to listen to and emulate. I really wanted to make this work, but in the end I couldn’t. Living so long in denial has been a terrible burden to bear, it’s only now I’ve been able to verbalise it, and say out loud, I’m trans. This was never going to work once I admit that irrefutable fact of life.

So, finally throwing out these dresses, stiletto heels and all the other garb, marks to me an end of an era, which is going to allow me to grow into the person I should have been instead of what I perceived that people wanted me to be. I’ve gone back to exploring other kinds of performance, comedy and spoken word. I no longer care if I can sing soprano ‘top C’ and if indeed I go on T, this note will no longer be in my repertoire. That’s no loss to me, just kiss it and let it go. Move on. I’ve gone back to where my real interests lie, music technology, video editing and production. And above all, I’m more comfortable now I can ditch the makeup and hair extensions and wear a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. There was a time I wouldn’t leave the house without makeup, so look how far I’ve come. I’ve even bought myself a few funky suits. I can be myself now, and be honest about the way I feel about the way I am, and always have been. Being trans is, at first being able to recognise it, then being able to reconcile your life with it, stop hiding from it and make peace with it. That’s what I intend to do now. You need to be honest with yourself first, before you can be honest to other people.

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Behind the Mask

The thing which frustrates and angers me the most about being perceived as a woman in my line of work, is the way I am treated and condescended to because of it. It seems to matter very little about me getting my professional mind set and my game face on, the mere fact that I might be female or womanish is enough to make what should be a simple and efficient task a crawl uphill wearing a ball and chain. As I have explained before on this blog, since I was a child I wanted to be a record producer and recording engineer, and with the wide-eyed wonder I had back then, I saw no obstacles to me achieving this goal. Only once I’d gone to university were my eyes opened to the reality of what is expected from those ‘assigned female at birth’, and how it doesn’t matter what you do it will always be coloured by these misconceptions. I suppose I feel this frustration worse as I am trans, but have been living as a cis-female, because who I feel I am inside doesn’t match up with the way I get treated by customers.

I recently picked up a new client, who wanted to record his songs, make music videos and become a ‘social media star’. The contract was good for more money per day than I usually make in a week. I would have been high-level stupid not to take it. The first couple of recording sessions were confusing, but he paid handsomely and I managed to stay professionally detached from the client and bite my tongue when things seemed a bit weird. However, there is only so much of that you can do before it starts to eat at you. The client is a very peculiar person, a staunch patriarchalist with extreme views on such things as feminism and BLM being a conspiracy funded by George Soros, abortion and a strange obsession with gang-land violence. He even comes from a country where corrective rape of lesbians and HIV infection is part and parcel of the culture. If there is truly such a thing as ‘toxic masculinity’, this guys got the t-shirt. He soon showed his true colours as a manipulative narcissist. My professional detachment became very strained when I was working with him alongside another far-right supporting colleague, and in my presence they start talking about women ‘not being equal’ and how much they hate ‘gender neutrals’. He insists on using my full name, ‘because it’s pretty’ instead of respecting my desire to us my initials instead. Being pretty was never part of the deal. I’m not furniture.

After this session I went home feeling drained. I do not like the buzzword ‘triggered’ but this is probably the closest I’ve come to it. I actually felt threatened, and I do not like that feeling in my professional life, and this is not the first time it has happened. It happens time and time again. The reason I get contracts to do jobs like this, by people like this is that they see me as a ‘female’ and therefore a ‘soft touch’. They think they can play me, and in the past, in similar situations they have. It’s always an imbalance of power, whoever has the money is the one in true control, and they can ask me to jump and I’ll say “how high?” The games have already started with him taking me out to dinner to ‘discuss business’, and him buying me clothes. However much inside, I’m thinking I’m a professional, I’m just like Pete Waterman or Trevor Horn, they aren’t seeing that. They see a little girl they can manipulate. It tears me up inside because whatever I do, it doesn’t matter how clever I am, or how professional I am, I have no strength and authority so I’ll just get pushed around. I had to get rid of two earlier clients who played exactly the same game, trying to suck me into their fantasies, making me feel like I’m losing my mind and losing myself. I seem to attract them, in a way my male-presenting colleagues do not, and do not see a problem.

