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  • Writer's pictureAlex Sim-Wise


I’ve felt the urge to blog for a while now, and I’ve had this mist of a feeling of an idea percolating just out of reach for months. It lives maybe somewhere between my shoulders in that place where when you’re old and you sleep funny you get a deep pain that you can’t itch or touch. That’s where this blog has been hiding... and try as hard as I might, I couldn’t figure out how to get it out or how to fit it into my alphabetical system as D is a shit letter.

I mean, DICKS we’ve already covered, DAIRY just makes me shit myself, and we could get into DISNEY but that’s not a current hyper focus and I can’t be arsed.

So I’m just going to type and see what comes out, which in itself is hard to do because I can’t write unless I am sat in bed, on my laptop, at night, with no noise. Typing on my phone is not the same, it’s a poor man’s substitute. I can’t get into the right headspace on my phone... and as I have a husband that goes to bed at 10pm, and both of us work a bajillion hours and have a million things to do, finding the time to do this feels like a selfish luxury. So I’ll try and blast out as much as I can and none of it will make sense because good writing takes time and a hundred rewrites. So that, my friends, is why I don't write anymore. That, and because no-one fucking reads any of it, it’s like whispering into a void.

Maybe this feeling is just DOOM. Or Discomfort.


Yeah, that’s it…

DISCOMFORT


I get this uncomfortable feeling sometimes when lying in bed, a feeling that things aren’t quite right in the world. Which given the times that we live in is probably quite a normal feeling. And I tell myself I most likely feel uncomfortable because I have a massive lump growing on my back (which is a cyst, apparently, but I want a second opinion). I keep myself up at night worrying about whether it really IS a cyst (given my track record with cysts I’d say I'm 99% sure it is one, yeah) and whether I will ever get around to getting it removed. It’s about 100 times the size of the one I had on my face, as if the last one got it’s monster cousin to come back and bully me.


But yeah this cyst causes me great discomfort, despite it not actually hurting or being that noticeable to anyone but me and maybe the more astute members of my OnlyFans.

DEATH


I never thought I would be disturbed by the death of Paul Cattermole, but here we are.

With random celebrity deaths, the ones that hit the hardest are the ones that seem to happen in slow motion and feel somewhat preventable. With Cattermole (and in the past Lil’ Chris) there is this extra feeling of failure and lost opportunity that is such a heartbreaking one, and one that I know from experience can be hard to handle if you don’t have much stability or support in your life.

While they were inescapably the soundtrack to my university days I was never a massive S Club 7 fan in that I wouldn’t have gone to see them or bought their album or anything. I didn’t DISlike them, they were just… there. But for at least a week I have been sat haunted by their cheery tunes on an endless loop, thinking what an absolute ghoulish taunt this music must be for everyone involved.

Because lets face it, all of S Club have fallen on hard times since their heyday and the fake saccharine optimism in Reach must have felt like a particularly tough cookie to chew on in recent years, once they realised how utterly ripped off they had been by the record industry at large.

Imagine singing such a hopeful upbeat song, one that resonated with millions and made people lots of money while only making 30 grand a year for yourself. Then imagine having to go on Loose Women twenty years later, broken and completely skint, only to be bullied and humiliated by those humourless harpies for not being able to afford the shirt on your back? It’s like something off of Black Mirror. Just so needlessly cruel.

But that is our media, our entertainment. A whole industry that celebrates the shining few, propped up on the backs of the broken. Everyone fighting for their 15 minutes, everyone looking for someone lower in the pecking order to break to elongate their bank balance or their time in the spotlight. Because while everyone loves a success story, they love a failure story more. And we the public are massively to blame here: the higher a star climbs, the more we like to give them a good kicking when they fall.

And I count myself here, because I remember in my more popular days meeting Bradley from S Club and being a bit of a cunt. I was headlining one of the FRONT magazine university tours with Kitty Lea and a northern model whose name I forget (who had a skin condition that I now realise was ringworm) and we spent the whole tour date running away from Bradley backstage, at one point hiding in the toilet so we could get away from him.

For context, it was 2009, and we could sense he was on the decline, that he was someone who’d had his day and was clinging on to the residual fame as hard as he could. We couldn’t articulate why but we just wanted to get as far away from him as possible, as if the failure we could smell on him was catching.

A few years later, when my career stalled, I got to experience myself what happens when the stench of failure starts to stick and had a lot more sympathy. In hindsight I can see that he was probably just trying hard to be cool and impress us, us being supposedly sexy models and all, but at the time we just found his behaviour really off-putting and entitled.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about the concept of celebrity a lot recently, and how it is that in my old life as a model I had such a ringside seat to spectate on it from within.

Models had (and still have) a special proximity to celebrity in that while we may not have been massive stars ourselves, we were seen as the prize - the reward for being a good celebrity. As the prize, celebrities chased us, which gave us a lot of the same access that they had - mostly to parties and free stuff, but also opportunities. This kind of access was unique in that it let you see how it all worked from the inside as a kind of invisible person as no-one was really paying that much attention to you, despite it being REALLY important that you be there.

So here is what I learned:


  1. Fame and celebrity is a kind of alchemy, of hard work, luck, and magic. People will claim that they know how to manufacture it, but they don’t. You can put all the pieces together but nobody 100% knows what will stick, or what the general public will take a shine to (the magic part). That’s why we have all these godawful audition shows nowadays. The production line of fame.

