Archive for February, 2011

You Are An Idiot And So Am I

February 17, 2011

Newsflash: advertisers treat you like an idiot because you are one.

Faced with the following two images, which are you more affected by?

       JEANSAD       jeansgirl

That’s right.  For some reason, Tits McGee makes you want jeans more than my clear, concise image which shows you what jeans are and what they do.  You know why?  It’s because you’re a moron.

Every day, you look in the mirror and see exactly how average you look.  But when you look at Tits McGee’s poster, a small (and totally retarded) part of your brain says "maybe those jeans will make me look a bit more like her".  Now I’m happy to admit that I am an idiot sometimes too, and I have been tempted myself by this stupid inner voice, so in case you’re not aware of this, let me enlighten you: those jeans will not make you look like Tits McGee.  They will make your legs look like stonewashed blue sausages.  Much as I would like to be lithe and tanned and getting paid thousands to be photographed standing under a waterfall in a pair of jeans and not much else, that is apparently not the hand I have been dealt in life.  I have been dealt the sausage-legs card, and I recognise the need to come to terms with this, and to deal with it using the patented "less pie more running" method as opposed to the more popular but less attractive "buy the jeans anyway and look like a twat" method.  I was under the impression for several years that this was simple common sense and that most women, like me, would react to their freshly rediscovered sausage-leggedness by slinking out of the changing rooms, abandoning the jeans on the way, and acting like it never happened.  I have gradually realised that this is not the case; a great deal of women will buy the jeans anyway, despite obviously looking nowhere nears as good as the (heavily photoshopped) poster girl, apparently just to demonstrate that they could afford some ridiculously expensive jeans which look like crap on anyone who dares to have a decent arse.

And of course, it’s not just jeans!  I am baffled, most of all, by perfume adverts.  Now I know there are very few ways to visually represent a fairly nonspecific smell, but I can’t help feeling that thirty seconds of some dangerously skinny waif wafting around in something made of chiffon and throwing ‘sexy’ looks at the camera is probably not the best they could do.  If I had to design an advert for perfume, it would look like this:

perfumead

And that, kids, is why I don’t work in advertising: because it amuses me more to tell people the truth and piss them off, than to lie to them to make them feel better.

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Being Cool When Nobody Is Looking

February 16, 2011

I have given up trying to disguise the fact that I am really, really boring when left to my own devices.  Yeah, when I have an evening to myself (i.e. most of the time), my favourite thing to do is put on some offensively unattractive pyjamas and watch 30 Rock and try not to think too much about how much Liz Lemon reminds me of myself, you got a problem with that?  No you don’t, because you don’t have to sit and suffer through it because I do not live with you. 

Despite the fact that I live with my fiance, I usually spend Monday to Thursday living alone because his job requires him to work away.  This is sort of nice, but also sort of lame.  I have mixed feelings about the whole thing really but my main feeling is “I can’t really bitch about it because he was doing it before I came along” so I tend to just keep my trap shut most of the time.  Obviously I miss him when he’s not here but there’s also the whole ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’ thing and also the ‘well at least I don’t have to listen to Call of Duty for hours on end several nights a week’ thing (seriously, no matter how low you turn the volume on that game it always sounds TOO LOUD).

I am generally a pretty domestic person and am quite fond of my sedentary, pyjamaed lifestyle.  But still, I sometimes get sort of nostalgic for the days when I was 18 and actually used to go out and do things with other human beings (although it has to be said, I spent a lot of time wearing pyjamas and watching House then, too).  Logically I know that the reason I used to go out more was that I lived within walking distance of my favourite drinking spots and some other people I liked going out with lived near there too.  Now, however, I live a 20 minute bus ride away and most of my friends have had babies/dogs or got married or moved, so opportunities are not so frequent as they used to be.

On a normal night home alone I can be found doing the following things:

Painting my toenails.  I will then take another look and realise I have made a total mess of it.  Remove, reapply, repeat.  I have been doing this for years and I still can’t put a simple coat of purple nail varnish on my toes without ending up looking like I’ve been stomping grapes.

