Tag Archives: Family

By All Means Step Over My Cold, Dead Body and Save Yourself, You HARPY!

“Being with an insanely jealous person is like being in the room with a dead mammoth.” ~ Mike Nichols

A couple of weeks ago I introduced you to The Imposter from My Life As Imposter. She talked about her life as a British Asian, and how she struggles with the Muslim Guilt Monster over matters of love and sex. Now she’s back to tell us about how her older cousins and other family members reacted to her impending nuptials.

No no.. by all means, step over my cold, dead body and save yourself you HARPY.

Hello hello.So I had a very strange dream last night. I dreamt that my three eldest cousins and Iwere thrown into an Olympic sized swimming pool and forced to battle it out in a Gladiators/Celebrity Death Match sort of way. Every time we reached for the rails or the steel steps at the edges of the pool, all the screws unravelled and they came away in our hands.The dream basically ended with everybody banding together, drowning me, and using my body as a stepping stone to clamber out of the pool to safety.

It sounds crazy but this sort of underlying resentment is actually quite common in Asian/Pakistani culture.

The cousins who featured in last night’s dream escapade are 34, 35 and 37 and all unmarried. To me, this really doesn’t matter at all, in fact, I really couldn’t give a shit when or if anyone chooses to marry or not.

But what you have to consider is that culturally, and particularly when it comes to marriage, Pakistanis are old-school and traditional. Not in a cave man sort of way, more in a wafting fans, blushing brides, lovely Jane Austen sort of way.

Everyone is very proper about the whole thing and the engagement is a very formal step one takes when at the appropriate age and generally involves families at a much earlier stage than western courtships. Like the Jews, we tend to marry young (early 20s) and anyone left over after the age 30 is looked upon lovingly and with a great deal of sympathy.

Things aren’t quite as extreme as this in my family as my generation were all born in the UK. Everyone expects them to figure their own shit out and bring home their boyfriend/girlfriend when they want to tie the knot.

But what I find interesting is that some of the old ideology seems to have rubbed off on the women in my family. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I’m one of the youngest of all my cousins; so apparently this means everyone needs to get depressed and hate me if I marry before them. They have just become so goddamn bitter about it, as though I am robbing them of something. I am therefore avoiding all family events at the moment because I just get the stoniest glares and icy receptions.

One of my aunts (mother to the 34 and 35 year olds) actually grabbed me by the elbow and shoved me out of her way at the last family function. I turned to look at her, horrified, and she immediately started yelling, “I NEVER TOUCHED YOU… WHAT DO YOU MEAN??!!” (bearing in mind I hadn’t spoken yet) until one of her horrible henchman daughters sidled up to her asking what was going on, staring at me surreptitiously  ready to pounce. I quickly had to smile and say, “Oh, nothing, I’m sure it was an accident!” and carried on making small talk with everyone while they secretly plotted my demise.

What the actual fuck? Who does that to their niece? She was fine with me before I was engaged, now it’s like I murdered her puppy then stole her daughters’ ovaries.

What is wrong with these people?? These girls are very attractive women. I’m sure they would have no trouble finding boyfriends……. So why haven’t they ever found boyfriends?? And why do they actively begrudge other people happiness? I have never understood this, “let’s compete and break each other down” mean girl mentality. And it’s an accepted thing to do… be scathing and difficult and outright bitchy and I’m expected to smile and glide through it all like a social ballerina.

Apparently the latest news is that my female cousins refuse to adhere to the dress code at my wedding because they “don’t want to do black tie” and were giving my mum shit about it over dinner one night at my aunt’s house.

Honestly… you can show up in a monkey suit for all I care. Even if you show up in a white dress I doubt I would notice you and your pathetic attempts at being obtuse and trying to get a rise out my family; because I’ll be marrying Bob not thinking about you at all.

Why on earth do they feel the need to actively bate my family with this crap? It’s such bad manners. Keep it to yourself people! Sometimes I just want to stand up and yell this, in true “Bridesmaids” style, at the top of my lungs:

I wonder whether, as progressive as they are, their families are just different to mine. I think my aunts and uncles are very concerned with their children marrying a Muslim person and, perhaps, enforce this fervently. Whereas my mother just wanted us to marry someone that was raised the same way we were. Obviously she would have preferred me to marry a Muslim man for simplicity’s sake, but she couldn’t have been happier about my relationship with Bob and the fact that he’s Jewish. It really doesn’t matter to her, as long as I don’t lose my identity.

