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The Girl with the Daffodil Tattoo

A Welsh girl let loose in a wild world

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Rewriting History

Professor Mary Beard seems to have been subject to misogynistic twitter attacks (about her weight, age, gender etc) due to saying that it was possible that there was ethnic diversity in the Roman populace.

I find it deeply chilling how irritated (let’s face it, white) people get at the few representations of non-white characters. One person said: “they’re rewriting history”, as if history itself were fixed, neutral facts… History is written by the winners and often tells metanarratives that are comfortable for the groups that have power. It’s white men, telling heroic stories about white men, and needs to be rewritten now that marginalised groups have a greater voice.

She reportedly said:

Professor Beard said she would not block her opponents because “it feels to me like leaving the bullies in charge of the playground. And it’s rather too much like what women have been advised to do for centuries. Don’t answer back and just turn away”.

I think the effect, whether intended or not, of a twitter attack, is to drain the energy of the individual. I’m not sure if I would be mentally strong enough to do that.

 

 

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Friendship

In the brief periods where I have swiped away on Tinder, I’ve come across familiar faces. I’ve been living in a small town for a few years now, so bumping in to people you know is  inevitable.

One guy was not someone I knew but an ex-lover of my friend who no longer lives here. She had always spoken highly of him, saying he was a nice guy, considerate, interesting to talk to etc. We started messaging.

I felt weird about it. I asked another friend if I should message my original friend and ask her if it was ok. We wrote the message together.

Her response was: “Yeah it is a little weird but I have no plans on coming back to Bilbao any time soon so”. Eventually I told the guy that she had said it was weird and that she was a good friend of mine, I missed her a lot, and that.. well… even though we had planned to go for a drink, I wasn’t in to having a date with him, and if he wanted to meet up as friends for a coffee that was great but if he didn’t that was fine too. His response was: “That made me laugh. I thought we were already meeting up as friends”.

Sigh. Friend. A hard word to define. I love my friends deeply and I often think about what makes a good friend. My friends I usually meet dancing, or in work, not via Tinder or some other dating application. The more life experience I get, the more I realise that I have a different concept or definition of friend than other people.

My ex and I broke up partly because he put his (male) friends and their sexual/racial harassment of women first, before me. I had once said, when the relationship was going well, that I considered him to be my best friend, to which he scoffed, and said he hated the concept. When things were going badly, during an argument he told me that I was less than his friends to him, that they would be at his funeral and I wouldn’t, that our relationship was just temporary. It was said in the heat of the moment and I never really got over it.

When I was a teenager, I had a lot of what I considered to be male friends. One by one they tried it on, I said no (I don’t fancy my friends. Something happens in my head where people are put in to a box marked friends, and like family, they are out of bounds. This also happens if I know a man has a girlfriend. I just don’t fancy him), and suddenly, they didn’t want to hang out anymore. Or I said yes, we became an item for a while, it ran it’s course, and then we didn’t have much contact.

I’ve come to feel that a lot of misunderstandings between men and women come from what I term as the “heterosexual game”. Men are expected to bear the responsibility of being forward, getting rejected etc, pushing and pushing because she says no when she means yes, she wants to be chased, and women are supposed to wait for men to approach them, and give subtle, yet confusing, mysterious signs.

At the bar, a man buys you a drink. You accept. Maybe you are scared of the consequences of rejecting him. You chat. If a man buys me a drink, I buy him one back. I hate that sense of “owing” someone. If I want something more with someone, I say that directly. If I don’t, I don’t. I’m learning to be more and more direct about what I want and what I don’t.

Recently I’ve been trying to rent a room in my apartment. Long story short, someone who I’d briefly met at a party came to see the house. I found him very physically attractive. I told him (via text) that we had decided on someone else for the apartment, one of the reasons being I didn’t want to live with someone I was attracted to. He ignored the advance, which is fair enough, and life continued. My friends here laughed at me: they found it really weird. But in my head, in my logic, it’s weirder to pretend you want to be friends with someone, then make a sexual advance, and then you’re suddenly no longer friends.