  2. Being a celebrity is like being the genie in the lamp: Huge, magical power on stage, teeny weeny box outside of it. Especially backstage, which is always so unsatisfying, full of bored people sitting round stinking in decrepit rooms and portocabins that look like old classrooms. I’ve never seen any shagging backstage, which in itself is really disappointing for anyone who has ever watched Almost Famous and imagined otherwise. Everyone is just tired and/or waiting for shit to happen, and official afterparties are always dull, without fail. ESPECIALLY The Brit Awards.

  3. The REAL afterparties happen impromptu at people’s studios, houses, and hotel rooms. To which I was usually invited, but wouldn’t always go unless I was in a group as this was the 00’s and everyone was rapey as fuck.

  4. ALL celebrities - even ones you fancied or looked up to as a kid - are just normal people, which sounds obvious and trite when I type it out but it’s the truth. Some are more affected than others and some may believe they are better than others but that’s just drugs or untreated mental illness.

  5. I found that mostly, everyone just wanted to be liked, and that people become celebrities usually because they have a history of NOT being liked and seek adoration to fill a hole.

  6. When a star is on the ascendant they think that they are invincible and that it will last forever. Most don’t realise that whether you are a FRONT model or a film star your time being relevant is limited to three years or less, unless you become beloved (like Paul McCartney) or manage to repeatedly reinvent yourself.

I managed 3 reinventions: from cheesy Playboy model, to trendy alt model, to TV host.

I liked being a TV host the most because it gave me the legitimacy I lacked as a model and even more access to the weird world of celebrity, which I continued to find morbidly fascinating. Despite not having a lot of experience in the field I was well suited to interviewing people because I was interested in what they had to say and I didn’t get starstruck. Well, not often anyway.


However, the most difficult people to interview were new and unsigned bands, who were usually drunk and/or nervous and felt like being a dick was what was expected of them, or older acts who were sick of being asked the same questions, day in, day out, for twenty years. The interview process as a whole is pretty tedious. While working for MTV at European festivals I would sit in the queue at press junkets listening to bands and celebrities getting asked the most basic questions over and over, watching them get progressively more bored and pissed off as the day went on. It gave me a lot of time to think up how I could approach the interview in a different way to make it more interesting for everyone involved. I realised that all you had to do to break the drudgery was ask something different, something new and exciting, something that showed you knew a bit about them. You know, something that showed you cared.

I wanted to be good at interviewing so finding that thing became my thing, my quest. I would stay up for hours researching my subjects, finding details about the drummer or the keyboard player so that they wouldn’t feel left out. Because no-one usually interviews the drummer or the keyboard player by choice. Get them on side and you’re onto a winner. Defeat the singer’s first catty or pious remark meant to catch you out with a funnier pun and you have the interview in the bag.

Interviewing people was fun but when I think back on that time, all I remember is travelling a lot and being very lonely. I’d go away for a few weeks, interview a bunch of people that would impress my friends back home and then just sit at home afterwards doing nothing. Decompressing I guess.


Occasionally I would go out to mad parties and make precarious friendships formed in venue toilets where you’re all trying to get something out of each other, whether it’s fame, backstage access, or drugs. Everyone wants something in that world and while the friendships feel real at the time, they are the first people who will disappear once you stop getting them access to stuff.

And you know, I’m not one of those people who is bitter about it because I feel like I lived it and it was an experience that makes me appreciate my current life more. Because none of that life was real… and I suppose that is what I am getting at with this ramble.

I feel sorry for people who get caught up that world and for whatever reason can’t escape, even when that industry is done with them. For me, that was my biggest fear in being famous in any way and why I left when I had the chance. I didn’t want to be clinging on like Bradley. I couldn’t bear the thought of being publicly humiliated, or of not being able to go to a supermarket on a Saturday or get a normal job without being harassed. I wanted a normal life and a family and I didn't see the two worlds as being compatible.

In fact, I remember the exact moment when I realised the celeb life wasn’t for me and it was at a Call Of Duty event in London in 2011. I had been hired to interview the red carpet and after my duties were done (lol) I was bored so I decided to head home early. Walking around the back of the venue I saw a big crowd of men shouting, and the only thing I can compare it to is it was like the pack of kids that appear whenever there is a fight at school. They were shouting and hollering, and lights were flashing and going off, and at the centre of it, cowering in his car, was Ashley Cole. And look, I can enjoy a good mobile phone up the jacksie joke like anyone, but there was something about the look on his face that made me feel so indescribably sorry for him. Like, this was his life and he looked so fucking scared.

Looking at him right then something clicked in my head and I thought: Fuck that. I don’t want that. So I walked away from it all and did something else.

And that’s probably what happened to Paul Cattermole on a scale of about ten billion. One day he decided he'd had enough and walked away thinking that he could start again, do something else… not realising that at that level you can’t. You can’t walk away and do something else. You are stuck in the nostalgia olfactory of people’s brains and that is where you’ll stay until you die and do you think he knew that when he signed his life away to Simon Fuller as a teenager? Did he fuck. Because the entertainment industry runs on lies and promises, they promise you the world and deliver maybe 0.1% of it if you’re lucky, and keep the rest of it for themselves, because it is FUCKED, made purely to profit higher up cunts like Fuller and Cowell and aid them in their quests to look like walking autopsies.

And part of that illusion is this idea that being a celebrity is GREAT. It’s the best. It’s the one thing we should all aspire to because who doesn’t want to be on Britain’s Got Talent or Love Island and be pumped up full of MONEY and ATTENTION and ACCESS. You’d have to be weird to not want that, right?

