My name is Kate and I buy clothes to avoid feeling my feelings

Sure, yes, maybe buying a new outfit is more acceptable than drinking away your pain because I can at least present an argument that those new jeans/boots/earrings will be useful for me at some point in the near future. But let’s face it, it’s much more about the hit of dopamine I get from acquiring a brand new outfit (and therefore a brand new me) than actually not having anything to wear.

There’s nothing like having to drag everything out of the bottom of your wardrobe because you are moving house, and being confronted with – I kid you not – six only-subtly-different pairs of black boots, to make you realise you might have a problem.

The easy thing to do here is to declutter, a thing that I’ve done a number of different times during my adult life. Each decluttering episode is combined with a period of reading minimalist blogs and announcing that my life will be different. But my problem has never been with the number of things I own. It’s always been about the number of things that I buy.

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Oh look! A new shirt.

Of course, the two are linked. Decluttering feels like doing something, and shopping also feels like doing something, and I need to make sure I am always doing something to avoid sitting and dealing with my feelings because the feelings are uncomfortable at best, and at their worst are far more painful than my thigh tattoo was.

And all that decluttering does is make room for my shopping, and means that when I’m having a bad day, I can convince myself that I need something to wear to my mother-in-law’s birthday dinner or my best friend’s hen party or whatever else I have lined up at the weekend. Then I can head out shopping, feel like I’ve achieved something, and ignore that uncomfortable feeling at the edge of my mind until another day.

But you know what isn’t doing something? Being content with how I already look and what I already have. I mean, what do people who are happy with how things are even do with their time?

So yes, having to move house twice during the last month has made me realise that I probably have enough clothes to last me from now until the end of the world. But to be honest, going on a shopping ban doesn’t have a lot to do with clothes. It’s about reminding me that I don’t need to rush around the high street when I feel like I have nothing to wear. Instead, I need to to go home, put the kettle on, curl up on the sofa and have a good cry.

Right now, I have everything I need. But sometimes that’s the hardest thing to admit.

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My name is Kate and I buy clothes to avoid feeling my feelings

Striped Cardigan

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Wahoo! I’ve finished the cardigan that I’ve been carrying around in my bag for the last few months.

It’s been slow progress, in part because it was a more ambitious project than I usually tackle, but also because I’ve not had the time to sit down for hours at a time and craft – something that my mental health has certainly missed.

I’ve been looking back over Instagram to try and work out when I started it, and I suspect that it was sometime in late April. This means that this knitting project has been with me through A LOT.

I took this photo when I was waiting to meet Angie after work. I met Angie because she is a partner of my partner, but since we seem to have good chemistry and a few things in common, we decided to start meeting up without him.

So I suppose I should say that I took this photo before a date with Angie. Even now, three months on, it feels weird and a little uncomfortable to say that I am dating Angie, because it defies my pre-conceived notions about what A Relationship should be.

Apparently I posted this photo while I was not writing my essay.  Essay writing has a thing I have had to get back into this year, because I have started studying part time for a masters degree.

This has felt super indulgent. I’m paying £6000 and spending a lot of my free time working because I like learning and because it serves my ego to have a few more letters after my name. I don’t need to do it for work, it’s unlikely to directly impact my earning potential. Frankly, it’s a little pointless. But because it’s a bit pointless I am really proud that I’m doing it, because it’s not often that I invest this much in myself or do something just for me.

Most of the year has been good for getting stuff done and not being overly anxious. That’s because I got myself into a routine that involved getting up early to exercise before work, eating well, studying after work, and going to bed really early to get a full eight hours sleep.

This was fine. It meant I kept up with university work and steadied my mood enough to come off anti-depressants. It also meant I never had any fun.

So over the past couple of months, I’ve let myself loosen my routine a little bit: I’ve been out dancing, I’ve gotten drunk, I hooked up with a stranger. Some of this went well, some of it caused the most monumental of rows with my partner. I’m still trying to find the balance here, and not to overthink everything.