Watching DVD boxsets of the same three series over and over again.  My current go-t0 DVDs are House, 30 Rock and Futurama.  I have six seasons of House on DVD, three of 30 Rock, and most of Futurama including the feature length films.  We also have a whole bookcase full of the sort of films that appear in those “100 films to watch before you die” articles but do I watch those?  No I do not, because what if they’re rubbish and I don’t like them?  Won’t that be a much worse waste of time than watching an episode of House I have already seen so many times that I compulsively diagnose strangers with the featured ridiculous medical condition?  Apparently, I don’t think so.  This is because I like routine and also because I am some sort of idiot.

Wearing unattractive ‘lounge’ clothes.  I know I am not the only person who keeps crappy old clothes or big ugly slouchy things solely for the purpose of wearing when you cannot be bothered to drag your ass out of the house all day.  I also own a pair of black leggings which I wear as pyjamas with any tshirt or hoody long enough to cover my backside because, and I cannot stress this enough ladies, LEGGINGS ARE NOT FOR WEARING OUTSIDE OF THE HOUSE, ESPECIALLY AS TROUSERS.  I am serious.  We can all see your pants through them and we are not impressed.

‘Cooking’ for myself.  Cooking is a strong word for ‘boiling some pasta and seasoning it with salt and putting tuna on top if I happen to have any which I very often don’t.’

Grumbling at the television.  I haven’t progressed to full-on old-person style shouting yet, but I am getting there.  Occasionally when the choice between House, 30 Rock and Futurama is just too difficult I resort to watching the sort of TV I should really not admit to watching, i.e. 16 and Pregnant, Teen Mom, Road Wars, and the sort of documentaries which are a thinly veiled excuse to stare at people with horrible deformities.  There is nothing like bitching away to your TV set about the morals of some dumb-as-shit Texan teenager who expects her mum to look after the baby she was stupid enough to get pregnant with while she goes out and parties, to make you feel better about your own life.  I am not proud.

Playing with my cat.  I know, I know, he NEEDS attention and love and games and, you know, food.  But running around an empty flat dragging a crocheted sperm (don’t ask) on the end of a string for the cat to play with gives you a mighty powerful feeling of ‘crazy cat lady’ which no amount of manicuring, make-up applying, hair straightening or dressing up nicely can quite remove.

I can’t help but think that I should be doing more interesting, sophisticated, grown up things.  You know, like:

Having dinner parties.  Unfortunately this one is somewhat scuppered by the fact that we don’t have a dining table.  It would, however, give me an excuse to cook something more complicated than a fish finger sandwich.  I don’t like to make all the effort for myself, but give me someone else to cook for and I’ll happily spend two hours in the kitchen slaving over something with several courses and a lot of fiddly bits.  Roast potatoes on a school night!  Pipe dreams.

Reading.  Don’t get me wrong: I read a lot.  But I should probably be challenging myself a bit more, instead of curling up with Diary of a Manhattan Call Girl, flicking through Is It Just Me Or Is Everything Shit, or thumbing through my absolutely battered copy of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy for the billionth time.  I should, for example, get round to reading that copy of Virgil’s The Aenid that I bought, oh… five years ago.  And have not touched since.

Teaching myself the guitar.  I have always wanted to do this and as I write, Chris’ guitar is sitting on the other side of the room staring me down and making me feel guilty.  Occasionally I feel so guilty about my total lack of motivation to actually get on with it that I dig out my flute and play the four things I can remember off by heart, to remind myself that I AM MUSICAL DAMNIT now leave me alone you six stringed bastard.  I’ll learn you eventually.  That’ll teach you.

Painting.  I have a lot of paintings, and a lot of works-in-progress, and a box full of sketchbooks bursting with ideas I will never get round to filling out.  I do paint occasionally, but less than I used to, and it bugs me that I keep putting off getting back into it.  In light of this (and in disgust at my own lazy pyjama wearing backside) I did actually start a new canvas yesterday.  The pencil outline is nearly done now, so, fingers crossed.

Getting better at video games other than Guitar Hero.  I would love to be able to hold my own in Left 4 Dead, or Call of Duty (even though I fucking hate Call of Duty) because it’s nice to be able to join in with the things your partner enjoys!  Well, I can join in, but I get shouted at a lot.  I’m a bit of a teamkiller.  GET OUT OF MY WAY ROCHELLE.  I WISH THOSE ZOMBIES WOULD JUST EAT YOU.  I don’t know why I hate Rochelle so much, I just do.

