New Project, please sign up

Hello. Happy New Year. Again.

I mentioned way back in late summer that I had this idea for a sixteen-part weekly mail-out that was going to be a bit like this blog. In fact, the idea was to publish the book that I started back in 2014, a spin off of this blog, which sadly never got commissioned — despite some early interest from publishers — but the idea has kind of spiralled into something else since then. I don’t want to write that book at the moment. I especially don’t want to write it for free.

So this mail-out is a new project, where I’ll be doing some experimental writing that is a mash up of fact and absolute fiction. At the moment I am utterly obsessed with the space between the real and the not real in theatre and literary fiction and non-fiction, the authentic and the fake, the cultural obsession with reality despite our receding — culturally, politically — from trust in experts and reliance on anything like fact (for more on this, I am working on an academic book, which I’ll point you to in the near future). I am not sure where this new project going, exactly — but I know I find it much easier to motivate myself when there are people reading as I write. I know that it is called ‘Sixteen Parts: A Love Story’, and that each entry will be about 5,000 words long. I like the idea of writing a novel length project really, really quickly, like a draft.

I want to capture the experience of being inside yourself and the world at the same time, and that sensation where your mind feels like a computer where all the tabs are open on your browser and you just keep opening more.

I want to say things that are unpalatable and true, but, at once, not true.

I think women’s writing is always most interesting when we’re experimenting with form, and I have always been obsessed with the internet and the different formal structures it has created for writing. These are under-exploited and undervalued because the book, the novel, the ‘industry’, is still and is set to remain the dominant literary form.

I don’t think Sixteen Parts is going to be funny, at least not in the way Reasons to be Single was funny. And it will definitely be more difficult to read than anything I ever wrote here, if only because of the length.

It would be massively motivating for me to start this new project with even a very tiny readership.

Please do subscribe here, the first post will go out this Monday, 8th January 2018.

Thanks for reading,

Katie.x

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Coming soon…16 part mail out

If you’ve been missing Reasons to Be Single, you might be pleased to know I am working on a 16-part email series, loosely based on the blog. It will land in your inboxes weekly, from the first week of January, if you subscribe. I’ll be back with details of how to sign up very very soon.

 

New Blog!

I’ve started a new blogging venture called ‘If You Ask Me’. It’s much like what I was doing here, except I’m hanging my autobiography off other people’s problems now, instead of shoehorning it into numbered statements about single life. You can read the new blog by clicking here, and you can sign up to receive email updates by clicking the ‘follow’ button, located at the foot of the new webpage. Enjoy.xx

New Year, New Me. Goodbye

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They say we never really change. In a school report dated June 23rd 1989, my reception class teacher notes that, while I am well advanced for my age, with a penchant for creative activities ‘such as story writing and junk modelling’, able to read independently and tackle rudimentary maths problems, I also have a tendency to ‘rush [my] work or become frustrated.’ It’s early evidence of impatience — which is one of my less-nice character traits, alongside spite, greed and reckless honesty. I’ve always wanted to be slightly better than I am at things; I’ve always wanted to rush ahead – to get results, quickly, or else I might as well give up.

Unsurprisingly (as you may have noticed if you’ve been a regular reader over the past five years or so), this attitude has not often been useful in the sex and relationships arena. Taking it slow is not a thing I know how to do by instinct. Which leads to most of my romances burning out within the first couple of dates, or else just sort of becoming an emotional void into which I pour my hopes, dreams and self-esteem, until I am left — quivering, husk-like, pessimistic and often drunk — at the open mouth of the future. Or maybe I’m just a drama queen — which is another long-lasting character trait that my reception class teacher kindly left off the school report, although I have life-long friends and family members who will attest to its enduring role in my personality.

This blog has been a great way of dealing with my impatience. Of getting to know myself; of having to return to the same work over and over again, even when I really didn’t want to. It’s been a job of channelling all my insecurities and upsets into something separate from myself. Of rediscovering my love of story writing and junk modelling. It’s been a relief and a therapy and I have been glad for it’s existence. Especially that time I won an award and had my picture taken for a glossy magazine.

But I can’t keep writing it forever and ever.

