Friday, 20 May 2016


I'm not even going to dilute this post with loads of complaints (even though GOD KNOWS, I have plenty I could be diluting it with). I am going to get right to the heart of the matter.


I am offering, to three lucky ("lucky") winners:

1. A copy of my book - hardback! Not fucked around with by BastardPost! - with the dedication of your choice or no dedication.

Book. Yours will be clean out of the box, not grimy from our floor. 


2. A (large) bar of Côte d'Or's legendary Chocolate Lait Amandes Caramélisées avec Une Pointe de Sel, which (a) features in the book and (b) is amazingly delicious. If you are dairy free, I will endeavour to find an appropriate substitute whilst also feeling very sorry that you cannot eat this wonderful stuff.



3. A drawing of the animal or internet meme of your choice by my son who is good at that kind of thing, cf here and here. I will have to pay him for this service, he does nothing for free unless he is in lots of trouble he hasn't told me about.

Child art (optional)

All prizes will be despatched using BastardPost's least unreliable delivery method (heron? drone? sheepdog on a horse?) anywhere in the world. All elements of the prize are optional. You can just have the chocolate if you like.

All you have to do is tell me about a time where you tried and failed to be something you aren't. This is a big theme in the book: the daft pursuit of an identity that doesn't actually fit, but which takes on a weird importance for a time. It might be a lie you got caught out in, or a ludicrous temporary identity you tried on for size, that time you thought you should become a nun or the time you tried to convince everyone that you were actually the national junior dog grooming champion. We've all done it. Haven't we? Surely?

You can enter with a comment on the blog, with an email to me (address in the right hand column over there) or an entry on your own blog (let me know if you do this though, so I can find it). Closing date for entries is Friday June 3. I will pick my favourite entry as one winner, then draw two at random for the other prizes. I will publish a selection of the entries in a blog post, an act which I hope will in some tenuous way serve to promote the book. God knows.

It will be super humiliating if no one enters this, so don't feel you have to spend too much time and energy on it. Just enter! What do you have to lose? Less than me, probably.

(Speaking of super humiliating, can I please persuade you to come along to this on 21 June if you happen to be in London and can spare the ££? Poor lovely Helen has taken a leap of faith and friendship putting me forward for it and I don't want her to be embarrassed because no one comes. I will be eternally grateful and will also endeavour to be amusing. THANK YOU)


Unknown said...

My first husband was an army officer for a time, and I tried (oh how I tried) to be a good army officer wife. I was properly dressed, played bridge, hosted coffees and teas, attended balls and cocktail parties,chatted up generals' wives. Not my thing. I am a hermit in real life. I had to run off.

nadarine said...

When in college as a theatre major, my roommate and I did a thing called One Lie A Day, ostensibly to... keep ourselves sharp? Crappy improv that no one else knew they were participating in? We were misguided.
Anyway, the roommate once pretended to be British on a (domestic, American) flight, as it was the most exotic thing she could think of to pull off. Except then her plane got rerouted and instead of confessing to her seatmate that she'd faked the accent, she KEPT IT UP during the entire mad rush to rebooking and kept whispering to the gate agent in her regular non-accented voice, and would only speak at a normal volume with her fake British accent so as not to drop character.
Mine wasn't quite so good, actually, but when strange men would try to flirt with me in inappropriate places like the bus stop, a frequent line of their would be "oh, girl, you could be a model", to which I'd snap back as officiously as possible "I'M A CHEMIST." Because of course a 19-year-old is totally believable as a grown, PhD-having professional chemist.

Lirogiro said...

I was an intern at an arts agency and got asked at short notice to take my boss some papers for a talk he was giving at a big conference. He then asked me to stay for the session which included a sit down lunch. I am a vegetarian but got presented with a fist sized lump of beef at the dinner. I just couldn't bring myself to say I was vegetarian so began to try and plough my way through the big hunk of meat. I hadn't eaten meat for twenty years and started to feel sick but still couldn't give up the pretence so I just started eating slower and slower hoping that the plates would be cleared away soon. I think i ended up eating about three quarters of the meat in the longest meal of my life and spent the rest of the afternoon in guilt ridden and uncomfortable meat sweats.

