Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Onesies and Daytime Clubbing

I'll confess. I've never been clubbing in the daytime. I've also never been to a music festival. My instinct is that if you do one, you probably do the other. But I'm old skool. When I used to go clubbing, and I use the term loosely, given that the majority of my 'clubbing' nights took place either in The Swan in Stockwell or The Arts Bar on Frith Street (both rather cheesy pulling joints with DJ's who would happily indulge my requests for Jackson Five on a regular basis and wouldn't dream of playing any house music, let alone all those other types of music that passed me by. Jungle?), it would be at nightime. After dark. There were probably a couple of occasions when it was light as I headed home, and boy did I think I was a crazy kid. Not.

Now, I was aware of daytime clubbing. People dealing with the hangover from Saturday night by getting back on it on Sunday day. I sort of respected it. But now I find myself baffled by it. Probably becuase I'm getting old. It's not the daytime misadventure itself that baffles me, it's the dressing up. Every Sunday as my man and I head on the bus to our favourite coffee shop, we pass The Grand in Clapham, and a large queue outside of mid 20 somethings, dressed primarily in leopard print onesies. What is going on??!! 

I've never quite got the fancy dress thing. I think because I was always acting, I got to dress up and play different people all the time, so why would I want to do that in my own social time? But then I have friends who are actors who bloody love fancy dress. Some who dress up in Edwardian gear, hire an old car for the day, and have Afternoon Tea as Edwardians. Again. Baffled. 

I fear my dislike of Fancy Dress is my inability to take the piss out of myself. But then, I'm not sure that is true, because I end up doing that during stand-up on a regular basis. But maybe it's an inability take the piss out of myself aesthetically..... Which brings us to the inevitable dilemma - do you do funny fancy dress, or sexy fancy dress? Now, my answer is always sexy, never funny. Be funny with your mind, your speech, not with your clothing. And maybe that's my problem with it all. There's a need, a desire to still look good, in whatever manifestation that takes. Maybe that's a bit messed up. Or maybe it's perfectly normal. Who knows.... And bizarrely it's paired with a willingness to look as ridiculous as possible on stage if it gets a bigger laugh. Cue me aged 26 and a size 18 wearing a leotard and a tutu, pretending to be a fairy forest creature, moving in slow motion, bizarrely in a production of The Merry Wives of Windsor. Not pretty. But highly entertaining slash disturbing. So I'm told.

There's something childlike about fancy dress. I'm not talking role play/dressing up in the bedroom - got no issue with that :-) But outside of that arena, fancy dress is still about playing. About an alteration of self. And, for my money, an infantalisation of self. And a onesie is the height of that. Which is where I get confused with the fancy dress daylight hours clubbing, becuase why, when you are out with your mates, probably on the pull, do you want to play dress up? If I was single right now, there is literally no way I would be joining in, and I can't imagine chatting to a guy dressed as a bear. Or with a fake pumpkin belly (Clap Jct last Sunday). Or in full Lederhosen. Call me boring, but I'd prefer a prospective male in a nice cable knit and some well fitting trousers. 

Now, obviously the clubbing isn't all about pulling. Some folks might be just out with their mates for a laugh and a dance. But since when was either of those activities enchanced by a onesie? Will Strictly Come Dancing forego the tanning booths, and just dress the contestants in orange fur? I think not.

I realise this is a bit of a Grumpy Old woman post. I would genuinely like to hear from people who love fancy dress, primarily onesies, and especially for a club on a Sunday afternoon. I'd like to get inside their heads and find out what it's all about. I wonder if I'm assuming it's going on up and down the country, and it's really only in Clapham Junction. I wonder if it's escapism from economic problems. I wonder if it's peer pressure. I wonder if it's hungover laziness.

But to me, wearing a onesie in public, socially, is just faux cool. People trying to demonstrate how chilled and sorted and down to earth they are, by showing how willing they are to look silly. I bet some of them are dying inside. As far as I'm concerned, the only times to wear a onesie, are:

- when you're a baby, and even then, you can claim it wasn't of your own volition when you get old enough to reflect back.
- at home, when you are subtly trying to convey to your partner that you have zero desire to get jiggy with them. Ever again.
- at home, when your partner has finally revealed both an animal and velcro/zip fetish, and you are trying to indulge them before you decide you want someone sane and dump them.

Now, where did I put my corset?

Friday, 26 October 2012

Age of Consent and Abuse of Power/Trust

I’ve found myself trying to write this week and failing. Primarily because what I want to write about is Jimmy Savile, but it feels like the world and his wife are blogging about it. And then I figured, hey ho, there’s just no avoiding it.

For me, there are two issues: Sex with underage girls and boys, and abuse of power/trust.