Maybe I take friendship too seriously. Maybe I confuse family, and friendship. I don’t know. But I prefer to be honest and transparent. If I fancy someone, and I get the opportunity to say so, I do. I like to make the first move sometimes.

I hate losing friends. I hate it when they move away, or get so wrapped up in a relationship that they don’t have time for you anymore. I hate it when they put up with things in their relationships because they need stability, economic, emotional. A strategy I’ve used for quite a while has been to keep my friends and my love life completely separate, meaning that if I consider someone a friend, I don’t want to lose that friendship in having a sexual relationship with them.

I suppose the reality I avoid facing is that all relationships are transient, that people come in to your life, walk with you some of the way, and then your paths diverge again. That sometimes you are closer to one person, sometimes there’s more distance.

I’ve come to suspect that I am an example of a woman with a strong personality in my own culture, but here I’m like some sort of Queen Kong, putting my foot in it wherever I try to tread, always out of step, always driving on the left; too open about my sexuality, too dry, too loud, too outspoken. I watch Broad City, or Amy Schumer, and I recognise myself in these strong, Quixotic, bad ass bitches, and I like it. Not many other people  seem to, and that is tiring to live with.

I suppose that the trick is, wherever you live, to find people who love you for who you are. I am a strong flavour, and maturing like a fine wine, but I’m reaching a point where I like myself a lot as I am, and if others don’t like it… they can just avoid me. Not everyone is going to like you in this world, and it’s better to decide what kind of person you would like to be and what are your values than trying to please anyone else.

 

 

 

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Abusive relationships: The “best” friend

I’m not sure if abusive relationships are common or if there’s something about me that attracts people in them.

My first contact watching my friend be abused was when I was around 17 or 18. My best friend was cool as shit, and I stuck to her like glue because I thought her coolness might rub off on me. I can see now that I had been jealous of her, that I had followed her. I didn’t see that at the time. I think my pattern is to follow. I tend to form friendships with gorgeous, intelligent women, and be her less attractive slightly geeky weird friend. I don’t know if that has to do with growing up the youngest of three sisters. I don’t know.

Anywho, her boyfriend and her were locked in a soap opera style off and on relationship. Things would be off, she would tell me (us) about what he had done this time, then things would be back on again. I suppose neither of them liked the chaos, but maybe it felt normal, maybe it gave them a rush. I don’t know.

The most recent time they had broken up, I had shared with my friend that I was glad because more than once I had felt uncomfortable around her boyfriend, like he was trying it on with me. A few weeks later, they were back on again, but the latest outrage was that he had text a message to her mum, a message that was meant for his friend, about how hot he thought her mum was. Then she said “What’s next? He’s going to try it on with my best friend?”. I must have said something at this point, mentioning about the time when he had tried it on with me. Maybe my face just said it all. And she said: “No, I meant Caz” (referring to our other friend who was present).

That was it. After that conversation we never really spoke again, although I contacted her recently to congratulate her on something I had heard had happened in her life. That was the first friend I lost due to “an abusive relationship”. My sponsor now says that, in her experience, friendships break down in these sorts of situations when the friend is judging, when the person in the relationship feels judged. I get that. I’m trying not to do that anymore.

I thought if I just said something (as was my duty as a friend, wasn’t it?) that my friend would stop getting hurt. I hated hearing about all the bad stuff that was going on.

I suppose that this friendship was due to end, as I had moved away and had started a life somewhere else. I still blamed the abusive relationship though.

My next experience with abusive relationships would come 4 years later. It was actually because of the abusive relationship that I met my friend. She is awesome and we still talk. There was a time when I needed to step away from the friendship for a while, as I couldn’t bear to witness her pain, to hear about the latest horrible thing that had happened. She was able to leave him when she was ready and now she is living happily every after and loving life.

