Hey. Thanks for spending your time here, in my corner of the universe, when you could be almost anywhere else on the planet, except, in most cases, under water. Take a snoop around my website and check out my writing and a list of my upcoming gigs. Signing up to my newsletter gets you free hugs for life.
I will never complain about cold weather again. England is tropical relative to New York, and I have learnt that the hard way – taking my hands out of my gloves and leaving them vulnerable to vicious winds in Battery Park. All so I could snap pictures of Keith Haring sculptures.
We were in New York city for two weeks, and blew most of our money at bookshops – from The Strand to McNally Jackson and Three Lives & Company. I picked up two novels by Octavia Butler, some of Capote’s writings on the city paired with preciously unseen photographs of him, a collection of interviews with James Baldwin and some juicy Margaret Atwood – to start with. I am half way through Atwood’s Oryx and Crake, and it is equal parts inspiring and crushing.
For those of you wondering, I failed to read a book in time to catch up, but I am convinced I will meet my 2016 reading goals, one way or another. So yes, I am the absolute worst, but I am also going to blog in spite of it.
We put together our own tour to see Keith Haring’s art in New York, which took us from Harlem to the UWS and all the way down to the bottom-most tip of Manhattan. Unfortunately his most famous mural – Crack is Wack – is currently surrounded by highway ramps, construction and fencing. The internet lead us to believe there was a fanciful playground around it, but it was kinda dodgy to get to: in our case we jay-walked across what was not a safe road in any sense and poked our faces up against chickenwire to see it and snap a few pictures.
MoMa was incredible – massive Jean-Michel Basquiat chilling at the top of the escalator! Warhols hanging casually outside the caf! Starry Night all swirly and propped up against a wall like no big deal ! Mondrian all hey wassup I’m here making cubes! PICASSO, ALL THE PICASSO! Also really enjoyed the Whitney for its pollocks and others of the thick-splat era (yeah, that’s what I’m naming it). The Natural History Museum Planetarium was beyond awesome, and we had a great time at the New York Historical Society Museum & Library, where they have a great exhibition on charting comic book history in Gotham City.
We also managed to nab tickets to see a stage adaptation of Stephen King’s Misery with.. Bruce Willis (what?) and Laurie Metcalfe (yes,) and we got to see closing night of Colin Quinn’s one man show The New York Story. We watched Room (Brie, forever and ever please) at the Angelika film center, and we managed to see the Oscar nominated live action shorts, as well as program A of the documentary shorts at the IFC center. You are spoiled for choice when it comes to curated indie cinemas out there.
It snowed, the sun shined, we hated ourselves either for tipping too much or not knowing that we were tipping too little, and ate audacious amounts of food. Until next time, you expensive, cheap, loud, quiet, angry, ecstatic, glorious city.
Look, it’s only 6 days into 2016 and I’m already behind on my resolutions. So I am crossing them all out and resolving to do one thing this year – to go a little easy on myself. I’ve been feeling very trite and cliché over the past few weeks, but I do know that I am a real asshole to myself. I am working solely on sorting that out this year, as well as gently attempting the following:
– Read 52 books
– Get more shit published
– Develop my ghostwriting & copywriting for money biz (and expand!)
– Get my scripts turned into movieeeez and TeeVee
– Launch the epic solo podcasting project I’ve had in my mind forever
– Launch my joint pod IN AGONY with my friend Stephanie Laing
– BLOG for real this time
– Stay vegan
– Collaborate more with friends
– Apply to Clarion & Clarion West
– Be brave as fuck
Have I worked on each of these in the past six days? No. I’ve bagged and boarded a bunch of new comics (I need to stop touching my copy of Monstress), I watched all of Making a Murderer, and I’ve spoken to The Samaritans every few days to stop the darkness from devouring me.
I wrote TICK TOCK in huge scary letters on the header image of this post because I have one day left to read my first book of 2016 and not fall behind on my first resolution. I’m going to make it tiny and almost cheating (Chinua Achebe has some short-ish books, and I’m yet to follow up on Things Fall Apart), but if I don’t read a book tomorrow in its entirety, I will have failed 2016 already.
