Saturday, 23 October 2010

"I'm an arty person, ok, I write overblown, purple, self-indulgent prose - so fucking what?" Angela Carter

I must start off first of all, I suppose, with a remark:
You will see now, in the top right hand corner, my little award.
I... well, I... it meant a lot.


I'm reading a fantastic book at the moment: The Golden Notebook by a wonderful British author called Doris Lessing. I had never heard of her until she was mentioned on a programme chronicling the great British authors on television recently - I made a list of all the ones which sounded interesting - this book was top of the list.

I had recently finished reading Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier - what a remarkable, all-consuming book. It became a necessity for me - I used it on my commutes to and from work, craving to just be taken away for those two hours a day, completely consumed in that world, that world of yearning. I could smell the fresh woodland of Manderley and the pure salt air of the sea... I could feel the chills of Mrs DeWinter - yes it was a book of feeling - wonderful feeling! It took me away from London, they grey, the dead.
And I used it to feel; for everything else around me had no feeling at all.

And when I finished that book I understood that I had turned to literature as a crutch again, to help me survive my mundane reality. "To me, books are like breathing," my English teacher had said to me when I returned to my old school. Yes, again, reading is breathing for me. But it has to be a magnificent book, it has to be full of words that fill my craving and quell my madness.

The Golden Notebook has come at the right time. I cannot recommend it highly enough for those of you who find life as a woman so painful. The book is a narrative chronicling the life of a woman called Anna - a narrative which is separated with entries from her four notebooks - one for her writing, one for politics, one for emotions and one for everyday life. It is a very large book and admittedly took a while to get into - I was afraid - I needed something to get lost in. But I didn't have to worry for long - once I was past the first few parts of the novel I was craving again. Admittedly I have skipped large sections on politics, publishing - things of little interest to me. But the narrative sections - the notebooks on her relationships and life - extraordinary - exactly what I thought and felt about myself and my relationships, feelings, needs and desires towards men, all written down in a questioning manner, trying to make sense of all the chaos. Chaos.

"What is terrible is that after every one of the phases of my life is finished, I am left with no more than some banal commonplace that everyone knows: in this case, that women's emotions are all still fitted for a kind of society that no longer exists. My deep emotions, my real ones, are to do with my relationship with a man. One man. But I don't live that kind of life, and I know few women who do. So what I feel is irrelevant and silly..."
Oh I could go on and on.

Yes, on a crude level, it is a book full of hatred for men - a hatred I share, of course, even more so now that I have read this book. But also, the hatred of oneself, as a woman, for being a woman, for wanting a man, for feeling the emotion of love for experiencing all the complex emotions that we do. An exploration of what the hell it means to be alive, to be a "boulder-pusher" as she calls it, the power of memory, the scars, humanity, society, life and suicide...
I see too much of myself in the main character, Anna, so naturally, how could I not love this book.

And of course, so many reviews of this book use that ignorant phrase: "self indulgent".
"the educated moneyed whining women in the book" wrote one reader on Amazon.
It angered me reading these reviews. Yes, it's about a woman who has enough money to live comfortably, and yes, she probably should just shut up and get on with her life and go to work and eat and sleep and breath and not think about her life... but fucking hell, she thinks and writes and tries to work out what is missing, tries to find what is happening in the world then what the hell is wrong with that?! If 99% of the population had to review this blog it would be the same: a self indulgent middle class white girl feeling sorry for herself. And that makes me so... no, not angry...but sad. Sad that people will despise me because I am not in poverty and I have "no reason to feel sorry for myself".
"Just get on with life." "Move on." It's what we are supposed to do isn't it - we are supposed to block out the sadness and pretend it never existed - doesn't exist. Why?

Self indulgent.



Anyway, back to the cold sanity:
It's the midst of Autumn here in London now. When I wake up in the morning it's dark again. Recently we've been blessed with an icy cold matched with bright, crisp sunshine.
"This is my favourite weather," I said to the boys on my desk at work. "It's pure. The air is fully of clarity. So pure and fresh and clean."

My job. Was it the eating disorder that broke me and ruined it for me? On second thoughts I don't think it was entirely. I wanted more. It wasn't the bulimia draining me and killing me - it was the job first. I hated it. I had to get out, there was no question. The hospital letter was the way out in the end - I couldn't go on after that. Maybe the bulimia saved me. Maybe I won't last a week.
Everyday I expect to collapse or to have a heart attack. It doesn't stop me...

Inspite of my sickness I had an interview yesterday at one of the biggest global Investment Banks. Why? You'd have thought the contempt and disgust I had built up in four months of working with them as clients was bad enough. Inside I was desperately craving for the countryside, for relaxed shoulders, for loose fitting clothing... what was driving me closer to the heart of this City of Money that I hated so much?
Men. Adrenaline.
I can't get rid of that longing. The other day as I was walking across London Bridge on my way to the station I passed a pack of city boys, up for it, on their way to the pub no doubt to drown alcohol. I felt a lurch towards them. I missed that. The game. The chase. The pack of wolves. It was a dreadful game I loved to play with myself, to get the attention, to be desired, it was a dreadful game because if I lost the consequences were devastating, and if I won, it meant nothing. I look back at all the times I 'won' this year. The dinner at my old Club, the Cocktail party at the new Club, the weekend away. I won. I was fucking beautiful and desired. And it meant nothing. And I understood that emptiness. I understand it now, still.
But I still crave it. "Winning".

