Negging is best described as a very specific type of pick-up, where the initiator will prey on the victim’s sense of self-worth –or lack thereof- in order to lower the victim’s expectations accordingly and settle for whatever they’re made to believe they can get.

This is a fairly vicious explanation, but in my opinion, it’s a fairly vicious tactic. It’s become incredibly prevalent since Neil Strauss published his rag “The Game” back in 2005.

I feel particularly vehement about it, because it seems to be the ploy most frequently used by men when attempting to get me into bed. I’d like to say I have no idea why (and on some level that’s true, but only because I have no idea why anyone would be so deliberately horrible in the first place) but the facts are these: I’m attractive enough that a guy in a pinch would sleep with me, but unattractive enough that they’re certain I’ll have low self-esteem.

They aren’t wrong, per se, but thankfully for me, as low as my self-worth can sometimes plummet, my sense of pride is fucking indomitable. I’m perfectly happy to have casual sex, but not with someone who wants me to believe they’re doing me a favour.

My most recent experience of negging was this weekend just past, when I was having a quiet drink by myself in my local pub. I was ensconced in a comfy chair, tucked away in a quiet corner, glass of wine in one hand, book in the other. I should imagine that to the casual onlooker I appeared quite content, and very clearly occupied.

One man, however, seemed to think otherwise, and despite the many empty tables and chairs in the bar, plonked himself and his pint down at my table without a single word. I jumped a little (a remnant of relationships past, I’m afraid) and glanced up at him in surprise. I don’t think he saw me look up, and as there was no eye-contact made before I quickly hid behind my book again, I decided it was safest to ignore his presence entirely. I hoped he would do likewise, but it wasn’t to be.

“I don’t understand why women put all that black around their eyes like that,” he said loudly. “You’d be so pretty without it!”

Clever, isn’t it? Nasty, but you have to give it to them; it’s clever. The subtle emotional manipulation behind those few words, undermining my confidence with a backhanded compliment so that I’ll try to seek his approval. It almost worked, I won’t lie. It tugged at some part of me that was ready to explain away my makeup choices, to placate him with excuses in order to win some favour. But in half a breath, the urge was gone.

I nodded once, slowly, then looked back at my book again. I was very conscious of the fact that most responses would be seen as encouragement, and the fact that I’d read the same paragraph at least four times without taking any of it in.

“Why do you do it?” he pressed, apparently unperturbed.

“I like it,” I said. I didn’t look up. I kept my voice flat. I wanted him to leave, but I was too afraid to say so.

He scoffed, but said nothing further, and I read the same paragraph for a fifth time with a level of concentration I generally only reserve for feats of mathematics.

There was a heavy silence that followed. I hoped he understood my disinterest and that he would leave soon, but once again, I was disappointed.

“I don’t like pink wine.”

I looked at the glass in my hand rather than at him, but felt myself tense up as he pulled his seat closer to mine.

“It tastes like paint-stripper,” he continued. “It’s a frilly drink.”

Some small corner of my mind wanted to ask him how paint-stripper was a frilly drink, but then he moved his leg so it was touching mine. I jumped back from him immediately and felt my face go red as I looked up at him. A combination of panic, anger, and years of bickering with my little sister supplied my brain immediately with, “Your face is paint-stripper!” but thankfully I ignored the urge and instead went with: “Well it’s a good thing you’re not drinking it, then!”

“Don’t be that way,” he wheedled, smiling at me despite my clear discomfort. “I’m just being friendly.”

For a split second, I felt guilty for my reaction. Was he just being friendly? Was I overreacting? But no. No. I didn’t seek or encourage his attention –his so-called friendliness- and I certainly hadn’t given him any reason to persist. A friendly person, whatever their gender, would have asked if I’d minded them sitting there in the first place (to which I’d have likely replied “Go ahead” and smiled at them) rather than helping themselves to my time and my space. They certainly wouldn’t have opened the conversation by criticizing the way I looked.

No. This was another ploy, often used socially to coerce someone into submission. It’s designed to shift the blame, to make you question your emotional response, and to make you seem like the rude or over-sensitive party. Naturally submissive I may be, but necessity has taught me how to keep myself safe despite that.

“I’m reading,” I told him, making certain to hold his gaze as I did so. I wanted to make sure he understood, and I saw the exact moment he realised I wasn’t going to budge.

“Fine,” he sneered, sitting back in his chair at last. “But I was just trying to help. When you don’t care what people think of you like that, it throws up a red flag to guys like me.”