And although it’s true that we don’t really change, we don’t stay the same either. I don’t feel acerbic and scornful about love any more. I don’t want to keep hanging my autobiography off the fact of my not having a permanent lover, because, at last, it doesn’t feel like something that defines me. I feel (despite my penultimate post, which I wish had been funnier darlings, sorry about that but they say it gets worse before it gets better and things are ok now. I swear) sort of optimistic and sanguine at the same time. My life is good. I am so lucky. I don’t want to blog about being single any more — I have got other things to say.

So, I will still be writing, just not here. You can follow my progress on katiebeswick.com if you’re going to miss me. I have this fledgling plan to start blogging about all the books I’m reading, which will probably be as boring as it sounds — but fuck you, I’m doing it anyway.

Ciao for now and lots of love.xxx

 

Anxiety

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So far, the winter is not going brilliantly. On top of a recent bout of norovirus, I have been suffering with terrible anxiety. It is crippling, all-consuming, terrifying. I have been chronically anxious for just about my whole life, obviously, but this is something different. My anxiety used to be attached to more or less tangible things: to exams, to job interviews, to moving house, to messages from my ex boyfriend, to the concept of dying. But not anymore. Now, it floats around untethered, weaving worries from the silvery threads of the cobwebs on the ceiling of my room.

Now, it manifests physically. I can’t bear the darkness. It makes me think I’ve gone blind. I don’t fall asleep. Or else I do but then I wake up in the night unable to swallow. There is a clunking sound in the pipes. I twist and writhe beneath my duvet, in between bouts of vomiting into the bathroom bin. I am crippled by paralysing pins and needles that engulf my whole body. I have diarrhoea. My feet are heavy and numb, like rocks. My hands open and close back in on themselves; my fingers curl up like claws. I cry all the time. Or else, if I’m not crying, I am very close to the edge of bursting into tears. I sleep sixteen-hour days. Or, at least, I lie in bed trying to dispel the adrenaline, gasping fitful snatches of sleep when they appear. I am unable to get out of bed before 1pm.

What are those strange orbs crowding at the periphery of my vision? Am I dying? I think I might be dying.

Did you ever see Cat on Hot Tin Roof?

Fractured scenes from it keep playing in my mind.

Maggie: Why can’t you lose your good looks, Brick? Most drinkin’ men lose theirs. Why can’t you? I think you’ve even gotten better-lookin’ since you went on the bottle. You were such a wonderful lover… You were so excitin’ to be in love with. Mostly, I guess, ’cause you were… If I thought you’d never never make love to me again… why, I’d find me the longest, sharpest knife I could and I’d stick it straight into my heart. I’d do that. Oh, Brick, how long does this have to go on? This punishment? Haven’t I served my term? Can’t I apply for a pardon?

I ring my friends.

‘I feel a bit anxious.’

‘You’ll be okay. Have a nice bath. Light some candles.’

‘Yes. I will. That’s a good idea.’

‘Make yourself a nice dinner and get some sleep.’

I heat some ox-tail soup from a tin and eat it with an old ryvita I find at the back of the cupboard. I sprinkle lavender oil onto my pillows.

Deadlines shoot by, missed. I can’t read anymore. Nothing longer than a blog post. My eyes scan pages and the words jump around and buzz up at me like angry flies, frightening and incoherent.

I check the Facebook page of the cousin of a girl I went to school with. Her daughter is ill. They are waiting for a bed at the Queen Elizabeth hospital in Woolwich. I check the WhatsApp profile of that guy I was seeing. He’s online now. Who is he talking to?

Remember when I used to read?

There is a clunking sound in the pipes.

I am so selfish.

Last month, I cried at a lunch with my sister. My tears fell in wet streaks and splashed off my chin onto the table. She didn’t know what to say. I couldn’t tell her what was wrong. There weren’t the words for it. It’s everything and nothing. It’s a vinegar sensation burning holes in my heart.

I call my Mum.

‘Me and Holly were saying it might help you to try some medication.’

‘Oh.’

‘We didn’t mean it like that.’

‘I know.’

‘Just for a bit. We’re worried about you.’

‘I know. I’m sorry.’

‘Why don’t you speak to a doctor?’

‘Yeah. Maybe. I’ll think about it. Maybe I just need to stop drinking first.’

I poke and I prod and I scratch at lumps and pimples and bruises on my body. I wonder which one is a tumour that might eventually kill me, and which is innocent, benign, nothing to see here babe, move away.

