Thursday, 24 October 2013

Embrace Your Weirdness!


I have something to tell you.  You're weird.

Wait, wait, let me finish...

You're weird and it's great.  I'm weird, too!  If you're sitting there, reading this and thinking: "What the hell does she know?  I'm not weird in the slightest!" then I'm afraid I'll have to break this to you as gently as I can:  Yes you ARE.  We ALL are.

I ride little wooden animals.  Of COURSE I'm weird.

I was musing over this subject earlier this afternoon, after briefly debating the use of the word "normal" to describe anyone.  The fact is, the only standard of "normality" we have to go on is the one that society (and by that, I mean the media, to be honest) has given us.  Do you dress a certain way?  Do you go to work?  Can you tie your own shoe laces?  What bothers me about the word "normal" is that it's used as something of a one-size-fits-all word and frankly, well...  It doesn't fit, does it?  

There's a serious debate to be had about the word "normal" and whether we should lessen our usage of it to describe people.  In certain contexts it's fine (he had a "normal" heartbeat, for example), but in the way we live our day-to-day lives, who's to say exactly what normal even means?  

People are, by their very nature, both intrinsically the same and powerfully unique.  We all need food and water to survive.  We almost all feel human emotions, such as love, anger, sadness and desire.  But we're also all shaped by our environments, our family situations, our beliefs and a whole multitude of other things besides.  That means that whilst humans are instantly recognisable as such, what makes us us differs wildly from person to person.  How can we ever find such a thing as a human to hold up as an example of "normal" to judge others by?  More importantly, why would we even want to?  Whilst the similarities we have can bring us closer together, it's our differences that often spark interest and debate.  It's by talking to someone from a totally different background that we learn new things and challenge our own views.  If everyone was exactly the same, the whole world would be populated by nothing more than a very, very long chain of those paper dolls we used to make in school.

Oooh.  I feel so special and unique...

And then, because this is me we're talking about, whilst thinking about this quite serious subject, my mind went off on a wild tangent and I wondered how many people I'd need to form a flashmob and what song we should sing in order to impress someone.  And I realised that that's because I'm weird.  We all are.  Because if there's no such thing as "normal" (and I don't necessarily believe that there is), then the alternative must be that we're all just a little bit strange.  At least, we must all have the potential to seem that way to others.

The thing is, we should be embracing that weirdness.  Because all of those funny little habits we have, or those phrases we use that seem to have been made up out of thin air, are exactly what makes us us.  When we factor in our likes and dislikes, our hopes and dreams and our silly little ways, we're adding colour to those paper dolls.  We're making ourselves individual and that can only be a good thing.

All too often, we explain away some of our odder hobbies or quirks in a self-mocking tone, as though we're ashamed or embarrassed by them.  But why should we be?  A person is a wonderful mess of influences and opinions, mashed together inside a body that's all too often longing to be changed in order to fit an unrealistic idea of beauty.  Whatever makes you different, whatever it is that makes you stand out, that's something to be proud of.  Worn like a badge of honour.  Do we want to be blank paper dolls, or do we want to put colour and patterns out into the world?  Yes, there'll always be people who don't like the particular colours or patterns we put on display.  And that's okay, too.  Because you're not displaying yourself for them.  You're doing it for yourself.

I've reached a point where I'm not that fussed whether people think I'm odd anymore.  I know I sometimes say or do strange things.  My point blank refusal to walk past an "hilarious" photo opportunity is testimony to that fact.

I believe I've made my point...

And a fondness for stupid photos is just one of my odd quirks.  There's also the fact that I can't drink a drink if it has "bits that aren't supposed to be there" in it.  Or my secret wish to live in a musical, in which everyone bursts into song at random and somehow everyone knows all the words and the dance moves.  There's the fact that I can never resist an opportunity for fancy dress, plus my weird desire to have someone magically "find" a coin behind my ear.  There's my habit of reading children's stories at work in various regional accents "just for fun" and my penchant for "YouTube karaoke."  There's a hundred other things about me that some people would just find strange, too.  And I'd probably find a few things weird about them, as well.  Because we're all unique.  We all paint our paper dolls in our own colours.  There is no "normal."  

So embrace your weirdness.  Don't ever try to conform to something that doesn't really exist.  You're you.  You're strange.  And if you won't take my word for it, listen to Dr Seuss:

"We are all a little weird
And life is a little weird
And when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours,
We join up with them and fall in mutual weirdness and call it love."

Monday, 7 October 2013

"I've noticed you around... Um..."

Essentially, the subtext of this blog is: I NEED SOMEONE TO TAKE ME OUT FOR A DRINK, PLEASE.

Last night, I found myself having a conversation about crushes.  Not the "squeeze someone until they can't breathe" sort of crush, but the "OH MY GOD, I WANT TO SQUEEZE HIM" variety.

And yes, before we go any further, let's face the facts: I'm 28 (plus three... Okay, so I'm 31.  Ugh).  I am way too old to be all gooey eyed over someone I barely know, right?  WRONG.  You're never too old to have a crush!  To suggest that there's an age limit to getting all excited about seeing someone who makes your knees go wobbly is just ridiculous.  Frankly, if there is, then whatever the cut-off point is, I don't want to get there.  Stick me in a time-manipulating vortex when I get close; I'll stay one year below that age forever.