This was the pub trip where I celebrated finding a flat I wanted to live in. Most of me is super excited about Grit and I not only living in the same country, but living together, without anybody else. Part of me is a little worried that we’ve become too conventional.

Isn’t it interesting what we pin our identity to?

Oh my goodness. Packing and moving was hard. Not even because of what we had to do, but because we needed help to do it.

It is so difficult for me to accept help. My instinctive thought when anybody offers is to get angry and defensive – “Are you suggesting that I can’t do this on my own?”

I am capable… strong… independent… and yet, isn’t it wonderful that I have friends and family and partners willing to move boxes, drive back and forth to the tip, and clean mould off the walls?

I am learning to accept people’s generosity graciously, without guilt and without shame that I “need it”. It’s a lesson that is long overdue.

We’re currently in the middle of a three-week gap between tenancies. It has been challenging to be a long-term guest in somebody’s home because I like to be wholly self-sufficient, and I can’t do anything without asking where things are, or where I can put things, or asking for a lift to where I want to go. It’s been good for me, having to ask, and accepting generosity without knowing exactly when I can return the payment.

So here we are, and I feel like I’m on the brink of something. My next adventure.

There’s a lot of things that moving out of a house share means I can do: host dinner parties, invite people to stay for the weekend… make space for crafts and friends and family. More so than ever before, I’m drawn to the idea of family and community. I’m ready to invest in deeper relationships and more honest conversations.

Make it yourself! The pattern I used was Caramel: A Simple Blanketstyle Cardigan by Isabell Kraemer

Striped Cardigan

Waiting

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For a while now I’ve been making promises to myself that start with “After Grit comes back to the UK…” “After we move into our own place…” “After I finish this course…”

There’s always something, isn’t there? Aways something that means that we aren’t quite there yet, our life hasn’t properly started, we’re not ready stop planning and just enjoy.

When does the waiting end and our real life begin?

You know, that finished product of a life. When you can confidently say “I am THIS” instead of “I’m thinking about doing…”

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What if life isn’t the thing that happens at the end of it all?

What if life is the moments in between rushing about? The walk you take along the river when you’re tired of packing things into boxes. The food you share with your sister when something happens which means, for once, you’re in the same part of the country at the same time. The evening you spend at the cinema with friends, because you can’t study all the time (can you?).

Maybe, life is also the things you are doing to prepare. The weights you lift, the miles you run, the assignments you write to get that certificate on the wall. You know, the one which gives you permission to put yourself forward for the work you want to do.

Maybe life is packing boxes, signing tenancy agreements, and counting down the nights you continue to sleep alone.

What if this is it?

Does that mean that I can stop waiting?

Waiting

Some Things That Are New

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1. Letting my hair go curly. Since I’ve discovered Revlon All in One Dry Shampoo, I’ve changed the way I’ve styled my hair. Not washing it every day has meant not blow drying it every day, which in turn has meant it never stays straight. Rather than fight this with even more use of the ghd’s, I’m actually enjoying the wavier look. Which, after a decade of straightening my hair almost every day, is pleasantly surprising. Yay for not hating my hair.

leggings

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2. I have given into my urge to wear ridiculous leggings. I’m still not 100% sure how to style them outside of the gym (send me your ideas please!) and still paranoid about camel toe (yay for Primark’s long t-shirts), but I’m having too much fun to stop.

3. Staying up late. I used to be paranoid about getting less than eight hours sleep a night. But I had a couple of accidental late nights paired with early mornings, and discovered that nothing bad happened. In fact, my energy levels on 5 or 6 hours sleep aren’t much different to my energy levels when I get 8 or 9 or 10. It’s pretty liberating, and it means I’ve been saying yes to more evening social invitations.

4. I’ve been making a conscious effort to not apologise or get defensive when talking to someone about how I feel. It’s really hard. I think women in particular are socialised into starting sentences with “I’m really sorry but…” or “I just think…”. At the moment this means that Grit is helping me compose a lot of my text messages, because I cannot be trusted not to add in a “sorry” or “this is probably my fault” at the end of anything important.

