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, " 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.


  1. Every girl on earth feels the same things you're feeling. I am completely, unthinkingly certain of this. We all constantly second guess ourselves and compare every facet of who we are to everyone around us. Beautiful girls think they're ugly. Thin girls with poise think they're clunky and sloppy. Cool, calm, collected people all crack sooner or later because all of that screaming inside can only be stifled for so long. No one sees themself as other people see them. I've never been self-assured or confident about anything in my life. People tell me I'm crazy, and I turn right around tell them they're the crazy ones. Self-effacement isn't such a rare human quality. And trust me... in my dark times this knowledge is immensely comforting.

    There is a guy I got to school with who I am kind of obsessed with. Pathetically so. I hate him for the same reasons you hate the men who don't worship you. We are totally in the same boat, and even if it's selfish and bitchy then I'll stand by it. I'm used to being in a position of power over guys... but not him. I had sex with him, and you'd think I'd be able to use that as leverage in all of our interactions, but instead I turn into this meek lump of Jell-O. My friends listen to this story and are shocked because they think I'm so confident and downright predatory when it comes to guys. (I mean, Christ, that's how I got him in bed in the first place). I have to live up to the glory of that role, and it is fucking hard.
    I doubt myself for probably no reason.
    Everyone around me knows I can get whatever I want... but it's self loathing that holds me back.


  2. i cannot wait until i am a proper city girl :) i want it so bad! i go to university in birmingham, but i consider that just a stepping stone city. i will live in london!! it holds so much fun and glamour for me at the moment


  3. I share your love for men in suits. They don't seem childish or immature, but strong and confident. They are dangerous, but it is worth to play a game. I am in college, but I am tired of boys. Never liked them, found them young and foolish.
    Perfectionist myself failed many times, and that put me down so much.
    Hate that I try my best, but do not succeed much. The outcome of the New York. In order to be perfect here, we have to give it all until we burn.
    There is a problem with all the young women that we are not good for anyone.
    I love London, and I wish to move there sometime, or at least go for semester abroad.
    You write really beautifully.

  4. I believe we all act like someone superior and perfect when we're in the presence of others, and then we sink into who we truly believe we are, someone inferior and imperfect, as soon as we are alone. I think that's why i am so terrified to be alone...


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