1. Men Who Hate Women

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    Recently I’ve found myself more and more wound up by men on public transport. Not all men do this, but at least half, and they sit with a staunch, stubborn entitlement and refuse to shift their position regardless of who might be challenging them. 

    You know what I’m talking about here. The men who take up more space than they need. Men who make a potential free seat an occupied seat by sprawling a knee over half of it. Men who sit with their legs sprawled open, their manhood prized in their laps like a trophy following an awards ceremony. Men who need space, goddammit. Men who deserve as many seats as they can get. Men who lean their legs against yours as if you - tiny little girl - are taking up far too much space as it is in that one seat with your legs snapped tightly together. You’re also probably breathing far too much of that oxygen whilst we’re at it. 

    I get that some men are super tall or built. I sympathise with men that are, and I accommodate as much as I can for them just as I’d accommodate to women that are, but not all the men that do this are particularly tall or well built. They just want to pretend that they are. They’re men, and thats enough. MAKE SPACE FOR THE BIG MAN. 

    I just had to block one such nuisance from my Facebook (which, I suppose, is probably about as useful as air slapping an opponent). I should have known he was a man of that ilk. A man who thinks is he entitled to the World and as much space as he can use up within it. A man who couldn’t possibly hate women because he has hundreds of female friends. Sometimes the worst women haters are the ones who are incapable of recognising how deep their hatred actually goes. 

    The other week I’d posted a stupid ass video on the timeline of a friend who appreciates stupid ass videos. It was of a 10 year old girl performing at a dancing competition in what I think are pretty standard dancing clothes - a crop top and a pair of shorts. Her entire schtick hinged on the fact that the medley she was dancing to was a glorious mixture of queer dance anthems by drag queens and that she was fierce as fuck - voguing like a champion and moving in a smart and cartoonish replication of women twice her age. One or two of the moves could be considered risque, but the girl is 10 and as such the moves are harmless. When I was 10 I went through a phase of replicating the Foxy Lady dance from Wayne’s World - crotch thrusts and all - and didn’t once think ‘oh, this must mean something sexy’. It was a dance. I like to move it, move it. 

    And of course, one of the problems with Facebook is that we willingly make our conversations public. I posted this video on my friends timeline - not in a private message - because I wanted some of our mutual friends to enjoy it too. This 10 year old girl is spectacular, for fucksakes! Within minutes of posting it, this guy - this gremlin, this troll - already had something to say about it. 

    So, this is basically child pornography? He said. She shouldn’t be dressing and dancing like some stripper whore trying to make a couple of quid for her unwanted baby at home. 

    YIKES. 

    My blood immediately boiled. Where to start?! Shocked and not wanting to wage full on war, I replied with a terse but simple:

    She’s 10 years old. She should be able to dress and act however she wants. If people see something sexual in a 10 year old girl’s dance performance then they’re the ones who have the problem, not the little girl. 

    NO DICE. He responds, as though he’s schooled in this sort of rhetoric and I should shut up and listen the fuck up to an expert:

    I understand the need for girls and women to express themselves however they want but at 10 years old thrusting your vagina at an audience whilst dressed as a young prostitute isn’t right. It’s giving out the wrong signal to predators that this young woman is sexually available. 

    No and no. 

    I took my rings off my fingers and cracked my knuckles and wrote back, Firstly, people who sexually attack girls, boys, women and men don’t give much of a shit about how a person’s dressed, they’ll do it with or without what you seem to see as being a ‘sexual invitation’ and secondly, yes she’s thrusting her vagina at the audience. Is that sexual? If you find that sexy, that’s your problem, I see a little girl DANCING. That part of the body is where wee comes out. That is not sexy. 

    And then I proceeded to send him the clip from the end of Little Miss Sunshine where the 10 year old girl performs the risque striptease dance to Superfreak much to the horror of the beauty contest she’s trying to win. The contest organisers scream that it’s inappropriate but her family see it for what it is, a little girl just having fun and they cheer her on. 

    I deleted the video, eventually. You just know that some arguments can only end in one of two ways: either in murder or never. 

    So I dropped it. I should have deleted him there and then, but instead I held off and was rewarded a few days later with more of the same.

    The status he’d posted was a full on rant addressed to a pregnant woman who must have been on his bus. He had a seat - possibly even two seats, judging from the way that men like him behave on public transport - and made it clear that he would not under any circumstances be giving up his seat to a pregnant woman! Why should he have to suffer just because she ‘couldn’t keep her legs shut’? Why is her ‘slightly swollen middle’ more important than his build and his height? NO! He said. This ends now! I’m keeping my seat! Fuck you pregnant bitch!