Some Things That Are New

Twenty Nine

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When I was about 12, a teacher asked if I could help her out by cutting some card in half. I can’t remember what they were or what it was for, only that she gave me a stack of A4 sheets and a pair of scissors, and asked me to cut down the centre of each. To save time, I put a few sheets together and cut through them all.

Only once I cut through the last few did I see that there was somebody’s certificate at the bottom of the pile. I felt sick, and I hid the certificate deep in the back of a cupboard. When the teacher asked if anybody had seen it, I put my head down and pretended to write.Admitting that I had made a mistake felt like the worst thing I could ever do.

Admitting that I had made a mistake felt like the worst thing I could ever do.

*

When I was a child, the adults in my life thought I could do no wrong. Although this was in some ways a blessing, it was also a curse, because I’ve grown up being terrified of telling people anything I don’t think they want to hear.

When people meet me, they like me. My greatest fear is that by telling the truth people won’t like me anymore.

In theory, I know that I don’t want people in my life who don’t love me for who I am. In practice, I physically cannot make words come out of my mouth that might change somebody’s opinion of me.

I’ve lost count of the number of boys I’ve kissed because it seemed less awkward than admitting that I wasn’t attracted to them. Or the number of films and TV shows I’ve watched with people despite not being interested at all.

I ran away to get married, and only told my closest family via email that I had.

I didn’t even tell my husband when I was getting my first tattoo, and I hid it from my parents for at least a month.

Sometimes I get so caught up in trying to please people that I don’t even remember what is and what isn’t a lie.

*

Truth is a funny thing anyway. Some days something might be true, but it soon ceases to be as we learn new things and change our minds.

Today is my twenty-ninth birthday. This is what is true for me today.

My name is Kate or Katie depending on whether we’re related or when you met me. My favourite things to wear are pyjamas and a hoody. I used to be vegetarian and then I wasn’t.

The first time I kissed a girl was because I was drunk and mad at my boyfriend. But her lips were soft and she was beautiful and I can still remember what it felt like to hold her hips in my hands. I suppose it was an awakening of sorts.

These days I identify as queer, and sometimes as polyamorous (the rest of the time I think that polyamory is a choice, and not an identity). I sometimes go on dates with people who aren’t my husband. Sometimes I become friends with his partners, and sometimes I don’t. In August, he and I are going on holiday with our girlfriend. I’m too scared to talk to my parents about this.

I’ll never stop listening to punk rock from the early 2000s. I eat omelettes topped with jam or a banana. I sleep on a different side of the bed depending on who I’m sharing it with.

When I was an artist’s model I wasn’t really doing it for the money. I enjoyed being naked in a room full of strangers.

I agree with my Mum when she asks me not to get any more tattoos while simultaneously planning the next one. I don’t know how I can explain how with every piece of ink I feel more at home in my body, and how blank skin is just a canvas waiting to be filled.

I like putting on makeup, and drinking sweet flavoured (non dairy) lattes from high street coffee chains. I’m usually thinking about clothing combinations, or something I want to knit or crochet.

I love my job, and I feel lucky that I’ve found an organisation that lets me be me.

I worry that I never got over my eating disorder, just replaced sticking my fingers down my throat with going to the gym.

Actually, I worry about a lot of things.

I feel guilty that my Mum is a full-time carer and I’m not able to help her. I don’t think I spend enough time with any of my family. When I do see them, I always feel like crying when I’m driving away.

I’ve accepted that depression and anxiety will always be part of my life but I think I’m getting better at managing my moods.

I want to have children but I worry about ruining their lives.

I have a compulsion to take off my shoes and paddle in every bit of water I see. I believe that ice-cream tastes better when it’s in a cone. I will walk for up to two hours to avoid taking a bus.

I have a small number of close friends who mean the world to me.

Twenty Nine

This Post Looks Like Crap, but it’s OK to be a Beginner.

