superlatively rude

because none of us is fucking up like we think we are, is what i'm trying to say

Thursday, 30 November 2017

To begin is to break your own heart

To begin is to break your own heart.

To choose means to not choose all those other things.

Before you begin, the possibilities are endless. The way your one true love will look, how your first novel will sound on the page. Before you begin, everything is perfect, because before you begin it’s a world of imagination painted in only your best and most favourite colours.

Beginning is a pull into the real world.

The real world is hard.

It is beautiful and surprising and sometimes, at noon on a Tuesday on the roof of an art gallery, you will drink a glass of wine and look at the view and wonder how you will ever leave this spot, this moment, because everything is as right as it could be.

But the real world is also never enough money, and never enough time, and never enough talent, or recognition, or love, or contentedness. The real world is compromise.

Compromise.

I read somewhere that compromise is “halfway happy”, and that is what beginning is. Halfway happy. Not as good as not beginning, safe from disappointment - but also better than not.

What is preferable, unreal perfection or real imperfection.

Knowingly halfway happy, or unknowing and unbegun.

The only thing that is sure is: not to try is not to fail.

To begin is to break your own heart, because it doesn't just risk failing. It is failing. It is already “halfway happy". Real life isn't designed to match what we sketch out in our minds.

But we must begin anyway.

Halfway happy is enough.

To break our own hearts is an underrated strength. 
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Thursday, 9 November 2017

Above my bed

The metre-and-a-half wide frame has hung empty above my bed since July. I paid a man to hang it. I'd harboured, to begin with, reservations about how my feminism and my employment of somebody else to execute the job dovetailed awkwardly, but after I hit myself in the face with a hammer one night, not understanding the difference between a nail at 45 degrees into a diving wall and a drill with a spiral anchor into a brick wall, I decided the most feminist act would be, in fact, to use my hard-earned feminist money to feministly delegate somebody better qualified to help me out - who yes, just so happened to be a man. I have never looked back. 

The room needed something above the bed - that's why I got the frame and had it hung - but I couldn't rush to fill it. It needed to be right. I didn't want a generic Ikea print: they can satisfy the dead area behind the door in the living room because that is a neutral space. Bedrooms - bedrooms must be personal. Considered. It's where the two best things in a day happen: getting dressed, and getting undressed. Intention, and relief. Hopeful beginning, satisfying end. The rule I set myself for the print was the same as I have for restaurant menus and OPI nail colours - that when you know what you want, don't apologise for it. It's nobody's business that I get Big Apple Red every time. I would not be swayed by on-trend palm prints or vintage movie posters. I'd know when I saw it what should go there.

I went to Chicago again in October. Me and my two best friends - my mother, and my father - visited my brother, and this time I made it to the Art Institute. I ditched my two best friends when we got there, because 1) I like being alone in a gallery, so I can hear my feelings. I don't know why people go on and on about finding ways to hear themselves think. Art shuts off my thoughts, thank God. It activates my feelings. I don't need words in my head when I have that crashing sense of understanding in a place just left of my centre, sort of up a bit and then down to somewhere near my pubis. Thinking is masturbatory. Feeling is release. Looking at the way somebody else sees the world and getting a wordless punch that steals the wind from you, understanding that we are nothing, really, in the grand scheme, not when beauty like this exists, but also, we are everything, am everything, how did I not see it before? My solo body knows what to do better than my brain, in an art gallery. 2) I ditched my parents, my best friends, because they were bugging me.

Alone and happy and feeling things, I saw a painting by Max Beckmann - Reclining Nude. It was massive tits and protruding belly and generous thighs and sexy but also sexual. That's important, because The Mail Online - and we all read it, still, so stop before you start - tells us to be sexy, but that if we like sex we're sluts. Still. In 2017. Even after BeyoncĂ©s fifth studio album reiterated what Janet Jackson tried to say twenty-four years ago - that sex is fun if you do it right. I was once with a man who sent me a shopping list of sex toys, and taught me how to use each one, and long after he was out of my life the sex toys stayed and do you know what I learned. I learned that there is nothing to fear about my body when she is built for pleasure. Any size, any shape, any weight, that matters not when I know how to make myself orgasm again and again and again, and because I know how to make myself orgasm again and again and again I know how to have sex with other people that pleases me, and I have confidence enough to teach my partner how to make me feel that good, too, and when I look in the mirror and I'm blotchy and jiggly and mushy I am glorious because I am built to feel heavenly. We're taught to look sexy but not be sexual: the revolution is being sexual without being told what is sexy. 

