anxiety, creative writing, fiction, flash fiction, mental illness, short fiction, short stories, Uncategorized, women, writing

Permission

PERMISSION

 

She opened her handbag and tipped the contents onto the floor. A shower of make up accessories, a pack of cigarettes, receipts and tissues hit the floor with a dull rattle. Her eyes bulged in their sockets and her lips were pulled back over her teeth. Despite the tailored suit and the immaculate hair, she had gone from composed to feral with a lupine ease.

 

Theresa rolled her eyes when she thought that the woman was not looking. She had been at the store for four years and had her SIA license, which she would remind me of, on a regular basis.

 

There’s a rhythm to shoplifting, a poor man’s ballet, a symphony played on broken bottles and cigarette ends. It’s called SCONE and she had sung along with me since she had come in. Selecting the lipstick, concealing it on her person and trying to hide the thrilled smile as she did it. She did not see me at the end of the aisle, taking a deep and profound interest in the presentation of the special offer toothbrushes nor did she bother the checkouts as she sailed past. Her head was high as she left the store, the ecstasy of stealing running through her veins.

 

She had not taken it at all well. The moment that I asked her to come back into the store, she had begun a torrent of abuse that she only ended when she ran out of breath. Hence the handbag.

 

‘Madam, you’re making this more difficult than it needs to be.’

 

My tone was even, which caused her to look down at the contents of her handbag. Her lips went back over her teeth and she asked in a small, broken voice if she could grab the tissues that were part of the pile.

 

‘I’m having some problems.’

 

She offered this, and to a certain degree, until the police were called, we had some discretion left to us. We dealt with first cases by offering them a taste of what would happen. The impressionable would be suitably frightened enough not to do it again but the professionals would stay silent, greeted by their first name when the police arrived. A woman crying is one of the most uncomfortable things you can experience, but it was easier to deal with than rage.

 

Theresa unfolded her arms. The woman gave the lipstick back without incident and her relief was palpable, waking from a nightmare to find that it was not real.

 

When I saw her again, it was on the evening news, yellow crime scene tape strung outside a house that I could never afford, a police car in the foreground and an earnest reporter with a helmet of brown hair telling us about the tragedy that had unfolded. She was smiling as they led her out of the van, months later, and even when they sentenced her, she had a beatific smile on her face. Kids and husband, they said. Used a kitchen knife until the blade snapped. It did not say on whom, but the tea in my mouth tasted like blood. 

The timeline suggested that she had gone straight home that afternoon, redundancy with it’s fresh sting, a husband who had never recovered from his own fall from the pedestal of employment and loud, troubled children with an anagram alphabet of mental conditions. She grabbed the first weapon available and decided that if she had gotten away with one thing, why not another?

I should have let her take the bloody lipstick.

 

Advertisements
Standard
book reviews, books, compassion, courage, culture, reading, Uncategorized, women, work, writing

The Sex Myth by Dr Brooke Magnanti

412pptsepul-_sy344_bo1204203200_

Synopsis:

Is there any truth to the epidemic of sex addiction? Are our children really getting sexualised younger? Are men the only ones who like porn? Brooke Magnanti looks at all these questions and more – and proves that perhaps we’ve all been taking the answers for granted.

Brooke Magnanti is no stranger to controversy. As Belle de Jour she enthralled and outraged the nation in equal measure. Now her real identity is out in the open, Brooke’s background as a scientist and a researcher can come to bear in her fascinating investigation into the truth behind the headlines, scandals and moral outrage that fill the media (and our minds) when it comes to sex.

Using her entertaining and informed voice, Brooke strips away the hype and looks at the science behind sex and the panic behind public policy. Unlike so many media column inches, Brooke uses verifiable academic research. This is fact not fiction; science not supposition.

So sit back, open your mind and prepare to be shocked

Most of what we think we know, what we are told about contentious issues in respect of sexual mores is wrong. It’s floated on a tide of faux outrage, opinions and hidden agendas. What Dr Magnanti has done here is present actual evidence that this drive is harmful to the people that it claims to be protecting. That the continued criminalisation of sex work adds to the vulnerability of sex workers rather than protects them to any degree.

If you’ve read The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, then you are seeing the horseshoe theories of far left and far right ideologies being used to build the future that Atwood shows us. Ironically, it’s a system that strips women of agency and it’s sad that Dr Magnanti is one of a small group of people who have done the work of pointing this out.

If you are at all concerned or interested in women’s issues, then this book will either make you angry or make you think about the opinions that you hold. I was moved by the compassion, the excellent and rigorous data that she wields to maximum effect. In one section, she refers to her own experiences as a sex worker (she wrote two books under the nom de plume Belle De Jour) where a comment on the Guardian’s website said that the ideal ending to her story was for her to be left dead in a ditch, for which she sought legal redress, to no avail.

A fatal flaw in any movement, is one where we ignore the voices of the people concerned. If those voices are inconvenient to the aims and objectives of the movement then it must be asked if it is a worthwhile cause at all. Since I read about Watergate, my maxim has always been cui bono (who profits) and Dr Magnanti shows us that there exists an alliance of conservative millionaires and radical activists, fronted by well meaning but poorly informed celebrities, fronting foundations where as little as one dollar in fifty goes to actually helping people but goes to gala functions and gift bags.  If it can be said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, then the mortar is incomplete evidence and massaged statistics.

