Tag Archives: men

You Are Not A Casserole

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Hello, you fabulous human being.  How’s this week been for you?  Busy?  Me too.  Put your feet up for a bit.

One of the most enjoyable experiences in life is the overheard conversation snippet.  You know the sort of thing: you’re walking past a couple of friends who are in the middle of an in depth chat, and as you pass you hear one of them say something insane like “…and then the whole thing went bright blue!”  Not knowing the context of a conversation can make for very confusing and amusing listening.

The other day I was sitting outside a pub with a couple of my lovely girl friends, discussing life, the universe and everything (i.e. boys).  Don’t get me wrong – my friends and I cover many fascinating and intelligent topics of conversation on a regular basis, but even the most sassy and savvy of us occasionally need to rant about the opposite sex.  On this occasion, one of my friends was asking for advice about a guy she thinks she’s dating, but isn’t sure.  Here is an extract from the discussion:

“He’s going to house-sit with me at the weekend, and he took me out for an amazing dinner, and he calls me “his girl”…”
“Well, that sounds promising.”
“Yeah, really promising.”
“But what does it MEAN?!”

And so on and so forth.  Despite being clever, worldly, independent and hopefully fairly likeable young women, my friends and I are still flummoxed by what men’s behaviour “means” more often than we’d like to admit.  We have all – including you, fabulous reader – learned a lot during our short stays on Earth so far, including our strengths, weaknesses and alcohol tolerance levels.  Why then have we not learned something very simple, something that even tiny children understand: that we only get answers by asking questions?

It’s not as easy as all that, I know.  And we’ve talked about this before: the importance of being emotionally honest even though it feels so alien to us, the terror we feel when we have to be frank about what we want, and the excruciating embarrassment we feel about having strong feelings at all.  Needing an answer from someone, whether they’re male or female, has somehow started to mean that we are needy full stop.  Not to the person we’re confused about, necessarily, but definitely in our own heads.  And so we don’t ask; we just stew.

What the conversation boiled down to – if you’ll excuse the appalling pun – is that stewing does nobody any good.  In the heat of our debate about the virtues of honesty and openness, I ended up declaring “YOU ARE NOT A CASSEROLE” to my lovely, confused friend.  At that precise moment an unfortunate young man walked past and gave us a very strange look.  I do not blame him in the slightest.  Context was particularly important there.

But my point stands: we are not casseroles.  We should not leave ourselves to stew in the pressure cookers of uncertainty, waiting for the vegetables of heartbreak and the dumplings of rejection to descend into our lives.  The happiest people I know are not the ones who never get broken up with, rejected or hurt.  They are the ones who save themselves a lot of time by asking questions, finding out what other people want from them and getting on with life in the aftermath, whatever the outcome is.  I know – BELIEVE me, I know – that asking people questions like “how do you see our relationship?” etc. is a daunting prospect, but if we don’t ask we won’t find out.  If we don’t find out, we are wasting our time.

And who on earth has got time to waste?  Not you, that’s for sure.

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We Can’t All Be Ron Burgundy

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Good morning, and a very merry Monday to you!

Yet again, I find myself needing to apologise to you, you lovely and patient reader, for not having written anything for a while.  Truth be told, preparation for the Fringe is taking up an insane amount of time, and I’m afraid the whole blogging thing slipped through my incredibly disorganised net.  Today’s blog will be an extra 10% funny and uplifting, just for you.

One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned from working in theatre is that everyone responds to emotional situations differently.  What makes one person cry will make another angry, and what makes one person laugh out loud will at best raise a small smile from someone else.  The bizarre thing is how drastically our emotional responses vary from those of our nearest and dearest.  Certain things that would put you into the Anchorman “glass case of emotion” might only dip your best friend’s toe into the goldfish bowl of vague discomfort.

This can be a very good thing and a fairly weird one.  It’s excellent to surround ourselves with people who can give us fresh perspectives, but sometimes it makes us feel less rational when our friends disagree with our responses.  When it comes to emotional reactions we are particularly vulnerable, because our feelings tend to be relatively instinctive rather than especially thought through.

