Confession: I Am Trying To Solve Everybody’s Problems (Except My Own)

Here’s the thing: my parents got divorced when I was very young. My father was (and is) dealing with chronic pain and my mother was (and is) struggling with bipolar disorder. Both of them admit that they were bad for one another. Neither of them harbour any animosity, any regrets about taking a shot on the relationship, or any bitterness that it didn’t work out.

But then there’s me. Tiny Baby Trash Broad, precocious, whose personal development was completely tangled up with her parents being miserable. I’m not saying that it’s unhealthy to be told that “you are the one good thing that came out of our relationship”, but it’s not a great thing for a three-year-old to internalise.

(That said, I also internalised “We still love each other, but we’re not in love with each other anymore”, but I’m not sure if that was something my parents actually said or if it’s just what Stacey McGill’s parents told her in The Babysitters’ Club.)

Flash forward thirty-odd years and I’m still trying to be the one good thing that comes out of people’s shitty experiences. So, yeah, if we’re friends and you’re having a tough time, it’s almost guaranteed that I’m spending a bunch of mental energy on trying to find a solution. You probably haven’t asked me to. And, because I’m a perfectionist on top of all of this, I probably won’t actually tell you about my grand plans for ensuring your happiness unless they are 1000% guaranteed to work. But trust me, I am wearing myself out thinking about your troubles.

Recently, a friend recounted the one perfect question that a person like me needs to learn to ask. When someone is struggling with something–unexpected eviction, partner trouble, irritable bowel syndrome, whatever–you just need to ask them:

Are you looking for empathy, or advice?*
This Trash Broad has a strong tendency to leap straight into Advice Mode, but frequently, that’s not what people want. Intellectually, I know this, because I am the actual worst at taking advice from others. So I just need to expand that to include other people.

I’m thinking of it as the ‘Help Or A Hug’ principle. Sometimes, people do want your help with their problems. Sometimes, they just want a sympathetic ear, a shoulder, or a full-on bearhug to remind them that they are loved and that you are there for whatever it is they need from you.

People can and should change their minds about whether they need Help Or A Hug. Moment to moment, we all need different things. But I’m trying to remember not to just assume that Help is the only kind of support I have to offer. After all, there was nothing I could do to Help my parents when they got divorced, so we all got loads of Hugs, and on the balance that was exactly what we needed to get us through.

* technically, Kate McCombs says ‘Are you wanting empathy or a strategy right now?’ but you get the drift.

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Confession: I’m A Terrible Friend A Lot

So I’m sitting here in my grotty trackpants, wondering ‘should I go out and do this thing that I feel like I might not enjoy, because it’s important to someone I love?’ and it hit me.

Surely this isn’t even a question!

It’s important! To someone I care about! And they are important to me therefore this thing is also important to me! It’s a basic transitive property, right?!

And it makes me feel like I’m being a bit terrible again–like, I’m so self-involved that choosing to do something to make someone else happy is this big effing dilemma. It’s not even something horrible like eating spiders or getting teeth pulled. It’s a fun social time that just sounds slightly like it’ll stress me out and might involve things I’d rather not do, but then again, maybe it won’t, because I’m not actually sure what the details are. The stakes are so low that a small and not particularly limber mouse could probably high-jump them. What the hell is my problem?

I’m not saying that we should all just do things we hate because someone we like wants us to. That’s peer pressure at best and toxic co-dependence at worst. And maybe ‘I don’t know if I’ll enjoy it’ is sometimes a perfectly good excuse. After all, I’m being forced into doing plenty of things I don’t enjoy, just because modern late-capitalist existence means I need ‘money’ for food and shelter (and wi-fi). And I’m sure my friend would understand–hell, they probably won’t give my presence or absence a second thought.

But then again, I do this a lot. Because there’s a lot, socially speaking, that makes me uncomfortable and means that I’m often not having pure 100% unadulterated FUN even in the most fun-seeming circumstances. And probably my characteristic Friendship Style–occasional tea dates and out-of-the-blue text messages with really great terrible puns in them–doesn’t make the people I love feel super warm and fuzzy inside the way actually seeing me in large social groups might do. But. I mean. They’re my friends, right? They’ve signed on for this. They’re aware of my Style, they accept it. Right?!

So there’s the rub. I’m afraid that my Style means I’m not doing the heavy lifting, socially and emotionally, that actual friendship requires. And, having been a bit of a loner my entire life, there’s a lot of fear about being friendless. I don’t want to have friends until I really, really want to have friends, and this makes me one of the worst kind of friend.

Confession: I’m A F**king Hoarder (But I’m Thinking Of Trying A Capsule Wardrobe)

Do you remember the way your bedroom looked when you were twelve? When you were old enough that your parents weren’t cleaning your room anymore, but still young enough to toss things around with reckless abandon?

That is my bedroom, right now, as a 31-year-old woman.

Floor strewn with dirty clothes. Half-finished books and half-hearted craft projects. Dirty cups. Toys (not even kidding. I’m partial to unusual stuffed animals and nerdy action figures). One strategic demilitarised zone from the door to the unmade and inevitably rumpled bed.

And I try. Oh my god do I try.

Part of the problem is that I grew up semi-poor. Not dirt-poor, just a single-income household without any particular abundance of disposable income but no great disadvantages either. And yes, oh god, this was privilege in the small towns where I went to school. But it was the perfect soil for growing a hoarding habit: that in-between where there is always food and medicine and a roof overhead but where every frivolous extra is treated like gold.

The thing about gold is, you don’t really use it for anything, but it cost you a lot of money so you hang onto it ‘for a rainy day’ when it might be valuable but until then it’s just a big frivolous rock.