What they don’t tell you is that it’s not as much money as you think, certainly not enough to live off forever, and that the press attention and limited access to normal things is not worth the money that you are paid, because the downsides of fame are FAR greater than the upsides.

How much would you want to be paid to be shouted at in the street every day of your life?


How much would you want to be paid to subjected to constant online abuse?


How much would you want to be paid to be exposed to a press scrum of aggressive strange men who hack your phone and go through your bin every time you leave the house?


Probably quite a lot, right? Guaranteed whatever figure you have in your head wouldn’t be enough.

Thankfully, as a peripheral, I never personally experienced any of that. I saw it happen to other people though and it was rank.


In truth, the only thing I miss about those days was the feeling of possibility. Every day I woke up not knowing what the fuck was going to happen and every day my phone would ring with a new possibility. Did I want to be a naked fox in a Guy Ritchie movie? Yes please. Do you want £1000 and massive TV? As a matter of fact, I do. Can you come to Spain to investigate a cannabis festival? Why not.

I suspect it is this feeling of possibility that other people miss too.

Life’s not like that anymore and the possibility calls are few and far between, but that’s not to say that they don’t happen once in a blue moon. I love my life now and I am infinitely happier, but when I try to explain my old life to my 8-year-old daughter she can’t comprehend any of it. She’s just impressed that I used to go to the same parties as Charlie Simpson, who she only knows from the Masked Singer.

Sometimes I wonder what celebrity will look like in years to come and whether we, as the general public, will ever soften in our behaviour. Whether we will ever stop being so fucking mental, or whether our need to tear people apart is some base level desire that we’ve harboured since our bear baiting days. Can fans ever be normal? Can the general public ever be nice? Are we destined to always be Commodus?

And look, I’ll admit that I used to fancy Joaquin Phoenix as Commodus back in the day, but on a recent Gladiator rewatch he was creepy as fuck. Lets aspire to be more than weird snivelling jealous pedo bastards, hey. There’s a lesson in there somewhere. Probably just that I’m a soft fuck who wants TV to be kinder (and less Simon Cowell centric).

My mate Von wanted me to write a blog on sexy arthouse films and reading this back I probably should have done that instead. Hahaha.

Oh well.


Devo’d.


Sim xx



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  • Writer's pictureAlex Sim-Wise

In case you are new, The Brain Edit is my batshit blogging experiment where I try and catalogue my brain the same way I would my house - alphabetically!


Note: I started writing this in September last year and THAT is both how big this category is and also long I have procrastinated on writing it. To be fair I have gone through a lot in that time (mostly Covid) and I did always intend to come back to this but I think my initial aim of a blog a week may have been a tad ambitious, especially keeping in mind my rampant perfectionist tendencies and the weird place I have to go to to write. Another part of it is that I was so bummed out with B being Boring that I started to question whether this is all a worthwhile process, but having gone back and read a few I think it’s worth another go.



OKAY, let’s see if we can smash a bit of C out to try and make my way through this (bloody massive) project. Gawd, what was I thinking? It’s alright though as no-one actually reads this.


Who reads a blog nowadays? We’re all too busy cry wanking ourselves into oblivion over our electricity bills and collective obsolescence in the face of A.I..


C is such a massive one as well, so many things we could cover; Cringe, Cocaine, Cults… but lets just start with:


CAKES


Everyone loves a cake and I have baked many a cup and birthday cake in my time but my favourite is probably the spread bumhole cake I made for my husband’s 30th birthday, or a cock cake I once made on a whim because someone at the pub I worked at mentioned it was their birthday and I randomly said that I could. So I did and it was EPIC. It was an iced red velvet cock cake with veins and pubes and a happy little face on the bell end. I even put cream cheese frosting inside the balls and up the shaft. If you’re gonna bake a cock cake you have to go ALL IN and do it balls deep. It tasted amazing.


A cock cake with veins and pubes and a smily face on the bell end.
The legendary cock cake.

My grandma taught me to bake when I was a child and it was always my favourite thing to do. Many a summer was spent in her sticky kitchen making cakes and pies and biscuits. She was so good at baking that she didn’t use recipes, she made most of what she made on sight, which is something that I can only aspire to. I don’t think she would approve of the genital cakes that I make but I still remember her creaming the butter and sugar for me in a brown bamboo mixing bowl when my hands got tired. I think of her every time I bake and it makes me miss her so much, but her baking presence also makes me happy that she passed her skills on to me. Cake immortality!


Recently I realised that the reason I like baking cakes is because it is one of the only things I can fully concentrate on and lose myself in. The same goes for knitting. I like how it is a process where you have to get every part right, otherwise your mistakes are obvious, which adds the kind of pressure that I work well under. The same pressure you get from an imminent deadline that forces you to hyper-focus, except this time it’s relaxing.


Also: fun fact. I love baking cakes but I don’t really like eating them, something about the sweetness and the texture grims me out a bit.


CHEATING


Cheating is a big fear of mine, both doing it to others and being on the receiving end of. I guess because I grew up with it happening in my family and saw how utterly destructive and devastating it could be. Of course, in my twenties I had plenty of experiences of being cheated ON - one particular boyfriend, let’s call him The Cheater, had a running count of at least eleven instances (that I knew of), from which I would always take him back because our relationship was disgustingly codependent. I actually have a theory on it that no-one ever talks about or admits, but if you are someone who has abandonment issues, the buzz you get from winning someone back after being cheated on is like crack. I spent my whole twenties in rubbish relationships because of that buzz. I can still feel it now, it felt SO GOOD, but it was hard won, and the lows you have to reach to experience it are, in hindsight, totally not worth it.