I wanted to tell him I didn’t want his help, and I certainly hadn’t asked for it. I wanted to tell him to take his sanctimonious nonsense and stick it up his arse. I wanted to get the hell out of there as fast as I could so that I’d stop feeling nauseated and my heart would slow down again.

I didn’t do any of the above, and instead, I returned to my book without a word.

He stood abruptly, snatched up his pint, and left with the parting shot “Bitch” tossed over his shoulder, loud enough that people on other tables quietened, and the man behind the bar look across in clear concern.

I tried to reassure him with a smile, but I imagine at this point my discomposure was beyond hiding. I was incredibly anxious, my pulse roaring, my chest tight, and sweat prickling my forehead and up the back of my neck. I was shaking fairly violently, too. I wanted to leave, but the man had sat right up by the exit, and I didn’t want him to follow me out.

The barman came over and asked me if I was okay. I motioned to the man who had cornered me and said I wanted to leave. The barman nodded his understanding, pointed to a fire exit out of sight, and told me I could go that way. I thanked him quietly, not wanting to draw attention, and I left safely.

When I went back into the same pub a few days later with a friend, the barman recognised me and asked what had happened. I told him, and he said he unfortunately saw things like that all the time. He was very kind, and told me in future he’d keep an eye out, but also cautioned me that perhaps I shouldn’t come in by myself.

But why? How is that fair? Why should I not be able to come out to have a drink and read a book by myself without fearing harassment? And it is harassment. He invaded my space, my time, and my peace of mind. He deliberately tried to break me down and intimidate me to get his way.

Worse still, the next morning I woke up to find my social media full of finger-pointing and cries of “women should be more obvious” when they’re uninterested. But look what happens. Look what happens when we (and I’m sure it happens to men and gender-fluid people, too) refuse someone’s advances. We’re cornered, we’re bullied, and then told we ought not to leave our homes alone for fear of what could happen.

I don’t know, it just seems so wrong to me. I didn’t do anything to encourage this stranger, but I still came out of it badly somehow. I don’t know what the answer is, except perhaps to toughen up. But should I really have to do that just to go sit in a quiet pub by myself? Should any of us?


The Issue of Consent

I am what my therapist frequently refers to as a people-pleaser. It’s a pretty self-explanatory term, but the long and short of it is that I struggle to set boundaries for myself. Sometimes people make the mistake of thinking that this trait in me means that I don’t know how to say no, but that’s not the case; I do know how to say no, but past experiences and trauma have taught me that my refusal will almost always be met with hostility, disdain, and even violence.

Today on Twitter I watched as people argued back and forth about issues of consent. I’ve made it sound trivial. Let me be clear right now and say that this isn’t a trivial matter, not to me nor to many others.

Not for the first time I saw blame laid at the door of victims in the guise of “Just Say No” and the idea that people should be more vocal about their lack of consent. Well, I thought I’d take the time for those people who apparently don’t seem to understand basic social nuances to clarify what consent is, and most importantly, what consent is not.

First of all, no means no. No means no. My three-year-old nephew understands this, so fully grown adults have absolutely no excuse. If someone is brave enough to give you a flat refusal, you ought to respect that. And believe me, it is bravery, because people-pleaser or not, we’re all frightened, and that alone should horrify, not offend you.

“Mixed signals” is something I saw thrown about a lot this morning. I can tell you with absolute certainty, a mixed signal is not consent. At best it’s a maybe, which should be met with patience and respect, not coercion. A maybe is not a yes. It’s a maybe. It’s far closer to a no than a yes.

One act of sexual intimacy is not consent for another. A kiss is not consent for a blowjob. A blowjob is not consent for intercourse. We’re people too, you know. Sometimes things move too quickly and we need time to evaluate the situation before we are comfortable moving further. Sometimes we just want to stop.

A smile is not consent. I smile at people without thinking, because I’m being polite. It’s not an invitation for sex. Shockingly.

Do you want to know what consent is? It’s a yes. A flat yes. Without a shadow of a doubt yes. And if you’re not sure? Ask. Ask! Do it for yourself as much as for your partner, but please, just ask the question. Can I kiss you? Is this okay? May I…?

And for those people throwing their toys out of the pram and saying it takes away from the passion of the moment, just you sit your ass down and listen: If you honestly believe that talking to your sexual partner, whispering into their mouth, moaning against their skin what you want to do to them, and making them beg for you, making them say how badly they want you, is passionless? Lordy. You are missing out.