I suppose that the only relationship where I’ve come close to allowing myself to be abused was when I became addicted to a guy, between the age of 19-22. I depended on him emotionally. I thought it was love. Days when I didn’t see him were days wasted. He was witty, intelligent, the life and soul of the party. People always said I was the male version of him. We were amazing together, ying and yang, soul mates… Things ended with him moving away and never answering my calls or contacting me, and then I found out through the grapevine that he was with someone else. I pined for him, for years. No one made me laugh like he did, no one…

I could tell more details of the sordid affair, but that’s beside the point. I lay down on the floor, and he wiped his feet on me. He was one of those amazing guys, you know? He had it all. Narcissistic, a liar, cheated on his girlfriends, and (I realised later) an alcoholic, and I lapped it up. Lap lap lap. Like a little cat. There’s a lot of alcoholics in my family and seemingly every guy I fall in love with I realise (after we’ve broken up) that he’s an alcoholic/problem drinker. While we’re together I’m like “I don’t count other people’s drinks” and then a year later I’m like “woah. That’s a lot of glass in the recycling. Shit. Lucky escape there”. The point is, he wasn’t an abusive guy. But if he had been, I would have been totally  trapped in that, because I was mad about him. It was a drug to me.

The most recent contact I’ve had with an abusive relationship has been my friend from high school. It was completely, spectacularly horrific, which is something she might say herself about it. Bruises. Police. Suicide threats.  Him claiming to be the victim. After it had ended, she told me all the signs were there, she told me that she felt like a twat for being “one of those people” who does all “those classic things wrong”, like a horror movie where your like “don’t go in to that house alone, no, no, silly bint! Stop!”…I tried my best to be supportive but in the end it was just too painful to hear about his next escalation after the big explosion. It went on for months and months after the relationship itself had ended, her trying her best but feeling completely chopped in half, him threatening to commit suicide, and every time she told me about it (she was going there as he was a suicide risk and his parents weren’t coming to take care of him, completely palming his care off on her) I felt like someone was stabbing me in the stomach. And it wasn’t even me it was happening to.

When it first happened, I called him. I wanted him to stop hurting her. I was desperate. I listened to all his lies about her calmly, all his justifications, just praying and hoping he would stop hurting her. My first instinct is to try to rescue, to try to fix, but that does not help anyone. She said “How can you even speak to him? Stop speaking to him”. I blocked him on WhatsApp, I stepped away.

In the end, after a few months, I had to let her know that I couldn’t hear about what was happening anymore. That it was too painful.  People want you to listen not to offer “solutions”. Ex boyfriend with a history of mental illness off his meds and threatening to jump out the window? Have you tried yoga?

And then, there’s the other side. My friend told me recently that she had smacked her boyfriend. I was completely shocked. She had mentioned it casually. I had often asked her if she ever wanted to hit her partner as it was something I had felt when I lived with my ex, for literally no reason. We weren’t even arguing I remember once, I was reading on the sofa. He came in and started watching something on TV, with his giant headphones, and I could literally hear everything. Every single word. And he’s there pissing himself with laughter, really enjoying this show, and I just had such an urge to belt him across the face. Of course I didn’t act on it, and I was surprised at my own dark desires, and I asked my friends who live with their boyfriends if that was normal. They told me it wasn’t. At that point I realised that if I lived with a partner again, I would need my own room, where I could close the door and no one would open it. I didn’t have a door growing up (long story) and I maybe I need a door. Maybe even a lock and a key.

But she told me she had smacked him across the face. That he had fallen asleep and that she couldn’t get in the house and…There’s a part of me that wants to talk to my friend about it. “I don’t think he remembers” she said, so alcohol was involved (Alcohol: why are you such a prick?). “Don’t do that again” I might say. Is it my place to do that? My sponsor says: “Be open. Ask open questions”.

I just don’t know what to do about life anymore. The older I get, the less the world is making sense, the more I want to go and live on an island, as if everyone else was the problem and not my own reactions. I’m starting to become convinced that men and women living together in a romantic relationship is just one option and that for me it might be better to live with a group of friends, me helping them to raise their kids, that the whole idea of the nuclear family is a product of the industrial revolution and capitalism, meaning we share less and buy more, and I just want to take a bunch of good people and go live somewhere in peace and harmony, no more pain and suffering, no more violence. Hopefully the feminist old women’s home will work out, where we can all knit sanitary towels for girls in developing countries and compare tips on vibrators while we plot to invade Poland like the feminizis that we are.