When it comes to cheating on other people I have only done it once in my life and HATED it. I would put it up there as one of my top ten worst most horrible experiences, not because of the person I cheated with but because of the fact that I was actively hurting someone by doing it. I guess I just wasn’t expecting it to make me feel abjectly terrible inside - it honestly hadn’t crossed my mind. I thought because said boyfriend had cheated on me (a lot) that I would feel fine or even good because they deserved it. But no, it doesn’t work that way. At least not for me. However, I’m glad that I have experienced doing it because it has made me never want to do it again.

So there you go - my thoughts on cheating, of the relationship kind. My thoughts on cheating in life (like in tests) are pretty similar in that I won’t do that either. I hate being dishonest in general, really. It’s probably the Autism but I find it painful and difficult to lie.


CHEERLEADERS


Oh god, cheerleaders. Where to start? I have long held a fascination with cheerleaders, probably due to all the American teen movies I devoured as a kid. Before they were pedo predators on Netflix, cheerleaders were alway seen as the sexy, pretty popular ones - something that I absolutely was NOT - so a special interest was formed.

As with some of my other special interests, as a teen I created this inner narrative where on some other plane I was actually a wildly popular American cheerleader and when times were tough I would retreat into this mental world. I was so obsessed with the idea that I actually I wasn’t some awkward unpopular chav that would wear nude shiny tights with Reebok classics that I begged my parents to let me go to America for real.


Which bizarrely, is exactly what happened.


Chunky baby Sim-Wise
Me, living the American Dream

When I was 17 I was sent to Grove City, Ohio to go and be the world’s laziest Au Pair and while there I got to meet some actual real life cheerleaders. And let me tell you, they were EVERYTHING I had built them to up be and more. For a start their names were ACTUALLY Madison and April, and they were ridiculously tanned and petite and beautiful, just like the films. Madison was blonde and April was brunette and I met them at a pool party at Madison’s house and everything was like a dream. I was so excited to be there. I remember going to the party wearing all new clothes that I had bought from the mall with my au pair money (XOXO black tartan mini skort, Steve Madden mules and a Fiorucci t-shirt). I felt so pale and awkward, but as I walked into the kitchen her older brother who was a college footballer checked me out and I was so thrilled and embarrassed and vaguely terrified that I accidentally walked into a wall.

I lived in Ohio for two months and in some ways (like the pool party) it was everything I expected and in other ways it wasn’t. As I was from England I was considered the local oddity and got taken on a lot of “dates” with guys and girls who ran the full popularity spectrum: cheerleaders, basketball players, band geeks, nu metal kids… but they weren’t like UK dates, we would literally just drive to the mall or somewhere and hang out.

I noticed that even though the kids I met were the same age as me, they acted a lot younger and more childishly than I had expected. To me they acted like they were 13 or 14 and it was difficult to find things in common as language differences was a MASSIVE barrier. Early on, in an attempt to impress, I made the mistake of telling Chris, the captain of the basketball team, that I was a “party girl” back home (what was I thinking? I hate parties) and he went totally weird and distant on me before I had to explain to him that in the UK “party girl” means you like going to parties before HE explained that in the US it means you are a rampant slag. Then we had a joke about transatlantic differences and I taught him what “Wanker” meant and he taught me the word “Queef”.


Everyone my age there was a virgin, even Chris. Having grown up in the Coventry environment where sex was widespread and my friends were shagging, drinking, and/or pregnant from age 12, I found the American emphasis on purity and chastity kind of wild. The only people who were actually shagging were the nerds. So, despite my exoticism and that initial interest from the college footballer, Ohio was a very sexless time, which was probably for the best. However Ohio DID introduce me to high school football games and the possibility that I might have ADHD, so there were a few positives. Basically if you have ever watched Friday Night Lights and wondered if high school football games are really like that, I can attest that yes they are and they are possibly the most exciting teenaged social event that I have EVER been to.


After my return from Ohio I was so entranced by American football and cheerleaders that I started plotting ways that I could bring a bit of it to the UK. Which in true Sim-Wise style went totally tits up, so I will save that for another blog.


CHILDREN ( as in Robert Miles’)



Literally only added this as it came on while I was writing this but I have a vivid memory of being in my best friend Lee’s bedroom with her blue 90s striped duvet cover listening to this song when it had first come out with us both rocking back and forth and pretending to play the piano and it being so weird and funny and emotional that we started crying. Just full on bawling to Robert Miles’ Children.


OMG, didn't he die? Now I am sad.



CHRIS REILLY

I can’t believe I am putting this in as it’s a real person, but I think it Is key to understanding my psyche. Chris Reilly (always the full name in my head, never just Chris) was the first person that I kissed that I actually fancied. Only trouble was that I only realised this AFTER we had kissed, which was kind of good in a way as if I had realised before I wouldn’t have been able to do it, but bad because it meant I would never be able to do it again. Or at least not for a while until I had aged a few more years (I was 15) and built up a bit of fake confidence… which in hindsight makes me wonder whether I did actually fancy him, because years later I did kiss him again and it was awful.

But I mention Chris because he was the start of my obsession with the unattainable. Many crushes would come and go after Chris but the ones that stuck were the ones I couldn’t have and I think there is probably a lesson in there somewhere in that as soon as I got them I lost interest. There was nothing particularly special about Chris, he was just shy and tall and dark-haired and played football. I find it funny now as my husband looked a lot like him at school and was shy and tall and dark-haired and played football. I definitely have a type and I often think my husband is the amalgamation of everyone I have ever fancied. The final level boss. Like if all that Cum DNA created a person (see: Cum).