Murphy said...

I tried to be a corporate lawyer. This shouldn't have been far-fetched because I do have a law degree, but I am a bookish, introverted sort and I managed to get myself hired by a big corporate law firm that represented advertising agencies. All of the lawyers were extroverts with big personalities ideally suited to dealing with the creative marketing types at the agencies, so I tried to act outgoing and extroverted, but I fooled nobody. Even the 80s American lawyer uniform of skirt suits and floppy bow ties did not work to make me fit in. Eventually, My husband (who was no doubt tired of me weeping over how much I hated my job) and I decided it was a good time to get me pregnant, which gave us a lovely daughter. It also gave me a graceful excuse for quitting my job. The firm responded by giving me a going-away party at - I kid you not- an all male dining club.

Taxmom said...

I tried and failed to be a professor of German. I got the plum academic job the year I went on the market (weird confluence of circumstances), and completely melted down over the subsequent two years. Not much to tell except that it was not pretty. 20 year later I am over it, pretty much.

Bytowner said...

In my first year of high school, I became an Air Cadet. When I announced my intention to my tweedy, left leaning parents, they were astounded but good sports, and drove me to the airplane hangar where my squadron drilled every Tuesday. I got a spiffy green uniform! I learned to 'spit polish' my black boots! I got to go in a helicopter! We took a trip to Washington! On a bus from Ottawa! with many pimply boys with extremely short hair! I sang dirty songs! I learned a funny kind of marching called 'monkey drill'!
This lasted about 18 months. My family moved out of the country for several months, and when I came back had zero interest in the Air Cadets. Within a year I was was a safety pin wearing, pot smoking, surly teenager, the Air Cadets filed under 'let us never speak of this again' in my rebellious teenaged brain. Decades later I look back with fondness at this period but it was completely out of character with my personality and interests before that episode and since. Some of the young people that I met intended to join the regular forces when they were old enough, and I have great respect for those who make this choice. It's just that for me, the Air Cadet period was about as random as if I were to decide now to run off and be a carney.

Hilary @every1suddenly said...

This is excellent. I have emailed you mine. It is a tragic coming-of-age rite-of-passage epic poem mostly about falling in water, and I must admit I feel better for getting it out of my system.

Unknown said...

I'd love to come to the London thing but I'm going to in erm France. Soz.

Unknown said...

I worked as a receptionistt in a Veterinary Hospital. My first day they were testing a dog that had died for rabies which meant, cutting off is head and sending it to be tested. I walked in the operating room and low and behold, the head of a dog staring at me!
First and last day at the job.

I LOVE your blog. So amazingly honest and entertaining! Keep Writing!

Patience_Crabstick said...

I already own your book (and am enjoying it very much at the moment) but I realized that if I win, I can give it to a friend of mine who also loves your blog.

Anyway, it seems I have spent my whole life trying on different identities. In college, I decided to be an environmental activist and joined a group called NYPIRG, which was New York environmental and consumer group. We were supposed to go door-to-door handing out leaflets and asking for donations. This would have been unpleasant under any circumstances, but it was January in Buffalo, New York, so it was excruciating. The first day was pretty awful, but they partnered me with a seasoned activist and we worked a fairly nice and generally liberal neighborhood, so at least most people weren't overtly hostile. We collected no donations, but some people said they'd think about it. The second day, they left me on my own in Niagara Falls, a city that is definitely not welcoming to college student environmentalists asking for donations. After getting multiple doors slammed in my face (one woman actually accused me of being a thief) I gave up and sat on the ground under a tree, waiting for the time we'd re-group for the ride back to Buffalo. I had been feeling more and more nauseated throughout the day and on the ride home, threw up in the driver's car. It was horribly embarrassing and that was the end of my career as an activist.

