Christopher and I have been underground for the last few weeks, testing our bunker. Given the events of 2016 thus far, we decided it’d be wise to check things out in case we need to go down permanently.
I spent most of yesterday skimming the news and can see that our choice was a wise one. God damn, son, things are bleak. It’s hard to imagine a future that doesn’t involve everyone hating everyone all the time and eventually being murdered or a murderer. Yeah, I know the Olympics are going on as well, but I’m afraid they just don’t do much for me. I mean I’ve not got anything against them, but as far as I can tell, their primary benefit is that they occasionally move Donald Trump a little lower down the front page.
The fresh air feels good at least.
If you too are considering leaving the above ground nightmare, we’ve learned a lot and are happy to share some of our mistakes and victories. The main thing is to plan ahead: we had been assuming we’d make our final move on the 9th of November, but I’m worried now that doomsday might come early, so get started sooner rather than later.
THINGS TO PACK:
THINGS NOT TO BOTHER WITH:
Now obviously, I hope that the world can manage to get its shit together soon and no one needs to give up on humanity and try to restart their lives elsewhere. As we continue our preparations, we’ll be trying to maybe do some good and make some changes. Maybe you could do this as well. Maybe if we all did, things could get better. Maybe.
I say let’s give it a try. Because Donald Trump isn’t a joke. And neither are the people who support him who will still be around regardless of November’s result.
There’s an old cowboy song called “Red River Valley” that includes these lines:
For a long time, my darling, I’ve waited
For the sweet words you never would say
Now at last all my fond hopes have vanished
For they say that you’re going away
Now history tells us the title probably refers to the Red River in Manitoba, but as someone who almost completed a minor in Feminist Literary Criticism, I can tell that this is a lyrical explanation of the mood changes that can be caused by menstruation.
Menstruation. It’s a word we don’t say very much in polite society. Is it because of that weird u that doesn’t really get pronounced even though it seems like it should? Is that why we rarely say it despite close to two billion people on earth spend two months a year doing it?
Of course, that’s not the reason. It’s more likely because it has to do with downstairs lady parts and even though there’s about three and a half billion of us walking around with said parts in our pants, they don’t come up too frequently in conversations, until a scared man gets called one or a strong man feels like pounding one.
Isn’t that lovely?
Anyway, I am going to talk about menstruation for a moment. It’s relatively simple: the uterus has a lining where an egg, if fertilised, hangs out to get nutrients and whatnot. Now uteri like to keep a tidy shop so if there’s no blastocyst in need, it cleans house, abandoning that lining and getting to work on a nicer one with a little more kerb appeal for the next month’s possible buyer. (Please note: this is a metaphor. Do not consider burning candles or baking bread in your uterus to increase the chances of a fertilised egg moving in.)
That’s all menstruation is, the shedding of the uterine lining. Nothing magical or mystical or mysterious about it. Just like we shed thousands of dead skins cells each day, women’s bodies are just eliminating something that is no longer needed.
Except it’s not quite as simple as that, is it? No.
Firstly, because it’s gross. Let’s be fair, it is. The endometrium is a mucous membrane, and when the word mucous makes an appearance, it’s never pleasant. What’s expelled each month is basically blood and tissue, which is, for most people, kind of disgusting. And painful too. Unlike with a nose, a good blow won’t clear this passage. It often takes uterine contractions, and those can hurt.
So what comes out and the process of getting it out aren’t the nicest. Plus the place out of which it comes is generally a private, members-only club, so could that be why people (and when I say people I mean men) struggle to talk about it? No, because those things could describe urine and excrement as well, and god knows, men love talking toilet business.
What makes menstruation different is because men know hormones are involved. Some men get confused by the concept of hormones. They think there are two hormones and each functions only as an excuse: the male hormone makes them think about sex at inappropriate times and the female hormone makes women bitchy once a month (or when moderating presidential candidate debates).
Some men think this because they are idiots.
The human body is pretty fucking complicated. With the greatest respect for and the least amount of interest in the complexity of science, let’s just boil it down to this: the human body is full of chemicals that move around our bloodstream telling different parts to do this or not do that. Essentially, they regulate us — all our systems, our sleep, our growth, our metabolism, our behaviour, and our moods. There’s a whole mess of them in there, and they control a lot.
So yes, sometimes oestrogen can affect a woman’s mood. It’s true; sometimes you’re just going to have to keep waiting for those sweet words I’m not going to say. But guess what, men? You’ve got oestrogen in your body as well. So there. And that testosterone you’re so proud of? It does more than just explain your boner, you know. Just to pick one example purely at random, some studies have shown a connection between testosterone and risky financial decisions. And women have testosterone in them as well, which may explain why I gave Christopher twenty pounds for his taxi ride home even though there’s a chance I’ll never see the change from that. Perhaps it was testosterone what made me do it.