Savile’s alleged crimes aside (the BBC have just used the phrase ‘alleged’ – I assume it is legally correct, though it seems somewhat redundant now given the amount of people who have come forward), there has never been a greater need for a review of the law, has there? How can we put into the same bracket, for example, a 17yr old boy who sleeps with his 14yr old girlfriend, and a 40 something man who has sex with an 8yr old... And is the Age of Consent the best way to put it? Wikipedia, the fountain of all knowledge, defines Consent as:

“Consent refers to the provision of approval or agreement, particularly and especially after thoughtful consideration.”

I don’t know about you, but quite a few of my sexual encounters in my earlier days, definitely didn’t involve much thoughtful consideration, and I’m not even sure there was always agreement from the guy involved, more resignation J

Seriously though, a brief Google reveals that the Age of Consent varies from Puberty to 21+, or, more terrifyingly, for a lapsed Catholic such as myself, ‘only when married’. And in England, our legal age was 12 in 1275, which dropped down to 10 in the latter part of the 16th Century, and was only raised to 13 in 1875 because Parliament was concerned that girls were being sold into brothels. Well, that’s a reason to raise the age limit isn’t it. They then finally raised it to 16 in 1885, due to moral panic......

What does this tell us, apart from the fact that the Age of Consent didn’t even counter for Homosexuality for years? The Age of Consent is variable – morally and culturally. Other countries allow for the maturity of the persons involved, they treat cases very differently if the age gap is small. In the UK, that 17yr old boy who sleeps with his 14yr old girlfriend, will go on the Sex Offenders Register – legally treated the same as the 40yr old man who rapes the 8yr old girl. It is inconceivable that in a society such as ours, that considers ourselves so forward thinking, that we are so, so backward in this respect.

Now, the tricky thing when watching the Savile expose, is women talking about being abused when they were 14 or 15. When I was at school, there were plenty of girls who were sexually active, and mature for their age. Had they found themselves at the BBC, or similar, hanging out with a boy band or a popular DJ, who suggested something sexual, I’d be willing to bet money that some of them would have gone there.

Which leads us to the Abuse of Power, or as it legally known, the Abuse of Trust. When the older person is in a position of trust or responsibility, be that a teacher, a celebrity, a policeman, a priest... then they have a responsibility to act appropriately. Don’t they? But are our expectations too high? There are abuses of power in all walks of life – from the small everyday incidences such as the Nazi bus driver who relishes his ability to drive on past the poor commuter who has just pegged it to the bus stop a second too late, to the larger abuses of power such as the Editors who approved phone hacking, or the MP’s who flouted all moral rules, if not legal ones, when putting  in their expenses. I realise those examples aren’t as direct as physical and emotional contact, but they show that it is embedded, if not, inherent.

It takes a grounded, self-aware, and empathetic individual to be totally unswayed by power or celebrity. It starts young, from the bully in the playground who gets to deal with their own insecurities by picking on others, to the workplace where the boss gets to make lascivious comments or cop a feel, and I’m not just talking male bosses here.

So isn’t it about time, we take a step back and look at ourselves, and the society that we’ve created? Rape has been high on the agenda over the past month or so, and a commentator this week, post Jimmy Savile revelations, queried whether we could still deny we live in a rape culture. I don’t think we can. I think the equally pressing point, is that we live in a Celebrity Culture. We put people on pedestals, regardless of their failings, or more pertinently, their lack of talent. And if we do that, if we continue to buy into some sort of fairytale stereotypes, then surely we are as much to blame? Or are we? Maybe we are just another victim – we are charmed by the very people who are powerful and famous, even though we put them up there.

Which leaves me with a couple of questions. How do we acknowledge what  I think is an inherent need to classify by differentiation, which in turn creates a need for status, and at the same time be better human beings? I think it would require an entire cultural and moral shift – that status becomes about respect, about doing good things (ah wait a minute, that’s what Savile did on the surface, didn’t he?), not about fame, or money, or power. And how do we put proper, just, systems in place, that hold people to account, but that allow for the differentiations of crime, rather than just lumping them all in one a la the Sex Offenders Register? I fear that it isn’t all possible. People are fallible. Laws are fallible. And Society as a whole is fallible.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Woman. Know Thyself. Own Thyself.

Over the course of this year, I’ve realised there are a few things I didn’t know, or didn’t think about, that I really should have done. Things about me – the woman. Womanly things.  A few visits to a Nutritionist/Naturopath, a brilliantly funny and little older lady who works as a Gynaecologist (more of her later), and some chats to friends, revealed them all:

2.  By default, that means your eggs are as old as you are – and unlike a fine wine, their quality reduces rapidly with age...

