I’m awake. The room is cloaked in darkness but it will be some time until I’m ready to pull the shutter up. I don’t need to see the suitcase on the floor, overloaded with unwashed clothes; I can smell it already. I check my phone and the brightness of the screen hurts my eyes. It’s one o’clock in the afternoon. Like yesterday and the day before, I haven’t quite managed to make it into work today. No-one will bother me. The first time it happened a few frantic phone calls were made. When I saw Alba the next day, she expressed how scared she was that something might have happened. She didn’t specify what that something might have been, but she didn’t have to. Now Alba and all the other teachers handle me with extreme caution. Like they’re scared that if they ask me too many questions, that I’ll shatter into pieces in front of them and they won’t know what to do with the shards. Perhaps they just don’t care anymore. It’s kind of sad because Alba was a really good friend to me for the first sixth months of my time in Manresa. But at this point I don’t blame her. I’m surprised they’re still paying me to be honest.
Moving carefully through the darkness, I feel for the door handle and step out into the narrow corridor that leads to four other rooms. It’s dark here too. Sami’s bedroom is the furthest to my right. She’ll be at work and won’t be home until at least six. I wonder whether she tried to wake me this morning or just didn’t bother. The days all blur into one. The door to my immediate right leads to Cuca’s bedroom. Cuca is the eleven-week-old kitten that Sami entrusts me to look after whilst she’s at work. She must have heard me because now she is crying from behind the closed door, begging me to let her out. She’s been alone for hours but I’m not ready to deal with her just yet either. I go into the bathroom and shut the door behind me.
As I sit on the toilet I try to remember the last time I had a bowel movement that wasn’t diarrhoea. I can’t. I’m pretty sure I have piles. I’m pretty sure they hurt, but these days it’s difficult to distinguish which pain is coming from which body part. After using a ridiculous amount of toilet roll, I wash my hands and catch sight of myself in the toothpaste splattered mirror. My hair hasn’t been cut in over two months. The dark brown dye has faded. My greasy, auburn roots have been left to grow for far too long. In a way I use them as a reference point. A measurement of how much time has passed since it finally dawned on me that he was never going to love me. The point where the auburn darkens marks the exact place in time of when I accepted it. Or at least tried to begin to. You can’t escape from your roots. They’re always there, beneath the surface of your scalp, just waiting for the time to pass so that they can reveal themselves. So that they can reveal the truth. I want to shave it all off but that would only draw too much attention to my face. My gaunt face and my spot infested chin. I’m not sure they are technically spots anymore, they’re more like scabs. Wounds. I know I need to leave them alone. If I don’t stop picking at them then they’re never going to heal. But I can’t resist. I’m picking at them right now. Pick. Pick. Pick. I don’t stop until I draw blood and the scabs lay discarded in the sink. If Sami was here I would stick pieces of tissues to my face to absorb the blood. But she isn’t so I let the blood trickle down. A reminder that surely if I can bleed then I am still technically alive.
It’s boiling inside the bathroom. I’m only wearing shorts but I’m sweating. I clasp my hands around my minute waist. I’ve always been skinny but I’d never considered it a problem until now. When I lay down at night I can feel my ribs almost protruding from my body. If I was to inhale too strongly I wouldn’t be shocked to hear something crack. When I returned home for a week in March, my skeletal figure shocked my parents and for the first time in a long time they showed genuine concern about me. When I tried to pick up my two-year-old niece I felt excruciating pains in my arms, shoulders and neck. I’d never felt anything like it before. I had to put her back down, terrified that I was going to drop her. The one family member I care about more than anyone else.
It was freezing back in Liverpool. The cold has always bothered me but this was unbearable. In a moment of desperation, I dragged the living room couch away from the radiator and sat with my back pressed up against it. The bars burnt against my spine but still the rest of my body shivered. When my mother walked into the room she just stood and stared, I don’t think she knew what to say. Before I returned to Manresa, she made me promise that I’d bring my five months of vegetarianism to an end. My dad asked if I was sure I was ready to go back. This was extremely out of character. I felt like I didn’t have a choice, and though I did, I was incapable of making it. I find myself calling them most nights. I don’t know what I’m hoping to achieve. Most of the phone calls consist of silence until my mother reinforces my earlier belief, “I just don’t know what to say.” Then she hangs up. I can’t help but resent them.
The stench of sweat clings to my body. I should shower but I like to space things out to minimalize the amount of time I have to just think. I’ll do it before Sami gets home. I run the tap to flush my scabby remains down the plughole. Ignoring Cuca’s cries I return to my bedroom. It’s just as hot in here so I’m finally ready to pull up the shutter and open the window. The light is harsh. I think I prefer the dark; it makes me feel less guilty. With the room illuminated, my eyes are drawn to my few possessions scattered across the storage cabinets to my left. Textbooks that have been left untouched for days. A framed drawing of Edie Sedgwick that a friend gave me as a gift for my birthday; the glass shattered in the move over here. A makeup bag containing various beauty products including several bareMinerals application brushes that I purchased after the Christmas break. Back when I was inspired to make a lot of effort with my appearance. Some days for me, most days for him. None of these items will be necessary today. On the days that I do manage to make it into work I either use my fingertips to frantically rub foundation over my scabby face or wear none at all.
