Well, maybe parts of me are. My mother used to tell me I was too serious and manipulative. School teachers said that I liked to play the system. My girlfriend told me that I have evil eyes. You told me that you’re always thinking and I always do too.
But daddy, I’m not your daughter.
Well, maybe parts of me are. I am a womaniser. I am a fatist. I hate authority. I have an addictive personality. I make promises I can’t keep. I gamble and drink and smoke too much.
But daddy, I’m not your daughter.
Maybe one day I will be the daughter you’d be proud of.
I’ve yet to keep my girlfriend hostage. I’ve yet to dictate what she does or does not wear. I’ve yet to throw her down a flight of stairs only to drag her back up and kick her down again. I’ve yet to leave her nose scarred from trying to bite it off. I’ve yet to hold her over a bridge. I’ve yet to play with acid. I’ve yet to stalk her family and throw boulders through their windows. I’ve yet to leave her to get new teeth. I’ve yet to leave her to get her ribs fixed.
She’s yet to feel the need to abscond to a different country to seek a safe haven. She’s yet to live in a hostel with no fixed address. She’s yet to live with depression and PTSD and too scared to leave the house.
Daddy, I’m not your daughter.
Maybe one day I will reach my full potential. Maybe if I have a child I will reach my full potential.
Maybe if I had a child I’d kidnap them. Maybe if our faces were painted over national newspapers and maybe if my blurry mugshot was played on the evening news, you’d be proud of me. Maybe when their uncle dies on their birthday, I’d tell them their present is slowly burning on a low heat. Maybe that’ll make you proud.
Do you know who the fuck I am?
Happy Father’s Day, Dad.
Lots of Love,
Not Your Fucking Daughter.
Like something to everyone, I am an acquired taste. I am someone people learn to like, learn to love. I’m not someone you will fall in love with instantly. I am unapologetic and brash with no verbal filter. I am proud and not ashamed. The acne scars, stretch marks, the bruises, and blemishes are my battle wounds. They are me and I am them. I am hardened to this world and that makes me difficult to love.
Love is all-pervasive and compromising and I am not. You have to bend for love and I don’t want to chafe.
It’s usually in a drunken haze my friends tell me that I’m “alright, actually”. Their initial notion of me being “intimidating” had changed. They had the time to see past my Resting Bitch Face. At my latest annual appraisal, my line manager’s constructive criticism concluded that I was unapproachable. Defensively, and probably proving her point, I asked her why she thought that was a bad thing. I’m here to do a job and, fuck, I am good at my job. I’m not here to play the bubbly, happy-go-lucky Dumb Blonde. And I won’t be that for you.
Here, I consider myself to be submissive but that doesn’t mean I am spineless. I have opinions and you will respect them. You will admire them and I will force you to question your own perspectives, question your own preconceived notions of what you like. And that makes me difficult to love.
Like all the best things in life, I am an acquired taste.
Beer, good beer; whiskey; gin; coffee. Nobody likes these at first sip. But we dance with them again, then again and again, usually because of how we want to define ourselves. They give our soul extra value.
I remember my first sip of coffee. I remember asking my mother what to ask for when I entered that pretentious Artisan coffee house with their rustic bags of coffee beans pinned to the wall and wooden crates up-cycled into the uncomfortable but aesthetically pleasing – so fucking cool – seats. I was fourteen or fifteen, impressionable and I wanted be to be a grown-up. I wanted to be sophisticated and cool like the regulars who used this haven as their second home. I read my book and delicately sipped on my espresso. Bitter. Gritting through closed teeth. Take another sip. Like a college hazing, character building. This is what it takes to be a cool girl. I am a grown up. And now my digestive tract is constantly coated with cappuccino. I can’t get through a day without it.
I love the ritual of preparing it, like decent foreplay, the anticipation of the end goal. Grinding the beans down, the aroma already taking home in my lungs, soon to take me hostage. And then the waiting game. Letting the water diffuse through every shredded bean. Stir gently, add more water. Pushing down on the French Press is my favourite part of preparation. Like when you’re on the edge. Push it gently and pour. Nearly there. Anticipation building.
And that first sip. The bitterness never leaves but it’s a bitterness I have learned to like, learned to love. An acquired taste.
