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Changes: Marian Keyes

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Annie [00:00:04] Hello and welcome to Changes! It's Annie here, absolutely delighted to have you with me after this Easter break, hopefully it felt somewhat like a break for you. I'd love to know how you are and what changes, if any, you've been going through in your lives. Let me know on this email address I want to hear from you. Tell me about some of the changes you've been going through, and also let us know what you thought of those Changes Focus episodes that we've brought you over the last few weeks. I just, I mean, I know I'm biased, but I thought they were excellent, really great shop windows for what we do here on Changes, focusing on themes that lots of people touch on, namely education and parenting. Anyway, love to hear from you, on with the show. It is our 13th series starting today! Can you believe that? I am so excited to bring you a very special guest today. She is a globally bestselling phenomenon. She is one of the most successful Irish authors of all time. Her name is Marian Keyes. Marian is the queen of contemporary fiction, having written 16 novels that have sold over 35 million copies worldwide. On top of that, she's published three collections of her journalism, written a cookbook, and co-hosted the hit BBC Radio Four program Now You're Asking. Marian's writing covers some of the most pressing issues of today, including mental health, addiction, domestic violence, immigration and Repeal the Eighth campaign, all through the lens of her very light touch. Marian herself is open about her own history with alcoholism and talks in a refreshingly honest way about her appearance and getting older. This episode is no exception. Her new book, My Favourite Mistake, which has just been released is an absolute must read for all women. I loved it! And you will hear why. It's an honour to welcome to Changes, Marian Keyes... So, first of all, how are you? 

Marian [00:02:02] I'm great, really! 

Annie [00:02:03] Yeah? 

Marian [00:02:03] Yeah! I mean, you know this, anytime before book comes out, I go a bit mad!

Annie [00:02:09] Still? 

Marian [00:02:10] Oh God yeah. In a way, it kind of- it's got worse. But now that I'm actually- it's too late to do anything, I can't make any more changes and I've already started talking to people about it, I sort of feel 'okay, I did my best. I did what I could'. 

Annie [00:02:26] And do you enjoy talking about the books after you write them? 

Marian [00:02:29] I do, I suppose. I mean, yeah, I do, because- 

Annie [00:02:33] It's still quite raw, I can imagine. It's not- you don't have that big a remove from it. 

Marian [00:02:37] No. And I'm always keen for people- this is pathetic. You know, the people who'll know what I was trying to say. I'm very like, 'now this is the point I was making-', you know, like I want people to know that there was intention behind what I wrote. 

Annie [00:02:51] Of course, yeah. 

Marian [00:02:51] Yeah, no it is, it's very nice to talk about it. 

Annie [00:02:55] I wonder like, even just that, like the wanting people to know there's intention, it feels like there's a sense of you assuming that people won't think that you have depth *laughs* as a writer. 

Marian [00:03:02] Yeah, yeah.

Annie [00:03:06] You know what I mean? That's interesting to me. 

Marian [00:03:07] Yeah. It took me a long time to realise that I had spent my career kind of operating from a defensive position, you know, that I went into every interview expecting to be mocked and scorned. And, I mean, I would say to anyone doing something they love and getting a certain amount of reward for it, don't think like that. I wish I hadn't. You know, with my earlier books, I just wished I'd thought I'm doing something I love, I'm so lucky to be doing it and some people like it. And just to lean into the gratitude rather than be trying to explain how I was misunderstood and that I- that chik-lit was a, you know, a pejorative and, you know? I mean, maybe it's just being 60 that's made me think I should have been always positive, but I suppose you can't know until you know. But yeah, I suppose I do feel like- I mean, especially for people who haven't read me, you know? 

Annie [00:04:10] Yeah. 

Marian [00:04:10] The minute they hear my name they kind of, they often flinch and their eye goes a bit twitchy.

Annie [00:04:14] Do you think there's an assumption there?

Marian [00:04:16] Yeah, there is an assumption. 

Annie [00:04:18] And what is that assumption? 

Marian [00:04:18] That I'm *tuts* oh, frothy, frivolous, glittery, prosecco, high heels, silliness, girlyness, no depth, no worth. 

Annie [00:04:34] Mmmm. One of the things that really struck me through reading My Favourite Mistake, the new book, and also just reading interviews and listening to you talking, is this relentless honesty. It feels like you are so honest and so true to yourself. I know you mentioned that maybe you haven't always felt that way, but it really comes across in your writing. 

