When In Doubt, Buy A Bass Guitar.

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Yes, that is me, sat in a Waitrose car park with a bass guitar and amp in tow. Thankfully there isn’t a photo of me trying to carry said bass guitar, amp and handbag across the aforementioned car park whilst wearing five inch heels and trying to establish any form of centre of gravity.

Do I play bass guitar? No. Or at least not yet.

 

Then again, a month ago I’d never played a keyboard before and I’ve also managed to obtain one of them and learn a few tunes (from the same charity shop from whence the bass guitar came, no less, and at an even more bargains price).

So why on earth have I decided to play bass?  Mostly because I saw someone on Twitter playing it and fell in love with the way they played and wanted to the same.

Now, I’m not entirely musically incompetent (my former music teachers might disagree).= I’ve taught myself – albeit badly – to play guitar and ukulele, and I had clarinet lessons for many years so technically, I know a thing or two about notes and chord progressions.

In fact, a few years ago, music was my favourite subject. I spent every single day writing songs and then forcing my mother to listen to those songs. Whilst I’d like to think I’m not too bad throwing some lyrics together, I sing like a cat whose larynx was damaged in some terrible accident. Nevertheless, my mother has been patient.

Then the exam years came and this constant anxiety that unless I’m being productive all of the time, I’m going to fail. I guess things just get the point where unless you’re exceedingly good at something, you can’t justify dedicating time and effort towards it.

Maybe this is just what adulthood is.

Anyway, whilst perched on the bench outside the local Waitrose, a woman came up to me. I would have said she was in her mid 30s, with long dark hair and a sense of style that immediately made me assume she was a librarian. Now, the majority of people walking by had been either giving me a raised eyebrow or even tried to joke about how girls couldn’t play bass – to my credit, I didn’t wack them over the head with the bass despite the urge to.

Nevertheless,  the woman continued to approach me.

‘So… do you play bass then?’

‘No, but I’m hoping to learn’

‘Ah that’s really good. We need more girls playing guitars. What made you pick it up?’

‘I saw someone else do it and I thought I would have a go’

‘And yet they say girls don’t need role models, hey?’

 

And with that, she disappeared into the ether (read: Waitrose).

It sort of dawned on me at this point how often we feel we can’t do something, because it seems improbable that we’ll be successful or popular for it.

Stuff that.

And so, dear readers (especially those of the not men kind), I do implore you to, where possible, take up the things you want to do. Do stuff – even if you don’t know how, or look daft doing it.

You never know who you’re going to be inspiring.

 

Ellen.

 

 

Girlcon AKA the most important thing I’ve done this year.

cw: brief mental health references

I think I was staying alive for Girlcon this year. Seriously, I remember watching from afar (read: the middle of Wales with only sheep for friends) and wishing so desperately that I could be there. And then my brain ‘went’ last August and I’ll be honest I haven’t really felt the same since. Staying alive this year was hard.

I arrived at Girlcon, having spent 40 minutes getting the wrong bus (don’t even go there. Buses and I are not pals). Immediately, Kara and Anna greeted me warmly (these two, by the way, along with the other Girlcon attendees (obvs) are possibly the best humans and they are just brilliant). I’m always surprised when people know me off of the internet, or come up to me and say hi.Twitter shouldn’t be the place you meet close friends and yet I spend more time talking to my Twitter pals than anyone else. So when Girlcon attendees knew who I was, it warmed my cold heart just that little bit more.

The self-care workshop was the first thing I attended, which if I remember correctly involved Anna and Krish lying across tables going ‘this is self-care’. Later, I attended the selfie panel, which was full of interesting perspectives about how women and non-binary people’s bodies have been owned. Even to say panel seems weird to me because every one I attended – although the panelists and moderators did a wonderful job – had ample room for discussion and it was so genuinely brilliant to see people opening up or offering different perspectives.

And you didn’t have to agree either. You could hold a totally different opinion to the person sitting next to you. . Maybe as someone who is stuck in a school where conformity is the equivalent of godliness this is somewhat revolutionary. I think as girls and non-binary folk we’re expected to apologise for our thoughts and opinions if they do not fit the mould. There was none of that there.

You could sit in a room of people so alike to you, or totally different, and have nuanced discussions about complex issues. You could leave if you felt triggered and go to the designated quiet room, or you could just sit and be visibly distressed. You could simply be.

