Last night my friend sent me a message to ask how the next blog is coming along because he was looking forward to reading it…and then said…
I’ve toyed with the idea of blogging for years and when I decided to bite the bullet and give it a go, I had no idea how well or how badly it could go down.
Last weekend after writing all about life on a psychiatric ward I said thank you to my parents-in-law for all their support with this venture. I am massively grateful to them for their acceptance and for never being embarrassed by the fact their daughter-in-law airs her dirty laundry on the internet for all to see. I know many other people would be thinking if I was to share anything in public then they would rather it be make-up tips on YouTube.
I’ve always felt like a really boring person who hasn’t achieved much or seen much. I have said this countless times about people thinking I was a peculiar child, an alternative teenager and just plain weird as an adult (and you can take Bernard out of this equation, he does not get credit for any part of this blog) but this isn’t the space for pity because I’m not feeling sorry for myself right now.
I keep pointing out that I’m weird, but the question is…
What’s your definition of weird? How do you measure it? Who even decides what is acceptable behaviour in the world and what isn’t? Well I can’t answer any of those questions, but I can tell you a little bit about me and maybe by the end of this piece, you can tell me what you think.
When I was a child I was given a packet of jelly babies but where most people would eat them, I didn’t; I played with them. I mean come on, they have arms, legs and a face, they’re practically people so I treated them the same way I would my dolls.
To me that’s common sense, it’s up to you what you make of it. This is the whole point of this piece; its about opinion, its about how we interpret the behaviour of others and how we categorise it. To me those jelly babies were no longer just a packet of sweets, they were people they were characters, but it was the people around me who decided if tucking them into a Sylvanian Families bed in their imaginary house was weird or not.
Growing up we had a dog, Stavros. I remember taking him for walks with my mum and brother, there was a field at the back of our house that was a dumping ground for old bikes and broken wood and one particular day I found an abandoned Christmas tree. On the spot, I adopted this tree and I named him “Presents”. At the end of every walk I would hide this tree in a safe place so that on my return we would be reunited. I have no idea how long I kept this going but it was a considerable amount of time and I do remember the day we took the dog for a walk and Presents was gone. I searched high and low for that dead, flaky, old Christmas tree and I was devastated when I came to realise that Presents was no more. Now I’m not 100% sure that what I’ve written here is the absolute truth but this is what I remember and as I write this I am cringing so badly I can feel my spine clicking. I imagine my family were mortified to have a child and a sibling who had an attachment to a dead tree but at the end of the day I wasn’t hurting anyone. The only person who was hurt by Presents’ disappearance was me.
I had an imaginary friend, Rupert. I told people he was based on Rupert the Bear, but what my family never knew was the Rupert in my head wasn’t a bear at all. He was a boy who was the same age as me, a boy who understood me and liked playing house with jelly babies.
I convinced everyone around me that Rupert the bear was my imaginary friend because that way I would appear less weird because the bear was an existing character created by a real person and that made having an imaginary friend much more acceptable. Doing it this way meant that I could keep my version of Rupert private; I wouldn’t get frowned upon because I was just a creative child who liked Rupert the Bear, but on the flip side I was doing myself an injustice. By dulling down my imaginary friend to keep him safe made me feel…
“People will think I am the worst storyteller. I can’t even make up my own imaginary friend…”
…but having that secrecy and privacy with my friend Rupert fuelled my imagination and when I look back on my creative life since that time, I really do believe that it gave me the ability to create the characters I’ve written into so many of my stories over the years. Is that weird? Or is it clever?
I think anyone who has known me for any amount of time would say that I have a complex mind (again, nothing to do with Bernard). It’s easy to say I’m an “over thinker” but I think that puts a negative spin on it and over thinking is not necessarily a bad thing. Neither is curiosity.
I think I’ve used this before but it’s a good example so just go with it…
When Americans hail a taxi in the street they shout…
…yet in conversation they call them cabs. Why not just shout…
When people kiss why do we close our eyes? Surely we like the person we’re kissing so why don’t we open our eyes to look at them?
Why do we rely on magazines and the media to tell us what we should be wearing? It’s all very well picking out oversized shoulder pad boyfriend jackets, folk inspired coats and fringing on bags but who gave who the power to say that’s what we should be wearing. And if it is what we should be wearing, then why are there so many different styles of clothing for the non-fashionistas to wear?
Who convinced the world that One Direction were the best boyband to grace the X-Factor – because they didn’t even win.
Who came up with the idea that weddings need to have a theme and a colour scheme because I made a point that my half of my wedding was not going to follow that pattern. I had knitted flowers and multi-coloured chair covers. Everyone had a knitted buttonhole as they entered the room. I sent my bridesmaids down the aisle first and all four of them had different dresses of their own choice because every single one of them is a completely different person with different personalities and to put them in the same dress would be asking them to change just for me. One of my bridesmaids has tattoos and she asked me if I wanted her to cover them for the photos. I said…
“No, because it would be like telling you to cover part of your soul.”
I had a drag queen perform at my wedding; she was beautiful but over 50% of my guests left the room because they didn’t approve. I thrust my friend into the limelight and asked her to do a reading, she said…
“What should I read?”
“Whatever you want, make something up…”
And she wrote the most beautiful speech I could have asked for.
For my witness to sign the certificate I didn’t ask any of my bridesmaids, I asked a male friend (by the book it’s always a female) who I’ve known for twenty years and I wanted him to be part of my day.
All of this might seem weird, but is it? That day I wanted everyone who had given up their time to see me get married to enjoy the day. I wanted them to feel relaxed and look around them and think…
“Yep, this is definitely Kat, and Matt, but mostly Kat”
Who does it hurt not to play by the rules?