Reaching into the bag, I search for what I’m looking for. I pull out a small tub of unopened anti-depressants. A doctor prescribed them last month when Alba accompanied me to a hospital to find a cure for my persistent diarrhoea and recent body aches. They only cost forty-five cents. I don’t trust them. They aren’t what I’m looking for. I try again and retrieve the herbal anxiety tablets that Alba recommended. I take two and wash them down with water from a half empty bottle that has been lingering in my room for a while. They taste like Weetabix. So I guess they count as a reasonable breakfast substitute.
Unable to supress the guilt any longer, I decide to set Cuca free. She darts out and paws at my bare feet, whining for attention. Her room smells as bad as I do. She hasn’t quite mastered how to use her litter box yet. Like the children at work, she could do with a better teacher. There are two solid, kitten-sized faeces next to the box. I should probably clean them up and open a window. I should probably do a lot of things.
Cuca follows me through the fourth and final door of the corridor. The living room is filled with light due to the glass doors that occupy an entire wall. They slide open to allow access to a balcony. There isn’t a lot of furniture, other than a second-hand couch that I purchased for ninety euros on the Spanish equivalent of Gumtree. In front of the couch stands a chair with my old, battered laptop open on top of it. The laptop only works when it’s plugged in and it’s barely holding itself together. The screen has detached from the base in the left corner and any day now it’s going to completely fall apart. On the floor there is a large jar, it was filled with olives but now only the brine remains. My current diet consists solely of olives, ice pops and Aldi pizzas that cost one euro and ninety-nine cents for three. The pizzas have a texture like tomato purée covered cardboard but I can’t stomach much else.
Cuca is gnawing at the lead of the laptop charger. I pick her up more roughly than I should and drop her on the couch. Sami brought her home when she was only five weeks old, it seemed too soon for her to be separated from her mother. She’s a beautiful little creature. Her fur is striped like a tiger and her blue eyes have a look of pure innocence. She deserves so much love and care but I’m just not able to provide it. Sometimes I just want to pick her up and shake her. To scream at her. To ask her what she wants from me. To explain to her that I can’t possibly look after her when I can’t even look after myself.
The need to smoke overwhelms me. I step out onto the balcony and light a cigarette, instinctively sliding the door shut behind me. The flat is on the fourth floor and Sami would murder me if Cuca ever got out. Little does Sami know, that every time I’m out here I peer over the edge and acknowledge that the drop is as a danger, not to Cuca but to myself. So far the thought of Sami coming home to discover my blood splattered across the courtyard keeps me safe. I don’t want her to have to deal with that trauma. I don’t want her to have to spend the rest of her time in this small town known as the girl whose friend jumped from her balcony. I don’t want my parents to have to pay for what remains of my body to be shipped back home. I dread the day when these consequences no longer hold me back. Every day that I wake up here is a risk. My selfish desire for nothingness is growing too strong to subdue. I honestly believe that I’m going to die here. One jump and it could all disappear if I wanted. The uncontrollable thoughts. The never-ending misery. The insufferable pain. Him. He’s killing me anyway. This would just be quicker. But not today.
I finish my cigarette and slide open the balcony door. At first I don’t notice Cuca waiting for me on the other side. She does this often. She waits with her face pressed up against the glass, her eyes fixated on me, ready to dart out the moment the door is opened. My paranoia tells me that she’s doing this on purpose, to test me. To see if I really am capable of keeping her safe. Something else tells me that she just doesn’t want to be left alone inside this flat. She longs to go outside, but it’s just too dangerous. Just as her tiny paw is about to touch the balcony tiles, I spot her. I scoop her up gently and step back inside, sliding the balcony door shut behind me.
I discovered RuPaul’s Drag Race when I was twenty-three. The competitive reality show had premiered seven years earlier but I’ve always had a habit of being late to the party. One hungover day, a Vine of one of the most beloved members of the Drag Race alumni, Alyssa Edwards, caught my attention. Alyssa was wearing a blonde, bouffant wig and rolling around on the floor holding a prop gun. The Ariana Grande song Dangerous Woman played over the five second clip. I was sold. I called in sick to work, blaming my IBS rather than the consequences of cheap wine, and watched all seven episode of the latest series, All Stars 2. Within a few short months I consumed every episode possible.
What I found in Drag Race was a sense of belonging that I had never felt before. I had never witnessed such a positive representation of gay men before. These men weren’t being stereotyped or solely used for comic relief, they were being celebrated. Watching them share their talents, stories and struggles gave me hope. Hope that maybe things do get better. I could relate to these queens. Queens like Katya who, in her own words, ‘is riddled with crippling anxiety’. Queens like Nina Bo’Nina Brown who struggles to silence her inner saboteur. Queens like Jaidynn Diore Fierce who isn’t fully accepted by her family. These queens made me feel less alone.
Inspired by the queens, I decided to lose my drag virginity. I made my drag debut at a noughties themed, fancy dress party as the ultimate noughties icon: Paris Hilton. I paid homage to her look from the first season of The Simple Life and my attention to detail was exceptional. I wore a denim corset and mini-skirt combo. All night I carried around a Beanie Baby Chihuahua to represent the heiresses’ beloved Chihuahua, Tinkerbell (rest in peace sweet pup). I even had a real Louis Vuitton handbag that I borrowed from one of my middle class friends. It was without a doubt one of the best nights of my life, made perfect by the fact that Princess Paris left two comments on my Instagram photos. The messages may have been short and sweet, “Yas” and “Loves it” (with a starry, heart emoji) but they validated me for life. I felt grateful to Drag Race, more specifically to the Queen of Queens herself, RuPaul.