I’m also cheating on my blogging resolution by writing my first blog post of 2016 about how I’m failing to keep to my resolutions only 6 days in. It’s about as ironic as Alanis Morisette Morris dancing but I am trying, and trying is one step away from doing. There is no trying or doing, there is only The Force Awakens. OK. I’m out.
A lot has happened since I last updated – I’ve been to Edinburgh, Toronto, Detroit & Disneyworld, I’ve been to bookshops around the world and have managed to write something that’s gone viral. It is, of course, something that I didn’t think would have any impact whatsoever, and something that I put relatively little time in to. That’s nice, isn’t it?
The post went up under two weeks ago on Facebook and is currently on about 6.7k shares, not including shares of the articles written about it. I’ve put the post up here in the essays section for posterity.
If you’re interested in reading troll-ridden comments sections, you can see some of the media coverage I received at the links below. You’ve been warned. There are some nice pull quotes though, eh? I’ll take badass comedian, thank you very much.
It’s all been very nice and exciting, and the most fun part has been hearing from real individual humans with interesting ideas, experiences and stories to tell me. So if you’re thinking about getting in touch but are fearful, don’t be – I don’t bite unless I am risen from the dead.
We made it! I’ve been making a podcast with the wonderful Sadaf Fahim about BOOKS. It’s all we ever talk about when we get together, she knows a lot of stuff, I have a lot of questions. It’s a match made in book reading heaven. You can subscribe on itunes here, and if you’re too lazy to boot that up, check out episode 1 below.
My trip up north was nothing like Cassady’s, but it was about as close as I’m gonna get. Three nights performing at The Stand comedy clubs – in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Newcastle, before performing at The Mauretania in Bristol for What The Frock Comedy. The Mauretania is a grand old building, with the original fittings from a ship of the same name from the early 1900s. So let’s just say I got to perform on The Titanic, but without all the water, misery and the string quartet.
There’s a lot of exciting business coming up – I’m doing a show at The Lewisham Fringe Festival on the 12th of November with one of my best chums, Stephanie Laing. It’s called Her & Her and our poster art is snazzy and jazzy.
Next week, the first episode of me new podcast launches. It’s about books. If you like books, or me, or the incredible brain of Sadaf Fahim, then you will like this podcast. Also if you don’t read books but want to be able to sound like you do read books, it could be full of insights. And if you want to read but don’t like audiobooks when you’re driving around in your car, you can fill that void with our podcast. Click to check out the Turtle Book Club Podcast website & twitter and feel free to ‘like’ our facebook page to help us climb the ranks.
This week I’m in Birmingham at The Glee Club, and next week I’ll be performing in the Quarter Finals of the Leicester Square New Comedian of the Year competition, as well as at G & B comedy and at the launch of the feminist magazine ‘Hysteria,’ at SOAS University. Click on my giglist to take a look at full details if ya want to come say hey to my face!
The big launch has arrived! I’m incredibly proud to have my writing alongside the work of the great writers involved in this new magazine. We launched today. Here’s the first piece I’ve written for them. Please peruse the wonderful articles they have up.
Some flash fiction that I contributed to Spontaneity – an innovative arts journal – has just been published as part of their fifth issue. I loved the concept when I first read about it – it’s a “chain reaction between prose – visual art – poetry – music and everything in between,” and a journal about inspiration. Check out the new issue here, and to go straight to my piece, ‘Courting,’ click here.
The short piece that I wrote was inspired by this piece of music, by Meilana Gillard:
N.B. It’s quite possible that this needs a ‘trigger warning’ – I don’t know what the etiquette or process around that is; if anyone who knows reads this and thinks YES THIS NEEDS A TRIGGER WARNING, then please do let me know and I’ll change this N.B. to “TRIGGER WARNING.” Thanks.
I was diagnosed with PCOS when I was thirteen. Things had been funky for a while – I ‘hit puberty’ too early – half way between my ninth and tenth birthdays, and it seems I transformed excessively in a short period of time. By the time I was diagnosed I had reached the height that I am now, twelve years later.
