Teased For Being Me

My good friends tease me for being a combination of three movie characters: 

I thought I would work on a few posts explaining this. I am not exclusively like any of them, I am me. But my friends laugh, and I must admit they make me laugh about the things I say and do or the things that happen to me that resemble one of these three.

Today I will explain why my friends say I am the female version of Forrest Gump (I have a lot more to say on the other two characters!)

lawn mowerSo the teasing began simply because I mentioned to my friends that when I lived out in Berkshire on a beautiful estate, one of my tasks was to keep the lawns in the formal gardens looking trim. To do so, I had to drive one of those lawn-mowers that Forrest drives in his job. So when my friends learnt this, they started to draw lots of other parallels between me and Forrest Gump.

I think I only saw the movie once…and I don’t think I saw it from beginning to end because there is a lot I do not remember.

Some of my friends think I am a tad gullible about people. Hmm – I don’t know. But I am someone who likes to believe the best in people, and does not give up on people easily. I can be extremely loyal and positive about someone. I am quite open (though I must admit, online I am a bit security conscious), but I am quite an open book in real life. I am also quite a mild, placid person, not easily provoked – I play dumb with aggressive people. And I do care about people, and have many times gone beyond the call of duty, as it were, to try to rescue someone.

strangers.jpgMy friends laugh at me for ending up in deep conversations with complete strangers. I might be out with friends but suddenly they find I have wandered off and am chatting with someone or a group of people I have never met about their beliefs or asking them questions. I know this may have happened on a few occasions, but it is not something I do deliberately. I do like people though. The thing about strangers is –  they are members of my family I just have not met yet, so they don’t frighten me as such. Until I feel threatened…but that is understandable after the crime I was victim of isn’t it? But I like people.

I think Forrest is famous for starting sentences with “my mamma says…”. As do I! Sometimes my friends will tell me about a decision they have made, and in my head I am thinking “what! are you nuts?” But to be kind, I tend to come out with something that my parents taught me as a little child and I relate how my parents would reason with me. So essentially I am giving my friends a lecture but doing so in the guise of my parents words of wisdom to me as a little one.

I also remember that Forrest did a lot of walking (or was it running?) at one period. This is something I am guilty of. It is rare now for me to have an entire day off. Of work, off socialising, off needing to clean my flat or do my laundry. But if I realize there is an opportunity for me to have an entire day to myself, my friends think that what I choose to do is completely crazy. I walk a twenty-two mile route. For those who don’t think in metric, this is over thirty-five kilometres.

It is a route I love to walk. A circle around areas I love in London. What really provoked my friends is that one week when I was feeling really yuck after a week of night shifts, I walked that same route on two consecutive days. I am telling you, I am a walker. My legs don’t seem to get tired. Some of my friends have asked to walk with me, and I have told them before that I will only agree if they are happy to make their way home on public transport on their own if they cannot keep up with me. Several of my friends have tried but have given up half way and ended up jumping on the tube to go home.

running home.jpgI have always had a lot of stamina (because of the swimming we grew up with) and when I have been into running (mainly because I did not have enough time to walk at length – I prefer to walk because I can take in my surroundings, when I am running I am moving too quickly) I was fast. Some of my friends would run with me and tell me just to carry on ahead of them and they would run as a group behind. These legs of mine are like machines. I do have to limit my running now because it’s not unusual for me to have episodes where I am having breathing difficulties – one of the issues I have had after receiving head injuries.

However…although there may be some similarities between Forrest and me, I must confess that I never did get the hang of table tennis.

I can’t think of any other reasons why my friends say I am the female version of Forrest Gump…but this gives you an idea.

Well…it seems that most of my friends are in agreement that there is even more of Maria Von Trapp and Bridget Jones in me. I have been called Bridget Von Trapp for some time. I will explain more in future posts.

Would You Like A Cup Of Tea?

(Brace yourself for a little bit of a weepie…make yourself a cuppa before you read this one.)

He told me that what I had done was courageous.  He said he and I should have talked along time ago.  He said it was the right thing to do.  I had already asked him once three months earlier, and he had made excuses.  He said he should have made time to sit down with me and talk…he regretted he had not.