RuPaul is many things: a gay icon, the most powerful man in drag and America’s untraditional sweetheart. His career has been ground-breaking and he has used his position of power to launch the careers of over one hundred other drag queens. He provides each and every queen with unconditional love and support. He isn’t just a judge to the queens, he is a mentor and mother. However, in the past week RuPaul became something that his supporters didn’t think was possible: flawed.
In a recent interview with the Guardian, RuPaul shocked the LGBT community. He announced he wouldn’t admit transgender queens onto his show if they had already started gender-affirming surgery. Understandably the outcry that followed was deafening. Former Drag Race contestants (including those who went on to transition after the show), fans and trans performers all came forward to express their disappointment in RuPaul and state how strongly the disagreed with his decision. He has since retracted and apologised for his discriminatory comments in a poorly-received tweet.
RuPaul’s apology tweet was met with valid criticism. However, while some people engaged in debate and questioned RuPaul’s stance, others decided that the conversation was over, along with his career. Tweets declaring ‘RuPaul is dead’ circulated. Anger and disagreement are worthwhile reactions, but shutting down conversation when you’re met with opinions that aren’t the same as yours is counter intuitive to progress. Despite what we would like to believe, there isn’t a single person alive that hasn’t been guilty of being ignorant. If the punishment for ignorance is death, then the entire human race would face extinction any minute now. Conversations challenging ignorance need to be informative and compassionate, especially when challenging transgender discrimination which until recently people knew very little about.
Since Caitlin Jenner’s transition, the conversation surrounding trans people has moved to the fore. The L, G and B members of the LGBT community have experienced progress in recent years, such as the legalisation of same-sex marriage across all states in America. However, transgender people have not been afforded the same treatment. Under new congress trans people have seen their rights consistently threatened and retracted. As one of the most prominent figures of a marginalised group, RuPaul should be well aware of just how damaging exclusivity can be.
RuPaul was the voice telling me that who I am is good enough, louder than all of the other voices telling me that I wasn’t. Trans people desperately need to hear that voice right now. RuPaul has a responsibility to be that voice. We all have a responsibility to be that voice. We need to speak loud and clear. We need to reinforce that the T stands for so much more than truth. We need to do better.
Call Me by Your Name tells the story of seventeen-year-old Elio Perlman (Timothée Chalamet) who experiences the inimitable euphoria of falling in love for the first time and the inevitable heartbreak that follows. The summer romance he shares with another man lasts only six short weeks. Directed by Luca Guadagnino (I Am Love and A Bigger Splash), the film is an adaptation of André Aciman’s 2007 coming-of-age novel, translated for the screen by James Ivory. This stunning, arthouse film is set in the early 80’s in an unspecified location in Northern Italy. Much like Moonlight, 2016’s success story for gay cinema, Call Me by Your Name earned numerous nominations from some of the most prestigious film awards, including four Academy Award nominations. On paper, the film is everything that a young, gay man would expect to capture and break his own heart.
Italian-American Elio is a musical prodigy who speaks three languages. He spends his summers in Italy reading profound literature, transcribing classical music and composing different styles of Bach on piano. He had a loving relationship with his parents, they are a family of intellectuals. Elio states they are the only Jewish family in the region and they keep their religion discrete. Every summer his father, Professor Perlman (Michael Stuhlbarg), selects a graduate student to come live with the family and assist him with his research. This particular summer the indisputably handsome, self-assured Oliver (Armie Hammer) is selected. Oliver is an archaeologist with an incredible academic and philosophical mind and a habit of leaving conversations with a dismissive “Later.” It is Oliver’s arrival that awakens something inside of Elio. Oliver breathes life into his summer and awakens his dormant sexuality. It is unfortunate that the introduction of Hammer’s Oliver has quite a different effect on the viewer.
From the moment Oliver steps out of a car in his billowy shirt with exposed, never-ending legs, it is apparent there is something jarring about the casting of Hammer. Though Hammer’s performance certainly captures the cockiness of Oliver, it isn’t quite powerful enough to distract viewers from the fact that once again a film with a same-sex couple at its heart has decided to cast two straight actors in the leading roles. Oliver is the third character that Hammer has portrayed in a same-sex relationship, like fellow actor James Franco he has been accused of queerbaiting LGBT audiences to prove himself as a progressive actor.
On top of this Hammer’s age raises an issue. He is thirty-two-years-old playing the twenty-four-year-old love interest of seventeen-year-old Elio. Chalamet is twenty-one-years-old. The love story already faced criticism for the age-gap between the two lovers with critics arguing that it reinforced the harmful predatory stereotype that members of the LGBT community face. However, through casting actors with an even greater age gap between them, the film only draws further attention to this issue. This is supported by the striking contrast between Chalamet’s boy like figure and Hammer’s Greek godlike physique, which are constantly exposed as both actors spend the majority of the film wearing only swimming shorts.
