Saturday, 30 July 2011

"I like risk - I'm a banker"

"Do you think I'm thin, average or fat?" I asked Rob as we walked out of the tube and towards the nightclub.
"Thin!" he said. "God, average is horrible! I like women thin, proper model thin, that's what it's about. None of this junk in the trunk shit. I look at some girls that guys really fancy and I'm just like - Put down the fork love!"
"Wow," I said, genuinely shocked at the way he then went on to talk about a number of my healthy-sized colleagues. "It's refreshing to not have to listen to the age-old 'men like women with curves' story that most men feel necessary to go on about."
"Yeah, I don't know why girls don't work hard to be thin! Seriously, put down the fork!"


I had indeed put down the fork that day, so no doubt, Rob would have approved. After a dosage of laxatives I'd only had a small bowl of soup at lunch in order to keep my tummy flat for that evening. Most of the people from the office were hitting the local bar to celebrate a strong monthly performance and some were intending to take it all the way to a nightclub afterwards. Looking anything less than perfect was not an option.


Rob started at the company on the same day as me so we've been through a lot of our training together and get on exceptionally well. The typical lad's lad, cocky, arrogant, outgoing, obscene... but a damn good laugh if that's what you're up for - and on most nights out, that is definitely what I'm up for.
He had invited along to the bar a good friend of his called Harry who worked in one of the biggest investment banks in Canary Wharf. The second he walked in and put his lips to a straw in the pitcher we were all sharing I knew had to have him. Now if I'm completely honest, my hit rate with men is probably only about 50%. While I used to be highly successful at university, my success has certainly dwindled greatly since then and I was fully prepared for nothing to happen between us. However, being a huge fan of the chase and a huge fan of doing extreme things, I had absolutely no fears about going for him.


Was I attracted to Harry physically? Well, he wasn't the most attractive man in the bar that night that's for certain. Fine to look at but certainly nothing that would make me look twice in normal circumstances. I know, and I have no shame in admitting here, that I was far more attracted to the idea of him. I wanted a banker, I wanted to know what it was like to get underneath the blue suit.
"She likes bankers," I saw Rob whisper to Harry. I inwardly groaned. It's a long-standing piece of banter between us that I have a massive thing for bankers and fancy an ex-trader at work. Harry was going to think what most bankers think - that I wanted him for the money and sex-appeal of his work. I had to play my cards just right to get this one.


We chatted a great deal and began to get on pretty well although I made sure that I was never too explicit in my intentions. Eventually, a small crowd of us moved on to the Ministry of Sound and I knew that was when I would strike.
One of our crowd was a City Boy Salesperson, I spent much of the night watching him cold calling through the surrounding women without any hesitation or fear and not batting an eyelid in the face of rejection. He was a good looking guy. He knew one of them would bite eventually. I have to say that I actually watched with slight admiration at his determination and resilience.
As we gathered around the bar Harry was glued to his phone. I was frustrated. He was being so utterly unengaging. Eventually I had had enough and covered his phone with my hand.
"Stop it! We're in a club!"
It worked, we started talking again, laughing, pressing up close to hear each other over the din of the music. Suddenly he leaned in and held me close. I knew he wanted to kiss me. I put my hands on his chest to hold him back. A thought flashed through my mind - Do I really want to do this?


I grabbed hold of the collar of his City Boy shirt and pulled him towards me.