CHRONOLOGY


It’s quite possible that I am obsessed with chronology - I love nothing more than knowing the order things happened in. You know those pictures you see of autistic children where they have arranged all their toys into a neat ordered colour coordinated line? That’s how my head would LIKE to be with chronology. Everything in its year, month, date order.


Ahh… the DREAM.


Unfortunately I also have ADHD so that kind of order is near impossible.


Trust me, if I was more organised and could remember everything in my life it would all be in there like some demented Panini scrapbook. I can just imagine holding it up: “…and THIS is the time all of my friends spat on me.”


CLASS


Alex Sim-Wise dressed in a Benetton jumper, Adidas jacket and kickers shoes.
Me dressed up as every "Townie" girl in 1996

As a British person I am fascinated by class. It’s just so weird and pointless and British. Also, having ingratiated myself into a posh people clique at university, it was then that I realised that there is basically NO difference between people of different classes (they all just want to get wasted) just a coded list of pretences. Now, I like a code, as a code is a pattern and a pattern is something that can be learned. So here is what I learned:


Can you learn to be a different class? Yes.


Can you escape the class that you are? No.

Basically I don’t think that you can ever really escape the class that you were born into, because you can’t change your upbringing, it’s in the past. So no matter how well you do or how much money you make, your upbringing will always define you.


As a side note, I was born working class and I am proud to be working class, but I like pretending to be other classes as I think it is fun.


CLUTTER


Imagine, if you will, a very cluttered library or a hoarders house and that is what parts (not all) of my house and all of the inside of my head is like… and also what I am trying to avoid by sorting everything in my head the same way that I would sort my house - into nice neat containers. I dunno if it will work, but it’s worth a try!


I hate clutter. Hate hate hate it. But I also find it hard to avoid, because if you have ADHD you have to be able to SEE stuff to know that it is there - which leads to piles of stuff, which leads to bags and boxes of stuff, and ultimately rooms of stuff. Fucking STUFF. I hate it and have literally spent the past year trying to get rid of it all to varying degrees of success.


BTW as a FYI there is a direct correlation between the state of someone’s house and their mental health, hence why firefighters have to refer people to social services if their house is too cluttered. It has it’s own scale and everything. Basically, the way public services see it, the more cluttered someone’s house is, the bigger the health risk and the more likely they are to have emotional issues.


So there’s that.


COCAINE


I never had that love affair with cocaine that everyone else I hung around with in the noughties did. If anything I thought it was a bit overrated. I did it for a bit of course, but I don’t think there was ever a point where it didn’t low key terrify me. Just the idea that one line could randomly kill you was enough for the FEAR to inhabit me every time I did it, so we were never a 100% good match.

I did my first line of coke in 2007. I was in a messy relationship with the cheating guy (mentioned above) whose entire life and social group (and one could argue, personality) revolved around doing lines of coke, preferably ones he hadn’t bought. I guess I wanted to see what the fuss was about and was in a sufficiently miserable place where my desire to self destruct outweighed my considerable drug phobia. So I did it and remember my heart racing and being able to stay up all night and that was about it. After that it essentially became a massive part of my social life for the next year. Every night we would go to a gig, find the afterparty, find someone with drugs to cadge off of, find someone’s house for the after-afterparty, stay up all night being insufferable twats dancing and watching YouTube videos, pass out on someone’s couch at 9am, wake up at 4pm and repeat. There was a big group of us and it was all everyone did. The vampire life.


I guess I did it because I liked feeling like I belonged to a group, and it was fine as long as the coke was communal. But then I moved away from that particular group and started buying my own coke and doing it alone in toilets. I told myself it was for “confidence”, but I had never needed it previously. It became this secret crux, something that I needed to socialise rather than something that was good to have but not totally necessary. That was when I knew I had to quit.


As my friendship group changed from indie boys to metal munters, so too did the drug of choice, and suddenly everyone was doing Mcat, Ketamine, and MDMA. I never liked the idea of Mcat, it made the people who took it look deranged, but I did a lot of Ketamine and MDMA to predictably bad ends. Truth was drugs made us all dull, and I look back on those times with those groups as a big black hole. Sure it was fun and I got a bunch of mental photos out of it, but I wouldn’t go back there if you paid me.


COCKS


Alex Sim-Wise with cocks painted on her face and forearms
Casual standard cock-inspired party attire.

I love a cock but I have this running joke with my husband that all women have cock amnesia - that we can’t remember what cocks look like aside from the current one we are sucking. I don’t say that to pander to his ego, I just think it is funny.


I only remember vague things about cocks - I remember one that was leaky, one that was brown, one that was long and pale like an undercooked bratwurst and one that looked like a button mushroom - all head and no shaft - but I don’t think I could pick any of them out of a line up.


It’s funny because men spend so much time worrying about their cocks when actually women don’t give a shit. Or maybe I am just saying that from the confident vantage point of someone whose fella has a big one (humble brag). Or MAYBE size doesn’t matter and the only cock we DON’T want is one that is curved upwards, because that bastard will hit the cervix every time and ain’t nobody got time for that.


But seeing as we are on the subject of cocks, and having just watched Betty Blue again, I would just like to add that I LOVE seeing cocks in films. Fucking love it. Flaccid or hard I don’t care, I love that shit. I reckon 99% of cinema would be improved if it had more cock in it.


Don’t want to see that shit in my inbox tho, no.


COMICS


See Copying.