Mouselegs said...

When I was at university in the US I had, for many reasons needing lengthy explanation, the need to go and work illegally in the UK. In order to do this I had to earn some money. My upstairs neighbour suggested I come and work as a cocktail waitress at a country and western bar. I was a purple haired, slightly punk rock, introverted book nerd two years under the legal age to serve drinks, so, of course, I thought this was an excellent suggestion. It was absolutely awful. The place was full of Good Old Boys wearing cowboy hats, line dancing and slapping my behind. I spent as much time crying in the staff toilets as I could get away with. I'm not sure what I was trying to be while I worked there but I definitely failed at fitting in with my surroundings. It all ended well, though. I did manage to go to the UK and found a job in Brighton working cash-in-hand at a vegetarian restaurant (though I was not a vegetarian and I never did understand why the flapjacks weren't vegan. Actually, I didn't fit in very well there, either). While working at the restaurant I somehow acquired a second job as a nanny for a two-year old girl though I had never babysat in my life and didn't particularly like kids. That went rather better than the other two jobs, though, and I found that I got on better with toddlers than urban cowboys and vegan chefs.

Anonymous said...

I have spent my entire life trying to be some one else - someone who was "better". More interesting, more attractive, cooler, trendier. Now that I am 41 I have decided that I am just going to be who I am. Not the "best me" or anything like that - just me. Oddly this involves learning French again. I studied French at school but have forgotten everything. I now have two French mummy friends ( friends I have made through my sons school) and I would love to chat to them in French.

Lola said...

My life up to the age of 25 was utterly misguided - I blame the parents because all three of their offspring ended up with dramatic career changes. I was good at science and in 1982 there was a huge push to get girls to do Engineering. I'd been at a girls' secondary school and the male:female ratio in engineering looked very promising and there was nothing else that particularly interested me, so I went for it. At a very traditional red-brick male-dominated university the crusty lecturers who were supposed to look out for the well-being of their charges didn't quite know how to handle this crazed tearful woman who was entirely out of her depth in a subject for which she had no aptitude or interest. I tried half-heartedly to change subjects after two years, but they said I'd done two years so I might as well finish the job. By dint of choosing the least engineering-y subjects (e.g. industrial sociology) I actually managed to get at creditable result. I did another degree at the age of 43, in a subject that I actually chose because it was immensely interesting. I can't quite bring myself to wish that I'd done that subject the first time round, because the friends I made at the age of 20 are still the best friends I have. said...

I have wracked my brains and delved deep into my psyche, but the coffers are empty on the competition front. A bit of a bugger really, as I would love a copy of your book, and of course choccie! I am now going up to my bathroom to wail loudly!

anon said...

I'm sure it says something unflattering about me that I have so, so many examples and am having a hard time choosing from among them! There are the "trying to be someone who doesn't care what people think (when in reality I care very, very deeply)" stories, not to be outdone by the "trying to be someone to please whomever I was dating lest he realize that I was unworthy of love" moments. The most cringe inducing, however, was my attempt for a few years in my teens to be theatrical. I am a bookish, introspective sort and hate to be the center of attention. What I was thinking is lost to the vagaries of my memory, but suffice it to say being on stage did not turn out well. I came to my senses after my voice broke from sheer panic as I was center stage singing a solo in a school play. I will never be able to shake the memory of hearing people whisper about the fiasco as I walked down the school corridor, or worse, look at me pityingly.

Happily, one of the very few upsides of aging is a degree of self knowledge so I'm much more comfortable in my (wrinkly)skin and am less likely to try to be someone else.

Jane said...