This is something that has come up quite a lot during rehearsals for Chris is Dead, partly because the content is quite emotionally charged, but also because the people involved are all very different.  Despite his constant cries of “where are all the men?!”, our only male cast member is actually very sensitive to the most upsetting aspects of the story.  (In case you hadn’t guessed, the title of the show pretty much explains what it’s about.  You knew that already, right?)  One of the girls tends to be very good at distancing herself from her character’s grief, and the third is stoically open-minded about how different aspects of the story will affect her at different points of the rehearsal process.

The best and most rewarding aspect of working with these cracking people is the fact that they really respect each other’s views.  It’s hard enough working on a show about death without the cast disagreeing on their feelings about it, so I feel very lucky to be directing three such empathetic and lovely actors.

Although my head is very much stuck in a my-life-has-been-taken-over-by-rehearsals-what-on-earth-is-this-“sleep”-thing-you-speak-of-? sort of place, I can appreciate that the cast’s communal attitude is something that should be more prevalent in the real world.  It might be baffling or annoying to find that we are not on the same wavelength as others around us, but we should have confidence in the validity of our feelings.  We should also make the effort to try and understand where other people are coming from.

Have a stupendously enjoyable Monday.

Sex and the (Hammersmith and) City

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Hello, you brilliant human being!  How are things?  I can see you’ve caught the sun.

Don’t get me wrong: I love Sex and the City as much as the next twenty-something girl.  It’s funny, sometimes touching, and a few of the characters are actually quite loveable.  It’s excellent put-your-feet-up, do-we-have-any-junk-food, sod-it-let’s-have-a-duvet-day television.  Best of all, watching it with your best friend gives you ample opportunity to complain about the insane behaviour of the characters, the implausibility of the plot lines and the animal cruelty issue of Sarah Jessica Parker being forced to act.

Maybe New York is exactly like Sex and the City, and we London girls are missing out on a whole metropolitan man-fest.  I doubt it, though.  Anyway, Sex and the City just wouldn’t work on our side of the pond.  Here’s why:

1) Is It Actually Raining Men?
As far as I can tell, New York is having some kind of eligible bachelor epidemic, because the four main characters meet men all the time.  I mean they can barely get out of the front door in the morning before a charming chap with a cheeky grin comes along.  That would never work here.  Londoners are usually slightly cross-looking and in a tearing hurry; we don’t have time to stop and smile winningly at random strangers.  Also, we’re British, for God’s sake – we don’t smile at strangers.

2) “And just like that…”
Probably as a result of number 1), the main characters go through the same emotional roller-coaster in pretty much every episode: meet man, flirt, date, sleep together, discover unconquerable flaw, have internal struggle, break up with man, feel immediately ready to go back out there.  I know some Londoners do date like that, but in general our cycle seems to be much more meet man, try to flirt but end up saying something silly/embarrassing, show great surprise and glee when he gets in contact, go on dates, discover a slightly concerning flaw, think about it, carry on dating until an actual problem comes up, break up, feel sad/angry/hungry, get back out there several weeks later feeling insecure because of getting hurt and having put on weight from all the ice-cream.  Not good television, perhaps, but it’s how we do things on this side of the pond.

3) We Don’t Talk Like That
I realise that as a smart, city-slick show about a fast-paced lifestyle, it makes sense to script sharp and sassy dialogue for the main characters.  Here is my problem: London girls are totally capable of being witty and hilarious, of course, but a) not ALL THE TIME – we all have off days when all we can manage is a “nhuh?” and b) not when our friends are telling us about their emotional problems.

4) No one Would be Friends with Carrie
Which leads me neatly on to my next point – why are the other three friends with Carrie?  She is so busy trying to be funny that she never listens to her friends, and as a heroine she leads a spectacularly bad example of whining, hair-tossing and flirting in the most cringe-worthy manner.  If she were a London girl her friends would have taken her aside a long time ago and told her to stop being such a diva.  And for God’s sake, stop putting your cigarettes between your teeth, you look ridiculous.

5) We’re a Bit Busy, Really…
One thing I really do appreciate about the concept of Sex and the City is that it spins a typical female insecurity on its head to make women laugh, i.e. it portrays women comparing men in bed rather than the other way around.  Having said that, the four main characters always manage to get the conversation back to sex, even when one of them is having a major life event, like a career crisis or getting married.  I mean, REALLY.  Talking about sex that much is just too time-consuming, too awkward and too un-British to work over here.  When would we find time to talk about the weather and public transport, for goodness’ sake?

Have a beautiful Thursday.