CONSPIRACY THEORIES


I don’t necessarily believe in conspiracy theories - I would never sit on the internet arguing that 9/11 is an inside job - but I do believe the royal family is a bunch of pedos and I am open to most theories being true. Having seen how fucking batshit and shady the modern day celebrity system is, I don’t hold out much hope for that world, nor do I believe that humanity is basically good, because it’s not.


Hope for the best but be open to the worst is my motto.


COPYING


My ability to copy is a quality that I now recognise as my ability to mask. I always found it strange that I found it hard to create something original myself but I could copy other things or people very easily. I think it stems from an exceptional eye for detail and a deep discomfort with being myself, because myself was always weird or too much… so I would find people that I liked or looked up to - usually famous people like Britney or J-Lo - and mirror them as a way to cope and/or fit in.


Later on this developed into boyfriend mirroring - where I would become the person I thought they wanted rather than the person that I actually was. I would develop the same worldview, interests, even sense of humour, to the point where I would start to lose myself and forget who I was. If I am honest, I probably started doing this with my dad. He was hyper-critical and forever finding new hobbies and interests (bowling, horse-riding, skiing, airfix models) that I was expected to join him in, that would then be abandoned after a couple of months. It made it really hard for me to stick at stuff, partly because a lot of the time I couldn’t carry on with a hobby even if I really liked it because I had no-one to support me in doing it once my dad’s initial interest wore off, and partly because, well, I have ADHD.


If you have ever lived with a narcissist then you will know the importance of keeping them placated and of keeping them happy, even though it is an impossible task. Growing up my dad had a very grandiose opinion of himself where he basically saw himself as better than everyone. In his eyes he was always more intelligent and more cultured and he was always ready with a cutting remark for those who were not. I grew to dread those remarks so I tried to be the cultured well-behaved child that he wanted, essentially to avoid verbal and physical abuse. I learned to copy and mask in my own home and while I don’t have to do it with my husband it has been a hard habit to get out of.


Also, when you peel back the layers of fake interests it can be hard and quite sobering to see who you really are underneath it all. It can make you feel like you have no real interests at all, which is tough. I was actually surprised by how many of my interests were fake or no longer relevant. Comics were a big one. The only comics I actually like are Tank Girl, Junko Mizuno, and Junji Ito, the rest was all boyfriend-led.


COVENTRY


I’ve written a lot about Coventry, much to the chagrin of my mum and the people I grew up with. I get it, it tries, but by all accounts it is not the best place in the world, especially not in the eighties. It had a certain small town dog eat dog mentality back then that even now I don’t think it can shake.


I feel a strange pride in coming from Coventry though - it being the hard faced place that it is. I found it character-building. No matter how well you do, someone from Coventry will always try to bring you down a peg or two so I never felt like I could get too big for my boots. I remember at the height of my modelling career going back home to the Old Clarence Pub to show the lads I grew up with my modelling portfolio and being rinsed for having “prickly nips”.


The Coventry that I grew up in was rough, poor, and violent. I saw scenes and put myself in situations back then that looking back were absolutely mad. Even now when I look up people I grew up with, nine times out of ten they are in prison. It’s no wonder that it’s not my first choice place to go back and visit. But I do miss it. There is an honesty in rough people that I like. I find them easier to be around as you know what you are getting. They either like you or they don’t. With more well-mannered people it is hard to tell, they can be more duplicitous and that I struggle with.

Growing up in Coventry made me less afraid. It made me always stand up for myself in a fight. It made me more empathetic and aware of people from different ethnic backgrounds, but it also made the culture shock of going to a posh school in London (and later university) REALLY hard.



COVID


What the fuck is Covid? Other than this thing that has made me absolutely terrified of BREATHING. FFS.



CREDIT CARD COMPANIES (also file under: CUNTS)

As you can see why website is looking quite sparse of late - that is because credit card companies and payment processors are cunts and have deemed the content in my shop “pornographic” despite it very much NOT being pornographic. So fuck them in their stupid beady eyes. As if they are not into internet porn and being shat on.

I mean, honestly. Come ON.


CRINGE


Alex Sim-Wise cringing so hard she is on fire.
Me, cringing so hard I am on fire.

As a child and as a young adult, I used to cringe a lot. I am naturally quite a thoughtful, introverted person prone to awkwardly breaking wind or making social faux pas and for years I would feel the embarrassment of those micro interactions to my very core, until over time I guess I must have grown hardened to it. I literally cringed so much that my cringe function broke, and I became somewhat immune. Now nothing really embarrasses me. Well, not the things you think would embarrass me anyway. I shit myself in public very early on with my husband and don’t remember being embarrassed about it at all.


The only thing I worry about now is interactions and whether I said or did the right thing, because conversational skills are not my strong point.


CULTS


Fuck me this is getting a bit David Icke. Having said that I did go through a phase of reading his weirdo forum. I guess I just like knowing stuff. That’s why I would hate being in a cult. I like reading about them though, I don’t really know why. My current “special interest” is Mormon cults. I find Mormon men really attractive? Maybe it’s the snazzy uniform or their tendency to kill their entire family in fits of rage. The fittest one is that one in Physical. I don’t know why but I find repression so sexy, maybe because I am (secretly) massively repressed myself.


CUM


I once saw this woman argue on YouTube that as a woman you keep a little bit of the DNA of everyone you have ever fucked inside you and while I know it is probably bullshit, it really freaked me out. Imagine that? The way they argued it was so convincing, but I can’t find the video or remember the argument now. I hate the way weird shit like that just sticks in my head.