Sunday morning was spent writing poetry with Bridget Minamore and this was lovely. Not only is Bridget warm, supportive and funny, she was so chilled out about what we chose to share. For once, I had a space where I could write a terrible poem about being a self depricating human slug (which I definitely did not totally do).

After consuming more hummus than humanly possible, I went to the Youtube workshop which was run by the fabulous Rowan Ellis. This was so lovely as it gave us younger folks the chance to discuss what we wanted to use our channels for and share are (often similar) apprehensions.

The afternoon, I concede,  is a bit of a blur but I remember the bodies panel and the fangirls panels happening. Both of these were so important to me at the time and, as I recall thinking at the time, probably shouldn’t have worked and yet they did. By this point, I was a bit overwhelmed by it all but I do remember the pizza, basketball (during which we realised I definitely used to be a sports lesbian) and sobbing when I had to leave.

I left Girlcon thinking I could be happy. I could. This year it’s been all to easy to believe that the world is awful, or at the very least it wasn’t designed with me in mind. But for a short while, I had a space where I could just be and people who genuinely cared and listend.

That’s the sort of thing that’s kept me going.

 

 

 

Birthdays & Beginnings.

Every time I sit down to write a blog post, I invariably end up deleting half of what I write, shutting down my laptop, and sighing heavily before making a cup of coffee.

Then I try again.

And yet, for the past few months, this blog has been empty. I’ve been busy. Away. Absent.

There are things I can tell you. Firstly, my exams went well (or perhaps even better than well) and I am finding it easier to breathe. I can also tell you that I am incredibly lonely at the moment, that I feel incredibly small within the universe and that I am, as it turns out, extremely terrified of growing up

I turned 18 yesterday. If I’m honest, I didn’t think I’d ever make it this far. 14390647_10154125204763318_7151081622764819283_n

My cake was the Colosseum – yes, literally – and my brain was a mess. Which might have been because adulthood is a terrifying notion or it might just have been me being pre-menstrual *shrugs*.

September is always a month of new beginnings for me. If being in education has taught me anything, it’s that fresh starts are always made in September – whoever said ‘New Year’s’ resolutions had it very much wrong. I cannot think of a time I am more keen to change myself, physically alter every aspect of myself than when I am returning to school – partially because all of the stationary is on offer, partially because I am always (albeit secretly) hope that people will like me, that they’ll think I’m a bit less odd.

It never happens.

And people say new life starts in spring, but for me I’ve always seen the birth of new life in browning autumn leaves and fresh dew on frosty grass crunched underfoot. Bare trees are not dead, not dying, they are just waiting for the new to come and take it’s place. It’s a nice thought, I think, that things can be empty, not obviously full of life and yet still breathing, still very much alive.

I’m not sure what I’m using this blog for, really. It might have started as a New Years Resolution or as one of those Things I Must Do. I guess perhaps I really should document my first year as an adult. I am nothing if not nostalgic.

Hopefully, my brain will let me write. I concede dubious mental health combined with academic pressures has resulted in difficulty functioning this year. But breathing is easier now, and hopefully my words will return to me sooner rather than later.

I’m not certain what this blog post was, but I haven’t deleted it yet.

Anyway, to birthdays and beginnings.

Post Pride Thoughts

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Pride can be scary for a whole host of reasons – the thousands of people, the noise, the drinking, but by far the most frightening part is the fear of being attacked. I can’t count the number of times my friends and I have planned what we would do in the event of a terrorist attack. Walking across Embankment after the march, we breathed a collective sigh of relief because, well, we weren’t attacked, we got out of Pride alive. We’re 16 and 17. We shouldn’t really be considering our mortality this young.

In recent weeks, we’ve seen as a community how our mere existence can be threatened and arguably that no space is safe.

You would think, for all our forms of activism and accomplishment, that we were safe as openly LGBT+ people. But rarely is this the case. Or at least it doesn’t feel like it.

Pride isn’t necessarily celebratory – it can be terrifying. Being openly LGBT+ can be terrifying. You don’t know who you’re going to meet trudging round the streets of London, or on the tube. And it’s not as if we’re inconspicuous with our rainbow facepaint and rainbow flags-come-togas wrapped around our bodies. Quite frankly, we shouldn’t have to be invisible (on a slightly digressional note, walking around the back of Waterloo, a woman, spotting my friends and I immediately exclaimed to her family ‘this place is full of lesbians’ before promptly running away. Apparently the gay is catching or something).

