Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Inadequacy is the new guilt

The sweet people at the Times have kindly ensured yet again that I do not go short of material, with this magnificent list of things you should have done by the time you are 35. It's by Shane Watson, who has spent the last 6 months telling the entire British media how women over 40 can capture a husband. WE GET IT SHANE. We should probably be welcoming this - albeit limited - change of tack, and truly, there is too much fun to be had with this. I could not resist. Though I am very sad to see that Plum Sykes 'long sleeved dress' hasn't made the list. Of course, she only says you need it at 38. Plenty of time yet!

Here is the list.

Been head-hunted for a new job

Tony! This is your moment! Yes. I was headhunted last year by Tony, an ineffably optimistic, yet doomed, recruitment consultant as documented on these pages. The jobs proposed made me want to give myself a lobotomy with a spork, but it counts anyway. I have had to change my phone number because he is still trying to get me to work trading peanut futures in Surinam.

Been taken to lunch by your boss

Seriously? This is something to aspire to? God, plenty of times. Lawyers seem to love lunching, ranging from 'let's go to the canteen/Wagamama, you had the noodles AND a juice so you owe me £11' to excruciating client dinners in places with Michelin stars. These are the worst. I always choose something really difficult and inappropriate to eat, and end up with fronds of salad, or tentacles, or prawn whiskers hanging out of my mouth, looking like one of those grotesque insects David Attenborough likes. So of course I imagine him crouched under the next table whispering commentary. Then someone asks me a question and I can't answer because I am fighting with recalcitrant foodstuffs. Also, my lack of familiarity with cutlery gets me into trouble and I am always stealing the petits fours and putting them in my handbag. Often I am physically, emotionally incapable of not stealing food of someone else's plate, however inappropriate it is. It's a fail.

Just veeerry occasionally these lunches were great fun, everyone was indiscreet and giggly, and I got pleasingly drunk and staggered back to the office to fall asleep on my keyboard. These happy times are now over and the best offer I have had for months is to go and get a Mr Softy ice cream from Quick.

Been on a business trip abroad

Oh, yes. I remember my very first, on my second ever day as a brand new flesh eating legal zombie. I had to carry eight large cardboard boxes on the Eurostar to Brussels, alone, then come straight back, accounting for every minute of my time to a some über eurozombie. Business travel has continued at this high level of sophistication ever since. Yay me. Favourite trip to date: warehouse near Zaventem full of brake parts. Many diagrams.

Lived abroad

Why yes, albeit in a country that most people do not believe actually exists. I am covered in glory. Gold star for me.

Bought your own flat

Presumably it doesn't count if you buy it off your dad? Yeah, thought not. Fail.

Been bought jewellery by a man

Aaargh. What a fucking milestone eh, here in 2009. Must watch out here, my cranium is under enormous pressure of outrage and I am going to have to do an emergency trepanning with a staple remover if I'm not careful. Jewellery from a pgymy anteater, now, that WOULD be special.

Well. For my thirtieth birthday I had high hopes the CFO would buy me a diamond. I had, in fact, decided this very firmly in my head. Of course, I had not communicated that to the CFO, who in fact bought me a very beautiful small Dufy line drawing of a female nude. I know, much better, right? Anyway I was all lukewarm and hmph even though I LOVE the drawing, until he caved in and bought me one for Christmas instead. Under pressure. So all the magic had gone and I had basically bullied him into it. Yes, I am a bad person. How on earth is this worthy of the list? It is one of the most petty and shameful things I can think of in my life. Next!

Socialised outside your age group

Why yes, actually, I am a tremendous hit with the 4-6 demographic due to my inability to say no, cupboards brimming with trans fats, extensive knowledge of Pokémon AND, coûp de grace, ability to REMOVE MY HAIR. Hurrah!

Hatched a plan for your own business

Long-cherished plan to open British style fairy cake and sensible plain sponge bakery in Brussels stalled due to:
(i) Absence of financial viability (CFO: In order to be profitable you would have to sell each cupcake for €20. Does that seem plausible to you? Me: Shut UP and pass the edible glitter! )
(ii) Terrible icing skills and inadequate health and safety procedures.
(iii) Sloth.

Successfully negotiated a pay rise

As if the fuck I have. I "negotiated" a month of leaving early when I arrived here and even that made me cry. I am guessing that doesn't count.