Except probably not. Because even though our hormones do affect the way we act and feel, there are some things that we can control. For example, in stressful situations, our autonomic nervous systems use hormones to prepare a fight-or-flight response, but most of us don’t punch the television or run out of the room and hide just because the news upsets us. We don’t always eat when we’re hungry or leave the Sunday sermon early just because we’ve had a rush of sexual arousal (except that one time, but he was flying back to Uruguay that afternoon so time was of the essence). Even if my oestogen levels are playing havoc with my mood or I’ve got blood coming out of my wherever, I’m still a professional at work, and I will keep signing books until that queue is gone or I’ve at least earned enough to cover the costs of this new dress.
As you all know, I’m no scientist and the few I’ve slept with didn’t do a lot of talking while we were together, so I know my explanation does not reflect the full intricacies of the human body, its processes and their effects. However, I’m hoping I’ve at least made you realise that menstruation, while not the loveliest part of a woman’s experience, is natural and nothing to be afraid of.
Unless you’re a misogynist billionaire racist. But if you are, I imagine you’ve got quite a few items on your list of things to be worried about, like maybe why do I continue to embarrass myself and other Americans on an international stage or if it’s really true that the taller the tower, the smaller the penis. How about you get those other issues sorted before you start sharing your views on menstruation, yeah?
As the election approaches, all the parties are pulling out the usual stops, such as chatting with the normals, getting botox and going on about common sense. Whether it’s about spending, education or ‘British values’, every politician’s rabbiting on about good ‘ol common sense. Except for the Greens, obviously, but that was clearly just down to nerves.
But here’s the problem, chaps: if everyone’s using common sense to decide policies, every party’d have the same policies, natch.
But they don’t.
Or do they?
Here’s the thing: I’m not going to fight about that because, in all honesty, I find it really hard to concentrate when any of that lot’s talking. We need politicians who actually understand common sense rather than just barfing out the phrase as a sound bite.
Unlike Al Murray, though, I’m not keen on running my own campaign. However, I do have some suggestions which fall under the common sense umbrella. Please consider adding some of these strategies to your platforms, especially if you’re courting the international mover-and-shaker vote.
1. Americans often vote for personalities rather than policies; I’m not suggesting British voters do the same. However, the leader is the face of the party, and I’m afraid the parties all have the wrong faces. The British public already said no to a couple of these mugs during the last election; why they think we’d find them any more fanciable the second go round, I have no idea. And while the phrase muppets is often used by the public to describe politicians, it’s usually said with a small letter m.
2. The phrase ‘falling pregnant,’ though quaint, should be banned. No one falls pregnant (just like no one falls onto their hoover attachments, so why you thought the A&E doctor would believe that, I’ll never know). And they really don’t ‘unexpectedly fall pregnant’ and, god almighty, how can anyone ‘unexpectedly fall pregnant again‘? Get this legislated asap.
3. Don’t argue with celebrities. Don’t engage with them. Literally don’t even get by them. First off, celebrities don’t know anything except how to win over the entire population, and that’s of no use to anyone running for office. Secondly, if you get burned by a celebrity, well . . . that’s a hard burn to recover from. You think Putin’s going to take you seriously if you’ve been humiliated by Mylene Klaas on the telly? I can assure you he ain’t gonna.
4. That said, if you are going to mess with the beautiful people, don’t let them get away with bullshit like blaming you for “the politics of jealousy”. Capitalism is all about jealousy, and there are very few celebrities who aren’t digging the capitalism scene, man. However, if you take on a star, he’s going to write you a letter in response and then you’re going to have to write him a letter in response, and the Guardian‘s going to get all bogged down with that shit instead of its constant Benedict Cumberbatch updates and how will the world survive without those?
5. Always wear a hat. Hats should make a comeback. I like hats.
6. I know there are countries out there who are bad and mean, but the truth is, most countries’ values are surprisingly similar to those you’re selling as particularly British. Again, I hate to refer to the nation of my birth, but you’d never hear of them acting as if concepts like freedom or bravery are unique to their boundaries. Don’t act like being good is exclusive to one particular party and don’t work the nostalgia angle. Things weren’t so great before, you know. Do you remember Walkmans? Try to tell me those were better than iPods. You can’t.
7. When you do have to deal with the baddies, hold them responsible. Whether they’re warmongers or bankers, they should be held accountable and, for fuck’s sake, don’t take their money.