Maybe I need to stop subscribing to all those cancer blogs.

I dial 111.

‘You need to calm down. You have to learn to stop over-thinking every little thing.’

‘There’s a pain in my chest.’

‘You’re okay. Breathe in deeply. Hold it for two beats. Breathe out to the count of four.’

‘_. _ _. _ _ _ _.’

‘How does that feel?’

‘Better, I think.’

‘Good.’

‘I’m scared I’m going to die of this.’

‘You’re not going to die of this.’

It is very hard to connect with other people. Their voices are loud and irritating; when I listen to them speak it feels as if someone is tapping very hard against the inside of my skull. I am separate, very far away. I am watching life at a pinprick distance, as if through a backwards telescope. Or a spyhole on the outside of a door.

I have lost the art of conversation. I used to be so good at that.

I interrupt people halfway through their sentences. Or I ignore them.

I say boastful, barbed, spiky things.

I don’t trust any of them.

I have forgotten how to love.

My interactions don’t feel as if they belong in the real world: they are more like dress rehearsals. Eventually, I’ll hone the witty, confident, charismatic character that I think I used to have, or that I could have, one day, if I could only stop slagging everyone off and maybe do something about all this pain.

Sometimes I see my dead friend’s absence in the shadows of strangers on the high street. But oh. She’s not here anymore. She’s gone. She’s turned to smoke and faded away on the thin air.

This is really my life.

Do you think a glass of ice-cold prosecco might help? With a raspberry dropped in to make it more festive? A whisky on the rocks? Then another one? A little brandy just to move it all along? Remember that bit in Cat on a Hot Roof?

Brick: Somethin’ hasn’t happened yet.
Big Daddy: What’s that?
Brick: A click in my head.
Big Daddy: Did you say “click”?
Brick: Yes sir, the click in my head that makes me feel peaceful.
Big Daddy: Boy, sometimes you worry me.
Brick: It’s like a switch, clickin’ off in my head. Turns the hot light off and the cool one on, and all of a sudden there’s peace.
Big Daddy: Boy, you’re, you’re a real alcoholic!
Brick: That is the truth. Yes, sir, I am an alcoholic. So if you’d just excuse me.

I’m smiling and nodding at a woman I used to work with. We’re in a café. The lights are very bright.

We’re drinking tea. She is talking about her son. Or her brother. I’m not really listening.

What is that numbness in my little finger?

‘Sorry, can you excuse me a minute?’

I call my Mum.

‘It’s nothing, Kate. Go and see a doctor if you’re really worried’.

I go to the doctor. To the hospital. They give me an enema; pass a camera up my bum. Is this nothing or will it turn into a thing, do you think?

It’s nothing.

And then I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. No, really: really. I can’t breathe. Can I? I’m talking, so I must be breathing — isn’t that the sign — but they were wrong about that, weren’t they? Don’t the police get different guidance on breathing after that black guy, the one in America, died — I remember something from that podcast. What was his name? Am I suffocating?

Is that a pain in my chest or my lungs?

Breathe.

It’s nothing.

Is that pain in my lower back or my kidneys? Where would you feel the pain if it was coming from your liver, if you’d damaged it irrevocably?

A trainee doctor I knew once told me that alcoholics sometimes choke to death on the blood from the burst blood vessels in their throats.

How much do you think Amy Winehouse drank before it was enough to kill her?

Why do I wee all the time?

Am I going to die soon?

There’s a weird hollowness that moves up and down the inside of my body. It starts in my diaphragm.

Is this nothing or will it turn into a thing, do you think?

I’m hot. I lay on the bathroom floor and press my cheek against the smooth, cool tiles. I’m cold again. My skin puckers up into goose-pimples. The thousands of tiny hairs on my arms and legs stand to attention, they are beautiful, slightly bent like erect penises, or flowers reaching up towards the sun.

I’m shaking.

Do you know what, darling?

I don’t think I’m very well.

Part 178: Excitement

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My friend’s sister is getting married and we’re all just fucking sick about it. It’s not jealousy, for once — we really do think she is making a terrible, terrible mistake. I mean, she can’t be thinking straight. There must be some serious denial at play here. Certainly, there is evidence of recklessness — such as how she’s thrown caution to the wind by having his name tattooed on her body in several places, although they’ve not even been dating for a year. (In case you’re unclear, my stance on people getting the names of their lovers or children tattooed on their body is best summed up by a line my brother said to me last year, when I told him my new boyfriend had his son’s name tattooed on his hand: ‘Why, in case he forgets it?’ Although, I do know a woman who has her dead dog’s name tattooed on her forearm and I feel that tips over the precipice of mawkish into brilliant, so it’s a fine line.)

