Saturday, 31 May 2014

A week in Wales

And so to Wales, where every May the great and the good of the literary world descend on the tiny town of Hay-On-Wye for a week-long festival.  My mum, brother and I have been a few times and always have a wonderful time, and this year was made even more special by the addition of The Boy and my brother's girlfriend to our party.  Unfortunately the weather was pretty rubbish all week, but we still managed to enjoy ourselves.

We stayed in Talybont-On-Usk in the Brecon Beacons, in a stunning Georgian cottage. Lots of good food, wine-fuelled Scrabble matches and beautiful hikes in the surrounding countryside.
More important, however, was getting down to some serious book buying.  Hay is not quite the book-lovers paradise it once was - when we started visiting the town about 8 years ago, there were close to 30 bookshops there, and there are now a 'mere' 15, including specialist shops for children's books, for crime books, and for poetry - but it's still pretty darned wonderful.  By the end of the week, the four of us (me, mother, brother and Boy) had bought a total of 77 books between us, making a stack almost exactly the same height as me.

The Hay Literary Festival is a rather middle class experience, but nonetheless brilliant.  At a large site, which this year was extremely muddy, a complex of tents and theatres is constructed (plus the obligatory bookshops, of course) and over the course of a week you can pick from hundreds of events.  Our little party attended lectures on everything from 'Immortality in Fiction' to 'Mandela the Strategist', plus talks by fashion designer Julian McDonald, author Margaret Drabble, and Everyday Sexism founder Laura Bates, which left me both inspired and rage-filled, determined to continue and expand my feminist activism.  Also on at the same time in the town is the 'Festival of Philosphy & Ideas', How The Light Gets In, which draws a generally younger and hipper crowd to the small festival site on the edge of the town centre.  I was sad to miss a talk by Laurie Penny there, which took place the day before we arrived.

I think the highlight of The Boy's week might have been pretending to leap through the 'Stargate' (aka, a book sculpture).  As I write he is busy photoshopping this picture to add Stargate-y special effects and I am busy rolling my eyes at what a nerd he is!

Thursday, 29 May 2014

What I wore: Headscarf edition

I can already see that the new tattoo is taking me in a slightly different fashion direction: more plain tops or dresses and fewer patterns, because when you have a flower garden on your arm you don't need one on your dress too.  But I still have a fondness for florals, so when I found this scarf for £3 in a local vintage store, I immediately pounced.  Styled with skinny jeans and sunglasses, I felt like such a badass hard femme. 

Headscarf: Dolly Mix Vintage in Leicester * Sunglasses: New Look * T-shirt: H&M
Jeans: New Look * Ballet pumps: Dorothy Perkins

Monday, 26 May 2014

Good stuff

With the weather this month so nice, and not much interesting on at the cinemas, it looks like for the second months running I won't manage a proper Seen... post.  So I'll use this forum to tell you that you absolutely must try to see We Are The Best.  Set in Stockholm in 1982, this story of 13 year-old wannabe punks Bobo, Karla and Hedvig is just wonderful.  Incredibly funny and heart-warming, I don't think I've ever seen anything that quite so perfectly captures girls friendships and what it's like to be in a gang of outsiders.  I just loved it, to the extent that I almost cried when it was over... purely because it had finished.  After a quick Twitter poll, I think I've also established that every girl spends their life wanting to be a Karla, but feels like a Bobo.

I'm a huge fan of Sarra Manning's YA fiction, so I loved this from her blog (is it bad that - at the age of almost 36 - pretty much every one applies to me, especially numbers 11 & 13?), and also her recent article in defence of teenage girls.

Have you seen the Feminist Frank meme yet? So funny.

Although I tend to eye-roll at anything that begins, "Why women do x" (the answer generally being, for the exact same bloody reason men do x), I really liked this article, by novelist Jenn Ashworth, about women and tattoos.  I particularly loved this:
"When a woman makes her own mark on it, she isn't quite as available to receive whatever fantasies you might want to project on to her. If skin is a screen, and a woman writes on it, she is telling the world (or even just herself) that her own standards of attractiveness are more important to her than the standards of anyone else who might cross her path. She is taking ownership."

This, from The Guardian, about how the pro-choice movement has to accept the mundane reality of many women's abortions.

Finally, this from Ladybird Likes is a must for all Instagram fans: a guide to the best places online to print your photos.

Friday, 23 May 2014

A week of making

Last March, inspired by E & B from Make, Do & Spend, I challenged myself to have a week of making.  Ever since then, I've wanted to repeat the challenge and, after a long time of being a bit lazy with my craft, this week (one of the busiest in the school year, so go figure...) I decided to try again.  Here's how it went...

Made - Sewing kit
It was my friend Abby's 30th yesterday, but the measuring tape I needed to finish her gift only arrived today.  Never mind, I'm sure she'll be just as happy with a late present: this homemade sewing kit in a jar, plus some fab VW camper van fabric and a voucher for use of my sewing machine and/or my skills to help her make something nice for her van.

Made - Pincushion
Inspired by the pincushion I made last week for Abby, I set about sewing another one to include in a PostCircle parcel.

Made - Necklace
There's a great bead & jewellry shop just opened in The Lanes area of Leicester, from which I bought a length of thin leather thread and some pretty turquoise stone beads. Three minutes of threading and knotting later, and I had myself a new necklace.  Definitely the quickest and easiest make of the week!

Made: Sketches for a zine.
I'm currently toying with the idea of writing a zine about abortion, so a few weeks ago I began jotting down some notes. Considering I'm not an artist AT ALL, I'm pretty pleased with how my sketches for the first page turned out.

Made: A vegan Thai curry for tea
I had a late meeting at work, so after an 11 hour day I wasn't really in the mood for making anything except food!  'Chicken' strips and spring onions were sauteed in a little sunflower oil and Thai curry paste, before adding coconut milk and vegetable stock, and finally the veg. Served with noodles, it was quick to make and delicious.

Made: Cushion cover
Back in March I was lucky enough to take part in a screenprinting workshop that I'd won in a giveaway of Em's.  One of the things I made was a fabric panel, which I've been wanting to make into a cushion cover for a while.  I finally got around to buying some teal fabric to match the turquoise and teal inks in the screenprinted design, and in the end this cushion cover took me less than half an hour to make.  It feels extra-special to have something that I've not just sewn, but designed and made the fabric too.

Made: Plans for our week away
Tomorrow we go to the Brecon Beacons for a week with my mum, her partner, my brother and his girlfriend.  Visiting this neck of the woods during the Hay Literary Festival is a bit of a family tradition, and I can't wait to introduce The Boy to the wonder that is Hay-On-Wye and the beautiful surrounding countryside.  So, after a crazy day at school (Year 6 Book Character Day, which involved me walking round dressed as Wally - as in Where's Wally? - all day), I've rushed home to make lists and start packing. 

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

List # 21: My favourite blogs


You might have noticed that I'm not sticking precisely to the #52lists schedule.  Some of the topics I just can't get excited about, and some seem repetitive, so I've got to the point where I'm cherry-picking the ones I want to use and forgetting about the rest.  But I was really excited by this week's prompt, as I've been wanting to give some blog love for a while now.  The 'Blogs I love' tab at the top of the page lists my absolute all-time favourites (amazing to think that I've now met at least half of those inspiring women), so this is my chance to mention some other discoveries of mine.

Nerdy Feminist for razor sharp feminist critiques of the media, especially good on issues around fat acceptance.

A Blog About A Nova for cool links, book reviews, and more.

Eeep I'm A Blogger for lifestyle stuff, with a particular focus in feminism.

Gingerella and Siobhan Claude Van Damme for music, books and random ramblings.

What Hannah Read for book reviews and links.  I recently did a two-view review with Hannah, of Rainbow Rowell's Fangirl.

Lily Doughball for Bristol-based adventures.

Using My Loaf for swoon-worthy mid-century modern interior.

I've just discovered her blog, but I love Miss West End Girl's style and am sure I'll be a long time reader.

I'm always looking for new blogs to follow, so I'd love to hear your recommendations. 

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

What I Wore: In which I stand awkwardly in front of a wall

I hate having my photograph taken.  I know that doesn't exactly make me unique, but the lengths I will go to to avoid either being caught on camera or (perhaps worse than having it taken in the first place) seeing a photograph of myself are legendary amongst my friends and family.
So it's perhaps a little counter-intuitive that one of the things that got me interested in blogging in the first place was the idea of being able to post outfit shots.  As I've said before, reading fatshion blogs and seeing a range of bodies represented was one of the most important things in my journey to body acceptance, and I feel it's important that women of all sizes are represented in all areas of the media, including blogs.  But I've been writing here for three years now and this is the first outfit post I've ever written.
So what changed?  Having The Boy on hand to take photographs is the biggest thing; I'm kind of a perfectionist so blurry mirror selfies just weren't going to do it for me (although as you can see from the bottom photo, he still needs some practice in framing a shot without capturing the drainpipe and wilting pot plants!).  It turned out to actually be kind of fun to mess about in front of the camera, even if I need to sharpen up my posing skills a bit.
Also, I just really love this outfit.  It breaks so many style 'rules' - chubby girl in stripes, short girl in a midi skirt - but I felt amazing in it.  The skirt, just £3 in a charity shop, is a little too long for my liking, but it fit so well that I couldn't resist it.  And, as the t-shirt was a January sale find that set me back a mere £5, this is possibly the cheapest outfit I own.

As you can see, this post gives the first peek of my new tattoo.  More to come once it's properly healed!
T-shirt: Zara * Skirt: Thrifted *
Belt: Peacocks * Sandals: Dune * Satchel: H&M * Sunglasses: New Look

Monday, 19 May 2014

Cool places in Leicester: The Lansdowne

This image source here - all others my own

There are so many cool places to eat and drink in Leicester, and I've been meaning to start a blog series about them for ages.  First on the list is The Lansdowne, a large bar on London Road, about 8 minutes walk from the city centre and a couple of minutes from the train station.  It's a favourite with The Boy and I for numerous reasons: amazing playlists, great lagers and ciders on tap (neither of us are real ale drinkers, but I'm pretty confident they'll have decent ales too), incredible retro furnishings (including lots of sofas to chill out on), and perhaps most importantly, plentiful vegan food options.

They always have at least four vegan, and numerous more vegetarian, options on the main menu, plus veggie or vegan specials from time to time.  Yesterday, The Boy opted for the red pepper houmous and roasted vegetables ciabatta with potato & sweet potato wedges, which was the weekly sandwich special, while I had a Brie ciabatta.  The photograph above is minus one half of the sandwich - we'd already tucked in by the time I remembered to get my camera out!
There are loads of options for drinks on tap, including Aspall cider (my favourite), plus a plentiful cocktail list and fridges bursting with interesting soft drinks and fruit juices.  The food is reasonably priced considering the portions are hearty, with a sandwich costing around £6, plus a bit more if you want wedges, and main meals hovering around the £9-£10 mark.
Most important to me in a bar is the atmosphere and the Lansdowne always delivers, with friendly staff and great music (on Saturday's visit it went from Johnny Cash's Boy Named Sue to Fleet Foxes to the Sam Cooke soul classic You Send Me in the space of minutes).  As it's very close to the city centre and train station, but also to the university and Clarendon Park (a lovely, if gentrified, residential area to the south of the city) it tends to have a nice mixture of customers, from young families eating lunch to groups of office workers, lecturers from the uni, students, or people killing time before their trains.  One thing that can be guaranteed is that The Boy and I will be found there regularly, chowing down and enjoying a couple of pints before making our wobbly way home.


Friday, 16 May 2014

Why is being photographed without makeup the bravest thing a woman can do?

Looking a little shinier than usual without makeup.  I'm a great fan of the mirror selfie as I'm more used to seeing my face that way, so I'm less likely to hate the photo

The notion of a no-makeup selfie is an odd one.  Let's face it, the notion of a selfie is an odd one - in the many thousands of photographs taken during my childhood and teenage years, not one of them involved the person behind the camera taking a picture of themselves.  But mobile phones and digital cameras have made the term 'selfie' a standard part of our vernacular, and perhaps none more so than the no-makeup selfie.

I deliberately didn't participate in the recent spate of no make-up photographs being shared across social media: I still texted to donate to Cancer Research, of course, but I was uncomfortable with a few aspects of the trend, not least the idea that it was being done to 'raise awareness of cancer', as if cancer is something people are unaware about.  I questioned why awareness couldn't have been raised in more constructive ways: photos of women checking their breasts for abnormalities, for example (although if that had been the meme, Facebook would have banned it in a heartbeat, because from the amount of breast-feeding photographs they've censored, their attitude it clearly no boobs portrayed in a non-sexual way). 

More pertinently, I didn't like the way in which taking a selfie without makeup on was somehow seen as terribly brave: "look how far we'll go to help battle cancer".  This is not to demean the efforts of all those women who participated with the best intentions, who together managed to raise £8m for Cancer Research in a matter of days.  Rather, it's a criticism of the way in which the meme perpetuated the myth that a makeup free woman is somehow unnatural, and that being photographed - shock horror - without makeup is the bravest thing one can do. 

Although I've written at length about body positivity and acceptance, I have never managed to extend my positive attitude to my face. Put simply, I've never felt attractive or pretty and I've always focused on my flaws; the exact opposite approach I take with the rest of my body.  Because of this, I am almost never without a full face of makeup.  I honestly can't think of a time in the past 20 years when I've left the house bare-faced.  For a long time I suffered from acne, which I felt a need to cover up, and over time wearing makeup became a habit that I have never broken.  From foundation to even out my skin tone, to eyeshadow and liquid eyeliner flicks, I make myself up every morning and I take it all off every night, but I am becoming increasingly keen to examine the politics behind my choices.

There exists within our culture a set of gender norms, ones which have, if anything, become more entrenched in recent years.  Primped and perfect versions of womanhood are sold to us through the mainstream media.  From the surgery-enhanced charms of Kim Kardashian to willowy Hollywood stars, magazines tell us that 'real women' are hairless, poreless, blank and beautiful.  My generation of feminists, while eager to acknowledge that fat is a feminist issue and carrying out some powerful activism around fat acceptance and body positivity, seem less likely to accept that beauty can also a feminist issue.  Perhaps keen to distance ourselves from the 'hairy legs and dungaress' stereotypes, instead an aesthetic influenced by burlesque and pin-up girls - eyeliner, red lipstick, vintage dresses -has become a popular one with many young feminists, me included.

I am glad that feminism has moved beyond the debates of the 70s and 80s, about whether you can be a 'good' feminist and wear makeup or high heels, but I sometimes wonder if we now go too far in the opposite direction and enact gender norms without question.  I've recently read a number of interesting pieces by young feminists arguing - powerfully and persuasively - that their choice to wear makeup or wax their bodies is as valid a choice as the one to allow pubic hair to run free or go barefaced in public.  And, as someone who chooses not to wax but does wear makeup, I'm totally on board with that.  But it's also essential to recognise that whatever choices we make are made within a fiercely patriarchal society, and that wearing what we want is not an inherently feminist act.  I believe that we should perhaps think more critically about how our freedom to choose what to do with our bodies takes place within that society, with all of the limits it inevitably imposes, and to question why the choices we make (seemingly freely) so often seem to be ones that happen to perpetuate traditional gender norms.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

The unreadables

I saw an ace post on Postcard Daydreams recently about 'The Unreadables'.  I can't be alone in having shelves full (rather more than I'd like to admit, in fact) of books I've never finished: perhaps it's a book that you just never have the urge to pick up, perhaps it's one that you've started and abandoned partway through.  And of course, what counts as an 'unreadable' to one person (which is perhaps a harsh term, maybe 'can't-be-bothered-to-readables' would be fairer) can be someone else's favourite book.

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khalid Hosseini
Synopsis: Mariam is only fifteen when she is sent to Kabul to marry Rasheed. Nearly two decades later, a friendship grows between Mariam and a local teenager, Laila, as strong as the ties between mother and daughter. When the Taliban take over, life becomes a desperate struggle against starvation, brutality and fear. Yet love can move a person to act in unexpected ways, and lead them to overcome the most daunting obstacles with a startling heroism.
Years owned: Actually, this isn't even mine!  Lent to me by my friend Jen, with entreaties that I must read it, about three years ago.  Since when it has languished on my bookshelf.  Sorry Jen!
Attempted readings: None.  I am irrationally averse to reading anything that other people suggest (which can make book group a challenge!), and so it's very possible that I haven't read it purely because Jen told me I should.  I also tend to favour true escapism in novels: crime fiction, YA romances, anything light and funny.  The blurb referencing "starvation, brutality and fear" just doesn't leave me desperate to read it.

The Women's History Of The World by Rosalind Miles
Synopsis: Men dominate history because they write it. This book offers a reappraisal which aims to re-establish women's importance at the centre of the worldwide history of revolution, empire, war and peace. As well as looking at the influence of ordinary women, it looks at those who have shaped history.
Years owned: Five.  I think I bought this in a secondhand bookshop the first time I went to Hay-On-Wye.
Attempted readings: One.  And I have no idea why I abandoned it halfway through, because it's genuinely a fascinating read.  In fact, digging it out to write this post has convinced me to add it to my pile of books to take on holiday with me next week.  We're going, funnily enough, to Hay-On-Wye.

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Synopsis: 'Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit 'em, but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird.' A lawyer's advice to his children as he defends the real mockingbird of Harper Lee's classic novel - a black man charged with the rape of a white girl. Through the young eyes of Scout and Jem Finch, Harper Lee explores with exuberant humour the irrationality of adult attitudes to race and class in the Deep South of the thirties. The conscience of a town steeped in prejudice, violence and hypocrisy is pricked by the stamina of one man's struggle for justice. But the weight of history will only tolerate so much.
Years owned: Three.  I bought it in an Oxfam bookshop and was determined to read it straight away...
Attempted readings: None, unless putting it in my bag every weekend for about a year counts as an attempt.  I just always seemed to find another book when I was out on my travels that I'd want to read more.  And lets face it, this is an iconic book, so the pressure of reading it and finding it somehow lacking is pretty big.

The News Where You Are by Catherine O'Flynn
Synopsis: Frank Allcroft, a regional TV news presenter, has just had a ratings boost. His puns, a website declares, makes him 'the unfunniest man on God's Earth'. Mortified colleagues wonder how he stands being a public joke.  But Frank doesn't mind. As long as Andrea and Mo, his wife and eight-year-old daughter, are happy, who gives a stuff what others think? Besides, Frank has a couple of other matters on his mind.
Years owned: Four
Attempted readings: Two.  I LOVED O'Flynn's debut novel, What Was Lost, so I was incredibly excited to find her second in a chazza shop not long after it's publication.  But I just couldn't get into it the first time round, so I left it on the shelf and returned to it a year later.  Same story, I got about 50 pages in and found my attention wandering.  Now I have to wonder if it's time for this to go back to the charity shop from whence it came?
Do you have an unreadables?  Or can you convince me to give any of these another try?

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Good stuff

I think it must be at least a year since I last did a links post.  I always mean to, but somehow never quite get around to sitting down and actually writing one.  Anyway!  Enough about what I haven't done, here's some good stuff from across the internet recently...

Image source here

I am an unashamedly huge fan of Courtney Love.  Complex, bonkers, fiercely intelligent, talented yet flawed: how can you not be a fan?  I still love, and regularly listen to, Hole's Live Through This album, so I really enjoyed reading Spin's recent oral history of the recording of the album.  There was also a great interview in Friday's Guardian.

And The Guardian has been spoiling all us 90s grrrls this weekend, with a Saturday interview with none other than Kathleen Hanna..

Rachelle's righteous fury burns through her post, I Was Unwillingly Turned Into A Fat Person Meme.  A frankly terrifying insight into how the inhabitants of the dark underbelly of the internet react when faced by a woman in control and proud of  her own body.

I howled with laughter at Buzzfeed's latest quiz: How misandrist are you? , which neatly skewers so many misogynistic societal norms.  'Dickflick' and 'dicklit' are now going to enter my regular parlance.

I've linked to Nerdy Feminist's post before, but this one is so far up my street that it's practically knocking on my front door.

I've loved everything that Andrea has written lately, but Parklife 20 Years On was an especially great read.  So much of what she wrote chimed with my own experiences of being immersed in the Britpop culture through fanzines and a network of penpals, especially one of the last lines: "what I'm doing right now with this blog is pretty much the modern equivalent".

And finally, if you didn't listen to BBC 6 Music's brilliant show about protest music on Monday, now's your chance to catch it on iPlayer before it disappears.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Awesome accessories: Sugar & Vice Designs

If you're after accessories that scream rather than whisper, Sugar & Vice might be for you.  I bought their Feminist woodcut necklace earlier this year and, after deciding that my jewellery collection was just the place to declare my politics to the world, they were my first port of call when I wanted a Riots Not Diets acrylic necklace.  An old Riot Grrrl slogan, it perfectly sums up my attitude to body acceptance and it had to be mine.  But could I find a necklace anywhere online?  Could I heckers like*.  Luckily, Sarah at Sugar & Vice came to my rescue and, after a few email exchanges, made me this kick-ass custom necklace for the bargain sum of £14.

If declaring your feminist credentials isn't to your taste (although if not, why not?), I'm fairly sure that another one of Sugar & Vice's 190+ necklace designs will be.  I'm already hankering after the brilliant Kapow! design: one for the birthday list, or the fab Hello Sailer laser cut wood banner necklace, which I love muchly too.  If necklaces aren't your thing (can you tell that they are very much mine?!), then Sugar & Vice also make brooches, earrings, rings... all manner of loveliness with which to accessorise.  All of their pieces are well made despite being priced so reasonably, and I can thoroughly recommend the experience of working with Sarah on custom pieces. 

This is not a sponsored post, I just bloody love Sugar & Vice and wanted to spread the word!

* To use a colloquial, and much-underused, Yorkshire term,

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

List #19: The things I will do today

1. Wake up with my alarm at 6.20am.  Hit snooze four or five times until I'm almost certain to be late.
2. Hastily wash, get dressed and run out of the door to my (lovely new!) car to drive to work.
3. Eat breakfast and drink a cuppa at my desk, while planning lessons for the day.
4. Teach three Year 9 lessons: two GCSE Controlled Assessment preps for top and bottom set English, and one PSHECE lesson on drugs and alcohol (I always enjoy starting a lesson by saying, "Today we'll be doing drugs").
5. Eat lunch at my desk while finishing my Year 7 marking.
6. Have a mentoring meeting with the PGCE student who's completing his school placement with us.
7. More marking and planning.  I'm currently in the throes of arranging a large event at school, which takes a lot of time and energy.
8. Rush to the hairdressers for my appointment; finally a chance to sit and relax with some trashy magazines and a cup of tea.
9. Home via Tesco.  The Boy is out tonight so it's my chance to cook something non-vegan.
10. Shower, PJs on, One Born Every Minute or Location on the TV (T won't watch them, so I wait until he's out to indulge), and relax before an early night.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

On not being a 'good' friend

Jen at Gingerella wrote something about friendship a while ago that I related to so much.  She opened with the line, "I'm probably not a very good friend," and went on to talk about not subscribing to some of the usual friendship rituals expected of women (it's an ace post, do read it).  And all the while I was reading it, I was thinking, "Oh my gosh!  There's someone else like me out there, I am not completely abnormal!".

Because I, too, am probably not a very good friend.  I've been told as much, by different women, a few times.  I've had numerous close friendships end, some with animosity and some with merely a slow fizzling out.  And the reason for that, I think, is largely because I too don't really understand, and as a result don't follow, 'normal' friendship rituals.

The image of female friendships that we are fed via mainstream media is one of intense closeness, of shopping trips and long lunches, of spilling woes over a bottle of wine; a post-Sex & The City oversharing of every small detail.  All of that runs completely counter to my own personality.  I have always been something of a lone wolf, happiest in my own company and ferociously independent, but childhood and teenage bullying certainly exacerbated these instincts.  I've been told I'm too self-possessed, that I keep other people at arms length, that I don't share my feelings enough, that I don't let people in.  And that's all true.

Unfortunately, some people tend to think that my reluctance to open up is a personal slight on them, when in fact it's entirely about me.  But when even the people I am closest to (my mum, my boyfriend and my brother) find me annoyingly reticent at times, it seriously has nothing to do with the friend and everything to do with who I am.  I find it incredibly difficult to open up and admit to what I, in my slightly twisted way, think of as weakness.  I'm not one for sharing my worries over a bottle of wine, and I won't be talking about my feelings any time soon.  I am never going to be that person. 

When people expect me to be able to change my personality to suit their own ideas of what a friend should be (which yes, has happened), I find it a bit insulting.  It can seem as if, rather than accepting me for who I am (sometimes withdrawn and quiet, yes, but also - I hope! - with many qualities that make me a good friend), they want to mould me into someone different.  This doesn't, as you can imagine, do great things for my self-esteem.

What it comes down to is that I don't, at the heart of it, believe that people would actually choose to spend time with me.   I find the notion that people actually like me so bafflingly against reason that I am constantly surprised by any show of friendship.  Having this weird view of myself (again, a result of my experiences in childhood) means that it becomes easy to lose contact with people.  Why would they want or need to hear from me, goes my thinking?  Meanwhile, my mates are probably wondering why I don't value our friendship enough to get in touch with them.  And if I do contact someone about spending time together and they can't make it, I'm less likely to try again because I often read it as a rebuff. When you think about it, this is a horribly egotistical way to view the world, making everything (even someone else's busy weekend) about me. 

I don't know how much it helps to have identified the ways in which my own patterns of behaviour affect my friendships.  It doesn't make the pain of losing friends any less, and it doesn't make me feel any less guilty for inadvertently hurting people.  But I repeat again, I don't think I will ever be the person that some of those friends wanted me to be.  I may slowly be getting better about accepting that maybe, just maybe, some of the lovely people in my life are there because they choose to be. But silencing the little voice, product of my childhood, that says, "Don't trust anyone, they're sure to use it against you," can be an uphill battle.