The Max Beckmann isn't copyrighted for prints. Tamara de Lempika is, though. She painted La Belle Rafaela, a woman she met walking in the park who became her lover. When I was 20 I lived with my first and only boyfriend for six months, before we understood we had no business being that young and that co-dependant. We argued about a de Lempika in an art shop near York Minster, once, and he said some awful things about women who paint women and the block-style and pop-y colours. I met him for dinner after we broke up, when he was sleeping with my best friend and wasn't telling me yet, and he was carrying a copy of The Great Gatsby. "I picked it up because of the cover," he said, and the cover was - of course, you guessed it - a de Lempika.

The desire de Lempicka has for Rafaela is palpable. And I reckon de Lempika desired her - no, loved her, you don't paint somebody like that unless they're loved - because she was comfortable. Rafaela has an arm up behind her head and the other lays purposefully by her breast and her tummy is front and centre of the whole damned thing, demanding and unapologetic. Her face is tilted back and it looks to me as if she gives not one shit if somebody else is there or not: she's happy. Happy to be seen in totality. Happy with who she is. With her sexuality. With her chins and rounded arms and flat nipples and small waist and funny hair and she knows what it is to feel magnificent for free, to be a queen upon a throne of somebody else's finger inside her and to charge the mouth of another, over and over and over and over, more, and more, and more - demanding, greedy, full of herself because to not be is to be empty and I don't know if I am talking about Laura Jane Williams or Rafaela anymore but I found a print for the space above my bed. 





this first appeared in my occasional newsletter, How to Eat an Elephant. You can subscribe here.
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Monday, 23 October 2017

The Death of Stalin

We went to see The Death of Stalin on Friday night, reunited as we were after three weeks apart and many utterances that we'll never go that many nights without each other again. I lived in Russia, once. I lived many places before. Once. But it was Russia I thought about, for reasons obvious, as I sat next to an Italian who laughed louder than anyone else in the knee-to-knee, packed-in-tight cinema, and who, in the quiet bits, used a stage whisper of a voice to say, "Baby, what? What did he say?" It's a trait that is partly endearing and mostly embarrassing, and that reminds me of taking thirty-one Italian teenagers to see The Lion King at the Lyceum Theatre the summer I got my nose pierced, desperately trying to make them - the Italian teenagers - understand that talking that way, the whole way through, isn't how it is done in England, where even our standing ovations are polite. 
The film made me think of those months in the snow, when I learned that to drink neat vodka you must alternate it with eating something salty, and that if the Russians go home and you and the only other two British people you know there stay out and continue to drink vodka, you're absolutely drinking too much. So much so that you'll be taken on a drive that lasts hours and hours, miles and miles, the next day, and have to use the international sign language of panicked eyes and pointing to your stomach and then into your throat to tell the son of your English school director that you really must move from the back to sit up front. Before you move you'll see your colleague missed a spot behind her earlobe when wiping up her vomit last night. Or early this morning. You nearly make it the entire journey without throwing up, until the lone service station has only herring or golubtsy for lunch and no toilet paper in the loo, and it all becomes a bit much and you, too, get regurgitated dill behind your ear.
This is a photograph of the view as we made the long, treacherous journey:
I just scrolled back to October 2014 on Instagram for this, which is also back to the year the beauty PR job I got let go from (ultimately seeing me move to... Russia. It's all linked, you see) had paid for me to do some insane weight loss treatment that saw me fit into a UK size 10 jean, down from a UK size 16, in four months. Sometimes I see pictures of myself from back then, jawline sharp and the tops of my thighs strangers to each other, and I think, gosh, it was very nice being thin. And then I remind myself that I wasn't any happier, and I still couldn't get a man called Paolo to love me back. That was another reason I moved to Russia.

this first appeared in my occasional newsletter, How to Eat an Elephant. You can subscribe here.