8. Income disparity is bull shit. If you can’t say this aloud, you’re obviously a posh twat who can’t serve your country. If you say it aloud but don’t really mean it, go to the back of the queue.
9. Anyone who talks about women shaving their vaginas should be issued a £50 on-the-spot fine (£100 if it’s said on television). Yes, it is an anatomically correct term, but, sweeties, it’s the wrong one. Language is important. Get it right.
10. No mustard trousers.
The shutdown is no joke, people. It’s not for me to say who is to blame for the situation (it’s the Republicans), but every day that it continues, the more bad shit that’s coming America’s way. NBC estimates that the shutdown costs $12.5 million an hour. That’s a brilliant way to solve budget disputes, isn’t it? No wonder the rest of the world thinks Americans don’t understand irony!
It’s not just a vague disgrace that’s going on — it’s one that affects many Americans in very real ways. Hundreds of thousands of government employees have been furloughed and are not receiving paychecks. Services like food programs for low income pregnant women and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention flu program aren’t running. National parks are closed; even the National Zoo is affected. Animals can’t even vote yet they’re feeling the pain of the GOP’s childish behaviour.
However, when talking about groups of people (or pandas) affected by the shutdown, we can’t ignore the individuals — the ones who don’t get mentioned in the papers — whose lives are being tragically altered forever.
I’m talking about the children who just a few short days ago saw politics as a high calling, a career path for those who care about and want to help others. Who will explain to the little ones how terribly, terribly American politics has gone wrong?
I’m also talking about the nail technicians, telemarketers and tabloid journalists around the country. They wake up in the morning eager to get started on their life’s work and read that the government has deemed so many of its employees “non-essential.” If working for education or the environment isn’t seen as an essential task, well, that really puts other jobs into perspective, doesn’t it? It wouldn’t surprise me if people started topping themselves left and right. Sadly, this will only lead to more problems since the Federal Department of Suicide Clean Up is currently running on a skeleton staff.
And, of course, I’m talking about all those Americans out there who were taught in elementary school to look towards elected officials as models of responsibility. Those models of responsibility have decided that if they don’t get to play their way, they’re shutting the whole operation down (while still collecting their pay, natch). Why should Lenny over at the liquor store have to pull three late night shifts in a row; why shouldn’t he just lock up early and head home? Steve in an accounting might just up and say screw it and his company will be powerless to conduct business. Who will sponsor the t-shirts for Jerry’s daughter’s softball team then, I ask you? All of these little effects have roll on effects which could, quite frankly, bring the world’s most powerful nation to its knees.
Which would be a shame. Because I’m American and I hate to see this happening to my country.
You know how I feel about busy bodies. We’ve got one on our road–you know the type, always trying to build community, sharing news, getting signatures for cards or money for flowers when one of the neighbours gets married, gives birth, or dies (not always in that order). Ours is called Martha Montgomery, and it was with much trepidation that I opened the door to her yesterday evening.
“Miss Agatha, I’ve scheduled an urgent neighbourhood meeting. I’m sure you’ve heard the terrible news that Mrs Roberts has passed away and we’ve got to organise some kind of response,” she squeaked breathlessly, before handing me an invitation and running to the house next door.
Now, I confess I really didn’t know Mrs Roberts because when I moved into the area, she was described to me as “unfriendly and close-minded” and why should I bother reaching out to someone like that? However, I know that my presence is so valued by those around me that I felt I should attend.
The meeting was held at our local, which was the first of Martha’s many mistakes of the evening. A few of the men were already drunk by the time she clinked two glasses together to quiet the group. Thankfully, she did not suggest we open with a prayer, but instead launched into a short essay of tribute (I don’t doubt she has pre-written obituaries for everyone in our postal code). However, before she could finish listing all of the family members who are left to survive without their grumpy, old granny, she was interrupted by the landlord.
“Quite frankly, Miss Montgomery,” he said calmly, “I’d rather you move this meeting elsewhere if you intend to keep singing the praises of that terrible woman.”
Martha let out a gasp of shock, without realising that most of the group was already aligning itself behind the barman.
One of the non-drunk men (whose wife wasn’t present as she was attending a healing service at the Spiritualist Church) said, “I don’t mean to speak ill of the dead, but Mrs Roberts was a mean, mean person, and I don’t think we should pretend otherwise.”
A chorus of “amen’s,” “right on’s” and “get us a Stella, won’t you’s” echoed round the room.
Then, an elderly couple who had yet to speak or even move (I had been tempted to tap them to make sure they too hadn’t passed) stood up and looked at each other. “You say it, Timothy,” said the woman. Timothy nodded as his wife sat back down.
