No more excuses

I have a confession to make.

If I have cancelled plans with you in the past, it’s very likely that I have lied to you at least once.

Please don’t be offended. It really isn’t you; it’s me.

Most people know by now that I’m an introvert, which means that interacting with people drains my energy.  Every week I spend 40 hours in solid interaction, thanks to our open-plan office, so I face every evening with seriously reduced energy. If it’s been a particularly busy, stressful, or people-full day, if I’m ill or didn’t get enough sleep the night before, I’m left with even less energy to play with.

Before any social event, I calculate how much energy it’s likely to use and subtract that from the amount I feel I have. Considering how much is used up by my job, it often works out that the event would take more energy than I can give. So I (usually) won’t go.

Fairly straightforward, right? The problem is I would never tell people that. I tell them I’m ill, or have a headache, or pulled a muscle, or have too much to do, or have to wait at home for something, or anything at all except the real reason.

But recently I’ve realised how harmful this can be.

I’m not ashamed of being an introvert. It’s a part of who I am, just as my stubbornness and brown hair are parts of who I am. But making up excuses, instead of just admitting I need some introvert-time, suggests that it’s something I need to hide. That lying is better than admitting my energy sometimes runs out.

Plus it’s kind of harsh on my friends. I’m basically assuming they don’t have the empathy or compassion to accept me saying, “I can’t come because this part of me needs some care right now”. Then fobbing them off with lies.

To every friend I have ever done this to (I confess, it’s probably every last one of you), I’m really sorry. I’ll say it again – it’s not you; it’s me.  Or rather, it was me. Because I’m putting a stop to it right now.

From now on, if I’m too low on energy to meet up with you then I will say so. Please don’t take it personally; literally everyone drains my energy to some degree.

This also means if I say I’m ill/have a headache/etc then it will actually be true. For reals this time.

I also extend this offer to all my introvert friends: if you don’t have the energy to spend time with me then please just say so. It’s not an excuse, it’s a valid reason, and I accept it with no attempts to change your mind and no hurt feelings on my part.

Introversion is not a shameful secret that needs to be hidden, and my friends deserve better than half-truths and excuses, so that’s what they’re going to get. Starting now.

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Teeny tiny study

So today I found this article on Gadgette about perceived gender roles.

TL;DR – sexism is still a thing, possibly getting worse.

On first sight it could be a somewhat disheartening read. But I’m not throwing in the feminist towel yet, for several reasons.

First of all, the sample size for the study is pathetic. Even if I had not studied sociology and worked in market research, I could have told you that 191 responses is tiny. That number cannot possibly give an accurate representation of the beliefs of the (roughly) 7 billion people currently on the planet. Or the few billion people in the Western World. Or even the 361 million North Americans.

Which brings me to my second problem with this study; It was done in North America. North America, where this amendment has still not been added to the constitution, over 90 years after it was first presented:

Men and women shall have equal rights throughout the United States and every place subject to its jurisdiction.

Where women who may become pregnant (i.e. the vast majority of us) are told we ‘should not drink alcoholic beverages at all’. Because everything possible must be done to keep baby-making factories women healthy, whether they like it or not.

Where a disturbing number of people seem to think they have the right to tell a woman whether she can or cannot use her own body to produce a child she doesn’t want.

Of course sexist beliefs are getting worse in a place where women are reduced to their ability to create offspring, treated like children, and seen as constitutionally less than men.

I want to see this study done with a much larger sample size, for a start, and in some other countries. I want to know how different the results would be in places that are known for better equality. Maybe they would be the same, but somehow I doubt it.

On closer inspection, this is not disheartening at all; it’s fuel to my fire. I’m going to keep up my fighting to make sure that, even if it never ever gets any better than it is now, it doesn’t gets as bad as these results.

I have faith in you, Britain! Don’t let me down.

Safe Haven

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It’s time for another request post!

I have mentioned before that I had a story published in an anthology, which I’m still super excited about. Upon request, here’s a wee bit of my story for FREE!

Am I not good to you?

 

TW: domestic abuse

Safe Haven 

“Steven’s married now.”

“Oh. How lovely.” I tried to sound pleased, but I felt the world-bending sensation that meant the blood was draining from my face. I tilted my head so my hair fell down, shielding me from Mum’s eyes. “When was that?”

“Just last week. His mum’s still not come down from the high.”

I searched for something appropriate to say. “They had good weather for it then.” That set her off on a ramble about the unseasonable warmth we were having. I took a big gulp of coffee and steered the conversation even further from my ex.

It lasted until we got outside and went our separate ways. I had just breathed a sigh of relief when Mum called back to me, “You should send them a card.”

“What?”

“Steven and Mel. You should send them a congratulations card.”

“I will.” I said. Like hell, I thought.

Without Mum there, my tears started running freely. I told myself all the reasons I shouldn’t cry. They had been together for four years; it was hardly shocking that they’d got married. They were already living together before; it wasn’t a massive life-change.  And it didn’t affect me anyway; Steven and I hadn’t spoken for years.  But still, a hole opened up in my chest that I thought had healed over years ago.

