Review: How to be a Woman, by Caitlin Moran

Eeeehh I’m late to this one! As per.

How to be a womanCaitlin Moran, blowing the power of the princess out of the water and leaving it firmly agitating the heads of those who would rather ‘be’ than ‘do’. What a book. Although, I still stand by one princess. She-ra. She had it going on.

As someone who grew up dis-interested in the idea of the princess (my mum might have put me in a dress but I spent my spare time doing impressions of John McEnroe and racing Stuart Fleming on his BMX) it was a shame that it became my sole ambition to be one in my early twenties.

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There’s a party going on in my legs

Bed time. You’re comfortably knackered. And happily snoozy. And cosying up to a cat. It doesn’t take long before….you…zzzzzzzz….zzz…

DING! Wide awake. Some selfish shit has decided to throw a party. FFS!

There’s no music though. Or people. But a shed load of compulsive dancing. Coming from your own damn legs.

Not again.

Restless legsRestless legs. It’s been pretty consistent recently. It’s a tricky one to describe (and to imagine if you’ve never experienced it, although, sadly, many people have).

I get drawn into this cosy state, forgetting that it almost always waits until I’m least expecting it. It’s like a sneaky snake, waiting until I’m practically unconscious before pouncing and injecting its poison.

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I am standard

An ode to the fabulous Standard Issue magazine. Sign up for their podcast here
I have spent most of my life wondering why I wasn’t up to ‘standard’. You know, the average standards, that your average girl aspired to be. Of course, your average girl could never have actually reached those standards. Mainly because they never existed.
But that doesn’t stop us – it certainly never stopped me – aiming for whatever we interpret these standards to be – and when you’re anxious and awkward, the path to them can be even steeper.

I have always felt like an outsider. I was the only girl who didn’t make the school choir aged five and I was so shy as a teen I sat in the pub in utter silence (until I found what a bottle of Lambrini could do for my non-existent confidence).

Part personality, part anxiety, part media. All of it plays a role in our confidence. And the pressure that’s on us – all of us – hits us in many different ways.

I started writing about my anxiety in April 2016. It kind of felt like when I point out my own giant zits to the rest of the office floor. If I told the world how awkward I am, rather than the world telling me, I would feel more confident, more in control. So I said: “Hello world – my name’s Lucy, and I have anxiety. Sometimes, I sit shaking on the bed scared I am going to die. It’s not pretty. But I can and do live with it.”

By October 2016, I was writing for Standard Issue. And just weeks later, I had a column. I was out to play a part in proving that we all meet the standard. Even those girls in Cosmo (not that I ever interviewed them, but successful comedians, actors, public speakers and hipsters were all profiled in my column sharing many different challenges, traits and hiccups in life).

I knew I wasn’t alone when it came to mental illness. I had already joined Time to Change as an ambassador and had been open with many friends and acquaintances who lived with various mental health problems.

But with or without diagnosed mental illness, there are so many others pressures in life. They might trigger mental illness but, even if they don’t, they’re about as good for our health as Brexit is for the country’s.

Be skinny. Be beautiful. Be a sex goddess. Live like a bastard Stepford wife oozing perfection, manicured nails and a Hollywood smile. Keep on top of your Brazilian, take herbal hair remedies to make your mop shiny and never leave the house looking and behaving anything less than film star glamorous. In fact, don’t even open your front door when you hit 35 – it’s checkout time (at least that’s what the leader of the USA would have us believe).

But then came Standard Issue. The fabulous Sarah Millican farts, the gorgeous Taryn Brumfitt has curves and the wonderful Fiona Longmuir sweats. This is standard. This is real life. And nobody is ashamed of nature any more, we celebrate it. Loudly and proudly.

Aside from feeling that I finally meet expected standards – my new expected standards – Standard Issue has given me a voice, a platform. I’ve since had bylines in the i newspaper and the Independent, and I’ve even drafted a book (watch this space – says my new-found confidence). It’s made me feel that I am worth something.

Oh, and loads of other people have responded to my writing and said they totally relate, they totally get it; anxiety it happens to them/their kids/their partner too.

But by saying I am standard does that make me average? Absolutely not. I meet new standards that I now understand are the real ones. Basically, to be real and human and fucking happy about it.

The Standard Issue community and all the wonderful articles and conversations with contributors, editors and readers on social media made me realise that none of us are average. We all meet the standard. But we all do it in our own wonderful ways.

We all have unique potential and ambitions and aspirations. And that’s OK. Because the Standard Issue community listens and supports that. And makes us roar with pee-inducing, wrinkle-creasing laughter along the way.

So thank you Standard Issue. Thank you Sarah, Mickey, Sam, Jo and everyone else who has written, shared and laughed with me. I’m all woman – not just the bit the other magazines report on. And now I know that, I’m all the more delighted – and delightful – for it.

Long live the Standard Issue legacy. Chin, chin wonderful ladies. I salute you.