I know that I made a terrible mistake as a teenager, listening to my doctor and to my Christian fellowship regarding my transgender status. I was wrong to listen to those who considered themselves ‘equalists’ or ‘complimenterians’ who told me that there was nothing wrong with me being a woman, and in fact it would be an advantage, I’d be an old man’s darling, their ‘favourite’ and get spoilt rotten. OK well, I do get bought presents, all the bloody time, it’s humiliating and a show of financial power meant to control me. And being called pretty and a princess is not nice and sweet, it show the total lack of respect they have for me, and something my male colleagues never have to deal with. It really boils my piss when you consider the MRA types who are actually jealous of the women they consider ‘gold diggers’ because they get this kind of treatment, which in the most part is initiated by men as a form of control. I’d rather have respect for my skills and professionalism than be showered with trinkets and compliments just for being pretty and malleable. But then, I guess I’ll just be called an ungrateful cow. I am of no sexual market value whatsoever, as an asexual anyway.

I really think that I’m being pushed more and more towards transitioning FtM. I know it isn’t ideal, and I should have done this when I was younger, but I really thought that we were living in a progressive society where these things didn’t matter anymore. I believed the Spice Girls propaganda of ‘Girl Power’. I had no reason to believe that I would grow up into a world which made every interaction difficult because I was being perceived as something I could not relate to. I know the reason why girls leave these professions. In the left-wing “liberal” echo chamber, you get to think it’s all OK, but in the real world you have to deal with clients of all kinds of political persuasions, and you have to do your job and get over it. You just get used to the baseline of discomfort and see it as ‘normal’. I guess women who are not trans can just bat their eyelids and get over it, because it doesn’t threaten their sense of identity and self-worth, but for me it’s a constant reminder that I’ll never be able to just get on with my job with authority and respect, I’ll always get treated as a novelty. And that makes me very sad indeed.

How “Stereotype Threat” will Ruin your Career

Worth sharing again as this is an important point.

Naked Emperor Blog

I have recently been introduced to the term “stereotype threat” and it has been a real eye-opener to be sure. I had not heard of this terminology before, or any of the studies which have been carried out, but it goes a long way to explain some of the deep frustrations and discomfort I have felt during my pursue of a career in the music industry as a producer and studio engineer. For all those times I have felt uncomfortable, ill at ease, self-conscious, defensive, doubted my own competence and self-sabotaged, quit or acted out of character, I can see “stereotype threat” as a huge contributor.

Stereotype threat was first identified in 1995 in a study carried out by Claude Steele and Joshua Aronson. This original study was designed to identify why African American students under-performed in certain types of academic tests. What they found was, when tests were framed…

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Is there any Virtue in Weakness?

When I was about 16 or maybe 17 years old, I was really into movies. Especially Sci-Fi movies and the big Disney films like the Little Mermaid and The Lion King. I’d set up a home cinema with Dolby surround sound, and I had one of those Hi-Fi digital VHS players which played the soundtrack in digital stereo. I only needed one more thing to complete the experience, and that was a massive TV. Back in those days, there were only the cumbersome and heavy CRT (cathode ray tube) kinds of television. They were bulky and ugly, but you could argue had a more ‘natural’ image than LCD’s and plasmas have these days. We had a local Granada, the rival to the ‘Radio Rentals’ store which used to sell off old ‘ex rental’ TV’s and I picked out an old 38″ Baird model, for about £200 and I really wanted it.

My dad kicked up hell’s delight but none the less agreed to buy it. It was a stereo model so had its own bulky speakers which made the bloody thing a monster to lift, and two of the guys from the store managed to get it on his roof rack. The top of the car was buckling, and he didn’t bother to secure it with anything, but he just drove home very slowly, cursing and swearing all the time. When we managed to get it home, a neighbour, and old guy named Charles came out and offered to help. ‘Can I give you a hand with that, Jack?’ He asked.
Jack went blue in the face with anger.
Now, I knew it was heavy, but I haven’t actually looked up how much it actually weighed until now, now that I come to write this blog. It was likely that the TV in question weighed upwards of 15 stone.
‘No’ replied Jack. “She wanted the fucking thing, she can do it”.

I know I shouldn’t feel this way, and that my father’s demands were unreasonable, but that is one of the first times I felt as if I was shamed over my physical strength. I hated, and still hate being weak, or even being perceived as weak. Being brought up,to believe in biblical gender roles made me hate myself. I could not be two things at once, on the one hand, my father fostered aggression and fist fighting in me, and shamed me for not being able to life a 15 stone TV off the roof of a car by myself, and on the other hand, my mum had always believed that a woman should be a delicate little flower who needs a man to look after and protect her. Now you know about ‘cognitive dissonance’ well, this went far beyond that. I never knew what was to be expected of me. All I knew is, I felt weak and was ashamed of that fact.