PCOS stands for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, which is a dickhead way of saying I’ve got chunks of persistent random shit around my ovaries that mess with my hormones and, in turn, my fertility. Oh, and in extreme cases, they can get so big that they can strangle your ovaries, such that they begin to rot inside your body, possibly rupture, cause internal bleeding, and ruin your day.
The random searing pain, weight gain and potential infertility weren’t my main concerns as a kid. My main issue was the sprouting of hairs that other girls my age weren’t getting. Even the ones who eventually went through puberty didn’t seem to have the same problem as me.
At first, my mum used to wrap the issue in cuteness: “Don’t worry about it, you look like a cute fuzzy bear!”
Anyone who has spent more than ten seconds with a ten year old knows that that won’t fly in a group of kids at school. It’s hard to say how much of the stigma I constructed in my head and how much of it was from other kids making comments. However, my nickname was definitely not Fuzzy Bear.
By age 11 my mum was helping me use depilatory cream on the majority of my skin. She was trying to help, but the more we used it, the worse it got. “When I did this in my twenties it reduced the amount of regrowth; I just don’t understand it.”
She was scared of waxing and plucking, having never done it before, so it didn’t seem to be an option for me – all the hair on her body was thin and fine and barely noticeable. She had never faced this problem before, and though her intentions were in the right place, she was not equipped to help me.
Now I was covered in coarse, thick hair and embarrassed to look people in the eye.
The fantasies started around when I was eleven. We had been through a number of different methods, and had set up a fairly regular weekly ritual. I didn’t want my mother near me anymore, because I was sick of her frustration, and I was ashamed enough as it was. I felt that when she looked at me, she was disappointed that I would never be the pretty daughter she hoped for.
I don’t remember the first time I started thinking it, but I remember a period of a few months when the idea of picking up a knife and peeling off my skin – my neck, my chin and my cheeks – started to invade my thoughts when in a resting state. I would imagine it vividly – imagine getting used to the sensation, and then it being strictly business. I convinced myself that if I could work up enough momentum to do it, it would solve my problems, that the hair wouldn’t grow back because the skin would be grafted or would form scar tissue. I thought I could deal with scars, but I couldn’t deal with feeling repulsed by myself every week. The cycle seemed endless (and it is, by the way.)
I never did build up to picking up a knife. I cannot say that I’ve stopped think about it – not for the pain – that’s something that I don’t think I fully understand – but because at least that way, I’ll feel like I’ve tried absolutely everything.
When I turned twelve we had moved back to England from Saudi Arabia. I felt like there were more options here – and by the time I was fifteen, laser hair removal was new and shiny and a permanent solution. Since then, I have never felt such excitement and anticipation. I began saving up money, my mother agreed to pay for half. A six session cycle of treatment cost over £1000.
I went for a consultation and the Doctor said: “Yes. You’re a perfect candidate, we could have near semi-permanent removal, and extreme reduction in the worst case.”
What I heard was: “Welcome to the Promised Land.”
For the treatment, they insist you don’t wax or pluck – you come in and they shave your face. I cried, utterly humiliated, the first time they did this. The actual process involves a burning hot laser against your skin, essentially burning the hair follicles at the root.
I expected pain – in fact, I was used to it, and I’ve always had a fairly high tolerance to it. I hadn’t listened to the Doctor’s explanation of the process before it went ahead. I was not expecting the burning sensation to be so close to an actual burning sensation. As in, pin-points of flame, in your flesh, on each individual follicle, filling your skull with searing white pain.
After the first hour-long session, my skin had swollen and my eyes seemed hollowed and pushed back into my saggy, red face. I sat in the bathroom and splashed cold water in the hopes it would help relieve the discomfort, but that served only to wash the aloe ‘cooling cream’ from my skin. It was a sickly hot July, but I carried my trusty lower-face-hiding scarf with me and wrapped myself up and begun the hour and forty five minute journey home on the tube.
