Survival is our ultimate skill, our ultimate goal and our ultimate curse. It is the most powerful instinct we have. It can turn the meek into indiscriminate killers, acting out of fear. It can drive otherwise loving and rational folk to protect their religions at any cost. It can force those people who identify strongly with their social status, to corporate crime.
Let’s say that there is a God, he of the bible who smites cities, he of the old testament who drowns armies in seas. I understand why he might do such things, without compassion or a twinge of remorse. We are his spirit of imagination; breathed life into us, and so, he creates, kills and destroys – just for fun. And then watches how we evolve. If he doesn’t like it well hey, there’s always a plague of locusts he can send in chapter three. He can press his delete key at any moment because what he gives, he can also take away. Or can he?
Why after all this time do I still have that voice in my head? If I’m to hazard a guess, it’s because it makes me feel safe. It’s because just in case people do not like my work, I haven’t set my expectations too high and my identity tied with my achievements, will not be destroyed.
Some people assume that if I have no hesitation in broadcasting intimate details of my so-called private life, my behaviour will support that assumed intimacy through further action. So if I talk openly about sex, some men assume I am ‘up for it.’
If there’s one stereotype that exists for good reason, it’s that image of a bushy-haired beetle-eyebrowed writer, who walks around muttering to herself leaving half drunk cups of tea everywhere. For the last three years I have been expanding after childbirth, a bit like the universe–at a comfortable but steady rate.
Keeping their writing under Louisa Leontiades, felt somehow like I wasn’t recognising their valuable contribution. In more intersectional terms, I felt I was erasing their voices.
After fifteen years, six major rewrites, three restructures, and now two substantive edits the Queen of the Limbo is almost ready to go out on stage and come into her own. And I am torn. I’ve loved having her here, tweaking her to idly pass the time, embellishing her with colour and power. It’s a book that has grown with me.
When you stick your head above the parapet during a revolution, you do so knowing that shots are coming your way. Writing about personal experience of non-monogamy is one way to put yourself in the firing line. Being interviewed about your non-monogamous relationship by England’s biggest tabloid, The Sun, is a better way.
But people see what they expect to see. And that included the photographer. So they positioned my boyfriend with his back to us. Then they made him change into nondescript unflattering shirt, standing apart from us. The couple, and the boyfriend. An appendage.
And then I read through the chapter again and cry. My untold story is from my soul. And I’ve lost part of it. The part that was self-indulgent, preachy and rambled.
There are a select few photos on my boyfriend’s hard drive that are, shall we say, unashamedly for his eyes only. But apart from heavily vetted and otherwise ‘instagrammed’ photos on facebook, I’ve always been wary about being photographed.
‘The Husband Swap’ stayed on my hard drive for around 7 years before I considered publishing it. In that time I reflected on what happened in the spaces in between, what was really going on in my head. What I didn’t write. What we didn’t say.