I celebrate who I am and where I’m from and Bob does too; and that’s how we want to live our life together.

I am not sure that the girls who drowned me last night would be able to say the same and I therefore think it has bred a great deal of resentment towards my mum’s family.

I honestly think this wedding is going to make things a lot worse in terms of my relationship with my female cousins.

But, in the end, that’s just something I’m going to have to accept…

And smile through….

And gracefully pull the daggers from my back….

Whilst singing a little song.

Like Mary Fucking Poppins.




The Family Way

“Being in love was like China: you knew it was there, and no doubt it was very interesting, and some people went there, but I never would. I’d spend all my life without ever going to China, but it wouldn’t matter, because there was all the rest of the world to visit.” ~ Philip Pullman

I’ve just been reading this beautiful post by the wonderful blogger/writer Joanna Cannon. It’s about how we accumulate sentimental objects throughout our lives, but then after we die those objects lose their meaning, and the only measure of the life we lived is whether or not anyone feels sentimental enough about our photograph to dust it.

It’s made me think about whether anyone is like to remember me after I die.

Like Joanna I have a collection to sentimental odds and ends to remind me of the past. I’ve amassed so much stuff that I have to keep it all in a trunk. I’ve kept the boarding passes for every flight I’ve ever taken and the tickets to every play and concert I’ve ever seen. I have the table keepsakes from every ball I went to as a student and every wedding I’ve been too since. I have a pair of tiny horse shoes from a trip to Gretna Green, and a little dog made of some sort of pottery that my reception teacher gave me after I performed in my first nativity play. There’s also every letter that’s ever been written to me, along with at least one photograph of almost every person I’ve ever known.

Whenever I look at this stuff I like to imagine someone else going through it after I’ve died, looking back, fondly, at the things I’ve done and all the places that I’ve been. In reality, though, I know that this is unlikely. It’s even less likely that anyone will be polishing my photograph. Keeping framed photographs of the dead on display on around the house tends to be something that only families do. And family is a habit I never fell into.

I have friends who I think of as well as family, and most of the time I like to imagine that they’ll always stick around in a similar way. As often as not this isn’t the case, however.

Sometimes this is my fault. Sometimes there’s.

Sometimes it’s simply because, in the absence of an immediate family or partner of my own, my dearest friends happen to be the people who are the most important to me. People who think that there is a right way to do life tend to be a bit uncomfortable with that. The ones whose world view rests on the belief that friends come and go but your family will always be there for you, and feel somehow threatened by the suggestion that families can let you down, or that some friends will always be willing to show up. Or that either decision may rest more on the depth of your relationship than the label you ascribe to it.

But for the most part ‘family’ feels like something other people do, without much direct relevance to my life – like supporting a football team, joining the military, or playing World of War Craft.

There are times, I admit, when I don’t help myself in this respect. I was once mortified to find an uncannily accurate description of the way I’ve lived my life in a newspaper review of Janet Street Porter‘s autobiography. It explained that after cutting all ties with her original family she found it easier and easier to up and leave for a new one whenever the replacements because uncomfortable or inconvenient. I’d never been able to put my finger on why my life had been so restless until I read that, but this is something that I have definitely been guilty of.

It’s something I’ve tried to address. I’ve reached an age now where I understand why old people tell you to hang on to the people who knew you when you were young. The one’s who know not just who you are but why you are.

When my granddad’s fifth wife died there were only six of us at her funeral. Nobody was the least bit affected by her death. Four of us were family, and therefore obliged to be there, and the couple who’d lived next door were only there for the free food. At least half of us did a pretty poor job at masking our attempts to suppress laughter as the vicar spoke about what a wonderful person she had been. It was the first and last time I recall anyone saying anything remotely nice about her. To be fair she’d certainly never said anything that was less than unpleasant about anyone else.

But after that I made it my aim to have people in my life who would choose to go to my funeral because they’d be sad to see me go rather than attending grudgingly because they felt ought to.

I think I’m doing okay so far. Forty people dressed up in black-tie last year to attend my birthday party, and a similar number came to my leaving-for-China-do last week. And that’s probably more important for the time being than who might care about my box of tat, or polishing my photograph, when I die.

