A sincere and heartfelt bit of feedback to Facebook

Dear Facebook,
 
Could you kindly, in your “people you may know” section, stop suggesting that I add the following as friends:
 
a) That weird guy from Guardian Soulmates who I went on a terrible date with in 2012
b) That person from youth group I had nothing in common with when I was 14, and haven’t seen since I was 14
c) That ex-colleague that I hadn’t added as a friend already for a very good reason
d) That other weird guy from Guardian Soulmates who I went on a terrible date with in 2012
e) That nightmare ex that I haven’t spoken to in five years. Yes, that one.
f) Possibly an ex-parent from my daughter’s class? Don’t know
g) Person who will think I am a crazed stalker if I add them as a friend, as there is no reason to add them as a friend (e.g. my friend’s teenage daughter who I have never met)
h) That woman who lived in the downstairs flat in 1998 with the sodding fluffy dog that never stopped barking
i) Brother of person I have not spoken to since accepting friend request on Facebook. I have never met this brother.
j) I think that’s my osteopath but I’m not entirely sure what his actual surname is (he’s in my phone under Alex Osteopath)
k) A cat. An actual cat. In Fulham.
l) Builder who did some work for me in 2011.
m) A garage. An actual fucking garage. In Manchester.
n) Guy who bought my house in 2009.
o) “Captain Halitosis”
p) That awful friend-of-a-friend that said that awful thing that one time
q) That other other weird guy from Guardian Soulmates who was so weird I decided I didn’t even want to meet him for a first date
 
If you could sort this soon, that would be appreciated. Before the next time I accidentally click “Add Friend” instead of “Remove Suggestion”. Again.
 
Thanks!
xxx

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

I like Christmas. Very much. More than most people (which is particularly unusual given that I’m Jewish). 
 
But Christmas has always been my favourite time of year (except for a few years where I fell out of love with it, but more on that later). And it’s never been about the gifts (indeed, as the esteemed Ms. M Carey says: “I don’t care about the presents underneath the Christmas tree”), it’s always been about the people.
 
My parents used to own a gift shop and, as you can imagine, they used to be ever so busy in the run-up to Christmas. So, after school had finished, my sister and I would be packed off to my aunt’s to stay while they worked right up until the end of Christmas Eve. We’d be kept busy “helping” my aunt prepare for Christmas, giggling ourselves to sleep each night, tucked up in twin beds with a tiny Christmas tree inbetween us.
 
Come Christmas morning, our parents would arrive. I was always overjoyed to be reunited with them, then the rest of the day would pass by in a haze of laughter and food. It was a day of traditions—many of which were shared with other families, others were uniquely ours, like the Annual Family Walk (which was much talked about but rarely actually happened), the Annual Family Talent Show (which very much happened and still does)—and I loved every minute of the day.
 
Things change. They always do, they have to. I grew up, I could look after myself, I didn’t need to stay at my aunt’s any more. I got into a relationship with a man who didn’t celebrate Christmas and my love of it was dimmed. And after my father died, it became harder and harder to celebrate it; the joy of Christmas tempered with the knowledge that someone important was missing, that my happiness had a hole in it. My family shifted.
 
Things change. They always do, they have to. I moved into a new home, with my girls. New start. And I saw Christmas afresh, through my kids’ eyes, and I started falling in love with it once more; it came to represent all that was joyful and good. I started celebrating it again, more intensely than ever.
 
A while later, I also fell in love with a friend of mine. He was amused by, and supportive of, my love of Christmas and he came complete with two wonderful bonus children; suddenly I also had a brand-new family to celebrate Christmas with.
 
My favourite song—not just for Christmas, but for always—is “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”. Specifically the original lyrics*: “Someday soon, we all will be together, if the fates allow. Until then, we’ll have to muddle through somehow. So have yourself a merry little Christmas now.”
 
2017 has been a really bloody difficult year, and I’ll be glad to see the back it. But, we muddled through it and I celebrated this Christmas with my sister and her delicious family, my mum, my aunt, my boyfriend, our kids (and the little dog). It was loud, it was joyful, it was perfect. I was as happy as that little girl, on Christmas Day, watching her parents’ car pulling up.
 
So, have yourself a merry little Christmas now xxx
 
*None of this “Hang a shining star upon the highest bough” business, that line was rewritten at Frank Sinatra’s request. I prefer the hopefulness and gentle melancholy of the original.
 
 

Situations Vacant

It was the first day of a new job, writing training manuals for my new boss and her beauty business.

I tried to plug in my laptop. “Let me do it!” she shouted, diving beneath the desk: “Health and safety! It’s not safe for you to do it”.

She waved a sheath of typed pages under my nose. “This is what I want you to type up. I wrote it on my computer, I just want you to put it into a nice format.”

“If you’ve already done it on your computer”, I asked, “could you email me the file? I could just reformat it then. It makes more sense than me typing it from scratch.”
“No. I don’t want to get a virus from your computer.”
“You won’t get a virus from emailing me a file.”
“No. I don’t want to do that. Just type it up.”
“That doesn’t seem to be the best use of time.”
“Just type it up.”

So, I started typing up the notes while she stood behind my shoulder, watching me type. After ten minutes of this, she finally spoke:
“I don’t think you want this job, do you?”
“Excuse me?”
“Your body language is telling me that you don’t want the job.”
“Excuse me?”
“Look at you, with your shoulders all hunched up. You think this job’s beneath you, don’t you.”
“What? I do want this job. But you don’t seem to want me here.”
“That’s right, I don’t want you here because your body language tells me that you don’t want this job. You should go now.”

Baffled, I closed my laptop and went to unplug it.