We kissed and danced for a few minutes before he made it clear that he wanted us to leave, or rather, "I wanna take your dress off and fuck you." As we walked towards the exit I pulled him back.
"I..."
"What?"
"I.... um...." I squirmed uncomfortably and pulled faces. "Oh God... um..."
I had only just met this guy tonight. I didn't even know his surname. I wasn't even orgasmically attracted to him.
Sure, I've had one night stands before, but it has always been with a guy that I already knew and was also extremely attracted to. Although I'd spent a good deal of time talking to Harry throughout the evening and he wasn't a completely random guy, I still felt very uncomfortable. I didn't do this kind of thing, especially not now that I was grown up and out of university. I'd promised myself that this wild behaviour was behind me when I took this job. I needed to be stable and healthy and grounded.
I grimaced apologetically. I didn't know how to say it. "I'm not a slut..."
He understood and we went back to the main floor. He kissed me seductively, pressing me against a pillar, running his hands up my dress. He was relentless. I made him work for it. But I loved every second. I slipped into ecstasy as he kissed my neck and I thought about how much I craved the physical act of love.
Desperate to make the deed acceptable in my head I began to question him.
"What's my name?" I demanded, narrowing my eyes.
He said my initials.
"Fucking hell, you don't even know my name," I exclaimed, hurt but sadly not surprised.
"Yes I do! I was introduced to you by your initials!"
"Yeah but that's not my name is it! Seriously, you don't even know my name! That's fucking awful."
"Ok so what is it then?"
"Ophelia."


Eventually, after finding out all the essentials I felt I needed to know and after lots more seduction on his part, I gave him the nod. I wanted it. I was going to cover my eyes and let go of my morals.
In the taxi I looked out at the city I loved. We drove past the London Eye, Westminster, Big Ben, illuminated, The Thames twinkling gold and black.
"London is so beautiful", I said.
"It is."
I was going to have sex with this guy. I was in this taxi on the way back to his flat so that he could fuck me. It wasn't the feeling I wanted.


I've not slept with a guy since I broke up with my ex-boyfriend Alex in August, but I hadn't forgotten how wonderful it had been with him.
I wanted to tell Harry that loved him. I wanted to hear him say it back to me breathlessly. I wanted to say his name - Alex
- I fucked Harry pretending he was Alex. Because in truth, I didn't have a clue who Harry was - I couldn't feel anything for him.


We chatted about his work at the Investment Bank. He'd been working on a big deal during the week,
"And I just took all that stress out on you," he said casually.
I turned away.
But I couldn't feel sad because I had known all along that this was a casual one night stand and I had given it my blessing when I stepped into the taxi with him.
He scratched his itch, I scratched mine.
I should just forget him. But of course, all I want to do is see him again.


As he saw me out of the front door we shared a kiss but he didn't ask for my number or say anything at all - but then again, neither did I.
I looked at him properly in the glare of the bright early morning sunlight as he stood in the doorway.

He had blue eyes.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

The Game

I am the biggest gameplayer in the world. I treat my whole fucking life as a game.
Like every game I have a goal and a strategy and I play to win. When I feel the rush of success coursing through my veins it simply sends me spinning.


Work is a game with two prizes - men and career success. I know that if I play my cards right in this job and work hard over the next two years, the City will be my oyster. I also know that with all the attractive men in my office I'll never get bored.


The City is my stage. Like every actress I love an audience, I love performing, I love having a strong presence. The roaring streets, the shiny office, the City winebar - all such wonderful stages, danced on by my high heels.
I live for every new morning so I can sit cross legged in front of my full length mirror and preen my long hair and paint my face carefully, a cup of coffee and a bowl of porridge at my side. I open the wardrobe of lovely dresses and shoes which I had once feared I'd never wear again and delight in selecting my costume for the day.
I love the game, I love it.
Holding my head high with an air of self-confidence and a glint of arrogance. I am a City Girl. This is my city.



Nearly a year ago now, my then boyfriend Alex called me up to tell me that he had changed overnight from "I love you" to "it doesn't feel like it used to, sorry".
It has taken me all that time since to forget him, but I can finally stand up and say with complete conviction that the idea of me ever being interested in him now is utterly laughable. I'm so far out of his league it's hilarious. But it took me a hell of a long time and a hell of a lot of pain to believe that.
Now I parade around my new office with a smirk on my lips. I admire the way the bespoke suits fit the boys as their expensive watches and glittering cuff links wink at me seductively.