Chalamet accurately portrays the vulnerability and relatability of falling in love for the first time with another man. Every movement and sound he makes is believable, from his stolen glances at Oliver to the crack in his voice when he calls his mum to pick him up after Oliver’s departure. There is no denying that his performance is breath-taking and as a result, his nomination for Best Actor at the Oscars is well-deserved. However, this makes Chalamet approximately the fiftieth straight actor to receive an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of a gay character. As Sir Ian Mckellen has previously pointed out: no openly gay man has ever won the Oscar for Best Actor. Despite being openly gay himself, Guadagnino’s casting choices leaves Call Me by Your Name in the company of other critically acclaimed LGBT films (Brokeback Mountain and Milk) that have highlighted the perceived discrimination LGBT actors face.
As a result of the poster they chose to use to market the film (a still of Elio and a female love interest paired with a quotation about the intensity of the romance in the film), Sony has once again been accused of trying to straight-wash a gay film. Call Me by Your Name is unmistakably a queer love story. There are very specific factors of a love shared by two men, such as the rejection they face from their families and the secrecy society forces them into, that are not present in a straight relationship. These factors would be even more prominent when their love develops at the same time of the AIDS epidemic in the 80s. However, the film seems determined to establish itself as more than just a gay love story in a bid to appeal to a wider, more ‘general’ audience. It’s desire to be regarded as more a coming-of-age story is clear and disappointing. The relationship Elio explores with Marzia (Esther Garrel) whilst struggling with his feelings towards Oliver is given a surprising amount of screen time. The way in which the camera is framed and lingers on the sex scenes involving Elio and Marzia, harshly contrasts the filming style applied to sex scenes between Elio and Oliver. The moments shared between Elio and Marzia are more brightly lit, show more skin and are shot much closer up. Though there are several tender moments shown between the two male lovers, such as when Elio places his foot on top of Oliver’s and when Oliver first touches Elio on the shoulder. However, when it comes to the much anticipated sex scene, Guadagnino pans the camera away to focus on a tree. In Aciman’s novel, there is a very graphic sex scene involving a peach, the scene in the film depicting this was rewritten and downplayed. Sony have faced criticism several times before for their choice of film stills used to market their films. Carol, the 2015 film starring Cate Blanchett told the story of a forbidden love affair between two female characters. Sony marketed the film with a romantic shot of Cate Blanchett and male co-star Kyle Chandler.
Despite its flaws, Call Me by Your Name is a beautiful film. The final scene is haunting: a three minute close up of Chalamet staring into a fireplace, tears falling down his face as Elio begins to process the loss of his first love. The song that plays over this scene, Visions of Gideon, is one of two harrowing songs that singer Sufjan Stevens produced specifically for the film. The other, Mystery of Love, was nominated for Best Original Song at the Academy Awards. The film alone may not leave you with your own broken heart but the overwhelming sadness of these songs will. Stevens words reach deep inside your chest and bring to the surface the excruciating pain that never quite went away after losing your first love. Saving Visions of Gideon for the film’s final moments is perhaps the wisest decision made in the entire production.
Most people seem to worry about how little time they have to make their impact on the world. I worry about how much time I have to leave no impact at all. Beyoncé once sang about wanting to leave her footprints on the sands of time and like most self-absorbed millennials I like to relate all Beyoncé lyrics to my own life. It’s as if I went to a beach when I was sixteen years old, accompanied by all my friends and the boy that I loved. We had a great time. We drank cheap vodka, smoked Richmond Superkings and listened to MGMT on repeat. I was content with the way things were. Things weren’t perfect, the boy I loved didn’t love me back in the way that I wanted him to, but in some ways I was happy. We were all together and that was enough. Well, I thought it was. As time went on my friends decided they wanted to explore the rest of the beach and see what else was out there. I volunteered to stay and look after the bags. Eight years have passed and I’m still here, standing on a towel. My friends’ footprints cover the beach for miles and miles, some of them have ventured onto beaches in different countries, some aren’t even on the beach at all anymore. They still come back to visit me and we hang out like we used to but it just doesn’t feel the same. They talk about parts of the beach that I’ve never been to before and I find myself withdrawn from the conversation. The boy I once loved visits very rarely. He hugs me from behind and presses his left cheek against my right one and I wish that he wouldn’t. They all have new bags, filled with bigger and better things than the ones I volunteered to stay behind with. There’s no point in me guarding their old ones anymore, yet I remain stuck on this old towel. Nothing is physically keeping me here, there have been plenty of opportunities for me to leave and follow my friends along the beach and occasionally I take them. I walk for a while taking careful steps, beaming at the footprints I leave behind, but then night falls and I get scared. I realise I have no idea where I’m going or how I’m supposed to get there and the comfort and the familiarity of the old towel waiting for me, in the same spot that I started from, always calls me back. So I return again and again to my self-made prison. And I just don’t know why I can’t bring myself to leave. I do know that it’s dark, it’s cold and I fucking hate the beach.
I’m not sure what I imagined my life would be like as a young adult. Maybe the problem was that I didn’t imagine it at all. I don’t mean that in a grim death kind of way, though part of me is still convinced I’ll die young. I’m not cool or accomplished enough for the twenty-seven club, so if I do die young it will probably be the day before my twenty-seventh birthday or the day after my twenty-eighth. Death doesn’t scare me, I’m a firm believer in reincarnation. I don’t believe in any of that ‘if you’re a bad person you’ll come back as a dung beetle’ nonsense. I just believe that when you die your soul leaves your body and goes into a new-born baby, or maybe it drifts up into a womb and latches onto an embryo. I’m not sure about the logistics. I refuse to accept that this is the only life I’m going to live. I like to think of it as the free trial that I’ll forget all about once I’m re-born and living the middle class dream. I swear if I’m not reborn middle class then I’m not coming out at all. Some poor working-class girl will spend the rest of her life with her cervix dilated to ten centimetres and the words “Not today Satan” projecting out of her vagina. Death doesn’t scare me at all, but life terrifies me.
