IWD2014: Becoming a woman in a hut in the French forest (and other Grimm fairytales)

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Sunset at Persephone the Forked Woman: an entirely unseeable Anna and our friend Cat in Durham c. 2004

My university friend Anna was the first person I went running with. We did Race For Life in 2006, and it was exhausting. I’ll never forget the horror of schlumpfing down Barbican, only to see runners coming the other way and realising I’d only done 2k. THERE ARE MORE K?

Anna now runs a wonderful website – more of a community really – called Any Other Woman. I wrote this for her on AOW,  for International Women’s Day (which is tomorrow, but tomorrow is Saturday so they’re doing it today while people are actually looking at the internet.)

 

The moment I realised that I was a woman wasn’t when I got my period, or mastered nail polish, or achieved something otherwise monumentally female. It was in France, surrounded by male friends, all of us high as a kite on mushrooms. Continue reading

As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster

Sunday Times Style - tall girls are going up (obvs)

Like many of my friends, The Sunday Times’ Style section has been the first bit of the Sundays I read for YEARS.

The first thing I ever had printed in a national paper was a letter about Tara P-T’s column. When I needed advice on choosing a winter coat a few years back, I wrote in to Wardrobe Mistress. As a writer for Domestic Sluttery, I’ve been interviewed for it. And thanks to the delightful Pip McCormac, I’ve been writing bar reviews for its online counterpart for the best part of two years.

I love it. Style gives me my much-needed fix of glossy,  shallow funnies at a time of day when all I’m really fit for is listening to The Archers omnibus and contemplating – and then filing away for another time – whether or not I want to go for a run enough to actually go for a run.

Coming back from a day’s writing/being rained on in Shoreditch today, I settled down with a glass of wine and Style and was bloody thrilled to see tall girls at the top of the hot-or-not barometer. And properly tall ones,  not Topshop’s frankly ridiculous 5’7″ and over.

As with pretty much anything that gives tall girls their dues coupled with wine, it gave me a little pang for the younger me: the combination of Malia Obama, gawky but elegant and full of promise,  and Gwendoline Christie, the actress playing Brienne in Game of Thrones, and probably the only Gwendoline I’ve heard of outside Malory Towers. (Here is a cracking interview with her by SFX magazine from earlier this month. What a nice person she is.)

When I was 10, I wanted to be an astronaut. Before that, I wanted to be a marine biologist, so I could spend all my time reading books about sharks and watching Jaws. After that  I just wanted to be an actress. I adored acting. When I was 15 or so, I got started in musical theatre. I had my own backing dancers  and a series of fantastically absurd costumes.

But in the back of my mind, I always knew it wasn’t going to happen for me. It started when I was 12: I played Miss Kay, the teacher, in Our Day Out, with fifth formers playing my pupils. Then I got a part as a guard, swiftly followed by a giant, a large door, and a bunch of other tremendously fun character roles which I didn’t appreciate at all at the time, because all I wanted to do was to play the feminine parts, and prove that a romantic lead could be 6’1, gangly and ridiculously insecure.

I was a total bloody idiot. I talked myself out of everything: I didn’t audition for a single play during my first year of university after not getting into the first thing I auditioned for. After a fourth year filled with new friends, fun plays and Edinburgh, I talked myself out of even applying for drama school by saying there wouldn’t be any parts for me, and that I would never get any work. I chose instead to try and become a journalist (ironically, those who can’t become critics? Witness my short-lived career as a theatre critic on thelondonpaper,  may it RIP).

Of course, I realise now  that the reason I didn’t become an actress had nothing whatsoever to do with my height and everything to do with my self-esteem and lack of ambition. In layman’s terms, I was just really bloody lazy. I just didn’t want it enough. I couldn’t take the idea of rejection,  or being constantly poor and uncertain about work (although I achieved the latter in spades once I moved to London and started working as a journalist).

Even at 21 I was too much of a security-junkie to say “Oh fuck it,” and work my arse off. You can’t be scared of rejection if you’re going to be an actor. You just can’t! I look at all my friends who work in the performing arts, in theatre, musical theatre, singing, comedy, opera and they all work like absolute bastards, rolling with the punches, getting marvellous breaks that they make through talent, persistence and sheer hard work.

Last year I went back to the Edinburgh Festival for the first time since doing a show in 2007. I realised I didn’t miss acting, because I’d found something else I loved. In writing and online journalism I found something that I was willing to work hard at. I was still rubbish at rejection, mind. But at least then I knew – I know – that it’s about me, rather than how I look. I just hope I can instil more of a can-do will-do attitude into my own children one day.