Anyway, I digress...  The fact is, chatting about crushes made me reminisce over a few of mine.  Bizarrely, my first sort of crush was on Boy George.  Yes, Boy George.  I didn't fancy him, I hasten to point out, what with being about two or three years old at the time.  I just loved him deeply enough to name one of my dolls after him and to sing Karma Chameleon to myself constantly.  My first proper celebrity crush was on Matt from boyband Bad Boys Inc.  Followed swiftly by Richie from Let Loose...

Looking back...  Yeah, I approve of my taste, back then.

And then there comes a point in a tweenager's life, when he or she has their first real-life crush.  I'll be honest, mine was on a boy called Robin, who I went to school with.  I was about 11 and he sat on the same table as me.  Ooh!  It was clearly destiny.  Except it wasn't, because when I discovered that my family and I were moving away, I realised, with shocking clarity, that I hadn't actually had a crush on him at all.  I'd had a sneaky crush on a boy called Martin, who I thought I only saw as a friend.  Only when I was driving away (well, my dad was driving; I was 11, keep up kids...), never to see him again, did my pre-adolescent brain treat me to the truth:  It was him I liked all along. Let me tell you, dear readers, there is nothing more dramatic than an 11 year old girl, sobbing over her own lack of self-awareness, where these things are concerned...

I'll go out on a limb here and say that huge, hormone-fuelled crushes during your teenage years are possibly more of a girl thing than a guy thing.  Ask most women over 20 and they'll be able to reel off a list of popstars, rockstars, actors or - shock, horror! - people they knew in REAL LIFE, who they privately fantasised about, or obsessed over.  It's something of a rite of passage; an awakening of feelings we might not have experienced fully before.  Crushes are confusing, a little bit scary and amazing all at the same time.

Of course, they can be a bit devastating as well.  I remember having a crush on a boy called Matt in the year below me at school.  Looking back on it, he was a bit of an arse, because he'd happily hold my hand and say nice things to me, but when asked one day whether he and I were "going out" (I was about 14 at the time), he laughed, called me ugly and pulled a face that made me concerned that he might be violently sick at the idea.  And that, friends, is the story of why I spent an entire French lesson, scribbling over the lovehearts I'd drawn in my homework diary.  Bastard.  It's also why I largely stuck to having crushes on unattainable popstars...

Yes, I practised signing my name "Emma Brennan."  I was OBVIOUSLY going to marry Lee from 911.

The thing is, I've always been quite shy when it comes to this sort of thing.  Whilst I'll happily dance like an idiot on a night out, or play the role of the chatty, sociable one in my friendship group, or impress virtual strangers with my (awful) jokes, if you put me in front of someone I have a crush on, one of two things will almost certainly happen.

1.  I will develop a severe case of verbal diarrhoea and talk at the poor boy.  This usually involves me saying the most ridiculous thing my brain can possibly conjure up, only to then attempt to dig my way out of whatever silly statement I've made, in a vain attempt to appear "normal."  In almost all cases, I fail miserably.

OR

2.  I will become almost mute.  Any sentences I do manage to form will be punctuated with a dazzling array of "ums," "ers," and "aahs." Hence the title for this blog...  Well, okay, it was inspired by the Touch And Go song, but also the mute thing.

TWO THUMBS UP, EM.  WELL DONE!  HOW ARE YOU SINGLE?! No, that's not my real hair...

So yeah.  I'm really not good at the whole "I like him, therefore I shall ask him out" thing.  In fact, I'm atrocious at it.  I can flirt like nobody's business, but only if I'm either not so besotted with the guy that it may require waterproof mascara should he turn me down, or if I'm fuelled by alcohol or hyperactivity.  Basically, what I'm saying is:  Plonk me at a Manics gig, or send me to Alton Towers to ride on a rollercoaster or three, hand me a glass of wine and then watch me go into THE ZONE.  But under normal circumstances, expecting me to actually speak to another human whose face I like?  ARE YOU CRAZY?!

There is, of course, a serious issue to this whole thing.  I'm not a confident person when it comes to my looks/bodyshape etc.  We live in a society where women are kind of expected to be stick thin, with massive boobs and shiny hair and perfect skin, thanks to the ridiculous images the media happily pump into our brains.  Add to that the fact that my last relationship was abusive and therefore it took a while for me to even want to be with anyone else and you can kind of see why I'm not the type to sidle up to someone attractive and just slip him my number.  At least not without running away, shrieking, which would totally ruin the moment...  "CALL ME!  AAAAAAARGH!"

Crushes are a safe way to feel things that you don't always get to feel when you're single.  As long as you're prepared to accept that nothing may come of them, they're an enjoyable distraction from the world.  There's something genuinely lovely about feeling a bit light-headed because someone you secretly fancy has smiled across the room at you.  It might have meant nothing.  It  might have been wind.  But in your head, it can mean the start of something fabulous.  And that's okay.