Marian [00:04:53] Thank you. 

Annie [00:04:53] And in the way you speak about your life and stuff. I suppose, does writing do that to you? Does it help you be honest? 

Marian [00:05:01] God, I dunno. You see, I was always without boundaries.  

Annie [00:05:05] Really? 

Marian [00:05:05] Yeah, I mean it wasn't a good thing. And I still don't have any, really. I mean, I tried because... It's healthier for relationships, but I never- I just never understood that if somebody asked you a question, you didn't have to answer it fully and honestly. And then with a lot of things about me, I'm glad that I'm honest like, I think I would have found life very difficult being sort of in the public eye and being a recovering alcoholic. I don't like secrets for me. I don't like carrying secrets because it makes me feel vulnerable and icky. It just makes me feel, eughhhh. This is just me. Anybody else, like, do whatever you need to do to keep yourself safe. But I, I just would prefer me.. It's just easier. Even lies of omission don't sit well with me. 

Annie [00:06:02] Let's get on to change. 

Marian [00:06:03] Okay. 

Annie [00:06:04] How are you with it? 

Marian [00:06:05] Oh I haaaate it! *Annie laughing* oh my God!! I mean, I absolutely- unless, I suppose, unless it's change from something that has stopped being comfortable or stopped working. But most of the time I'm easy to scare, like *frantically* 'noooo, this is gonna be disaster!' you know, 'it's not going to work out and, I'm going to lose everything!'. Yeah, like I'm a wonderful catastrophist, I'm not great on change but it's inevitable. You know, like, there's no way of sidestepping it. And there was a time when I was younger when I taught at some stage, I'll just be so in control of myself and of my life that there will be no unpleasant anythings. You know, everything will just kind of humm along in a nice, steady, almost dull kind of contentment and nothing will come along and upheaval me. With the upheaval we are like on shifting ground the whole time, humans, until the day we die. Well, I mean I'm only 60 but like that's been my experience so far, that I might get spells of 'yeahhh, God this is great. Long may it last' and suddenly like woops! 

Annie [00:07:17] The rug is pulled. 

Marian [00:07:18] Yeah. And if it's not external circumstances, it's changes in me. 

Annie [00:07:22] Yeah. Well, let's get on to your first childhood change then. Can you remember what you said? 

Marian [00:07:27] Yes I did, I said erm, I fell in love with reading. And you see, I found childhood incredibly challenging. I found the world really frightening. I mean, I don't know why, I think I just came out of the box. 

Annie [00:07:46] You were the oldest, right? 

Marian [00:07:47] I was, yeah. 

Annie [00:07:47] Of five? 

Marian [00:07:48] Yeah. And I found other human beings confounding. I just never knew what the right thing to do was. And I spent a lot of my time kind of watching other people and listening to what they said and thinking, if I do and say what they do, then I can pass myself off as normal. I was afraid all the time of getting into trouble or of something bad happening. I mean, but even now, like, I think of Ireland in black and white, when I remember those times. Like, I was born in 1963 which does feel like the dark ages now in terms of the changes and it felt to me like the whole country was afraid of getting into trouble, you know, like the power of the church was- like it was a theocracy in all but name. And both my parents came from not the middle class, like my mother came from a very small farm in County Clare, and my dad came from the inner city in Limerick. They absolutely were lovely and they absolutely did their best with me, but I think they both felt a slight sense of... That they didn't really belong. 

Annie [00:08:58] Got you. 

Marian [00:08:59] And, and I think I picked up on that, that I didn't belong or that we weren't as good as or, you know, all of that. So, I don't remember stories, of other books before Enid Blyton. I just remember Enid Blyton. And it was like suddenly we'd go from a black and white movie to when it changes into colour in The Wizard of Oz, and it gave me such escape, like it took me away from this baffling world where I was afraid of everything, and it just gave me this massive, massive relief and escape and pleasure. I mean, I've often said, like, reading was my first addiction. You know, and I remember, like, my dad coming in to my bedroom one night, I was about I dunno, 6 or 7, and telling me it was time to go to sleep and to turn off the lights, so he turned off the light. But then I tried to keep reading in the dark, because I was so agonised at the thought of leaving the world of the book and coming back. It's like, in The Little Match Girl when the match goes out, that's what it felt like. Everything went back to sort of grey and ashy and awful. And so books were my first comfort, my first escape, the first thing I really loved. And it stayed that way. Always. 