Disney Princes are Normal Blokes

Hello, lovely reader!  How are you?

Today’s blog concerns that trickiest of childhood tragedies: Disney movies do not represent modern life.  I know.  You spend years watching princesses get swept off their feet, and as an adult there isn’t so much as a dustpan and brush in sight.  How unfair is that?

I’ve had a bit of a think about this, and I’ve come to the conclusion that the kind of mistakes that modern men tend to make (and modern women tend to despair of them because of) are actually pretty similar to the ones made by Disney heroes.  True, there tends to be less at stake: it is unlikely, for example, that a chap you’re enamoured with will accidentally provoke the wrath of an evil sorceress, get his own dad murdered or get the whole of China wiped out.  But go with me on this, because I’ve got some examples up my sleeve:

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1) Simba – the Disappearing Act

Simba is a troubled lad.  Obviously he has very good reasons for disappearing after Jeremy Irons throws his dad into the path of a stampede, but how is Nala supposed to know that?  Did he call?  Did he send her a postcard (or leaf or whatever they use in the jungle)?  No.  As far as Nala was concerned, he pulled a classic disappearing act on her; something that lots of non-cartoon, non-leonine women bemoan happening to them.

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2) Eric – the Can’t Quite Seal the Deal

Eric my lad, you are being serenaded by a crustacean and his motley band of fish, birds, etc.  JUST KISS HER.  I know she hasn’t said a word since you found her bedraggled on a beach, but she CLEARLY likes you.  Man up and seal the deal.  The apparent unwillingness or inability of a guy to make the first move is something that many girls I know get very frustrated with.  There are all sorts of gender roles at play here, but even in our enlightened twenty-first century dating world, the majority ruling still seems to be that guys are ‘supposed’ to make the first move.

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3) Aladdin – the Compulsive Liar

Aladdin is in a bizarre conundrum from the second Robin Williams starts granting him wishes, and although the viewers completely understand why he feels the need to conceal the truth from his lady-love, he lies at a rate that would put most politicians to shame.  Jasmine is clearly a smart cookie, and she works out that something’s up with her new boyfriend pretty sharpish, but does Aladdin confess all and beg for forgiveness?  Nope.  He KEEPS LYING.  I completely understand that being honest when you know it will spell trouble is scary, but I’ve been in Jasmine’s shoes, and I can tell you for a fact that covering lies up with more lies is just not cool.  If I were her, I would have fed him to my pet tiger.

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4) Shang – the Just Won’t Listen

I still can’t quite believe that Disney got away with this one: he refuses to listen to Mulan because she’s a GIRL.  Yeah ok, she made some mistakes too, but this guy basically chooses his culture’s expectations of women over his actual experience of a woman’s abilities, including staying calm under fire, rescuing her entire troop and burying the bad guy under an avalanche.  What an idiot.  This is by no means a gender-specific habit, but it is infuriating when your other half is too stubborn to listen to you, especially if their reasoning is so patently ridiculous.

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5) Beast – the Emotionally Unavailable

Ok, this one is a classic: guy likes girl.  Guy doesn’t think that girl will like him back.  Instant grumpy bastard.  Girl has no way of knowing that this is the problem, so she leaves feeling confused (and a bit chilly in all that snow, I should think).  In fairness, Beast (whose human name is Adam, did you know?) is having a massive confidence crisis, what with being an undefined species of animal, as well having a pretty tight schedule to stick to.  But you get the idea.  I hear a lot of my male friends complaining about the fact that their girlfriends and partners expect them to be mind-readers, but it does work both ways.  When a guy pulls the hot-and-cold behaviour on you, or retreats without warning into complete emotional unavailability, girls tend to panic.  Guys have no idea how fast our brains can work when we think that they don’t like us anymore.

It’s pretty reassuring to look at these Disney classics and discover that at least some aspects of the stories are salvageable as relevant to contemporary life.  I’m slightly upset that I’ll never have a castle or the ability to heal people with my hair, but the essential point of this blog was to demonstrate that even the men we are taught to idolise as knights in shining armour are not perfect.  They do sort themselves out eventually: apologies, explanations and good old-fashioned dashes to the rescue all feature heavily in the climactic endings of Disney movies.  This is relevant to real life too: ladies, we need to accept that men are not perfect, but that the one who is right for us will slay a dragon/storm a castle/run across a magically frozen lake if they have to.