I'm reading a warts and all biography about Vogue Editor Anna Wintour, who comes across as quite the cold-hearted bitch. But all this is conveniently explained by, what else, the fact that she had a distant, emotionally buttoned up father. She became an emotionally frigid woman, and also dated mainly much older men who weren’t particularly like her dad in character (they were lovable rogues), but I suppose they fulfilled the emotional void left by her dad's lack of attention.
The ones on the left are from 1998 (hmm, years of hard drinking on my dad's part take their toll). On the right bad haircuts all round mum, dad, me circa 1979
The book made me start thinking about my dad, who died a couple of months ago aged 59. The cause of death was liver cirrhosis actually, no surprise there. His death leaves more questions than answers, but I don't really want to get into the whole ghastly saga between my mum and dad etc. etc. suffice to say, he wasn't around much when I was a kid and quite honestly, in some ways I am pleased he is dead, because I tried so hard to make him love me and he sometimes said he did, but he could not really show it in actions and it was just forever unresolved. I couldn't accept that he loved me but couldn't show it in the way I wanted, and it was never going to get better, it was a kind of dull nagging pain. And the other torturous thing is he didn’t really love anyone else. I mean he had this girlfriend, but he never really told me he loved her, he just told me that she understood him. Okay, so I’m kind of glad it’s over …
Also, my point is I think many times I did look for a substitute for my father’s love in my relationships with men. The strange thing is I was not really attracted all that much to older men. I think I was drawn to men who reminded me of my father at the time when I was born (when he was only twenty-one), and how I remember him from when I was a child, that is, he was attractive and had a really charming voice and manner and would even buy me kids’ books and read them to me. I remember one called ‘The Lazy Bear.’ I remember also, a few happy memories, once when my mum and dad and I went rowing in Regent’s Park. After I was about eight I stopped seeing my dad for many years, so I think he was always young in my mind even when he got old, fat and bloated.
Also, for years I used to dream about my dad, and it was always in this happy, imaginary kingdom. I don’t think he really ever really aged for me. I’ve only had a few serious relationships, but they were all those kinds of coup de foudre situations. Firstly the guy would be young or look young and have the same kind of lost yet charming expression as my dad. I’d see the guy for the first time and his smile, something inexplicable about him would make my heart contract. Even before we spoke, it was love, obsession. Those relationships were very intense and often destructive. Strangely enough, even though my husband was only twenty when I met him, it was that kind of attraction - I mean immediate - but not so heavy or destructive. He attracted me even before we spoke a word. But he doesn’t remind me so much of my dad in that he isn't lost, artistic or eccentric. So I like to think I’ve grown out of that phase of trying to find in men what I needed in my dad.
Yes, I think I have, although it's pretty hard to break out of the pattern.
Do you think that your choices in women/men is governed by the good or bad relations you had with your parents?
Well things have been rather windy around here of late. No, not because of my excessive flatulence, but simply gales and the like, which knocked down this absolutely massive tree in my neighbor’s yard. Hurrah, thinks I, because it had long cast huge shadows on my garden, causing the grass to be patchy and my roses to not bloom at their fullest. So this massive tree is now lying across my neighbor's garden, and the one next to that.
So my neighbor, Mr X, a nurse in his late thirties, rings my doorbell and says he wants to talk about what we are going to do about the tree. I have to admit that I don’t like Mr X. I suppose it might be because he often stands outside his front door in pyjamas and a jacket, smoking a cigarette and peering at everyone who passes by in a suspicious fashion. The only intriguing thing he ever did was when Mr X, a handsome black guy, started dating a very plain white woman with grey hair who looks old enough to be his gran. This romance started because she has a car and he doesn’t, and she used to sit outside his house for hours sometimes, wooing him and waiting for him to come out. I guess he figured either your stalker will kill you or you can be sensible about it and just use her for a free lift. And then she started staying the night. The lengths some people will go to to avoid buying a car.
Anyway, where was I? The tree falling down forced me to make contact with Mr X. First he blithely told me that we would be sharing the costs of cutting up and removing the tree three ways. To which I replied that the tree wasn’t even in my garden, so I would just pay whatever it cost to remove the roots and stump.
So we get a bunch of quotes. Some were like $1500, just to chop up a tree! One guy wanted to charge $800 and then said he’d charge me $500 extra just to remove the stump. I said, "I don’t get it, why so expensive, surely you just chainsaw the stump into pieces?" and he said, “You don’t chainsaw through dirt.” I didn’t ask him why not.
So Mr X, myself and the neighbors on the other side hummed and hawed about how to keep costs down. Mr X told me that he knew some alcoholic bums who would be keen to chainsaw my stump into manageable chunks. “Just give them some beer money," he said,”they'll get tanked up and chop your stump up in no time."
Now, I certainly have no objections to financing their addictions, but the thought of drunk people wielding chainsaws, well, I could already see the limbs flying, the blood squirting. Did I really want to see what havoc drunk people could cause with chainsaws? Yes of course it crossed my mind that it would make a great YouTube video. It does seem like the cheapest option. But am I really willing to risk having a severed hand left in my back yard, just to save a few quid?
And if this has whetted your appetite for blood, there's a heated discussion over at finger's place about whether going down on a woman during her period is a turn on or a turn off? I say it's no biggie. Will someone please back me up on this!
The E-Spot is a problem page for people who are tired of the wishy-washy pscychobabble of Dr Phil. Please email me your problem at emma.theespot@[remove]gmail.com (please say if you wish to remain anonymous).
