I’ve got one. You’ve got one. We’ve all got one, and after a few drinks we’re all pretty happy to get them out and show them to each other.
No, not that, lift your mind from the gutter!
I’m talking about your illicit list.
The list of things you’d do if there were no repercussions. The list of things you’ve forgotten to do and feel immense guilt about. The list of people you’d enclose in a hungry tiger cage given appropriate facilities and their general proximity.
My Illicit Lists – and I have many – are usually as banal as weightloss, work and being nice to that boy you’ve always thought was really strange but suspect might have no friends.
But is it so banal?
Weightloss. The socially conditioned art of being unhappy with your weight is one I excel at. We are all exposed to every single thin person in the world everyday holding an award, or wearing a lovely dress, or advertising a product using a successful relationship, a fast car, bright red lips, and a size zero body. I hate bodies. If I could be a disembodied head, I would. Or rather less gruesomely, perhaps a spirit of some kind.
My genes have not been kind, or unkind, of course. They can’t be, they’re genes. But being under five foot it is unbearably easy to pile on weight and, in a happy relationship, I am more likely to indulge in bacon, chocolate, bacon with chocolate on it, chocolate with bacon on it, bacon formed from cocoa beans, etc etc.
And then today, as if it were national ‘let us show you some what-we-consider-to-be-perfect figures’ day, every single person I know is talking about diets, and exercise, and slimming down and toning and building muscle and building gyms and building robotic women with perfect bodies and sending them out into the world instead of us because frankly the experience of being imperfect in the world is too limitlessly depressing.
I am not putting out a rallying cry against the hemmings-in and pushings-out of popular culture, where your are restricted by what an idea of what you ought to look like and excluded from the group of people who do.
It is more of a defeated squeak of indignance, as I sit over dinner and wonder how girls can still be expected to shop, and cook, and enjoy food with friends and wine and love and genuine importance and delight, when they are also expected to restrict, and strut, and preen, and swallow diet coke and reduced fat cheese and fat free yoghurt and sugar free cereal bars and not complain, because it is better to be skinny.
Now, this may be sour grapes* (also a recommended weightloss aid), because I will never be skinny. You could starve me and my dying shape would be broad shouldered and wide hipped. Perhaps if I held that coveted potential, the potential to be perfect then I would be on the flavoured water and the long runs. That it is not an option is bittersweet for me. Who knows if I would be happier? I can only ever suspect not.
The second, work, is less illicit. I am, after all, in the work capital of the world, where each person’s self worth is determined by the number of hours they have spent chained to a desk, or locked in the library, or shackled to their study space (ah, bondage and BA’s). But that curl of guilty smoke rising up through you like a second spine, curling uncomfortably when you sit down in the pub and cracking sharply when you stand back up at the end of the night, that is illicit. We all, constantly, attend social events where nobody really wants to be because of their work guilt. It eats us up like a greedy monster, and is unsatiable. But yet we keep our monster. We pet it. We proffer our limbs to it – because woe betide us if other people’s monsters get bigger and they get better marks. (For more information on poor analogies, tune in next week, when I compare life to tinned salmon).
The third is, of course, the worst one. Hating people, being even imaginatively horrible to them, is something I try not to do. I made myself a promise once, when I was younger and angrier, and more confused: I will only hate on person at a time. Not in each moment, not week to week, but overall.Only one person gets that sort of attention. Then, I can while away long journeys raising my blood pressure and imagining tarring their hair, or throwing their laptop in a river. Or cutting all their clothes in half. Or breaking all their high heels clean off. Or burning all their coursework. Or something. Anything. I don’t believe in causing physical pain, and my fantasies rarely extend as far as harming anything they couldn’t replace. But they still shouldn’t happen. They still shouldn’t be there.
I suppose, if writing is a form of exorcism opposed to meaningless self indulgence, then I have cleaned my list out for a while. I am less illicit, certainly. That ought to such the fun out of those fantasies where I systematically destroy the cache of almost pornographically expensive face care I happen to think is the kind of thing owned by the sort of person who might be on my list, and replace it all – ALL – with clay.
Or, alternatively sharing this with you does not make these fantasies any less boring at all…..