“No!” she shouted, diving under the desk again. “Health and safety! I must unplug it for you.”

I grabbed my laptop and left. It was less than forty minutes from arrival to sacking. It remains one of the strangest – and definitely the shortest – jobs I’ve ever done.

Scarves

I used to harm myself in many different and subtle ways; one of them was with clothing. When I felt bad about myself, I’d dig out my worst clothes and wear them to punish myself. Jeans that bit into my stomach and made me ache all day. Sloppy tops that made me look ultra frumpy. I wouldn’t bother styling my hair; I didn’t deserve it.

That was a lifetime ago. As part of my recovery, I cleared out all the sad pieces and—over time—built a new wardrobe of clothes that I love to wear, that flatter me, that make me feel good.

However, there were still some things that I longed to wear, but convinced myself were beyond my fashion grasp.

Among them, scarves.

I’d look at stylish people, floating around with a jaunty scarf, and think how wonderful they looked. And then, in the same moment think “Not for me”. Surely I’d look too messy, too pretentious… just wrong. I’d look like an idiot, trying too hard.

But I was at a party. And there, on the opposite side of the room, was a charming man wearing the most beautiful scarf. Festooned in bright, graphical print. He looked amazing and I practically vaulted over a sofa to reach him and tell him.

“You look terrific. I wish I could carry off a scarf like that”, I burbled.

He grinned. “It’s just a scarf! Of course you can!”

I must have looked sceptical, because he unwound the scarf of wonder from his neck and handed it to me. “Go on.”

Feeling somewhat self-conscious yet oddly happy, I made a hamfisted attempt to tie it on.

“There you go! It looks good”, he reassured.

I peeked in the mirror. Damnit, he was right. I looked… stylish. Confident. Full of scarf. I looked like a scarf-wearer.

The next day, I bought my own jaunty scarf. Like an 80s explosion of a scarf; pink, blue, orange and green, all in ragged blocks.

I wore it. And I liked it.

And perhaps I do look like an idiot. But I’m a warm idiot, so who cares?

Coitus Interruptus

I am occasionally a little evil. It was 2am, and I was walking home after a night out. Rather surprised to see a car parked over my drive; as I got closer, I realised that there was a couple in it. And then it registered that they were… *ahem*…. rather busy.

Overcome with mischief, I banged on the passenger’s window.

“Hi!”, I bellowed, “Is everything OK?”

They looked horrified. I’ve never seen two people move so quickly. There was a flurry of zipping up, rearranging clothing, and the car sped off.

I chortled all the way to the front door. Whoever you are, sorry…

BLOODY PARENTING ANECDOTE #347: Fussy Eaters

Me: “So kids, you can choose three foods that no-one can ever make you eat again. What do you go for?”

Elder Daughter: “Mushrooms, courgettes, and the crunchy bits on macaroni cheese.”

Smallest Daughter: “Courgettes, mice and Wuffles the hamster”.

Me: “No-one is ever going to cook you mice or the hamster”.

SD: “Just in case, leave them on the list”.

ADVENTURES IN SHORT-SIGHTEDNESS #1: That time I went swimming.

In the changing rooms, I hung my white towel on a peg, changed into my costume, and left my glasses in my locker.

I’m extremely short-sighted; I can’t swim in my glasses, obviously, but I can’t see anything without them.

So, I went for a swim—all very pleasant—then back to the changing room for a shower. I grabbed my towel off the peg and started drying with it, instantly realising that something was very wrong. My towel wasn’t the right texture. My towel was, it transpired, actually some lady’s white coat, and she wasn’t very impressed with me.

These days, I wear contact lenses and a pair of goggles while swimming.

THE WINNING LINES: Tales from my dating days #6

“You’re very intelligent, aren’t you? I don’t like to date intelligent women. I find it intimidating.”

Honestly, I’m not Stephen Hawking. Really. But, even if I was, I don’t understand this.

I love meeting people who have strengths that I don’t have. I don’t know the first thing about the night sky, so when an ex pointed out all the different stars in the constellation, it was sexy as hell. I dated someone who played the guitar beautifully; I feel giddy at the memory of it. My boyfriend (not the chap in this story, obviously) is never more attractive than when rolls his sleeves up to fit a new light, or to fix the toilet; jobs that I couldn’t do on pain of death.

I think my date that night must have been quite an insecure person. I wonder, if he’s with anyone now, if he’s told her the good news: that he considers her stupid enough to date?

THE WINNING LINES: tales from my dating days #5

Half an hour into our first date, he looked down at my feet and exclaimed:

“OOOOOOOH, you’ve got lovely big feet, haven’t you? I give a really good foot massage. Some women have got really small feet. I bet I could give yours a really good rub”.

He did not get his mits on my size 8s. Or anything else, for that matter.

THE WINNING LINES: Tales from my dating days #4

We’d been chatting about music for a while. Then, he leaned across the table and said:

“You’re a woman, so how do you know so much about music?” Before I could reply, he continued: “Then again, you’re not really a girly girl, are you? You’re more into the things that the blokes are. I bet you’re still into hair and handbags though.”

Right.

I’m a musician (as well as being a writer, it all helps to pay the bills…) and I’ve loved music for as long as I can remember. However, I don’t see music as being something specifically male or female. Frankly, I get annoyed when people try and define interests like that, goggling at the women who likes football or the stay-at-home dad like they’re some freak of nature.

And for the record, I’m not into hair* or handbags**, but so what if I was?

*My hair pretty much does its own thing, it sits on my head, I don’t think about it much beyond that.

**I have one I like, it’s useful for carrying stuff, that’s about the extent of the bag experience for me.