Don’t even bother, you Dodo!

15 Nov


You know those ‘punch in the stomach moments’. You might not say anything but you feel like ‘uuurgh’. Not so much the moments when you’ve messed up big time, more like the ones when something you have said or done is getting shredded to pieces by somebody else through a careless remark. I’d like to say this blog entry was inspired by a clever book, but in fact I found myself watching Loose Women the other day and they were discussing the X Factor and whether or not the judges had the right to say that so and so would never ever ever ever be a singer.

I have done many a silly thing in my life (some of it actually on TV) – but I have never been on a live talent show, so I can’t and won’t relate the following to that, BUT I have had my fair share of ‘I want to cry’ moments, when a snarky side comment by somebody sent me into a dark room for days. So let me tell you about some:

Thinking back to my primary school days, I vividly remember a remark by my teacher when we got the results for a maths exam – now, I never enjoyed or understood maths (in fact, I remember a discussion with my mum about whether 2 and 2 really always has to equal 4). But Ms Teacher asked me to the front of the class and literally laughed at my face because I had done so badly. I am no education expert, but how could that have ever helped anybody? To this day I remember the sick feeling I had in my stomach for ages and when the next maths exam came along, I didn’t exactly feel encouraged. So off I went on my journey as an official maths numpty and I spent a good 20 years avoiding numbers by all means. Fast forward to now, and suddenly I am the one at work who does all the budgets and even the company finances. One answer to that conundrum is that my business partner was utterly mad to even instal excel onto my laptop, or maybe, I just needed a bit of time and a different approach to make sense of it.

Another example: I have never really had any issues with my body – as in ‘feeling fat beyond reason’. But I have come across a few people in my life who, how shall I say, challenged my liberal approach to self esteem. One day, young 12 year old Fabienne (with an odd mix of overconfidence and insecurity) needs to get a medical for her ballet class. Mr Doctor looks at me with amazement and says “I would have never had you down as a ballet dancer. You’re not exactly the skinny type – are you?“. Gulp. A few years later, I think it’s my 17th birthday and I am having a house party with some friends (and feeling very grown up). In comes my mum’s best friend, looks at me, and says “Ah, don’t worry, when I was your age I had no boobs either.” Thanks. I then bump into The SAME WOMAN after I come back from the US a few years later, feeling all international and smug. Again, she looks at me and says “I didn’t know that having a venus figure was in fashion in America this year!” Needless to say I don’t particularly seek her out when we’re at a gathering together.

Then there was the moment when I received an answer from a film school I applied to straight after school. Technically I knew that experience in film making would come in handy, but I thought I’d give it a shot anyway. After all I was keen and happy to put together an application that saw me writing 3 film reviews and an actual film script. The letter didn’t just say ‘no’, but it actually told me black on white that I was ‘lacking any conceivable talent in whatever shape or form’. That really hurt. I had always enjoyed writing and within the small circles of family and friends, my short stories, poems and sketches always went down a treat. But the industry didn’t agree and chose the way of brutal honesty through which they slammed any enthusiasm I had and actually made me not write anything for over 10 years.

In the grand scheme of things, I do know that these moments aren’t exactly huge and totally ridiculous to anybody who has ever seriously been bullied. But they had quite a profound impact on my confidence at the time and the fact that I still remember them is quite remarkable. I can’t think of a recent event that has shaken me to a similar extent. Maybe that’s because I’ve mostly been around Brits and from experience and observation I think it’s fair to say that there is a limit to the degree of openness and honesty in the UK and that there is greater concern not to cause offence (X Factor aside). Previously mentioned anecdotes all happened in Germany where opinions are sometimes shared in a slightly more blunt manner. I honestly don’t think that either approach is generally right or wrong – I do like a good honest answer, but then sometimes I also really don’t – but there is something about the way a message is conveyed. The X Factor judges are probably not wrong in telling the contestants to reconsider their career choices – after all, becoming a successful singer is blimming hard, even for the most talented. But using ‘never ever’ is not necessary. Because, who knows, ‘not so skinny’ ballet dancers might become all the rage one day or maybe my writing style was simply ahead of its time and this blog will soon get picked up by a major publishing house and the rights to the feature film script will make me rich beyond my wildest dreams. Who Knows.


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