Monday, February 28, 2005

Cookie Monster

Having just eaten a jam doughnut and an assortment of Millie's cookies, I think that food might be the topic of the day. Food has an almost sacred status in my office at the moment. We can spend entire days stuffing our faces with Krispy Kreme doughnuts before making our way to the pub for a pint and a pile of potato wedges. Yet, weirdly, we all seem to be in the middle of a diet. Amongst the doughnuts, you'll also find a large assortment of fruit, Diet Coke, Muller Lights and low-fat cereal bars. But the biggest irony of all is that none of us could be classed as overweight. Bridget Jones would be proud.

Being fat is one of our biggest fears in our society and this really pisses me off. If I were to gain six stone overnight, okay, I'd be fat, but if I were to lose six stone, I'd be dead. You'd never think that from the way people talk though. Somehow, anorexia isn't demonised the same way that obesity is. The names themselves imply that anorexia is a mental condition, whereas obesity is something physical that just sort of happens. The 'pull your socks up / nobody ever complained in my day' brigade are slowly starting to accept anorexia and bulimia, but they're much slower at accepting obesity.

It's not simply a case of will power or of educating yourself. My friends who are overweight are generally very well informed about nutrition. They are also not lazy; I have overweight friends who have important jobs, busy social lifes, and the willpower to give up smoking and other addictions. Telling a fat person to eat less is as unhelpful as telling an anorexic to eat more.

I don't entirely understand why anyone would eat so much that they harm themselves, but I'd imagine that food gradually becomes synonymous with happiness and comfort, and it's hard to break that cycle. People fail at diets because they don't believe they're going to succeed before they've even started. It's embarassing to go swimming or to the gym when you feel that everyone is watching you and judging you. And, the bigger you are, the hungrier you get.

I genuinely feel that thinner doesn't always mean happier, prettier or more popular. I also feel that everyone has an optimum weight that suits them. I have some friends who suit being a size six and others who suit being a size twenty, but if you asked me which of my friends is the prettiest, I honestly couldn't say.

It's up to each individual person to decide how much they want to eat and how much they want to exercise. And it's up to everyone else to mind their own fucking business.

And, on that note, I'm going to eat some more cookies.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Goodbye Mulder...

Having spent most of my life being an obsessive sort of person (as in, the sort who would stand outside the Michael Jackson trial with banners saying 'Michael, we love you', not the sort who constantly wash their hands) I seem to currently be in an obsessive rut.

I've never been one to do things by halves - other small children may like pandas, but my childhood bedroom was covered with toys, posters, books, old birthday cards, slippers and rucksacks all with familiar black and white faces.

Over the years I've had several different obsessions (including, I'm ashamed to say, a brief flirtation with El Jacko himself, although fortunately I was too young to actually go to a concert or anything).

My most recent obsession was with The X-Files. I've never been much of a science fiction fan, seeing them all as that guy in the comic book store in the Simpsons, so it was a bit of a clandestine affair to begin with. But soon, the adventures of Agents Fox William Mulder and Dana Katherine Scully had begun to take hold of my life.

I am proud to say that I was faithful to the end, enjoying the escapades of Agents Doggett and Reyes just as much as I did Mulder and Scully in their glory years. And it was satisfying to see that Mulder and Scully did eventually get it on.

But now... I've hit a bit of a dead end. The power of those post-modern plotlines and aliens called Lord Kinbote no longer seem quite so compelling. I'm obviously entering a new era.

It's quite exciting to wonder what that era could be (because, knowing me, there will be one). It could be anything. I could take up knitting cardigans. Or sailing. Or taxidermy. Anything. But for now, I'm quite happy to sit back and wait for my new obsession to come to me.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Always the Bridesmaid

I dreamt about weddings last night. It was one of those nights where you sleep sporadically and your thoughts and dreams get intertwined, so you end up lying in bed on top of a mountain or something.

I dreamt about vows and aisles and being late.

I had no idea how much anxiety is involved in getting married. I always imagined my wedding would involve my boyfriend and I sauntering down to the local registry office with maybe a parent or two in tow as witnesses. And then we'd pop into the pub for a swift half.

But now that I'm a proper grown-up, I've realised that I'd quite like a big party and for everyone I've ever met to come along. I just wish I didn't have to be there.

I think part of the anxiety is that I've never seen myself as that kind of bride. I thought I'd have purple hair tied up with a shoelace, not a white dress and flowers that match the table decorations.

I suppose the way round it is to see the whole day as a performance. And, if I'm honest, there is a teensy part of me that quite likes the idea of being Barbie for a day.

What I really don't want is for my anxiety to make me talk about weddings all the time, which is mind numbingly boring for someone who's not involved. I've noticed that married women are desperate to talk to me about their special day, presumably because they've been trying so hard not to mention it every other sentence. And if I'm a wedding bore, that means I'll one day be a baby bore, which is even worse.

I just have to keep reminding myself that, even if the flowers are wilted and the cake gives everyone constipation, I still get to go home with the man that I love, so it can't be all bad!

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Back the Bid

My trip through Stratford was a bit more exciting today due to the International Olympic Committee visiting to check us out for the 2012 Olympics.

The temporary ice-rink which appeared last week was buzzing with activity, the 'Welcome to Newham' sign was being re-painted and a blue carpet (blue?) eased us into the station. There were new pot plants and stalls giving away freebies. I signed up to back the bid and am now the proud owner of a 'London 2012' pen, badge and frisbee (already tested out in the corrdior with one of my esteemed colleagues).

Despite my typically English pessimism when it comes to these things, I really hope we get it. I love events where we all club together in that wartime spirit, eating jellied eels and singing 'Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner'. I'd have loved the second world war. (That comment may be somewhat politically incorrect, but my Grandma spent the war working as a bus conductor on London buses and said it was the best time of her life.)