I guess I thought that things would just fall into place. I probably read too much into one too many of those inspirational quotes that went viral on Facebook. Quotes like “If you don’t know where you’re going then it doesn’t matter which path you take; you’ll get to where you’re supposed to be in the end.”. Well fuck you, Lewis Caroll. My life hasn’t felt like a path at all, it’s felt like one of those rides at those gypsy fairs that pop-up in unused carparks every summer: cheap and faulty. The safety barrier is broken and I’m not just screaming because I want to go faster, I really want to get off. I specifically remember feeling #woke when I was seventeen and Robert Pattinson quoted Gandhi in the 2010 film ‘Remember Me’: “Gandhi said that whatever you do in life will be insignificant. But it’s very important that you do it, because no one else will.”. I’m going to feel pretty disappointed when my soul is just about to leave my body and Gandhi doesn’t appear to tell me how important and original he found all those hours that I wasted, lying in bed till four PM hating myself. In the remixed words of RuPaul Andre Charles: “If you can’t sabotage yourself, how the hell you gonna sabotage somebody else? Can I get an Amen up in here?”.
Whatever I did or didn’t imagine, it certainly wasn’t this. Twenty-four and still living at home with my mentally unstable mother and the dad I have no relationship with at all. Sleeping in a bare room that had its carpet ripped out and wallpaper stripped after my fourth failed attempt at fleeing the nest. Stacking shelves in ‘Home and Bargain’ for minimum wage, envying the school kids who come in to buy snacks at lunchtime. The ones who attend the same prestigious grammar school that I once did. Wanting to whisper, “Don’t fuck it up kids, let the uniform I’m wearing be a warning to you all”, as I hand them their change without receiving a thank you. Disengaged and disinterested with my university studies. Not making the most of the opportunity and beating myself up over it relentlessly. Repeating the same mistakes over and over again.
But what if I don’t want to feel bad about it anymore? What if I’m not actually meant for anything more than stacking shelves? What if I’m not actually worth more than minimum wage? Maybe if I finally accepted these things then all of the guilt, the frustration and the regret would just go away. I used to describe myself as being depressed or as having depression, but what if I’m just a miserable person and that’s just who I am and always will be? Maybe this whole time I’ve just been grieving a life that I thought I was entitled to and its finally time to take the seventh step: acceptance.
In a sick way I think the thing that I miss most about being sixteen was being in love, specifically being in love with someone that never loved me back. Because then at least that’s sort of a confirmation. Confirmation that I’m just not good enough. Someone else believes it, so it must be true. It’s like definitive proof. But without someone else here to confirm it, then maybe it’s not true and I am good enough. And I am capable enough. And I’m strong enough. And I’m smart enough. And I’m pretty enough. But then if I am all of these things, then why do I feel so bad? Why can’t I get off the fucking towel? Why can’t I just take responsibility for myself? Because I don’t want to. Because if I am in fact good enough to get to where I’m supposed to be, what if I get there and I’m still not happy? What if enough is never enough?
To describe the terror attack on the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester as heartbreaking would be an understatement. No words could describe the atrocity of what has happened. How any human being could calculate a plan to target and murder a mass number of people, including such young, innocent children, is something that we will never be able to understand. We live in a world where a person can wake up one day and decide that today is the day they are going to take lives. To take childrens’ lives and futures away from them. To take children away from their parents. We live in a world where any sick fuck can take everything away from us at any time. It’s sick and it’s incomprehensible but it’s a fact.
Ariana’s fan base consists mostly of teenagers. The arena will have been filled with teenagers. Music plays such an important part in all of our lives at any age, it is with us consistently throughout our lives, but music for teenagers is vital. In our teenage years we are constantly looking for things to relate to as we are going through the confusing time of discovering who we are. Teenagers latch on to their favourite musicians whose words and voices are now, more than ever, accessible 24 hours a day thanks to social media and streaming apps such as Spotify. Their music can make them feel part of something and understood at times when they’ve never felt so alone or misunderstood. Pop Divas are often latched onto and have some of the largest, strongest followings of teenagers. As a teenager, I latched onto Britney Spears and Rihanna. For the current generation Ariana has proven to be an extremely popular choice.
Thinking back to my teenage years, all of my best memories were made at concerts and music festivals. The excitement of these events wasn’t just about music, it was about the freedom. Nothing provided me more joy than rushing home from school to secretly make a customised ‘I kissed a boy’ t-shirt, then meeting my friends at Lime Street to go get the train to Manchester for Katy Perry’s first tour. Leeds Festival 2010 remains the best week of my life. Concerts and festivals are the escape every teenager needs to step out from their parents’ shadows and go to these events with the people that they love to just be themselves and have fun. That’s all these events are meant to be. Fun. Music is made to bring people together.
