July 28th, 2004


Short skirts and low-focus thinking

Wearing a short skirt today for the first time in this job. It's a rust-coloured suede skirt with buttons down the front, and if I'm standing up it more or less covers the top half of my thighs. Judging by the looks of some of my cow-orkers, you'd think it came as a surprise to them that I have legs. What do they think I keep under my trousers, for heaven's sake? ... Don't answer that.

On the way into the office I briefly caught the scent of cigarette smoke, and the combination of that and the feeling of my skirt bounced off a bit of memory. (It's an objective correlative jungle out there, and things often affect me [pun intended] like that.) It reminded me of when I was working at Templeton College Library, during my abortive first attempt at a finals year. I had to dress smartly, and I tended to go in for short skirts, because I could cycle in them. I remember looking down at my neat little skirt and flesh-coloured tights and black court shoes and thinking "I look like a 20something temp", before realising that that's exactly what I was, I was playing the part of myself. I have a permanent job now, and lots more pairs of shoes, including the slightly square-toed black patent high-heels with the narrow buckle which I'm wearing today. They pinch if I try to walk on them for more than about 200 yards, but that reminds me I'm still alive, and besides, they make my feet look like something I'd like to own. But I'm straying from the point, if there is a point.

There was a boy in the IT department at Templeton -- I say 'boy', he was in his 30s but still had the wide-eyed enthusiasm and idealism (not to mention inexperience) of a 17-year-old -- whose reaction to me was amusingly obvious. Not so much in the physical sense (it's not polite to look at a gentleman's crotch, and besides, he tended to wear baggy combats) as in the fact that he was clearly reduced to babbling incoherence by the proximity of a real woman. I'd like to be able to say that I was considerate and professional about the whole thing, but I'd be lying; I wore shorter and shorter skirts until you could practically see my knickers when I stood on tiptoe to shelve a book on a top shelf. Which, of course, I made quite sure to do several times a day. What's the point of being a librarian if you can't set the bookstacks on fire with desire even while you're filing the world away in neat little boxes?

He smelled of cigarettes and rebellion, and he was awfully devoted in a touchingly hopeless way. The poor guy didn't stand a chance. When I want to wind somebody up, they stay wound up, like a tightly-coiled spring. He took me to punk poetry gigs, and bought me pints of ale and taught me to roll my own cigarettes (a skill which I've since forgotten), and ranted about how anarchy was the only answer, and made me compilation tapes, and let me wheedle free network cable out of him. In return I let him have a little of what he wanted. Hungry kisses in the stationery cupboard; hasty fumbling behind the bike-sheds; you know the score. It's such an easy part to play. So easy.

And it's all just an act, a sketchy mask of lipstick and sideways glances; but they're too busy trying to unhook your bra to notice the scars. And sometimes it takes the edge off the hurting, and sometimes it sharpens it to the point where it gives you a clear point of self to focus on.

Sometimes I feel like I've narrowed my existence down to a handful of body parts and a slow-burning fire, a furnace that doesn't know what it's powering, a drive to do something, anything. It's just fire, it doesn't destroy or purify except that we place that interpretation on it, it doesn't care either way. And sometimes it's so wearing to be cared for; sometimes you want somebody who won't care, who won't ask, someone who'll just stoke the flames and watch you burn.


Elitism used to be great, but now simply everybody's into it, it's just not the same.

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It's not true, though. I know a lot of people think I'm an anti-genre-fiction snob because "I don't read science fiction", and to be fair, I do only say that to wind them up, so I deserve what I get. The thing is, I don't go out of my way to read science fiction; I do go out of my way to read good books. I'm not as ingenuous (ingenreous?) as I pretend, but genre isn't the first thing I notice about a book. I'd much rather read a really well-written SF novel than some piece of overrated crap by Dickens that he wrote to pay the bills and spun out as long as possible because he was getting paid by the episode.

It's the same with the way people talk about books. I'd rather talk to somebody who was enthusiastic and eloquent about Jilly Cooper than somebody who was po-faced and boring about Shakespeare. I may have ideas about what books are 'better' than others, but they're my ideas rather than absolute truths: and when it comes to having conversations with people I don't care if they know much, so long as they know what they like. I like people who enjoy things and have opinions on things, people who aren't afraid to live.

The food questions in the quiz annoyed me, too. I am a food snob, but it's the quality of the thing that matters, not what type of thing it is. I'd rather have really good pub food than mediocre 'posh' food. I've had plates of chilli-and-chips that make me go into rhapsodies over the spicy taste and just-right heat of the chilli, the perfect consistency of lean-but-not-too-lean mince and vegetables which are somehow fully integrated into the mixture yet still distinct, the crispy-yet-greasiness of the chips, golden and glistening and crunchy and soft in all the right places... just magic! ... and I've had fancy food that's left me cold.

I'd rather things -- and people -- were fully themselves than that they were any one thing in particular. What I value in the people and things around me are craftsmanship, wholeheartedness (not to be confused with single-mindedness) ... quintessence. The things I feel that I so badly lack.

Unexpected thong

I got a free thong in the post today. Really! I didn't just invent this for the sake of the pun. It was a free gift from a catalogue I've ordered Stuff from, and am ordering more Stuff from.

It is without doubt the tackiest piece of underwear I've ever owned. More tacky even than the lime-green scrap of thonginess I got from one of those free-gift-in-a-plastic-egg machines at Whitby-no-not-for-the-bloody-goth-festival-just-visiting-the-place; that sort of tackiness is forgivable at a British seaside resort. More tacky than the red frilly suspender belt (do they count as underwear?) that I bought for my St Trinians costume when I was 14-or-thereabouts, playing in the charity football match between the youth club and the pub (we tied their goalie to the goalposts with our school ties, and won; in retrospect, this was probably a formative experience for me, and I'm sure it was a far-from-unpleasant experience for the goalie).

Anyway. My free gift. It's a black thong with a bloody great red rose adorning the t-piece at the back. I'm thinking of sticking some of those little sparkly diamante things on it, and wearing it with my satin hipster trousers, so the thong is visible when I bend over to try those classy white high-heeled shoes on. I thought I might get my ears pierced a couple more times, too, so I can wear big gold hoops.


Enough about your knickers, FFS, nobody's interested.
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