July, 1998. It doesn’t really matter what the date was, because it was the whole of July and the whole of the previous three or four years too. Generally I’d be lying in the bed, staring at the ceiling, wrestling with our old friend insomnia. Sometimes I could fend him off with a combination of sleeping tablets, hay fever tablets, alcohol and wanton, meaningless masturbation but after so long that particular home remedy had all but lost its potency.
However, even if it had been working I think we’d have lost our fight that night, because insomnia brought a new weapon to the fight:
I must have heard it on the radio somewhere that day (Because we want to! Because we want to!), possibly at work, and the chorus lodged itself in my brain somewhere (Because we want to! Because we want to!). It didn’t matter how many euphemistic home remedies I tried (Because we want to! Because we want to!). It didn’t matter what tricks I tried to get to sleep (Because we want to! Because we want to!). It made no difference how tired I was (Because we want to! Because we want to!), which, after three or four years of constant insomnia (Because we want to! Because we want to!), could be described as ‘really very tired indeed’ and wouldn’t scratch the surface of how tired I was even on my best days (Because we want to! Because we want to!). Now as I lay there trying to sleep (Because we want to! Because we want to!), that inane refrain whirled round my head (Because we want to! Because we want to!) and the only thing that could stop it was concentrating very hard on something else instead (Because we want to! Because we want to!) which is obviously the very opposite of trying to go to sleep (Because we want to! Because we want to!) and only made the situation worse.
Because we want to! Because we want to!
There was no rest for my mind because as soon as I stopped concentrating, there Because we want to! Because we want to! was again and again, over and over, time and time again.
The day after I listened to the song on purpose and it went away. And that night I enjoyed a blissful regular night’s insomnia.
I don’t know if it’s linked at all, but in the last few months as I’ve experienced fresh mental health issues I’ve seen something similar happen. This time, it’s nothing to do with Billie and her nursery rhyme pop songs featuring videos of alien spaceships (foreshadowing much?), it’s seemingly innocuous things linked to my appearance.
I would become utterly fixated on an idea. As with the song, every time my mind was at rest these ideas would come back, and I’d be forced to keep going over them, like a loose tooth you can’t stop waggling or an ex that you can’t stop sleeping with.
Male leggings was one of the first such ideas to arrest my consciousness. It might have started out innocently, just wondering why men didn’t wear them. I Googled, “why don’t men wear leggings?” and thankfully the Daily Mail told me it wasn’t my decision – “Men in tights: Would you let your man wear male leggings?” – where I learned the important fashion tip that “ruching helps prevent [leggings] becoming too feminine”. None of my male friends wore leggings. Some wore tights for things like running and cycling, but they’re called tights and not leggings and are worn for Clearly Identified Manly Activities and thus are Completely Different. I wondered why we had to call them ‘meggings’ (a stupid portmanteau of men’s leggings) when the equivalent were not called ‘weggings’. I looked at pics of men wearing them on Pinterest, I kept an eye out for men wearing them around Brighton, I looked for them in shops. In short, I obsessed over the idea.
And then I bought some off Asos for a tenner and the idea lost potency. Just went. I wore the ones I bought, I liked them, I bought another pair (then I bought some women’s tights from Converse and some black leggings from Stradivarius, but that’s a different obsession.), and I stopped obsessing about them.
Luckily my brain, being so worried that I wouldn’t enjoy my new-found ability to sleep or concentrate at work, found new obsessions – things like trying makeup, getting a makeover, removing all my body hair, wearing skirts, painting my nails, leaving the house without mascara and buying a sewing machine; all just normal everyday obsessions for someone in the middle of losing their mind.
Partly I’m in the middle of exploring my own gender identity now that my therapy has really opened up my ability to do so, but also a large part of what I’m doing comes down to questioning the idiocy of some gender markers that we’ve set up for ourselves – things like whether men should be allowed to wear leggings. Call it a flaw in my personality but I can’t see a stupid idea, like gender identity, without wanting to ridicule it.
And then I hit on my genius idea. I’m pretty much set on doing these stupid things in the name of deconstructing gender identity to help with my own mental health; and there must be other people in my situation (i.e. non-binary and exploring what that means, because apparently late onset gender dysphoria is A Thing); so why don’t I blog about it and try to help anyone else experiencing similar things? I’m hoping that if anyone else comes across this blog and is experiencing something similar, reading about it and realising that they’re not alone might help.
I think it’s really easy to feel alone when you’re going through mental health issues, and it’s really easy to feel judged. But you don’t need to feel alone, you aren’t alone, and for the most part you aren’t going to be judged (it’s 2018, men wear makeup now!) and if you are, the problem is with that minority who do judge and it’s not on you.
I remember that to begin with I was too nervous even to buy male-marketed moisturiser in person and would order it from Amazon, sneaking the parcel into the toilet at work to open in case someone saw it. Eventually I did try walking down the makeup aisles in Superdrug, admittedly at speeds that would make The Flash gasp, but I survived and you will too. The first time I walked into a Bobbi Brown studio I prayed to God and Baby Jesus and Eric Cantona to please turn invisible, but I didn’t and someone in the shop spoke to me and she was really nice and couldn’t have been more helpful, something I survived and you will too.
Now, I’ll happily elbow 13 year old girls out of the way to get that last bottle of Essie Sheers To You that’s on 2-for-1 in Boots, and a while back I drove 20-odd miles out of my way just to pick up an original Urban Decay Naked palette because UD have stopped doing them and the only stock left is what’s in individual stores and I didn’t want to miss out on something that #iconic. I survived all these things because you know what? Gender identity is just some dumb, made-up shit that no-one really cares about in 2020.
Because gender is in itself a ‘quale’; a quality or property experienced by a person. Gender isn’t the same for everyone. It’s not going to be experienced in the same way by everyone, nor is it meant to be, and it’s okay to do gender in the way that suits you best because you’re the one living with it.
The same applies to sexuality. You can be a straight woman who flips over to the female side of Tinder when she doesn’t have a date that weekend, and you can be a straight man who loves giving blow jobs to other men. You Do You (TM).
Me, I’m endlessly curious about stuff, I’m prone to obsessing about things, and I’m just stupid enough to try them out and then tell the world about them after. And there’s a mission statement worth going with. Deconstructing gender, so you don’t have to.