This isn't really my story but it amused me so I thought I'd share it. A friend of mine used to be a hotel inspector. She would stay (incognito) in hotels in order to assess their service, cleanliness, etc. Because the nature of her work was secret, if strangers asked her what she did for a living (which often happened as people struck up conversations in hotel restaurants/bars), she would have to lie. After a few experiments she settled on saying she was a tax inspector, judging (correctly) that most people would find that rather dull and change the subject. This worked fine until she met a real tax inspector, who of course asked her lots of questions about exactly what she did, where she worked, who her colleagues were, etc. Awkward.

Merlin Lady said...

I recently gave up full time work to be a folk musician. Like lots of *creatives* (lol) I guess I struggle to believe in my ability to actually do this, so I in general have to try and convince myself I DO believe it in order to get the things done I need to do. This is a sort of constant game that I play, here's an example: I went to a wedding recently and this happened:
stranger: What do you do?
Me *with CONFIDENCE*: I'm a folk musician (boyfriend nods encouragingly)
Stranger: really?! A FOLK musician?!
Me *slightly less confident*: yes.....yes I am
stranger: Wow....really? A FOLK musician?!
Me *worrying that they have seen into the agony of self-doubt that is my soul*: well...I mean sort of, yes....I mean.....I guess. A *bit*
(boyfriend sighs in defeat. stranger looks confused at my confusion)

I love your blog, your writing is so funny and clever, all the best with the success of your book x

Patsy said...

I landed the 'job of my dreams' in the 1990s working in television scheduling in London for a well known public broadcaster. I thought my path to media industry success was now set in stone and soon I'd be running the joint. Lol. They were all hyper intelligent 'dropouts' who had turned their backs on medicine and corporate law to slum it in the sexier murky world of meeja. Up on the 5th floor we were the the top of the pile, literally. Wannabees would ride the lifts in the hope of ending up sharing one with the guys and gals from my office. Me with my 2:1 from some unheard of Australian uni and a weakness for late nights, oversleeping and the odd sloppy error didn't stand a chance. After two years I got a pay rise from fifteen thousand pounds a year to fifteen thousand, two hundred and fifty pounds a year. It was a polite way of telling me I probably wouldn't soon be regularly lunching with the channel controllers and maybe I could quietly piss off. Which I did, and forged a lower profile career in a less glamorous part of the place where I'd started off years before. Which was probably where I belonged, all along.

Anonymous said...

having done a secretarial course with a view to earning money during college holidays, I spent the summers temping in London, armed with a jacket and skirt from Next. I often ended up in a city bank or accountants for a few days and, with absolutely no idea what i was doing, had to try to pass as someone competent in the mysterious arts of the office. I would nod solemnly as a harried lady explained how to use their computer system, the vagaries of the man (usually) behind the glass door (this was around 1990) then leave me to the terrifying phone/filing system, etc etc. fortunately, I was only ever required to "take dictation" in one job - a horrible and panicky moment that was resolved triumphantly when he left the office for lunch daily, leaving scribbled notes in the wastepaper basket, from which his dictation could be reconstructed. another job, in a financial news agency, required me simply to cut ferry coupons out of the Daily Mail for some weeks, which I spent otherwise trying to look very busy (in fact writing application letters to potential employers in a field i was actually interested in, and becoming addicted to computer solitaire). I did sort of get busted there in the end - they began treating me as an onstaff person, as I 'd been there for a few months, and inviting me to meetings at which they asked what my "work goals" were. it became increasingly evident that i had none as far as their office was concerned, and the contract was summarily terminated...

Mystica said...

I have tried to be more well dressed and more aware of current dress codes and failed much to the despair of my two grown up daughters who have cajoled, scolded, compared and now I hope have given up. They are not the giving up kinds so I still have to face a lot of flak on this!!!

Rosie Petch said...

When I was about 9, I told my friends that I had spent the summer holidays in Greece despite never having been abroad before and more likely to have had a day trip out to Skegness with the local Conservative Club. I think I might've got away with it too had I not also showed my friends how people 'sit' in Greece which was basically with their chins floating an inch or so above their right hands and the other hand hovering about an inch from the left side of their face. Can't even imagine how I even conjured this baby up let along expected my friends to buy it. Amazingly, they are still my friends to this day but do often remind me of this pearler. Cringe.