Of course, I have instant coffee and a little part of me dies when I spoon the granules into my precious bone China mug but it does the job. It gives me the instant gratification required when I’m running late or feeling particularly lazy and don’t want to invest my time into something more worthwhile.
I suppose I am a synonym to instant coffee. Quick to prepare, always available, require little effort. But there’s always something better if you want to take your time, so much potential if you wanted to take your time.
I may be an acquired taste but I am a taste certainly worth acquiring.
It begins here… maybe…
When I am twelve years old, my mother sinks into her own depression. Her own bad childhood resurfaces like a drowned corpse. While she sleeps and drinks and gets hospitalised, I line my eyes and paint my mouth dark. I want to offer my face and skin repainted and reinvented for recognition. Pushed up breasts, pulled down t-shirts, for my friends to accept me, for them to teach me to shoplift lip gloss and cigarettes and show me abandoned warehouses. Holding hands, smoking, and tonguing each other’s mouths, telling all our secrets, crying drunk, and perhaps feeling an element of safety there.
Or maybe it begins here…
I am eighteen. I have a boyfriend. This is a real thing. At eighteen I believe it is the most real thing possible. Jonathan is twenty seven, an engineer from Edinburgh. He is somber but bright, persuasive too, with dark hair and pale eyes. He pours me tumblers of rum and lifts me over his broad shoulders before elegantly throwing me down on to his crisp white bed. I move into his house across the motorway from the airport. I work two jobs. Mornings are spent at the coffee house where I steam silver pitchers of milk with a machine that collects brown skins and burnt milk fat which must be soaked and scrubbed from the steam arms. Nights are at the local casino’s restaurant where I stave my hunger with plastic cups of diet lemonade on ice. Here I lay down ceramic plates of gravy downed potatoes, and hot roast, and ‘all you can eat’ spaghetti, and the chef’s salad with chunky orange dressing on a counter that is lined with single men who lean over their daily specials and fork food into their mouths as though eating is its own kind of work.
When they are finished they look up at me.
“Hey, blondie. You sure look good tonight.” I am wearing my uniform: black skirt, red blouse, nylons. I have a name tag too. I smile. I blush and giggle at their short hand abrasive flirts, anticipating their tips, already counting them in my head.
I have plans to move to London to study. I had won a poetry scholarship, £3,000. But Jonathan is short on rent. He needs his car fixed. He needs help with the electric bill. I pay for these things with my scholarship money and with my tips I buy us dinner.
Before my nineteenth birthday comes I have given all of the money to Jonathan. This happens just before or after I turn nineteen. It’s May or March and we’re in bed. I am straddling him. He reaches up to touch my breast.
“You are so beautiful. People would pay to look at you,” he tells me. He speaks about Dave, his friend who is looking for young girls to pose nude for a college website. “I know you need money for school.” He pauses for a moment. The windows open above the bed and we are laying next to each other now. It is spring and accompanying the cornflower blue skies is a breeze. The white cotton comforter feels like a net, something holding us. I am sleepy and Jonathan’s voice lifts above me into the dim air between the bed and the ceiling. “Dave says he’ll pay be a finder’s fee, £50, but I wouldn’t even keep it. I’d give it to you to pay you back.”
Or I can tell it like this…
I am eighteen and I am in love with Clare Ryan. She is Jonathan’s ex-girlfriend and we meet first at one of his many house parties with spilt beer and a red-shaded light where Jonathan and his band play so loud and beat heavy and everyone is dancing in a way that makes me feel nervous. It makes me want to dance with them but also to hide. I am lost and feel out of place in my own home, as though I am struggling in the depths of a river with a growing tide. I walk through various rooms before sitting on the couch at the front steps and watch different textures of darkness blanket the canal. I wear my flannel cut low and swallow more rum. Clare is in there among the bodies. She is dressed in a slip dress and a fake fur coat and her hair and lips are the same colour red.