“We have lived in Number 8 since 1979. Mrs Roberts moved into Number 10 the same year. She was a horrendous neighbour. She was a horrendous person.
From the get-go, she was trouble. You lot are probably too young to remember, but she tried to get a petition going to have the milk float banned from the village. A few years later, she started in on the estate agents, posting a long list of ‘undesirables’ she didn’t want them showing around any houses. We’ve only got five curry houses and two Chinese, thanks to her worry about the village being swamped by Asians. She did everything within her power to destroy this area and the livelihood of everyone who has lived here.”
“And her children,” his wife piped in, “they were just as bad. She spoiled them rotten despite the fact that she made it patently clear that she hated minors.”
“Indeed,” said Timothy. “The truth is I occasionally wished her harm and I shouldn’t have done that. But now that’s she dead, I don’t mind. Rather than celebrate her life, I think it would be a much more sensible use of our time to try to undo the wrongs she did.”
And with that, it was agreed. En masse, we spread out, stopping at a variety of restaurants (all except the one on Devonshire Road as two people had heard the authorities had been round recently) to purchase meals and then picked up a pint of milk for each of us. By the time we returned to the pub, the landlord had already set up a tin for donations and had collected close to twenty pounds. We spent the rest of the evening reminiscing and planning and appreciating those who are alive and who are not evil.
Now I’m not an expert on the economy, but the thing is George, neither are you. You are an expert at being rich. This qualifies you for being the president of a yacht club. Yet through the most wicked twists of fate, you have become the Chancellor of the Exchequer and get to make life and death decisions (for that is what they are) that will affect millions of people.
Let’s just stop and think about that for a minute.
. . .
Now, George, I’ve noticed that you’re reading on, implying that you did in fact stop to think. But I don’t believe that you did. In fact, I don’t believe that you ever think about the people your ideas are affecting.
I do believe that you think a lot about David Cameron (maybe too much, but who am I to judge anyone’s heart)? I do believe you think about the people you see in meetings: Tory politicians (they make you feel good), Liberal Democrat politicians (they make you feel kind of cross), Labour politicians (when someone reminds you that the Labour party still exists). You think about the Royal Family. I’d like to believe you think about your own family.
And I know you know there are “people” out there in the world. For example, when you appear on television, you can sense a human-shaped creature standing before you asking questions. You know enough about science to assume that it’s probably people—and not budgies or racks of lamb or desk lamps—who are driving cars on the street, who are doing surgeries or having surgeries done to them, who are teaching or being taught.
Understand that I’m not questioning your knowledge of reality, just your perception of it. You work for the country yet I’m not convinced you care about the country. You care about those who are like you. And that’s a bit of a problem.
So how can you, yes you, help the economy? Two things: shut up and stop being a greedy bastard.
The same goes for all of that lot and not even just the ones in Westminster. I’m talking to any rich twat who pontificates about helping countries and people who are struggling. Don’t hold a glittery benefit with fancy pants food and cutlery or star-studded galas where you go on television asking people who are poorer than you to not be so selfish. Don’t fuck with a country’s social services just because you were once in the Bullingdon Club or because the president is black and you think you can capitalize on the country’s inherent racism.
Just because one is rich doesn’t mean one has to be a twat. I am what we sweetly used to refer to as “well off,” but I don’t spend my time pontificating about how other people should live or spend their money (note: making helpful suggestions is not the same as pontificating). But I do lead by example: I give time, effort and yes, money to help those who need it.
Why don’t you give that a try?
Sadly, this year, the American flag seems to have spent quite a lot of time at half-mast. In July, it was lowered for the victims of the Aurora shooting; in August, for the victims of the Oak Creek shooting; in September, for the victims of the attack in Libya; and now for the victims in Newtown. Flying the flag at half-mast symbolically honours those who died, but I can’t help thinking that preventing future tragedies might be a more meaningful tribute. Unfortunately, that would require big picture thinking—not always a popular choice as evidenced by this year’s Presidential election. Thankfully, the right man won, but enough voted for Romney to show that many Americans are confused by issues of class. “Middle class” seems to be interpreted as “not homeless” and ultra-rich means “me, not at the moment, of course, but any day now.” One’s actual lifestyle and the reality of how it and the country would be affected were inconsequential. A bit like what’s happening with the current debates on gun control. And on mental health care. And on who should have won The Voice.
Surely, there’s got to have been something positive in America over the last twelve months . . . let me think . . . oh yeah, more states and even the President spoke up in support of marriage equality. Oops, I forgot, it was that which directly led to shooting in Sandy Hook, right, Rev. James Dobson?