Robin said...

After college, I moved back home and became friends with a rather older man who also happened to be an Olympic triathlete. I had never before dated, and I was a very un-athletic book worm/music nerd, so I was out of my depths in every way.

We were roped into taking formal dancing lessons by mutual friends, and we began to go on outings together, during which I pretended to enjoy rigorous exercise. Our excursions included: intensive bike rides, swimming laps, military-style runs, and hiking Vermont’s tallest mountain. I always received his invitations with what I hoped came across as cavalier enthusiasm and then panicked in the days leading up to the workout.

For the hike, he met me at the bottom of the mountain after already having RUN up and back down; I was gasping for air the entire climb yet still I pretended I was having a wonderful time. During all those months, I was completely unclear as to whether we were out on dates or just…exercising together, and him holding my hand during the hike didn’t clarify things: perhaps he was just pulling me up the mountain.

I can’t imagine he didn’t NOTICE that I was out of shape and miserable, but he was too polite to mention it and I was too busy convincing myself that I was really and truly an athletic person after all. He eventually moved away and I was, simply put, relieved to see him go.

steve said...

As a younger man I was extremely skinny. There were two schools of thought on this amongst the young women I met: that I was a bookish weed and that I was an athlete. As it happened the former group was large and correct, the latter small and deluded. However, with the certainty of the young that “be yourself” is a path to ruin, it was toward the latter group that I targeted my romantic efforts.

So it was that I found myself with a colleague from a holiday job on adjacent treadmills on a gym date. This was my first trip to a gym, and – consequently – my first time on a treadmill. Since this was a date and I had athletic credentials to prove, I set the speed to maximum. As I turned my head to make an amusing, non-bookish observation, my foot caught the stationary platform to the side of the rotating belt, sending my arse into the “over tit” position. As I fell, I grabbed the handrail in front of me with both hands, allowing my knees to be lovingly caressed by the revolutions of the belt. Lacking the upper-body strength to pull myself up, I hung there for a moment, the belt causing my body to undulate crazily like a wind sock in a hurricane.

All too quickly the skin on my knees capitulated to the belt’s caresses, and the welfare of my newly bare kneecaps was becoming a priority. I let go of the handrail, and was thrown into the wall behind me. As I lay in an oozing heap, I could only be grateful that my date must have alerted the appropriate officers to my situation on her way out, since the tannoy rang the death knell of my athletic career: “First aid to gym! First aid to gym!”

Anonymous said...

Really enjoying these stories, especially Ellen's, Bytowner's, Robin's and Steve's. :)
Might get around to telling one of my own one of these days...

Kirsten said...

When I arrived at Bristol University I decided I wanted to be posh. I'd gone to a northern state school, so it was never going to convince anyone, but I spent three years ignoring all the cool interesting people I had stuff in common with, and trailing after boys with floppy hair and striped shirts who went on skiing holidays, and girls with long blonde hair and cashmere jumpers who had 21sts in marquees. I bought a pashmina, a rugby shirt and pearl earrings, and spent the whole time trying not to answer the question "where did you go to school?". It went far too far: after I graduated I went to work for a Tory MP, and found myself waitressing his dinner parties, and living in a flat underneath his house in a very Line of Beauty sort of way. Luckily I came to my senses, left the MP, made some normal friends, and after a bit of CV doctoring managed to become a legal aid lawyer and have (hopefully) done some good to atone!

Guenevere McMahon said...

I was hired as a Costume Shop Manager and told that I would teach Intro to Stage Makeup. I had never, in my life, done stage makeup. Forty five minutes before class started, my co-worker showed me (on my hand) and little tiny way to demonstrate shading. Then I greeted my 12 students.

I am good at it now, 6 years later, but that class.....even now, on the first day, I often thing, "Jesus, I'm a total fraud" but as it turns out, I managed to teach it to myself while teaching it to between 8-16 kids each semester. Now the truth is that I *was* a fraud.