Later, another evening, she’ll stop by alone and I’ll be watching her at the kitchen table, admiring her. She sits on the edge of one of our old metal chairs, shading her lips with her red pencil before smoking a cigarette and drinking a beer. Her lips imprint her mark over the cigarette and bottle top. I long for her mark to be left on me, for me to be hers. Hours later we’re in Jonathan’s bed together. I’ll be kissing her mouth and then between her legs where I don’t know what I am doing but I want the taste of her, the smell of her, the presence of her. I want her lingering fragrance to intertwine with my curiosity, the scent of coca butter and aloe. Her skin is soft too, softer than mine, and her eyes and smile could easily light up and fill this darkened room in an instant.
Jonathan will be there too, in bed with us, but I’ll ignore him. I’ll watch her body move and listen to her caught breath. It will be intense and magnified like a held note in a powerful opera. In the morning, I acknowledge the way she pulls up her skirt, the way the thin fabric glides up her thighs. She tells us how she never over stays her welcome. It will be Christmas morning and she’ll leave. She’ll be gone either escaping from, or chasing, her personal nightmares, her demons. She was welcome to stay. She was welcome to stay forever.
Later, still, it will be summer and another party. Clare will be in a black dress and fidgeting with a red hat while sitting on the floor, leaning against the end of the bed with her hair behind her and her dress fanned across the carpet. We had the door closed. On the other side, there’s all the noise but in here it’s just us. Quiet. Isolated. Warm. I want to kiss her but I’m too scared. Instead I listen to how her father treated her as a child, how he disciplined her, how he pushed her away. She tells me when she first moved to Scotland and how she pawned her grandmother’s gold bracelet to buy toilet paper. And then how she met Jonathan. I had never seen her so vulnerable and unsure of herself. She projected such confidence all of the time. She pulls a bottle of silver glittered nail polish from her purse,
“My mother sent me this,” she laughs, “The colour is called ‘Psycho’ so I guess it made her think of me.”
And now, at her house, in her cluttered bedroom in Merchant City in Glasgow. She is in a little white tank top with no bra and we are sharing a bottle of vodka and ice. She shows me a picture of herself at the strip club where she used to work, the one Jonathan introduced her to. In the picture she is wearing tall boots and the flash glares against the vinyl reflect the white of her eyes and teeth. Her eyes are greyish blue and they penetrate me as I take a closer look at the photograph. I am looking at the shadows that define her shoulder and thigh muscles, her breasts and collarbone. I see the way she grins lazy at the camera, her gaze somewhere outside of the frame, her face sweet but distant, like no one can touch her ever. I sensed that Clare avoided close relationships, avoided even the proximity of love, avoided most of the range of human emotions. But I was still here. I had stayed the night and it was now the afternoon. We are sitting cross legged, facing each other on her bed as though together we are floating on a leaf on the hugest river, the currents taking us wherever they wanted.
Our temperament, our brains, the speed and style of which we all learn, make each of us unique. Add these factors to the past that has moulded us, the people who’ve witnessed – and helped – us grow, how we have loved and been loved, or not, cherished, or not, neglected or abused, a childhood well tended to or accidentally dismissed, and there lays a catalyst for perfect development or a catastrophic disaster waiting to happen. That is, if it hasn’t already.
I don’t have that North Star. Growing up, I didn’t have that significant experience of connection with a grandmother or aunt. My mother resented – resents – me for being a token of him. He wasn’t there. I didn’t – don’t – have that reference to serve of what it is to be seen, to be held, to be nurtured, soothed. No light or warmth of this unapologetic, soothing love. Relationship lenses we look through are orientated to what we know. And I know no more than this. I know my fate and that scares me. I am – we are – doomed to repeat. Mostly, unconsciously. Familiar relationships to complete what was missing from childhood. Recover and cleanse the trauma from years past. It’s a yearning to find wholeness and plug the missing pieces that may not even exist.
I often sit and reflect over my life. How I got to where I am, how things may or may not be different if I had chosen a different route, if I hadn’t have met someone, if I hadn’t been influenced. I often and sit and compare myself to others. Usually colleagues. How do they do it? How can I be better? How can I be less ambivalent and less avoidant?
For the first time in my life, I am on my own. But just because I am single it does not mean I’m not connected. We each have so many different kinds of relationships. Friendship, marriage, being a parent or a sibling, co-workers, parents, one night stands and romantic partnerships. Depending on their dedication and intimacy, there is so much potential for sharing, for love, for respect, for appreciation, for healing. Just because I am on my own doesn’t mean I have to be lonely.