"So how long have you worked here?" I asked one of the Heads of Department.
"11 years now."
"Wow, so did you join as a grad?"
"Oh... well yeah, but not here... I started out as a graduate trader at a big Investment Bank called Salomon Brothers. 1989 it was I started."
"Woah, you really don't look old enough," I said, genuinely shocked and a little embarrassed.
"I'm 43!"
"Oh... you really don't look it," I flushed red, "...you have like... really good skin..."
My friend cringed for me as I busied myself in my notes and someone else changed the subject. "I wonder what it would be like to sleep with a 43 year old," she said later. We giggled uncontrollably like schoolgirls.


On Friday I had some extra work to finish so I was one of the last to leave the office. Everyone else had gone to the bar. I was alone, I didn't know which one they'd gone to and no one I knew there was answering their phone. The emptiness that I hid so well on stage was so consuming when I sat down and stopped acting. The huge gaping chasm of emptiness inside me opened up and sucked me down. I was wearing my nicest work dress and had painstakingly perfected my hair and makeup - I had to perform - to be denied my audience now would be devastating.
I imagine that when an actress comes off the stage having played an phenomenal character she must fall back to her reality with a terrible bump, she must feel the wanting in her own character a thousand times more, it must be hard to have to go back to being someone inferior again.
Because that's what it feels like for me.


I sat down on a ledge outside my office clutching my Blackberry, willing it to ring.
I watched the City Boys stroll past with a combination of longing and loathing. I wanted one to hold me, I wanted one to take me to dinner and dote on me, I wanted one to put his arms around me and keep me safe; but I hated them, I hated them for not even giving me a glance, for owning this city, for owning me, for being the people who put the value on my head both sexually and in terms of my career. I wanted every single one to respect me as being their equal in terms of intelligence and attraction. But I knew and I accepted the truth that I am horribly inferior. I looked at my fat legs, round face and disgusting skin. Fat. People in the city are ambitious and always aim for the best - I'm proof of that - therefore no City Boy would ever, ever aim for me.

I watch the City Girls too and I wonder if they feel as trapped in their bodies as I do. I wonder if they hate the way their suit jacket fits too snugly, the unrelenting constraint of their pencil skirt, the painful teetering heels, wobbling with a desperate instability to try and be sexy. I wonder if they feel the disgust at themselves that I do. I wonder if they hate themselves for putting on a show like I do.
It would comfort me if they did.

My phone rang. It was Rob, one of the guys who started the same day as me. Finally.
I sprung to life, hastily stuffed my flats into my bag and changed into my heels. As I reached the bar, every last detail was in place. I drank, I laughed, I swore, I flirted, I danced. I did not know the girl who had been sitting on the ledge, I'd never met her.
By midnight I was extremely drunk. An Analyst who I had had my eye on was outside with another girl from the office. I cursed myself for not acting faster when I had been alone with him earlier. I got Rob and we barged in on their conversation. I felt completely in control, I loved it.
And then he left, and I found myself on my way home, stuffing my face with crisps and biscuits and bread which I had bought from a nearby store. Dangerously drunk and unable to think coherently - someone else again. I wasn't frightened, I was just drunk and hungry.

So what I am? A fraud? Yeah
Immature? Desperate?

"I'm a nasty person," I had told my therapist when I was in treatment a little while ago. "I have this need to be the best, to be admired and envied. I'm horrible."
"I don't think you're a nasty person. Look at our diagram - where does all this striving and desperation for approval come from?"
I looked at the flowchart that represented my fucked-up mind. "Insecurity and self-loathing," I said.


I've started reading a book called "Necessary Dreams: Ambition in Women's Changing Lives" by Anna Fels. In the first chapter she talks about 'recognition'.
"An evaluating, encouraging audience must be present for skills and talents to develop... Ambitions involve a public arena, even if that arena is as small as a classroom or an office."