Cum is so funny looking anyway, I find it simultaneously repulsive and hilarious. It’s like mother nature’s joke. Did you know that when you get it in your eyes the reason it makes them so sore and red is because your eyes are really similar to your eggs and the sperm is trying to penetrate them? I mean that could be bullshit too, but it’s food for thought!


As a side note: I actually like getting cum in my eyes. I am one of the 0.1% of women who enjoy it. I have no idea why.


CYCLES


My brain works in patterns and cycles and it has taken me YEARS to firstly acknowledge that I have them, and secondly figure out what they are. My special interests follow cycles too - they are: Twin Peaks, Rose West, Walt Disney, Bioshock, Bettie Page, Amelie, Martha Stewart, Fred Rogers, Freemasons, Tank Girl, Mormons, Playboy, Marilyn Monroe, child stars that died, Silent Hill, Chippendales, baking, cheerleading, and New Urbanism.


I am currently on a Chippendales cycle, thanks for asking.


In addition to my special interest cycles I have certain private life cycles that make me prone to spiral into depression and while I’m actually in a pretty good place at the moment I am always looking at ways in which I can improve. A lot of staying on top of depression cycles is figuring out what my triggers are when they are not always obvious. I don’t know what these depression cycles are linked to - whether it is the moon or hormones or periods - or whether it is just the way that I am. For me, two of my biggest triggers seem to be dreams and music so I try not to dream or listen to music too much. I know if I start lurking on certain people or making complicated spreadsheets or listening to individual songs repetitively that I must be on a cycle, but sometimes it can take a while for me to realise it is happening. My husband usually notices before I do, because I turn into a ghost.


The only way I can explain the ‘ghost process’ is that if I get scared or if I feel so much that it gets overwhelming, I completely retreat into myself so that externally I become a blank shell. But of course I don’t realise that I have turned into a blank shell because my mind is so active and constantly thinking to the point where everyday life becomes a secondary dream state. I am only present internally to myself, not externally to other people, and real life gets completely zoned out. This mind tunnel is the same place that I have to access to write, which is why I try to avoid doing it, even though the results can be positive.


So that’s it - C. I hope you found it interesting.


Sim xx

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  • Writer's pictureAlex Sim-Wise

BLONDE


Okay, so, Blonde. Or Monroe even, as that is the subject matter.

I feel like I have been threatening a blog about Marilyn Monroe for a while now. After I read Joyce Carol Oates’ book last year I had a lot of feelings about it, but none that I could fully articulate. If you haven’t read it, that book is A LOT - way more misogynistic and exploitative than the Netflix adaptation - but isn’t that always the way with women? We are forever debasing and denigrating each other in ways worse than men could ever manage or imagine.


Still, it was an interesting read. An attempt to get under the skin of what has now become a mythic public entity and seek the core of what made the peculiar societal phenomenon of Marilyn Monroe. It is also trauma porn, so make of that what you will.


So yes, I knew going in that Blonde is a thinly-disguised fictional retelling of Monroe's life, albeit one that had been heavily researched and has some truth in it. I also knew that the book was extremely graphic, so I was intrigued to see how the source material would be interpreted, especially seeing as it was being directed by the guy who brought us CHOPPER!?


I mean, c’mon Hollywood!? WTF.


THE CULT OF MARILYN MONROE


I have a complicated relationship with Marilyn Monroe. I find her endlessly fascinating and have watched almost every film and read almost every book on her, but I wouldn’t consider myself a “Marilyn Stan”. I feel a Marilyn Stan is a different breed of person entirely, somebody who sees Marilyn as this glamorous but flawed poster child for the broken. A glamourous icon for women who like their stars with a side of schadenfreude.


“Look, even the most beautiful woman in the world was messed up and had problems - she was JUST LIKE ME!'

Except she wasn’t. She was a person in the most unimaginable spotlight, the most sexiest person IN THE WORLD. I don’t think many of us can comprehend the pressures and magnitude of that. Of the kind of attention that brings and the people it attracts. It’s a light that attracts the world’s worst creepy crawlies. It must have been unbearable, especially in a misogyny heavy era like the 1950s.


And that’s not to say misogyny has gone away - it hasn’t - it’s just not as explicit (read: hidden) and more likely to be perpetuated by women, so… how’s that for progress? Yeah, I know. I don’t get it either.


But back to the film. The initial Twitter reactions I saw were all complaining about how graphic and exploitative it was, and - having read the book - I was like oh no, they went all in. But upon watching I was surprised to see that they didn’t. I mean there were some odd creative choices, sure, and it IS trauma heavy. But honestly, I will keep saying this: the book is worse.


I do get the argument of "why must we continually bastardise Marilyn’s memory?" - but the memory itself is the bastard. It’s an image, an idea… it’s not the real person. The “Marilyn Monroe” you know is a lie, a Warhol facsimile on a mass-produced canvas print on the wall of one of life’s victims. To me, a worse travesty is Kim Kardashian wearing (and ruining) her famous dress. But then, would Marilyn really want to be remembered for a dress? Wasn’t she more than what she wore?


As a pop culture cornerstone of the Hollywood studio era, Marilyn Monroe has been romanticised to the point of being unrecognisable as a real person - a cypher for asinine quotes so called “Boss Bitches” and “Full Time Mummy CEOs” share on Facebook with their friends to normalise shitty self-aggrandising behaviour. I’m looking at you, people who perpetuate the “if you can’t have me at my worst, you don’t deserve me at my best…” bullshit. GOD do I hate that quote. Like most quotes attributed to Monroe, she didn’t even say it. It’s all part of the pop culture mirage, designed to sell shit and make you feel better about yourself.