My mum is a small woman, even smaller now that she has Parkinson’s and has also developed a hunch back because of lack of bone density. I did not really realise at the time, but my father was also a small man, no taller than 5’6″ and wiry, which might have even fed into his own insecurity. Mum used to be very critical of muscular women, saying they were like “gurt men” and unfeminine. She had a female friend who she used to critisise who she considered “ham fisted” , she was six feet tall and she used to smoke a pipe. Mum did not think her feminine. I just thought she was lucky. I always felt insecure about my physical strength, even when I was at school I was considered skinny and weedy. I don’t know how much of this was due to malnourishment and being brought up in a freezing cold house, but it didn’t help, plus being born in June, I was at least six months younger that a lot of the more developed kids in my class.

When I was involved with the Brethren, they preached what I know now as ‘complimentarianism’ which is basically a doctrine which says that men and women are equal in the eyes of God, but do not have the same role. Men are called to be the breadwinners and the head of the household, and women to be the wives, child-bearers and nurturers. The role of men is in the world, as leaders, the role of women is a supporting role, to keep house and support the men. Women do not have agency, they exist solely to be as a ‘helpmeet’ to the men in their lives, to bear their children and to make them sandwiches. According to this philosophy, it didn’t matter how clever I was, or if I did well in school, my final destiny was to meet a upstanding Christian man, submit to him and bear him many sons. This frightened me. I had seen how this panned out in my parent’s lives. It was an imbalance of power.

I always felt confused and conflicted by the idea that, for the sake or femininity and being socially acceptable I was meant to be proud of weakness, see skinny bony arms as ‘elegant’ and not lament my lack of muscle. I struggled with my weight anyway, sometimes getting dangerously close to anorexia because my body was changing, and boobs, despite being what every girl wants, seemed odd and wrong to me. Alien even. I wanted them to go away. I also wanted biceps which made me feel embarrassed. I couldn’t go and buy dumbbells, that would alert my parents and make them chastise me. I could however, get two litre milk canisters and fill them with sand, which was what I did. Not knowing the correct way to exercise I was probably risking hurting myself, but I was better than nothing.

I believe that most girls are brought up to greatly underestimate their own physical strength, and it begins in childhood. Up until puberty, there is little difference between the strength of boys and girls, with girls actually being the larger and more developed. All this is taken away at puberty, which as a trans person I knew all too well. However, much of the problem lies in the fact that boys are actively encouraged to work with weights and build muscle, whereas girls are told they are expected to be a size 0 and look like a Disney Princess. From the Victorian era we had the image of the ‘shrinking violet’ the woman in a corset and bustle fainting at the sight of a mouse. Clothing always sought to exaggerate the differences between male and female, giving men strong shoulders and women tiny waists, and high heeled shoes, to cripple, much like the Chinese act of foot binding, to stop her from running away. The real difference is in upper body strength, from the waist down there is little to separate male and female strength, but most women do not know this. They are conditioned to believe in their weakness and see all men as ‘superman’. The sad thing is, men also believe in their vast superiority and it gives them confidence to abuse this physical advantage.

I don’t know if it was just because I was trans, but didn’t have the language to explain it yet, but I felt very short changed. Why should being weak and frail be a virtue? Why should I expect to get a big, strong macho man to come and look after me and protect me, and why the hell should that ‘turn me on’? Surely I was as much at risk from him as I was from any of the aggressors he was supposed to save me from? Can I have no sense of agency, can’t I look after myself? Why do I have to rely on the mercy of some brute for my wellbeing? I remember hearing the song by Sinitta, ‘So Macho’ and thinking that I really couldn’t relate to it. Wanting a man to dominate me seemed to be pretty much Brethren doctrine. I don’t need that in a pop song. The idea of the woman ‘taming the beast’ with her love is a popular trope, Beauty and the Beast being the most well known example, but it’s rarely true. If you want a ‘bad boy’ you will end up being a source of ‘narcissistic supply’ more like Anastasia from 50 Shades of Grey, a horrific book which normalises power games, domestic violence and spousal rape and presents it as ‘romance’. There is nothing ‘empowering’ in Anastasia’s story, and nothing ‘sexy’ about DV. Even when I was at university, I remember watching the performances by other singing students and hearing the ‘constructive’ feedback from the male tutors. Most of the female characters in opera are frail creatures, either sick and close to death, like Mimi, sexually and physically abused like Dido or Norma or suicidal like Tosca. It’s a trope I always found uncomfortable. I remember a male teacher comment once on a female singer’s performance, saying that she should make herself appear ‘vulnerable’ and that vulnerability was very attractive, and I guess this is ‘acting’, but I doubt very much that he would have ever made these suggestions to a male singer.:( Male singers, the basso and tenor play heroic characters, whilst the soprano plays a tragic ‘heroine’, ie, a victim.

