Illustration by Javie Huxley
Virginia Woolfe argued convincingly that “a woman must have money and a room of one’s own if she is to write fiction”.
Having recently acquired the stillness of mind, I needed to start writing my first novel, I know that I couldn’t have achieved this without a dependable income and the room that I call home. Jobs with no final destination and the precariousness of temporary housing provide the perfect conditions for creativity killing anxieties. The toil of caring for the children of other working women drags limbs closer to the ground. Retail jobs that compel you to drudge yourself into shops operated like dictatorships, in which you are forced to grin at a forever unsmiling British public, sap the vim out of a once young and optimistic outlook. The New York PR maven Kelly Cutrone titled her book of professional advice If You Have to Cry, Go Outside to which I respond “gladly!”. Whispered stories of young women sniffling in the office loos or smoking on the steps, talking to themselves whilst looking at the sky have provided me with more than enough material for poetry. It wasn’t supposed to be like this.
I grew up with the girl power of Spice Girls, when lagers willing ladettes made ironic jokes about cocks and fannies in features for lads mags like FHM and Loaded, before heading down to the pub with their interviewers where they’d drink the night away and make more jokes about cocks and fannies. At the more refined end of the scale, the Sex and the City women popularised my favourite meal: brunch. Carrie Bradshaw convinced me that to become a proper writer and furnish a lifestyle of supreme urban luxury, all I would need is one weekly column in the recession-proof industry of print journalism. Simpler times.
“When I need to write I put my phone on airplane mode, close the curtains, lock the door and there, loneliness, along with my old friend darkness, greet me like gases and promise me visions”
Nevertheless, what was foregrounded in the lives of all the aforementioned women was their Teflon strong camaraderie with their girlfriends. So I have always invested heavily, but without strategy in my relationships with women. Technology has helped me be with them and to be there for them without a problem. Oceans become streams that I can jump across with a phone call. Most often I prop my phone up on my make-up table and a friend cackles at the dedication I give to beating my face with Fenty whilst she’s lying down in her bed, and wolfing down tacos from the truck on the corner. When I end the call with a “LOVE YOU GURL!” I swiftly move into shopping for men on my dating apps. Placing an order for immediate sexual contact doesn’t cost me much. Although I have yet to find someone this way who can easily afford to be truly intimate with me.
Rough as the statistics are for a woman of my size, my skin shade and my trans experience; I can’t pretend that I don’t have it very good. If I so desire, I can have children however and whenever I want. I have a community that feels close, but when I need them to be, far away. When I need to write I put my phone on airplane mode, close the curtains, lock the door and there, loneliness, along with my old friend darkness, greet me like gases and promise me visions. We commune and, together, get smelly and sour and serious. Work is forged in the furnaces of my mind and the discarded slag is tucked away in drawers to be read by a lonely PhD student in eighty years time who will consider my draft detritus too precious to be touched without gloves.
Loneliness, along with passing as cisgender, prettiness, cultural capital and knowing how to navigate the Eurocentric systems of the West, is a privilege. To find time to be alone to create, write and pass your mind forward for future generations is something women spent centuries fighting for. I shan’t give it up without a fight.