Sunday, 29 May 2011

Made in Chelsea : Destroyed in The City

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Made in Chelsea
'...the scandalous lives of London's elite'

Well, I was certainly not made in Chelsea.
My friend Harriet however, is a purebred 'Sloaney'. Her mission in life (and she won't mind me saying this because she admits it herself) is to find her perfect Sloaney husband - signet ring compulsory.
(A signet ring, I had to learn, is a ring with the family crest, and according to Harriet a true Chelsea Boy hallmark.)

I wrote a few posts back that I was going to become more like the girl I had made friends with at law school a year ago who had dug her claws into all the right people to drag herself to the top. Socially, I have already been a climber. I've cut almost all my ties to my working class South London roots - everything from my accent, to my clothes, to the friends I have made, has been changed to reflect my move up the social ladder - albeit superficially.

If I were to 'class' myself today then I'd put myself quite comfortably into the 'young graduate professionals' crowd of London - the 20-30 somethings who work and play in and around Central just as they did at University.

Last night, Harriet invited me to join her at her favourite haunt on Kings Road, Chelsea. Never one to turn down a new adventure I accepted and anticipated what was in store...
Now, I'm not usually one to be outwardly intimidated once I've put on my costume, but this stage was one I'd never walked onto before. Sure, last year at 'The Club' I was friends with a lot of extremely wealthy, upper class people who had been educated at the best boarding schools in the country (Alex being one) - boys who wore tweed jackets and red corduroy trousers, chinos and pink shirts - girls who rode horses, played polo and wore Barbour jackets. I wasn't one of them, but I still fitted in somehow and had the confidence to wind the boys around my little finger regardless of what school I went to. I guess it was a University thing, and maybe University is a world of its own.
But last night, as I walked into the Chelsea Venue, walking behind Harriet and holding her hand gingerly, I felt all my confidence and black swan plumage fall flat. This was out of my comfort zone - I didn't belong here, this wasn't a stage with an audience I could hold.

I had put myself through my usual paces of course - fasting, exercise - my legs and bum were toned within an inch of their life and I wore a clingy pale pink wrap dress with a clinch belt and pale pink studded designer shoes. Harriet informed me this wasn't really 'Sloaney' and I should wear a more casual dress. I told her I wear casual dresses all day everyday.

I spent most of the evening wondering if the men could tell I was a fraud. Harriet definitely got more attention than me - I realised my hair was wrong, it wasn't big enough.
I did get my fair share of attention I suppose but I was in super bitch mode. I wasn't having any of it. I turned my back, pulled my arm away, removed hands from round my waist, scrunched up my nose, shook my head and pointed to Harriett. No.... no... no... NO.
Am I so ridiculously fussy or have I just completely lost all interest in men? No, to be honest, I don't like getting with guys I don't know in clubs, simply because I hate being objectified and targeted only because of how I look. I mean, I want to look good and I want to be wanted because I like power/ego trip rather than because I want a man to grope me and stick his tongue down my throat.

Here's what happens when a Chelsea Boy puts his hands away and actually tries to talk to me:

"You come from a really rich family don't you - a really wealthy background - I can tell."
"Err... ok."
"Yes, you're from a long line of bankers - am I right?"
"Right... Whatever."

"Do you like polo?"
"Oh...um...I like it - but I don't play."
"Are you going to The Veuve Clicquot?"
"Err... the what?"
"The Veuve Clicquot."
"Erm...no...When is it?"

Fucking hell. This was one act I was not interested in putting on. Just as Harriet wouldn't settle for anything less than a man with a signet ring and a country estate, I knew some of these men would recoil in horror if they knew the only photo I have of my ancestors is of them standing outside their corner shop.


I was haunted all night about my weight. Despite stepping out having reached a new low number on the scale, I still saw myself in the mirror and knew it wasn't enough. Sure, I had a 'good figure', but I wasn't fucking skinny. I wasn't fucking skinny. I was muscular and fit and toned, curved arse and a flat tummy. Nope. I'm not settling for that. Good Chelsea girls are thinner.




