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The Girl with the Daffodil Tattoo

A Welsh girl let loose in a wild world

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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.

Santutxu: Not a Matriarchy

“Santutxu is the most densely populated neighbourhood in Bilbao”, he told me, after we were hotly discussing how population density makes poverty in the UK completely different from here.

I looked in to it. This is an urban legend, a little saying people repeat over and over again, Trump style, until it becomes true.

Are you sitting down? Because I have something to tell you.

Santutxu is 100% not the most densely populated city in Bilbao. No way… Unai?

I wrote a blog post about it here, and my friend changed the Wikipedia entry, and I thought the battle was won. But the war waged on.

Another (güiri) friend quoted the old most populated thing to me again, and I explained to him the (I thought) amusing little anecdote. “Be careful of fake news!”, I patronised him.

Then, what should I find on Wikipedia today, almost a year later?

screen-shot-2017-02-22-at-00-13-58

Yes, that’s right. Some bright spark had yet again changed the Wikipedia entry for Santutxu to read that it’s the most densely populated you-know-what in the you-know-who.

I breathed deeply. I try to keep an open mind, I really, really, do. I checked the sources, yet again, and yet again they show that San Francisco is more densely populated than Santutxu.

So, I finally made a Wikipedia account to set right this unspeakable wrong.

It was much easier than I thought (name and password. That was literally it), but then I was a bit fazed by the html code, but I managed to bodge it.

screen-shot-2017-02-22-at-00-29-56

The reason it irks me so much, as I’ve already said, is it’s something people repeat over and over again until “everyone knows” it. It reminds me too much of the matriarchy myth, a myth Basque men would often casually educate me on, expecting me to side with them about Basque women being too “mean” or “bossy”, because their definition of a “matriarchy” is a Catholic patriarchy where women control men’s money, and also refuse to have sex, because they are such nasty meanies…

For the last time, women can have multiple orgasms, and therefore can potentially enjoy sex more than men, and if they ain’t enjoying their super powers… there’s a densely populated problem going on, in Santutxu and beyond.

Long live fact checking, statistics, and Wikipedia’s super easy to use interface. I salute you all!

How I ended up in Madrid

I arrived in Madrid in 2010, bright eyed and bushy tailed, all ready to learn Spanish. What I had really wanted to do was what my course mates were doing, aka live off mummy and daddy’s respective purse and wallet and do a masters, or just potter about and live with my parents. They spoke of the homecoming with dread. “It’s going to be hard going back to their house after living independently”, they said. I envied them.

Not having taken up the challenge of studying any language properly before (“This isn’t going to help me make money in order to have financial security”, that holy grail of holy grails I had been brought up to seek), I applied to China and was accepted. I was to fly on August 13th, 2010.

I was crashing with my sister in London, a few days before my departure, when someone from British council called me.

“I suppose by now you’ve realised that there’s a problem with your visa”, she said kindly, in the clipped tones of an admirably middle class English accent.

Erm. Come again?

It turned out that some random Chinese citizens had been going in to schools and getting knife happy, attacking teachers and students. I had been (too) honest about my mental health history, getting the required documents that said I was “mostly harmless” etc, so under the disability discrimination act, British Council had hired me. Long live equality! However, the Chinese government had just banned giving teaching visas to loony foreigners, so I was in job limbo.

They said they would sort it.

A few days later they called me to say I could work in central Madrid, even though I didn’t speak Spanish. I was relieved. I had already handed in my notice for my bar job in London and I was tired of living in a capital and having no money.

So, off I trotted.

Harassment in the Basque Country

We were at the fiestas of a nearby pueblo. My “friend”, someone I’d known for a few months as a cousin of my friend’s boyfriend, started making sexual advances just before lunch, about  1 o’clock.

“You left the other night as you fancy me or John. Come on, admit it. You fancy me, that’s why you left early the other night, because you didn’t want to cheat on your boyfriend.”

I let him down gently. “No” I said. “Look, you’re a really nice guy, but I really don’t feel that way about you.”

Fast forward a few hours. We had been drinking all day. We were sat outside a bar, about 20 of us. I went inside to the bathroom, drunk as hell.

I came out of the bathroom. The bar person wasn’t there. There was no one actually inside the bar, except my “friend”.

He wouldn’t let me past. “I know you fancy me, and I don’t care that your boyfriend is a boxer, I’m going to take you like this and I’m going to fuck you”. He kept repeating it over and over.

I was scared. He wouldn’t let me past. I didn’t want to touch him, I didn’t want to get within arms reach of him. I should have belted him one then.

I got back to the group, and I started shouting, thinking it will alert the others to how he is sexually harassing me. I thought they would protect me.

No one made eye contact. His friends, my friend’s boyfriend and on of their friends, then spent what seemed like hours talking and talking and talking at me.

“You’re too feminist. Nothing happened” they kept saying, over and over. I would later come to learn that two men against one woman is typical in this culture, that this is a pattern.

My heart is hammering as I write this, and this was almost 2 years ago.

None of the women made eye contact with me. Most were foreign. They sat and pretended like it wasn’t happening. I get it. I get that no one wants to be with the unpopular girl, saying unpopular things like I was.

My chest hurt. It was like a nightmare. They spent the whole night “talking” to me about it. Finally I just gave up. I couldn’t remember where the train station was. I asked directions. I went home.

The next day I was supposed to go to a bbq with some other friends. I felt too horrible to go.

Months later, my friend told me she was sorry that she didn’t help me, that she didn’t say anything. I had already forgiven her, but it took guts to say sorry and I was proud of her. She described that something similar had happened to her recently, and that her boyfriend had gotten angry with her for “provoking” one of his friends in to coming on to her.

I love my friend but I can’t be around her boyfriend and his friends. They are her life. We don’t see each other much now. I don’t resent her. We are all walking a hard road.

I see my “friend” at random times. Sometimes I see him when he’s drunk, and he shouts “Hello” to me, highlighting the fact that I completely ignore him, trying to provoke me. I saw him at a feminist rapper concert. I saw him at a festival, when I was with some female friends. They all went over to talk to him. I went home without saying goodbye.

I saw him a few months ago. He tried to make conversation with me, but not in a horrible way. I gave one word responses and moved away. Sometimes when you face something head on, you attract more wasted, ruined time.

My friend, the one who is with the guy who says she is asking for it when his druggie friends sexually harass her, says “I know you hate him, but I’m gonna be with him forever”. I don’t hate him, I don’t think he’s a bad person, but I just don’t want him in my life. Not even for a second. I have a family history of people dying young. I don’t want to waste another instant of my life on this guy, and his rich, spoilt, bratty friends who think they can do whatever they want because the pact between men is so strong that no man will call them out for harassing his girlfriend.

There’s a part of me that has compassion for the boyfriend. This is a society where it is hard to make friends, where people make friends in primary school and then… if you get pushed out, you’re out in the cold. My compassion withers away every time he interrupts his girlfriend, especially when she’s sharing her experiences about race.

I suppose there comes  a time in every persons life when they realise that they would rather be alone than be around people that don’t make their day better.

I tell my sponsor: “I feel like I’m standing up in a strong flowing river, and it keeps knocking me down, but I keep getting up. And I don’t want to stop. I want to keep fighting because it’s the right thing to do”.

She tells me: “There is another way. You could get out of the river and come with us on the shore.”

 

 

 

 

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