Consent is sexy. Communication is sexy. Both of you having fun is fucking sexy.

But you know this. You all know this, really. I’m not saying anything revolutionary over here. We were all socialised the same way as my three-year-old nephew, who understands when he isn’t allowed something, and that no amount of screaming and crying and being cross will help him get it.

It just seems like some people think the rules don’t apply to them anymore, and that is the real issue here.

Book Review: “Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth” by Warsan Shire

Title: Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth

Author: Warsan Shire

Genre: Contemporary Poetry

Rating: 5/5


Warsan Shire is one of those contemporary poets whose work I’m familiar with, but have never actually bought any of her work. I feel like it might be the same for a lot of people, because I can’t imagine anyone who has spent any length of time on the internet hasn’t ever read at least a few lines of “For Women Who Are Difficult To Love”. It seems like parts of it are quoted on some facebook status every other week, like it pops up on twitter every so often, and is featured on basically every pinterest board I follow; sometimes credited, though often not.

Within the poetry community, of course, she is known. Perhaps not to the extent of other contemporary masters such as Nikita Gill or Rupi Kaur, but enough that I’ve been forcibly told I should hurry up and read her work, already.

Read it I did, and now I can see why so many people admire her so much. It’s true that I knew she’d written at least one poem I loved and thought was genius, but really, that doesn’t mean a great deal. I’ve written at least one good poem that people loved, but that doesn’t mean all of my work is good. Warsan Shire, however, is incredibly skilled with the written word, and to my (admittedly limited) knowledge, has yet to share a bad composition.

All of her work is punchy, crisp, and while not always “relatable”, written in such a manner that you can feel the tragedy and heartbreak as though it were. That’s a hard thing to do, especially in the medium of a poem. The kind of poetry I enjoy most to read is clever and concise –oh, I like Burns and Byron well enough, but it’s flowery and a little frivolous, and it’s lovely, really, but just not my cup of soup.

Warsen Shire’s “Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth” is very much women’s poetry, and while I’m sure there are plenty of men who do and would enjoy it, I feel like the subject matter might not strike them in quite the same way. There were several points where I felt my eyes swimming a little, particularly “Your Mother’s First Kiss” and “The Kitchen”, but the one that hit me hardest was the very last one, “In Love and In War”.

It’s a very short collection, but that by no means diminishes its contents. In actual fact, I’d almost say its brevity lends itself to the overall tone and style of the book.

As I said previously: Clever and concise. Full marks on all counts. Can’t wait to read more from her!

Musing on Project Potential

I found the allen key for my desk chair, so now that sitting here is no longer a (quite literal) pain in my backside, I’ve been thinking about my writing projects for 2018.

I know some of you still linger here hoping for word of my fantasy series, The Redwood War, but just between us and the rest of the internet, I don’t have any motivation to work on it. I’m not saying it will remain unfinished forever; occasionally I get the itch to visit with Naomi and Arun and write a few pages. Still, it isn’t and hasn’t been my main squeeze for some time now.

The real issue is that I just can’t bring myself to write romance at the moment. I’ve always written romance, it’s been my bread and butter since my fanfiction days, but the last year or so I feel like I can’t do anything sincere with the genre. And let’s be frank, there’s plenty of insincere romance novels out there. I certainly don’t want to add to it.

I have been reading more, and of course, writing book reviews. I feel like I let this habit slip the last year, too. Again, though, as much as I’ve always written romance, I’ve always read it as well, and well… I’m just not in love with the notion of romance these days, I suppose.

The question is, where does that leave me? For most of last year, it left me in a weird sort of limbo. I kept trying to write as I always had, but not much came out. My poetry is ongoing, as always, but it’s something I write as and when the mood takes me, and those of you who’ve read it (all five of you) will know it’s all really quite sad, miserable fare. I don’t mind that, but I can’t make it a focus. I don’t want to be that “tortured poet” type, sobbing into my coffee and wearing a plaid shirt and a beanie. I like glitter too much.

No. I need something new. Something contemporary. Something humorous. Most importantly, something honest.

I do have an idea, but it’s something I’d have to handle with a great deal of care and emotional intelligence. I’d like to think these are both things I’m fairly good at, but still, it makes me a little nervous anyway. For now, I’m going to play it close to my chest, but there’s a spark of a story, guys. There’s something happening, and maybe with a little more time and thought, who knows? I might even write a first sentence.