“You’re always such a good girl for me,” he said.
And she was.
She was a good girl to him and she was a good girl to the world. She wanted so badly to be perceived as good. If people saw that in her then maybe it could be true. Maybe that would make it true. But she wanted so many bad things. Things that good girls shouldn’t want.
Tonight, he looked into her eyes and saw his precious and sweet submissive. But she needed him to see something else.
“Open your mouth for me, baby.” He stood over her still fully attired while she knelt naked before him. She stared up at him, eyes neutral but her mouth remained closed.
He cocked his head, “what is it?”
He let her silence stand for a short moment before he grabbed her hair and pulled her head back and placing himself at her lips.
She considered. And then with a half cocked smile opened for him. He worked her mouth slow and steady. She was compliant but nothing more. Her eyes wandered to the window and watched the contrast of the blowing snow flakes shining in the bright sunlight. They flew wildly at their impulse but did not escape the heated rays. In the end, one by one, they seemed to burn out and disappear mid-air.
He cleared his throat. Her inattention had not gone unnoticed. Palms moved to each side of her face like blinkers and focused her forward. She slackened her torso so that she began to slump and he was forced to hold her up with his hands.
He was so patient with her; so very good to her. Ordinarily, his demeanour rubbed off and made her shine. But, as of just very recently, she had fallen into a funk and would hold no polish. The good girl mask had been pulled loose and what was underneath resembled hard moulded plastic that had been corrupted by her wearing the disguise too tight and for too long.
She reached her arms to the floor behind her, leaned back and lifted her ass. Pushing awkwardly with her feet, she scurried backwards like a crab, breaking free of his grip. Back, back, back until her head bumped against the mattress. She looked at him in thinly veiled challenge.
Although his overall countenance gave no tell, the crinkles of his eyes at their corners let slip his emotion: amusement.
She pulled her knees up tight to her chest and pouted.
“I’m not chasing you across the room just because you want me to.” He shook his head firmly and crossed his arms over her chest. Her pout simmered and began to perk into a scowl. “Is it that bad tonight?” He asked. She nodded, eyes looking listlessly out the window. “How bad?”
“Really bad.” She didn’t like to say it. She preferred to poke and goad him.
At first he hadn’t understood it. He had pursued her, and given her what she wanted, sometimes without fully realising what he was doing but his ability to read her had improved. More and more, he was figuring her out. In response, she had become more cunning in her efforts but, today, she had failed. The inattention was good. The escape, too obvious.
“Why is it so hard for you to tell me when you’re feeling this way?” She shrugged. It wasn’t an attempt at avoidance. It was just too hard to articulate.
Outside of that room, there were few who ever wanted to know how the good girl was feeling. They only wanted one thing from her: her strength. To admit weakness, or to admit to having needs, was unthinkable. Especially when they come in her favour.
“It’s easier to poke.” She finally said.
“Maybe…” He walked to the armchair in the corner of the room and sat down, “but it’s not going to be anymore.”
She stared at him from the floor, watching as he silently returned her look. Although she was not aware of a clock in the room, she swore that she could hear one ticking, measuring out the sudden quiet that had fallen between them. She shifted back and forth on her ass unable to get comfortable as her fingers rubbed absentmindedly over the soft skin of her thighs.
“Please.” She could stand the disconnect no longer. He raised an eyebrow but said nothing. Padding across the carpet on her hands and knees, she hung her head like a penitent puppy. “Please…” Her cheeks rested on the arm of his chair near his hand.
Good question. She wanted that one word to convey so much. Her wide eyes stared up helplessly at him.
“No,” his tone was even, but firm. No? Which unspoken question was he answering? “From now on, when you need something, I expect you to ask for it directly. No more clever slut games.” She shifted her head away as if looking elsewhere would help her hide from him. “I can still see you. More and more, in fact.” He moved his hand away and the foot felt like a mile. She peered longingly where it settled on his thigh.
He had such beautiful hands; such well proportioned hands. They were lightly roughened from life but not at all hard. To her, they were the hands of an artist. Visions flashed of how they had worked on her, sculpted her, broken her down and then formed her again. How she needed their magic now.