He suggested we sat down at our dining room table in the huge kitchen dining area. Then those life-changing words: “Would you like like a cup of tea?”  That seemed like a very good idea.  It would give me something to fidget with while trying to hide how terrified I was.

Cup Of Tea

So, for pretty much the first time in three months he did something kind… he made me a cup of tea.  With my tea-bags and my milk.  He made two cups of tea, one for him and one for me.  He even made it just the way I like it…stewed tea – strong enough to make hairs grow on your chest – with a tiny splash of milk.

Here is what followed:

  • He told me that he had been a coward and that I had been courageous. 
  • He told me that he had never felt so close to another woman. 
  • He said he was totally out of his comfort zone, that he had no idea what he was doing. 
  • He wanted us to be friends. 
  • There had been a lot of pressure on him.  Many people had expressed their curiosity in the dynamics of our flat. 
  • Many of his friends and co-workers had been teasing him for months that a romance would develop between he and I. 
  • It had made him very nervous around me. 
  • He apologised for his behaviour and he wanted me to know how bad he felt. 
  • He realized he had made me feel awkward.  He told me that had not been his intention. 
  • He said I should never have been made to feel so uncomfortable in my own home.
  • He paid me extraordinary compliments…beautiful words I had never heard in my life.

My face must have been a picture.  He used expressions I was baffled by!

The man I am telling you about had been making my life miserable for months.  He had been hostile, grumpy, rude, inconsiderate.  He had said some very unkind things about me to his workmates…some of whom sought me out and had told me what he had said.

Who was this capricious man?  At that point he was my flatmate, one of them.  Six of us were sharing a huge flat.

cookiesI remember him moving in one August weekend.  I was nice to him and his friend who moved in at the same time and would be sharing a bathroom.  I really was super nice.  I went out, I thought the two of them would prefer to be on their own to unpack and settle into the flat.  But before I left, I told them they could use my tea and coffee and milk.  I even told them they could help themselves to some biscuits I had baked.  That was a nice thing to do – was it not?  How many neighbours actually do that nowadays?

We went to a party together that weekend.  All six of us were invited to a party in the flat two floors above ours.  So many at the party were curious about him moving into our flat.  People seemed to be watching the two of us.  I tried to ignore it.  I tried to act natural.  I think I learnt then that living with a celebrity can become a nightmarish experience.

I remember the first Monday morning…my other five flatmates were up early getting ready to leave the flat for work.  I was on late shifts that week (2-10pm) so I did not need to get up as early as they did.  But I had overheard him singing at the top of his voice while he was showering.  There were only three inches of plaster between his room and mine.  It made me smile even though he had woken me.  We had not had chance to discuss rules…so rather than wondering around in my nightwear, I showered and dressed before I went into the kitchen to make myself breakfast. open french doors I had a habit of opening the French doors of my room and letting fresh air pour into my room before I made my bed.  I had left the door of my room open while I came into the kitchen.

I heard his voice…he seemed full of excitement to be in a new flat.  Everyone had remarked we were going to be the coolest flat in the neighbourhood and they were expecting lots of parties.  I was sitting at the dining table eating cereal as they were all leaving to travel to work.  He must have stopped outside my door.  He was asking the others where I was, had I slept in, was I going to be late for work.  I called from the kitchen.  He came to the doorway and looked at me with surprise.  I told him I was on late shifts that week.  He looked disappointed.  He thought we were going to travel into work together.  Maybe he realized that meant I would not be around in the evenings that week.

I think that was the last time he actually seemed happy to be in the same flat as me.  For the next few months I would see him being friendly and jovial and laughing with our friends and coworkers.  Then we would walk into the flat and he would ignore me.  He seemed to be failing to suppress a strong dislike for me, because it was manifest in so many ways that he did not want me in the flat with him.

cyberbullyLooking back, I guess it was mostly external pressure that caused problems.  People were saying some really shocking things.  In the end I started to note down what I was hearing.  It filled both sides of eight A4 pages…most of which admittedly was just teasing.  However, a good portion was insulting, degraded comments insinuating he and I had a very particular type of relationship.