I went back for three more sessions. I didn’t feel much change in between the treatments and though I had taken industrial strength pain killers the second and third times, I did not have the strength to carry on. I made excuses the whole way there – as if I had forgotten the purpose of the treatment – ‘I can get over this,’ ‘I can accept my body for the way it is,’ ‘It’s a syndrome for fuck’s sake, it’s not your fault!’ – but I made it into the clinic. Before the session I sat in the waiting room, my whole body weighed down with dread. I stood up and walked out. I’m sure they called my name and wondered if they’d imagined me walking in and saying I was there. I couldn’t do it.
The persistent dreams of picking up the knife came back to me for a brief period then. I don’t know what happened after that – perhaps some more maturity, perhaps I convinced myself with my own posturing – but I learned not to look myself in the eye every week, and it made the whole thing a lot more bearable. While I was at university, my internal world stopped focussing on this particular issue – I just got on with it.
Now that I’m a bit older, the other symptoms of PCOS have begun to play on my mind – particularly potential infertility. Of course it has; it’s far more important. A few years ago I had a large cyst removed that was cutting off blood to my left ovary. They made two tiny scars – one on my right side and one in my belly button, and swum in to save me with a camera, a blade and a vacuum. It was successful. The cyst was the size of a grapefruit, and was a dermoid cyst – it had little teeth and hairs growing out of it. Don’t ask me, I’m not a doctor – I just produce nightmares with my body.
Here’s the thing. I know I want kids – I know it’s an issue I’m going to have to face, and fortunately I know I won’t be alone for that. But this thing with the hair, man, it doesn’t go away. It’s an endless cycle, and it’s something that’s incredibly taboo in most cultures. It’s ridiculed universally, and some women who go through menopause then make self deprecating jokes about it. But I’ve been tackling this fun-bag since I was 9. This is one I still haven’t figured out internally. I like myself, a lot. I think I’m a good person, that I’m loving and deserve to be loved, that I’ll have a forever-partner that finds me attractive and loves me. It’s just these moments, once in a while, when you catch your eye in the mirror, and somehow you’re a kid – you’re still Fuzzy Bear. Except, that was never really your nickname.
If you like what you’re reading, please know that there’s more where that came from. To be the first to find out, and for secret, special, exclusive stuff, sign up to my newsletter. I don’t spam you, because it’s not the 90s, and it’s easy to unsubscribe if you wake up and hate me. No hard feelings – I can empathise. Sign up here:
I know it ended almost a week ago, but I only just got home and back into my Bart Simpson PJs, so now is the time to summarise this summer’s festivities.
I had a great time running and performing in Friends with Benefits at The Free Sisters. I learnt a lot, performed all over Edinburgh and made some new human friends. While I was up there I got a joke at number 5 in The Mirror’s Top 100 Jokes of the Fringe, and got told by one lady that I was “deffo her fave.” I’ve come away with a butt-ton of ideas, plans for next year to do a longer solo show and inspiration from a disgustingly huge and talented range of acts. I know this is a poor summary, but let’s face it, it’s the Fringe – it has to be lived to be understood.
Meanwhile, the fantastic Standard Issue Magazine is on the cusp of launching. You can follow their updates on Facebook and twitter and stay in the loop. I’ll be writing for them regularly and am really excited about being involved. Click below to sign up for updates from the magazine:
I came second place. My mum says “That’s nice but why not first place?” I don’t have an answer to that.
The brief was as follows:
Capitalism in crisis! Political unrest! Climate change! Antibiotic resistance!
Do you ever feel like we’re basically doomed as a species?
Well, what are you waiting for: stock up on canned goods and run for the hills because the theme for this season’s Editor’s Brief is APOCALYPSE.
We want your artistic work – whether that’s writing, visual art/photography, audio or video – about the end of the world. Have as much fun as you want with the theme – we’re looking for originality, talent and creativity.
As always, our quarterly Editor’s Brief is open to all ages and disciplines, and there are three categories for you to apply to.
There will be a first (£250), second (£100) and third (£50) prize in EACH of the following categories:
1. Audio and video (no longer than two minutes)
2. Writing (no longer than 1,000 words)
3. Visual art/photographs (no more than two)
I came second in the writing category! Link to follow once it’s up on IdeasMag. Happy days.