Annie [00:10:25] Did you ever think that you could be a writer? Was that something when you were a child that was on the table, no? 

Marian [00:10:32] Not a chance! *Annie laughs* Not a chance! I'm trying to wonder why that was. I mean, again, it was the Ireland of the time, but, like, it was all about you get a safe, you do something safe. You do something permanent and pensionable. You know, the kind of, the Holy Grail was to work in the bank or the civil service, because then you would be taken care of. And I don't know, it just- writers just seemed like people from another planet. I couldn't even imagine them and this was like, well into my 20s, that I thought, like, writers came from a long line of writers, the way people would come from a long line of cattle farmers or something *Annie laughs*. You know, that it was always in the family, and it was- you were born into it and it was your inherited craft. I just would never have had the audacity to think that somebody like me could do something as brave and pushy. I would have thought it was pushy that I was kind of leaving my lane and moving into an entirely different lane. 

Annie [00:11:38] And also the act of putting something out there in the world and the expectation for them to read it.

Marian [00:11:44] The arrogance of that, yeah I would never! *Annie laughing* Like, yeah, my expectations from life were really low. 

Annie [00:11:51] But, you know, for those listening, I don't feel like any of what you're talking about is remotely like an anomaly to you. Like that to me, feels very normal in terms of Ireland and Irishness, especially in women. I think that sense of a kind of inherent shame and, just that sense of not ever feeling like you're in a position to speak out or put yourself in front of people. 

Marian [00:12:11] Yeah, I'd forgotten about that. You're absolutely right. I mean, the worst thing- and it was really, really difficult for my mother when I did get published, the worst thing was for a woman to cause controversy. You know, to stick our head above the parapet and, and voice something that could be counter to whatever the, you know, the common wisdom was at the time. Yeah, I'd forgotten about that! Like that women were, you know, quiet and, and meek, obedient, biddable, looked after other people, and, you know, confidence- I kind of joke about this, but, like, you know, Irish women, it felt to me, mothers kind of took pride in raising children with no self-esteem. 

Annie [00:12:55] Yeah *laughs* yeah. 

Marian [00:12:55] You know like if you had a confident child, you know, you'd be, you'd be mortified! *Annie laughs*Like the la- it's the kind of, and a confident daughter, like, no way! 

Annie [00:13:04] Yeah, yeah. 

Marian [00:13:06] And again, it was, you know, it was of its time, but erm, yeah. 

Annie [00:13:12] Just going back to your family real quick, I suppose everyone in a family, especially in a big family, there's a sense of everyone having a role to play. 

Marian [00:13:18] Yes! 

Annie [00:13:18] What was your role in your family? 

Marian [00:13:19] I was a mini dad. 

Annie [00:13:20] Okay, and what is that? 

Marian [00:13:22] Oh my God. Right. I was erm, I mean, they call me the sergeant major still *Annie laughs*. Yeah, like yeah. I'm very kind of- yeah, I'm a bit like it still. Standing at the bottom of the stairs with the clipboard, ticking us all off as we come down the stairs, yelling at the latecomers. Very much the sheepdog to my dad's farmer. You know, like I was the one kind of rounding people up and trying to manage them for him. Yeah, I was kind of like the underling, the the second in command. 

Annie [00:13:55] And how does being part of a family like that manifest? What about being in that family is part of you? 

Marian [00:14:01] I mean, I love it. I absolutely love it. I'm trying to put words in it because I am- it's one of the things I absolutely, I love in real life and I love writing about it. I like the way- families are just a random selection of people. Even though you may come from the same gene pool, family members are often nothing alike. I mean, every single one of my siblings and I, we're all really different. But because you're united by blood, you have to spend time together. And it's interesting that, like, you know, when we grow up, when we become autonomous, we make other families, you know, we make friends with people that we really like. I mean, look, I absolutely adore every single member of my family, but, like, we don't always have things in common-

Annie [00:14:54] Not all compatible- 

Marian [00:14:54] Yeah. Yeah, exactly. We're not compatible we're far from compatible. And I kind of like that. I like our differences. I like the way we disagree about things. I like the way we were all given very kind of rigid identities fairly early on and even though in the rest of our lives were not those people, when we're together, we are. And I like, you know, I feel very kind of disappointed when there's only 17 of the 18 of us *Annie laughs*. I know, it's really weird. And it's why I like writing about families because the boundaries of a family are kind of malleable. You know that, like, people will forgive a lot within a family that you might not forgive in other relationships. And with my family, like, I love just how rude I can be. You know, like, if people are bored with the conversation, they'll just pick up their plate and go to another room *Annie laughs*. And you can be as weird or as engaged as you like and nobody whines. With those people I am entirely myself. I am the oddball that I still am. I can give it free rein. I don't feel like I have to tailor myself for them in any way. 