He was probably just as dismayed as I was at the comments people were making.  It is hard to define the perfect way to handle that kind of challenge.  How do you shut people down without fanning the flames of curiosity?  I found myself saying things along the lines of that there was no possibility of a romance developing and listing the reasons why.  I used to laugh that putting up with a man whom you are living with but not in a romantic relationship with, means a romance is highly unlikely to develop.  A flatmate who never empties the bins, (I am astonished that every male flatmate I have had believed in the magic bin fairy…oooh I am going to get myself in trouble with any male readers) leaves stacks of dirty dishes around the kitchen sink and is noisy, smelly and untidy…and who brings dozens of other single men round to the flat to add to the general man-stink of the place (apologies yet again to any male readers)…well, for fairly obvious reasons there is a distinct lack of warm feeling growing in your heart towards such a flatmate.  I thought that was both a humorous and logical way to stop people from teasing me about him.  My strategy failed.

I kind of blame him.  When his friends and workmates teased him, his reaction was like a teenage boy at school.  He said, “No way!”  He said, “I think she has OCD, she keeps tidying up after me.”  Even worse, he said, “She is a wonderful woman, but she is not attracted to me.”  I don’t think it was deliberate on his part, but he was actually just throwing fuel onto the fire.  The teasing intensified, the level of interest in everything that went on in our flat was shocking.  Social media websites seemed to be making my life unbearable.

Some of his friends started stopping me when they saw me, to tell me what a nice guy he was and that what he really needs is a good wife who can match his mind but is also happy to tidy up after him.  His manager saw me one day at the flat, and had a quiet word with me in the kitchen.  He said to me, “So you are his future wife”.   I felt tearful more than once because they were talking to me about a man who apparently was repelled by me.  I did not want to let a bad word about him creep out of my mouth…but inside he had me in agony.

I think you would either be very entertained or very bored if I related more of the hundreds of comments that were voiced about my flatmate and me.  As I mentioned, they range from cute to crude, from ridicule to outright rude, from droll to dreadful, from silly to slanderous, from vile to vicious.  People seemed to be watching our flat, watching my ex-flatmate and I.  If we looked at each other, someone had a comment or a joke to make.  If we did not look at each other, someone else would pry as to what was going on between us.  It was wearing me down and making me feel desperate, it was making him grumpy.

Sure enough, I asked him very early on if the two of us could talk about it and see what we could do to discourage all of the gossip.  He did not seem to want to talk about it though.  His behaviour towards me made life very uncomfortable.  I did lots of nice things.  I am a great believer that if someone has a problem with you one of the best cures is to cover it over with kindness.  I did wash a lot of his dishes.  I regularly cleaned up the kitchen after he had been a messy puppy.  He seemed to use my tea, coffee and milk all the time, which I never made an issue of.  I baked cakes and biscuits and always made sure he could help himself to them.  I have tidied up after him, even picking his underpants up from the floor when guests were coming.  I have cleaned his mouldy leaky food spills up from the fridge.

venus.jpgI do not try to subscribe to generalisations (even though some of them are frankly hilarious) – but he is the only man I have ever faced inordinate communication difficulties with – to my Martian flatmate, I really may as well have been from Venus.  Or else, he had all the communication skills of a teenage boy (sorry to any teenage boys reading this, but on the whole it is true!).

He seemed to like those things, but he was very strange in his behaviour to me.  Cold, hostile, silent.  Despite that, I sincerely was pleased to have him as a flatmate.  I enjoyed his noisiness, he seemed to be an unquenchable fountain of fun and life.  It was great to come home and find so many people in our flat.  I genuinely was happy to wash up and clean up and tidy up after the messy pup.  I kept on trying to provoke a kindly warm attitude from him.  It did not work…and it started to distress me deeply.  I had never been living with someone who behaved as if they had a huge grievance towards me.

Finally, three months later, there we were.  He made me a cup of tea and we sat down and had the conversation I gave you a few glimpses of above.  Bizarre!

Just think, all I had to steady my nerves was a cup of tea that he had made me.

In case you are wondering whether there is a happy or a sad ending to this story…I have to tell you…that cup of tea was the beginning of the end of me:

(More to come…If you have not already read it…take a look at my post “Peanut-Butter Cookies” which will give you more insight into what was developing.)