Wordgame: Baby

I’ve just come out of a two-day water fast, I’ve got the day off work, and, before I turn back to my gleeful-first-draft-of-a-second-novel, I thought let’s pull something out of the elephant box.

I have never been one for pet names. But I am a sucker for an American accent. Any American accent; I am not remotely picky. My friend once pointed out my unconscious tendency to crane my neck overtly and immediately in the direction of any male American accent I hear. Which was sort of reassuring, because at least I know I’m not lying about it.

As such, I went through a phase of fantasising about a heterosexual American man routinely calling me ‘baby’. Don’t know why. But maybe I do.

It’s one of those words that only an American can get away with, as far as I’m concerned. Another one is ‘pussy’. Unless we’re talking about actual babies and cats, obviously. But if we’re talking about actual cats you have to say ‘pussy-cat’; you can’t just say ‘pussy’. To be honest though, thinking about it, it might just be English people specifically who make me cringe when they defy those decrees.

Up until fairly recently I ached to live in the United States. It felt like where I was supposed to be; like my true home. And once, when travelling in the US, I discussed this with a Canadian during a coach-ride-from-Santa-Rosa-to-San-Jose-long love affair. For the record, a Canadian accent is absolutely close enough to trigger my neurons, and they also benefit from much more favourable stereotypes, so there is that. He posited that my desire was the fault of all the American TV I watched in my youth. I did not like that reasoning. But he was probably right.

I watched a lot of American TV. I probably watched more American TV than I did anything else. The only thing that could have rivalled ‘America’ as a prevalent theme in my life was ‘horses’ and, to be honest, the two often happily overlapped. So, an American accent is probably as comforting to me as an equine aroma. It probably reminds me of childhood. Makes me feel safe. Fills the role of my absent father. Relieves the insecure attachments of my past.

Once, I was walking alone, aged fourteen, along a random street in Florida – could not tell you why – and a guy shouted out of their car as they drove past “you’re beautiful, sweetheart!” and the joy that filled me with lives in my cells. Now we could pick that interaction apart, and find many flaws, but we’re not going to. A male American accent to me sounds like relief. It sounds like invitation to someone who viscerally believes they are uninvited.

Which is weird. Logical, but weird. Kinda broken. A weakness unwise to admit to; so easily exploited it could be. So, yeah, if you have the credentials, call me baby. I’m curious to see what would happen.

Overhead lines

Today was a hot day.

I think the hottest on record for these here British Isles. And I chose to ride on the Metro – the notoriously outdated, incompetent, delay-ridden public transport service that had just yesterday melted.

I could have opted to stay at home.

I could have opted to take the car.

But I took the Metro.

I found practical reasons to argue against those other options. But before the practicalities came the raw desire to ride on the Metro on the hottest day ever. To be part of the excitement. To see what all the fuss was about. To live, goddammit.

I worried I was being stupid; that I’d end up having a miserable day and regret defying the prevalent advice. Please don’t travel on the Metro system if your journey isn’t necessary. But I wanted to. So I did.

And I had a wonderful time, sweat running down the backs of my legs while I tapped my fingers to the Hamilton soundtrack and the train car knocked us all about a bit. I can’t explain it, but it was so much better than not riding the Metro on the hottest day on record. Imagine if I’d just stayed at home! If I hadn’t followed that odd, pointless whim. My day would have just been fine.

S Pen

My mobile device of the past three and a half years has been getting a little ornery lately. In its defence, it has been dropped on countless occasions with absolutely no consideration for its wellbeing. But still, the situation was becoming tedious.

I convinced myself to hold off on rectifying things with an impulse purchase until after my birthday, when an anticipated, modest influx of cash will ease the burden.

When it comes to technology, I’m not a frequent updater – too much faff to keep setting things up. But when I do finally get around to making the significant purchase I have most likely not planned for, I must confess to a rather imprudent proclivity to desire the shiniest, sleekest, most impractically optimal piece of equipment I happen to lay my clammy eyes upon.

And, once I set my sights upon a device, I am regrettably unyielding from that point forward. It must be that one now. The one I have decided to love. The one I have committed myself to, come Hell or high water.

