Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Red Tops and White Powder

News flash: They make stuff up at tabloids.

We journalists at “proper” magazines (inasmuch as I could call my former employer such) always liked to say they did, but after my four days’ work at a red top, now I know for sure. I’m half outraged, half amused.

How was day-to-day life at the tabloid? Humbling. The person I worked for is someone I considered a peer – we are approximately the same age, and, when I was in my former job, position. But although she has an assistant, she treated me like hers, having me RSVP to parties for her and do clip searches. Initially I was furious, but then I managed to laugh it off as her issues – which clearly she has if she needs to do that sort of thing to me. She also sent me to parties no one in the planet would have been able to get a story out of, because the celebrities there were Z-listers. But she insisted I go anyway – infuriating because in her regime I only get paid for parties if I come back with a story.

It was an exhausting week, but it’s over. And it was four days’ respite from the fear that is eating away at me now: That I have no paid work lined up at the moment, and that I may not get any. I’ve been scurrying around London doing admin and making the most of my last days covered by private healthcare, but now it’s time to stop freaking out and start working. Or trying to.

* * *

Reason Number 472 why I’m grateful to be thinner: Fancy dress parties.

At the last minute, a fashion industry friend invited me to a Roaring Twenties party last Saturday night. I couldn’t order anything over the Internet because I wouldn’t be home to receive it, and I had very little time to shop because of my hectic work schedule.

Told there were flapper dresses in the sale at French Connection, I popped out at lunchtime Friday. It was nice to worry only that the shop near the office wouldn’t have my size, instead of the fact that there was no size in the whole chain of shops that would fit me. And besides, I knew if the flapper dress didn’t work, I’m of the size now where I’d be able to find something.

As luck had it, the shop only had 2 sizes – a UK 8 or a 16. On principle I refused to buy the 16, which left me trying on an 8 (a US 4). It fit! (Full disclosure: I ended up needing a bit of help with the last of the zipper on the night, although I like to think that was due to all the fringe getting in the way.)

I felt like the dress was slightly too tight around my chest, but it was hard to feel self conscious about my clothes when I was too busy feeling (slightly) self conscious for being a goody two shoes. I can’t remember being at a non-work, non-celebrity, non-St Tropez-type party and seeing that much cocaine use, and so widespread. And they were pushing it on me, and hard. (I refused, and repeatedly.)

I’m totally not that kind of person, and honestly, I think I’m OK with that.

Monday, 19 January 2009

This Regret I Had to Get Accustomed To

Slowly, the weight of the world’s heaviest backpack is lifting.

I don’t think about what I did every second of every day, though it comes back to me in frequent flashes. It feels unreal – like something someone else did. I did it, of course, and I admit that I did it. I just still can’t believe that I did.

Two days after Friday the 9th, my old boss – the reason for Friday’s gathering – sent me a lovely and much-needed email saying I had done something bad but that I wasn’t a bad person. I’m trying to remember that, but it’s awfully hard, especially when you consider the punishments I’m facing.

* * *

Yesterday I spent the day with Bachelor No. 2, and found myself unreasonably annoyed by his biscuit-scoffing.

He is overweight and has appalling eating habits: butter on everything, lots of snacking, lots of junk food (chocolate, pork pies, sausage rolls), lots and lots of toast. I don’t comment on what he eats – I don’t like people doing that to me, and besides, when does it ever work? Because he’s asked, sometimes I will point out when something he already likes to eat is a healthy (or healthier) choice, but really, that’s it.

He was ridiculously fit at university, and while I don’t think he aspires to get back to that, he has said he’d like to drop some weight and be fitter. (He wants to run with me once a week, which is driving me slightly bananas, because he runs much more slowly than I do, for a much shorter time, and it is a huge effort getting him out of the house.) And yet, yesterday he had a Godzilla-sized piece of bread-and-butter pudding with a thick layer of sugar on top while we waited for lunch. Then, on the way home, he bought a half-size package of chocolate digestive biscuits and proceeded to polish them off himself over the course of the evening.

Honestly, I can’t figure out why this irritated me so much. Because I was craving all kinds of junk food myself yesterday? Because he could eat these things without feeling bad about himself? Because he’s crazy to think a 20-minute slow run once a week will make any difference when he eats like that? (And because the 20-minute slow run is affecting my schedule, both exercise and otherwise). I’ve considered whether I’d be more or less irritated with him if he were slim and ate the way he does – in that case I think I’d be able to tease him about his eating habits, which I certainly wouldn’t do now.

Friday, 16 January 2009

The Damage Is Done So I Think I'll Be Leaving

Last night, while the rest of the bureau went to Gordon Ramsay at Claridges, I stayed home and played World of Warcraft (yes, my geek is showing.)

This wasn’t how it was supposed to end: me in the office today at 9 am – earlier than I’ve ever been there in my life – to collect the last of my things and turn in my blackberry, key fob, and security pass.

It was my own idea to do it this way – to get it over with fast, and with minimal interaction. Some things I wanted got left behind (like the huge magazine cover on my wall – my first cover story), but I probably don’t need any more things, or really, any more reminders. Not now.