It’s exactly the same thing with ‘intelligence’, that girls are taught to underestimate their own abilities and to give up when faced with a challenge, whilst boys are taught to overestimate their abilities, be over confidence even when lacking skill, and to be competitive and persevere rather than give into challenges. This problem has to be identified as a problem before it can be solved. I think there has always been a form of ‘chivalry’ which has always led women to expect men to do everything for them, instead of taking control and doing it for themselves, which is damaging and infantilising. For instance, if a woman expects a man to carry her bags for her, what is the point of her being strong? If she expects him to treat her like a baby that is what she will be, and that’s an imbalance of power again. I have never wanted anyone do treat me this way, as it takes away my agency and any accountability for my actions.

Maybe it is because I am trans that I have always been aware of it, and it’s made me deeply uncomfortable. I know what it is like to have been treated as if I was weak and stupid, and it has made me, of not exactly angry, but deeply disappointed that I am perceived that way through social conditioning. I was not one to shy away from trying to lift a 15 stone TV, and between us, my father and I got it inside the house, where it served us up until his death in 1998. I still feel afraid of being weak, and feel compromised most of the time by my small, girly frame. I wanted to be a big guy, but hopefully going on T will allow me to put on muscle and at least feel more equal and not as inadequate as I have always felt amongst biological men. I think I feel discriminated against much more than a woman who truly identifies as a woman because feeling weak and helpless is a trigger for my gender dysphoria.

Cosplay and Gender Identity

Naked Emperor Blog

I have always been interested in dressing up, from my first forays in the carnival, to my Sci Fi convention dress ups, where I have learned to recreate special effects makeup and recreate screen-perfect uniform replicas. Of late, the convention ‘dressing up’ community has chosen to rebrand itself, with the Japanese portmanteau name ‘cosplay’, from ‘costume-play’, but really it’s the same thing, fans attending events dresses as their favourite characters from the worlds of fantasy, gaming, comics, anime and Sci-Fi.

It’s interesting to note how acceptable it is for women to portray male characters, but how unusual it us to see men portraying female characters, and I wonder what the cultural and sociological reasons for this imbalance? Of course, there is a popular fandom where males like to dress up as female characters, that is of course the My Little Pony – Friendship is Magic “Brony” fandom. Brony means “Bro-Pony”…

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Why I Had a ‘Nose Job’

I have a confession to make. I had a nose job. (rhinoplasty) I know a lot of people frown on plastic surgery, especially those of a particular religious persuasion like the Brethren I was brought up with, who said that ‘God made me that way’, but I had to do it. For the sake of my own sanity and my own confidence.

I went through school being called ‘Concorde’ like the supersonic aircraft, and ‘Pinocchinose’, a bizarre and creative contraction of ‘Pinocchio’ and ‘nose’, as Pinocchio was famous for his nose growing longer every time he told a lie. I must have been very truthful then, as I didn’t have a big nose anyway, but my nose was broken and misshapen from a rough hockey match and had not been snapped back, and bent downwards with a swollen bridge. I would say that my nose more resembled a cartoon of Hiawatha the Indian than it did Pinocchio’s. This feature made me look aggressive and pugnacious, which of course I was not, but people judge by looks so I was branded a bad ‘un.

Being a girl made this even worse, as girls are expected to be decorative. There was nothing decorative about my nose, and it even affected my voice as I had a permanently blocked nose which gave it an adenoidal quality, which made me a figure of fun. Kids used to mimic me by holding or putting a clothes peg on their nose and over enunciating to sound like I did. I’m sure it was hilarious. Soon I learn not to say much as everything I said got parroted back at me.

I knew that I’d never get picked out to be a carnival queen or be the belle of the ball, and I think it is this which encouraged me to first start dressing up as characters. It was a way I could participate without having to be glamorous and beautiful, and I could cover my face with a mask. What people didn’t realise was that I was often in tears under the mask. I thought that I would never be acceptable or likeable. Some people did tell me it was OK, and no worse than Lady Di, or Barbra Streisand, or even Barry Manilow, but that made me feel worse if anything. My nose was far more hideous than any of theirs was.

I nearly backed out of getting plastic surgery, firstly because I was scared of any form of surgery, and secondly because I had a lot of my Christian friends telling me that I shouldn’t because God made me that way. In fact, God did nothing of the sort, and I do not even believe that he sits on a cloud making little play-doh people individually. My nose got broken playing hockey in primary school, and had the school nurse been paying attention, it might have just snapped back, instead of healing with an enlarged bridge. But she didn’t.

After getting the surgery, I had a new lease of life. I finally felt confident about going out in public, and even applying for jobs, which I found really hard before, seeing myself as disfigured. One of the first things I did after getting the cast removed was to go to Top Shop, and splash out on some new clothes. I had always felt awful going in there before as the shop assistants were always so pretty and trendy, and I didn’t feel welcome. It was not only my nose that made me feel like that, but the way I was brought up to only wear second-hand clothes from jumble sales and too be grateful.