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Wednesday, 18 October 2017

How to Eat an Elephant


I’ve been wanting to say all kinds of things for ages, now, but I do this thing where I think I have to be a brand and have consistent messaging and purpose and that I mustn’t waste a drop of this finite creativity that I’m a fool – a damned fool! – if I don’t monetise, because it’s better to be profitable than popular.

And, you know, it is. I have strangers approach me on the street to tell me they love my Insta-stories, but videoing a lip-synch to Bug-a-boo doesn’t pay my rent. It’s tongue-in-cheek and fun self-promotion, sure, but god am I exhausted from the endless ring-road that is shouting about my work. Here, Twitter, Instagram, emails, events: like me, like me, like me. I suppose because my work is me. I am it. There’s no distance between who I am and what I make.

That’s the thing they don’t tell you about working for yourself, about being a “media-luvvy”, about making money from being you. That it is entirely possible to become bored of talking about you. I explicitly remember telling a journalism lecturer at university that I wanted to make a living from being myself, and she laughed, and this is a story I’ve told a million times so forgive me, please, if you’ve heard the punchline before, but: I wasn’t sure if she was laughing because making a living from being yourself is impossible, or she thought me, making a living from being my deplorable self, was impossible. I suppose the answer doesn’t matter now, because Instagram got invented and now we’re all micro-influencers and the star of very niche and self-obsessed shows. I think her name was Gail. Gail laughed at me. I’ll bet she has Instagram herself, now.

I used to want the world to love me. I used to want the world to know my name. I used to want to be known, and in demand, but now, I want a nice lie down. I feel like I’ve chipped away pieces of myself and given them to the highest payer, and it has left me feeling cheap and un-whole. I like being whole. I’ve been trying to feel whole ever since my first book got published, in one way or another. It was my ticket into this town but I can’t figure out the cost of it.

If I could give advice to any aspiring storyteller out there, to any budding entrepreneur, to any (oh God, I didn’t want to say it, but I’ve typed it now so it’s too late) girlboss, it would be to have your income be unrelated to you and who you are. You don’t have to slice off pieces of your vulnerabilities to be considered zeitgeist and edgy. You don’t have to examine your soul in public for your soul to be worthy. Maybe it’s a phase all creative women go through. Perhaps I spent my twenties exorcising the demons of the self, and now, two memoirs, a column, bylines in all major press later, I’ve done that. I’ve examined myself in front of an audience that never asked me to do that and I’ve grown up. My therapist used to tell me to keep something for myself, and I’d think, but what’s the point in going through it all if I can’t talk about it after? My best friend and I, we’d joke: do it for the story. I don’t want to be the story. Art as self-expression and using the self as art are two different things. I prefer the first one. I think I always did. I’m remembering the way again.

I’m lining up a new life. A life in a couple. A family. Children. I want that to be more insular. Less available. It being undocumented does not mean it didn’t happen. I had so much hurt before, I had to write it all down to feel like it was for something. The hurt is gone. I got that ticket. I’m here. I get to decide the new rules. The true powerhouses, the women who really change the face of the game, aren’t the ones writing. They’re the ones commissioning. Producing. Behind the scenes but at the top. I’m trying to find my way to that place. Something... less visible.

I’m launching a newsletter. It’s called How to Eat an Elephant, and it’s a place for me to experiment with new ways of telling stories. I’m proud of the work that got me here, but I’m hankering for a new direction. It helps to say it aloud. I can always change my mind.

(I won’t change my mind).

You got me this far. You believed in me. I see you, I thank you, I appreciate you.

If you want to stay aboard for this next bit of the (oh God, another thing there's pain in typing, but I just can't help myself) journey, you can sign up here. I hope you do.