I think that London (and Britain for that matter) could do with a bit of a boost. It would be great if we could put aside our self-deprecating stance for once and actually feel proud of something we've achieved. You'll find me in Stratford later today wearing a pinny and curlers, singing music hall songs and digging for victory.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Ma Vie En Rose

This is a French film that we watched on Saturday. It's about a little boy in France who wants to be a girl and stars the cutest kid in the whole world.

It kind of raised some questions though. Obviously, if I had a child who was transgender / transvestite (or gay for that matter), I wouldn't have a problem. The difficulty comes when that child is still really young. In the film, a 7 year old boy wants to wear dresses and make-up when he goes to parties. I'm not sure the best way to handle that. Is it best to allow your child to wear what they want? Or is it better to protect them from bigotry at such a young age and let them be what they want once they're older?

It would be really tough on a child to prevent them from living life in the gender role they feel most comfortable. I think of myself as quite a girly person, and I can't think anything more scary than if I'd been born a boy and had to wait until adulthood to sort it out.

And what if your sense of gender identity (and sexuality) isn't a fixed thing and it's a phase? I'll never forget a lecture I went to once in my student days where the lecturer spoke about sexuality as a behaviour and not an identity. I know so many people who went through a gay or straight phase in their teenage years, only to change in adulthood, so that theory seemed to make a lot of sense.

Maybe I should wait until I actually have children before I ponder stuff like this. I'm sure I'll have a lot more things to worry about!

Friday, February 11, 2005

Roses are Red

Monday is Valentine's Day. Over the years, I've developed a kind of love-hate relationship with it. On one hand, it's good to have an opportunity to tell someone how you feel (whether they're your partner or not). On the other, it puts a lot of pressure on you to give and receive the biggest and best Valentine's gifts of the year. This is my list of its pros and cons:

  • Receiving a Valentine's card from someone you didn't know fancied you. Even if you don't fancy them, it's still a lovely compliment. On the rare occasions when this has happened to me I've been really touched.
  • Spending a day being unashamedly loved up, without worrying about scornful looks from old ladies.
  • Buying presents. My favourite part of Christmas is chosing presents for people, so this is just a continuation really. Over the years my boyfriend has been on the receiving end of endless stupid, soppy and sometimes downright rude presents. I'm not too sure what he makes of it all - I normally end up eating all the chocolate myself anyway - but it's fun to buy.
  • Secret Cupid. Like Secret Santa, but... okay, you've got it. We're doing it in our office this year and it's really quite disturbing buying a Valentine's present for your boss.
  • Receiving presents. I don't think that really needs an explanation...


  • Not receiving anything. It's strange how, even when it's perfectly obvious that there is no-one in the world who would ever conceive of buying you a card, you still feel a thrill of excitement when the post comes through the door. And then your hopes are dashed. Year. After year. After year. It may be eight years since I was last single, but I still remember. Oh yes. And even when you're in a great relationship, there's still a tiny part of you that hopes for a secret admirer aswell. Why not? It'd be cool.
  • Trying hard not to be a smug married. I do try. Really I do.
  • The weird tackyness of shops. Generally, I like tackyness in all forms, but it's beginning to grate a bit this year. Surely there must be some shops that have nothing to do with Valentines Day and therefore don't need a special Valentine's display.
  • The feeling of despair the day can put onto single people. Although I love Bridget Jones, I think it's important that women realise that being single is perfectly valid. There's no point having a partner unless they're really worth it.

Happy Valentine's Day everybody. In the words of my role model Oprah, I love you all. Each in your own special (perhaps sordid) way.

Friday, February 04, 2005


If I could pick one thing that's great about no longer being a student, it'd be the rise of Friday to it's current heavenly status.

As a student, the days run into each other and the time you go to bed is dictated by the time of your first lecture in the morning, not by how far you've got through the week. Fridays and Saturdays tend not to be clubbing nights, because it means you have to mix with 'townies' - real people who work for a living and probably have knives hidden under their boob tubes. As a student, you'd much rather spend your time with someone called Tarquin who wears a beret and hasn't watched television since 1983.

But now, Fridays and Saturdays mean guilt-free nights out. There's no work in the morning, no essays to be getting on with, no overdraft to worry about...

Friday has a kind of hushed awe about it. It's the day of dressing down and eating crap. As I write this, I'm sitting here in my jeans and poncho, dreaming of a Square Pie from Selfridges.

So there ends my homage to the Friday.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005


From the British Humanist Association webiste:

"Humanism is the belief that we can live good lives without religious or superstitious beliefs. Humanists make sense of the world using reason, experience and shared human values. We seek to make the best of the one life we have by creating meaning and purpose for ourselves. We take responsibility for our actions and work with others for the common good.

What humanists believe:
- Humanism is an approach to life based on humanity and reason - humanists recognise that moral values are properly founded on human nature and experience alone. Our decisions are based on the available evidence and our assessment of the outcomes of our actions, not on any dogma or sacred text.
-Humanism encompasses atheism and agnosticism ‑ but is an active and ethical philosophy far greater than these negative responses to religion.
-Humanists believe in individual rights and freedoms ‑ but believe that individual responsibility, social cooperation and mutual respect are just as important.
-Humanists believe that people can and will continue to find solutions to the world's problems ‑ so that quality of life can be improved for everyone.
-Humanists are positive ‑ gaining inspiration from our lives, art and culture, and a rich natural world.
-Humanists believe that we have only one life ‑ it is our responsibility to make it a good life, and to live it to the full. "

I'm slightly wary of religion in general because I think it can stop you thinking for yourself and it's better to have your own personal beliefs, but if I ever did decide to be religious, this is the one I would go for.