In preparation for my first writing workshop this week over at Sleep is for the Weak, I am writing on the theme of false assumptions – those funny things that people think about you that seem to come from nowhere.
This is an interesting topic for me, as I’m pretty sure people are quite often not sure what to make of me. For a start, I’ve been told I look younger than I am – 32 this April – and the perception of youth can often effect the way people interact with you. A couple of years ago for example, a salesman came to the door, trying to flog gas and electricity. I answered, and he asked me if my mum or dad was home…
Age gives a woman a certain gravitas and I do often worry about not being taken seriously. Sometimes when I meet people for the first time I want to come right out and explain – “I may look young and have the voice of a child, but really I am a proper grown up who knows how to do stuff. Honest.”
Add to this the fact that I was pregnant at 16, when I looked about 12, and I’m fairly sure I must have attracted some curious glances in my time. Not that I have ever really been aware of it. I’m just me inside, and I forget sometimes that other people can see my face when they are talking to me.
Another occasion I remember well was when I got my GCSE results. I was particularly geeky at school, a straight A student and prize winner, and everyone I went to school with knew it. (I made sure of that – hence not having many friends at school…). My boyfriend at the time however went to a different school and when his friends – whom I had known for some months – found out my results they were stunned to say the least. “Blimey,” they said, “we’d thought you were pretty stupid!” Charming.
A couple of times in the last week people have made reference to me being terribly organised and orderly, an assumption which I challenged, not least because it made me feel terribly dull. Who wants to be thought of as ‘the woman whose files are arranged nicely’?
It’s true that I am fussy about some things – I do like my books to sit flush which the edge of the shelf, and have been known to arrange them in colour order – but I don’t think this makes me hugely organised. In fact, a quick glance around my study or bedroom would show quite the opposite. Piles of magazines, newspapers, unread letters and mountains of clean and dirty washing, merging together in one giant heap – hardly the hallmark of a neat freak.
And then of course there are the friends who see me scoffing sweets and quaffing wine like the grape is about to become extinct and assume I am some kind gluttonous lush with no self control. Oh hang on a minute…