I love my friends. They are all beautiful, incredible, vivacious women, so amazing each of them that I can’t get laid when we go out as I look less attractive standing next to them (remind me to get friends that no one fancies so I have a chance in this cruel, superficial world!). I hope when my time comes to be in a relationship that is abusive, they will… well, there’s nothing they will be able to do. You can’t save anyone except yourself. Adults make choices based on the options that they have, or those they believe they have. I’m glad I have a sponsor to point out options I never would have thought of by myself. It’s usually stuff like accepting lift as it is, accepting people as they are, and choosing what is best for me where appropriate. Let’s see if I have the courage to try them.

Abusive relationships: Am I an abuser?

I’ve never been in an abusive relationship, so maybe I’ve been the abusive one? It’s possible. Men get emotionally abused all the time but they can escape because they make more money and they’re not usually economically dependent on women. Also if they’re old they’re not ugly, they’re distinguished, so they’re less fucked when it comes to finding a new partner.

I like to think that I haven’t been the abusive one. When I was growing up, my mother had two modes with my father. There was tense silence or there was screaming. I still don’t know which was worse.

I was a little kid, and I heard and saw a lot of bad shit, but I don’t take sides any more. I will never know who was telling the truth about things (my mother went to the police station at least once, she started to give her statement when I was still in the room. I was very small, 7 years old or younger).

I vowed never to be abusive to partners, although I didn’t really know what abuse was, so I’ve probably done the arguing with someone until they get too tired and give up thing, the silent treatment thing, other manipulative emotional warfare tools.

I once punched my boyfriend in the balls so hard he vomited. Let me explain, let me explain.

I was 17. We were having an argument because my previous boyfriend’s family had suffered a horrific tragedy, and I had sent him a text message being like “Yo, that’s fucking shit. I’m really sorry”. He (my previous boyfriend) had  gotten drunk and had preceded to have a go at me in front of everyone at the party saying repeatedly: “I hope you kill yourself you twat”.

  1. What had happened to him and his family was truly terrible, and he was in the throes of grief. I think I wasn’t upset but I just left the gathering. This was over 10 years ago now so I don’t remember what I did in response.
  2. I added “you twat” because I thought it sounded better. He didn’t actually say that. He just said “I hope you kill yourself” over and over. Much more boring really.

My current boyfriend is walking me home, but giving me the silent treatment. Then he says something like: “Don’t you think you should’ve told me when you contacted your ex?”. I can’t really remember the rest of the argument, but I was like “Fuck off, don’t walk me home, fuck off”, so I must have been thinking “You don’t control who I speak to”. I think the argument was pretty heated, and I wanted him to leave me alone. He said “What would you do if someone attacked you?” and I said “This”.

I then preceded to “pretend” to punch him in the balls but unfortunately I actually connected with his testicles and the next thing I knew he was vomiting at the side of the road.

It was a complete accident. It fills me with great sadness to think that  I’ve never punched any men in the balls who actually deserve it, like when they were exposing themselves to me, following me home, calling me a “slut” because I didn’t fancy them, tried to grab me and get me in to their cars, men who’ve followed me to the bathroom to catch me on my own, men who’ve rubbed their junk on my leg while partner dancing, men who’ve stuck their finger in my arm pit to try and drag me away from my friends.

But don’t worry. There’s still time.

Don’t write about me on your fucking blog!

In the past two weeks I’ve had several people get annoyed at something I wrote on this blog. One person, who I know well, spoke to me in person, and he seemed genuinely upset. The other person contacted me through WhatsApp and he was writing in Spanish (and I in English) so I can’t really tell the tone of the messages. Sometimes things seem stronger in Spanish, when it’s just that the person is really passionate about the topic. I don’t know where the line is and am often criticised for not doing it right, which I then wonder is more about someone else’s interpretation of what I said and their own projections than about what I wrote (in Spanish). “We thought you were being sarcastic when you said ‘have fun’ “. Well, that’s the last time I try to be nice? Lol.