“If I’m distracting you, perhaps you should go have a seat against the wall while you collect your thoughts.” He nodded in the the direction of the far corner.
“Is that what you’re telling me to do?”
“No,” he corrected. “I’m asking you to speak plainly about what you’re feeling and what you need. And to trust me with it. But if you can’t,” he leaned forward in her direction, “then we have hit a wall, and you’ll have to crawl over there and meet it.” His dexterous fingers began tapping his thigh in emphasis.
She took a slow, deep breath and swallowed hard. Putting both hands on his knees, facing him. He parted his thighs wide as if opening a gate for her. She seized the opportunity and scampered between his legs where she felt safer and more contained. The crinkle at his eye once again appeared then quickly vanished.
“So, are you ready to tell me what you need?” She nodded sheepishly. “No more slut games?” She shook her head and drew another long breath.
“Of course, now you already know…”
“That’s not the point.” Her front teeth chewed on her lip as she noshed on her words.
“I feel very empty tonight. It’s as though the emptiness is holding down the anger.”
“Is there a reason why you’re angry tonight?” His voice held concern.
“I don’t always know why it comes when it does… It just does…”
He nodded empathetically. His girl, his good girl, was generally sweet natured and even well tempered, but his whore…
She was forged from a different metal which was more difficult to temper. And, coming from the furnace himself, he understood. “And what do you need?”
There were no tears. They would be actively brought forth later. Her eyes were filled with something else. Something raw.
“Use,” she squinted as though someone was going to come running into the room and slap her for saying it. “I need to be used by you… to be given purpose… because I feel like I don’t have any of my own right now.” There was a desperate gasp, like a puff of smoke struggling to write words in the sky, “I hate the emptiness.”
Again, he nodded then sat patiently and waited. For him to fill the void, she had to be first willing to fill the space between them.
“I need to have emotion drawn in me to displace the anger,” she drew another breath and continued, “I need you to get into my head in order to get me out of it.
I need to be taken over and have my demon exorcised… even if that demon is me…”
“Demons are not easily wrenched free,” his face was kind but serious, “I need to be sure that you know what you’re asking for.” She began to wriggle uncomfortably between his legs.
“You know what I’m asking for.” This was hardly, after all, their first exorcism.
“Yes, I know,” He reached down and cupped her head in between his oh-so-capable hands, “but you need to know it too. You need to own it and stop pretending that it comes from somewhere else.
When I pry the demon loose, only you can embrace it… so that you’ve got a hold on it, and it’s not got the hold of you…” His fingers trailed down her cheeks as he released them. “So. Plainly now. What are you asking for?”
“Tears.” And with that, all remaining pretense would be washed away. “Bring me to tears. Whatever it takes.”
“That’s a good girl.” His voice was smooth and reassuring.
A good girl? Maybe so. Maybe by a type of definition that wouldn’t be understood by most folks.
“Sir, there is one more thing…”
“Love me. When it is all over I need you to love me.” Her hair fell over her eyes as her head moved to rest on his thigh and her arms clung around his legs.
The crinkles around the eyes again.
“No, baby… I will love you through it all…”
If you’re reading this, you somehow managed to break through my walls and connect me with my other side. Now, I’m not going to sit here and tell you how impenetrable those walls are and how amazing you are for breaking them. I hate to say it but they’re pretty easy to tear down. I’m a sucker for infatuation. I love new things. And that’s exactly the problem, you’re a new thing.
I’m going to text you every day. I’m going to kiss you whenever I can. I’m going to cook for you. I’m going to run my hands through your hair. We’re going to have tons of sex. We’re going to dance with no sound. We’re going to fall asleep talking about our lives. And you’re going to fall in love with me if you aren’t already.
And, for a second, I will fall in love with you too.
You’re going to feel like I’m everything you need. You’re going to think I complete you. I’m going to meet your family and they won’t be too sure about me because of my accent and my short dress but they’ll accept me. I’m going to be your safe haven.
When this happens, don’t tell me. Don’t tell me you love me. Don’t ask me to be your girlfriend. Just don’t. I will say no. Don’t.