I have mixed feelings about the film, as I did the book. I don’t think either express much empathy for Marilyn as a person. In fact, I hated the film at first and started to wonder if I should be watching it. I had to stop it halfway through and went back to it this morning. I’ve experienced some of the things portrayed, but I didn’t find it triggering. Compared to the book it was actually quite sensitive. Like I said, the book is worse. SO much forced anal.


I felt that by the second half (and after the weird talking baby) the film improved and I started to get what the director was heavy-handedly trying to do, other than try and make a David Lynch homage. The whole film seemed like a love letter to Lynch. I didn’t know if it was intentional until the last couple of scenes when the music showed its Twin Peaks influences, and then I just KNEW. A ha! Still, it’s no Fire Walk With Me (the quintessential filmic text on trauma) - the difference being that Lynch has empathy.

Overall I thought Ana de Armas was an EXCEPTIONAL Monroe, the best I have seen. I wasn’t convinced on her casting at first but she really excelled and was very convincing. The story was a bit too dreamy and missed out A LOT, I would have liked to have seen more of Monroe's time in the orphanage and her first marriage, rather than a billion abortions but I get why they were there. I liked the scenes with Cass and Eddy.


“But it’s not true!” I hear you say. And neither are those quotes you love so much but you don’t seem bothered about the veracity of those. And anyway, how do you know? You don’t know with absolute certainty either way. Nobody does, it’s all extrapolation like any biopic.

However, there is no doubt in my mind that Marilyn Monroe’s life was incredibly traumatic; from her abusive upbringing to the nature of her fame to her turbulent relationships - these are all well-documented facts. To try and sugar coat or glamourise these parts of her life would be to do her a great disservice. But then, how do you show that trauma? Is there a KIND way of doing it? I don’t know if there is.

This film is a body horror, showing the horrors of owning a “sexy” female body in the public sphere, by showing how your body becomes not your own (hence all the crowd scenes with fans shown as a grasping, baying mob). But by also showing Marilyn’s intimate private moments it showed that at her core she was the same as any of us, and her horrors were the same suffered by all women.

I actually liked the vagina shots. I liked that it showed her body in an unusual, almost clinical way. The way that is a lot of women’s reality - of periods and smear tests and abortions. The side of women that is decidedly unsexy and NEVER SEEN. Why should these things NOT be shown? We should be able to see our own reality presented on screen, hiding them keeps them repressed, secret, and taboo.


Marilyn Monroe suffered greatly with Endometrosis. Her fertility was something she struggled with until her death. In her private sphere these would have been the things that defined her and by all accounts she lived a troubled life and died a troubled death. It’s why we remember her now. Why sugar coat? Do you really hold that pretty image of her so dear?

Marilyn didn’t go through life as helpless or as explicitly looking for her daddy as the film would suggest, but that WAS the core of her trauma. As it is for many people who have experienced abandonment early in life. I suppose I can relate to that on some level, the childhood trauma, the sexy modelling career, the way she strived to be seen as sexy AND a serious person… but the thing I relate to most of all is that she is a complete fabrication. “Marilyn Monroe” as we know her is a fictional character, and THAT is what this film is clumsily trying to get at.


Like I said, Marilyn Monroe is a mirage. As someone who has masked their entire life, fabricating a persona to get ahead and deal with difficult situations is something that I can more than empathise with. The part of the film that touched me the most was when she was sat by the mirror begging for Marilyn to come. It brought me to tears as it is a pathetic situation I have found myself in hundreds of times, of having to switch on the glamour when you really don’t feel like it. It captured the duality of the duty of being sexy personified. No-one, not even Marilyn Monroe, can be sexy all of the time.

And I know my experiences are a minuscule fraction of what she would have experienced, but they are enough that I can relate and empathise in a way that those that haven’t lived that life cannot. Being “sexy” is a heavy burden, one that has many perks, but just as many pitfalls and it is a way of life that can leave you feeling lost.


I see Marilyn Monroe as someone who sought - for her whole life - to find someone who could see her and embrace her as a whole person. As both Norma Jean, AND her creation. It seems to me people could only either see her as one or the other: either Marilyn Monroe, the “dumb blonde” international sex symbol, or Norma Jean, the smart but troubled girl-next-door, never BOTH.


Whether you see her as Marilyn Monroe or Norma Jean, or both like I do, the biggest favour you could do for her legacy is to NOT see her as a dumb quote or a poster child for the broken, but as a complex woman who tried her best to live up to the puritanical ideals of society at large - a task she was doomed to fail as it is impossible. She was given her sex symbol status and did her best with it, but as a traumatised individual she WAS exploited and I think it is fair for this film to show that, as it is something that continues today.

I do think it is important to show the “truth” of these worlds. As a society we are fed lies about the nature of Hollywood and celebrity that don’t represent the reality of it. For many women in the studio system in Hollywood, their reality was brutal. Just look at Judy Garland, Loretta Young, Shirley Temple… the list goes on.

I don’t think Marilyn Monroe’s real life was as extreme as the film (or the book) portrays but I do think her reality was uglier than what many Marilyn Stans can bear to see and we have to ask ourselves why as a society we romanticise women’s lives like this. Why we put certain women on a pedestal and deny their humanity. Why we can only see them as sexy OR intelligent, not as a whole human being.


Women are equally guilty of this, if not more so, which is what makes Oates’ book all the more shocking. If you are looking for the misogyny at the core of this film, look to her, not the director.


Like I said: the book is worse.


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