    His friends seemed to share in his hatred. These pregnant women, eh? Always storming onto the bus and stealing all of the goddamn leg space. Whores! One and all! 

    They weren’t aware of the swollen feet that most pregnant women get during pregnancy which leaves some women so tender they can barely walk (Hey! Big men get sore feet too! We’re tall! We’re heavy! We eat a lot of steak!) or the nausea that ensues whenever the fuck it wants to. They didn’t consider that maybe carrying that sort of weight around your middle might be killer on your back (Hey! What about our beer guts? WHO WILL TAKE THE WEIGHT OFF OUR BEER PAUNCH!!?) or that most mothers to be are nervous about that one bad jolt on the bus that knocks another commuter into them and harms the unborn child.

    I’m not one for sanctimonious pregnancy blabber. I don’t rejoice at the news of mothers to be or delight in pictures of ultra sounds, but I do give up my seat to pregnant women on the bus.

    And next time I do, I’ll look around me for the bloke still sat, legs sprawled, enjoying his manhood and his entitled space and probably seething about the complete and utter slag who dared to have sex and make a baby and expect him to offer her a seat. I’ll find him, and I’ll take a seat on his goddamn lap. 

     


  2. I Never Knew You Were Such a Monster Shortlisted for the 2013 Blog North Awards!

    Somehow this here little blog has been shortlisted (for the second year in a row, whutt?!!) for a prize in the category of Best Writing On a Blog at the 2013 Blog North Awards! 

    I share some fabulous company with some terrific bloggers, thinkers, activists and writers who’ve also been shortlisted (check out the full list here!: http://www.blognorthawards.com/2013-shortlist) and am delighted to announce that I’ll also be performing one of my wretched tales at the ceremony once again this year.

    The show is taking place on Wednesday 16th October at Gorilla, Manchester. If you see me, give me some charitable wine and a high five. Hopefully I’ll be wearing a victory tiara fashioned out of tin foil. 

    http://www.blognorthawards.com/the-event

     


  3. T E E T H

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    Things that should not be dressed
    pretty
    celebrated like little
    crescent moons splintered 
    against a prop
    cosmos 

    you don’t embellish these things
    that betray you
    in your own mouth
    &
    deliver them
    to poetry

    T H E Y
    should deliver
    /a biting 
    bark
    the ivory fence where
    the words emit
    [I am writing about you]
    like sshhh
    talking about people who 
    are in the fucking room
    [rude]

    I can taste the blood

    from the gums
    I can feel the rebellion
    of the roots
    the little white castles
    crumbling
    into the ruin
    of pulp

    a quick dalliance with the tongue
    a french finger
    slippery with the spit
    of paranoia or passion
    or pah, whatever
    everything would heal
    fix up, find God
    if it weren’t for my prodding
    my curiosity
    my need to know that the bad

    thing I think will happen is the bad
    thing that will happen when I do
    what I think needs 
    to be 
    done.

    I will rip them out
    one
    by
    one.

     


  4. The Man with Death for a Collar

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    The rain has finally stopped. Which is something, not just for the weekend - which was a bit of a wash out, the end of the Summer like the vitriolic, sloppy fuck that ends an affair - but for lovers of irony everywhere. The second we take the tent down, it begins to brighten up.

    But here we are, sat at a train station in Wales with a two and a half hour wait for our train, and it isn’t raining. There’s a certain grace to that, as though a sea has been parted so we can walk straight through. We sit in a corner at the edge of the station. There’s an open gate to the side of us that leads only to a brick wall, some bins and a fence because we’re looking at it from the wrong perspective. Behind us is the station, silent in that colossal way that all things which exist completely dependent on time and schedules often are. They move only for the briefest of moments, and then nothing. Guests are restrained into order. Sit down and shut up and feel the seconds drip from your veins. 

    Your train is due in 2 hours and 26 minutes. 

    There’s about 6 of us and we sit in a malformed circle. In my bag I’ve stashed some bread, humous and an energy drink - the emergency picnic essentials - and in my head I’ve stashed a hangover. It isn’t the kind that drills at your skull or crushes your eyeballs. It’s the sort that fills you with anxiety and puts a treadmill underneath whatever part of your brain controls fear and thought. I’m dizzy with brain. I’m nauseous with mind. 

    I tear off a piece of bread and dip it into the humous. 2 hours and 24 minutes. 