My sponsor says that as long as I don’t use people’s real names and that I’m honest it’s ok to write stuff. Am I honest? I suppose I tell things from my point of view. I suppose my view of myself and my own actions might be the best version, might be the one I paint with the kindest eye. I like that my sponsor reads my blog sometimes and tells me things that I haven’t realised, like “You never mentioned that alcohol figured so much in this when you were talking to me about it”. It makes me realise that I have a super human power of denial growing up trying to ignore the elephant in the room, and that this is affecting my adult life.

No one has ever paid me a penny to write on this blog, so why do I carry on if all it brings me is more conflict, and people telling me I have hurt them? Just after my mother’s death, my cousin said that she had read about Mum’s last months here and I felt that that made us closer. Like somehow, there are things that spoken conversations just don’t cut and…

I think I’ve always preferred to write than to speak. Gives me time to choose the right words, the right way to say something. As a kid I was always playing with typewriters, scribbling in notebooks. My mother wanted to be a writer, I suppose that’s why they were lying around, why no one was speaking. It’s ironic that now my job is helping other people to speak, helping young people to have the confidence to express themselves in their third language, when I myself am not so great at saying what I really want to say in the moment.

I have a fantasy that if I just say in the right words, just explain enough, then people will understand and things will change. My sponsor says that things will change organically and that my pushing and judging (who me? judgemental? 😛 ) will have the opposite affect, but that I just want a fight. I believe this (grudgingly) to be true, and why I carry on talking things through with her. A friend might not mention to you something like that, they might just agree with you, because they want to carry on being your friend and hanging out.

The blog helps me get my thoughts out. Sometimes I feel like they’re trapped, running around my head, and my stomach and back hurt when I get really stressed. Diagnose it as what you will but it’s my reality. The last time I went to a psychiatrist (when I was completely fucked after my mothers death and I wanted to throw myself out the window for months and months because I couldn’t help her) he told me that I should have a baby as my problem was I’m just bored so… I’m done with diagnosis for a while. I thought it was better to let things out here than burden friends with my moaning, or bitch about one friend to another, which I catch myself doing more than I would like.

I’ve often thought that people don’t get annoyed at what is being said unless there’s a grain of truth in it. I remember times when someone was nasty or mean to me, completely out of the blue, and I just thought: this is literally nothing to do with me.

I think people feel a lot of guilt, and that makes them behave defensively (because who likes feeling like shit) which then stops them from admitting they did something wrong so that they can learn from it and try to do better. I like the acronym for shame:

Should

Have

Already

Mastered

Everything

The worst thing about someone getting pissed at what I wrote on here is that it just churns me up so I need to write more. Then I’m in a quandary. I don’t want to hurt the person involved any more, as they’ve told me they were hurt by what I wrote etc etc, but… the need to write is there.

Today someone said to me via text that what I write is on the internet for “everyone” to see. Jesus fucking christ, I thought. My mother was one of the only people who read my blog and she’s dead as a doornail now, so… (dark humour. It’s how I cope). According to WordPress (they have a nifty little stats thing) people only read my blog when I post something. They potter over (probably looking to promote their own blog), maybe give me a like, send me a message to see if I’ll like their posts… Anyway, I started to learn about digital marketing this year with a friend and there’s a reason people pay Google and Facebook to make their ads appear at the top. If you don’t do that it’s almost impossible to find things, even if you’re directly looking!

Apparently someone had “stumbled” on to my blog. Nah. Nit. No way. There’s no stumbling on to a shitty personal blog like this. There’s searching, there’s reading, there’s  getting pissed about something because you’re looking for something to be pissed off about.

I have this fantasy that if I just say it right, if just this time… No. People change when they’re ready to change, and I’m not in control of anything except myself. I just need to keep my side of the street clean, do the next right thing, and when I mess up own it and try not to do it again.

How other people feel is not my responsibility. You can’t “make” someone angry or sad, they just either are, or they aren’t. Sure you can say mean shit to people, but if they don’t believe it to be true, then they aren’t bothered. Or are they? I don’t know anymore.

