Okay, so I’m a fan of promises and new starts and new projects; all the fresh fun bits that come before the hard work and fear kicks in. That’s why I make promises all the time, including that promise I made to stop hiding in Bogotá and actually do something with my life.
When the universe came together in an inexplicable way and I ended up on the radio, gossiping merrily about my idiosyncrasies in my own idiosyncratic way, it was my first step to admitting that, yes, well I do write this stuff, actually it’s my life’s work and yes, I am proud enough and brave enough to tell the world about it.
That led to a deluge of letters and emails for which even I was unprepared, so much so that I doggedly replied to all of them and was up the first night until 1am – ridiculous in a town where everyone knows you get up with the lark and really, you shouldn’t still be on the streets at 9pm because that will leave you heavy-eyed the next day,
Needless to say the locura continued (one lovely man even wrote and said listening to me reminded him of Pope Francisco. That’s an outstanding feat considering how many confessions I managed to pack into one 20-minute chat) The day of the Banana Skin Flip Flops party I was up at 5am. By the time I arrived at 5pm, I was shattered.
But there were so many lovely people to meet and so many friends there to support me that I ended up chatting, gossiping and swapping stories for hours. Somehow I forgot to eat (until my flatmate reminded me) and by the time I figured it was time for me to crawl home, it was 12.30am and I was only able to speak in harsh, croaky bursts.
One of the few people who didn’t manage to come to the party, nor find time to listen to the interview, was the Colombian I have been oh-so-vaguely dating. When I finally did manage to see him, I was so tired I looked like a ghost, what with my pale face and dark eyes and those 500 facebook friend requests I didn’t quite know how to deal with.
I was overwhelmed. He listened without sympathy.
“You know what?” I said finally, exasperated by the smirk on his face.
“Maybe I just need someone to look after me.”
He didn’t need to pause.
“Buy a dog,” he said.
Okay, so it’s funny. It’s funny until you remember that I had to re-arrange the shock on my face and gracefully exit the building before I could go home, all the while juggling my wounded pride and that internal anger that comes when we realise we’ve dropped our guard (in defence to the young man in question, while I would certainly never see him again, I appreciate that artistic people are difficult to be around. If we’re selfish, neurotic and self-involved when we’re struggling, we’re surely a hundred times worse when we’re actually doing well)
But those words – “Buy a dog,” – have stuck with me. Not so much because they reveal the character of the man who uttered them, but because I cannot believe I was the one who needed to hear them. Do I seriously need looking after?
As capitalism goes, I’m a lottery winner. I was born able and well into a white middle-class family in a fairly affluent nation. In fact, the only thing I possibly have to contend with is being a woman (hear me out) and that is even more reason not to confess your fears, particularly when they’re solely sparked by a swollen inbox and a busy cocktail party.
Women, as we know deep down, still have a huge battle to fight. According to Newsweek (a year-old article but I doubt life has changed much) women comprise around 16% of the workforce in almost every profession. Despite filling a third of MBA classes they comprise just two per cent of Fortune 500 CEOs, something like six per cent of top earners, eight per cent of top leadership positions etc. Politics is even worse – in the US when the article was printed (and remember they’re supposedly world leaders at this stuff) just nine of the 100 largest cities had female mayors and Senate and the House of Representatives was a mere 17% female. There were three female Supreme Court justices.
Last week’s Economist laments that women are more likely to quit their jobs because they feel undervalued; laments that even brilliant female entrepreneurs tend to start smaller businesses than men and, worse, laments that they struggle to attract the same level of investment from the “notoriously male dominated world” of venture capitalism.
If facebook had been invented by a woman, would it have even got off the ground?
Add together all this and throw in the fact that apparently women are against women, especially the genetically blessed ones, oh and the fact feminism supposedly never filtered down the social spectrum so those at the bottom are even worse off and I – a person openly fascinated by this stuff and a self-confessed feminist – seriously stood in front of a young man and said: “Hey, erm, would you mind awfully holding my hand through all this?”
God I am so embarrassed I almost went down to the Pet Shop District, bought the first Alsatian puppy I could find and set it on every man in a five mile radius.
I only calmed down when I realised it would be far better to tattoo the words BUY-A-DOG on my wrist so every time I’m tempted to show a grain of weakness I’ll remember the battle I’m supposed to be fighting, shut my mouth, jut out my chin and just get the hell on with it.
Because it turns out that if we are going to keep our promises and chase those dreams that give such important meaning to our lives, there really is only one person we can rely on. That would be ourselves. Oh and the tattoo artist. Assuming he can spell the word ‘dog’ correctly.
Like this? You’ll love Colombia a comedy of errors.