I had been dreading today, feeling bleak. I was going to give an in depth analysis of this facebook post from one year ago, a big wallow in how various patriarchs had thwarted hopes in the referendum and my belief in my campaign and myself. There was going to be quotes from Les Mis about tigers with voices as soft as thunder and turning dreams to shame. Insights about how shame is not just a thing invented by posh people so they don’t have to bollock their kids in supermarkets, it is the thing that holds power up, and its currency is silence.
But then something happened. Something so beautiful it was infinitely transformative. A work of art in the truest sense, with the power to challenge, inspire, motivate. I consider myself moderately high-brow, occasionally pretentious even, but even I don’t usually discuss art in the street. But passers by on easter road this morning might have been lucky enough to overhear this top-notch chat from me and my friend Kimathy:
Hey how are you?
oh, not bad, just dropped the wee one off for his first morning at playgroup and he screamed the place down and now I have to go and clean the bathroom.
oh, yes, that’s shit. But did you hear someone painted Donald Trump with their menstrual blood?
Oh my fucking God, can they do Cameron aswell?
I am not sure. But it just Says It All doesn’t it?
Yes. Yes it really just Says It All.
And what is then, that’s so perfect? Maybe it’s the message that says ‘I won’t hide this part of me that I have been taught is shameful and dirty, I present this truth about myself on the page, on canvas, and in doing so I say NO to your power over me. You were a fool to perceive this as my weakness…” Or Something Like That anyway…
Over the course of the summer the boarding school campaign which I have put my heart and soul into has unravelled spectacularly badly. And I haven’t felt able to write about it. This has sent me into a kind of chronic indigestion. When part of who you think are is that woman who writes about public school boys it is a painful thing indeed to not be able to write about public school boys. It reminds me of the time when Chesney Hawkes was playing at the Cavendish when we were students and a rumour went round that for copywright reasons he was not allowed to sing “I am the one and only” anymore. How awful we all said, they’ve stripped him of his mojo, rendered him impotent. And the last thing anyone wants to be is an impotent Chesney Hawkes.
So I will try and push past it. Because the over-whelming sense you get if you spend a lot of time in boarding school world is of not having to anywhere to put your feelings. It is like standing in a hall of mirrors, everything bounced back at you, distorted, and you have to keep squinting to try and catch a glimpse of your real reflection. And I know I walked into it. Maybe because my husband had gotten better so I had a draft in a whole army of people to keep me running from myself. Or maybe because I wanted to be the hero who could be loving enough and honest enough to smash the mirrors. This I own up to. I wanted to be strong enough, and moreover I wanted to show that there were different ways of being strong.
But I got so much more than I bargained for. Because if I fancied myself as some sort of tortured, upper-class Emma Lazarus… bring me your pain and your lonely, your abandoned and your pathetic, your angry and your weird…my not-enormous shoulders weren’t ready to try and take the humiliation, cold and sickening. This was new to me. And this, ultimately, I will not hold.
Because I am not going to type google into google, not going to try and start a movement to give a voice to people who have been taught to be ashamed of their feelings and then be silent because I am ashamed of mine. In the new Post Donald Trump Painted In Menstrual Blood World I have to ask myself, what have I to be ashamed of after all? Of trying to do something and failing? Of believing things could be different? Of loving and trusting to hard and too easily? Of not knowing where to put my hurting, my abandoned, my angry and my weird? Of flailing around, trying to pound tiny impotent fists against brick walls of unfeeling?
I put them here. On this page, this canvas. And you would be a fool to see it as weakness. Because there really are different ways of being strong.
And then I move on. Because the world of possibilities opened up a year ago is more exciting than ever, and actually real power doesn’t have to be propped up by anything, you create it, and you pass it on by building people up instead of putting them down. At the community gardens, where growth and nurture are valued. At pole-dancing classes, where strength is for dancing instead of fighting and soft flesh meets steely determination. At home, which is not a place but a decision, and a decision I am (finally) ready to commit to with a heart and soul that will be received and held safely.