Anonymous said...

I grew up with huntin, shootin, fishin tribe in the Shires of England, spent every saturday chasing foxes on my pony... went to uni, became a vegetarian, rad fem, Marxist... hung out with the night in the pub with my feminist friends, a bloke came around collecting for the hunt saboteurs... I couldn't give to him, just felt too hypocritical.. so I ran off to the loo until he'd gone... not really pretending to be something you're not I suppose, more realising you're in a muddle.. love your writing, Rachel

Sue said...

Emma, I loved your book. Sadly, it's now finished. Hurry up and write some more, please...

Anonymous said...

I won't win, but Saturday it was my friend's 50th birthday and I brought him a book as a gift. He thanked me many times and I ended up blurting ''I hope you read it!'' Could not stay proper until the end.

Unknown said...

I am reminded of a time 27 years ago, when I was at the then smallest university in Britain, which had the smallest language department you could imagine (think three rooms each big enough for 10 people), and I had signed up for the smallest module to go towards my (very small) degree: East German literature, where the students only outnumbered the lecturer by one, and worse yet, the lectures were at 9 o'clock in the morning so the two of us on the course usually nursed our hangovers throughout. It would have been badly mean to miss that one and leave your fellow student on his own with that one. There was one horrific week when I pretended to be intellectual. I won't ever try that again. The lecturer (for some reason we nicknamed him Dr. Subbuteo) was discussing a novel with us and asked if we knew what Marxist dialectics was, so I quickly nodded and smiled. It went quiet. It went very quiet. He asked if I could explain it, for the 'class'. "Erm, I'm trying to think how to put it into words..." Still quiet. "I can't think how to explain it"... Still very quiet. "I really don't know how to describe it"... I was hopeful that my fellow student would help me out, but I'm still not sure to this day whether he didn't know either or just wanted me to squirm, after a rather disastrous one-night stand a few months earlier. It was very very quiet. And where a normal, empathetic human being would relent, and quickly give a quick explanation of Marxist dialectics, Dr. Subbuteo carried on waiting, and waiting and waiting, until I could think of no more ways of saying that I'd known it but couldn't explain it, for a full 15 minutes. He did eventually have to relent, but not until the horror of it all was etched into my brain for eternity. And now, every couple of years, I find myself researching Marxist dialectics, just in case anyone should ever ask me about them again.

Penelope said...

How fun! OK, here goes. I grew up in Atlanta, GA in the 80s, and when I was a bored teenager dreaming of having a glamorous European life, there was one place I would go all the time for inspiriation: the local video rental store. It was called "Movies Worth Seeing" and stocked a huge variety of classic and modern movies from all over the world. The best feature was that it was all organized by director. The staff were total cinema buffs and all guys. My father being a wannabe filmmaker made sure we signed up to be members when it first opened, so our member number (which you gave out at checkout) was 55. I remember this so vividly because we regularly hosted French exchange students and we had one surly anti-social one who made it clear from the start that he cared not one whit about us or America, so we gave him our member number and told him to walk up to the store and rent whatever he wanted. He didn't speak a work of English, but would mope up there and say "feeftee five" and mope back to the house. With or without surly Vincent, I spent an inordinate amount of time at Movies Worth Seeing chatting with the movie buffs and trying desperately to seem cultured about Godard or Truffaut. One day, I really have no idea why, I went sashaying in there and put on a British accent. There was a new guy behind the counter and it seemed to have the desired effect. That might seem weird to you, but trust me, British accents sounds so sophisticated to us. Anyway, some days later, I went in again, checked out some movie I thought might make me seem like an intellectual, and took it to the counter. At this point, I had totally forgotten about the accent. The guy at checkout looks at me strangely and with a smirk says, "The last time you were in here, I distincly remember you had a British accent." In one of the rare times of my life where I actually had enough wit, I replied, "Well, you fell for it!" And we both burst out laughing.