@Lucy_Nichol78

Adventures in vinyl

The piece I wrote for last weekend’s record store day….as seen on Standard Issue:

It’s 1996, I have literally 97p to live on ’til Tuesday and I really want to go to Shaft at the Welly Club tonight.

What’s a girl to do? Easy. Cram a load of vinyl in a record bag and head down to Offbeat Records for a spot of bartering.

I’d usually walk away with an empty record bag and just enough cash for a bottle of Lambrini, a packet of Marlboro Lights and the club entry fee. So then I’d be ready to hit the dance floor in my plastic catalogue heels, Raggy skate label dress and blue nail varnish.

Clubbing with good mate, Sarah

I will never forget opening the doors to the steaming hot dance floor, sweat dripping off the walls, the floor moving under my feet and losing myself to the sound of Fatboy Slim, Alex Reece and the Ganja Kru (Super Sharp Shooter anyone?).

Of course, when I awoke the next day all I would have to show for it was blistered feet, smoky hair and a seriously diluted record collection. Oh, and debilitating nausea threatening to jeopardise my Saturday night out at Spiders nightclub.

I don’t regret the nights out (most of them anyway), but I do regret my choice of fundraising efforts.

Let me say this one thing to anyone who has spent time building up a record collection: treasure it. Love it. Protect it. Sell your clothes, your shoes, sell the sofa from the communal flat you’re kipping in, but whatever you do, DO NOT SELL YOUR VINYL.

So on this Record Store Day 2017, I am going to lament the loss of some of my most prized possessions (and, as it turns out, my youth). My adventures through long-lost vinyl – from teenage angst to music wanker and old-school cool.

Hole – Pretty on the Inside LP

There was something very endearing about Courtney Love, to a 15 year-old girl who really wanted to be something she quite clearly wasn’t anyway. I first got this album from my boyfriend. It was poor sound quality recorded badly onto a Memorex cassette with the track listings scribbled in blue biro. Needless to say I was ecstatic when I got the vinyl version.

And when I managed to talk the owner of Offbeat records into photocopying the lyric sheet he had in his earlier copy of Pretty on the Inside I was complete. I could finally sing (debatable use of language) the proper lyrics from my bedroom…

Slut kiss girl won’t you promise her smack…

So now I knew the words. Although I’m still not entirely sure of the point the album was making, other than there are scary dolls and crack and whores and broken bones. But I adored it.

This was the album of my teenage years. Yet I was far from the Teenage Whore (track one) that Courtney professed to be. More a slightly awkward wallflower (until Lambrini intoxication saved the day).

Trade deal: Pretty on the Inside for a game of pool and three cigarettes

Sonic Youth/Mudhoney: Touch Me I’m Sick / Halloween 12″

Pure rock ‘n’ roll. I felt pretty cool owning this. Less so when, many years later, my friend’s boyfriend filmed us mum-dancing to a CD version in my kitchen. It was bye bye Lambrini, and hello Prosecco.

The only thing that remained constant was the ciggies (they’ve gone as well now). We would probably have looked far more comfortable dancing to Mumford and Sons but hey ho. We tried to bring it back.

Trade deal: Touch me I’m Sick 12″ for a drunken snog with the Scottish student from across the road.

Green Day 39/Smooth

Basically, I just want to be a total music wanker and let everyone know I had Green Day’s debut album while they were still gigging at tiny pubs in Leeds, (ones I wasn’t allowed to go to because it was GCSE time) and the thought of a Broadway musical was about as rad as a Stock Aitken and Waterman reunion.

I was there before Dookie. I was there before American Idiot. Because I searched high and low for cool music and I found it (this is a lie – it was purely because my first boyfriend liked them).

I liked to think I was part of an exclusive members club who read Maximum RocknRoll and knew who Jello Biafra was.

In reality, I couldn’t stand the Dead Kennedys, I had no idea what Maximum RocknRoll writers were banging on about, and Green Day was about as punk as I was going to go (let’s be honest, it’s pretty pop isn’t it). But who cares. I had the debut album on vinyl.

Had being the operative word.

Trade deal: 39/Smooth LP for one cloakroom ticket and a tequila slammer (pushing the boat out that night).

Luscious Jackson: Citysong 12″

Being a fan of the Beastie Boys I had to get this. An all-girl band on the Beasties’ record label. I bloody loved this. It was light relief to my earlier love of Sonic Youth and Hole and in my mind made me seriously cool.

I’m not sure why but the lead singer had an air of something about her. It might have been the lazy, laid-back vocals and the fact they obviously hung out with the Beastie Boys. Cool by association.

And having this little beauty in my record collection associated me as well.

Trade deal: Luscious Jackson 12″ for a cut-price miniskirt from C&A and a pre-club pint at the Blue Lamp pub.

