Emma is currently...

  • Addicted to: Fruit and nut mix
  • Listening to: Band of Joy - Robert Plant
  • Reading: Naples '44 - Norman Lewis

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Yes Girl!

You may have read the book Yes Man by Danny Wallace. If not, you may have seen the Jim Carrey film adaptation, which contains almost nothing that happens in the book and destroys all the humour by Americanising everything (no offence, guys), but nonetheless makes the same basic point. The point is this: Danny Wallace realises his life is going nowhere and so decides he is going to say Yes to every proposition made to him. He gets into lots of bizarre situations and, long story short, concludes that while it is good to open yourself up to more opportunities, there are times when you have to draw the line and say No.

I am a Yes Girl, but not in the good way; rather, in the pathetic way. I always say No to the things that might make a difference - for example, I will never go to a social event where I won't know many people, and so I never meet anyone new. But I say Yes to pretty much everything else, only because I am too timid and polite to say No. I will pay money to see a film I've already seen because my friend wants to see it; I will pretend to like food I hate because everyone else is eating it; I will buy a hideous jacket because the salesperson is so persistent.

I'll give you one recent example of this.

So I'm walking down Oxford Street in London. For any readers who aren't familiar with London, let me say that Oxford Street is busy, particularly on a Saturday in the summer. I'm walking along, when I see a man standing in the middle of the street. This man looks fairly ordinary, except he is scanning the crowds with a scary glint in his eye as if he is looking for someone. As soon as his eyes fall on me, it is apparent that I am THE CHOSEN ONE. I try the old 'head down, eyes on the ground, walk as fast as possible' manoeuvre, but he forms a human blockade in the street and I am forced to stop and listen to him. He shoves something into my hand, which I take, assuming it's a leaflet, and then try to continue my peaceful walk. But the man won't let this happen.

"You speak Russian?" he asks me.

I don't know why, out of everyone on Oxford Street, he decided I was the most Russian-looking person. I also don't know how exactly you can tell a Russian speaker from their general appearance, but apparently they all look like me.

"Er, no," I say.

"Have you heard of Hare Krishna?" he asks.

Oh dear. I look down at the leaflet in my hand and discover it is, in fact, a book. A book about meditation. I make an ineffectual attempt to shove it back into his hands and do a runner, but he looks so excited about the fact I have actually stopped to listen to him that I don't have the heart.

"Er, yes," I say.

He starts going on about meditation and yoga and how I should come down to this hall somewhere and take part in some class on something or other, and I smile and nod and try to conceal the sheer panic in my eyes. I keep repeating the word "cool" over and over again for lack of anything else to say. Passers-by eye me with sympathy, but their eyes seem to say "you got yourself into this one!" and none of them tries to rescue me by pretending to mug me or kidnap me or something.

Eventually he finishes his speech. "I give you this book," he says. "But it is not free. We ask for a small donation...eighty pence? One, two pounds?"

And I give him the money. That is how pathetic I am. I am so pathetic and incapable of saying No that I bought a book on spiritual meditation off a Hare Krishna in the middle of Oxford Street, despite a) having no money and b) being a Christian. That is probably the silliest thing about this whole affair. I bought a book about something that conflicts with my own beliefs, and then threw it away as soon as I got home.

I need to stop being a Yes Girl. Once, I went on a date with this guy I was not attracted to in any way whatsoever because I felt bad for him and couldn't say No. The date went okay, until he told me that he thought Eragon was an amazing book and Christopher Paolini was a really talented author. That was the death knell, really. The next time I saw him I pretended I didn't know who he was, and I never saw him again. I am not joking.

Anyone have any tips about how I can be less pathetic? Thanks.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Musings on a wedding.

Yesterday I attended the wedding of a girl who was in my year at school. The ceremony was beautiful, but I also found it very strange. I remember when she first met this boy, in our local nightclub, which is basically a glorified sweaty shoebox with a sticky floor and a terrible DJ. Now they're going to spend the rest of their lives together. It restores my faith in nightclubs a little. Ninety-nine out of a hundred times, the guy who catches your eye across the dancefloor probably just wants to shove his tongue down your throat - but he might just turn out to be the love of your life.

A lot of my friends were shocked when they heard she was engaged at nineteen. "Trust me," I told them, "if you saw them together you'd know it was right." Normally I would say that marrying at such a young age is a mistake, but they make a perfect couple and I know they are going to be happy together.