The other thing I felt encouraged to do was to start singing, this led me from my original goal to be a studio tech, or ‘back room boy’ onto the stage myself. It was very liberating knowing that once I got to uni, nobody knew me from before I had my nose job. I could wear what ever I wanted, and didn’t have to go out with a bag on my head. I even tried some modelling, which I regret, but I was up for trying new things and a new image. This led my down a strange path, but that’s how you learn about how the world works, and part of being an adult.

I will never regret having a nose job, even tho I feel like I was somehow bullied into it and it was confirming that girls are supposed to be pretty, but as well as the cosmetic advantage having my sinuses drilled out helped me breathe better and enhanced my voice. I would never dissuade somebody from having plastic surgery if it actually allowed them to function as a better person, and have more confidence in themselves. I see no reason why the NHS would not finance this surgery, especially if they suffer with body dysmorphia or have been bullied at school. I do not feel the same way about things like boob and butt jobs, unless it is a breast reduction for back pain, or post-cancer reconstructive surgery, or for transgender people to better align their bodies with their gender identity, as they just play into the instagram cult and reinforce unhelpful stereotypes against women. Nobody needs to be Katie Price to the human Barbie.

Why I Gave Up Opera Singing.

Reblogging

Naked Emperor Blog

I’ve been mulling this over for the last couple of years, and now it’s time to tell my story. I have given up opera and classical singing. For good. Yeah, I said it. Now, some of you might be thinking “about bloody time”, and others might be thinking, “aw, why?”, and still more of you might be thinking that I’m a quitter, and I lack dedication, and don’t want to put in the hard graft. Well, I have come to a point in my life where it is better to be honest and authentic, than to carry on on a path which I no longer feel any affection for, no excitement and no inspiration. I’m not sad about saying goodbye to this former “dream”, in fact the opposite, I feel a burden has been lifted from my shoulders, which will now allow me to pursue other creative goals, which really…

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A ‘Two-Headed Monster’

During the holiday period, when I feel stranded at home with my sick mother, it really starts to hit home how we are perceived, not as individuals but as a ‘two headed monster’. It starts when we get sent Christmas cards addressed to the both of us, and it continues when those ‘well meaning’ friends of my mum’s from church or the local vicinity get me highly inappropriate and embarrassing gifts. As they do not know me at all, and wrongly assume I am June 2.0 it’s not unusual to get things like writing paper and envelopes decorated with floral designs, Yardley soaps (I despise soap at the best of times, brings me out in a rash) and make-up cases from Poundland or cheap bags you might get as a free gift with a magazine subscription, or with your Avon order. One of the worst things I was ever given was a baby pink mohair sweater, (I guess it wasn’t cheap) which I was expected to wear, or forever feel guilty and unappreciative. They are the sort of generic gifts you’d give to an old lady, but when they are given to me it’s hard for me to smile and think ‘it’s the thought that counts’, because no thought has gone into this whatsoever. If they could even be bothered to get to know me they’d know, firstly that I’m allergic to soap, and secondly that I’d much rather have a Star Trek book, a My Little Pony Pop Vinyl, a Groot T-Shirt or a Grinch ‘Build-a-Bear’ teddy than any of this crap, which will get donated to charity as soon as Christmas has passed by and they’ve forgotten all about it. Not one to sound ungrateful, but getting me something that I like and will make me smile on Christmas morning wouldn’t cost a bomb, but it would mean you seeing me as an individual, not an extension of my mother. That would mean a lot to me.

I try my best to extricate myself from my mother, as being treated as simply an extension of her with the same personality, tastes and goals is extremely stifling. The truth is, if we were not related, I very much doubt that we would even be friends. She is much more conservative than me, much more mainstream and traditionally feminine. She never had any life’s goals except to marry a well-off man and have kids, and to this end, didn’t ever put the effort into her own education or self-improvement. As a result, she has no interests of her own, and has no skills or creativity, which is something I do not understand. I would have liked my mother to be a role-model, someone inspiring and imaginative, someone I could look up to for strength and leadership. When I needed that the most, as a child and as a teenager, she became all the more downtrodden, and presented me with much less a role-model than a cross between Dobby the House Elf and Madge Allsop when really she wanted to be a mollycoddled ‘trophy wife’. However, her tempestuous and abusive marriage to Jack reduced her to basically an unpaid servant which put paid to that pipe-dream of hypergamy. He certainly had narcissistic tendencies, and she served as a source of ‘supply’. It’s hard to actually respect her when she had such an immature way of dealing with the way she was treated, and just seemed to succumb to Stockholm Syndrome and allow herself to become a doormat for the sake of keeping the peace. I do not know what her motives were further than the old fashioned idea that she was expected to get herself a man to keep and clothe her, and give her a roof over her head, and that she should be grateful for what she got, however awful and demeaning it was.