Destroyed in The City

There is a pretty good argument to say that I was destroyed in The City - London's financial district. But, as you all know, I'm utterly desperate to go back and work there again. I hate the heartless greed of that world, and yet it is that greed culture which makes it the only profession that can feed my ambition.
The last week I've been interviewing non-stop...

On Monday I came out of the interview and held my hands over my face. It was lunch hour and the cobbles of Leadenhall Market were teeming with rich boys in crisp banker-blue suits. I tugged at my bun to pull all my hair loose over my shoulders - I was pinned in, I had to break free.
The image was immediately ruined.
45 minutes earlier I had strode up in patent heels and my own well-worn blue suit.
"Great body darling!"
"Nice legs!"
It's just a fucking image. Fucking men.

As I stepped out of the interview and back on the street it hit me clear as day. I couldn't maintain the image. That's why I had had to leave The City 7 months ago - because I didn't have the strength to be that girl every day. I can act for 45 minutes, shiny, professional, confident and polished, but I can't keep it up.

All those old feelings of failure and worthlessness came flooding back. I wouldn't get that job. I'd seen a man look at me that way before - my old boss - looking at me like I'm a pathetic, naive little girl who will never have what it takes to be as successful as him. Disdain and arrogance. And I couldn't hate him because I knew he was right to feel those things.

I was starving. I walked in and out of every salad bar and coffee shop I passed, round Liverpool Street, Monument, Bank, Moorgate... The voice in my head wouldn't let me eat anything. I was starving and miserable but I couldn't eat. I press my fingers to the space between my eyebrows and scrunch up my eyes repeating under my breath, fuck this... fuck this...
I couldn't bear feeling those emotions of worthlessness again.
Everything wasn't supposed to get this fucked up. My life was supposed to be perfect.

The boys in blue suits. I wanted one. I wanted to play them at their own game. Fuck them. Fuck them.

The next day; another interview. I sat for an hour being attacked over everything on my CV and every answer I gave. I asked questions at the end only to be told to my face that they were stupid - why would you want to know that? - what's it to you? - I live on Kensington High Street, do you even know what a mortgage there costs?
I came out stunned. Even if they begged me to take the job (which of course they didn't) there was no way in hell I would ever work there and be subjected to abuse from such an utter bastard. The experience highlighted to me how I was still not mentally ready to face the harsh dog-eat-dog-greed-is-good world of Commercial London. I want to be ready, I can pretend to be ready, but the truth is that I am still so incredibly fragile.

For the last six months I've been so far away from that world. I've been living in a lovely Boarding School and I've been so completely safe from the world - from men, from society, from expectations and pressure. I've been able to repair my body and mind - not to being 'cured' but certainly to being the happiest I can ever remember in my adult life.

But I said everything I needed to say in my last post. Something drives me, a voice I can't ignore. Something unspeakable.

In my last session with my therapist I had it out with her.
"I need to achieve. I don't understand why that's considered wrong."
We drew up a list of what my life would be like if it was average, good and perfect.
"Is that perfect life really achievable?" she asked me.
"Yes," I said defiantly. "It is!"
Somehow she managed to convince me I was wrong... I could make concessions, I could aim for some of it but also let go of some it.
She gave me a book called 'Overcoming Perfectionism' which I will write more about in my next post. On what I've read so far, it has become clear that I don't have an Eating Disorder, I'm simply a Perfectionist aiming for the top.

I wish I could let go of The City, but that's definitely not one of my concessions. More interviews this week...