Listening to music on vinyl.  It’s just more sophisticated than listening to it on CD, right?  Right?  Well I certainly hope so because otherwise that record player and massive record collection were a rather large waste of money.  Not entirely my money, but still.

PLANNING OUR DAMN WEDDING.  Where am I supposed to sit the various warring factions of my family?  I didn’t want to make a seating plan but apparently it has to happen, much to my disgust/fatigue/boredom.  Seriously how old do people have to be before they can pick a table and sit at it?  How long does it take to get your hair done for your own wedding?  I don’t want much actually done to it but if EVERYTHING ELSE ABOUT WEDDINGS is anything to go by it’ll probably take about six hours and cost about a thousand pounds.  Where are the wedding party going to stay the night before the wedding?  Whose car are we going to actually get to the venue in?  HOW DRUNK IS IT ACCEPTABLE TO BE AT YOUR OWN WEDDING?!  All questions I need to start answering.  I should probably make a spreadsheet.

Cleaning/tidying/general slave tasks.  I’m not the biggest slob in the world but, yes, I do have a tendency to leave it until Thursday night and then suddenly feel guilty at the prospect of Chris coming home from a week on a building site to a flat that looks remarkably like one.  This is why I usually stay up until about 1am on Thursdays doing the washing up, trying to pick up all the bits of cat litter from the bathroom carpet, putting clothes away and debating how late I can put the washing machine on without provoking my neighbours to violence.

So let’s see how well I can do, shall we?  I’ve done the washing up, cooked beans on toast instead of pasta (yeah, childish I know, but I cooked TWO SEPARATE THINGS and that’s a start) and I’m watching Scrubs instead of one of the Big Three. 

On second thoughts, maybe it’s time to give up and accept that I am old and boring.

LADY THINGS.

February 15, 2011

It may not come across particularly strongly in my writing (apart from like, that thing I wrote about having babies, and all that shit about feminism, OK SHUT UP) but I am a lady.  I am a lady with lady parts and occasionally I am interested in lady stuff so all you manly types bulging with testosterone will probably want to turn away now.

Now back in the day (like two whole years ago when I was young OH GOD I AM SO OLD) I was quite a tomboy.  Like I would literally buy guys’ clothes.  I never did anything with my hair, including cut it, so it was waist length and mousy and I would literally just put it in a pony tail.  I rarely bothered with makeup and when I did, I wasn’t confident enough and it still looked like I hadn’t bothered – and not in a dewy ‘au naturel’ way, just a ‘slept in and left the house without even looking at my face’ sort of way.  The only thing I had going for me was my figure, which was a size 10 mainly because I was too poor to eat and spent most of my money going out dancing.  You get the picture.  Sophisticated and womanly, I was not.

So it was a bit of a surprise to me when I started going out with Chris and realised I actually wanted to be pretty.  I guess I had always figured my previous boyfriends considered me so far out of their league that I didn’t have to make any effort at all.  Hey, I said I was a tomboy.  That doesn’t mean I wasn’t an arrogant bitch.  I’m pretty sure at least one of them was actually gay, so maybe that’s why he didn’t mind my habitual wearing of mens’ clothing.

I subsequently cut and dyed my hair and studied magazines until I had figured out how to apply basic makeup without looking like a clown.  I even bought some dresses, ladies’ jeans through which you can get the general gist of how nice my backside is, and shoes other than green mens’ skater shoes – but that bit took a bit longer because, like I said, I was poor as hell.

Anyway, several years and some undeniable outfit mistakes later, I have arrived at a point where I consider myself qualified to bring you this article: a list of my favourite, life-saving, essential lady-type products.  So buckle up!  It’s gonna be a wild ride.  (That’s a lie, it’s not, but just go with it.)

NUMBER ONE: DRY SHAMPOO
Ladies, I know I am not the only one who sometimes wakes up, groans at the alarm clock, tentatively sniffs myself and thinks “yeah, I can get away with just freshening up my hair”.  I KNOW this is disgusting and I also KNOW that at least one of you reading has done this too so DON’T JUDGE ME.  As for brands, I recommend Batiste.  This is largely because I have never used any other brand.  The Tropical one smells the nicest and that is not up for debate.