Getting Chrismas cards addressed to the both of us, and presents like candy or chocolate biscuits for us to share isn’t anything to get upset about, per se, but it serves as an emblem that we are not treated as individuals, but as a singular entity joined at the hip, ie a two-headed monster. My mother is not my Siamese-twin, and I object to being treated as if she is. It gets more trying when we are out and about together, I rarely get called ‘lady’ when I’m on my own, but when we eat in a restaurant together, we get called ‘ladies’, i.e. ‘everything OK with your meal, ladies?’ It shouldn’t make me wince but it does. I tend to walk ahead of her when we go into town instead of holding onto her arm and leading her along. I get criticised for that, but she really doesn’t need me to do that for her. I’m not her nurse. Likewise, I sit upstairs on the bus, instead of sitting next to her, because I don’t want to talk, I want to listen to my iPod in peace and look at the view. My mother and I often end up having rows about things that happened decades ago, like when she used to hide me in the outhouse when I was playing hooky from school in case my dad came home and found me and went nuts, ending up with him taking it out on her. She used to have his cup of tea and egg on toast ready for him every lunchtime when he came in from work, just like the well-trained servant she had become, and that behaviour disgusts me. He had a subsidised cafe at work where he could have had his lunch without having to come home and put it on her, but it was more about control than it was convenience. I would never wish anyone to have to live like this, but her only answer is, ‘it was different back then’, which somehow excuses and legitimises it. What it actually was was what we would now call ‘codependency’, or ‘learned helplessness’.

Being viewed by all and sundry as June 2.0 makes me feel as if I would be expected to put up with domestic abuse, dealing with it by becoming childish and compliant instead of standing up for myself, just like she did back in the day. I do not want to be told that I am just like my mum was at her age, whoever thinks that is a compliment needs to rethink it. At my age, mum had me as a toddler, and had no help whatsoever from her family or my self-indulged and often violent father, many years her senior. She was not allowed such luxuries as a phone, or to drive a car, or new clothes, or even to bathe more than once a fortnight. She was a defeated and downtrodden woman who had engineered her own situation and could not get out of it. She created her own hell, and then expected me, as her child, to inhabit it with her. She was no a person I could look up to, aspire to emulate or identify with, she wasn’t than, and she sure as hell isn’t now. I would not wish anyone to be anything like my mum at all, in fact, she should be an object lesson in “how NOT to be a woman”. I may have ended up in this sorry situation, as an ‘only child’ cohabiting with my mother now she us crippled with Parkinson’s and needs a carer, because there was no-one else to do it, but that is where the relationship ends. I know that had I been perceived as a proper ‘son’, and not a obedient and homely ‘daughter’, I would not have ended up in this situation. People would have appreciated me more as an individual with my own interests, aspirations and ambitions, not expected me to drop everything to become a carer, because male children are rarely expected to be ‘nurturers’. I did not have any viable choice in that matter, besides losing the house and what little inheritance I have and putting her ‘in a home’, and I did not have the financial security to be able to do that, so here we are. We are not a two-headed monster, we are not some amalgam of the same person with the same personality traits, and we are not joined at the hip. And I would implore the medical profession, the social services, and even ‘friends’ to stop treating us as if we are.

On Being an “Only Child”

In recent years, the burden of being an “only child” has really become quite a struggle. Since my mother was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2009, which forced me to move back into the “family home”, the sole responsibility has fallen on me to make sure she is fed, watered and washed. What makes it worse is that since I am perceived as the “daughter” I am expected to be caring and nurturing by nature, when really I find it so difficult, I have OCD over touching dirty things and the fear of my mother going out wearing dirty clothes or with greasy hair, gives me great anxiety, because it is me alone who will get the blame and be called negligent.

My father, Jack, died twenty years ago, but to be honest that is something of a blessing. He had a dodgy heart and bowel cancer, and was a burden on my mother. There is no way that he would have nursed her, when he expected her, as his “housewife” to do all the housework and he never so much as lifted a finger to help. I can only image how frustrated and angry he would have been seeing mum trembling and unable to stand, he’d have probably called her a lazy bitch and accused her of putting it on. How he would have coped without having her to wait on him hand and foot, I do not know, I sure as hell could not have coped with looking after both of them, and I am very glad I don’t have kids to worry about as well.