For the most part, Pride is fantastic. People join together in comradery. Yes, there are huge corporate floats (although, prize for the best float must go to the Absolutely Fabulous float. It was, as per the name, ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS), but the community vibe far surpasses anything I’ve really ever known again.

Pride is like coming home and meeting family you’d vaguely heard of but maybe hadn’t met yet. I was alone for a lot of Pride this year but it didn’t matter; a group of teens in Soho Square let me crash with them (and fed me veggie cocktail sausages!). I’m not very good with people, or at least I’m poor at making friends. At Pride, there are no barriers. I met families and drunk twenty somethings and to be honest, they were all as equally pleasant to me.

I always cry at Pride. For the same reasons I cry watching Finding Nemo, or at football matches, or concerts. I feel like Pride is where all the rejects went and made friends, where we found home, and comfort. It’s where, as that fab drag queen in Tottenham Court Road station sang* ‘I am what I am’, without apology, or explanation. It’s a space to simply just be.

The sad fact is that it is also almost the only place.

 

*actually, it might have been Shirley Bassey. Either way…

Define: The Teenage Girl

Existing as a teenage girl is an act of survival. It’s an act of going into war. Battered, bruised and bandaged back up. We know blood better than most men ever will. We steal our mother’s red lipstick, plaster it across our lips in the hope of growing up. We grow up too soon. We wear glitter and dungarees in the hope we never do. We learn to accessorize, with £1 earrings from Primark. We are taught to close our mouths, zip them shut, lock them, throw away the key. We are taught to keep them that way until we are meant to defend ourselves from violation. We taught that our ‘No’ can only ever be implicit. We learn that we are not to be believed.

We squeal and giggle and laugh with gay(!) abandon when we’re together because we know it’s safe to do so. We prioritize our female friendships in an act of defiant self-care. We share blood ties with our sisterhood, a shared bond uniting a generation who never thought they were enough. We were never enough. Not pretty enough, not thin enough, not rich enough, not clever enough. We turned ourselves into to-do lists and corrected ourselves as though it were a chore. We allow ourselves to exist in our imperfect state, but never happily so. Teenage girls are not allowed to be happy. We want to die. Often.
Teenage girls read. We read magazines. We read Classics with a capital C. We read chic lit. None of these determine our intelligence. We read about Helen of Troy, Persephone, Hermione Granger and Joan of Arc. We are damsels in distress or we are heroines. We are symbols in a strange, fucked-up dichotomy. We are pure and virginal or we are angst-ridden, sexualised and unreasonable.  We hold power for what we are not who we are. We are mass consumers of industries which serve to dismantle our sense of self. We are of great economic value; companies cannot afford to neglect the whims and wants of The Teenage Girl. We are empowered, but only as slaves of capitalism. We are taught that all empowerment is positive. We are told to be grateful, as though we aren’t aware they could be all too easily taken from us.
Teenage girls don’t know what the world wants from them. We reincarnate ourselves a thousand times over, three quarters out of a need to conform, the rest in an attempt to find ourselves. We are lost.  We wonder if this is it? If this is all there is in life? Surely, there must be more than this? When there is so much in our heads, whole worlds, entire galaxies of possibilities, how on earth can this be the only space we are allowed to take up?  We look up through the glass ceiling and start building our matching walls.
We realise we will never be taken seriously. We learn our words mean nothing when they leave our lips or we write them down. We start crossing out our ideas in our minds, striking them through with red pen like the cuts on our wrists, hidden beneath bracelets we got in the TopShop sale. We eat pizza with our friends and watch Harry Potter. We argue over Snape and Dumbledore. We get drunk. We cry over not being desirable. We love and loathe ourselves for being unattractive. We choke on the insecurity. We throw up the pizza.
We all thought we were destined to be fuck ups. At least that’s what all of the literature had lead us to believe. We’d like to say that our experiences show otherwise, but no, we are probably what has (so eloquently) been described as a fuck-up. There is power, resilience and beauty in being a teenage girl but mostly, we are a mess. We are a mess because we are not given the space to simply exist, and so we collapse in on ourselves. Or we shatter into thousands of sharp sherds that the rest of the world has to tiptoe around.

Teenage girls aren’t fuck-ups. We are the flowers who grew in spite of the weed-killer but never still quite bloomed.