    None of us talk. I pull out a book that my dad has lent me - In Cold Blood by Truman Capote - and re-read the same line about the manner in which the murdered father of the household must have choked to death when he had his throat cut. I balk, panic, and stare straight ahead miserably. It still isn’t raining, at least.

    A man who looks to be in his thirties walks past and through the open gate. He’s wearing a blue shirt which looks tired and dirty the way that clothes do when worn to death. It’s the same shade as the parts of sky that can be seen between the clouds when they break. He sits down by the fence opposite the bins and I think, You too, huh? These fucking trains.

    It doesn’t even occur to me that he has no bags with him. 

    2 hours and 20 minutes.

    I take a swig from the energy drink. We bought it last night from a garage when we were drunk and it tastes like sugar dipped in something warm and medicinal and long past its sell by date.

    I stare back out, straight ahead again, at nothing. At time, I suppose. I stare at the guy in the blue shirt. He’s looking right at us, not even blinking. His face red as though burning. 

    I tear off a piece of bread and dip it in the humous. I eat it like a camel. My mouth is so dry that it just rolls about my mouth for a while like a sock in a tumble dryer. I stare at a singular vein on the mans head that is visibly pulsing. A train pulls up at the station behind us. Sparks and steel and electric and friction like the sound of a clock hand moving a whole minute, amplified and in super slow motion. 

    Somebody that I’m with says Oh my god, that man. He’s going to die. 

    I cock my head and continuing staring in the same direction that I have been for the past twenty minutes or so, the man is still red faced. The vein in his head is still pulsing. His eyes are bulging, desperate, they’re fixed right on us. 

    I still don’t see the death. 

    What’s he doing? Another one pipes up, barely looking over his shoulder to see.

    He’s got a rope tied around his neck - can’t you see it? It’s tied to the fence and it’s tied tight around his neck. Oh my god, he’s turning blue. Should we do something? He’s going to die…

    He’s not going to die, someone else says behind me. Just leave him to it. He won’t die, he’s in public. And if he does die, then he’s an arsehole who deserves it. Just don’t look at him. 

    Another one of my friends to the left of me is reading Empire of the Sun by JG Ballard, he lifts his eyes up off the page briefly to see what all the commotion is, before sighing, turning the page and resuming the story. 

    Oh, Christ, I wail, holding a hand to my forehead dramatically. We should do something! We can’t just sit here…

    But nobody moves. 

    Somebody else tears off a piece of bread and dips it in the humous. I hear the bottle cap of the energy drink gasp as somebody opens it. The man still stares at us. He still hasn’t blinked. He still hasn’t taken a breath. 

    My friend finally gets up and walks over to him and I shout at her to be careful. I think about the time when I was about 8 and an elderly neighbour took revenge on some local youths who’d been terrorising him and his dog for months by running after them through the streets with a butcher knife. That didn’t scare them. But when he held it to his own throat, they completely lost their shit. 

    Humanity, ladies and gentleman.

    She talks to the guy briefly but he doesn’t even register her. His eyes remain fixed in our direction. Something she sees in him scares her and she becomes more urgent, trying to untie the rope from the fence or his neck, but it’s rigid. She runs in the opposite direction and a couple of seconds later a small group of men in high visibility jackets run over and panic over the man. 

    They try an assortment of blades on the rope until it finally breaks. The whole time the man doesn’t change. He’s final as though in the midst of a slow teleportation. Only part of him is  left here. The rest has made it over to infinity. 

    They carry him away from the area by his arms, the way you see people disposing of dead birds. 

    An ambulance comes and the police turn up. He’s a regular, they say. There’s nothing we can do . 

    And of course, the rain resumes. 

     


  5. The Sadism of Dentists

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    I’ve always felt a certain futility towards oral hygiene, and a hostility towards people who make the oral hygiene of others their profession. 

    It started early with me. As a kid I understood that I was never, ever to talk to strangers. Even if they seem nice. Even if they offer you sweets. Just say no. So why in the World would I ever gleefully accept an invitation to lie down in an examination chair and have some stranger probe around in my mouth with their rubbery, excitable fingers? That shit just seems wrong me. I do not trust people who want to do that for a living. 

    My complete and utter distrust towards dentists was only solidified when, as a pre-pubescent, I got a filling done by one such character who I trusted completely with my precious mouth. He got his rummaging little fingers in there, poked around, shoved a needle in my gums a couple of times and whammed a lump of whatever into a bad tooth.