Having no brothers and sisters to share the load makes me feel very isolated and out on a limb. It’s hard to go on with my life, and do what’s right for me without the constant worry about my mum falling and injuring herself, or pissing her pants or losing her keys or something equally awful, and it makes me feel responsible for her, even tho I am not. There should be other family members around to shoulder the burden with me, but there is not. Other family members, such as my mum’s estranged brother are quite happy with this arrangement, and have never offered to help whatsoever.

As a child, I faced horrendous prejudice from teachers and even other children who thought that as an ‘only child’ I was spoilt and indulged. This is a persistent misconception about only children, which is rarely true. In my case, it was defiantly untrue. I was brought up in dire poverty, in a house so cold that my goldfish bowl froze solid INDOORS. My mum and I shared a bed, with a mattress you could put your leg right through to the springs. I only ever got new clothes for “special occasions” like when I won that TV show drawing competition, the rest of the time I only had clothes which came from jumble sales, and I used to look with envy at the clothes modelled in Nikki and Mizz magazines with envy, which would get me a clip around the ear if I asked for something ‘fashionable’ for a birthday or Christmas.

Even when my father conceded to “indulge” me by buying me computers or tape-recorders, these toys were for him and not me, and I was not allowed to use them without his permission. When DV situations kicked off, I was always expected to take a side, which I couldn’t, I didn’t want to fight. Whilst the other children used to show off their photos of family holidays with their parents and siblings in Tenerife, Algarve or even Disneyland, I was lucky if I got a weekend break at Pontin’s with my mum and deaf grandfather. I never considered these holidays, more a cheap respite for my mum away from Jack’s aggression and unreasonable demands. Holidays were just another way in which I felt isolated and lonely, and left out of what the other kid’s had on a silver plate.

Of course, the kids who went on family holidays abroad every summer, and dressed in Kaleidoscope mail order clothes, or even Top Shop, which was a status symbol back then, and lived in homes with hot and cold running water and central heating never got blamed for being ‘spoilt’ and ‘over indulged’, that was reserved for me and other ‘only children’. I dare say, in the case of a few others, this may have been true, I defiantly recall one girl being a ‘daddy’s little princess’ and being bought a pony, but her mother was an alcoholic. Another well-off girl’s family looked all fine and dandy until her dad got caught out molesting children in church. Another boy who was also an only child, lost his father in a tragic building site accident.

Even the so-called child psychologists of the time considered ‘only children’ to be spoilt little princes and princesses compared to the other kids from families with siblings, who had learned to share and play nice with others. Never once did they identify the cons of being an only child, not having brothers and sisters for support, having to closer identify with adult parents because of a lack of other children to bond with, being given the sole responsibility to bear grandchildren, or be seen as a ‘disappointment’ and the burden I now have to face, looking after a sick parent in her twilight years with no help from my siblings.

Being an ‘only child’ is hard. There are no benefits to it whatsoever. Only children need to be understood more by schools, colleges, and even social services and mental heath professionals. Ours is a unique position, especially when out parents reach their latter years, and we don’t want to have to bend and break under the weight of responsibility. We don’t want to give up our lives and ambitions to be carers. We don’t want to feel obliged to have children against our wishes just so we don’t deprive out parents of grandchildren. We need to be heard and understood, not just written off as spoilt and over-indulged brats, when that is seldom true.

Why the Grinch is the Season’s most Enduring Anti-Hero.

This Christmas is the first Christmas I’ve not been busking, but I’ve found myself something much more rewarding and fun to do, cosplaying as the Grinch. The live action movie, from 2000 starring Jim Carrey as our leering and anti-social hero is my all time favourite Christmas movie, even if I do have to fast-forward through Taylor Momsen’s cute little song. (Urrgh!)

Seeing kids, and adult’s reactions when I’m grinching it up is hilarious. Some adults are just as wary as the kids are, because they feel slightly unsettled by my jaundice yellow contact lenses. Some kids come running to hug me, others burst into tears and run away. But I’m really surprised at the amount of adults who pose for selfies, and tell me I remind them of their husband or mother-in-law!! That in itself is part of the lasting appeal of the Grinch, everybody knows some misanthropic misery guts who hates Christmas.

The Grinch tho, is very different to our other favourite seasonal curmudgeon. Scrooge, the protagonist of Charles Dicken’s perennial favourite ‘A Christmas Carol’ represents an embittered capitalist, a man who uses others to make himself rich, with little regard for their welfare. The Grinch, on the other hand, is frustrated and angry at how the Whos of Whoville revel in their consumer driven festival, buying all kinds of junk which will end up right on his Mount Crumpit rubbish tip.