NUMBER TWO: FAKE TAN SPRAY FOR FACE (LIGHT SKIN)
It should be noted that I do not tan.  I do not tan naturally, or with the aid of UV prison cells or chemical sprays.  BUT occasionally my poor clogged-up pores want a week off from wearing foundation, and one light spray of Garnier no-streaks bronzer for light to medium skin takes the edge off my corpse-like pallor just enough for me to get away with it.

NUMBER THREE: BENEFIT ‘HIGH BEAM’ HIGHLIGHTER
They call this the ‘supermodel in a bottle’ which is a nice description but maybe a little dramatic.  Once I’ve dotted this along my cheekbones, under my eyebrows, and on the bow of my lip, nobody is mistaking me for Giselle Bundchen that’s for damn sure – but I do look a little less papery and hungover, which is always nice.  If I only have time to put on one thing, it’s this and some mascara.  Ok that’s two things.

NUMBER FOUR: TWEEZERMAN TWEEZERS
Because for some reason we are still convinced that it is better to spend £15 on a pair of tweezers and repeatedly decimate our own eyebrows than to occasionally pay a trained beauty specialist a small amount of money to do it properly.  Whatever, if you’re going to ruin your own face, these are the best tweezers to do it with.  This is a popular opinion and although I can’t quite figure out why, I do own a pair, and they seem a bit less shit than other pairs I have owned I guess?  Ok, I’m not the world’s best reviewer.

NUMBER FIVE: EPICARE UNWANTED FACIAL HAIR REMOVER
I’m not going to beat about the bush, ladies (and no, ‘bush’ wasn’t supposed to be a crappy hair removal pun): this might be the most useful feminine grooming product I have ever bought from a dodgy-looking website for £10.  This is not generally something which we women like to discuss but I am a pioneer and I am going to break down the barrier, like so: all ladies have hair on a part of their face where they do not want to have hair.  It is a horrible fact of life.  At the risk of all of you dismantling your secret shrines to me (HA) I am going to admit that I have been waxing my upper lip since the age of sixteen because an old boyfriend once casually mentioned that in a certain light he could see some fuzz on it.  I don’t consider this “trying to conform to a sexist ideal of female beauty” and I don’t consider it extravagant and excessive.  It is in fact very simple.  I do not want people to look at me and notice a moustache.  If what I have to do to avoid this is spend five minutes every three weeks or so forcibly ripping tiny hairs out of my face then damn it that is exactly what I will do – and thanks to the Epicare facial hair remover I now have a much better way of doing it which doesn’t leave my upper lip feeling sticky for the next three days.  The thing is essentially a long spring with a handle on each end.  You bend it and roll it over the hairy area (there is a reason I am not in marketing and this is it) and it rips out all the hairs!  It is basically a form of DIY threading.  Before you ask, YES, it hurts like fuck; but it is free, has no side effects, and you can do it in private instead of going to sit at one of those damn threading booths which is always in the middle of fucking Debenhams or somewhere equally exposed and humiliating.

NUMBER SIX: CARMEX CHERRY LIP BALM
It’s not sticky and it tastes amazing.  You can sort of tell I ran out of steam on the Epicare thing.

So there you have it, folks.  Irrefutable proof that I am a lady!  Apart from the, uh, moustache.  But I’ve got that under control.

Shaking hands with Death

February 7, 2011

Terry Pratchett is a great writer, as many of you are no doubt already aware.  He has written an entire universe into creation and gained legions of fans.

Terry Pratchett has a rare form of Alzheimer’s called posterior cortical atrophy.  While typical Alzheimer’s is commonly associated with a deterioration in memory and perception, posterior cortical atrophy tends to have little effect on memory and language skills but causes a dramatic decline in vision and literacy skills such as writing and spelling.  This means he will be able to remember the world he has created and the success he experienced as an author but his disease will gradually – or not so gradually – rob him of his ability to write.  Like so many of the diseases which sneak up on us with age, this disease seems almost deliberately cruel.

For now, Mr Pratchett is doing well.  His disease is creeping up on him slowly, manifesting in difficulty typing and in small problems with perception which he says he has created ‘workarounds’ for.  From what I gather he has by no means given up, and he is still writing as industriously as ever, with three books released since his diagnosis in 2007 and two more already planned.  Perhaps more importantly, he wrote an article appealing for a review of the legislation on assisted dying. 

