It’s Not Called “Boiled Wine”

 

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Season’s greetings, lovely reader!  How’s the wrapping going?

I won’t beat around the bush, because we’re all busy people and those mince pies aren’t going to eat themselves: 2016 has been weird.

Setting aside the national, global and celebrity death issues, it seems to me that a lot of us have been going through our own personal annus horribilis (which is Latin for “what the HELL happened this year?!”).

In my case it’s been a year of boiling points, especially with my friends.  Issues and unspoken gripes that had been simmering for a long time began to bubble up and spill, and at certain points I found myself not speaking to people who have been very close friends of mine for years and years.

In one instance – and I don’t think she’ll mind me telling you this story, because we’re grand now – I fell out with one of my best friends for about three months.  I was in the wrong for causing the argument, but her decision to temporarily cut me out of her life seemed disproportionate to me: it wasn’t that big of a row.  When we met up a few weeks ago to sort things out, it transpired that she had actually been upset with me for various reasons.  Thoughtless actions or badly-chosen words on my part had been upsetting her for a while, and she’d never said anything about them.  So what I thought was an over-reaction turned out to be totally justified: she was boiling over after months of unspoken annoyance.

Now, obviously, this makes me feel like an absolutely rubbish friend and I am not proud of this story at all.  I cannot bear to think that I was merrily running around thinking everything was ok when in fact one of my closest friends was feeling hurt by my actions.  I did the same thing myself with another friend: her behaviour upset me for a long time, but I plodded on with the usual useless thoughts of “that’s just what she’s like” and “well, what can you do?”, the way we all do when we love someone who occasionally irritates us.  That situation blew up in my face, too.  I thought I was being patient when all I was doing was giving myself permission to approach boiling point.

What I have tried to take away from these nasty situations is that it is important to be honest when someone close to you is hurting your feelings.  This is really not an easy thing to do.  We’ve all been in situations where it is difficult to be honest with someone, either because of circumstances or because we’re not sure how they’ll take it.  You know the sort of thing:

“Hey, listen, about your new boyfriend…”
“Oh my God, he’s great, right?  So smart, and SO funny.  What was that joke he made the other day?  Something about your hair?  How bad it looked?  Oh my God, that was HILARIOUS.”
“Er…yeah…”

No fun to be had there.  But the thing about letting things simmer for too long is that they always boil over: that’s physics.  And I don’t know about you, but I’m damned if I’m going to have another year of emotional eruptions and friendship disruptions.  Let us mull the wine of friendship, not allow it to boil over into a claggy claret mess.

Merry Christmas to you, lovely reader.  I’ll see you in 2017.

The Conservatory of the Mind Palace

sherlock__s_mind_palace_by_firelight_12-d4oc1nhWith absolutely no disrespect meant to Benedict Cumberbatch, he doesn’t own the phrase “mind palace”.  Using the method of loci (or going to your mind palace or whatever you want to call it) is a very useful thing to do, especially if you’re like me and your memory is about as reliable as Southern Rail.  I’m currently working on a show at the VAULT Festival, and a lot of the conversations I have with my producer Kate rely upon the idea of a mind palace, because we’ve got so many things to do:

“What was that rehearsal technique I said I wanted to use next week?”
“I don’t know, dear.  Look in your mind palace.”

“We said we were going to email Adam about something.  What on earth was it?”
“Er…I dunno, let me look in my mind palace…I can’t find it.”
“Have you checked the library?”
“Yep.”
“The ballroom?”
“Yep.”
“The cupboard under the stairs?!”

So far, so silly.  But what I am discovering is that, quite apart from being just an excellent memory aide, having a mind palace is a very healthy thing to do for emotional reasons.

For example, people talk about burying their feelings or locking negative thoughts away.  This would be very easy to do in a mind palace, because you could build yourself a cellar or a dungeon or whatever else took your fancy.  However, being the proud architect of a mind palace makes you feel the need to be more creative about these things.  For example, when I come across a particular fear or worry I let it loose in the palace grounds to run around the rose garden and splash in the ornamental fountains.  Mentally ‘releasing’ bad feelings is very helpful, because you can acknowledge their existence in your life without constantly feeling the need to monitor them.  They can really get under your feet if you keep them cooped up all the time.

