Saturday 23rd December
Whoe’er invented lebkuchen is the true hero of Christmas! It’s the only thing between me and cheesy chips.
I've just got in from the staff Christmas drinks, which was at Yates', as it's the office favourite. If you ask me, Yates' on a weekend resembles a school disco where all the kids have gone home, and it’s just the teachers left who hate each other but still end up getting off with each other when there's alcohol involved. Anyway, it turns out that the weekend before Christmas, a Yates' is even worse, because it's full of blokes sweating in their "ironic" (read: horrible) Christmas jumpers. You can feel your hair standing on end with all the static, and you’ve got to watch out you’re not poked in the eye by a novelty snowman nose or stray sequin, because when you're a woman you can never get anywhere in a bar without being forced to slide between men’s bodies. It's like the straight dudes become suddenly paralysed when a woman walks past them; inexplicably unable to move out of her way due to some strange phenomenon of the patriarchy. I turn into a headmistress when this happens, and march up to a cluster of men with my hand thrust out like a rudder barking “EXCUSE ME” and trying to look indomitable. You can try your hardest but at the end of it all you’ll still find yourself slithering past Dave/Gary/Paul, getting inadvertently acquainted with the contents of his pockets while his whole group stare you down.
They’re never ashamed, are they, the Dave/Gary/Paul’s of this world? It’s not that men don’t get embarrassed – trust me, anyone seeing my little brother’s face when our neighbour finally said hello to him after 4 years of pubescent crushing knows exactly how embarrassed a man (boy) can look – but not these men… Or at least, not when they’ve got a posse of leering “bros” by their side in Yates’ on a Saturday night.
Sunday 24th December
Obviously I spent the whole day yesterday in my dressing gown watching Romesh Ranganathan videos on youtube and thinking about the fact that I should probably go for a run (or something else equally unrealistic). So when I woke up today, it was with a rising panic regarding the imminent arrival of THE RELATIVES.
I decided to be a grown-up and host Christmas at the flat this year, rather than going home to Dad’s. I convinced Dad and the little bro that Leeds is a thriving hub of culture (which it is, of course, on the 363 other days of the year when stuff is actually open) and so they agreed.
I thought we’d been cleaning and organising the flat pretty well throughout the week in preparation - Lori even offered to clean the tops of the cupboards but I promised I would never ask that of her as long as we lived in rented accommodation. My Dad is a very neat guy, but neither he nor my brother would give much thought to the tops of our cupboards. Mum perhaps would, but she’s not joining us. She will instead, be Skyping us from a Thai beach with her boyfriend - and no one can see the tops of your cupboards on Skype. This morning, however, I stepped into the living room and found myself looking straight at the Georgia O’Keeffe print I’d bought at the Tate last year. I tipped my head to one side, eyeballing it. Is it totally obvious that’s a vagina?
I glanced at the coffee table where The Vagina: A Literary and Cultural History by Emma L. E. Rees was perched proudly next to a coaster that reads ‘#menaretrash’. And there, on the sofa was the much cherished but also vaguely inappropriate cushion declaring ‘GIRLS JUST WANT THE D(estruction of the patriarchy)’.
I was seeing our little flat through new eyes. It was no longer the cosy paradise I had once believed it to be, but a coven of man-exclusion. I pictured my Dad and little brother stepping in, arms laden with gifts and faces full of Christmas joy. Shit, I thought.
After a moment or two of indecision, I grabbed the coaster and slid it to the back of the pan cupboard. That'll do, I thought, because quite frankly after years of gender inequality I think they can handle the rest.
Until next time...
Title image: Grey Lines with Black, Blue and Yellow, by Georgia O'Keeffe