I strongly recommend reading his appeal, which can be found in full here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2010/feb/02/terry-pratchett-assisted-suicide-tribunal

I had never given much thought to the concept of assisted dying, mainly because I had never really had cause to.  But to hear Mr Pratchett describe the way he wishes to die – in a chair on his lawn with a brandy in his hand, listening to his favourite music and waiting to shake hands with Death – is to understand, suddenly and with a bright, sharp shock, that your death should be something that you can choose.

To explain the ‘shaking hands with Death’ thing to any of you who have never read the Discworld books: the personification of Death is a frequently used character in Terry Pratchett’s books.  Whilst styled in the traditional way, as a skeleton in a cloak holding a scythe, Pratchett’s Death is not a character of doom.  He has developed a curiosity and compassion towards humankind and has a tendency to imitate their behaviour.  He is not malicious; he sees what he does as a duty, a basic public service.  He does not kill, but merely collects the soul and gently, even with humour, ushers it towards whatever it believes comes next.  I think that Terry Pratchett has made an incredibly wise choice, to want to see his own death this way; to meet it, in comfort and dignity, on his own terms.

Too often in our modern culture which is obsessed with holding onto youth and thereby denying the fact that we will all one day grow old and die, we are presented with death as a horrible, violent event, something to be avoided at all costs.  We have forgotten that death is as much a part of life as birth.  We have forgotten that death is necessary for life to continue.  We have forgotten that by dying, we give our lives meaning.  We have forgotten that there is a balance to be maintained.

Modern medical science has done some wonderful things.  It has turned AIDS from a death sentence to a manageable disease whose sufferers can, with the right care, have the same lifespan they could have expected without the disease.  It has cured some forms of cancer.  When our hearts or lungs or livers give out too soon, we can replace them!  But perhaps we are getting carried away with the magic our new pills and machines and surgical procedures can work.  Perhaps we have become so preoccupied with curing everything which afflicts us that we have forgotten that something has to kill us eventually.  At what point do you let go and accept that it is time to stop treating – to let a failing body fail for good?  And why is that decision not the suffering person’s to make?

When your pet becomes sick and there is no chance of a full recovery, you are offered the option to end their lives quietly and peacefully to avoid them suffering on in silence.  You can ask for your options without shame, and you can have it done at home.  You can hold them in your arms while they are gently put to rest.  And that’s not an easy decision to make (or to write about, as my family try to come to terms with the fact that our beloved dog is gradually nearing the point where his quality of life no longer justifies our selfish desire to keep him alive) but it is the right decision for a creature who cannot speak for itself and cannot tell us how much pain it is in.

But if your mother, or your father, or your partner, is terminally ill and in constant pain, and has no quality of life to speak of, there is nothing you can do but wait until the doctors decide it is time to let them die, however slowly their illness dictates.  Even if they are fully in their right mind, capable of feeling and expressing a well thought-out desire to die in peace before their disease robs them of their humanity and their dignity, we are not able to give them this gift. 

My dog will be allowed to die at home, comfortably and with dignity, in my parents’ arms.  I would not.  If I was dying, they would have to watch as my disease took me.  There would be no guarantee of a last timely goodbye, no guarantee that I could be held by people who loved me as I slipped away.  And I don’t see how anyone can say that this is fair.

Death is something we have been trained not to think about but, as the last thing we will ever do, it deserves some consideration.  We need to accept that it is going to happen no matter how much we deny it, and we need to realise that when it does happen it will be better for us, our loved ones, and ultimately even our healthcare system and our society itself if we can choose its manner and its timing.  I have seen a loved one die a medically protracted death against their will and I have sat silently through a church burial for a close friend who I knew wanted a cremation and a non-denominational service.  In case of unexpected death, we should make sure our loved ones know how we want the arrangements to be handled, to at least give them the sense that they were honouring our last wishes, to stop them wondering if they had done us justice.  More importantly, in the case of a medically predictable death by serious terminal illness, we should be able to choose the point at which our suffering becomes too much.  We should be able to choose where we will be and who will be there with us, to say the things that need to be said, to hold us as we quietly fall into a sleep, finally free from pain, with our dignity intact.