Yes, I want to talk about the rich today. And how they suffer. For example, imagine how you'd feel if you got a $67,000 Lexus for your birthday as this teen did.. And now imagine the shocking disappointment to find it was delivered on the wrong day. You'd be crying too, of course.
I think it's high time we had some sympathy for rich people such as Lady Jane, who wrote to me the other day in deep distress. Thankfully, this was an easy question to answer, but before you dismiss rich people as just spoilt brats with nothing to complain about, think again. Even rich people need your sympathy.
Did you know that these are the three most common forms of suicide amongst rich people:
1. Cocaine - alas many have too much money and can only buy the highest quality coke. Consequently they do not OD because the coke is not cut with floor cleaner etc.
2. Many rich women have fatal horse riding accidents. Fatal for the horses, yet, alas, the ladies are usually quite unharmed.
3. Car crash in daddy's sports car under the influence of drugs/drink.
But did you also know that many rich people are too proud to just kill themselves and suffer in silence. And if you think you can help Lady Jane, do go right ahead, but I think I've got this one sewn up.
Dear The E-Spot,
I am 26 and thoroughly fed up with the rut of unhappiness in which I've been stuck for a long time. I believe a lot of my troubles stem from the fact that my parents did almost nothing to prepare me for life after school.
Having vast sums of cash can stir great depths of guilt, unworthiness and resentment. I was pushed through a boarding school, where I was badly bullied. My father gave me no encouragement in the one thing I loved, horse-riding. I was totally unprepared for what came next - a large amount of money in a trust fund and no advice about what to do with it.
I feel very angry with my parents, particularly my father. Their inability to talk about money was a major factor in their divorce.
His unspoken view is that it is desperately vulgar to discuss money, while my mother let him make all the financial decisions.
Since graduating from university, I've had a series of pointless, badly paid jobs, interspersed with some volunteer work for charities, while living between my parents' homes.
I think it's good for me to be employed but, since I don't need the money, there is no motivation for me to stick anything out.
I suffer from severe anxiety attacks, mood swings and bouts of depression. I have tried various therapies, but I refuse to take any medication. I don't want to surrender ownership of my emotions to some pharmaceutical company.
I feel there is no one I can talk to, though I sometimes ring the Samaritans. Because I have not actually earned my money I have no concept of its worth, and I feel like my trust fund manager is a fire-breathing dragon.
I would like to make a home of my own, but if I spend my money on a house it would mean having to forgive my father and be grateful. I feel locked in a cycle of despair. If you could give me just a few nuggets of impartial advice I would be immensely grateful.
Dear Lady Jane,
While I sympathize with your plight, I'm going to go all Eastern on you. It's pretty obvious that the burden of having too much money lies heavily on your Prada-clad shoulders. It's also equally obvious that, as Buddha once said, "the only way you will find enlightenment is by giving away your worldly goods and living a life of meditation and wearing only a hair shirt." If you are still living in your house in Chelsea, that's fine, just move out and live in a dog kennel at the end of your garden and let your six storey town house be inhabited by the homeless. You will feel much better immediately!
I know, I know, you're wondering what to do with your cash. Well, let me save you a huge amount of bother. Send the whole huge cheque to me at The E-Spot, PO Box 4567, New Delhi, India. It will be put to good use.
Well, I was quite excited to be listed the other day on the internet version of the Guardian, which described my blog as:'The diary of a mother of two girls - and a collector of photographs of semi-pornographic root vegetables.' For the record, I do not have a collection of such photos, I just did one post about this topic. Or maybe two. I certainly do not have a fetish for attractively shaped vegetables. No, I don't.
In any case, thank you Guardian. That makes me feel a lot more interesting than I actually am. But if the worst thing I have ever done is fondled is a root vegetable, then so be it. (Question: does it constitute an affair if the thing I like to fondle is a Swede?)
Speaking of Swedes, I went round to my Swedish friend Karl's house yesterday. He had invited John, the kids and myself over for dinner. I asked him several times to confirm the invitation, because last time his lovely lady wife Bella invited myself, the kids and my mother round for dinner, Bella served us macaroni and cheese made from a packet. I laughed hysterically and said, "That's the kids taken care of. Now where's ours?"
At this point, Bella and my mother had gone off and were smoking a joint and giggling out on the deck, so I realised, tears in my eyes, that there was no more food forthcoming. I opened the fridge. Empty. So I tried to eat the macaroni. It was disgusting. Bright orange and powdery.
Maybe you will think me harsh, but I call packaged macaroni and cheese a crime against food. Bella used to be a model and so I think she got used to not eating. And she said that once she married Karl, she decided "Never to start cooking so he wouldn't get spoilt." The only thing I've ever seen her eat at home is cereal. But luckily Karl is a good cook, so when we went round there yesterday he had made us quite a feast.
I have gone round for ghastly dinner invitations in London, to find the hosts still in bed having a nap and then they'd get up and you stand around for three hours while they 'knock something together.' But my worst food experience was maybe a time I had a boiled heart at a friend's house, or maybe the packaged macaroni. However, I'd be quite interested to know if any of you who were actually invited to dinner were served anything worse than packaged macaroni and cheese.
In my opinion, me loving and fondling or photographing a few root vegetables is really no crime at all. The real crime is that macaroni and cheese packets are sold for anything other than to coat your insides with orange radioactive waste.
Who am I? Displaced Londoner now living in the States with my two little girlies and long suffering husband. Co-author of hilarious parenting book Cocktails at Naptime www.cocktailsatnaptime.com
My mom's an Austrian, my dad's a Brit, which makes me a Britaustrian, or possibly an Austrish?