I covert recognition and approval more than anything. The game I play is called Ambition.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Handshake


I am a City Girl.


I work in the City of London, in the hub of the financial district, out-striding traders and stockbrokers in my patent heels. I don’t work for a bank so maybe some would say I’m stretching the definition of City Girl slightly here, but I’m a money-maker in a business that sits like an octopus in the centre of the financial and business worlds.






I’ve been on a long and dramatic road to get here. I’ve lived my life to the full, I’m not afraid of any conventional fears and beneath my smart office suit and neat office hair I’m as wild as they come.

I started my new job on Monday. Monday 11th July 2011. I'd been counting down to that day for the past month. The initial delirium when I received the job offer quickly turned to dread once I received the employment contract in the post. You see, I’d done the daily walk across London Bridge before and it had sucked all the life and happiness out of me. I was afraid of going back and feeling that depression again.






I needn’t have worried. My new office is sleek and shiny, vast and filled with brains and balls. The incredible pace of work, intellectual challenge and constant hammering pressure is what I want, it’s what fuels me and it’s what makes me smile from ear to ear. I didn’t have that in my last job.






This blog is a commentary of my return, or rather, my new beginning. You see I graduated two years ago now in June 2009, but I graduated with a uncontrollable eating disorder which I had agressively developed during my time at University and which only continued to rage and burn and consume me completely. I went on to Law School and dropped out, then took a job in the City and crumbled. So in the Autumn of 2010, at the absolute peak of my despair and illness, trampled and empty, ripped apart by a boy who couldn’t face my sickness, consumed with thoughts of suicide, I decided the only way I could save myself was to burn all my bridges and run.






I left my job, I left London, I cut all ties with the people I used to know.


I started weekly psychotherapy sessions at hospital.


I took an easy assistant job in a school in another part of the country.


I didn’t focus on anything apart from getting better. It took the whole six months to find the strength to hold my head up high again. The truth is that I still have an eating disorder, it’s just not the aggressive, possessive monster that it used to be. A year ago, my eating disorder was ALL I had but now it is just a thing in the background, a part of me yes, but not the defining, disabling thing it used to be - and I can live with that.

I was totally honest about my eating disorder with all the people who interviewed me over the stages for this job (I had to justify why the hell I've just spent 6 months in a school...) and they were all unbelievably accepting. I was ill, I went to get better, and now I'm back with hunger in my eyes and fire in my belly. And what I said was very true:
"I've always aimed for the best in life, I've always pushed myself to be the top. In fact, that's where my eating disorder stemmed from to a great extent. I set myself a goal and I pushed and pushed until I could reach it. But obviously that was something that got out of hand and I had to learn to reign in and control...but that's me - I work hard to be the best in everything.”






I will never stop being ambitious. Most jobs won't give me the adrenaline and pressure that I need. My job at the school made me realise that content, comfortable, relaxed and average isn't what I want. Ambition, competitiveness, drive, pressure, hunger, materialism have always inspired the best in me, and you know what? Being those things didn't make me a bad person. I believe in hard work and I believe in striving to be the best. Outside of The City, people think that ambition is a terrible thing. Why put so much pressure on yourself? Why not just be average and content? But for me, being a nothing, being a nobody is the worst thing imaginable and being recognised for my success means everything.






I’ve been blogging in another blog for two and a half years, and although that blog charting the hell of my eating disorder has now come to a close, I still feel that I need a voice. In the real world I am completely mute. There is no one I can speak to openly about what I feel and experience – perhaps because what I feel and experience is often very extreme or contentious. Blogging gives me a voice that I don’t have to censor for fear of upsetting people I know or having them judge me.


In my job I am polished and corporate, bright, confident and self-assured. I am The City Girl Image my company and clients expect. Here on the pages of this blog I am The City Girl Made of Glass – fragile and transparent.


Come and see what it’s like on the inside....