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Let’s all pretend you can’t see the selfie stick, shall we? Ok, good.

For about as long as they’ve existed, I’ve secretly wanted my own fashion blog.

At first, I assumed I couldn’t have one because I looked all wrong. Because you can only put pictures of yourself on the internet if you’re tall and your hair doesn’t all stick up at odd angles.

And then, I couldn’t have one because it was a bit silly really. Grown up women who want to be Charity CEOs shouldn’t be interested in fashion. I needed to write about serious things like politics and the environment.

And then, well, I got trapped in a shitty relationship where my boyfriend basically told me that every idea I had was a stupid one. Oh, and I believed him. So that’s two years of my life I won’t get back.

And then I got all hot and bothered about personal branding. I couldn’t possibly talk about clothes AND mental health AND crafts AND feminism. I needed to find my niche, this is important.

Ha. Now I’ve decided that my personal brand is talking about what the hell I like (and yes I’m sorry if you’re that friend who gets to hear about unicorn horn butt plugs).

And finally, I couldn’t do it because I don’t have a good camera, or an uncluttered space with good light in which to take photos. Basically, I didn’t want to do it if it was going to look like crap.

Well, you know what? Whenever we start something new it’s going to look like crap. Seriously, you should see my first few attempts at a granny square.But if we only did things we were already good at, we wouldn’t do anything at all.

But if we only did things we were already good at, we wouldn’t do anything at all.

So welcome to my first crap outfit post. I hope you enjoyed it.

*

OH YEAH. Clothes.

The jeans. I bought these at GAP in Cheltenham sometime around Christmas 2015. I know this because I remember Danee was sending me twitter messages trying to get me in the festive spirit, and I was reading them while waiting to pay.

The t-shirt. I love long shapeless t-shirts. This one is from H&M. It might still be in the shop, because I bought it this year. I actually went in for gym shorts, but I couldn’t resist this colour.

The jacket. Originally from Primark, I picked this up in a charity shop in the weird little onion celebrating town I grew up in.

The necklace. The owl was once on an earring, one of a pair bought for me by a boy in a market somewhere in rural Warwickshire. I lost one of the earrings but I liked the owl (much more than the boy in fact), so I bought some chain from this amazing shop, and made it into a necklace.

The Earrings. I bought these from Exclusive Roots in Oxford. I wear them approximately 92% of the time that I’m not sleeping.

 

This Post Looks Like Crap, but it’s OK to be a Beginner.

Dating With a Side of Casual Misogyny

Here are some messages I have had recently, from various (straight, white, cisgendered) men, when I expressed my desire to be treated like a person with feelings.

“If you’re married I can only assume you aren’t looking for a boyfriend. If you’re not looking for a boyfriend then what exactly are you looking for? If you’re looking for friends then you chose the wrong app because I’m single and want to go on dates with women who are interested in a bit more than friendship… should go without saying really.”

“I’m confused. What do you want?”

“I guess I should have known this would be too complicated to figure out when I saw that you were married. Well, we live and learn.”

“What exactly are you looking for?”

And here are some questions that I have.

Do you always know what you’re looking for?

If I don’t make up my mind about somebody right away, why am I accused of being a cocktease or wasting your time?

If I was single, would I be such a tease for not being able to tell you exactly what I want? Or would I be being “too keen” or “too slutty” if I did?

Is it not worth the effort to be nice to me or get to know me because I already “belong” to another man?

Why don’t I deserve compassion and empathy?

What’s wrong with having those things in a relationship that you know isn’t going to end in marriage?

Why should it matter where a relationship is going? Can’t you give this moment your best self?

Do we have to have either friendship or a sexual relationship, and not both?

If so, why is friendship the consolation prize?

I get it guys, it’s not a problem with you, it’s a problem with the system. But can y’all just try to, you know, fight that caveman instinct and not be such a fuckboy?

Read more of this comic!

Also, follow Angie on Instagram so you can see wonderful comics about polyamory as soon as she’s finished them.

Dating With a Side of Casual Misogyny