There are times when it is as if you are disembodied from yourself and you see a scene objectively, like it is being played out on a stage. Take a step back and view things as they appear to others. It is worrying. Eyes are opened.
I had such an experience the other day, in an old, beige and brown, musty seminar room. The one with the huge black and white Renaissance portrait just outside it. It was as if I was floating about the peripheries of the room, watching events unfold. I saw myself in full technicolour. Bright pink oversized jumper, knitted by my mother when she was my age, belted tightly at the waist with a man's brown woven buckle belt that belongs (well, belonged...) to my father, with the excess flappy bit held in place with an old hair bobble. Five year old, three pound floral skirt peeking from underneath knitted affair, with its burn hole in the front, scorched through by a hot rock falling from an enormous joint as it was passed across me by a stoner known as Jeff, (whose name was not Jeff) at a hippy-dippy summer garden party a few years ago. Ancient battered Converse encasing my feet, with only one Converse sign still affixed, bearing mud from the Blue Mountains of Australia, the grounds of Leeds rock festival, the fields of Brampton folk festival, and many compulsory countryside adventures besides. A second hand paperback Penguin copy of Defoe's A Journal of the Plague Year in front of me, bought for a couple of quid from a northern emporium of cast-off books. The ubiquitous John Mullan loudly denouncing me as 'Anna of the remedial stream' due to having a silently altered version of the text, but dismissing his harshness with a jolly 'Oh, but she understands I mean it ironically'. And me actually loving that I'm being insulted by this cocky, arrogant, esteemed Literary Figure.
Because he writes for the Guardian.
He asked us for any instances of mistaken identities in well-known works of literature, or of lapdogs cropping up in novels as he left the room for his mid-seminar Ribena. It seemed totally off subject, but I knew what he was referring to - his weekly column in the Review section (which turns out to pay for his weekly groceries). I was cringeworthingly eager to show that I read it and that I knew what he was on about. I saw myself. I saw myself as that goddamn archetypal 'Guardian Reader'. I engaged him in chit-chat about it, half wanting to actually know the answers to the questions I asked, half wanting to just show that I read the paper to which he is associated. I was asserting this fact. Like it is how I define myself. Liberal, slightly hippy, self-indulgent 'arty' degree-taking, middle class bloody 'Guardian Reader'.
Oh the shame. But true.
Sometimes it is good, and indeed rather liberating, to unapologetically embrace stereotypes. 'My name is Anna, and I am a Guardian reader'. Don't judge me.