I caught sight of myself in a café window and groaned. I couldn’t go home with my face all red and splotchy, and mascara round my eyes. Fred would ask too many questions. I nipped into the café and waited behind a woman who was ordering something complicated involving soy.

There was a basket on the counter holding some handmade cards for sale. I flicked through them while waiting for the woman to finish ordering, fighting to stop my tears. The last in the pile was a congratulations card; scarlet with two Scottie dogs on the front. One had a top hat and the other a bow on its head.

“Can I help you?” the barista was smiling at me.

“I just wanted to use the bathroom.”

Her smile vanished. “Well…it’s only for customers really. You’d have to buy something.”

I’d already had coffee with Mum, Fred would go nuts if I bought two in one day. But I couldn’t go home like this. I grabbed the Scottie dog card, “How about this?”

“Sure, that’s two pounds please.”

I tried not to wince as I handed the money over. So much for such a little card.

“Thanks. The toilet’s over there.”

I stuffed the card into my bag and trotted over to the bathroom. Looking in the mirror gave me a fright; I was even more dishevelled than I though. I splashed cold water on my face and scrubbed off the mascara using some paper towels.  A smear of foundation, a flick of fresh mascara. I had to be quick.

My eyes were still red, but there was nothing I could do about that. I threw the make up back in my bag and left the café to head home.

 

 

“Where have you been?”

Every muscle clenched in shock. “You’re home early.” I tried to smile at Fred, leaning in the kitchen doorway with his arms crossed.

“I said where have you been?”

“It’s Friday, I went for coffee with Mum.”

He uncrossed his arms and advanced toward me slowly. “Why did it take so long?”

“I’m sorry, I got held up and -”

“Liar!” His palm slammed onto the door by my ear. “Who were you with?”

“Nobody.” I scrabbled in my bag trying to get the card out to show him.

“WHO WERE YOU WITH?”

He was so close my ears rang with his shout. Tears filled my eyes again and I couldn’t stop them falling. I braced, ready for what he would say next. But today was a good day.

The hand that had hit the door gently wiped a tear from my cheek. “I’m sorry, love. Please don’t cry. I don’t mean to shout.” He pulled me into a hug and I relaxed against him. “I just love you so much, I’m so scared that someone will take you away from me. I couldn’t live without you.”

“You don’t have to.” I wrapped my arms around his waist and squeezed.

“Say you forgive me?” He pulled back to look into my eyes, looking for all the world like a six-foot-tall little boy.

“Of course I forgive you.”


 

If you want to read more (don’t worry, it has a happy ending) then please buy a copy.

I get no money from sales – all profit goes to RAINN, a charity that helps victims of sexual assault.

Thank you!

 

Hair, hair everywhere.

Limit #17: Women shouldn’t have body hair

Oh man, have I got this one covered. Or rather this one has got me covered.

You know that trick in high school when someone said, “the first sign of insanity is hairy palms,” and then laughed at you for checking, because it’s insane to think there would be hair on your palms?

Of course I checked. I still sometimes check. My body excels at producing hair and I would not be the slightest bit surprised to find it on my palms. Which used to be yet another reason I believed I ‘failed’ at being a woman. Because everyone knows the perfect woman is bald below the eyebrows.

Embarrassing secret of the day: I used to shave my arms. Not just armpits; my whole arms. I bought into that idea entirely.

But then I got into this whole body pos/feminism/fat acceptance world, and read a whole lot of articles like this one. The main part that stood out to me:

Patriarchy and capitalism worked (and continue to work) together in order to foster insecurities in women and thus encourage them to buy more products. And because the idealised image of a hairless woman is impossible to maintain, women are encouraged not only to perpetually spend money on depilatory practices but also to participate in a never-ending, time-consuming cycle of hair removal.

So we should all kick the patriarchy where it hurts and just let out hair grow wild and free! We could even dye it.

Now, I know what you’re thinking (because I’m just that good). ‘But Hannah, I prefer non-hairy legs. They just look better!’. Or whichever body part you’re particularly narky about keeping hair-free.

To which I shall answer; I know.

I absolutely expect people to take me just as I am if they want to stay in my life. I am a feminist. I do know that the whole hairless thing is yet another form of oppression, and I probably only think hairless is better because ‘everyone knows’ it is. But yes, I do shave my legs. Even in the depths of winter when nobody is going to see them. And on some particularly bad body days I even cover up my hairy arms.

Turns out I’m only human, and a work-in-progress too. I stopped shaving my arms years ago, when I realised that if someone is going to stop associating with me because I have hair on my arms, like pretty much every human being EVER, then they are not worth one second of my time. But I’m just not there yet with my legs.

Which is pretty darn weird considering that at least 10 people see my arms every day but I can’t remember the last time someone saw my legs. But that’s a different matter.

So, I think you’ll find I can have body hair. Check out these arms.

SAM_3603

But sometimes I still wish I didn’t.