I had a dream a few nights ago. I never remember my dreams; but this one, this one I can't forget...

I was in bed with D, in my bed, in my house. The door was shut. He was on top of me, heavy and hot, and reached out to my bedside table and pulled out a copy of King Lear. He opened it up at the most violent scene - the word 'violent' was important - he held it in one hand and read it aloud as he entered me. And I was conscious of Alex thoughout, thinking of him, comparing D to him. Alex was still there in my head, I wanted him, his softness.


I think now, of getting this new job, of walking into the externally glamorous Investment Bank, of being so incredibly externally glamorous myself, of making eyes at hungry young traders and starving myself for the kicks. I want to be beautiful and desired again. I want to get back out there. I want to be at the top of my game.

I want it.

Of course I want it. Why the hell do you think I've been so ill for so goddam long. Because I can't give it up. I can't stop wanting it. I can't change the way I feel about men. The need. A Streetcar Named Desire. If I can't be loved, I need to be desired.
I can see a terrible pattern now - a pattern that has been going on since I was about seventeen. Men. That's it - killing myself for one after another, for the burning sensation, for the craving. Nothing is worth it without a man to whom I can dedicate my life and suffering to.

This is not the blog of some wonderful, strong woman. Good God. This is the blog of a woman who hates herself so much, who thinks so little of herself, that she is nothing, NOTHING without the attention of a man. And the only way I ever learnt to gain or to understand a man's affection or attention was through the way I looked and through how close to his sexual ideal I could become.

And that's why I will never get married. Because he will leave me. And will break my heart. And I will know it will be because I am not physically perfect enough.





"She slowly, involuntarily, builds up a picture in her mind of a serene, calm, unjealous, unenivous, undemanding woman, full of resources of happiness inside herself, self-sufficient, yet always ready to give happiness when it is asked for... Slowly Ella understands that this is what she would like to be herself, this imagined woman is her own shadow, everything she is not. Because by now she knows and is frightened of her utter dependence on Paul. Every fibre of herself is woven with him, and she cannot imagine living without him."

"Or rather, I would begin an affair, just that, knowing exactly what would happen; I would begin a deliberately barren, limited relationship."

"And I thought, for years and years I've been wearing clothes I hated, just to please this creature."

The Golden Notebook, Doris Lessing

5 comments:

  1. There's few things that I love as much as a good book. I don't think of literature as a crutch--more like an intellectual feast for the brain. I'm going to get that book and give it a try...

    You'll find a man who loves and adores you for YOU; who will not leave you, but love and protect you. Because you're wonderful.

    xoxo

    ReplyDelete
  2. darling, you will never find beauty in an investment bank. this is as far away from it as you can possibly get.

    someone who knows and loves you
    (and who knows this world, MONEY that is too well)

    J

    ReplyDelete
  3. Books as a crutch...that made me realize I use them like that as well, so desperate to get out of my own world...
    Your experience tought you everybody leaves your life but is not true, you´ll find someone who loves you for everything you are, someone who fights for you, someone who won´t leave you alone...i know that ´couse only by reading your blog i started caring a lot about you, so i know you´r worth it.
    Hugs
    Flor

    ReplyDelete
  4. Self-indulgence should be looked upon as a virtue and not a vice. It is either the practice of being true to oneself or the journey to owning oneself. One set of eyes looking upon the world will never be identical to another. There are so many variables... and for anyone to judge another's experience of the world based on their own experience is narrow minded and daft. So much of a person's life is experienced in the mind. One person's inner dialogue may be positive and the other self-loathing. They will never be able to understand each other unless they first understand themselves.
    Proper communication, the need to be understood, the need to understand yourself and acquiring the tools to translate your needs to other people comes from self-indulgence and dwelling. Denying yourself and focusing on everyone else is a recipe for disaster. Charity is good, but unless you are a complete person you will have nothing to give.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Dearest,
    I'm sorry I have to leave this anonymously but I'm so terrified about my friends and generally the world finding out about my blog - I have to.
    Books are my food - it's escapism and voyeurism. I think it's because we're so constantly conscious of the surface, of the image we're projecting to the world and the gulf between the external perfection we play at and the ugly inside. I'm studying English at Cambridge and I get to spend my days hidden away in libraries alive in books, escaping along with all the other academics. Perhaps that's why we love the violence. We're not really alive in the real world. I often fantasize about the ex-boyfriend strangling me, this time for real, until everything stops. The terrifying thing is, when I allow reality and fantasy to mingle, I forget which is which and I forget to be scared. It's exhilarating. I know I'm meant to have given up blogging but I still read all your posts.
    Love xoxo

    ReplyDelete

Don't be anonymous, leave a name at least so I can identify you back :)