    Except this guy was a total cowboy. When I returned for my follow up checkup a few months down the line, my new dentist informed me how the previous chump had been stripped of his dental license - I hate to inform you that we actually had complaints regarding his professionalism - he told me whilst adjusting my seat into a position of total vulnerability - and when we looked more closely at his credentials realised that he wasn’t actually fully qualified to practice dentistry at the level that he was. I’ll be taking over from here.
    He opened my mouth up, and with one small probing, knocked the new filling clean off.
    Jesus Christ…he muttered. As though he’d found the face of God imprinted in the decay of my mouth and lost his faith in one fell swoop. 

    What is it?! My mother yelped from across the room. I remained silent. My shoulders slumped. I knew what was coming. 

    Well, your last dentist has put the filling into the tooth without cleaning it of the bacteria prior to the treatment. So basically…the tooth is dead. Totally deteriorated. There’s nothing we can do it for it now except fill it with a larger filling. She’ll have problems with it later in life, but I mean, this should never have happened. 

    More than 17 years on and that tooth is still there. A corpse in the middle of a crowded gathering. A Weekend At Bernies scenario, where I carry a dead thing around in the vicinity of where I eat things, drink things and kiss my partner. It’s black and sharp. A bottomless valley surrounded by razor edges and a fruitless filling that has submerged closer and closer to the gum line with every year that it exists.
    It feels futile to pay obsessive attention to my oral hygiene, because even the professionals don’t. If they don’t have hope for the future of my teeth, then neither do I. My mouth is a sinking ship and I am it’s passenger, clinging on for dear life. We’re going down together. 

    It has to be noted that I have gone through periods of complete neglect with my teeth. Usually in times of complete, disparate depression when the last thing from my mind is cleanliness. But here I am, bouncing back, and I’m trying to make things right. I have become obsessive. I brush two to three times a day now. I use mouthwash so strong that it stings my eyes. I even try to use those interdental devices to get right in deep, but my teeth are so crowded - pushed further together like tits in a push up bra, thanks to the growth of my wisdom teeth - that it’s like trying to push a tooth pick through a rock face. 

    But I carry on. I register with a dentist, finally, after two years without one. I have spent my whole life warning dentists that my teeth and my gums are in a bad way and that I need help. All of them have repeated the same bullshit mantra: Just keep taking care of them and they’ll take care of you. Bullshit. I took impeccable care of them for years and they did fuck all to reciprocate.

    So I get my dentist appointment. A row of dental nurses sit on reception checking their Facebook and discussing Friday night plans and the outfit that one of their friends wore to a recent wedding. On the other side of the room a TV is playing the repetitive brain slop of FM radio’s big hits of the week. The same four songs ad infinitum. The whole place smells like cheap leather and spearmint. They finally call my name and a nurse eyeballs me into the examination room. She leans against the wall next to the doorway like she’s James Dean and I’m a goddamned cop. I smile nervously and shuffle in, attempting to work out how to sit on that torture throne they have in dental surgeries. 

    The dentist is a short, greying Indian man with a permanently downturned mouth. His facial features are all sunken and unpleasant in the same way that my teeth are. 

    He turns the light on above me and starts fingering the inside of mouth, yelling those banal numbers and troubling phrases out at the nurse that dentist’s always do. It takes all of 20 seconds. That’s all he needs. He turns the light off and adjusts the seat so he can talk to me. 

    Okay, madam, he begins, How often do you brush your teeth?

    At the moment I’m brushing twice a day with mouthwash. 

    He looks over at the dental nurse and raises an eyebrow before snorting, Twice a day?! I don’t think so, no. Your teeth are absolutely rotten, madam. Unbelievable. 

    I stammer a response which doesn’t even leave my mouth, it sits in the back of my throat as though I’m about to burst into tears. 

    You have one tooth that is completely black. Ruined. You’ve ruined your teeth. I don’t know how long that will last, frankly. It is your own fault, madam, and I presume from your look that you smoke as well?

    I don’t know where to start here. My ‘look’?! I try to dive in and take some control back and tell him the story behind the tooth in question, I begin the sentence with a chuckle so as to lighten the mood a little.

    Well, the funny thing is, that tooth was actually ruined by a dentist when I was a kid. He put the filling in without removing the bacter—

    He snorts, again, and mumbles I have a hard time believing that madam. You need to take responsibility for the state of your mouth. You have ruined it. And you do smoke. 

    I look down at my clothes. Sure, I’m all dressed in black - a Johnny Cash attending the funeral of my own mouth, from the sounds of things - but this is a cruel assertion to make of me. I don’t even reply.

    You do. I know that you do. And your mouth will and is suffering as a result, madam. It’s your own fault. I mean, your gums!! Unbelievable. Truly shocking. This gum here at the front is nearly completely receded. 