This guy, the friend’s sister’s fiancé, has all manner of warning signs flashing in neon colours all over his personality. He has spent his adult life in and out of prison, he is controlling and violent, he belongs to a polyamorous swingers circle*, he lives in the box room of his elderly mother’s terraced house (the bloke is in his fifties), he is not physically attractive, in either the conventional or unconventional sense. And while I am all for living differently, there is a point at which one must draw a line; a point at which someone’s disregard for social norms morphs into sociopathy. This guy, the fiancé, has reached that point.

‘What does she see in him?’ I asked my friend, when she told me about the impending marriage and her fears for how it would unfold. (Badly.)
‘I dunno,’ she shrugged. ‘She says he’s exciting.’

And I rolled my eyes, cracked a wry smile and thought: ‘Ah! That old chestnut.’

For which of us hasn’t been intoxicated by the ostensible excitement offered by a selfish cad, with regard only for his dick and his ego? Which of us hasn’t felt the sharp, twisted pang of maltreatment and mistaken it for longing? It is easy to confuse unkindness with excitement when your life is a grey series of snapshots: a montage in which you push a vacuum cleaner around the flat, buy discounted three-packs of sellotape from WH Smith and check the Facebook profiles of girls you went to school with, who always seem to be doing very well, thankyouverymuch, if Facebook profile pictures are reliable measures of wellbeing, which they very probably are not.

Excitement is the great big booby trap lying in wait for single women — and, let’s be honest, married women too. It snaps up around our ankles, ensnaring us in its grip. If we’re not careful we very soon end up ragged and strung out, chain-smoking by the river, stress lines criss-crossing deep grooves into our faces — and I’ll just remind you, if you’re still tempted, that the sex rarely holds up after the first month or so. So just beware of that darling, when you feel bad about yourself over Christmas.

It feels good to have finally relieved myself of the need for ‘excitement’, after many years being seduced by its pull.

Not that it’s all good news.

The big story I bring you this week, from the coal-face of dating, is that boring straightforward men can also be massively selfish, egotistical and disappointing. Just because they are a bit geeky and loserish and have fashioned a persona that foregrounds kindness, it does not mean they are truly kind, dynamic, selfless people in real life. In fact, the thing I have learned, lately, is that when people tell you they are kind they are usually only doing it so you won’t shout at them when they act like a prick. Kindness in this scenario acts as a kind of mudguard, in the same way indifference does with your common or garden variety arsehole.

‘So what do you like about him?’ My friend (the one the one whose sister is currently lost to the mists of excitement) asked me, when I described a recent lover, who I thought, perhaps, had the potential to father my children, if only he’d stop being so evasive and dull.
‘He’s gentle,’ I replied.
Now it was my friend’s turn to roll her eyes. ‘Gentle in bed, or gentle, like, picking up a hedgehog?’
‘Gentle with a hedgehog.’
‘Ah that’s nice babe,’ she said, ‘But he’s also boring and a liar. You don’t really want him. You’ll go off the idea.’

And she was right.

It turns out kindness is just as good a cover for sociopathy as excitement, in the kind of guy who didn’t lose his virginity until five or six years after most of his mates. Fuck. Now I remember why I went for the excitement, once upon a time.

Oh well, as Damien Marley once said: Life is a thing when you learn you learn you grow.

*I try not to judge, but can I just say: if you are so broken inside and frightened of intimacy that you cannot love another person without adding a third, forth or even a fifth party into the sexual mix, then you have no business being in relationships at all. Get some therapy. Join us when you’re whole again.

**Is it inappropriate to use a picture of a baby I found on google to illustrate a this blog? Have I mentioned that I want a baby very, very badly and it’s leading me to make some questionable choices? Can you save me from this hell? Can you? Babes, can you? Please?