“Hey Vicki, nice mind palace.  Where’s your fear of commitment got to?”
“Oh, he’s running around on the croquet lawn with my concerns about career trajectory.  They’re having a great time, don’t worry.  Would you like some tea?”

The best room in my mind palace is the conservatory.  It has no strange wicker/fabric combo bits of furniture in it, and it most certainly does not have leaves all over the roof.  It is a quiet, calm room where there is always sunlight streaming in from all angles, and it’s very warm and cosy the whole year round.

The sunlight in this room is a concoction of all of the things that make me happy: memories, people and other bits and pieces of life.  Highlights include the moment in Moulin Rouge when Jim Broadbent runs away screaming “LIKE A VIRGIN!”, my friend Andy’s laugh, the smell of coffee, the Dad’s Army theme tune, cheese jokes, watching Christmas movies with my family and excitement about my best friend’s wedding next year.

The reason why I am talking about these big, small and silly things that make me happy in my mind palace conservatory is that they are a huge part of how I maintain my mental health.  I think mental wellbeing is a very specific thing, and a huge part of why we struggle with it is that we always end up feeling isolated by our own thought processes.

One of the greatest and loveliest things about the show that I’m working on is that we teamed up with mental health charity Mind.  Mind do incredible work for people who struggle with their mental health, and I am so pleased and proud that they promote conversation about what is still a pretty taboo topic.  They effectively knock on the door of everyone’s mind palace to check that they’re ok, and to reassure you that you’re never alone.  Mind palaces exist in neighbourhoods.

So to conclude, dear reader, go and build yourself a mind palace that you would love to live in, and invite people in who will appreciate being there.

Have a stupendous evening.

 

I (Broken) Heart London

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Hello, dear reader.  How’s it going?  Anyone taken the plunge and turned their central heating on yet?

Last week my friend Abi and I went for a catch up, which is always a lovely thing to do, because Abi is marvellous.  She and I met on an appalling theatre tour in 2013, and ever since then we’ve been a very good team in a crisis. This was especially important last week because we’d both been through a pretty rough time.  Lowlights included moving house under sad circumstances (Abi), trapping thumbs in train doors (me), and getting our hearts trodden on (both of us).  Don’t worry, I won’t go into details.  Unless you want to know about the thumb-trapping thing, which is so embarrassing that it’s automatically funny.

Anyway, our conversation moved from the specifics of our own failed romances to the general way that dating in London seems to go these days: matching, chatting, meeting, dating and then…nothing.  Technology has made it frighteningly easy for people to disappear just as soon as you think things are going somewhere. Not an encouraging prospect.  Setting aside the fact that love is being left mostly to apps nowadays, the whole new relationship thing does seem to have lost a bit of its charm.

“Where are the flowers?”  Abi demanded.  “Flowers used to be a thing, right?  But when did any of us last get flowers?”
“Er…I got some the other day.”
“What?! From who?”
“Well…my sister.  And she was trying to cheer me up about getting dumped, so…” “Doesn’t count really, does it?”
“Nope.”

Generations gone by had rules and systems: courting, proposals, betrothedness. (“Is that a word?” “Too late, she’s said it now.” “Shall we…?” “No, best let her carry on. You’ll only confuse her if you interrupt.”) Our parents and grandparents knew what they were doing, because love in times gone by was a practised dance: everyone knew the rules and which move came next in the sequence. Love in times present is more like a Harlem Shake video, where there are no rules and no discernible moves at all.

Part of the problem, Abi and I decided, is the euphemistic nature of relationships: “dating”, “seeing each other”, “taking things slowly”, etc. I’m all for people discarding labels that don’t work for them, but there is no allowance for progress. No one wants to admit that, eventually, they’d really like a nice partnership with another human being.