Right now, Friday weighs on me like a backpack filled with bricks. I walk more slowly. I keep my eyes down. I can’t focus. I can’t sleep. I wonder if there will ever be a day where I don’t think about Friday, even for a second.

I don’t have a right to be angry, but I am. I’m angry with the person I wronged, who has hit back at me in the place she knew it would hurt the most: through our human resources department. I note – with an emotion I can’t describe – that although she won’t speak to me, has spread word about me far and wide, and has otherwise done her best to make sure it damages my career, this person still was happy to accept the spa gift certificate I sent her. At least, I certainly didn’t find it cut up in shreds on my desk or anything.

I need to let this all go. There’s nothing I can do about any of this, except to move on.

* * *

I hope this is the last of the truly dark posts. There is one more possible consequence of what I did that truly would change my whole life, which is whether I lose my redundancy pay. The HR woman here says I won’t, but she has said things before that have turned out not to be true, so I won’t believe it until the money clears my account. I’m not sure when that would be, and so the anxiety is overwhelming. I’m trying to take it one day at a time, and go easy on myself for not being more productive, energetic, and healthy (besides the preponderance of pork pies, I’m finding it difficult to exercise, though I am managing to do a bit).

In the meantime, I’ve got a four-day assignment at another publication next week – on the showbiz desk of a British tabloid, which should be an adventure. (I don’t want to do that sort of work regularly, but when the job landed in my lap, I couldn’t resist the chance to try it. I’ve always been curious about tabloid newsrooms.)

Wish me luck.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

At Sea

Weeks and years from now, when I look back, I will divide my life in to Before Friday the 9th and After Friday the 9th.

Before Friday, I worried about food and weight and whether I’d ever get out of this crummy yet addictive relationship with BN2 / be able to make it as a freelance writer / finish – well, start – my novel / get round to clearing my flat.

Then – in the space of an evening – I destroyed my life, and with it the luxury of normal (or vaguely normal) worries.

Some things are too personal to share even anonymously with the Internet. But there is no melodrama in the “destroyed,” I can promise you that. Under the influence of a vat of white wine (actually, a colleague there that night said when he arrived – probably about the time I was finishing my first drink – he wondered if I were “having a bad reaction to something”), I did something illegal. And got caught. On top of that, it was an evening out with work people, and the people I work with are journalists. We gossip for a living.

I didn’t kill or hurt anyone – only myself. I made amends. But the consequences of what I did are still rolling as hard and fast as a high tide. I feel under water. On Monday the traffic light was broken at a busy intersection by my flat, and twice I crossed it without looking.

I saw a counselor yesterday who told me this kind of thing can happen to food addicts – that nearly all of his bulimic patients need to give up alcohol. He told me that almost everyone – non-addicts included -- has done things when drunk that were against their values. I felt a bit better. And then came another wave of consequences, and I wondered if I might drown.

Today I watched people on the Tube, wondering what secrets they might be hiding. I got frustrated with the incompetence of a salesman at the Carphone Warehouse, who managed to lock me out of an entire mobile network and several credit cards in the space of about five minutes. When I was asked if I wanted to make a formal complaint, I started to, and then stopped. Maybe there are extenuating circumstances in his life.

I haven’t eaten very healthily – twice in three days I’ve had pork pies for lunch, don’t ask me why they appeal – but I haven’t binged or even gone above my usual approximate calorie count. I stepped on the scale yesterday and 10 stone 13 ½ (153.5 lbs) flashed up. Post-Christmas, post-binge (Friday was also a food binge) – normally I’d have felt relieved to see that number. I felt nothing.

Monday, 5 January 2009

Nowhere to Go But Up

My 2009 started with a bang. In the first three days I:
1. Cried more than I have in at least the previous three years combined
2. Felt more alone than I think I ever have
3. Drank more alcohol – and mixed more kinds of alcohol (pinot noir, cognac, vodka and slimline tonic)-- in one evening than I have in years and finished by
4. Cheating on boyfriend (cause of 1 and 2, and a huge reason for 3) by snogging male friend I secretly am crazy about. Well, not so secretly now, since I tend to blab a lot when I drink.

The year can only go up from here… right?

I have eleventeen million things to do (approximately 947.2 of which are boring admin-type things) before my official Last Day In the Office Jan 23. Much as I’d like to procrastinate further by filling you in on my December (the Christmas pudding with brandy butter, brandy cream and clotted cream! The waist size 28 jeans that fit Christmas morning but may never fit again! The pearl-and-diamond earrings that, to quote a friend of mine – in fact the very friend I snogged – say “When are you going to marry our son?”), I know that I shouldn’t. After all, I’ve got less than 15 days to take advantage of free long distance phone calls from the office.

Seriously, I do plan to return to being a normal, functioning blogger (I like my New Year’s resolutions to be achievable – last year’s included “wear my fancy shoes more often” -- so I’m not saying “normal, functioning human being”), but it may not be before Jan. 23.