This is an uncomfortable book to read, touching on hot topics such as pornography, human trafficking, sex work and freedom of speech. She’s on Twitter as @bmagnanti and is definitely worth a follow if you’re interested in her thoughts and opinions. I thought this book was fantastic and entirely worth a place on any thinking person’s bookshelf, if only to fuel interesting debates, which is where we grow as people and hopefully as a society.

 

Standard
Uncategorized

Art can be a lesson that we leave behind, a horrible warning instead of a shining example. Art, he said, isn’t your little paintings and comic books. Art is the meteor that wiped out the dinosaurs

Joey Comeau.

Once you’ve finished something and put it out there, then it’s no longer yours but the other side of the coin is that you shouldn’t have to entertain those people telling you how they would have done it.

Didn’t think that The Hobbit represented your ethnicity/sexuality?

Write your own. Don’t complain on your blog, so you can have everyone nod in agreement and then nothing changes. Make your own mythologies around what you want to see in the world.

Sometimes, I’ve seen this outrage expressed and I know that it doesn’t change anything.  Deep down, I wonder if these people know that. If you’re blogging, tweeting, tumblring or facebooking then you’re writing about writing when you could actually be writing.

To quote The West Wing, decisions are made by those who show up. There’s no conspiracy to prevent different ideas coming up in the marketplace, it’s just you’re not putting them out there.  You can self publish, host your comic on a website, ask people for the money to make that happen.

Show courage and make your art. The other side of that is to tell a good story. If you’re simply retelling someone’s work with a character that represents your point of view, then that’s fan fiction but you’re not complaining about that, are you?

You’re dreaming of sitting there in the cinema and seeing you onscreen. Of holding the hardback, of hosting the exhibition.

I spent a long time not writing, and the short time I’ve spent writing has been exciting and frustrating all at once. I’m writing about what I want to see in the world, and oddly enough it’s not white men doing things because there’s lots of that to go around.

Don’t wish that Tolkien had been african, write your mythologies.

Don’t wish that Batman had been asian, write your own version. Strip it back to the core and rebuild it. Tell the stories you want to see in the world.

Keep telling them until you get good at them. Time and determination matter. Finish the things you start and spend more time reading and writing than complaining online about it.

View it as an act of generosity, that your stories are gifts to the world and keep doing it until someone says ‘hey, I want to buy that.’

Your outrage doesn’t take you anywhere, it just drains the light from your eyes until you see nothing but outrage. In this turn of the wheel, you’re you, whoever that is, don’t waste your creative time on anything but that which gives you joy.

I’m not outraged or complaining, I’m happy in what I do and in being an artist. You appoint yourself, I just see people complaining that they’re not being represented and doing nothing about it.  I say this because I want to see more good work, that talks from other places, other voices.

Stories are also fantastic ways to express ideas and beliefs in ways that resist dismissal. Think about it, don’t spit spite at strangers, seduce them with stories and then everyone wins in the end.

 

 

What Art Can Be

Quote
Uncategorized

“It’s interesting that most gadgets are called ‘iPhone’ and ‘iPod,’ with that ‘i’ prefix, which is ego. But most creativity is not ego-led—a lot of it comes from the unconscious. So if you’re always checking your email or updating your Instagram profile, you’re not just looking out the window, daydreaming. You’ve got to let the subconscious in—that’s my main message to the world. I sound like I’ve been reading too many self-help books, don’t I?”

Jarvis Cocker

“I feel like it’s not about the music anymore—it’s about how many friends you have on Facebook and your Instagram pictures. I hate that. It’s such bad publicity for music and for true artists, and I’ll try to fight as hard as I can to not be like that.”

M83’s Anthony Gonzalez

Creativity and Social Media

Quote
Uncategorized

“There is nothing more rare, nor more beautiful, than a woman being unapologetically herself; comfortable in her perfect imperfection. To me, that is the true essence of beauty.” – Steve Maraboli

“There is nothi…

Quote
Uncategorized

A Rich, Secret Wildness

I’m conscious of how my sexual responses and presuppositions work as a masculine male, the physical and emotional cues and reactions that I have when I am intimate. I have written about that before but what interested me was that there was simultaneously a wealth and a deficit of writing about it in comparison to women’s responses. I even write to that cycle, shape the work around it so that it works on a number of levels for me. 

As I write, I have to amuse myself first, intrigue and entertain myself so that in turn, that hopefully comes across to whoever reads it. 

This sounds more calculating than it actually is. Women’s responses are more interesting to write about, the nature and the physical responses of it are a challenge that I enjoy answering. I aspire to a physical and emotional eloquence that I can only reach on the page, not that my own sexual responses are dumb or stilted but they are different to a woman’s.  Women have a rich, secret wildness within them that society does a great deal to keep down but it finds it’s way to the surface no matter how much law, culture, religion and legislation try to hammer it back beneath. 

That’s my challenge as a writer. I never know if I am successful in that regard, but I try regardless. 

You have to give your gift regardless of whether it is received or not. 

Standard