Discovered your signature style

I am trying to think of a name for my "signature style". Hunchback noir? Elegantly stained ? Mothy gothic? Deluded vagrant?

Discovered the importance of women

This one made me snort, daintily Oh my god! Women! I'm sure I've heard something about them. What do they do again? Aren't they supposed to be the new George Forman grill? Better pets than labradoodles? An innovative new religious movement? Uuurgh.

Established a shoe collection

Well, yes. But I'm not proud. It hardly makes me Mother fucking Teresa, does it?


So, as inevitably as night follows day, and lazy post follows lazy post, here is my list, with some initial contributions received after canvassing opinion. Please add your own.

- Had a screaming meltdown in public, Christian Bale/Naomi Campbell style. Me: sitting on floor outside children's nursery in Spitalfields, crying and shouting uncontrollably. Percentage of people who completely ignored me: 100

- Had court proceedings issued against you (I think I currently have 2. Maybe 3. Would have to check the post to be absolutely sure, and that's not going to happen).

- Had to crawl somewhere rather than walk due to intoxication.

- Become ill purely as a result of own stupidity eg. staying up all night for 3 weeks watching repeats of Lovejoy leading to psychosis/hallucinating about table legs, licking raw chicken breasts to get time off work, detox diet turning you purple and splotchy, etc. My mother gave herself scurvy by moving to Ghent with only the Dutch words for liver paté and coffee. Ah, the hardships of life before self-service shops!

- Been cautioned (or worse) by a police officer.

- Chosen a coffin.

- Buried something. Something dead, not a bone/treasure/vole.

- Dealt with a crying man.

- Worn a wig.

- Stolen something.

- Smashed a plate/cup/glass in anger.

- Had your hold up fall down on you in the middle of the street.

- Gone to a serious meeting with chocolate on your face/straw in your hair/baby or cat sick on your shoulder/a lovebite/laddered tights/loo roll stuck to your shoe/all of the above.

- Had some form of therapy.

- Had a mortifying crush on a co-worker.

- Had an uncomfortable discussion with bank manager/maxed out credit cards/been reduced to hunting for change under sofa cushions.

- had a close encounter with a speculum.

- Mistakenly sent a "reply all" email destroying a number of relationships and your credibility in the process.

Any advances? If the 35 list makes you feel bad, check out the 25. It made me cry harder than ever.


P said...

I spend just about every waking minute at work HIDING from my boss, and would much rather lunch with a pygmy anteater.

Teena Vallerine said...

Delighted to say I have completely missed the chance to give a toss about the pre-35 list and skipped straight to what I should be doing before I'm 45 - clearly if you manage you get this far there's not much left worth doing whether or not you did it before 35. So I'm chilled. t.x

Mrs Jones said...

Hmm, I seem to have managed most of the before 35 and 45 ones (helpfully I'm 46 next month so, phew!). Ones I could add are:
- been arrested & seen the inside of a police cell
- had (several) affairs
- got divorced (surprisingly connected)
- had your husband chatted up in an art gallery by a famous gayer while you were standing next to him
- had as close a brush with death as I ever want to get (seriously, would not be here now if husband hadn't been there)
- been in a car crash (surprisingly not connected with above statement)

and so on. This makes my life sound terribly dramatic, doesn't it, and therefore far more interesting than it has been. For example, after posting this I'm off to the allotment to sow parsnip seeds (be still, my beating heart!)

The Spicers said...

I have to say I can tick off many more accomplishments from your list than the Times one. Only a man could list having jewelry bought for you by a man as something to aspire too. Really?!

Pochyemu said...

I like it how on the 'What should I have achieved by 25?' page, on the left hand side it says:

- What should I have achieved by 35?
- What should I have achieved by 45?
- Why do women feel useless?


On the 25 list I have done none of the items except:

- Having tattoos AND piercings.
- Slept with a DJ (and just how does this make me more fulfilled?? He was rubbish!)
- Played a sport & an instrument.
- Had a serious boyfriend.

That's it. But the list was incredibly shit in the first place (am I a failure if I've only worked as a PA for a VP of a massive corporation and not as a barista in Starbucks??) so I actually don't feel too bad about it. Wow! That's a first!

JChevais said...

Why is a MAN, an expert on what WOMEN should have "accomplished" by a certain age?