Frankly, I think we should embrace our crushes (literally; that would be nice!).  Life can be amazing, but let's face it, it can also be full of things like working when you've got a stinking cold, or having to pay bills you'd forgotten about.  Allowing your world to be brightened, even in a small way, by the secret object of your affections, is quite a nice break from the norm.

And whenever we feel sad, because we'd like a crush to be something more and we're not sure it ever will be, we can at least console ourselves that the version of the person we keep in our heads will never hog the duvet, force us to watch something we don't want to watch on TV, or fart.  Ever.  Everyone's a (slightly lonely, slightly sad) winner...

And just in case my crush is reading this:  "I've noticed you around.  Um...  I find you very attractive... Um..."

Worth a shot. ;-)












Tuesday, 1 October 2013

F*R*I*E*N*D*S

I'm starting to wonder just how many photos exist of me holding in the giggles...

I'll be brutally honest with you...  I'm writing this blog partly because I've had the theme from Friends going around my head for the last twenty minutes or so and I'm hoping that this process will remove it from my brain.  It's bad enough that I hear the opening line and then feel the need to clap like they do in the song.  I've had it in my head long enough for my dog to keep looking at me like I'm some demented performing seal.  CLAP, CLAP, CLAP, CLAP, CLAP!  

And because I like to share, here is I'll Be There For You (aka the theme from Friends) by The Rembrandts.  And now you can have it in your head, too....

The thing is, once I'd forced myself to sit on my own hands in a desperate effort not to do the claps, I did actually stop and think about the lyrics to the song and how they really do have a lot to say about friendship.  You see, for all the trite quotes you'll find on the subject, it really boils down to one thing: I'll be there for you.

Last year, I fell out with someone I'd been friends with for over half my life.  I put a brave face on it, but truth be told, I was pretty devastated.  I'm obviously not going to go into personal details here, but suffice to say, it became clear that the friendship was beyond repair, in spite of my efforts to fix whatever had gone wrong (and I'll be honest and say I'm still not 100% sure how it came to break down so irrevocably).  In the 16 months since then, I've thought a lot about friendship and what it really means.  

It means wearing tops I gave them no choice about.  Apparently.

See, in both ancient Latin and Greek, the word "friend" is very close to the word "love."  And that's what I think is vital in a friendship.  If you don't love someone, just as they are, in spite (or sometimes even because) of their flaws, then is that person really a friend?  Or are they just an acquaintance?  

When I had that fall out last year, it made me resolve to cherish my friends even more than I already did.  To tell them often just how much they mean to me.  To see the good in them, even when they can't.  To "be there" for them, just like the song says.

I'm not saying I'm a perfect friend.  Far from it!  Oh my goodness, I imagine I'm incredibly irritating at times...When I think of all the things my friends have put up with over the years, I sometimes wonder how I've got any left!  From confidence crashes to unrequited loves, my friends have been there through it all.  Sometimes with a hug.  Sometimes with chocolates.  Quite often with a metaphorical kick up the backside.  Because that's what friendship's about.  It's not just about saying everything will be rosy.  Sometimes, it's about telling you what you need, rather than want to hear.  But it's always about having the other person's best interests at heart.  I know that my closest friends would tell me if I looked awful in a certain dress.  I know they'd give me a damn good talking to if I was being all "woe is me" and putting myself down too much.  But I also know that if I told them my dream was to do a one woman stand up comedy show, they'd be in the front row, desperately trying to laugh even if everything I said was about as hilarious as a slice of slowly moulding cheese.  That's what friendship is; supporting each other and loving one another enough to be honest.  Ish.  

Friendship is also about spinning a boat in order to soak your friend as much as possible.

I've been incredibly lucky.  I've found a group of friends who don't mind me obsessing over the Manics (in fact, one actively encourages it!), making naff jokes, dancing like my Nan, being a sensitive so and so from time to time, or going off on bizarre rants about nothing in particular.  In other words, I've found a group of friends who accept me for me, with all of the little oddities that make me unique, just as I love and accept them for all their funny little ways.  And they prove how much they care in all they say and do.  From Lydia literally picking me up off the pavement after my abusive ex had left me in such an emotional state that I could barely stand (and Kirstie admitting to sleepless nights, worrying about that situation), to Lizzie taking me to Butlin's for my birthday and making me giggle until I ached, they are each worth their weight in gold.

If your friend won't pose in a toilet with you, your friendship is not real!

That, to me, is the essence of friendship.  Being there for one another in good times and bad.  Sharing in-jokes that make you laugh until your tummy hurts.  Knowing that you can be yourself, without judgement.  Feeling supported and encouraged, however crazy your dreams might seem.  Anyone can be a mate.  But it takes someone special to be a friend.

Someone special.  And Lizzie.  MWAHAHAAAA!

So now that I've written about how great my friends are and how empty life would be without friendship, I've finally gotten that theme tune out of my head.  Result!  All that's left is to tell my friends that they are awesome, that I appreciate them more than they could ever know and that I'll always be around for them.

In fact, you could say: "I'll be there for you.  Because you're there for me too."

Oh bugger...