Closer to home, though, things looked much cheerier: the Union Jack was flying all over the damn place. We waved the flag for the Queen’s Jubilee, for a successful London Olympics and for William’s good work in promptly impregnating the wife. Well done to us all!
Of course, the Tories still want to continue with their obviously-successful-so-far austerity cuts (after all, those Jubilee and Olympic celebrations don’t come cheap, you know), but luckily, this year the BBC taught us that if you close your eyes to the bad stuff, it goes away—never to return. So as long as you’re not young, old, unemployed, working or a Christian woman who wants to serve her church, 2012’s been champion for you!
Now, my dears, I know this sounds quite gloomy and doomy. (Perhaps I should have warned you in advance to delay reading until you’re sober, I apologise.) If you were expecting a bit of harmless fun, I’m afraid you may have confused me with black tar heroin. I’m all about the harsh truth, you know that, so put your seatbelt on, baby, because you’re about to get hit with the harshest truth of all: I’ve still got faith in humanity. You, yes, you, the one sitting on the chair, your continued commitment to
keeping my books in circulation bettering yourselves and our world is proof that, despite the bad news, there is goodness out there, my friends.
So together let’s make next year a better one, yeah?
This is your chance to finally say what you really feel, not what you think will trick desperate people into voting for you.
Tell us that you absolutely hate poor people.
Tell us that you think what gays do is gross.
Tell us that you will baptize Obama after he dies.
Tell us what you’re thinking about when you do that creepy smile.
Do it. What have you got to lose? You’ve already lost.
Be a big man now, Mitt, and be honest.
Today, Americans all over the world, well, mainly in America, will be making a big decision: electing an imperfect man or a creepily smiling robot who is programmed to care only about rich, white people. I confess to feeling quite anxious about the outcome of this whole decision process.
Of course, I care about this because I am half American (50% American + 50% British = 100% sexy). But more importantly, I am a citizen of the world, and this election will have global ramifications. Don’t believe me? I’ve got two words for you: Pippa Middleton. In her own country, no one gives a rat’s patooie about her, not even her own parents. But in America, she’s still showing up in celeb magazines, ergo she has a reason to keep on living, so don’t you tell me that what happens in America has no effect beyond its borders. Therefore, as some polling stations in the US begin to close up shop, I am guessing that I am not alone in feeling a bit stressed out about what’s going to occur next.
It’s too late in the day to make a difference now—I’ve offered up all the logic I could and promised all the sexual favours I never intend to honour to try to get people to see the light. There’s also no point in trying to make plans; the horror of a Romney victory is just too incomprehensible to deal with at the moment—let’s deal with that tragedy when it actually faces us. Despite my knowing these things in my brain, it did nothing to ease the tension I felt in my body.
Symptoms of election anxiety may include a bad tum (guilty), headache, tremors, fatigue, insomnia, tearfulness, muscle cramps, a desire to punch random people, and unruly hair. None of these symptoms responds to traditional treatment. Christopher thoughtfully topped up my morning vodka with peppermint tea, but alas it did not settle my stomach in the slightest. So he and I spent the rest of the day testing out other remedies—activities to keep us distracted—which I shall share with you forthwith.
Watch box sets of your favourite television comedies
Regardless of where they’re located or what their qualifications are, television pundits know fuck all so don’t bother gluing yourself to the news. Great television comedy writers, though, know how to make you laugh and that is always, whether you wear a blue or red tie, a good thing.
Do something physical
Moving your body will help distract your mind—try some keep fit exercises, do a little housecleaning, play table tennis, dance to music or bounce up and down as part of sexy sex. Do not, however, go outside of the house. If the election is called while you’re out, you may be at risk against the possible zombie apocalypse.
Play a game
Christopher and I invented an election-themed game called ‘You Choose.’ One person presents a dilemma to the other and if that person’s choice matches theirs, they win. Some suggestions: Corrie or Eastenders? Fizzy or still? Stones or Beatles? Black Cats or Magpies? Automatic or stick? UK Gold or UK Gold +1? You can up the ante by making it a drinking game or going for a ‘strip’ version. To be honest, I don’t really understand how you make those rules work but what I do know is somehow I’ve ended up rather drunk and down to my skivvies, and I’ve still got a smile on my face.
It’s not fun or flash, but curling up into the foetal position in the corner of a room will get you through. If there is a recount or major delay in the results announcement, though, do not attempt to cower for longer than twelve hours at a time.
Do your best to get through, my friends. It’s going to be a long night. And just in case the worst happens and we wake to a dramatically changed world, just know this: I love you and no one can take that away from us.