Book Review: “What Comes From the Earth” by Kris Holt

Title: What Comes From the Earth

Author: Kris Holt

Genre: Political Thriller

Rating: 4/5


Kris Holt is not a new writer on my radar, if I’m honest. We’ve been mutuals on Twitter for a little over two years now, and in that time I’ve read a fair handful of his articles and always admired his use of language. Suffice to say, I’m a little ashamed that it’s taken me this long to pick up one of his novels, certainty of enjoyment notwithstanding.

What Comes From the Earth is an engaging read, a story that moves quickly and easily forward, and characters so alive you can practically hear them breathing between the pages. The protagonist, Sithi, is immediately relatable and sympathetic. His plight throughout the story only adds more personal tension for the reader as he sinks deeper and deeper into the dark intrigue and violence surrounding him. His reactions are very human, despite being often wrong or cowardly, and in that I think he makes a very excellent protagonist. He’s far from infallible, and I always appreciate that.

The side characters were all equally as impressive in their range and realism, particularly Ade and Baako, but more than these –excellent as they were- I’d like to specifically make mention of Boipelo. My concern for her came from a place of experience in the land of books, as her brief, early appearances lay a large question mark in my mind as to her role in the story. She is what you might consider at first glance the typical damsel in distress; a beautiful, strong, wilful female character surrounded by pages and pages of men. I groaned inwardly at the potential for her to suffer great violence in order to further Sithi’s own narrative, and expected her fate to be that of a cowed and hog-tied prize for our hero at the end of the book.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that this wasn’t her fate at all, and in fact she was afforded great courtesy, humanity, and dignity as I rarely see male writers offer to the ladies in their work. Well done, Kris. Very well done!

The style of writing is very impressive, with the same sharp wit and momentum I have come to expect from the author, as well as a very lean and tight narrative. There isn’t a single scrap of fat in this story, nor any of the preening, self-indulgence that can often be all too frequent in this genre, and that alone makes it an incredibly enjoyable read.

Kris has successfully taken a very difficult setting and written it with grace and understanding, tackling themes of violence with respect, and pitted it against bright, cunning, and even brutal characters who, as a reader, I became incredibly invested in as the story progressed to its climax.

I enjoyed What Comes From the Earth immensely, and I’ll be certain to pick up more work by Kris Holt very soon!

New Year, 2018

It’s midday, January 1st 2018. Currently I’m sitting at my desk, trying to think of something poignant to write, but all I can think about is how uncomfortable my chair is (I put the legs on backwards when I built it, and now I can’t find the dang allen key), the half-eaten pastrami sandwich downstairs that may or may not make me feel better, the potential for coffee, and how utterly hungover I still am from last night.

Despite how tired, dehydrated, and slightly nauseated I feel right now, last night’s makeup smeared across my forearm from where I passed out face-down at 5am and wearing my Xmas pyjamas coupled with an oversized lumpy cardigan (it’s a look, okay) I feel fairly happy. Oh, there are things happening in my life right now -way over in the background- that are causing me pain, stress, and sadness, but overall? Overall I’m contented.

When I look back on where I was this time last year, there’s a very stark difference. I greeted 2017 with an early night, lots of crying, and followed up by going into work the next day to clean out the stockroom, just so I had something to do. The loneliness of it all was almost unbearable.

This year I was at a house party, surrounded by good, fun people, quite tipsy, ladders all up my tights from where we’d been playing twister, and stumbling along over the words to Auld Lang Syne because none of us were in sync. We all held hands and droned along like a classic herd of drunkards, and in that moment I wanted to cry a little bit for how much I’d always craved that sense of belonging, and to have finally found it.

I didn’t know most of the people in that room, and I was far too socially awkward to make much of an impression, but still I was welcomed with open arms. Even though I was a virtual stranger, I was treated with kindness, ushered forwards whenever I automatically found myself stepping out of the group just a little, and wished a happy new year by each of them as though I’d always known them.

Those I did know I haven’t known for long, but already I love them fiercely. They listen when I speak, they accept me and worry about me, and genuinely want me to grow and flourish in life. For the first time in a long while I feel at home. I feel accepted and appreciated. I feel more like Lorna than I have in a very, very long time. And what’s more? I feel like being Lorna is a perfectly lovely thing to be.

I don’t have any New Year’s Resolutions. I started writing this with the intention of setting myself a few, if I’m honest. Still, the more I reflect, the more I realise that all I want for 2018 is to finally get myself back out into the world again, and live life.

…And find an allen key so I can fix this dang chair.