3.  Sperm can live for seven days if they manage to reach the cervical tissue. Gives Purgatory a whole new meaning...  To be fair, I’m sure we must have been taught this at school and I’ve just forgotten.

4.  You can actually work out your own cycle. WHO KNEW? NO ONE TAUGHT ME THAT AT SCHOOL.

Now, I remember bits from biology class. Such as when my friend and I were talking at the back of the class, and the teacher asked me a question. My mate prompted the answer “Compound Eyes” (we vaguely knew the class was about locusts), and I went with it. Cue detention and a move to the front of the class. And I remember the Personal Development class where the nurse put a condom on a banana, and the more forward girls (I clarify, the girls who made out they were forward and later admitted they hadn’t actually lost their virginity until they were 18, rather than aged 14 on a golf course in the bunker as they suggested at the time) took the free condoms.

I don’t remember being told about how a woman’s body changed. How you could work out when you were ovulating. That I only had a certain number of eggs to last me my whole lifetime. That my eggs would age with me. That there are other alternatives to the pill – other alternatives to taking synthetic hormones for most of your life. Being taught how to exercise my pelvic floor – why aren’t we taught that at school? Surely way more important than being able to hit a hockey ball?

Why isn’t this the stuff we learn on the curriculum? Well, probably because the curriculum has to cater to all, and boys probably don’t want to learn that stuff (though they clearly should), and perhaps even girls aren’t really all that interested at that age. The feminist in me might suggest that it’s also because the curriculum is possibly (I’m guessing, I have no idea) designated by committees and at a higher level, government/civil service, which are probably male dominated.

But, I think the other problem is that we tend to be, as we would, fairly Western in this country. Alternative options, the slightly left field, more ‘hippy’ options, aren’t to be found in the mainstream. Now, don’t get me wrong. Synthetic hormone pill popping is better than unwanted teenage pregnancies for sure. Going down alternative routes takes practice, care and attention. But I recall going on the pill as a teenager because a)  I thought it would help with my spots, and b) It seemed like the cool thing to do, despite the fact that I had no intention of having sex with anyone ( I was a late starter. I know. Shocking). And I’m not sure those are good enough reasons.

We live in an age where women (and men, let’s not forget them..) like being able to control or stop their periods for years, and then often expect everything will be fine when they completely change tack once they’re ready to start trying for a baby. And having had friends who have tried and failed, and those who have tried and had success, I know it can be a long old road. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have all those options available to us. And certainly a pill that is 98% effective means you don’t really have to think about it. Which is handy when you have a million other things going on.

But I wonder what the fall out is. Hormones are sensitive things. I know – I tried out a pill earlier in the year for a couple of months (I’m not a big lover of condoms – who is?) and it made me MENTAL. I actually didn’t feel in control of myself at all, and for the week before my period came I was an emotional wreck. Now, there are plenty of women who have been on pills happily for years, with no adverse effects, so my experience is but one. Pills have never suited me – they’ve always made me slightly crazy... I remember being on Microgynon at University and being horny as hell the week before a period. I think my boyfriend at the time thought I was either going insane or a sex addict. Or that he was irresistible. Looking back, none were true. But I would be climbing the walls. And a spell on Dianette a few years ago (often prescribed for PCOS) didn’t suit me much better. The nutritionist/naturopath I see (a smart woman – treats lots of conditions but good for PCOS and helping women who want to improve fertility),  commented that when she once tried a pill in her early years, it made her so objectionable that no man wanted to come near her – so it worked perfectly as a contraceptive even at a distance.

Anyhow, I’ll stop with my pill rant. I guess my point is, that we aren’t really taught enough about our own bodies. At school, in the press, by doctors... And information from mums or female relatives relies on their experiences. I think it should be shouted from the rooftops. If we want to be free women, then to me, that means knowledge. Information. Free and informed choices. And it also involves ownership. Taking real responsibility for your body, and respecting it. Respecting how it works, how it changes, how it compensates. So when the time comes when you want to think about having sex, not having children, and then having children, you already know what the deal is, and you’ve already properly thought about your options.

The Gynaecologist I mentioned is Dr Shirley Bond. She does honey coated caps. So if you want to go down the natural contraception route, she’s worth a look. I’ll be honest, the cap is reasonably large. It’s not like you, or your man, won’t feel it. It’s also pink. His face when I got it out, was quite a picture. I also got chronic thrush after we used it the first time, though I’m not entirely convinced that was related. But you can use it in tandem with condoms, or on its own. And you get to store it in a pot of honey, which is highly entertaining. Not as entertaining as trying to put it in when your fingers are covered in honey, or as entertaining as when a residing house guest spots it.... Toast anyone?

Gem x