This is what I don’t understand. Did this vile murderer attend the full concert? Did they stand in the audience alongside everyone else? Did they watch the joy on these innocent childrens’ faces and hear them sing? All the time knowing, they were about to take their lives, their joy and the joy of their loved ones away from them. I just don’t understand. How you could witness this and feel their energy and still carry out this unforgivable act? How could someone get to that point where they have absolutely no humanity or empathy left inside of them? It’s absolutely terrifying.
A lot of music snobs will only know Ariana as the girl with the ponytail who looks like a child trying to dress sexy and that she licked a doughnut that one time. To her fans she is so much more. Ariana and her music have a very simple message; a message of acceptance, empowerment, equality, liberation and love. Ariana is a strong, opinionated young woman who consistently uses her voice to call out bullshit. She attended the Women’s March in Washington. She paraded the LBGT flag on stage. She incorporated all forms of love in her music video for Everday. Yet, she is still often criticised for not being ‘the perfect feminist’. Who the fuck is? She is an activist in her own right and to many of the people who attended her concert last night she would have been a positive role model that brought them so much joy.
This tragedy is not about Ariana. The guilt she is probably feeling, due to drawing these innocent people into the place where they have so devastatingly lost their lives, cannot compare to the pain that the victims’ families will be going through. Or the pain of the survivors. Just to make it very clear, Ariana is in no way responsible for the tragedy. Full responsibility lies in one person and one person alone. However, people are still taking the opportunity to take a cheap, vile shot. Boston ‘journalist’, David Leavitt, saw it as the perfect time to tweet, “Last time I listened to Ariana Grande I almost died too.”. Blinded by the opportunity to make fun of a woman, his tiny little mind probably didn’t even consider the victims, their families or the wounded survivors. Take a look at your surname David and fucking leave it. It’s not the time and it never will be.
It is however the time to do what we always have to do and do so well in these times. Unite. As of 9 minutes ago, people in Manchester have already donated enough blood for the victims of the attack. Taxi drivers turned off their metres after the attack to transport people to safety, free of charge. The people of Manchester opened their doors to the concert attenders. People on Facebook are frantically trying to reunite families through sharing their posts. Everyone is doing their best and that’s all we can do.
Unfortunately, we can’t rid the world of the vile people who commit these despicable acts and we can’t promise something like this will never happen again. But we also can’t live in fear. We’ve got to carry on doing the things that we love. Concerts, and their security, will obviously now change forever but we can’t not attend them out of fear. Just like we can’t avoid the London Underground forever. Or LBGT night clubs. Or Paris. We have got to carry on living. Living and remembering the 22 who had that opportunity stolen from them last night. Evil will always exist but so will love and strength.
Also, now is not the time to voice racist opinions. Keep them to yourselves. A time of fear does not make it acceptable to use a whole community as a scapegoat. Regardless of the race/gender/religion/sexuality, whatever this murderer may have been, they do not define every other member of the community that they may have belonged to.
Keep singing. Keep dancing. Keep living.
Missing People < click the link for a Telegraph article including details of missing people – Share.
Greater Manchester Police Emergency Hotline: 01618569400
Let’s talk about March shall we?
I began March in Lille, a city in the north of France. Lille is very close to the Belgium border and it’s pronounced like eel if it began with an L, who knew? I certainly didn’t when I walked into the International Hub at university and announced I wanted to go on the mini Erasmus trip to ‘lily’. It was basically a trip to give us students a taste of what it would be like to study abroad. Whilst at the university in Lille all 17 of us found out that none of us could actually study in Lille for numerous different reasons, e.g. they didn’t teach Psychology in English. Upon returning to university in Liverpool I discovered I actually can’t study abroad at all because there is nowhere that matches the credits required for Creative Writing. Party. Never the less the short four-day trip to Lille was fun despite a rocky start.
I got absolutely rotten on the first night and my friend and her new French lover had to take me back to the hotel in an Uber. You know when you’re really drunk and the room is spinning? Well it was that level of drunk but the room was a tiny hotel room and it was also upside down. I woke up at 5am extremely dehydrated and distressed because my phone was not in its usual spot – my hand. I tore the room apart and came to the conclusion I must have dropped in the Uber. In my still drunken state and with the aid of my friend I managed to use the ‘Find my phone’ app to leave a message on my phone informing the phone-napper of my whereabouts and a number to call to reach me. I also navigated the very complicated uber website to the hound the driver, Adel, with several unanswered calls.
Fast forward 12 hours and I was in bloody Belgium having one long anxiety attack. There had been no update and no one was answering my phone which was still turned on. According to the ‘Find my phone’ app it was being held hostage in an apartment block on some street with an Aldi on it. To add to the stressful situation no one had given me a heads up we were leaving the freaking country for a day trip, apparently we were supposed to know from the fact some museum in Flanders was on the itinerary but Geography has never been my strong point. I recently found out Cyrpus is a country and not the capital of Greece. That would be Athens. We spent the whole day in Belgium museums learning about some war and visited a graveyard where a load of soldiers were buried. It must have been very sad but I wasn’t mentally present and as far as I was concerned the war was in the past and we all needed to focus on present problems by calling the local Lille emergency services and news stations to help me get my phone back.