Abi told me about a friend of hers who is originally from Germany, and how the non-committal dating scene of London horrifies her. In Germany, this friend says, people go on five dates, kiss, and then they are in a relationship. No tricks, no games, no messing around. Those are the rules. I admit that these rules might not work for everyone, but I like the idea of a structure, of development. Couples who are working towards something as a pair of people who are interested in each other, rather than two individuals who are competing to see who can be less emotionally invested.

I have a group of friends who live in the Highlands, and they are all in happily married couples.  I’m not suggesting that they don’t have problems, or that their relationships have all been super easy, but they have all invested time and energy into making their relationships work.  During my last visit my friend Robyn joked that the only reason for that is, in that part of Scotland, there is nothing else to do.  She was being silly to make me feel better about being single, which I love her for, but I wonder whether there might actually be something in what she said.  Are the men and women of London so distracted by their jobs, pop-up bars, house-warming parties, Oyster cards and Buzzfeed articles that we can’t focus on each other for more than five minutes?  Is there any way to find a half-way point between being busy and being in love?

“Like, half-way between London and Inverness?” Abi asked when I brought this up.

“Yeah,” I said, and then realised something.  “Actually no, because that means we have to move to Blackpool.”

Have an amazing day, gorgeous reader.  Abi and I are both fine, by the way.  We’re certainly not moving to Blackpool just yet.

Where the Hell is Simon Pegg When You Need Him?

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Hello, lovely reader!  How the devil are you?

I don’t know whether it’s the heat or Brexit or an angry Norse god having a tantrum, but there’s some dreadful stuff going on with my social circle at the moment.  Everyone seems to be breaking up, getting into arguments, losing jobs or just generally feeling sad.  Imagine the scene in Shaun of the Dead when Dylan Moran wants to kill Penelope Wilton and everyone’s getting hysterical and Liz screams “PLEASE can we all just CALM THE F*** DOWN!”  – That’s the gist of things for us at the moment, except that no one is actually calming down…on the bright side, no one is threatening to shoot anyone’s mum.  So that’s nice.

Apart from all of the serious problems, there are also a lot of people who are giving themselves an identity crisis by accidentally reliving their adolescence.  For example:

“I think I’ve got a crush on someone.”
“Really?”
“Yeah.  I don’t want to sleep with him, I just want to daydream about his hair and giggle.”

Or,

“I bought bubblegum the other day.”
“Are you twelve?!”
“Oh God, don’t.  I dug out my Linkin Park CD as well.”
“Good heavens.”

Worst of all, there are a few people who are going through quite serious bad patches in an adolescent way:

“And then SHE was all ‘bla bla bla’, and I was like ‘errrrrr, no!’ And then the OTHER guy was all like, I dunno, weird, and then I just turned round and was all, ‘no way’.  You know?”
“…So you left your job?”
“Yeah.”

There is most definitely something strange in our neighbourhood.

Everyone knows that the hardest thing about watching your friends struggle is that that’s often all you can do: watch.  When I was seven I got cast as the fairy godmother in the Year 2 production of Cinderella (five stars from the Independent and Time Out’s pick of the week, thank you very much), and the whole beneficent-sorceress-covered-in-glitter thing really went to my head.  To this day I cannot understand why I do not own a real, fully functional magic wand.   I don’t think any of us like not being able to fix things.

When we’re kids we think that everything can and will be fixed, either by an authority figure or by our own, unshakeable confidence in an ethical code (which is usually passed on by said authority figure and begins with “Well MY mum says…”).  As adults we are less equipped to respond to our friends’ problems, partly because of social convention – it’s not really the done thing to interfere with other people’s relationships, jobs etc. – and partly because we actually have no idea what the hell we’re doing in our own lives.

The way I see it, there are two metaphorical ways of handling these bad patches: you either go to Mum’s, kill Philip (Sorry Philip), grab Liz, go to the Winchester, have a nice cold pint and wait for all of this to blow over, or you get out there and start killing the zombies with a Sade record and a cricket bat.  Both approaches have their own merits, I suppose.

