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Almost In

You know that feeling of completeness? The feeling of everything slotting into place and just being, I don’t know, ‘right’?

No?

Neither do I.

People talk about it all the time. How they found something or reached a stage in their life when everything clicked into place. Even if it was just for a short period of time.

I can honestly hand on my heart say that I have never experienced that. And it’s not for want of trying, believe me.

I think I’ve almost, very almost felt shades of it, but then it disappears before I get a chance to grab it. 

People say crap like, ‘Oooh when you know, you know’ and ‘it just, well, all fell into place’.

Oh did it now? Could you just piss off, please. Always say please.

I’m not a miserable person, I’m either the life and soul or I want to run away. I think we all feel like that from time to time, but that doesn’t get as many likes on social media. Pretending the sun coming out cheered you up is something you might say but secretly you couldn’t care less. The sun coming out won’t close the extra 15 tabs I have open in my brain. Only two of them actually matter but the others are there, jabbing away. Will I always be upset about what my art teacher said to me when I was 14? Tax return. Am I giving enough to charity? Is my Mum proud? Should I have achieved more? Tax return. Am I too old to be this clueless? Will that rat I saw in my garden be waiting for me in the morning?

So there you go, I’m a bit scrambled. More than rough round the edges. But so are you, right? 

The thing that usually defines an adult is the company they choose to keep. I spent my teenage years feeling slightly behind the glass, there but not quite. Looking in. But I’d always read and heard that university is where you find your people. That wasn’t the case though within the first few months I’d already become the last to leave every party but also the one to never miss a lecture the next day. This meant wearing several different metaphorical hats. Good student hat and the hat you wear to never miss a social occasion. House party, club night, extra rehearsal, early seminar. I was at every single one of them so this meant different people in my life. People who didn’t cross the paths of the people in my ‘other’ life. All these identities were exhausting.

My friends now are in two very distinct categories. The Tits and Lips, and The Arty Ones.  The T&L girls are opinionated, fashionable and gorgeous. A flurry of constant messages, memes, diet tips and ‘which selfie shall I upload?’ Suggesting ‘the one you look happiest in’ is not taken as good advice. If you take your eyes off your phone for a couple of hours then you’re lost. A scroll for the highlights includes the odd dick pic, an overly edited full body shot in a mirror, and a picture with a fully made up face and the caption ‘I hate my skin without makeup’.

There’s an argument every day in this group but we make friends again just as quickly so it just kind of adds to the drama. I’m more of a watcher than an active participant in the arguing. I sense a storm brewing and that’s my cue to switch to my other beloved group of weirdos.

The Arty Ones have shared interests in theatre and writing, we have similar political views, and  are avocado toast enthusiasts. We all have a reusable coffee cup and wear dungarees. I always feel secretly judged when I say, ‘I haven’t read the book, but I’ve seen the film’ and if they say, ‘love your dress, where’s it from?’ do I say, ‘oh this, it’s vintage’ ,or do I tell the truth and say ‘once again I increased my carbon footprint and got it from a cheap website’? These are the friends with whom I’d watch a play, reminisce about old sitcoms and share chickpea recipes.

I don’t fit into either of these completely comfortably. Each group sees me as more like the other one. Which can leave me feeling like I’m either a weak version of both or a complete freak. A fraud perhaps.

Being a member of The Tits and Lips is fascinating. It’s so much more than friendship, it’s low level detective work. The sassiest member of The Tits and Lips crew was sent a borderline psychotic gift in the post from one of  her many admirers. She had no idea which one had sent the present, and couldn’t outright ask, ‘Was it you that sent me the creepy moon lamp, or one of the others?’ 

She had to keep up the pretence that putting on her lipstick and wearing off-the-shoulder tops in her FaceTime dates to look naked was just for them. The Tits and Lips gang spent days trying to figure out the man behind the moon lamp. It’s been weeks and we still don’t know.

The Arty Ones leave you feeling intellectually stimulated with five books added to my ‘will read this year’ list. This group has been the reason I embrace my bohemian upbringing and ditched the fake tan. The most vintage clad member of the group suggested we all try laughter yoga. We booked our place on the workshop and all met up outside the venue wondering what on earth we were letting ourselves into. After ten minutes it became very apparent it was some sort of sexual cult thingy, the touching, the breathing in time, all that swaying. I half expected Sting to walk in part way through and say ‘right, take your clothes off’. The ticket price included a buffet so I wrapped up some of the flapjacks and hid them in my rucksack. I couldn’t look any of The Arty Ones in the eye for a few weeks. That’s maybe where having another group is handy.

I love both groups equally, but the two cannot be mixed. It would go from the best of both worlds to the worst of both worlds in one evening.

They both have laughter and lots of substance but I’m made up of something different and I haven’t found that mixture in anyone yet.

The closest I’ve ever had to almost being ‘In’ was a few years ago when I went to a creative residential course in a beautiful village outside of Barcelona. The course was called ‘The art of comedy’ and it was brilliant. We stayed in a big farmhouse in the country, where people from all over the world come to live, create and just be together. It’s a gorgeous experience. No one fits in because everyone is such an odd bod. One night we were all chatting after dinner, the table was cleared and most of us were onto our second glass of wine. I felt it coming…almost…almost and then gone. Was that it? Had I almost found my home? Or was I just getting tipsy?

I spent the rest of the week trying to recapture that feeling. It showed its face, but mistily, and disappeared before it came into focus. I was sad to leave and as I packed my suitcase I hoped I was taking back a teeny tiny bit of that feeling. When I got back to Manchester I unzipped the case slowly, hoping against hope. But no – I couldn’t see it, couldn’t feel it and couldn’t smell it. Maybe It doesn’t last well in a suitcase, or maybe it’s always a moment rather than a permanent feeling.

The Tits and Lips girls wanted to know if the men were hot.  The Arty crowd wanted to discuss the theory behind the practice. I was definitely home.

 

AE19A6296 (c) Andy Hollingworth Archive

Photo credit: (c) Andy Hollingworth Archive

Author:

Tiara wearing wordsmith Lady Ilaria is a storyteller and writer. Like chocolate with chilli - sweet with a touch of 'what the fuck?!' Drawing on her bizarre childhood, her varied experiences and her magnetic attraction for very strange people with tales to tell. She definitely has 'one of those faces.' Her stories are funny and warm with a touch of nostalgia and a pinch of pepper.

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