Untouchable Outcaste Beats Vol 1 LP

This one was never actually sold. I think it was later in about 1997 that I bought this. Indian vibes by various artists with the legendary Mathar hit by the Dave Pike Set and the kitsch Take Off Your Clothes to Feel the Setting Sun by Wolfgang Dauner Quintet.

So no, I didn’t sell it, but I did learn a very valuable lesson with this album. Never position your record player by a big sunny bay window and leave your naked vinyl on top of it.

Warped – and not in a good way.

Trade deal: Untouchable Outcaste Beats for tears and remorse at own stupidity.

And he’s off!

The boy is flying free tomorrow. 18 years old and ready to soak up some Japanese culture before camping with the grizzly bears in the national parks of America. Without us. As an independent adult.

When the fuck did this happen?!

Me and Sam

Me and our Sam – when he needed us for trips away

Selfish emotions ran through our veins when he announced he wasn’t heading to university this year. It’s funny isn’t it – you think you couldn’t possibly endure any more Coldplay-on-a-loop, shit-tip teenage bedrooms with week-old cutlery and empty Ben and Jerry’s tubs, and an infuriatingly higher level of intelligence and political savvy than I have possessed in all my years put together. But when push comes to shove, I don’t want to push or shove. I want him to stay at home. In the toon. I mean, we’ve got culture here. Just look at what’s on the Quayside. Can’t he just get the number 44 into town?

But I do get it. I travelled in my twenties. Hull to New Zealand to Australia to Fiji to America. I blew all my cash living it up, backpacking as well as shopping in the fashionista suburbs of Melbourne and dining out daily. So something is telling me, given his higher IQ, that if I managed it, he can too.

He’s not started packing yet. He leaves at 10am tomorrow. He is, after all, a self-confessed procrastinator. He’s probably just planning the packing regime. I am sure there are lists detailing all the different ways he could be doing it. But perhaps that’s a good thing? Perhaps he is less likely to take risks without first considering all the possible outcomes? Less likely to jump into the water without first checking the temperature (that takes me back to a shockingly chilly Christmas day swim in NZ, 2004. Breathtaking – and not in a good way).

I remember my mum panicking when I was heading off on trips abroad. In fact, after all the travel I did on that big trip in 04/05, she still wanted to come through to the departure lounge with me a year later to ensure I got my plane to Malaga on time. I was in my late twenties by that point. But then again, given that I arrived an hour late for my flight when I was leaving the country for nine whole months, only to be saved by the fact that the plane had been delayed for three hours, perhaps that’s why I didn’t instil much confidence in her.

I guess you really shouldn’t compare what they’re like today to what we were like at their age, in the 90s. Generation X were nothing like the millennials. The millennials just seem a bit more clean cut and self-aware. They want to make things better again, whereas we just wanted to rebel.

But I remember, post-GCSE’s the first time our Sam went away on his own, with his mates on a camping trip. They held planning meetings (with minute takers and assigned actions on Paperchase stationary) to discuss who was taking what, the transport required and to map out a thorough logistical plan. When I went camping, I called my mum from the lakeside and asked her to pick up my house and work keys from the bar I got drunk in the night before.  I had a vague idea that they might be there. She jumped in her car in her flip flops and met with the burly bouncers outside Oasis night club to retrieve her irresponsible daughter’s lost property. Which was handy given that I was back at work the next day. Thanks mum.

So I need to give him the credit he deserves. But if he does call us because he’s lost his bank card or needs us to check his itinerary because he spilt sake on his previously immaculate Paperchase notebook, I need to remember what my mum did for me at his age.

Have a blast Sam. We love you. xx

 

 

 

 

 

 

Standard Issue – it’s been a blast!

If you haven’t already heard there was some sad news announced last week regarding the fabulous Standard Issue magazine that I regularly write for. Founder Sarah Millican and editor Micky Noonan have announced that it will close as an online magazine from the end of the month. GUTTED!

However, they will still be running the hugely popular podcasts and they are well worth a listen – sign up here.

And if you fancy taking a look back at any of my mental health articles from the It REALLY couldn’t happen series, check out my author page here

My next and final column will be out on Wednesday this week, and I have written a couple of additional pieces for the final weeks too. Big thanks to everyone who took part and took an interest. I will continue with the interviews/articles either through this blog or find a new home for them. Everyone who shared their story has helped somebody else.

xx

 

 

Being a step mum

Latest piece for the i Newspaper – just in time for mother’s day 2017.

Me and SamIt’s almost Mother’s Day again, and, while I have never produced a human from the miraculous workings of my own fair body, I believe I deserve a stake in Hallmark’s profitable day of appreciation. In fact, I say thank God for Moonpig! Because not only can their cards be tailored to my modern-day family situation, but they can show love to all the women who have made a positive impact on a child’s life – mothers, aunties, sisters, neighbours and step mums like me.

Read the full article on the i here

 Follow me on Twitter @lucy_nichol78