It’s not that I’m trying to say that I miss or want a family, as I said, the idea of it seems completely alien to me. I can’t imagine being responsible for anyone other than Natalie Portman. It’s just that tonight I’m feeling a bit uneasy at the thought that, with nobody to keep my photograph, I’ll quickly be forgotten.

More on Family:

The Cult of The Family

A Few of My Favourite Things

My Grandad Always Hated Birds


What’s In A Name?

“Nothing of me is original. I am the combined effort of everyone I’ve ever known.” ~Chuck Palahniuk

As we need others to offer a stable reflection to keep us sane, we also need other people to help us to form our identities. A large part of our self-image is derived from the view of ourselves that we see reflected back at us through the eyes of others.

Thus a child who is continually told that he is stupid will probably grow up believing this to be the case, even if he has the same potential as Einstein. And a plain girl who is constantly told that she is beautiful will likely come to believe that so she is.

I used to have a housemate who called me ‘molto bello’, which he thought was Italian for something like ‘very beautiful’. At the same time I had a group of friends who casually referred to each other as gorgeous, beautiful, sweetie, etc, and said I love you at the end of every phone call.


And strangers used to be lovely to me. They’d carry my heavy bags on and off of trains without me thinking of asking, chase after me when I, frequently, forgot to wait for my cash out the machine, and pay for my lunch when I was behind them in line at the petrol station.

That was the last time that my illness was trying to tear me apart.

The first time that I had what I knew for sure was a depressive episode I had so much pain in my chest, in my heart, in my soul it felt like, that I genuinely believed that it would eventually kill me.

I cried my heart out every time I was alone. That included being alone on buses.

I hated being alone. But I wasn’t very often. When I wasn’t working, I was partying, mostly, or hanging out with my housemates. The most time that I would spend alone was my forty minutes bus journey to and from work, and the three or four hours I spent asleep. There was always somebody for me to be with. And I didn’t really have the option not to be.

I hated myself. I hated my life.

But I never tried to die.

I’m not sure I particularly wanted to die. I wanted to fall asleep and not wake up, but that’s not really the same thing. And, although there are other, more complicated factors involved, I think I’ve pin pointed one of the reasons as being that I’d internalised the words and actions of others.

Somewhere under the litany of self-hatred, the crippling lack of confidence and self-esteem, was another layer of my psyche which believed that I must be beautiful if that’s what people told me, must be ace, must be exciting, and must be worth a stranger buying lunch for.


Yet I was experiencing depression, as part of what I now know to be PTSD, because of the words and the actions of the people who came before them. The people who were there from the beginning of my life. The community I lived in throughout my first eighteen years.

My parents, who had children because they were supposed to, rather than because they wanted to, made their resentment of the experience abundantly clear. They found everything that I did either inconvenient, annoying, or embarrassing. No matter what I did I’d be yelled at for not fitting in with their ideal of a family and told that I had to change.

I can see now that my Dad’s mood pretty much went in cycles. Every six weeks or so he’d flare up, it wasn’t triggered by anything I did or said, it wasn’t triggered by anything.

But at the time, when I was a kid, I believed that I was bad because I was told I was bad. I thought that the way that I sat on a sofa genuinely was enough to make a grown man quiver with rage. That there really was something inherently wrong with me that meant that I didn’t deserve to be loved, even by my own mother, and I devoted all my energies to trying to change it.

Fruitlessly of course.


In trying to avoid doing any of the things that made my dad want to hit me, I ended up avoiding doing anything. Which makes some perverse sense now. The thing that I’d done to upset him was to live, so not living was the only way I could seek to pacify him, but of course it was never going to be enough. Nothing I could do would make it so that I’d never been there in the first place.

Because my parents apparently hated me, and told me I wasn’t worth bothering with, I was hideously insecure. I was scared to say anything to anybody in case they saw what my parents saw in me and hated me also. So inevitably I was the weird kid who was bullied in school. The kid none of the other parents wanted their kid to be friends with.

Everyone in my class told me, day in and day out, that I was weird, ugly, and unlikable. So I believed that too. After all if absolutely everyone thought so they couldn’t all be wrong, could they.

It doesn’t help that even now as whole person, who knows that she isn’t inherently flawed, I don’t fit in where I came from. It’s a very proudly working class neighbourhood. Not that there’s anything particularly wrong with that, but the people there tend to see anyone who has a university education as being above themselves. People have very ‘traditional’ attitudes, which include a vague misogyny, not so vague racism and out right homophobia.