Annie [00:16:12] That's wonderful isn't it. 

Marian [00:16:13] Yeah it is, to have that freedom. I mean, and I have it with friendships as well, but en masse, I like the feeling that there's enough of us that there will always be somebody that you can complain to, or there'll be somebody who's like, I'm with you, yeah. 

[00:16:28] *Short musical interlude*

Annie [00:16:38] Tell me about the biggest change in your adulthood, please, Marian?

Marian [00:16:41] Okay, the biggest change that I made in my adult life was at the age of 30 I accepted help for my alcoholism, and I did everything I was told to, and I was lucky enough to get sober. And that is the most fundamental thing that has ever happened to me or will ever happen to me. It's impossible to overstate how much it changed my life. I mean, I spent the first 30 years of my life baffled by it all. Like just- 

Annie [00:17:13] Baffled by life?

Marian [00:17:14] Yeah and people and myself. I was just kind of lurching around in this fog. And I was so self-destructive and I sabotaged any gifts that I had. I had a degree, and I was clever but anything I achieved, the moment it was mine it became sort of sullied. You see, I didn't grow up. I was really immature emotionally. And I was also very full of resentment against other people, like I felt like life was a zero sum game and if you got something Annie, it meant there was less for me, you know, so I couldn't be happy for anyone else. I just felt they took some of the good fortune out of the universe, and just meant that there was even less of it to go round. And when I was enabled to put down the glass, and to start doing the things and spending time with people who helped me to take responsibility for the way I had been living, and to learn to live through the slings and arrows of everyday life, and to do it without having to self-medicate, that grew me up eventually, and it has given me gratitude. Like I was always, always depressed because alcohol is- 

Annie [00:18:52] And did you know you were depressed? 

Marian [00:18:53] Yeah! 

Annie [00:18:54] Yeah, you were conscious of that? 

Marian [00:18:55] Yeah and I felt miserable and I, you know, and there was no joy in anything, I felt. And then I learned, you know, that alcohol is a, a fairly hefty depressant and that was part of it. So when I wasn't drinking any longer, my mood changed .And I am still prone to bouts of, I don't know, hopelessness or- but that's, that's separate from my alcoholism. And a lot of the time, I mean, I am, I get very excited about things, I get very happy about things when I know- when I like something I adorrrre it!*Annie laughs* Like, I still have that alcoholic thing of, like, there's no dimmer switch. It's all about like, you know, I'm black or white. I'm, you know, I'm on or off. And when I'm on, I'm soooo on, I'm just so excited. And yeah, I didn't know I was that kind of person, I always thought- also, I was crippled with shyness. And I'm not shy, I other things. I'm an introvert and I need a lot of time away from people but I'm also, I'm quite confident in other ways. Yeah, it changed everything and it made me capable of loving in a mature way. And I've been able to accept love, to kind of realise that I deserved healthy love. You know, because when I was drinking it was all about, eughhh, the bad boys and the drama and the doors- and I thought that was love. And all it was, was fake emotion to fill those empty places in me. 

Annie [00:20:30] How long did it take from the moment you talked about being inable to go to rehab to then feeling, I mean, coming out of rehab, I suppose, and feeling like you were ready for the world as much as one could be? 

Marian [00:20:43] You see, when I went into rehab, I honestly thought there was nothing wrong. I swear to God, I thought I was depressed and I was going through a hard time and alcohol was the only thing that was helping me. 

Annie [00:20:53] Right. So you saw it as a medicine kind of? 

