Thursday, 27 February 2014

Pity the poor writer. Or don't, if you've got it worse.

I’ve got enough self-pity for all of us. About 15 years ago, in the midst of a welter of self-harming friends, court cases, sleep deprivation, excessive responsibility and a sore hoohoo along with the rest, someone said to me: it’s not a competition.
About 30 years ago, when I was wailing on my bed about having been dumped, someone said to me, it could be worse, you could be starving in Africa.

It’s not a competition. It could be worse. That doesn’t mean it’s not horrible. I’m having a shit-there’s-no-money week at the end of a shit-there’s-no-money month. There’s still a roof over our heads. There’s the makings of at least two meals in the freezer, though they won’t be very nice and may or may not involve at least one portion of something that’s incubating a few toxins. Because it’s been in the freezer against emergencies through a power outage when we were away and too skint to top up the electricity meter.

But I am a Professional Writer. I’ve been Published. If I want to be Published again, I can’t own up to being broke. I’ve got to smile sweetly when someone forgot to pass the invoice to the accounts department, or comes out with the old actually-we-don’t-pay-till-next-week-oops-sorry-next-month and say never mind, doesn’t matter. Because these days just about everyone who works in the arts or the media has parents who will bail them out or already gave them a trust fund, and thinks being broke means shopping at Tescos rather than Waitrose, and consider it a bit peculiar and ‘difficult’ and ‘demanding’ of freelancers or authors to be concerned about money. 

So then it comes down to the point where the cable bill hasn’t been paid and therefore the internet is off, and the emergency dongle all of a sudden has a minimum connection fee of a fiver when you only have two pounds, and even when you’ve paid it, you're on the old computer because the decent one's been pawned, as has everything else that isn't nailed down. So the connection is apocalyptically unstable and after you’ve hit Page Unresponsive Reload about 25 times you still can’t get where you want to be, and therefore can’t fulfil the promises you made and all the duties that are now expected of a writer, And OK, you're not needing a referral to the food bank yet, but all that's in your inbox is chirpy requests to submit work to organisations that 'don't have a budget but it will be great exposure for you', then maybe you start thinking that it’s not just writers who should be aware there’s something wrong somewhere.

Friday, 14 February 2014

A Hugger's Guide

Hugs, it's said, are wonderful. They certainly can be. Most people like to hug friends or family, when meeting again after a separation, when someone's sad, when someone's happy, when you're scared or disappointed or just feel appreciative. Whatever. Hugs can be Very Nice.

Just not always, and not from just anyone. While I'm tippy-toeing round making any assumptions about the guilt or innocence of any high-profile individuals accused of abusive behaviour, I have been thinking about the sort of people who claim to have a 'cuddly' personality. We all have personalities, and personality traits, and some of them will win us friends and some of them will make other people run away screaming, but one of the ways to show that we're actually grown-up and decent individuals is to be aware that we can control our personality traits around others. Even the ones we think make us 'better' than the rest. People who are loud and proud about their 'honesty' and 'plain speaking' for instance, are quite often hell to be around. For one thing, they're never honestly nice. What they usually are is fucking rude and self-righteous about it.
Cuddly, huggy people can be just as dubious. OK, obviously, some 'tactile' individuals genuinely are creeps who are just interested in copping a quick feel.

They may disguise their rapey, predatory behaviour with a lot of guff about how they are just being friendly, but they're a bit too prone to other obnoxious behaviours and/or fairly blatantly wandering hands. They also don't tend to go on, and on, and on, about the wider world's need for more hugs, because they don't care.

Some people use hugs, and the concept of hugs as necessary and a Good Thing, to feed their own egos, not necessarily in a sexual context. They see themselves as touchy-feely Special Snowflakes, who can 'help' other people to be more in touch with their emotions and less uptight. Unfortunately, a lot of people in this category don't wash often enough, which makes their hugs even more of an endurance test.

And some people are just stupidly socially inept. They've read or heard that Hugs R Good, so they just bumble around hugging at random and then wonder why people run off crying, kick them in the shins or press charges..

It's really for the benefit of the clueless that I profer the following advice:

If someone shows no interest in having a hug, walk away.

If someone has actively expressed a complete distaste for being hugged, do not hug this person.

Hugs are not medicine, people don't NEED them , much, certainly in adulthood.

If you are wealthy and successful and powerful DO NOT hug your workforce. Because you are their boss and you pay their wages, and even if you smell like three-day-old Nandos leavings they will feel obliged to tolerate hugs from you no mutter how much they hate the idea. They are under no obligation to be hugged against their wishes. Nor is anyone.