Part 177: Eleven Essential Pieces of Life Advice

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Yesterday, I read the worst magazine feature that has ever been written. I’m not going to do you the disservice of linking it here because: fuck them and their heteronormative nightmare reinforcement. Fuck them and their sponsored content reminding you just how empty your life is, should you be conducting it sans husband and children. Suffice it to say the article was a list of ‘eleven essential pieces of life advice’ (given by a b-list 90s celebrity who apparently has to do this for money now) and number four was ‘never underestimate the love of a good man.’ (There was another thing about the ‘school run’, but I was so pissed off by the time I got to that I had already texted my housemate and asked him to bring home a very cold bottle of sparkling wine and a straw).

Fuck. Yourself.

It was the kind of article that makes you want to appear in a primary school playground during pick-up up time and perform a naked one-woman show in which you smash wine glasses and graphically describe all the casual sex you’ve ever had.

Anyway, in the spirit of reparation I decided to write my own eleven essential pieces of life advice because, God knows, I can do a better job of it than the people at Red Magazine.

1. When people give you advice, it is inevitably about them. Unless they are your mother
Everyone is basically insecure and uncertain. We all wonder whether we’re doing life right; we are all terrified that the choices we’ve made are the wrong choices. We are all afraid we’ll die sad and alone and then God will make us watch a slide-show of our failures, before relegating us to Hell. This is why when we are asked for advice we reinforce the rightness of our own choices by telling the advisee to do what we have done. Or what we imagine we might have done in the same circumstances. Or what we would have done differently, because we’re so miserable now. (See, for example: ‘It’s probably best to have babies around 35. You’re more sorted then.’ And: ‘In the long term renting is just throwing your money away.’) People who give you advice are only trying to make themselves feel better, unless they are your mother in which case you should probably listen to her. She’s the only one who cares.

2. Don’t tell me you don’t want another drink; I don’t need to hear that
If you have agreed to join me for an evening out, in any capacity whatsoever, you should probably know that I want to stay out late, drink too much, have an argument about politics and then fall asleep under some coats. It is a Friday night and there is absolutely no need to get home sober before 2am, even if you have work in the morning.

3. If you haven’t got a differently sexually oriented bff of the opposite sex, you’re losing at life at life
Look, I don’t want to fetishise homosexuals — I know they don’t exist merely to provide company and companionship for fabulous but neurotic 30-something women who might otherwise fall victim to barbiturate poisoning. On the other hand, I’m not sure I’d be able to get through life without mates who send me bitchy gifs, screen grabs of tragic displays of heterosexuality our mutual friends have committed on social media, and who are willing to let me sing show tunes at them until 1am on a Wednesday night. And they never even want you to suck their dick in return. Which you can’t say about marriage.

4. Don’t wear floral prints to a wedding, unless it’s a slut dress
Are you over the age of twenty-four? Yes? Then chances are — unless it is skin-tight, cleavage revealing and made from some kind of satin — florals are going to make you look middle-aged and frumpy. I’m sorry. That’s just the way it is. You need to decide on sexy or smart. Cute and girlish is over for you.

5. Sometimes people need space
Don’t take it personally. I mean, sometimes people are dickheads. But give it a couple of months before you make up your mind.

6. If he’s made you cry before he’s administered the second orgasm, it’s time to say goodbye

7. If he’s made you cry before administering the first…I don’t know what to tell you babe. But it’s nothing you’re going to want to hear

8. Cultivate a network
The world wants you to think that one person is enough. Your spouse. Your boyfriend. Your best mate. Your nuclear family unit. Toxic one-on-one relationships where you can vacillate between smugness, stagnation and guilt. I want to tell you that the thing you really need is a network. Lots and lots of connected nodes on a web of relationships so that there’s always another option. Trust me on this. I know what I’m talking about.

9. If he cheated with you, he’ll cheat on you
I try to avoid clichés, but nonetheless. Worth remembering.

10. Don’t worry about the corporate affairs of Coca-Cola, you’re only alive for so long
God knows, life is suffering. And while we ought to do our best to make sure we pass on as little suffering to our fellow humans as we possibly can, may I just say: there are very few pleasures that equal an ice cold coke from a can on a hot day, or during a hangover. The Earth is almost definitely going to burn soon. Take pleasure where you can find it.

11. Vegetarianism is not better for your skin, though your soul might prefer it
My acne improved tenfold when I started to eat steaks. Still can’t look a moo-cow in the eyes, but so far, that’s a price worth paying.