Personally, I can't even comprehend getting married now. I'm not sure I can comprehend getting married ever, though I hope it will happen one day. Maybe that's just because I haven't been in love. There's just something about the thought of getting into the dress, walking slowly down the aisle with everyone staring at me, speaking the vows into the silence, that absolutely terrifies me. "If it were me I'd do a runner!" I exclaimed (just as the church went silent, because that's the sort of thing that always happens to me). My friend couldn't imagine not spending the rest of her life with the boy she loved. That's the difference between me and her; that's why she is married and I can't even get into a relationship because I'm such a commitmentophobe.

As someone who cannot write a single story without romance in it, you'd think I was a hopeless romantic. And I am. But the romance I write about is all about the pursuit: that exciting period when you first meet someone, when you start to develop feelings for them but you have no idea how it's going to turn out, when one minute you hate them and the next you miss them, when everything goes by in a big confusing dramatic blur. Then you finally end up together - and then the story ends. I don't want to know what happens after that, because that's the part that scares me. What happens when the excitement dies down? What if everything just becomes...mundane?

The pastor at the wedding read a quote from Captain Corelli's Mandolin. Searching for it just now, the first page that came up on Google was a page that contained all of the exact readings he did. How funny. I can imagine him sitting down panic-stricken half an hour before the wedding and typing, "WEDDING READINGS PLZ!!!" into the search box. Anyway, I digress. This quote, which is apparently quite an overdone wedding quote, describes love as "what is left over when being in love has burned away". I know that this is the truth for many married couples who are still in love after many years, but it is a calm and steady love rather than an exciting and passionate one. I hope everyone manages to find this.

As for me? I'm just too much of a free spirit...

Monday, 6 July 2009

The adventures of Rolo, Jack and Max.

Yesterday I decided to clear out my wardrobe so that I could accommodate the various junk I accumulated whilst at uni. At the back of the very top shelf I discovered a folder of short stories I wrote when I was little. It's nice to unearth a piece of nostalgia like that, but at the same time they make me cringe.

I used to have these three toy dogs called Rolo, Jack and Max. Every now and then I would brave the three hours it took to load up our fridge-sized grey beast of a computer so that I could happily type up stories about their various canine adventures on MS Word '97. Some of the stories are quite short, but I'm not going to recite any of them to you. Instead, here are some of my favourite literary gems, complete with butchered grammar:

"Yikes" shouted Max. " I hate spiders, unless they are grilled with cinnamon and garlic... Yum, yum ! ". (Presumably that was a combination of flavours I considered normal...)

"What's going on around here?" the puppies asked Calico, who was promptly sick all over them.

"Ho ! Ho! didn't you know? I do birthdays as well", chuckled Father Christmas.

Rolo suddenly rushed in,followed by a fat ghost smoking a pipe."Hi doods" said the ghost ."Would you like to hear a joke".He diddent wait for a repley."What do cats use to fight?" "catapolts!"."Shut up ghost your annoying me"said Jack.

I don't know where I got the subject matter for these stories. One is about a tortoise called Christopher Columbus that wears its shell upside down so that people mistake it for a bowl. Another is about a giant dog biscuit that chases the puppies around at night. In another they get detention with Mr. Dread, who proceeds to shout "LET'S PLAY BALL!" and lob a baseball at them. This last one is called "Detention is BRILLIANT!!!!!"

My mum has decided that these stories are proof that I am destined to be a writer. She thinks I should rewrite the stories and get them illustrated. "Seriously, I think you have a future in writing children's books," she says. "Children would love to read about Rolo, Jack and Max."

I know I'm lucky that I have a parent who supports my desire to follow a career that will probably see me living in a box on the street offering to write witty verbal vignettes of passers by for small change. At the same time, it can be a bit overbearing, because she expects me to write a bestseller and I don't know whether I can achieve that. Despite having praise lavished on me by my English teacher at school I have never actually won a competition, had anything published, or generally done anything to prove I have talent. I was rejected for the highly in-demand creative writing module at university and instead ended up with my last choice, feminist literature (joy). And yet she still thinks I'm a genius.

So it's dinner-time and my mum is telling my dad about our discovery. They start to discuss this new plan for my life as a children's writer in detail, while I sit and wonder why they don't plan my wedding and funeral too while they're at it.

"Of course, you're going to have to change the name Rolo," Mum says. "Copyright issues and all. Jack, Max, and...Rollo?"

"Why not introduce some diversity?" says Dad. "Jack, Max and Iqbal!"

"She can't do that! They're brothers. That would suggest they have a mother who is promiscuous."

"It would suggest they have a mother who enjoys celebrating diversity!"

I feel like burying my face in my chicken. The joys of witty dinner-time banter.