“It is absurd to divide people into good and bad. People are either charming or tedious.”- Oscar Wilde

I am writing again after neglecting this column for a distinct amount of time; January was ugly. My bank balance was ugly, the weather was ugly and any slither of motivation left from the New Year became ugly following a rekindled relationship with Sauvignon Blanc. I lasted a week. I experienced Déjà vu as I endured another Thursday morning taxi seminar following the night before. Much like the 1st taxi seminar that I mentioned back in October, I started the day debating lane closures with my driver. This quickly advanced past the acceptable 1 minute duration, to cover several topics, including the politics of cash machines. It took me five whole minutes to realize it was the very same driver (suburbia is fun like this). Amongst my exaggerations, I have noticed that most writers portray stories to the extreme; there is no grey area. They are either having it all, or full of failures. Two popular fictional embodiments of these extremes include Carrie Bradshaw and Bridget Jones; a bit like the sexist conundrum of the witch or the kitten (noted in sex and the city as the only two options for women on Halloween), are these the two options for female stereotypes? Materialistic success or emotional wreck? Where is the grey area?

At least it is an improvement on the simplicity of the hero/villain dynamic, which leaves little room for a grey area. How can we decide what is good, and what is bad? We are very quick to look for the villain, and the hero; to establish extremes. Do these exist purely in films? One of my closest friends always maintains that people are both bad and good; could it be otherwise? Psychology has taught us to look past a simple judgment, to behaviors. Can you judge a person by what they do? If a person does bad things, are they bad? Where is the line, and where is the grey area? According to headlines, grey areas are not just existent in the fictional realm. We are often allowed to see the thought processes of a “baddie”, and are given reasons why they have behaved this way. Justifiable in films; is it justified in real life? With education ensuring we know “right” from “wrong”, who decides where the grey area sits? The law is in place for a reason, but we will always be too far ahead of it. When each situation is different, can one size fit all? We celebrate how unique our achievements are; the good. When will we learn that the bad is also unique? If education and understanding leads to good, is punishment for bad plain ugly? If good and bad are outdated concepts; can we identify and act upon the different shades of grey?

Although my literary voice took leave, I did manage to start tweeting again. This is not an exaggeration; 2014 left things pretty flat. In-between these flat parts were extraordinary bursts of energy, which led to agitation, followed by copious amounts of wine (on several school nights) and a following inability to make the gym on time. I saw it all. Insomnia, illness and irrationality led bad situations to ugly ones; I realized how far it had gone after spending £70 on a Wednesday night. That included £20 on wine, £10 on food to soak up wine, £10 on unexpected car parking as too drunk to drive, £20 on taxi home and subsequent taxi to work and a final £10 on a bet that I lost to a colleague that I wouldn’t do any of the above. I thought I’d tell it like it is, or like it has been. This would have been okay as an isolated incident, but over Christmas and three weeks into January, I realized this had become an expensive habit. One that I exercised three times a week. I decided to begin again on Chinese New Year (I needed a reason for my failure). Materialistic success and an emotional wreck? Time to stop exploring these stereotypes.

By Erica Toms