The Low Blow

Out dancing, I saw my ex. It was carnival, and I was dressed as a woman, wearing a wig with long brown hair, similar to my real hair when it’s long. He, like many others, didn’t recognised me.

I felt weird that I was wearing the long haired wig, as my hair had been a bone of contention between us. During my “radicalisation”, as he called it, my hair had gotten shorter and shorter. “Please don’t cut your hair more. I like it long” he said to me, his short hair meaning he could just shit-shower-and-shave before going out, instead of spending precious time washing, blow drying, straightening.

6 months after our break up, I gave him the finger across the dance floor in a jokey way. He didn’t recognise me. I said: “Hola cabrón” (“Hi bastard”), also in a jokey way. We both have a dark sense of humour still. “Don’t fall in love with me because of the wig” I told him.

Later in the night, we were talking outside.

-Don’t you think it’s unpleasant that you write about me on your blog?

-You gave me permission. I asked you months ago and you said I could write whatever I wanted, that you didn’t care, as long as I didn’t use your name.

-Yes but can’t you see that it’s mean writing about me?

-You gave me permission.

-Yes but we have people in common. They’ve read it and they’ve told me it’s fuerte.

-Hahahaha. Who the hell reads my blog EX? Most of our friends speak English but I seriously doubt if they would want to read my blog in English.

-I’m not telling you who.

-Fuerte that I write about it or fuerte how you acted and why we broke up?

-Just fuerte.

-Are we talking about your family? Have your family read my blog and have been criticising you and how you acted? If you’re feeling guilty or ashamed, that is not my responsibility.

-Yes but imagine if I was writing in French about our relationship? About you?

-I don’t know. I don’t think I’d care.

The argument went back and forth, pointlessly. He kept on repeating “Try to see it from my point of view”. I kept on saying “Don’t interrupt me”. Our roles were reversed from when we were dating. “Try to see it from my point of view. These people are super sexist and mean to women”. Then, for the first time since we had known each other, I did a new thing.

I walked away from an argument.

Growing up, my family argued constantly. People in primary school joked that I would become a lawyer, I was so argumentative (mean, sarcastic, horrible, bullying. The adjectives go on). I’ve worked hard to change but I do believe that, following certain guidelines, arguing can be productive. It can allow both parties to say how they feel and a resolution to be reached.

My ex-partner thought the total opposite. He hated arguing. So we wouldn’t argue and I would bend and we would do what he wanted, which was staying in bed sleeping at the weekends, or cooking with meat. I thought going with the flow was a good thing. Until I didn’t and I left him when he said he didn’t love me anymore because of my short hair.

“You gave me permission at the time. But now you’ve changed your mind as it’s affecting you. I’ll take down what I wrote, ok? My intention was not to hurt you.”

I walked away from the argument but I felt a little bit churned up. Had I done the right thing?

I told my friends about it over a kebab. One of my friends, who always says what she thinks, said “It’s a low blow”. Then she changed her mind and said I’d done nothing wrong.

How would I feel if he was writing about me?

-I don’t have secrets. When I do bad things I own up to them and say sorry. I have a lot of ex-boyfriends and I’ve done a lot of less than good things. I’m honest about my fuck ups.

Or am I? Am I a self-righteous, judgemental so and so? Maybe I’m both.

Ironically, the conversation I had with my ex has made me feel the need to write this.

I’ll talk it over with my sponsor on Monday and see what she says. Ultimately, what I write says more about me, and how I think, feel, and process etc, than about anyone else.

The dance floor

It was carnival weekend. Everyone was out in their finest fancy dress, having drinks with friends and smiling.

We got to La Ribera bar at 11:30pm. The band still hadn’t started yet. People were dancing Lindy and having fun.

As usual, there was a large group of people standing on the dance floor, people who (as far as I knew) didn’t dance. I said to some friends “How about we go round and politely ask people to move to the sides?”. My friends responded “Or we just go like this when we dance” and motioned kicking and pushing them.

I decided to ask them politely when the live music started. I started like this:

“Hi guys. Would you mind please moving to the sides because people want to dance?”