What a git.

Anonymous said...

By 25, I accomplished most of what was on that list, but rather than feeling good about it, I'm now worried about the 35 list! I get the feeling I should get started, lest I disappoint this Shane fellow, who seems to have a good handle on women! (Insert giant sarcasm quotes on handle.)

I like the idea of the screaming public meltdown, but would like to add another type of meltdown - at guys who only have a theoretical knowledge of women and write articles about what they should be doing before hitting a certain age. I can totally get that done in the next six and a half years.

Persephone said...

Personally, I think anyone who comes up with a "must do - must have- must see" list has arrogance beyond my wildest imaginings. There was that infamous accessories list you circulated last year, for example. (She was joking, wasn't she? Please tell me she was.)

I therefore refuse to look at the lists, but can't resist your challenge: How about being indirectly accused of child abuse by a woman who tells you that none of her three children ever behaved like that (and evidently believes that the reason she doesn't have special needs children is due to her own superb parenting)?

Word verification is "ingual" which I assume is being struck speechless which was my reaction to above-mentioned Perfect Mum.

Fanny said...

Hold-ups are the work of the devil. They fall down and you don't even realise and then you get home after a night out and you do realise and you cry because you've been looking like one of those party drawing games for hours. Alice Cooper's face with the body of a normal woman and then the legs of an octogenarian whose surgical stockings have worn out.

Ah, shit.

I like your list though. Makes me feel accomplished.

Liberty London Girl said...

I had a hold up fall down going through the revolving door from Vogue House out in to the street at rush hour. That was not good.

I also had a raving personal meltdown on my office VH surrounded by ineffectual twiglets and spent morning howling under tree in Hanover Square.

And we def need to add my tweet: sold any jools given to you by a man on Ebay to pay the rent.

Or maybe sold your hideous Christmas presents on ebay and then pretended you lost them when asked by friend/relative.


ps I heart Fashion. I hate to break the news to you but bloody (supersmug) Shane Watson is a woman. GAH x

JChevais said...

Shane Watson is a woman? NO! What the hell?

G said...

I am proud that at the age of 36 I can say the following:

- I once had the same business idea as somebody else who executed it successfully

- I ran a (half) marathon WITHOUT having to stop for a heart attack

- I have twice avoided jury duty by shamelessly claiming faux bigotry

- I can survive for 49 seconds whilst chained to a bunk bed with a velociraptor

Anonymous said...

Made a complete and utter tool of oneself at the Christmas do. Oh Yes.

Mrs Jones said...

Can I just point out to everyone that Shane Watson, the journalist, is actually female. Yes, she does rather irritatingly have a bloke's name though...

Anonymous said...

Really truly there is only one.

Felt loved and given love. ( well that is two.)

I would like to add one more because I am about to turn 40 and have never done it but feel I must to be a good woman. (Am I mad). It is: Bake a loaf of bread. Somehow I sense failure in this endeavour.

Anonymous said...

I think we can infer from Shane's list that these are her own proudest achievements to date. Personally I find them trite and unimaginative. I prefer yours, Jaywalker. I have, however, discovered the importance of women and collectively we are more than capable of taking inane lists and placing them in small, dark, cavernous orifices not our own...

Cassandra said...

Been publicly bollocked for swearing at an event - by the client. That was a really high point.

Potty Mummy said...

I WAS thinking about checking the Times list out - but decided I have much more important things to do like surreptitiously stuffing myself with chocolate when sons and Husband aren't looking. Now THAT's living...

Nicola said...

I am horrified by the '45' list. Developed an interest in cooking or gardening? And this is meant to be an ambition? Surely it is just a by-product of having to make a number of meals over several years rather than starve or go bankrupt eating out. And making sure the postman can still make his way to your front door/the kids can play in the garden while you sit drowning yourself in copious quantities of wine - which is what you need to do after reading these lists.

Much, much, much prefer yours. And am pleased that I scored on more than I failed!

Titian red said...

F*** !! Going by that list I am a complete failure - refuse to believe it...... ticked more on Jaywalkers, phew ! Anyhoo, who she to tell us what to do ? Falling over, forwards or backwards so much more fun and if done with sufficient aplomb can result in an entertaining life.