Where Scrooge learns his lesson about greed and the love of money and becomes a philanthropist, the Grinch’s redemption is a little more nuanced. Mocked and bullied as a child, it is no wonder he grew up to be a misanthrope. He was publicly humiliated in front of the girl he fancied, and his two mums appear to be more interested in parties and debauchery than supporting their mean, green adopted son. However, the Whos are the ones who really learn a lesson from the Grinch’s ‘evil’ plan to steal Christmas, all he does is take away their consumerist crap, he doesn’t steal Christmas at all.

When, in spite of this, the Whos still celebrate, and the Grinch’s tiny Grinch heart is touched by their singing, it is as much their salvation as it is his. They learn to leave their materialistic ways behind, and it is that in fact which makes the Grinch’s heart swell. This twofold redemption is the true heart of the story. Once the Grinch, and indeed the vain and greed-driven Whos realise that the true meaning of Christmas is love and family, and not the accumulation of ‘stuff’, we can have our happy ending, and our green anti-hero can return to the society which shunned him for being different.

The new 2018 version of the Grinch does little to justify the Grinch’s behaviour, and why he would choose now to steal Christmas when he’s been putting up with it for 53 years, as he is simply a lonely orphan, not someone deliberately humiliated and ostracised from his community. The Whos in the 2000 movie are an obnoxious lot, especially the pompous school bully turned mayor Augustus Maywho. It is he who shames the 8 year old Grinch into shaving off his green beard, and mocking him in front of his young admirer Martha May Whovier. As an adult, Maywho is no less a bully, presenting the Grinch with a shaver, and proposing to Martha May himself, in front of the dismayed Grinch provoking him to lose his shit and burn down the village Christmas tree.

On the contrary, the Whos in the recent Benedict Cumberbatch movie are nice, friendly people, and not particularly vacuous and materialistic, so it’s hard to see exactly what they did that boiled Mr Grinch’s piss. It couldn’t just be the merriment and Christmas songs that triggered him. Without a true motive, Cumberbatch’s Grinch comes across as a petty-minded troublemaker, and is not as relatable as a sympathetic character as Carrey’s version, a victim of racial bullying and ‘othering’ due to his green colouring and shaggy hair. Cumberbatch’s lonely orphan is never mocked publicly or bullied due to his appearance, he simply hates Christmas for the hell of it.

For anyone else who has been “othered” because they are different, and who fails to find common ground among the ‘normal’ people of the world, I think the Grinch is practically our patron saint. He is not bothered about fitting in to a society more interested in vainglories like out-doing each other’s Christmas lights, or buying the most expensive presents and the most mouth-watering roast beast. To the Grinch, there is only him and his faithful dog, Max, and all they really need is each other. Carrey was right to point out recently, that the Grinch didn’t really hate Christmas, per se, he hated people. Sure, he realises he’s been harsh on the Whos by stealing their presents, but in the end it’s both the Whos en masse and the Grinch who learn the true spirit of Christmas is not something which comes from a store.

As a side note, in the Dr Seuss movie ‘Horton Hears a Who’, it is evident that green Whos are pretty common. However, this is not the same Whoville as featured in ‘How The Grinch Stole Christmas’, as their Whoville resides on a speck of dust, the Grinch’s Whoville on a snowflake.

Another side note, I keep reading this weird ‘sexy’ Grinch thing about him being thicc, don’t quite understand that one. Maybe he’s asexual? Why does the Grinch’s sexuality even matter? I guess having sexual fantasies about the Grinch is pretty harmless, that’s what furry fandom does to you. 😉 What is more worrying is the attempt to adopt him into the self-destructive’Incel’ community, which is pretty insulting, poor Grinch 😦 He’s just a basic INTJ in the end. We’re all a bit Grinch.

This scene makes me laugh because it is typical of the kind of ‘elder’ who uses scripture to suit themselves, it’s funny that Cindy-Lou knows the Book of Who better than any of them, but they still try to refute her. I’ve seen this in church toooo many times!

Another observation, why should the Whos celebrate Christmas in the first place? I have always had this gripe with C.S. Lewis’s classic tale ‘The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe’ as well, in their world their Christ-analog is Aslan, so surely they would celebrate Aslan-Mas? Unless the celebration of the birth of Christ is seen as a universal constant, there is no reason why minuscule folk who live on a snowflake or talking animals from a parallel universe accessed through a wardrobe would even know about Christmas. Just nit-picking.

Scrooge = capitalism
Grinch = anti-capitalism

Scrooge’s ‘redemption’ involves him becoming the very Victorian notion of the wealthy “philanthropist” who takes pity on the poor, but there is a very big difference between charity and solidarity, and we need more of the latter in this corrupt and capitalistic world.

A very merry Christmas to all my readers!!