So, that One Direction documentary…

Can somebody explain the point of that ‘One Direction’ Channel 4 documentary to me, please? At the moment I feel as though I’ve completely missed something, somewhere.

In case you’re wondering what I’m referring to; a week or two ago Channel 4 ran a 60 minute documentary about the female fans of the group, ‘One Direction’. It’s on 4OD right now, which is where I watched it. Titled ‘Crazy About One Direction’, which should kind of give you an idea in which editorial direction they were headed, the programme followed a group of fans while they wept, laughed, got excited by and generally fangirled over the band.

So far so normal, right? But that was it. End of. No talking-head psychiatrists, drafted in to give us an overview of how and why crushes happen. No insight into the security guards, employed to keep the wily young things at bay.

I mention the security guards because one of the most fascinating things I have ever seen up close was during a book signing by ‘The Wanted’ at Waterstones, Piccadilly. Elisar and I were on a night out and we stopped in at 5th View, the bar and restaurant on the top floor of the store. On arrival, it was plain that something was up, as the store was full of squealing teenage girls and beleaguered looking middle aged male security guards. There was some kind of cordon around the lifts but, I assume because we don’t look like screaming teeny boppers, we were waved on through. After we settled ourselves in the bar, we slowly became aware that the tables around us were filling with teenage girls, who were whipping each other up into a quiet frenzy. The over 18s were buying the cheapest thing on the menu and splitting it between four, or six, or eight of them, whereas the under 18s were chased out, only to sneak back in, to be chased out again and so on, like some weird human cat and mouse game. After about 20 minutes of this, the lift doors opened and a group of spotty, gawky, distinctly average young boys came self-consciously shuffling out. They were quickly ushered into the restaurant by a bunch of meaty bodyguards, while assorted teenage girls screamed/fainted/giggled/cried etc. We observed how difficult the bodyguards’ jobs had to be, somehow having to physically remove pre-pubescent females from these boys, who barely looked of legal age themselves, while avoiding any accusations of inappropriateness, assault, etc.

As we were leaving I struck up a conversation with one of the bodyguards, mainly because I didn’t have a clue who the boys were and wanted to ask, but also because I was curious about the job. Sure enough, this poor guy was full of tales of over-eager young women and their various schemes to get to the band. The guy marvelled about his own teenage daughters, in a vaguely sad way, only hoping that they didn’t behave in a similar matter.

But they probably do. For years teenage girls have fallen in love with pop groups, actors, models and so on. It’s not new, and it’s not news either. What I recall about my brush with ‘The Wanted’ isn’t the reaction of the girls, but watching the machine around the band deal with it. That was what was so fascinating to witness up close.

So why did the documentary makers, on this occasion, see fit to give us 60 minutes of what really tantamounted to nothing more than an opportunity to laugh a bit at some young girls in the grip of a hormone-induced fever?

Okay, so it was a bit disturbing when some of the girls professed their hatred for the band’s girlfriends, and openly discussed death threats, but point a camera at a pubescent and you’re going to get bravado. Jesus, I remember as a young teenager hating Dusty Springfield because she got to sing with the Pet Shop Boys and I was jealous because I thought they might fancy her, or something. Seriously, can you even begin to work out how much is wrong with that picture? You’d need a flowchart. My father did actually attempt to sit me down and gently explain that Dusty really wouldn’t be interested in Neil and Chris and, honestly, they wouldn’t be interested in her either, but I didn’t want to know. Of course, Twitter didn’t exist then. The Internet didn’t exist then either. We all wrote on chalk and slate and went to school in horse and carts, or something.

But my point is that girls throughout the ages have been silly for boys. In the same way that boys obsess over comics, or football (and sometimes other boys), girls obsess over boys (and sometimes comics and football and other girls). When I was 15, I queued all night with a friend for tickets to a Jason Donovan gig for Christ’s sake. At 16, friends of mine would camp outside the family homes of Matt and Luke Goss. Take That, Oasis, Blur, Guns and Roses, show me men in a band and I’ll show you a teenage girl convinced she is their one and only. I’ll also show you fanfic, fanart etc. Especially of the homoerotic variety. In fact, show me ANY band, TV show, play, film where two popular people of the same sex appear and there will be gay porn on the web about it. Guaranteed. The stuff I’ve seen Gene Hunt and Sam Tyler do online would make your eyes pop! As for The Master and The Doctor. Actually, I quite like the Master/Doctor stuff. I’m totally convinced there’s some UST there….sorry I digress.

So yes, what was the point? I came away feeling it was all a little bit nasty and…superior, I guess. Like ‘look at these weirdos’. I felt sad when the girls were crying who couldn’t afford tickets to the big arena gigs. I didn’t want to see the camera shoved in their faces. I wanted to hear from doctors and psychologists about how and why these crushes happen and what they mean. About how they seem to be a very female thing, and why this is. I wanted to hear from venue staff, hotel staff and police about how they prepare and deal with this level of crowd control. I’d have loved to have heard from the band, or their ‘people’ about it. But, instead, I felt as though this was nothing more than a freak show, comprised entirely of young girls. Because young girls don’t have enough to worry about already, without being ridiculed for what is, quite simply, normal teenage behaviour.