Pretty hurts

In response to this here article I shared on facebook:

EDF Energy held a Pretty Curious competition for girls in tech and gave first place to a boy

 

Dear EDF Energy,

I would love to give you points for trying. I really, really would.

For the sake of time, I’m going to skip over the fact that you aimed the competition at girls by reinforcing the oppressive belief that females only have worth if they meet society’s definition of ‘pretty’.

Despite the name, it could have been brilliant. It could have been an opportunity to show the world that STEM is for girls and girls are for STEM, just as much as boys are. That their ideas are just as useful, worthwhile, and valuable.

Instead, they were beaten by a boy.

I wish I could have been there when that decision was reached, so I could understand the thought process. Because right now I’ve got absolutely no idea.

But don’t despair, it wasn’t a complete waste of time; you managed to give those girls their first real taste of working in STEM. The real-life experience of trying their very best, and still losing out to their male counterpart.

You created an excellent filtering system. The girls who rise to adversity will know they have to work ten times harder than the boys when aiming for the same prize. They will already have started forming the impenetrable barrier around their hearts, which is a requirement for any woman working in (or even around) STEM.

And the ones who crumble will not waste their time working through STEM subjects in high school, college, or university, only to realise they can’t handle working in a world of ingrained sexism and misogyny. They will never have to grow tired of explaining that no, they are not a secretary no, they will not bring you tea no, they are not there to make the site look prettier no, they do not need help moving that  no they will not bend over to pick up that pen no they don’t want to see that hear that no no no.

You have saved them the effort of trying to become everything they could be, in a world that will never stop trying to tell them they are less.

Well done, EDF Energy. You must be so proud of yourselves.

Yours disappointedly,

I can’t sign my name, I’m too busy face-palming.

 

P.S. This is nothing against Josh (the winner). I’m sure his idea was really very good. The problem is that the judges somehow believed a boy winning would encourage girls into STEM.

Please stop the logic train, someone fell off.

 

Once you pop, you just can’t stop.

There once was a woman who lived in a bubble.

The bubble had always been there, from the moment she was born, and everyone around her had one too.

It filtered everything she saw, and made the world look just fine, but it also made the woman feel bad. Her reflection through the bubble was distorted, so all the things she didn’t like about herself looked much bigger than they were, and she could hardly see any good parts.

One day she saw some people who looked strange, although she couldn’t work out why. They were loud and confident, and moved through the world with power, leaving it changed behind them.  She tiptoed closer to them and realised why they looked so different; they had no bubble!

She ran away as fast as she could, afraid of these strange people who were not living the way they were supposed to.

But she couldn’t forget about them, and eventually she started to wonder what it was like to live without a bubble. The thought terrified her, and yet the non-bubbles had seemed so… alive.

She searched for them and found them again. For a while she only watched them, learning how they moved and talked to and about each other. Sometimes they waved at her and she waved back, but didn’t dare get any closer.

Then she overheard one of the non-bubbles explaining that she had been born with a bubble as well, but she had burst it herself. Set herself free.

The woman decided to try it. She stood in front of her mirror and pushed at the bubble, but it was so thick and strong that she could only open a tiny hole in it. She pressed her eye to the hole and looked in the mirror. She couldn’t believe how different she looked! It was too strange so she looked away, but she left the tiny hole there.

She tried looking through it every day, and every day it grew a little wider, until one day with a pop her bubble disappeared completely.

She spent a long time looking at herself. Without the bubble blocking her view she saw there were so many wonderful parts of herself she had never been able to see before.

Then finally she looked around at the world, and realised that the bubble had been distorting things there as well. Everywhere she looked were things the bubble had been hiding from her.

 

Why did that advert for washing powder only contain women’s voices?

Why did that poster have only white people on it?

How could people say that trans women aren’t real women because they can’t have children? If she needed a hysterectomy, would she no longer be a real woman? So… did that guy actually believe he was complimenting her by saying she ‘looks fertile’?

Why did this clothes shop only stock 3 different sizes? All of which are well below the national average?

Did that song always have such rapey lyrics?

 

The people still in their bubbles couldn’t see the problems. Some of the non-bubbles tried to explain, and a few people burst out to join them, but most of them just got angry. They liked their bubble and the way it made the world look.

The bubble-free world was sometimes hard and frightening and painfully unfair, but the woman loved the feeling of being free to see it and try to change it.

She realised she could never force people to leave their bubbles. She wasn’t even very good at persuading them to try, but she decided to do her best anyway. Even if her trying only yielded the smallest results, it would be worth it.

It was the only bubble-free way to live, and she vowed never to let her vision be bubble-clouded again.

 

Leap smile

#‎SmileChallenge

Today I’m smiling  because 2 of my female friends popped the question, and both got a ‘yes’!  I’m so happy for them!!!

And I am finishing this challenge, as pretty much anyone could have guessed, with Voicebeat.

I. Just. LOVE. My choir. I love the songs and the people and the banter and the community and the fact that a week where I don’t laugh until my abs ache is very unusual. It has played a huge part in making Glasgow my home, and I can’t imagine life without them.