Just when I had given up all hope that I would ever see my phone again because it had been stolen by a psychotic uber driver that was going to upload my nudes to my Facebook, my friend convinced me to call it one more time. An angel answered. Sarra was a beautiful French girl who spoke fluent English, she found my phone in the uber and didn’t want to give it to the driver because she didn’t think he would return it. Adel must have looked shifty, apparently he kept asking if I was going to throw up when in his car so I never really liked the sound of him from the beginning.
We eventually returned to Lille and I ordered an uber to go and pick my phone up from Sarra’s house. For some reason everyone was convinced Sarra was a murderer luring me into a trap so one of the university staff had to accompany me. We passed two really bad car crashes on the way so part of me did think that maybe I was going to die but I didn’t really care and well here I am so I obviously didn’t. Sarra and her boyfriend were both absolutely gorgeous and they wouldn’t accept any money as a thank you. I got a bit emotional and hugged them because I was feeling truly #blessed. Also grateful because I really needed the €20 for myself.
It was a traumatic day but it had a happy ending. I learnt a lot about myself, like I really do have an unhealthy attachment to my phone that probably developed when I was depressed and living in Spain. Oh well, I could have an unhealthy attachment to heroin so I guess it could always be worse.
I returned from Lille optimistic about life. That optimism probably lasted about 5 minutes. Whenever I go on holiday I don’t think I’m particularly bothered about the place I’m in, it’s the 24-hour company I enjoy. When you’re on holiday you’re not worrying about work or real life problems, you’re just hanging out with people you like all day and all night and that is literally the only thing I’m good at. I just love telling people stories and making people laugh. Laughter is instant gratification and works wonders for my self-esteem. On the train from London to Liverpool it sunk in that I was about to lose that constant gratification and the only person I would be spending the next 24 hours with was the person I hate most in this world, myself.
Shit has really hit the fan in March. I’ve quit my stupid, fucking job in the call centre. I had a mini meltdown in a return to work meeting with my manager. I was honest, I told him how depressed I was and that the job was only making me feel worse. Then I cried. I am the type of person who moans constantly about their problems yet doesn’t actually do anything to fix them, but I am not the type of person to cry about them. I just don’t cry ever. Maybe it’s true that boys don’t cry or maybe I’m just too scared to cry because I don’t think I’ll ever stop if I start. Either way that was the sign I needed to say enough was enough.
Please don’t ask me what I’m going to do moving forward or give me your unwanted criticism about how I need to get in ‘the real world’ and hold a job down because right now I couldn’t give less of a fuck. Plus, Diane and Ray will be on hand with enough unwanted criticism to cover everyone when they eventually find out. I’ll drop the bomb when I’ve finished working my notice which just so conveniently is around the same time as Mother’s day, the one-year anniversary of my nan’s death and Ray’s birthday. Happy birthday daddy! P.S. congratulations on raising an absolute fuck-up xxxx
Uni has kind of fell apart too. I’ve pretty much lost all interest and motivation. I have six assignments due in in four days. Have I started any? Nope. Have I filled out the forms for an extension? Nope, but to be fair they are very overwhelming and like 10 pages long. I’m not sure what evidence to supply for being depressed as fuck either. I guess I could get one due to my physical health. Due to some ongoing health problems I recently got Eiffel-towered by two cameras in a hospital in Warrington, not a hospital in Walton which is an easy mistake to make. A mistake that will make you over an hour late for your appointment. Well maybe it would only make you half an hour late if you don’t hold the phone you’re using for a map upside down. It was a stressful yet hilarious situation that I feared was going to drive my driver, a.k.a. my six-month pregnant cousin, into an early labour. It didn’t. Praise the freaking lord.
Getting a camera up the booty was no problem, let’s be honest it wasn’t my first time at the rodeo. The one down the throat however was horrendous. I choked and I cried (again!) and once it was over I could only manage to utter four words, “That was so gross.”.
How have I coped with all of March’s shenanigans? I haven’t. I’ve distracted myself by investing in a boy. Classic. A pretty boy who before we even met showed very little interest in me, kind of ignored me and generally made me feel a bit shit. You can only imagine how shocked I was that after we met he continued to show very little interest, ignore me and make me feel even shitter. Gasp! Where were the warning signs!?
Well that’s been March. I look forward to the fresh hell April and May bring.
I was three weeks late to my own birth so it astounds me that I’m expected to be on time for anything else. Apparently I came out snarling and covered in eczema so I was rushed off to intensive care or something. To quote my mother, Lady Di, I was the ugliest baby she’d ever seen. Every photo of me in the first few months of my life show a very unhappy, pissed-off baby. I think I was pretty much over life before I’d even left the womb. I didn’t ask to be born and I certainly didn’t ask to be born poor to a family from Speke.
My parents didn’t even have a name for me so I was born naked and nameless. Originally they were going to call me Connor but supposedly the bitch next door stole that name for her unborn sprog, she’d already copied my older brother’s name for her first child and Diane wasn’t playing that game anymore. The doctor/nurse type person who delivered me was called Justin and my nan fancied him so they called me Justin for about 5 minutes. I’ve seen pictures of him, he was a solid 8.5 so maybe that why Diane decided to change it, since I looked like the spawn of Satan and all. I’m not saying my mother is the devil herself but I guess the bitch apple doesn’t fall far from the bitch tree. No tea, no shade. Anyway they stuck me with the name Michael which is very original considering both my parents have brothers called Michael, they must have wanted me to feel unique and special from word go. Maybe there was a gaydar in the delivery room and they took an immediate dislike to me because they decided to use my dad’s name as my middle name, he is unfortunately called Raymond. I think if I ever have a child I’d just call them baby boy or baby girl until they were old enough to choose their own name.