You will note that most of my mess falls into that ‘frivolous extras’ category. I still have trouble resisting the little things that speak to me in the heat of the shopping moment, because it is only as an adult that I’ve been able to indulge in such things and it has become, like liquor or the lottery, an unhealthy compulsion based on my freedom of (consumer) choice. I’m also fairly into the heightened emotions that come from a good purge, and so will periodically get rid of a pile of things and then somehow convert that into justification for buying more. This pattern of disordered consumption, binge and purge, reward and punish…

There is no guarantee that I’m not just in this same cycle again.

I will try a capsule wardrobe. Not because of KonMari or mindfulness or because everyone did it in 2014 and I’m only just catching up, but because it’s a good place to start, even though I love clothes. But I’m realising that I can love clothes in theory and from afar without having to have them on my actual real body. It’s also the area where I feel like I have the most useless chaff: I can find justification for almost all of my hundreds of books but there are plenty of niche items in my closet that I freely admit are only ‘suitable’ for one particular circumstance that will almost certainly never arise.

Because I’ll tell you the difference between me as a twelve-year-old and me now. Back then I didn’t give a shit about clothes, really. I had a rich imagination, I devoured books, I made up conversations in my head. I mean, I still do. But I did not spend my time worrying about ‘outfitting’ or ‘the four body types for women’ or ‘wideset breasts’ or ‘warm vs cool complexion’. This is no longer a fun thing for me or a sign of my joy de vivre or eclectic creativity or yada yada yada. It’s bundled up with a bunch of toxicity about how I relate to myself, my place in the world, how I’m perceived, my economic position, and what (physically and spiritually) I need in order to be satisfied. In the words of Eleanor Büsing at Apartment Therapy:

Despite loving (in theory) most of the items I owned, I never seemed to wear most of them, and getting dressed in the morning was becoming the most stressful part of my day–and as an adult with a job, that’s saying a lot.

I’ve fought this battle time and again. I’ve lived in seven different places in my adult life and the necessity of decluttering before a move always eases the burden slightly. I’ve had No-Buy July, I’ve Unfucked My Habitat, I’ve had monster closet clear outs, I’ve tried to Go Digital with my books and movies (which are a whole other category of hoarding, jeeze Louise). But the vicious cycle always begins again. And now I work in retail. My actual job involves actually convincing other people to actually accumulate physical possessions. As an ideology, I loathe consumerism–I loathe what it does to people at every level, the customer and the server and the sweatshopworker alike, I loathe what it does to the environment and the patterns of selfishness it wears into the human psyche. 

But in reality, I’m a fucking hypocrite. And I don’t want to be.

Confession: I Wish I Didn’t Have This Haircut

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It’s been… three days.

Let’s be clear, there are far more important things in this world than my hair.

But the problem isn’t my hair, y’know? It’s the way I’ve made this same mistake yet again, the way I know that it will happen over and over, every few years, that I’ll decide that cutting my hair will work for me this time and I’ll get this same short bob and then immediately wish I hadn’t.

I have miraculously soft, fine baby hair. At a certain length, it gets really wavy, and then, just as gorgeous mermaid hair starts to seem like a possibility, it will weaken and break off. Because it’s fine, and because there is a lot of it, it gets frizzy as a motherfucker, flat up the top and wildly abandoned at the bottom. It’s an ashy brown-blonde-mouse colour and it shows grease and sweat like a white silk neckerchief. It grows like mad, it weighs practically nothing and it gets everywhere: my face, your face, the shower drain, caught in my handbag strap, wrapped around buttons.

Cropped hair just makes me look like a bedbound monk or, more recently, makes me look like a clone of my mother. I always end up getting bored with long hair and just doing the same two hairstyles (volumeless topknot and half-up Arwen twists). I always, always, take the middle road and get it cut into a bob.

So now it’s too short for a ponytail, it flicks out at the bottom and/or just becomes a bedraggled mess if I wear it out naturally, and of course it just looks greasier because there’s less length for the oil to spread along. (Not to mention the fact that, of course, I’m usually a bit depresso when such haircuts come along and this time I’m eating trash and grease on the regular.)

I talked myself into it because it’ll be quicker to dry–and flat-ironing it now takes less than two minutes. Which is great if I’m going to work and am happy to look like C.C. Babcock. But anything other than Humourless 90s Work Bitch is an impossibility because there just isn’t enough hair.

People keep saying it’s cute and I don’t know how to respond, because I’m a grown woman who doesn’t want to default to ‘cute’, and I feel like I look ten years younger. And 21-year-old me is not someone I ever want to be again. She was sad and confused, tired, living on Centrelink payments, using $1 parallel-import shampoo and eating mince and rice every day. But her hair was lush as hell.

Confession: I Want To Get Famous For This

OK so I know that blogging anonymously is a shit way to get famous but there’s still this little part of me–vain, egocentric, gasping for attention–that dreams of combining Carrie Bradshaw, Kathleen Hanna and Garance Dore into one.

I want to write funny little blogs that all the women around me can’t wait to read. I want to sit and gossip about who ‘Trash Broad Confessional’ could be, with a little smirk on my face, knowing it’s me. I want to confess a whole lot of things that women–yes, white women, the most visible women, the most bloggable women–suddenly realise are exactly perfectly true.

God, what a twat.

Actually I just want a reason to sit at my computer and write, a few times a week, with a cup of tea and my big woolly dressing gown, and not have to keep running the same thoughts over and over in my head. Remember when blogs were like diaries?

I remember. I was a teenager in the 2000s.