I can say without any hesitation that I know how I want my death to be.  I either want to slip away in  my sleep, or if I die of an illness, I want to die while I still know who and where I am, and I want to die in the arms of someone I love.  I want it to be peaceful and quiet.  I do not want the last feeling I ever experience to be pain, anger or sadness.  I want it to be love.

I am not saying that I have a master plan for how to regulate assisted death.  I agree that a strongly enforced system would have to be put in place, and I agree that there will be abuses of that system.  But there are abuses now, and there always will be.  It is a sad fact of life that human nature is flawed and that sometimes people will do horrible things to other people for selfish reasons, but those people would do those same horrible things for those same selfish reasons even if we allowed our loved ones to die a dignified death at a time of their choosing.  We are denying the majority the death they deserve for the sake of those who will die a death they don’t deserve, regardless of our laws.

I hope that I do not have to worry about my loved ones being charged with murder if I ever choose to end my own suffering.  I hope that someone realises, soon, that we cannot call ourselves a civilised and enlightened society when we afford our pets more dignity at the end of their lives than we afford our own parents.

Most of all I hope that Terry Pratchett gets to shake hands with his old friend Death on a beautiful day of his choosing, on his own lawn, with a brandy in his hand.  And of course, I hope that day is a long way off.

Maybe Baby

February 4, 2011

Being a girl isn’t so bad.  Or at least, that’s what you think until you’re about seven and someone sits a bunch of you down in a room and tells you you’re going to bleed out of an orifice you didn’t even know you had for a week every month for the next 50 years.

You will eventually come to terms with this news – although probably only because a pair of boobs seem to be included in the deal and suddenly nobody wants to talk to you unless you’re at least a B-cup – and everything goes back to being pretty rosy until they sit you all down again to show you a video of someone giving birth, at which point you generally start to think something along the lines of ‘sod this for a game of bloody soldiers’.  (Years later it will occur to you that while your teacher was carefully laying out the lifetime of gynecological torture which awaited you, the boys were off being given condoms and told it was ok to masturbate.)

In hindsight, though, I think the birth video should be a bit more graphic.  A bit of sweating and groaning and a glimpse of afterbirth?  Your average teenage female product of Broken Britain would happily endure that in her bid to rise triumphantly to the top of the council housing list.  Maybe if they knew a little more about what birth is really like, they would think twice.

For the record: I have not given birth, nor have I actually witnessed someone else doing so in person.  But being at a certain stage in my life – i.e. 7 months away from being a married woman – I am starting to seriously consider the idea that at some point it is probably going to happen to me.

Thanks to a family full of children you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy, I grew up with a fierce conviction that I would never breed.  I clung to this conviction well into early adulthood, but unfortunately what my mum told me once turns out to be true: one day you just wake up and want a baby.  I mean this literally.  For a week I had nightmares about babies every night – forgetting a baby on a bus, leaving a baby on a sofa and accidentally sitting on it, dropping a baby in a pool.  I woke up from these dreams relieved that in real life I wanted nothing to do with babies.  And then I had a different dream – a dream where once the baby was handed to me it was the one thing I wanted in the entire world, a dream where I carried it around in one of those sling things and swelled with pride as everyone cooed over it, a dream where I loved the baby so much that I would rip the throat out of anyone who ever dared hurt it.  I woke up and was actually nearly in tears when I realised that this baby did not exist.  And just like that, I felt the first tick – my biological clock was off and running.

I should clarify for any gossip-mongering friends (hi James) or horror-striken relatives (hi Mum) who may be reading: I AM NOT TRYING TO GET PREGNANT YET.  I have a wedding dress to fit into in seven months, after all.  Please remain calm.)

So, to hop back on my original train of thought – I have never given birth, or seen anyone else do so in person.  What I have done, however, is watched too many episodes of One Born Every Minute and spent far too long on pregnancy forums trying to pretend that my morbid fascination was borne out of a genuine interest in the process I was going to have to go through if I was ever going to get that baby.  In the course of this research I have learned the following things:

1:  I want the drugs.  I have no intention of being one of these “oh, I want a peaceful natural birth” women.  No.  I want the drugs.  All of the drugs.  I know I am not even pregnant but if someone could just start getting the drugs ready right now so I know they will be there when I need them, that would be great, thank you.  And don’t talk to me about the drugs not being a good idea because it has been twenty years since my mother last gave birth and she is STILL going on about how much she loves gas and air.