H W Gray said...

It does not reflect well on me, but here goes. I live in Scotland, and in the late 1990s we bought a house that had a ruined castle in the grounds, and we discovered that with the land came a Scottish Feudal title: the Barony of (let us say) Malfi.

One weekend, not too long after moving into 'Malfi', I rang a very good local restaurant, hoping for a Saturday evening table at short notice.

To give them the opportunity to give us the table I naively believed all good restaurants held back for celebrities, I took a deep breath and started the call with 'I am the Baroness Malfi, and I wonder whether you have a table...?" The teenager on phone duty confirmed they did indeed have a table, and reiterated my reservation for a "Mrs B-a-r-o-n-e-s...." Cursing myself, but by then committed to my strategy, I had to correct her. I swear I heard the poor child blush over the phone and practically curtsey. It was an awkward conversation for both of us, and a fairly accurate precursor for the evening itself.

We arrived at the restaurant, detecting an air of heightened anticipation from the reception staff and muttered something about 'reservation in the name of Malfi', and with much 'This way please, Baron and Baroness' we were ushered through to our table.

Through a half-empty restaurant.

I will draw a veil over the rest of the evening, but it was EXCRUCIATING. I felt so self-conscious I hardly tasted the food, I couldn't wait to get home, and I never used the title again (except once for commercial reasons, and I still felt so uncomfortable using it that I quickly dropped it even then).

The feudal law changed in 2004, and when we sold the house and moved to St Andrews, much to the annoyance of the new owners of Malfi, we took the title with us. Our friends sometimes use it as an affectionate insult. So .... [struggles, tries to resist.... loses]:

I am the Baroness of Malfi still!

Ba-Doom-Tish! Thank you very much, I'm here all week

Unknown said...

I went to a convent school at 15. Even though my parents were never particularly religious, they baptised me and so on, and I considered myself a Catholic. While at my Catholic boarding school, the nuns were forever telling us sex outside marriage, contraception and abortion were sins, and for a while I sort of half-believed in the Catholic dogma. Then at 17 I moved to one of the most secular and liberally progressive countries in the world, Denmark, where I rapidly lost my religion and gained feminist consciousness. I am now the kind of pro-choice feminist/atheist Anti-Christ the nuns were warning me against. I am, obviously, very happy I totally failed to become the church-going wife and mother of many new Catholics.

Lissa said...

I tried to be a doctor. By my second hospital job (6 months after qualifying) I used to burst into tears every time I was woken at night. My only happy day was a bank holiday during which we had no admissions; I sat on a grassy slope outside the hospital and read 'The Longest Journey' by EM Forster.

woollythinker said...

Oh good lords most of my life has been about trying and failing to be something, I think. Usually a people person. Which has gone about as well as it did for the rest of your commenters (painful to note how common that experience is). But even worse was the time I tried to be A Traveller when I was soooo not ready for it. This was right after university, when basically every little white South African Did London after graduating. I really wanted to travel and I had no imagination, so although I didn't really have any interest at all in England, and was scared stiff, with the encouragement of my boyfriend (who was spending the next few months in Switzerland), I Did London.

I was terrifyingly underprepared. I had no money, no idea what I was doing and really no friends in town. I missed the boyfriend excruciatingly, I hated the weather (midwinter) and the dark and my awful Seven Sisters room, and between being flat broke and just a bit pathetic, I never went out. Of course I hated every minute and couldn't wait to go back to Cape Town with boyfriend for his final year of study – despite knowing that this would probably mean losing any future chance of working in the UK. I went back with the conviction that London was for cool people, and that, obviously, wasn't me.

As it happens, a decade later I did end up going back to London, with that same boyfriend, and staying for over another decade. In those completely different circumstances I did find a lot to like about London, but I think I was mostly right: I'm not cool enough for it. I also think I'm fundamentally not a traveller. Interest in seeing the world? Oh yes. But enough get-up-and-go to, well, get up and go? Apparently not. I'm full of excuses (too broke, too time-poor, etc) but given that everyone else seems to manage it... well. I'm just not a traveller.