Titian red said...

and to make it worse I am well past the cut off date for both so I will never catch up ! Fortunately the alter ego is 26 so maybe she'll manage it.

Waffle said...

P - Oh, me too! To hold a pygmy anteater before we die. That would be a decent aim.

KP - You have a husband, and a child. Now. Do you have a long sleeved dress? Because otherwise, you totally need to get one.

Mrs Jones - Your list = magnificent. Makes me want to know more More MORE.

Iheart - as others have said, she's a woman. appalling no? I mean HOW can this be an aspiration. What CENTURY is this?

Pochyemu - If I had read that list at 25 I would probably have jumped in Thames.

Tea - yes, definitely work on the meltdowns. very satisfying. I can recomment wholeheartedly.

Persephone - no, I promise she wasn't. well, she thought it was amusing, but the answers were all true. My jaw is on the floor at incredibly vile perfect mother! I am not surprised you were speechless. I bet you now have the perfect riposte in your head, don't you?

Fanny - they are. They are indeed Satan's hosiery.

LLG - meltdown + hosiery malfunction PLUS Vogue House? And those awful pigeons in Hanover Square? You need not achieve anything else until you are 80!

G - Am lost in admiration, however 49 seconds? Really? Where are you going wrong, do you think? What do you do when it rips your arm off?

sue - ooh yes. That's absolutely essential. At every age, no?

3limes - I think that's actually not too difficult as long as you don't state the bread must be edible. Making a dough house brick is quite easy. Try it!

Mothership - that made me think about Germaine Greer in Guardian on Rimbaud and arseholes this week. Which was a truly weird article.

Cassandra - that is, actually, super super classy. I am impressed. I have been bollocked twice this year for having a 'disgraceful' office.

PM - you totally know how to live.

Nicola - can't I just have a houseboy to do that stuff? Surely.

A Woman Of No Importance said...

I have had the majority of your list happen to me, JW - Thank you for those poignant reminders... I have not done the court thingie, nor worn a wiglet, (yet!), but there is still time...

You know when you lost your 'hold up' stocking? I once stepped gamely out of a pair of knickers, which had cascaded to my ankles in a crowded Blackpool shopping street (I was there for a conference - How exotique!), and scuttled off sharpish to buy a new pair!

Should you be using a spork at Client Dinners, JW?! x

katyboo1 said...

I used to hold my hold ups up more with coins twisted into the tops. Then one day on a bus one unravelled and I nearly took a pensioner's eye out with a 20p piece emanating from my gusset area. Not my finest hour.

Once melted down in the middle of work, had a screaming temper tantrum in the open plan office for fifteen minutes then called the boss a bastard and resigned. That was a good day.

Anonymous said...

Your list is indeed comprehensive, but, if I may make so bold, I would like to add a few of my own 'suggestions' for your consideration.

Flirted outrageously with spinach, (broccoli,curly kale etc), in teeth, un-checked.
Tried to light intended paramour's cigarette with a tampon (repeatedly).
Peed al fresco in SOF, or some other sunny mediterranean destination, in full view of diners (unintentionally - I'm/we're not exhibitionists!)
Feigned mortification, when actually too pissed to care.
Paid an OUTRAGEOUS amount for a handbag. Likewise shoes.
Bought a f**k off piece of couture (investment).
Hidden purchases in boot of car/under stairs until SO leaves house.
Consider botox & restylane integral part of beauty regime.

This is by no means the sum total of what I consider to be 'rights of passage' but will have to do for now, as one or two of the above are calling...

Waffle said...

Titian - list is bollocks. Use ours instead. Entirely agree about falling over. Fell down stairs at Kings X this year after getting foot stuck in Giant Flares. Funny.

Woman - very poor quality pants! Call Paxman!

Katyboo - I'm intrigued by coin in the hold ups. Emergency measure, or as a matter of course?

Asitis - I totally agree with your additions. All much more indicative of a life lived fully. But couture? That's mortgage territory! Prêt a porter - well, I could be persuaded.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I am late to the party,distracted by school, work and shiny things.
I hate those lists - I have my own personal list of things that I am glad I did and the memory keeps me sane now that my life is so dull.
Most of them are unprintable, definitely perverted, possibly immoral and illegal.
But I am happy that I ran all over Europe several times on my own with a Eurail pass ending up wherever I wanted and making friends with strangers.
And I am glad I tried most drugs, not the ones that can make you crazy, once, maybe twice, and then walked away without a problem. I had the experience and I know what people are talking about.
WV = imphe which sounds like an innocent naughtiness.