Whichever way you and your friends choose to act, I think the important thing is just to be present.  If your friends are having an absolute shocker and you yourself are not entirely convinced that the “capable adult” costume looks good on you, standing shoulder to shoulder against the zombies is really your only option.  Sometimes it seems easier to run away or hide when things are getting tricky, but then you’re alone, and no one wants to be alone when the apocalypse hits.   Watching catastrophes might be frustrating, but it means the world to your friends to have you there with them.  See if you can rope Simon Pegg in as well; he’s probably good in a crisis.

Have a gorgeous weekend!

 

 

Engaging is the Challenge

Happy Bank Holiday Monday to you, my dear reader.  I hope that this extra day of freedom is affording you suitable levels of confusion about setting your alarm and all the poorly thought out DIY tasks you could possibly have hoped for.

“Tonight is the night when six become one”, as the famous Spice Girls song definitely does not go.  Tonight myself, my favourite Australian (the powerhouse producer and artistic director of RedBellyBlack) and the cast of A Year From Now will be hosting a fantastic fundraiser at our favourite haunt, The Boogaloo in North London.  We are raising money to pay for our venue, where in the first week of July we will be performing a verbatim, physical theatre piece about humans’ relationships with time.  Here are the miscreants/creative geniuses involved:

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From left to right: Me, Jorge Franco IV, Clementine Sparrow Mills, Jessica Warshaw, Christopher Montague and Kate Goodfellow.  Kate’s the Australian.

“Oh, Vicki, come on now.  You’re not seriously trying to market an event less than six hours before kick off, are you?”  I hear you ask exasperatedly.  “Sorry, but yes,” I reply firmly, handing you a cup of tea and a nice piece of fudge.

The thing about fundraisers is that they obviously exist to raise money for a cause, but they also give people an opportunity to come together and show their support.  In twenty years’ time, those loons with the extreme facial expressions in the photo above will be running the artistic industry (fingers crossed), and we are starting as we mean to go on: hosting events that are fun, inclusive and emphatic about how important the arts are.

The whole point of A Year From Now is to give people the chance to talk about their lives.  How often do we get to hear a ninety-four year-old talk about their hopes for the future?  When do you get the chance to ask someone with brain damage how time affects their sense of self?  That’s what theatre is for.  You can dress it up (quite literally) in shiny costumes and put a pretty light on it, but at the end of the day we are all in this industry because we want to talk about things that matter.  To that end, we’ve put an evening aside to show a film, have some fun and hopefully get some funds.

The arts are easy to ignore if you don’t engage with them very often.  Facebook event invitations are easy to ignore if you get too many.  Marketing is easy to ignore if you pride yourself on being immune to “that kind of thing”, but since when are the best things in life easy?  Apathy is easy.  Engaging is the challenge.

So please, engage with us.  You don’t have to come to the fundraiser tonight (although you’ll be missing out on a fantastic movie night with free popcorn and playdough competitions), but get involved.  Look at RedBellyBlack’s website.  Ask me about the people we interviewed for the show.  Ask your creative friends about their projects.  Talk to the people who invite you to Facebook events and find out what the damn things are all about.  Ignorance may be bliss, but you don’t know what you’ll be missing out on, and you never lose anything by asking a question.

Whatever you’re up to, have a glorious day.

Here We Go Again…

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Hello, lovely reader!  Are you enjoying March so far?  You do look well, I must say.

Last year I devoted about 96% of my time and energy to one project: Tumbling After at the Edinburgh Fringe.  It was an amazing experience, an enormous learning curve, and a privilege to be part of.  However, because devising a physically experimental, relationship-centred show with extensive character development and a seven-month rehearsal process was somewhat draining, I made a foolish mistake.  I made a sweeping statement to many of my friends and loved ones: “If I ever talk about directing a devised show again, punch me in the face.”

Dear reader, I am about to be punched in the face by everyone I know and love.