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Monday, 11 September 2017

Fabio


I look at you sometimes, and I think: give me your seed. I look at you and I think, give me your seed. Plant yourself inside of me and grow and grow and grow, let two become one become three and let’s build something beautiful, together, forever. I love you. I am you. We are we.

I look at you sometimes, and I think: if you chew that way one more fucking time, I’ll punch you so hard my fist will go through you.


*

I can’t focus when we first sit down. When you talk, you are so handsome to me that it is a distraction. Laura, I remember thinking to myself, still watching your mouth move, how your tongue hits your lips, you have to say something. He asked you out because he thinks you have something to say for yourself, and you’re disappointing him. “Oh really?” I squeak out. “Tell me some more about that.” I continue to watch you. Mesmerised. This continues for five hours.

*

You meet my friends. I wear a yellow dress and you stand with me in a corner and it’s because you’re shy, you tell me, even though you haven’t paused for breath since the day I first met you. We look good together, and I know we do. They tell me it’s obvious, that I am myself, that there is no show. You make them laugh. The day after, I meet your friends. I make them laugh. We’re good at this. Our Uber driver asks if we’re thinking of having kids. The woman next to you enquires after your wife. My friend sees us from across the park and says it’s like we’ve been together for a very long time indeed. It’s been three weeks.

*

The months before I met you, I explored ethical non-monogamy. There was too much diary-management for me. Dating one person works just fine: I need time to write and eat and watch Netflix call my mother. I say dating one person works just fine, but so does dating no people. I’d decided to move to near my parents, to get a jog on with adopting a toddler alone. I was more okay than I had ever been, right before I met you.

*

We have our first fight on a Saturday morning, in your bed. I am naked and sat against the wall, a pillow pulled to my stomach, trying not to cry. You are my father in that moment, by which I mean you are me, because I learned how to pull away from him. From my father I learned that when somebody cries they are weak, and when confronted with weakness one must become resolute. Stronger. Carry you both. And so you lay there and do not move to rest a hand on my leg or pull me in close or hold me as the tears fall, instead you play the role I have practised for thirty-one years, and I assume the position of weakness, tears leaking from my eyes and words stuck in my throat.

“You need to decide what you want,” you tell me.

I want to go home, I reply, eventually. I want to go home and I want to do it alone and I want that to be okay. I tell you I am tired, and I don’t know how to be tired and overwhelmed and scared with somebody else. I only know how to do it alone, because I always have done it alone and that suited me, in the end, just fine.

I’m scared you’ll leave me if I want to be alone.

That when you said you liked a strong, independent, women, you fudged the truth, because that’s what most men do. Did. Are other men past tense now?

*

There is a leaf, a sort of bud, maybe blossom, trapped in the latch of my Macbook, even now, in the hinge bit, where the screen connects to the typepad, and it’s blossom (I’ve decided to call it blossom) from that Monday, during the heatwave, when we went to Hyde Park. I brought a blanket, and figs you didn’t eat because I didn’t know you didn’t like figs, then, and you brought wine and cinnamon biscuits your parents sent from home in a big box that costs thirty euros to post. The pretext was “work” – that you were going to read about neuroscience with a highlighter pen in your hand, and I was going to type some words, but I didn’t get beyond opening the computer and your pages lay in the shade, and half an hour before I had to leave and we’d held eye contact a bit and I’d made sure to touch your arm you kissed me, and I thought to myself, Huh. So that’s what it’s like to kiss a man with a moustache.


When I masturbate I think of you.


I’m almost embarrassed when people ask about you – and ­everybody asks. They meet you and comment on how handsome you are, how much space your 6’4 frame takes up, your deep voice, your greying temples and manicured moustache. They ask what you do and I tell them and they are impressed. I had started to answer the question, “Anyone special in your life yet, Laura?” with a joke about how I couldn’t find anybody special enough. You know. To prove the point that I wouldn’t settle. Now you are my evidence. The proof that I was right to hold out for the best. But how do I tell them my evidence, my proof, doesn’t always feel right. That it is the hardest work I have ever done to make room for somebody like you in my life? That I’m terrified that I could walk away any minute and survive, and that I absolutely cannot. Why does nobody say all this under their Man Crush Monday? Is it only me who finds being in a two this hard?