    I know. I mean, that’s part of the reason why I’ve come here today. I want some advice! How can I help it? Is there anything else I should be doing? Or is there anything you can do here? I ask, desperately. Genuinely showing interest in helping myself.

    He rolls his eyes and delivers a curt Clean them, As though I’ve been scrubbing my mouth with meths and dried tobacco for the past ten years and nothing else.
    The cheeky prick.
    I ball my fists up. I wonder how much time I’d serve for punching him straight in the face, knocking a tooth or two out and leaving the premises with a cracking one liner like YOU should take some responsibility for your MOUTH. Your teeth are a fucking mess. At least mine aren’t on the floor, motherfucker!

    But I don’t. Instead I refrain a sob. Tears bunch up in my eyes. He sees this and it doesn’t deter him in the slightest.

    Quite simply, madam, your teeth are going to fall out.They will fall out and it will be all your own fault. For now though we can do three fillings for you. Now, this won’t be cheap. You’re paying to prolong the lifespan of your teeth, here. So, three fillings: that is £290. 

    I’m stunned into silence. 

    I widen my eyes at him. 

    He rolls his eyes once more and then says Or, you can go for the cheaper option which won’t help your teeth much, but will make them look less messy as they are now for £180. 

    How much?! I wimper. This was a mistake. I finally have a job and this is what happens. Everyone should stay on welfare. 

    £180. That is a white filling, so you’ll have less to be embarrassed about. 

    Okay, but why is the other price £290? What do I get for that?
    He quickly - far too quickly - summarises the differences in price in a way that makes absolutely zero sense to me. He deliberately delivers the summary in a broken English that betrays the perfect English he’s been speaking prior to this point. If anything I want to tell him that this is a bad approach. If nothing else comes out of today then maybe I can explain that this is exactly the sort of behaviour that plays into the hands of radical British patriots. The racists, and the neo-nazis and the ‘Keep Britain British!’ brigade who I spend so much of my time fighting against and actively avoiding. I cringe for him. Have some self respect, I want to say, And stop talking stupid! Speak how you usually speak - like the highly educated individual that you clearly are! But I don’t. I despair. Everything is futile.

    There are plenty of British born dentists, I should add, with English as a first language who probably use a similar trick on people. A slurred mumble of a price list, or insanely long words bumped in there to confuse and make patients feel small. A dickhead is a dickhead, at the end of the day.

    I ask for a print out of what exactly I’d be paying for - an itemised list of costs, which isn’t unfair considering the price, and to which he flat out refuses. 

    Okay, well do you do payment plans? Because that’s really expensive. 

    No. You pay up front or you have nothing. 

    And then I realise that I’d read the sign in the waiting room with the price list on. That this is a goddamned NHS dentist, and by law he can only charge me around the £45 mark for any treatment that follows an examination. 

    And then it strikes me: This has been his plan all along. Break my spirit and make me feel terrible about myself. Find the weak spot of my self-esteem and gun it down to a feeble thread so he can cash in on my vulnerability. The cunt. 

    Well, I can’t afford either of them right now. I want the cheapest option. 

    He stands staring at me angrily for a moment before giving in. 

    Fine. you pay £49 for basic fillings that will fall out, I should say. And your teeth, eventually, will fall out too. But it’s your choice.

    That’s fine, I say. 

    And he opens the door to let me leave. 

    As I turn to exit he hurriedly shouts Actually, are you in any pain with your teeth right now?

    A question that possibly should have been asked during the examination. A question that seems so vital to basic dental practice that it stuns me. 

    No. I’m fine. They’re fine. 

    I haul ass to the reception where a nurse is waiting for me to pay £20 for the pleasure of having been almost ripped off and a 20 second examination that involved no advice, no comfort, only criticism. 

    I book an appointment which I’ll later cancel. 

    My teeth throb in my mouth as though they’re squirming to escape. Like a battlefield squishy with the decomposed flesh of fallen soldiers - survivors walking through mushy decayed landscapes into the cavities of young, hopeless bodies. 

    What other industry performs a service like this? You would never go into somebodies house as a cleaner and berate them for being messy cooks who spill pasta sauce over hobs or passionate lovers who muddle and stain the bedding. You’d never hear of a plumber paid to fix a toilet who berates a man for his poor diet clogging up the system and fucking up the flush or an interior decorator who scalds the homeowners who dared possess a house with a bedroom too small to decorate it the way they had planned. 

    Dentists are sadists. Pure and simple. And we pay them for the pleasure.