The group had about 10 people. The girl next to me pretended like she hadn’t heard.

One guy, who I assumed was gay, said “brrbrbrbrrbrbrbrbr”. (yes, ok, sometimes when the music is loud and I don’t know someone I don’t understand what they say in Spanish)

I asked him to repeat it.

-I’ve bought this drink. This is a bar. I have a right to be wherever I want.

-Yes, of course. But this is the dance floor. There’s a lot of other space in the bar.

-It’s aggressive to ask.

-I don’t understand. How is it aggressive? It’s a question of safety. Girls dancing with heels have really hurt my feet and ankles, more than once.

-Yeah yeah, whatever. We are dancing.

I suppose it was aggressive in a way, because as gay men, these people have probably been told they’re not welcome in a lot of places, in both overt and subtle ways. I’ve experienced being at bars where there is football, and feeling very unwelcome, and getting shouted at for getting up to get a drink and obscuring people’s views.

I waited for the guy to finish his g and t. He held the glass for a long time. Then I asked him to dance.

-Noooo. I don’t know how to dance

He said, with a strange look on his face. Maybe he knew that the dance culture was already too heteronormative. Maybe he was tired of standing up and being himself to that tide of shit.

-Please. I’m a teacher.

-Of course you are.

-Would you like to dance as a leader or a follower?

-A follower I suppose.

-Let’s do it!

-No. Really no.

Soon after they left. I suppose they only came for one drink on their night out. Judging by how rude they were, I suppose they were from out of town, as people tend to be dick heads when they think no one will see them again.

It wasn’t a nice experience. I suffer from anxiety so as soon as he told me “he had every right” etc, I felt very nervous and didn’t want to walk past his group, nor dance near them as I didn’t want to be shoved in to them by leaders who were bowling with followers by accident, or accidentally do that when I dance as a leader with a  follower. This is something I don’t observe men being preoccupied with, as they dominate the dance floor, people making space for them. Sigh. How can I learn to be half as confident as a mediocre white man?

What I’ve learned:

Bring lollipops to partner dance events to give to people who get the frick off the dance floor. SWEET SWING BABY! YEAH!

 

The second mother

“She’s like my second mom” Jenny said (not her real name). We were talking about me doing a substitution for her, a private class teaching English at the family’s home.

My number was given to the mother of the family. Suddenly, twelve messages arrive on my phone. “Can you come on Mondays? We live really near you. We’re so excited to meet you. Is 30 ok for the two hours?”.

“Wow, that’s low” I thought. Maybe Jenny had a special agreement with the family for some reason? Who knows. I decided not to make waves. It was her class. “Stop judging”, I told myself.

I went to their house. Everything went smoothly. The next week, I received several messages from a family member of the family. Could I come on Tuesdays? Please please please. They needed someone. Could I recommend someone?

I didn’t reply.

I’ve taught English for 6 years. I. am. tired. I’m tired of people from the country where I live expecting me to solve their problems, expecting me to speak English with them, expecting me to make an effort to understand that they mean this Thursday, not next Thursday. I’m tired of the backhanded comments about how I “speak my language too much”, “don’t make enough effort to integrate”, but could I please please get them another English teacher thanks?

I am not the solution to your problem. Even though I speak Spanish with a very strong accent, I’ve worked really hard to get to it where I am today, so fuck you and your judgements of my life. Fuck you in the fucking face.

Eventually I did reply. “No”.

The mother of the family didn’t ask permission to give my phone number to someone else. They never do. They never think “maybe lots of people message this person asking for help, so I won’t give out their number without their permission”. No, it’s all “Ah, you’re a güiri. You must want a babysitting job”. I do not want a baby sitting job. I want to get a dog and a car and a mortgage like everyone else because I’m almost 30. I want to pay my state pension, not receive cash for going an hour to your house and be told I should be “grateful” when you don’t pay me the same every month (like Christmas etc), like you would any other service.

The mother of the family asks me to bring a list of irregular verbs the day I’m supposed to go to their house. “I have all that stuff in work” I say. She pays me 15e an hour and she wants me to prepare as well. Jesus. Poor Jenny, I thought.