I don’t really know much about One Direction, to be honest. I know they came from X Factor, there’s one called Harry (I only know that because he dated a bird around my age), and they did a song about being beautiful, or something. I know they have fans who are pretty devoted and make them trend constantly on Twitter. That’s the sum total of my knowledge. And after watching that documentary, it’s still the sum total. What a shame.

Whose womb is it anyway?

There is so much fucking bollocks spouted about having children. Can you think of another aspect of one’s private life that is open to so much public debate and discussion? I can’t.

It seems to me that the nanosecond you get into a serious relationship, people seem to think that this entitles them to enquire as to your future plans for procreation. I’m not talking about close friends, where this might be acceptable, but acquaintances and even total random strangers.

I’m 38 and childless. I’ve been with my husband for eight years. These two facts combined seem to send some people positively apoplectic. ‘What do you mean you don’t want children?’ ‘You’ll regret it when you’re a lonely bitter old woman’ and my personal favourite ‘you’re not doing your duty as a wife’. All genuine things that have been said to me within the past six years. Pretty much since we decided that kids were off the agenda.

Because we made the choice lightly, you understand. One morning, in the midst of our selfish, child-free lie ins, we decided that kids would spoil all our fun.

I wish that was true. That would have been brilliant, actually. I can see no reason why that wouldn’t be as valid a choice as what actually happened; that we made the decision following my third miscarriage.

Uncomfortable yet? I hope not. It doesn’t make me uncomfortable. I find it endlessly odd that, as a society, we seem so intent on championing childbirth, and yet are so quick to brush it under the carpet when it ends badly. And considering something like half of all pregnancies end in miscarriage (according to Tommys), that’s a lot of denial. Babies die. It’s a sad fact of life, but it is a fact. So it makes it all the more mind numbingly fucking unbelievable when anyone thinks they have a right to wade in and start telling women what we can and should do with our bodies.

Who knows? Maybe my fourth, or fifth, or sixth pregnancy would have come out okay. Statistically that is possible, but after talking to doctors we made the decision that, actually, we didn’t fancy going through it all again and, just maybe, there was a bit more to life than having kids. I can happily report that there is. Yay me! That doesn’t mean I’m saying don’t have kids – if you want them, and are in a position to nourish and support them, go have a dozen. But if you’re not sure, for God’s sake don’t let yourself be bullied by other people. Or The Media.

Because The Media is increasingly vocal about what women should and shouldn’t be doing with their own reproductive systems. Look at this little sparkly gem in The Guardian.. So, we’re apparently selfish, decadent and stupid for deciding not to add more people to this already horribly overpopulated, overstretched world. I’ll remember that next time I’m paying my taxes that go towards things like schools, and childcare, that I will never ever use but will happily contribute towards for other people’s families. I’ll remember it when I am able to look after my friends’ kids, and give said friends a much needed break. I’ll remember it when, hopefully in the future, my niece and nephew come over from the USA to spend time with their cool aunt and uncle in London. The ones who will spoil them rotten and take them everywhere they want to go and give them undivided attention, like my awesome childless Godparents did with me when I was a kid. I’ll remember it next time I give a workshop on acting and writing to a bunch of kids for no pay, just because I think it’s important for them to have access to this stuff. There are millions of childless women out there; contributing, participating and doing the right things. We have the right to be judged on more than the sum of our eggs and sperm.

And what of sperm? Because daddies are in for it too, apparently. We’ve all heard about the absent ‘baby daddy’, but now stay at home dads aren’t good enough either. Well, according to Virginia Ironside anyway .

What the actual fuck? There is SO much wrong with this I have no idea where to start. This clever blog by Glosswitch is a pretty good summation. So, all adopted children, kids fathered by gay men and kids where mum works are going to grow up maladjusted and scarred? I think I would like to invite Ms Ironside to grow the fuck up, herself. I would certainly like to see her source material and research for such a sweeping statement. Notice nothing is referenced in the article. Hmmn, funny that.

Now, here’s a radical idea. Unless children are in danger, or are being hurt, or abused, or threatened in any way, how about we all just chill out and mind our own fucking business and allow people to get on with their own lives? How about we respect our multitude of differences and let people make the intensely private choices about whether and how they raise a family without commentary, judgement or interference?

And the next time you open your mouth to ask a friend, neighbour, colleague or even someone you just met why they don’t have any kids yet, just stop and think about why you’re asking. Is it for their wellbeing, or for your own curiosity?

And then talk about the weather instead.