Don't go anywhere. 

Give me space. 

Come here. 

I love you.

*

You give me a shelf in your bedroom. I clear closet space in mine. We plan trips and split checks and take photos and misunderstand each other and sit in happy silence and hostile space and make love and cook and take a suitcase back and forth across the city. You say things one way and I hear them another and I almost made you cry, that one time, and I have never felt worse. We wrestle. We push and pull and decide what feels comfortable and these growing pains - they hurt. But for you, and me, and us, I want to grow. I just never knew this is how it would be. That I would want nothing from you except all that you are and all that you do, and sometimes, want to punch you. Because you chew too loud.

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Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Number Two


I wanted a record, somewhere, that this is what I wrote the afternoon before my second book came out, and that I stood on a chair to read to a room full of people I love. A first book party felt huge. This second one almost more so.


*


(FYI writing this speech felt like writing my Oscar acceptance speech, except that I knew I’d won.)

(Prepare yourselves for some words about my ~feelings~.)

This time last year, I was sad. I felt like the saddest girl in the world, actually.

Now I know just how common depression is, but last March - when I finally got diagnosed with an illness I reckon I’d had probably six months before that - I was the most isolated, and empty, and lifeless I have ever been.

I didn’t want to die. But. I sort of... couldn’t see the point in living.

The lesson of my life is letting myself be loved. And being sad – having depression and anxiety – was the ultimate lesson in what it is to accept love. I wouldn’t survive, I knew, if I didn’t let myself be loved.

When I was in therapy (more affordable and less wanky than you’d think!), I said I felt like I’d been smashed open, somehow. Broken – but broken open.

I know now, on the other side of it, that I was absolutely right. I was smashed open by depression so that I could learn to let love in.

I wasn’t going to have a party to celebrate this book, because - and this is the biggest of humblebrags - ICE CREAM has happened so close to the first book. Having another party when I still go to bed thinking and dreaming about the last one seemed indulgent – like having a gift registry at my second wedding.

But.

This is a room of people who love me. A room of people who taught me how to accept love. You are a room of my teachers, and that makes me the luckiest human alive.

I wanted to have this party so that I could say thank you.

However you reached out, however you held my hand when I needed it – thank you.

In my recovery – in the days and weeks and months I learned how to accept love and channel it into the strength it takes to get up, to stand, to keep on putting one foot in front of the other, I met three little girls in north London as I nannied them.

And because you loved me, I was able to put one foot in front of the other to their front door every morning at 7am, and the nine months I spent working with them was an honour, and a delight, and they were my teachers, too.

I learned forty little life lessons from them that helped me to step into this new version of myself, and that’s why this book – ICE CREAM FOR BREAKFAST – is dedicated to them. Because they taught me how to have adventures and be silly as a virtue and laugh loudly and dick about.

But I could never have been open those lessons if you hadn’t carried me so far.

So.

This is a book about embracing what it is to be childlike so that we might rediscover our joy. And friends? It exists because of you.




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Sunday, 19 March 2017

The Film Trailer Editor

I saw you, and you looked happy. 

She wanted you in a way I never could. She nuzzled into your neck, lips-to-skin not enough so pressing her cheek to yours, her arm to your body, the length of her leg to the length of you. 

When I had done that, I didn't mean it.  

I tried. 

I wanted to. 

I wanted the mis-matched pieces to fit, because I wanted to be part of a two. I don't now. But back then, I did.

I wish I had been kinder about explaining that it wasn't you. That is was the maths of it. The equation of our parts. I wish I'd been kinder in general. Because, that's just it: you are kind and gentle and sensitive and I treated you as "not enough", somehow, because you weren't what I needed in those moments, what I'd imagined, and I knew that if I came over to say hi you'd continue to be kind and gentle and sensitive and that, truth told, I don't deserve that. 

Not from you.

Not when she looked so happy, too.



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