Korinthia Klein said...

I don't know if this counts as either trying or failing, but it's the only thing that comes to mind. (I guess I am pretty comfortable just being who I am, abundant flaws and all.)

On our wedding day my husband and I invited people to perform as their gift. The venue was a Tuscan-Renaissance-style garden with a perfect place in the center for providing entertainment. The best man did a juggling routine. A cousin danced. There were flute players and violins and my brother read poetry. Apparently the wait staff at the reception had never seen anything quite like this and they decided it had to be some odd cultural thing they were not familiar with. A friend of mine told me that a waitress finally asked her "What ethnicity is the bride?" hoping to get an answer to the puzzle. My friend said to me,"I hope you don't mind, I told her you were Estonian Royalty." That answer satisfied the wait staff, and was the perfect added touch to a wonderful day for me. I have always felt a little like Estonian Royalty ever since.

Nita said...

I just can't pull it off. I try every day and fail.
I feel like a total fraud whenever l'm in the company of Adults.
I'll just never grow up.
Grow old, yes. Undoubtedly.
Grow up? Never.

Anonymous said...

I have tried valiantly over the years to be Spanish or at least to become an inconspicuous member of Spanish society. However, I have given up all attempts at being anything other than a perpetual blow-in, no matter how good my Spanish has become or how authentic my potato omelette looks and tastes. My mottled blue Celtic complexion is the most noticeable problem and has been the object of much pointing at outdoor swimming pools, beaches, etc. over the years (as if I wasn't mortified enough as it was at my untannable hide). I also talk at too low a volume and have never managed to place an order at a bar or restaurant without having to repeat myself. My surname is another major stumbling block and I am entirely resigned to having to spell it out slowly for ever and ever, amen.
Several years ago I ventured into a government office to enquire about the possibility of acquiring Spanish nationality (for practical, work-related reasons) and was reduced to a quivering mess by the scary official, who questioned my motives and my chances and spouted off a long list of reasons why I (and indeed, my country) have nothing in common with Spain and that the mere question was preposterous. I tried to bring the discussion around to the legal side of things (a person from Latin America or the Philippines is entitled to apply for nationality after two years' legal residency, for example) but she was having none of it. According to her, it was entirely irrelevant that our two countries were fellow EU member states. In her book, there had never been any historical or cultural ties between our nations (which is blatantly untrue, Spanish Armada, ahem) and I should give up the idea immediately. I obviously did, in true meek northerly blow-in fashion...Of course, not one of her colleagues or any of the other people there challenged any of her haughty affirmations either. They all seemed to be backing up what she was saying. I took my blue-tinged self out into the blinding sunshine and resolved never to enquire again.

Carol said...

When I was 17 and living in Southern California, I went to Finland as an exchange student. I spoke not one word of Finnish, having taken Spanish as my foreign language. During my first days there, I was wandering around the city by myself when another girl about my age said something to me. In Finnish. Wanting to fit in, I just half-smiled and nodded knowingly. She said something again, and again I nodded and smiled. After a few minutes of this, she realized that I had no idea what she was saying and switched to English, “I said, do you have a cigarette?!!?” Um, no.

Despite this experience, I’ve found that the knowing half-smile and nod work quite effectively for responding to unintelligible off-hand comments in loud or mumble-y situations. So, even though I was outed as a fraud during my teenage years, I’ve continued to try to fake it as an adult.

Jane Lobb said...

I once was given a job as a drama specialist - I'm not - and had to produce a workshop for three classes of inner-city 8 year olds with no prep time. I remember it as a blur of shouting, disaffected teaching assistants and panic.
Afterwards I didn't return any of the headteacher's calls and never cashed my paycheque out sheer embarrassment!

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