At primary school a teacher told us the story of Mary and Joseph and the birth of Jesus. I remember being horrified that Mary was having a child by another man and I wanted to know why Joseph wasn’t really ticked off with his wife for cheating on him and then spinning this tall tale that she had been chosen to have a special baby with an invisible man. I could see she was completely dumbfounded by my question and I do kind of feel sorry for her because what on earth do you say to an eight year old kid when no one knows the answer? But you can’t tell these stories and expect everyone to just accept them; not when some of them are so incredibly spectacular.
On holiday in Greece one year, I stood in the sea and willed it to part for me like it had for Moses; I would stare intensely at rocks searching for ten new commandments so I would be famous. I wanted to be a nun because I liked the outfit and I would prance around the house in my dad’s dressing gown because it was black, I would wear a white pillow case over my head and I’d pretend I was married to God because from a really young age I never saw a future with a man because I was too strange.
At secondary school when we had to start thinking about our future and our careers I remember going to the careers room; which was a tiny old thing buried in the basement of the school and I would always whisper because it felt like a library. There was a book like a catalogue with a list of careers for us to choose from and I remember saying to the careers officer…
“I don’t need the book, I already know what I want to be; I want to be a psychiatrist.”
Ironic really isn’t it? That about 6 years after this I found myself sitting in front of a psychiatrist instead of actually being one.
Prior to this I wanted to be a podiatrist so in year 10 I did a week of my work experience following around a podiatrist. I saw an unbelievable amount of feet. They were crooked, bony, crusty and a few of them whiffed a bit, but it didn’t matter, because I didn’t plan on looking after the feet of the average Joe, nah, my sights were set on the guys in the bands I loved.
I self-medicated with their music. I read whatever I wanted into the lyrics of their songs and I convinced myself that because they were standing on stage an awful lot, they would require help to look after their feet.
I dreamt that they would take me on tour with them as their personal podiatrist and I didn’t for one single second think that this wasn’t possible. My friends laughed, my family smiled through gritted teeth at another one of my hair brained ideas but I just wanted to make a difference, why was that so hard to accept?
In 2002 I did my first Edinburgh Fringe Festival, man I love that place, I loved it so much I did two more of them. During my first one I’d written a play and I walked around the city with a copy of it in my bag. I watched play after play after play and I was totally transfixed with the atmosphere in the city and I somehow told myself that a director would find me and find my play and want to cast it, direct it and make it soar above all of the hundreds of plays that had taken months and years to perfect, but mine would be so well received because of its powerful message and it would win the prestigious Fringe 1st award.
Well it’s obvious that didn’t happen because I was too shy to show it to anyone. I was surrounded by talented people who were beautiful and gifted and I was just a box office assistant who got star struck when Alan Davies walked in with Paul Merton and bought tickets for a drag show whose best asset was the micro pig she brought on stage at the end; but truthfully? That was the best job I’ve ever had. For the first time ever people didn’t think I was strange and if they did they didn’t mind.
As I’ve got older and next year I will be the dreaded 40, I can look at myself and I think…
“Yep, I can see why people think I’m weird.”
You can blame the bipolar but I was strange long before Bernard came along, I mean look at me; I’ve given my mental illness a name! I refer to my stoma as her and she! I give inanimate objects personalities and last year the most exciting thing about getting house insurance was getting a limited edition Meerkat toy that I won’t share with any of my nieces or nephews (sorry guys).
When a child names their favourite toy we think it’s cute. My niece has names for all of her toys and I guarantee if they weren’t named we would find that strange; but, as far as I’m aware as we grow older we we’re never told at any point to stop doing that? So if you don’t name the plants in your garden or the bike that you ride to work every day, then maybe it’s you who’s the weird one; have you ever thought about it that way?
Life should not be dictated by the clothes we wear and we should be allowed to ask questions regardless of it raising an eyebrow over every religious belief we’ve had since the dawn of time because everyone wants the world to make sense somehow – even if it means challenging something sacred.
Kids should be allowed to have imaginary friends and not be judged, that imaginary friend is salvation, they’re company, they’re a loyal companion. That fictionalised creation is a sign of creative intelligence and you’ll never know why they’ve been created because you will never hear them speak.
When I did my speaker training Richard McCann called me quirky. I’d never been called that before. I guess it’s a more acceptable term for weird and I say in all of my presentations that I embrace my quirky side and I am not shy of being a bit strange these days because I have never tried to change, so I ask myself, why change the term?
Throughout my teens when I thought it was a bad thing to be different and weird was something no one should ever flaunt, I would wonder what was it about me that made me stand out from other kids? Why didn’t I just eat the jelly babies? Why didn’t I break the branches off the dead Christmas tree and throw them for the dog to fetch?
Perhaps it’s because…
- I wanted to be a nun because I liked the outfit.
- I practically plagiarized my imaginary friend to keep my imagination safe.
- I wanted to be a podiatrist so I could perve on the feet of singers.
- And I thought if the sea could part of Moses, then the sea could part for me.
That’s just the beginning. This is just a taster of who I used to be and who I still and I am not hurt if people think I’m a weirdo because does it really matter? Does it not make me who I am and prove that I am not defined by Bernard because most of this happened before Bernard ever made an appearance.
I will hold my hand up right now and I will say I am thankful for my over thinking, overactive and over imaginative imagination because if there is one thing that’s for certain…
…that, is what makes me weird…
Dedicated to my parents-in-law, for being proud of me when they don’t have to.