SO I’m writing this with my new S pen on my new S22 Ultra. Unnecessary, yes. Overly indulgent, undoubtedly. The day before my birthday, indeed.

Hayley

The only woman I’ve ever really viscerally wanted to be is singer-songwriter, Paramore frontwoman and ‘hair dye tycoon’ Hayley Williams. And that’s not a thing borne out of fandom, especially, though I have come to appreciate her work in recent years. It’s because part of me resonates so keenly with her, in a way I can’t really explain. Part of me believes I could have been her – should have been – if only, if only I hadn’t failed at being, in all the necessary ways.

When I was younger I was downright jealous of her, and I masked it with disdain. But I was the one who was scared to sing. I was the one who was scared to be in community. I was the failure, and I knew I had no right to criticise her, so the disdain ate at me, and wouldn’t let me forget it.

As I grew older and wiser, I let myself admit that I even enjoyed Paramore a bit. But they remained a ‘guilty’ pleasure. I didn’t want anyone to know I listened to them, and any time I did, which wasn’t often, I felt oddly on display. Who can hear this and what must they think!? As if anyone would think anything at all.

Her solo material was what let me reconcile my complicated feelings about her. We have some important similarities. We’ve had some importantly similar experiences in our lives. We have similar faultlines. We’ve learned similar lessons. But through that and despite it, she was able to continue becoming the success that she is and deserves to be. And I…well I never even seemed to begin. I had been holding that against myself, and she, most than most, reminded me.

What were the differences between us that led to our divergent paths through life, even as we traversed similar terrain? How was she able to build and maintain a fulfilling career, while every avenue I even thought of pursuing collapsed around me in short order? Why could she sing and I couldn’t? Why could she integrate and I couldn’t? We were both in pain, so my pain wasn’t the reason. How could she do it, and do it so well, and I couldn’t do it at all?

Well, there are very good explanations, of course. But that’s another tale.

Happy Val Day, Sab

Some things stick with you, I guess.

Like that episode of Sabrina The Teenage Witch where Harvey made her a Valentine’s card but he was so obsessed with it being symmetrical that he kept cutting it smaller and smaller, and in the end he could only fit on ‘Happy Val Day, Sab’, but then the knowledge that he liked symmetry became crucial in a test of Sabrina’s love that would decide his fate. Or something.

I thought about that episode when I was hitching a ride from a shady older lady who was scared to give me her real name so called herself Sabrina, and I thought about it today when considering the possibility of a Valentine’s Day post.

For a long time I had a story that I’d never received a Valentine’s card. That changed in 2017, courtesy of my son’s father. He even wrote me a poem inside. It was an excellent first Valentine’s Day card . It was small and simple – tasteful, even – and the poem was sweet, but suitably tongue in cheek, and admirably executed. It was a truly beautiful thing he did for me and, despite the torrent of sludge that followed between then and now, I still look back on it with pleasure, gratitude and a kind of quiet awe. I keep it in my box of memories, and I imagine I will keep it there for as long as I have a box of memories.

There was never a follow up though. And I don’t mind – it’s not a thing that troubles me, and it’s not a thing I hanker after. But it’s sobering, sometimes, to think, on the one hand, how eager I am to just fucking pour out love onto somebody else in every way I can imagine and, on the other, how easily fucking pleased I am with the smallest of affectionate gestures. How little it takes for my mind to be blown.

It honestly probably scares me more than anything else to imagine someone giving me the kind of love that I want to give to someone else. Not because I don’t want it. Not because I think I don’t deserve it. Rather because it is so precisely, exactly, exquisitely what I do want and deserve that it would catapult me into some other plane of existence that I can’t fully comprehend.

I have earned a person who wants to pour love onto me. And I have earned a person who values the love I want to pour onto them. Not that you should have to earn that, but I fucking have anyway. I have earned a new plane of existence. And I do want to go there, scary though it may be. But I wonder…if I’m still scared of it, are they too? Is the person I am theoretically seeking to exchange with mirroring my apprehension? And, if so, where do I go from here, to get to there?