2:  I do not want to give birth in Southampton General Hospital’s maternity ward. This is unfortunate as I live in Southampton and am too poor for private pregnancy healthcare.

3:  If I do have to give birth in Southampton General, I REALLY don’t want to do it with the help of the sweet, charming and actually-sort-of-cute male midwife.  I’m sure he’s great at his job but I even lock the door to keep my own fiance out of the bathroom while I’m using the toilet.  What I am getting at is that if it really is absolutely necessary for me to do an accidental poo in front of another human being I would much prefer it to be a woman because chances are it has happened to them too, so I will not be obliged to die of embarrassment. 

4:  Chris will be staying next to my head and will at no point be allowed to look at any part of my body below my waist.  Without wishing to be too forward (hello again, Mum) I don’t want him to be having mental images of the bloody horror every time I take my pants off for the rest of my life.  I can accept that things are going to be messy down there but there is no reason for him to have to see it.  Also I know he would take great delight in describing it to me afterwards and frankly I don’t want to hear it.

5:  I am a vain and horrible person.  The pregnancy-related potential life changes which apparently concern me the most are stretch marks, saggy boobs, c-section scars, and a messed-up ‘downstairs’ area (I have been having nightmares about episiotomies ever since someone on a forum described the ‘gunshot’ sound they make).  I should probably be more concerned about the fact that childbirth has been killing women off since the dawn of time, but in this era of emergency caesareans and life-support systems I just can’t muster up any real worry about it.  The idea of a tummy covered in red zebra print patterns, however, makes me genuinely sad.  (It should be noted here that I am duly disgusted with myself, so please spare me the hate mail.)

Having said all this, though, I find it almost impossible now to remember why I used to be so adamant that I never wanted to have a baby.  I guess this change of perspective is actually fairly common in women my age, but it’s still very strange to feel your own opinions and priorities shift so dramatically in a relatively short period of time.  After all, it was only two years ago that I was babysitting my cousins and begging the youngest, Tommy, not to do a poo on the leather sofa, swearing blind that I would never ever put myself or my soft furnishings in this perilous situation.  Now, only a couple of short years later, I wander through the baby sections in clothes shops and find myself wondering whether it would be creepy to start buying baby things now to save myself having to spend a massive amount of money in the space of 9 months when I actually get pregnant.  (The answer to this question, incidentally, is “Yes, but if I keep them stashed in a box in the loft, nobody has to know.”)  

Whilst watching One Born Every Minute never fails to make me cringe and grit my teeth, it has also considerably eased my panic about hypothetically giving birth one day, which is a fairly surprising side effect for a program which has shown me – among other things – a woman crawling around on her bed unable to stop pooping because she ate after they told her not to, a woman who literally did not stop screaming throughout her entire labour, an army of gormless insensitive birth partners and more ugly red goblin-like babies than you can shake a stick at.  I think there’s something reassuring about the dowdy midwives who have seen it all before and rarely bat an eyelid at anything, the cheerful soundtrack they put over even the most gruesome scenes, and the cut-in post-birth interviews with the women (which serve to prove that they survived the experience and are even, in some cases, able to look back and laugh about it).

Once you get over your squeamishness about birth (if, that is, you actually manage to) you are left with a surprisingly clear idea of what the whole thing is all about.  Despite all the horror stories about morning sickness, sciatica, weird cravings, stretch marks, and getting stuck in the bath and having to wait for your partner to come home and heave you out (I’m not joking – there are some hilarious stories on those forums), you will eventually realise that for all your secret, desperate c-section hopes, for all your fretting about stretch marks and your boobs migrating towards your feet, all that really matters is that at the end of all of it, you hear that first scream, and the woman who has seen you through your ordeal hands you a healthy baby.  And when you think about how cool a moment it must be to meet your own child for the first time, all the stuff that comes before suddenly doesn’t seem so daunting.  Although, having said that, I’ve always been secretly convinced that my first words to my first child will be along the lines of “DON’T YOU EVER. DO THAT. AGAIN.”

Aww, will you look at that.  I wanted to come up with a funny ending but I just ended up getting all soppy.  I really must be getting broody.  When is my implant good ’til again?