Every day I go, the mother tries to squeeze as many minutes of free English practice out of me for her as she can at the end. We talk about Jenny on trip, how sad it is that she’s leaving (maybe because people only pay her 15e an hour? I think). But I keep that thought to myself as it’s “not my place to say”.

The last day, the mother offers my Jenny’s job. “You know, Jenny, won’t be here the whole school year, if you wanted…” I’m too busy with uni, I say. Stab my good friend in the back for 15 euros an hour? Lord.

I tell this to my friend over a drink a few weeks later. “Oh.” she says. “They were paying me 20”.

The next day I knew I had to say something for my self-respect. This is what went down:

-Hi. I was speaking to Jenny last night. I assumed you were paying me the same as her. I thought it was very low but as a favour to her I accepted. Apparently you pay her 40 for two hours?
-Yes, but i told you 30 because i didn’t know you well at the beginnig
-So you continued to underpay me?
-Aprovechaste de la buena fe de las 2.
-Si quieres ser honesta y pagar a la gente que empleas un salario digno, aquí tienes mis detalles para hacer cuentas
[detalles bancarias]
-Para que sepas, tengo un grado de filología inglesa. Tengo 20.000 libras de deuda estudiantil x ello xk soy de una familia humilde. Tengo 6 años de experiencia. Y normalmente cobro 25 la hora.
-Esa es la última vez que hago un favor para una amiga. Lauren te estima tanto entonces no pensaba en eso.
-Sarah, t he llamado para hablar contigo, si es posible
-En ningun momento, nuestra intencion ha sido aprovecharnos d ti y no me conoces para poner en duda mi honestidad, yo hable un precio contigo al principio… Lo dicho, el wasp no m parece la via para comunicar y tratar de solucionar un enfado como este
-We can talk about it whenenever you want
-Si tu intención no era así haz cuentas ahora.
-Me deberías haber pagado lo mismo que Lauren. Por eso no me dijo ella xk confiaba en ti.
-i me pagas lo que falta hablamos de cuando Lauren se va en la primavera.
-Please, calculate how many weeks have you been at home and i will make a trasference
– Sept
12
19
26
October
3
10
24
(31 puente)
Nov
7
14

8. 80e
-Done, please let me know you have already get the money in your account

I did not feel good about this conversation. I felt drained and dead tired. I promised myself that I would be straight about money from the start of any future deal, knowing that I probably wouldn’t because:

a) I’m British and we find it culturally difficult to talk about money

b) It’s frowned upon for women to ask for money

c) jobs in caring professions often try to manipulate you emotionally (they need you etc)

A day or two later, I receive a message from my friend. She called Jenny crying. The mother of the family called Jenny crying.

I’m now going to write something that only my really close friends know about me. I cry every. single. dayMy mother, someone I had a very complicated relationship with, died of cancer two years ago. I went home (not having been home for more than a weekend for the past 10 years) to “take care of her”, which mainly involved cooking eggs (that was the only thing her stomach could tolerate due to the cancer treatment) and watching her try to hide how much pain she was in from the cancer, from the digestive problems, and from the osteoporosis due to how the chemo had destroyed her body. I was completely and utterly devastated.  Even now, I can’t look at white flowers without thinking about the lillies at her funeral, I think about her every time I drink freshly squeezed orange juice as it’s the last thing she drank. I couldn’t bear to speak to anyone for a year. I couldn’t work (my job is basically speaking to people). I was completely destroyed. Despite crying at least once a day for the past two and a half years, I’ve never called someone up crying. I do not use my tears to make others feel bad to manipulate them into doing what I want.

Calling up someone crying is a distinct tactic in my book. The mother of the family thought “Oh shit. I’m going to loose the native teacher for my kids. Shit shit shit shit shit”, so she called my friend, had a cry at her to make sure she wouldn’t stop working with her family, and then my friend was annoyed with me.

So, from this situation I’ve learned that I need to be up front about money, because if I’m not, then I seem like even more of a bitch.

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