Friday, 7 June 2013

Wrong Ex Machina

But what you fail to appreciate, you vapid, vacuous, pollyannaish cunt of a machine, is that I may be entirely accurate in my assessment that I am the worst person who has ever lived! You're assuming that I'm lovely, which is nice and all, but I might not be. You know NOTHING. I have done HORRIBLE THINGS and think HORRIBLE THOUGHTS and it's all a MASSIVE FACADE to hide the fact that I am AWFUL. What if Hitler was taking this test on How Much Your Self-Worth Is Dependent On Other People's Attitudes, huh? He'd score great! That wouldn't have made him any less of a genocidal fuckhead! Because he actually was bad, like I am actually bad, OH GOD I'M WORSE THAN HITLER...
When you're arguing computerised CBT because it refuses to agree that you are the devil incarnate, it's probably time to call it a day.

(Which is not to denigrate CBT! CBT is great, and the only talky therapy to show measurable results in trials (though longer-term therapies are more difficult to study), and I personally found it super-helpful in dealing with anxiety, and if I manage to stop arguing with it I imagine it will be similarly useful in attacking depression. Also you can do it for free at Here endeth today's inspirational message.)

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Mental illness: not Darth Vader

I love this. It's a massive poster in a tunnel at Euston and every time I walk past it during the commute home it makes me grin.

In related deliciously dark humour news, my manager now prefaces even minor criticism with "don't kill yourself, but..."

Not that I'm recommending this as a general policy for Handling Your Local Mental, but it's exactly the way I personally like people to deal with it. I might be losing my ever-tenuous grip on sanity, but you don't have to treat me like a bomb that could explode at any moment. Serious Voice and Sad Face will not fix the Broken Brain. Laughter may not be the best medicine - in my case, 40mg of citalopram per day is the best medicine - but taking the piss out out of mental illness (as distinct from taking the piss out of people with mental illnesses) is a lot less depressing than turning it into some all-powerful godbeast. It's not bloody Darth Vader.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Pretty on the outside: fuck elegance

I don't drink much these days, but when I do, I wake with The Hangover Of All Misery. It's not physical as much as it is emotional: I am utterly crippled by the knowledge of having done something awful. Sometimes there are specifics - public vomiting or bad kissing decisions have featured prominently over the years - but recently it's just a vague sense of having been a bit of a prick. Too loud, too argumentative, too sweary. Not elegant. Uncouth. Unladylike.

Like pretty much every other mid-20s woman who likes cats and hangs out in Stoke Newington, I am a little bit in love with Audrey Hepburn. The style, the poise, the elegance; the capri pants, the pearls, the delicate little cashmere sweaters. That late 50s/early 60s aesthetic is always at the back of my mind when I gaze at my teetering clothes rail, always what I'm aiming for on a charity shop budget.

But it was only last night, when I was bemoaning my lack of confidence in social situations (it is SO HARD TO BE ME) that I realised that elegance as a personality trait is not actually something I should be aspiring to.

Elegance seems best expressed by the oft-quoted Victorian aphorism about the proper place of children: seen but not heard. Elegant, and its sister ladylike, are about looking fabulous and shutting the fuck up. Which is exhausting.

The 90s moral panic about "ladettes" - god forbid we drink pints and have fun! - has, I think, infected my thinking on this. It's a deeply class-based prejudice, this - I don't actually know anything a bout the family backgrounds of Zoe Ball, Sara Cox, Denise Van Outen et al, but the Daily Mail's objection to them was "they're acting like our nightmare vision of working class women!" as much as it was "they're acting like MEN!".

What I'm worried about when I wake up wracked with shame is that I have acted like a Ladette, desperately needy to identify as One Of The Boys.

So what's the alternative? Smile sweetly and express the occasional opinion in a gentle, womanly tone, too demure to be heard over the Saturday night hubbub? I like getting into ridiculous arguments about sexism over several pints, setting the world to rights as we queue at the bar. I like using my chic little dress, with its teapot-print bodice, to mop up the lager I spilt gesticulating too enthusiastically. I like the contrast between ladylike dress and entirely unladylike behaviour, sitting cross-legged in a foofy 50s picnic frock while punctuating my points by stabbing the air with a cigarette.

It's all very well pointing out that subscribing to the aesthetics and hobbies of the 50s doesn't necessitate embracing their mores, but if I'm still aspiring to elegance, I've got a long way to go.

Hanging out with a gang of feminist types yesterday, I was struck by the brilliance with which the birthday girl synthesised the perceived incongruity of hairy armpits and elegant, feminine frock into something sublime. (Also: spending a hot sunny day with people who couldn't give the flimsiest fragment of a shit that you haven't shaved in a week is so restful.)

And with that, I am - no word of a lie - off to the pub.