My thoughts on #Twittersilence

It’s amazing, isn’t it?  I mean, the capacity for some of humanity to be utterly, utterly vile.  All week I’ve been reading about rape and bomb threats made to women on Twitter.  Women who dared to campaign for equality, or identify themselves as feminists, or be successful enough to have a verified Twitter account or, even it seems, just to be female and on Twitter.  Whatever.  But, of course, this isn’t something that’s unique to women. Gay people, people of colour, people with disabilities, people without disabilities, famous people, non-famous people; Trolls don’t discriminate, they’re just utter cunts.

So, some Twitter users have chosen to boycott Twitter today. Fine. Good luck to them. I didn’t.  Why?

Because I don’t think the best way to draw attention to bad behaviour is to stay silent.
Bullies love it when their victims stay silent.  The only way this has made such a shit-storm in the press this week is because people have been vocal about the abuse they’ve been receiving. Stand up and shout about it. Shame these idiots. I mean, come on. Really? What kind of ‘man’ sends a threat to rape another human being (men get rape threats too). Think about how ludicrous that is – how small, pathetic, and insecure you’d have to be to resort to that. “I have a penis, and I am stronger that you, so I am going to forceably insert it in you, because I can and it proves something about me.” Really, it’s laughable.

Because the vast majority of Twitter users are perfectly reasonable, decent human beings.
The fact that this has created such a massive shit-storm proves this. Most people are outraged by what’s going on.

Because I don’t blame Twitter for the behaviour of a small minority of its users.
Twitter is a free speech platform.  These Tweets go way beyond free speech, but there is already an existing report function for offensive/abusive/threatening behaviour. There is also the Police, who take rape, death and bomb threats very seriously. Trust me. I’ve had death threats. It wasn’t nice but the Police were awesome. Where there is a communication medium, someone will find a way to abuse it. My death threats came over the telephone, but I don’t blame BT for that –  I blame the silly, small minded, jealous woman who did them.

Because I choose not to let other people’s ridiculous behaviour affect my own.
OK – I have a massive issue with people who say ‘you really offended me when…’. No, you cannot be offended, you can only take offence. Nobody can force you to be offended by something – you make that choice yourself. People can say all the shit in the world, but if you choose to, you can laugh it off. Yes, threats of physical violence are scary and need to be dealt with by the authorities, but insults? Do you want to choose to allow that to affect your whole day – or not? When I tell people I don’t give a fuck, I’m not kidding. Why waste time worrying about what other people think? Those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.

Because there was something a bit painfully middle class and elitist about this boycott.
Let’s be honest, as I mentioned above, Twitter abuse isn’t old news, but now it’s affected a particular section of the ‘Twitterati’ and suddenly there is much wailing and gnashing of teeth over their Fairtrade skinny lattes. Yes, I’m stereotyping – that’s fine. It’s a stereotype that I personally fit into, but I don’t feel like ‘the sisterhood’ is being attacked. I don’t feel like I need to be a member of a little club of people all doing something and screaming ‘look at meeeeee, I’m doing something‘. I want to see an end to threats to every human being. I want to see the spotlight thrown on all the dark corners, on every little dirty troll hiding behind a keyboard. I want to see positivity, support, genuine appreciation and respect for our multitude of differences put out there.

I want to see people being decent to each other, for fuck’s sake.

Is that too much to ask?

I thought it was just me…aka…irrational hatreds…aka…men in red trousers

You know that thing you really hate?  The thing that really irritates you, yet you know it’s so completely ridiculous that it must just be a ‘you’ thing, right?  Well that’s how I feel about red trousers. Or, to be more precise, men in red trousers. So, I was kinda surprised to see this article on the BBC Website yesterday – Why do people mock men in red trousers?

So, this is officially A Thing then?  It’s suddenly okay to point and laugh?  Alright, I don’t do that – unless it’s at Euan King, who owns the aforesaid offensive garment. But this is a man who once, while drunk, held me personally responsible for the English persecution of William Wallace – no, I have no idea why either. It probably had something to do with me being English, and the fact it was his round. But, I digress.  While I have no intention of sniggering behind my hand at any member of the male sex who decides to don a pair of burgundy slacks or crimson jeans, the fact remains that, deep down, I’ll be willing them to change into something…well…a bit nicer.

I’ve had a think about where this prejudice comes from. In the BBC article, Lisa Armstrong from The Daily Telegraph says “it’s the brightness and ostentation that offends in a country where menswear styles are typically conservative and muted.”  But this doesn’t wash for me.  If a bloke was to wander along the street in bright pink trousers, for instance, I’d be dead impressed.  My ire is uniquely reserved for the red trouser brigade.

On reflection, the only reason I can think of is that, pretty much, every man I’ve ever met who wears them has turned out to be a twat. Except for my friend Kelly Eva May’s boyfriend, who’s lovely and currently driving halfway around the world for charity, so he can wear whatever he likes.  And Euan, I suppose.  But he has only ever ventured out in his red trews on stage for 3some, so on some level he must know, subliminally, as they nestle deep in his wardrobe, that they’re wrongity wrong.

So yes. My name is Lisa and I am trouserist.  Who knew??