The problem with my sweeping statement is threefold (“Joey had reasons.  They were threefold.”):

  1. Just as when you are drunk, grieving, angry or ill, you cannot be trusted to make life decisions when you’re working on a Fringe show.  It’s a ludicrous idea.
  2. All theatre involves some element of making it up as you go along, so to disregard devising entirely was not a clever idea.
  3. No one should ever make sweeping statements, let alone an exaggeration-prone theatre director with a severe caffeine dependency problem and an appalling short-term memory.

So it should be no surprise to anyone that I have once again embarked on a show that will involve devising.  Line up with your boxing gloves, kids.

I am already very excited about this show, because I genuinely think that it will be fascinating (to make and watch, hopefully).  The show is called A Year From Now, and the premise is as follows:

Anyone can answer the question “where do you see yourself a year from now?”  Not everyone will necessarily want to answer: many of my esteemed colleagues from the creative sphere will have answers ranging from “oh GOD, I don’t KNOW” to “Living in a box under London Bridge.  Shurrup and leave me alone.”  However, the fact remains that anyone who is old enough to talk can consider their future existence, and my producer (the irrepressible Kate Goodfellow and the amazing mind behind Tumbling After) and I want to interview people, get some answers and build a show around them.

Kate and I have assembled a cracking cast and are currently in discussions about a fantastic venue in central London.  We can’t go into too much detail yet, but if you would like to be interviewed, please let us know.  We want as many contributions as possible from all kinds of people, and we are very excited about the answers we might get.

That’s all for now.  Have a wonderful Thursday.

True, But Not Useful

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Happy February, lovely reader.  How is 2016 treating you so far?

I realise that I’m a bit late to discuss this, but today I want to chat to you about new year’s resolutions.  I think I’ve told you before that my friend Paul and I observe a slightly strange tradition: every year, we write five new year’s resolutions on coffee stirrers, and then play pooh sticks with them on the Hungerford Bridge.  Our vague/specious/utterly unprovable premise is that whoever’s pooh stick comes out the other side of the bridge first is most likely to succeed in their resolution.  Yes, we think it’s silly as well.  But what is friendship about if not exuberant silliness?*

The slightly more mature aspect of our annual custom is that we always talk our resolutions through before we write them.  Paul and I have been friends for a very long time, and our relationship allows us to be very honest and compassionate with one another.  We talk each other out of insanely ambitious ideas (“You can’t write an entire novel in a year.  You have to sleep and eat at some point.”) and we encourage each other to pursue things that we will enjoy. (“Write one about archery.  You love archery.”)

Every year we sit and assess the choices we made twelve months ago, and we try to work out what effect they have had on our lives.  If we fail to stick to a previous resolution, can (and should) we roll it over to this year?  If we try our best at something that doesn’t pan out, is sadness a good enough excuse to let it go?  How vague are we allowed to be about the fact that, underneath all of these promises to ourselves, we would basically just like to be happy?  And rich, ideally?

As he ages, Paul is becoming incredibly wise (which sounds insane to those of us who remember him at university), and this year as we sat and wrote our resolutions he advised me to approach things as either true or useful.  For example, there’s no point in making a resolution like “I will not fall madly in love with someone who is bad for me”, because it’s usually based on something that is true but not useful, such as “I have in the past fallen madly in love with people who were very bad for me, and I got hurt”.  And how the heck are you supposed to predict something like that, anyway?

It is important to know the difference between what is true and what is useful, my lovely reader.  It may be true that bad things have happened to you, but it is not useful.  It may be true that people have hurt you, but that is not useful either.  It may also be true that you have made mistakes in the past, but guess what?  It ain’t useful.  Thinking about your future plans under the umbrella of previous pain is negatively reactive, and your future should be all about being proactive.  God, I sound pretentious.  Sorry about that.

But the point stands: your future is an exciting thing, and what you decide to do with it should be based on how fabulous you want to feel, not how much negative stuff you want to avoid.  And I implore you, you lovely thing: be excited about the future.  Don’t be scared of it.  It’s only a metaphysical concept of an aspect of the fourth dimension, after all.

Also, have your favourite dinner this evening.  You deserve it.

*It’s also worth pointing out that last year Paul won with a devastating 4 sticks to 1, which corresponds almost exactly with how our resolutions panned out in 2015.