My birth was probably the cruellest event of my life. It has yet to be confirmed but I’m pretty sure my first words were ‘I can’t be assed’. My grandparents were very religious so I got baptised and all that jazz. I hope to God there isn’t a heaven because if I have to spend an eternity as myself I will literally die. Actually, let’s be honest I’m going to hell and I hope to God young Stalin is there, because he was fine AF.
Don’t fall in love
with a beautiful boy
because boys don’t cry but boys do kill.
They’ll poison your brain,
they’ll puncture your heart
and they’ll never let you go again.
Here we go again.
I’m falling in love
and he’s hurting my heart,
this beautiful boy
with the beautiful brain
who’s destined to kill.
If his looks could kill
I’d look back again
and ignoring my conflicted brain
I’d surrender my love
to the hands of the boy
with the ice-cold heart.
A beating heart
couldn’t possibly kill
this lonely boy
who’s alone again
because he fell in love
in spite of his brain.
What use is a brain
against a broken heart
that needs to feel love
and so submits to the kill
again and again
for this beautiful boy.
Here comes the boy
with the beautiful brain
to claim again
my token heart
which he’s going to kill
because that’s how he loves.
He whispers to me, “Goodbye, my love.”
and he goes in for the kill
and out with my heart.
January gets a really bad rep. Its freaking cold and everyone has taken down their fairy lights which I think is the saddest part. Fair enough you can tear down the tree and banish those ugly, little Nativity figures back to the loft but what did the lights do to deserve such cold-hearted treatment? Looking at a figurine of a baby Jesus, that looks like it suffered a traumatic birth and needs to be incubated in the intensive care unit rather than rolling around in the hay in some dirty manger, does not lift my spirits. Pretty, little fairy-lights on the other hand work wonders. Not the flashing ones that Diane insists on getting from Poundland each year though, they make me fear epilepsy.
When I was living in Manresa I got lost on the way to a Christmas Concert, there was a wall near the school that I was looking for and it had these huge ants painted all over it. I had no other option than to run up to people and shout the word ‘colegio’, which means school, and do my best impression of an ant climbing a wall. One woman actually seemed to understand me because rather than calling the police, she kindly pointed me in the right direction. The next street I turned onto was lit up by fairy lights and for a moment I didn’t even care if I found the school because I had found Christmas and lights and hope. Fairy lights are hope people! They aren’t even that festive. Everyone could do with a little twinkle, twinkle in their lives. Keep them up till Summer I say. I’d start a petition but cba.
I did eventually find the school and I cried when these cute Catalonian kids sang ‘Let it be’. It must have been due to a mixture of homesickness and the joy I got from those lights because I bloody hate the Beatles.
To get back to my main point, January is not the big bad, for me anyway. I do however still live in fear of January. Does anyone else’s mum make a huge deal the first time the doorbell goes after midnight on New Year’s Eve? Diane bloody does. She thinks whoever first steps into our hallway brings in the ‘luck’ for that year. I however want to board that stupid door up. If I had my way everyone would be forced to use the gate in the back garden, climb through windows or never enter or leave the house again. Whatever works for them as long as no one opens that damn door. I know exactly who is waiting outside ready to bring in the ‘luck’ for that year and it’s not a sweet, old grandma or a delivery man from Iceland. It’s Anxiety. Anxiety ready to do a twirl in its floaty red dress and say those fatal words, ‘Surprise Bitch! I bet you thought you’d seen the last of me’.
January for me is waking up every day, grabbing a hold of my sanity and running for my life. Every time I turn around anxiety is two steps behind me, clutching the stich in its side because it’s an unhealthy bitch. I don’t stop running for the full 31 days, I do slow down but every time I do, fortunately anxiety does too. Finally, the 31st day arrives and the finish line is in sight, but It doesn’t say ‘Finish Line’ on its banner-type-thing, it says February and that my friends is the trick. I cross that line and breathe a huge sigh of relief. I put my sanity down, just for a second, to do a celebratory dance to an Ariana Grande banger, maybe have a vodka, light a ciggie, pop a Kalms, whatever. But in those couple of moments that I stop, Anxiety flies into February, scoops up my sanity and sprints off into the distance towards March.
At this point I’m usually star-fishing on the cold hard ground, looking up at the sky in my fairy-light-less surroundings whispering “Oh shit. Here we go again.”
Days and nights can pass before I can gather the strength to crawl after it. Sometimes it takes weeks before my sanity is even in sight again, trapped in Anxiety’s creepy hands, sometimes it takes months. Each and every time this happens I am absolutely terrified.
This year, it’s only the second day of February and here I lie in bed at 2pm, un-showered, dreading calling work to tell them that the doctor has just signed me off for 2 weeks so I will not be sat at my desk at 4pm. Yesterday I felt myself slipping under that desk on the brink of tears and I knew if I got under that desk then I wasn’t coming back out.
I have worked too fucking hard to get my life on track despite these never-ending battles with anxiety. Too hard to let some crank who is screaming at me because their monthly statement hasn’t been hole-punched, take everything I’ve worked for away from me.
Not this time bitch.
I’ve had enough.
I’m taking a break.