Mrs Jones said...

Well, Ms B, as you have demanded to know more, I'll stick something up on my blog about the day I nearly died. I'm not blogging enough as it is so this is a damn fine excuse. Plus I've found the diary so will just type the entry in - easy!

Ooh, wv is 'messe' which is what so easily could have happened (well, carbonised mess, at least...)

Anonymous said...

One more. Finally accepted that swearing, unless under extreme duress, or for comedic effect, really is unbecoming.

Anonymous said...

Have also had hold up nightmare - descending whilst going through security at Heathrow. Humiliating.

Will add:
- writing a will
- becoming interested in curtain fabrics
- getting caught for smuggling
- not getting caught for accidental smuggling
- coming face to face with a man sneaking around, armed with a bow & arrow
- owning a hat

monk said...

Open a minute's silence for a dead colleague without announcing/knowing name of said colleaugue. Do this for 4 days, until finally grasping the (Greek) name by Friday.

Followed by melt-down. Round and round and round the Schuman roundabout, until I came to a halt in usual cafe. There, I looked such a state, the serveur offered me a job. Yes, I tend to look homeless/unemployed after a morning's work.

Z said...

I'm obviously well beyond the aging pale. I expect that if Shane had extended her turgid set of lists any further, 'things to do by 55' would be headed 'curl up in a corner and die'. Until she's approaching that age, of course, when she'll come and patronise us some more.

Isn't having a signature style the same thing as getting stuck in a time warp?

Mutter said...

Don't read the list, you won't feel so inadequate. After all, if we all do what we're "supposed" to do by a certain age we'll all be clones of one another strutting about saying, "Oh right, I have one of those non-regulation piercings in exactly the same spot." Am also wondering what transformation happens between 35 and 45 to make the woman move on from having a man buy her jewellery to buying her own. Has she divorced him with a big fat settlement? Won the lottery? Or, goodness me no, I must be mistaken - actually managed to buy it herself as a result of a successful career?

Katherine said...

This list is too funny...SIGNATURE STYLE?! PLEASE? I can tell you that my signature scent at the moment is eau d'baby vomit, mixed with the delicate aroma of fish fingers. Hmmmmm...I sound attractive. Anyway I don't want people to say "You can do anything you set my mind" being intrinsically lazy I would be setting myself up for a fall and that wouldn't do. Yep, I'm with the majority and prefer your list; done most of it and can see the point of most of it: although have given up the smashing of things as I'd only have to, grudgingly, clear it all up 10 minutes later.

The Spicers said...

On learning that this Shane character is female, I'm even more appalled by her list! I assumed only a man could come up with such outdated notions of "accomplishment" for a woman.

Anonymous said...

At 35 I was pregnant and so concerned about surviving giving birth I would not have given a toss about any of this old rubbish anyway. I'd be interested to see if she can come up with anything worthwhile for those of us heading towards 55. I could do with a good laugh, my kids want me to marry Morrisey.

Waffle said...

Jessica - damn you, you obviously had way more fun than me. I spent 20s worrying about my (probably lovely) figure and being joyless and miserable.

Asitis - oh lord, my ears are burning. I have not got there yet, I admit it.

Mud - I need more information on your bow and arrow encounter.

monk - jesus woman, what job is this? It sounds terrible. That whole thing sounds awful and working in a bar at Schumann not the solution.

Z - yes. Or wearing a uniform in manner of air hostess perhaps.

Wife - you are right, the chronology raises many questions. Shane! Talk us through it won't you?

Katherine - this is one of the worst bis of being a grown up - when you have a massive throwing things strop you have to sheepishly go around tidying it all around afterwards. Think there is a real tipping point when you are holding a plate/glass/bowl of trifle and find yourself weighing up whether to throw it and deciding against due to mess issues.

CA - Morrissey eh? He does look in rather fine shape. But would you be ok with the celibacy thing?

Strawberry Blonde, Actually said...

I was so disgusted by my pathetic performance against these ridiculous targets I was going to write about them in one of my posts. To your fantastic list I would like to add:

"Fallen totally in love with a totally gay man".

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