‘Twas the Week Before Christmas

Hipster-Christmas-eCommerce1‘Twas the week before Christmas, when all through the house
I could hear a strange scuttle – please God, not a mouse –
I’d rewired the doorbell with cynical care,
In hopes that I’d hear when my parcel was there.

The children next door had now gone to their beds,
Having spent the whole evening screaming off their heads.
And my friends in their onesies, with gifts yet to wrap,
Had just settled our brains to watch Christmassy crap.

When out on the street there arose such a clatter,
We looked up from Netflix to say “what’s the matter?”
Away to the front door I went, unaware
That I’d stepped on the cheeseboard and left my sock there.

Some rushed along with me to look at the street,
While others snatched up the Brie under their feet.
When, what to our wondering eyes should appear,
But our tipsy friend Nick, holding eight tins of beer.

Then one girl poked her head out, and said very quick,
“That isn’t enough beer for all of us, Nick!”
More rapid than eagles his answers they came,
And he ranted, and shouted, and called us rude names.

“You ******! You ******!  I brought you guys beer!
I had to get on a night bus to get here!
I can’t find my keys! I forgot my ID!
I’m lucky the guy in the shop would serve me!”

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
So up to the house-tops his diatribe flew,
And he woke up a dog, and the neighbour’s kids, too.

And that point we dragged our friend Nick through the door,
Telling him to shut up and sit down on the floor.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
I saw him head for the cheeseboard with a bound.

He was dressed like a hipster, from head to footwear,
And we raised our eyebrows at his strangely styled hair.
His new job in Shoreditch paid Nick “loads of dough”,
But he looked like a wanker, and we told him so.

Though ’twas stuffed with cheddar, his face looked annoyed.
He said (very muffled), “I’m hashtag employed!”
Exchanging expressions of wary dismay,
We tried, as a team, to decide what to say.

“The thing is, Nick, mate,” one brave soul began,
“We’ve been putting this off for as long as we can,
But the fact is that your job has made you act like
A git who takes selfies on a Boris bike.”

“But James works in East London!” Nick cried with rage,
“He posts cat videos on his Facebook page!”
“The difference,” James said, “is that I am a banker,
And as such, I was always a bit of a wanker.”

For a while Nick became a right grumpy old sod,
But conceded he had become just a bit odd.
He saw that we meant well, and though it was cruel,
His true friends just had to provide ridicule.

We shared out the beers and we finished the feta,
And soon Nick’s demeanour had changed for the better.
We spoke of times past, of embarrassments shared,
Of what had become of May’s ex (no one cared).

We ate and we drank and we laughed through the night,
And soon we’d forgotten our earlier fight.
And I heard Nick exclaim, just before he passed out,
“Happy Christmas to all…hashtag great night out.”

The Storytellers and the Scouse Suitcase

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The Box Clever cast, hard at work.  Or something.  From left to right: Helena Bumpus, Benjamin Ridge, Christopher Montague, George Weightman and (partial) Julia Yelland.

Dear reader!  How lovely to see you!  Do come in and get warm.

Storytelling is a great thing, and it takes many forms.  From pop-up books to anecdotes, we all love a good yarn (although after a certain age the pop-up book does tend to attract pitiful glances.)

A couple of months ago I decided that I wanted to explore storytelling for grown-ups, because I don’t think that enjoying a good story is age-specific.  So I emailed my long-suffering Company Manager, and we booked ourselves a show slot at our favourite venue, the Etcetera Theatre in Camden.  The initial idea was to get a group of actors together, ask them to write stories around a theme and then stage the stories using a box of weird props, hence the name Box Clever.

The best laid plans of mice and directors gang aft off-piste, and this was no exception: during rehearsals, it became clear that the stories were fascinating and fun to tell without considering props.  The only “props” we really needed were each other, so what we’ve ended up with is five actors interacting and retelling narratives in completely separate styles.  (There will also be party poppers, but then what is theatre without party poppers?)