7 comments:

  1. I'll be interested to hear about the Overcoming Perfectionism book (and of course, hearing your slant on it). I suppose I'm the opposite, since I feel it is useless to try to achieve anything because I have such frighteningly low self-worth. But even regardless of that, the corporate life seems like the antithesis of anything and everything I would ever want in my life. I don't see any utilitarian purpose for being a snob or treating people like they are scum for not cultivating their taste properly or being born in an "acceptable" rich family. I recently finished reading an excellent satire on 80s Wall Street called American Psycho.... it was fantastic haha (The film is also excellent, and Christian Bale is ridiculously hot.) If you find that environment inspiring and motivating, then I will cheer you on until you're at the top. I have to respect a person who goes through hell to get what they want because lord knows I could use some pointers.
    Ayn Rand put it nicely:
    "The question isn't who is going to let me; the question is who is going to stop me?"

    If you haven't read any of her books, I highly recommend them.

    -Summer

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  2. You won't give up until you get what you want and that is truly an admirable quality. I'm average. I might be skinny but in every other area of my life I'm pretty average. You are one of those who are destined for better despite where you come from and I don't think there is a thing wrong with that as long as you don't let the journey beat you down. You belong wherever you want to be. I just hope that when you do settle down with a man it isn't based on a "front." You certainly don't need someone with a superiority complex arrogant bastard like the one your friend wants who might think they are better. Good luck on your next round of interviews. I hope you can find some sort of balance within yourself in that financial world since that is where you want to be.

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  3. aw hun, you can achieve anything you want! and I am convinced you have to try things, even achieve them to find out if they are really right for you (my family's crest never made me happy...). No therapy can replace that! but anyway what a silly, silly person! "a long line of bankers" - I would have replied "I would rather call that a long line of haemophiliacs"(subtext: old money, you know OLD money, like in inbred aristocrats) and I don’t think it was a particularly adequate chat up line nor a particularly adequate topic for this kind of conversation. Next time you will be too aloof to even mention money. And these interviewers…disgusting! You need more than money, you need class around you. Can’t you do an MA in Oxford? Try rotary or lions club. And please do not be upset, i do apologize for this comment, I am scared to post it already, I just think you should be proud of what you are, never be insecure, claim the right to be individual even quirky, and don’t let money fool you, as without class it’s nothing. And you are smart and classy, tough and strong (strong also because you are so alone) and so gifted, you are by no means inferior to any of those people, and if you do not feel inferior, you aren’t. And they can smell that. And you will reach that target weight of yours and the other goals, too. Because that’s you. And maybe you wont be happy. But then you will know. And that’s what you need. And then you will become a writer, and you will know what it has all been about; it’s never enough, but this is what keeps us alive.
    I hope one day you won’t be scared of love anymore.

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  4. The ED really does stem from ambition and perfectionism. I struggled with one my first two years of college and got drastically better spring of my sophomore year when I went on antidepressants.

    Being a perfectionist myself, I understand how you feel, your desires. So much of what we find exciting, worthwhile in life comes from absolute discipline, drive, and never having to settle for anything less than ideal. This type of thinking, along with a bad end to a summer fling ruined me fall semester and resulted in depression that I could no longer deny. I'm much more emotionally stable and happier now but still don't know what my life will be like once I stop taking antidepressants. I'm trying not to lose my ambitions (which we know no one can take away from us) while being content with certain aspects that I know I might never be completely satisfied with. I think what's hard is the compromise and knowing what's the right balance between holding onto the ideal and simply settling. Whatever choices you make, let them be intentional, and I hope they bring you closer to happiness.

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  5. I'm with you in thinking that the top can be reached. It just takes a lot of hard, misery inducing work. Definitely let us know what you find in that book... It seems rather interesting in an odd sort of way.

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  6. can you please follow my blog? i just started it and would love some support, and i post daily! :) http://xtwistedxstringsx.blogspot.com/ thanks! you rock!

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  7. Fuck the upper classes. One london boy's chat up line for me was, "Hi, what does your dad do?", another was "Whats your postcode?"... erm. I live in the lake district. Awkward.

    Do what makes you happy, alot of the time you have to be unhappy for a bit to appreciate what makes you happy.

    Keep smiling darling.

    aimee x

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