I’m a liberal, a lawyer, and a traveller. I don’t belong there.


The result of growing up in that environment is that I have spent my whole life feeling like an outsider. Even now, in places where I am accepted, I don’t feel like I altogether belong. I feel somehow separate from other people, as though I’m not like them somehow.

Maybe it’s nothing more than the fact that I can’t relate to anyone with a normal family background or lifestyle, I don’t know. Maybe with all this therapy I’m having that will change that some day.

All any of this demonstrates is that I am far more the product of everybody I have ever known than it is at all comfortable to realise. And the power of words, however superficial, to harm or heal.

The lesson that I am trying to learn from this understanding is to be more mindful of whether the things I say to people are a contribution that I’m ready to make to their identity – I’ve decided that it’s better to be perceived by some as frivolous and shallow and do no harm, than to add to anybody’s negative self-image.

As well as to always consider whether the image of myself reflected back from the people around me is one that I’m happy to live with. I finally understand that that may not be the identity I have to live with. It may just be that I need to seek out a more favourable mirror.


Behind The Scenes Of The Gilmore Girls

Back to School

(Getty Images/Chris Polk/Film Magic)

I’m afraid I’ve been very remiss in my writing this week. Well, no, actually I’ve written loads. I just haven’t posted any of it because I was unhappy with it all. I’ve been too distracted to write well, so I’ve mostly been watching Gilmore Girls through for the umpteenth time and worrying about having to go back to work.

If I don’t start working again on Wednesday they’re going to stop paying me, and then I won’t be able to afford to live. I haven’t been in in four months, and I hardly showed up for the three months before that.

I probably shouldn’t be so worried. I’m about a million times better than I was at the start of April, and I’m getting on with the rest of my life mostly alright. But still I’m scared of the pressure of having to act completely normal, around a bunch of completely normal people, on a full-time basis. I don’t know whether I can do it.

At the moment I feel like I’m in a kind of suspended animation. My life’s been pretty much on hold, and it feels as though the whole world has been paused with me. The moment I’m back in the office I’ll be confronted with the fact that it hasn’t. That the whole world has, in fact, been moving on without me, and getting along just fine to boot.


It’s going to be hard.

It’s not nice to realise how little you’re actually needed.

The same fear is keeping me from trying to pick back up with the friendships I’ve neglected for the last eight months. Partly I’m worried about having to explain where I’ve been, and whether people might choose to reject me because of it. But mostly I’m worried that they just won’t have missed me. That they’ll have realised that I don’t really add anything to their lives and they don’t want to waste any more of their time on me.

I see now how people can get stuck here. You need to get back out there to build up your confidence again, but getting out there is a test of confidence all on it’s own. It has the potential to backfire spectacularly.


But the Gilmore Girls marathon has helped with that, a little. While I’ve been watching I’ve realised three things.

The first is that no matter how many times I watch that box set it isn’t going to tell me how to miraculously fix things with my mother. The second is that sending my mother her own Gilmore Girls box set wouldn’t help either. She’d find herself agreeing with Emily about everything and hating the rest of the show.

Both of these things are good to know, and nudge me a little way further to ditching that particular piece of baggage. For a long while I’d somehow convinced myself that the answer was in there somewhere if only I could find it. Don’t ask me why.

And the final thing is that I either need to go back to uni, or to change my career some how.

I used to be ambitious, like Rory, but I’ve spent the last six years doing jobs that helped other people instead because I felt that that’s what I had to do to justify my own existence. But now that I’m recovering a little from this illness I’m beginning to realise that that Max Erhmann was right – I have a right to be here.


And so I want here to be some place more inspiring. Like Yale. But probably not Yale because I don’t have hundreds of thousands of dollars handy. And I’m probably not smart enough anyway.

I want to do something for me.

If the homeless and the destitute don’t actually need me, if they’ve got along without my help all year, then it might be okay for me to start doing something that I’ll enjoy, just for myself.

Thinking this way makes it easier to go back to work. I have to get back to the day job to make sure that I can afford to spend my time planning what I want to do with the rest of my life, and not plotting how I’m going to keep a roof over my head. And if I don’t like it, or people treat me weirdly, I can tell myself it’s only temporary.

I should take Britney as my inspiration. If Britney managed to get back to being a world famous pop star after her epic meltdown, then surely I can do anything I want in spite of mine.




Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,465 other followers

%d bloggers like this: