Last week I found this email I sent in 2004 when living in Seattle.
It was in reply to a Craigslist posting entitled ‘Confessions of a ‘Fattie”* by a woman who said she was struggling with over-eating.
(* I think I might have added the inverted commas in an attempt to flag up the labeling.)
Fattie, I found your posting sad but positive that you see you have a problem in your life- it’s the first step to sorting it out.
You already know about exercise and eating better food and cutting down so here is my tip, which I thought of in the car today after I bought a cake:
You have to realize that- in this country at least- hunger is a desire rather than a need. Just because you feel you would like more ice-cream doesn’t mean you have to actually go and eat it any more than you think you would like to go on vacation to the Bahamas and find yourself at the airport buying a ticket.
Instead, you have to remind yourself that the need to lose weight and re-gain self-esteem, health, a love life etc. is a real need and not just a desire.
Then you have to ask yourself if it makes sense in any way to prioritize a desire over a need.
The answer is no.
And as soon as you get hold of that concept and do something brave with it you can start giving in to some of that desire again, only this time in more moderation.
From which these observations:
1. I’m struck by how much I sound like me even though my perception is that 9 years ago I was a different me in a number of substantial ways.
Over time, we tend to change fundamentally the way we see things far more than we change things about our fundamental selves. I think I think.
2. I can acknowledge that my Advice Tourettes is at least in part a semi-conscious coping strategy for myself developed in response to a historically anxious disposition.
This could make it a screwy proposition but mostly doesn’t (I’d protest defensively) because services offered by those personally invested in them are, on the whole, better.
3. Can you offer a genuinely valuable opinion on a personal situation of which you have had no real experience?
I think yes, if it contains some truth that might resonate…
… but that it might resonate better if it is a truth that has originated from experience.
(Based on an amalgamation of answers 1. and 2., the nirvana of reaching out to others helpfully should be, therefore, at the Venn diagram intersection of Advice Tourettes and Personal Experience.)
4. The American spellings and references take me back to the acclimatisation/ acclimating issues of living in another country from which your homeland is divided by the same language.
Come the 75th time you say ‘glass’ as ‘glarse’, and no-one understands (or knowing you have been living in America for a while imagines you are trying and failing to be charming by persisting in repeating a word you know no-one will understand), do you relent and try a mutoid ‘gllasse’?
I lost chunks of teenage time to Mum and Dad’s serial debate over the pronunciation of my Cumbrian school Casterton, with Mum sticking to the Southern vowels and Dad going the ‘When in Rome’ route.
Mum would exhibit signs of escalating irritation on each occasion, before shouting at a volume which should be reserved by rights for the discovery of a fire somewhere other than a fireplace: ‘You don’t say Casstor sugar, do you, FOR GOD’S SAKE?’
(… from which the sub-observation that recurring points of contention on minor issues in a relationship are de facto absurd and so funny.)
It’s the old ‘Paris, Paree’ conundrum that never seems to go away.
5. Was the cake mentioning a good move? Presumably it was ‘Hey, I know cake love, I’m like you’ but might have jarred in the same way as a note to a heroin addict that opens, ‘I thought of this while shooting up yesterday…’
6. Does desire originate in need or are they polar opposites? Does desire become a need and if so, when? Is desire more urgent than a need because it is about wanting rather than fulfillment- demand rather than supply? Is desire always greedy? Is desire in moderation still desire? Is it worthwhile? Shouldn’t it wear its colours authentically, with the buttons pinging off its blouse?
7. Craigslist is brilliant in a small city because everyone’s recommending chiropractors who live in your apartment block, and selling stuff you can just trot around the corner to pick up.
London Craigslist is like going outside your front door and shouting, ‘Anyone in the London area know where I can buy a good washing machine?’
The combination of this blunderbuss targeting with a gigantic and eclectic pool of humanity makes the Missed Connections section, in particular, scintillating and weird.
Here are two examples from today’s:
Looking for that woman who gave me a handjob today in 259 bus- m4w-27 (N15)
If u see this please reply because I really want to finish what you started:) I hope you see it because I can’t get u out of my head
Gorgeous Girl Walking in Enfield 02/11/13 Around 13.50- m4w-24 (Enfield)
Gorgeous Girl Walking In Enfield I Was In My Black Car And Turned To Se You We Made Eye Contact
I Was Wearing A White Shirt.
You Were Wearing All Black And Holding An Black Umbrella
If You Read This Send Me Your Photo And I You Are That Certain Girl I Will Send My Details
I need to get out more. Or start making eye contact with men everywhere I go, then racing home to see if someone who starts each word with a capital letter wants to track me down online for a long-term intimate relationship.
8. Where is Fattie? Who is Fattie? How did Fattie feel about this response? Has Fattie wrapped herself around more or less than 1,000 cakes in the last 9 years? (a bit more than 2 a week)
Is Fattie Thinnie now?
Or is Fattie on a cloud catching bites of mist promising she’ll spend the rest of Eternity giving God lovebites if only he’ll let her return to Washington State for just one afternoon; to dash around saying, ‘Hi, hi’ breathlessly to family but basically to sit down for one last mesmerising 3-hour session with a fresh cinnamon bun.