The stories are all very different, but equally engaging.  I gave the actors a theme to work with, and under the umbrella of “endings” we have developed a show about friendships, death, robots, Edinburgh and carrying suitcases for a stranger.  (The suitcase in question is being represented by one of our actors, who inexplicably decided that this particular suitcase should a) talk and b) hail from Liverpool.)

Working with stories from real life is a very sensitive business.  Luckily, my actors are all very open, honest and good-humoured people, who may not have known each other before the project, but who have all become very close as they work together on their tales.  It is a privilege to be in a room with these people, and I can’t wait for them to share their stories on stage this week.  There are disturbing moments, thought-provoking ones, and a lot of very funny ones.  (And party poppers.  Did I mention the party poppers?)

Tickets are selling pretty sharpish, but if you’d like to come and join us then click here.

Dear Future Spouses

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Dear reader, I won’t lie to you.  I have reached The Wedding Age.

TWA is not, thank modern life and all its socially advanced attitudes, a self-inflicted notion of when I should be tying the knot.  I really, really could not give a flying fudge about when “they” (who ARE “they”, anyway?) think that I should be committing my life to a relationship.  It’s actually something that most of us are probably pretty familiar with: the age at which we realise we are spending most of our weekends at idyllic country mansions watching our friends get hitched, whereas we used to spend our weekends watching football, drinking, playing video games or indeed all of the above.

I’m really enjoying TWA so far.  My friends are wonderful people who deserve to be happy, and their weddings are, almost without exception, extremely joyful occasions.  My only qualm with TWA right now is that I am also careering headfirst into the world of bridesmaid duties, travelling long distances in high heels and investing extortionate amounts of money in waterproof mascara.  I am also, heaven help us all, being asked for my opinion on wedding things.  For example, a very close friend of mine recently said that she would like this song to be part of her wedding ceremony:

Now, here is the worrying thing: one of my first thoughts was genuinely “isn’t this song a bit unrealistic?  I mean, isn’t it a bit much to ask men to be nice to us for, like, the rest of our lives?”

Shock, horror and other negative forms of surprise abounded as soon as this thought had formed.  What the hell kind of feminist am I to question what women deserve in their marriages?  What on earth did the Pankhursts fight so hard for, if not women’s essential self-worth?  And for heaven’s sake, why hasn’t someone made a mash up of this song with Olly Murs’ “Dance With Me Tonight”?!

Let’s be honest: no one can be nice the entire time.  It’s not a sustainable way to behave and, even if you could sustain permanent affability, your friends and loved ones would start to suspect that you were a robot sent to spy on them.  No one, male or female, can spend their whole lives being unfailingly kind, understanding and romantic.  Having said that, the message of Meghan Trainor’s jaunty tune is basically a good one: we need to have high standards for ourselves.

Relationships are hard, and being in love can be a very messy business.  But if we want to spend the rest of our lives with another human being, we should a) be honest with them about how we would like to be treated, b) give them realistic expectations of what we are like on bad as well as good days, and c) marry the person who wants to treat us well forever more.

Hey: remember that amazing rom-com about that girl who met a guy who flirted with her a bit, replied to her texts after a few days and was a bit stand-offish with her friends?  And then after some clumsy dates and a few awkward advances they got together, moved in because one of their leases was about to end and the guy proposed when the girl half-jokingly pressured him into it?  And then their marriage petered out into a cordial but essentially passionless co-existence?  No?  Of course you don’t.  That, my dearest and most gorgeous reader, is because really excellent relationships and marriages are formed by people who work as a team and make each other the best that they can be.  They are not formed by people who are desperately trying to navigate the complicated world of mixed messages, passive aggression and emotionally distant game-playing.  People who really want you won’t push you away, and even if your loved one falls short every once in a while, the important thing is that they want to be good enough for you.  Trying to love someone well is better than being eligible for a mortgage application.

I sincerely hope that, if you are planning or hoping to marry one day, your future spouse will treat you the way Meghan Trainor wants to be treated.  More importantly, I hope that they want to.

Have a cracking Sunday evening, team.  Don’t let the end-of-weekend blues get you down.