Marian [00:20:56] I honestly did, it was more than that, it was my best friend. It was my only- It was the only thing that really, really, really added value to my life. I'd say about ten days, once I was in there ten days I was like, oh, fuck. You know, like and I was so angry and so grief stricken that I had let myself go in there. Once I could see, I could never unsee. Once I saw that, alcohol was never going to be my friend again. It was never going to make me happy the way it used to make me. And then I just, I saw that like, every time something bad happened to me alcohol was the cause. And then I saw it wasn't normal to drink the way I drank. Like I had always looked for oblivion. Erase me, just wipe me out fast so I don't have to be me. I don't have to be conscious of being me and I thought hmm, that's not really living. And like, so I was upset because I thought I'm only 30. I was like how come other people are manag- you know they don't get into trouble until they're, 55 was the figure I had in my head, you know, and I was thinking the rest of my life is just going to be this absolute dry shite misery. You know, I'm just gonna be crawling through this desert of no alcohol and it's going to be really boring I thought, and joyless. And then I'll die. I actually hadn't started living at all until I stopped, until I was helped to stop. Now okay, not everything in my life has been lovely since, but even on my worst days, it wasn't as bad as when I was drinking. 

Annie [00:22:49] After you came out of rehab, your first book was published. You also, and please correct me if I'm wrong, did you meet Tony round then? 

Marian [00:22:56] I knew him beforehand, before I went into rehab. And I was still in my bad boy phase then, and I, you know, I couldn't understand why somebody would be nice to me. 

Annie [00:23:06] Tony's the husband, by the way. We'll say that. 

Marian [00:23:07] Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. Yes, yes, yes. Yeah, and when I came out of rehab I felt differently. Like I felt really hopeful about life. I mean, I did what I was supposed to do, like, I, you know, I stayed close to other recovering alcoholics, I learned from the, the people who had been sober longer than me. Like, I went to therapy and I realised that I had never thought that I was worth somebody being kind to me, and Tony's really kind, and all he was, was kind. You know, and he turned up when he said he would, which was like, Jesus, that's novel *Annie laughs*, you know erm, like, you know! Like, yeah, he was nice to me, I thought actually, I like this. And we, you know, we had so much in common and that had never mattered to me before. You know, it was all about chemistry and our eyes met across a crowded orgy or whatever *Annie laughs*, you know, and it was just, it was re- and my expectations, my wants were different. You know, because I'd finally started treating myself as if I deserved nice things. 

Annie [00:24:11] *Whispers* Yes. 

[00:24:12] *Short musical interlude*

Annie [00:24:22] Can we talk about the book, please? 

Marian [00:24:24] Oh, yes. Thanks very much. 

Annie [00:24:26] My Favourite Mistake. Now, you mentioned you like writing about families. This is, this is about one member of the Walsh family who you write about a lot, and it's about Anna Walsh. You have described it on your Instagram as a hopeful book about change. 

Marian [00:24:40] Yeah. Can I say that even though it's about a family I've written about before, it's a standalone book, you don't need to-

Annie [00:24:46] Oh you don't need to, you definitely don't need to read any of the other books. Yeah.

Marian [00:24:49] And it's about, kind of referring back to what I was saying earlier that I was waiting to get to a phase in my life where everything was fixed and perfect, and it's never going to be that, that way. And during the pandemic, I remembered things that I regret that I had done, you know, mistakes I had made. And I had tried at the time to do the best, you know, in a situation. And then I realised I'd handle it differently now. You know, now that I'm older and with the benefit of hindsight and- and then this is also a love story about people who knew each other 20 years ago and their paths crossed but it never really happened, they got married to other people and, and now they're, you know, they've met again and it's about how do you deal with the mistakes we've made because no one gets to meet a life without having a couple of things for which we're truly regretful or truly ashamed of. It's about kind of redemption, like self forgiveness and, and also that thing like that you can, you can change your life like, you know, I'm not going to say that life, you know, when things fall apart *mockingly* maybe it's just you're waiting for better things to fall together! I mean, no, stop it now. But like, that we can make the, we can become comfortable and happy in circumstances that we hadn't planned for and that we wouldn't have wished for. And it's also a book about love. See I'm a great believer that people continue to fall in love- you know, it's not the preserve of 20 somethings, you know, or 30 somethings or 40 somethings, like. 

Annie [00:26:24] Anna's 50 in the book, am I right? 

Marian [00:26:25] Yeah, she's 48. 

Annie [00:26:26] She's 48. 

Marian [00:26:26] And the person that she is erm, he's 52. So yeah, you know, ancient! *Annie laughs* I say that with, with a twinkle in her eye! 

Annie [00:26:35] With a glint in your eye *laughs*. 

Marian [00:26:36] Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Because I mean, jesus yeah, I would have thought that, you know, I thought worrr! *Annie laughs* actually, it's funny, I was reading a book the other day, it was about a woman who's 63 and she just, she'd found her husband cheating and she left him and she ran away to New York. And I was like, god 63, why would I be reading about a 60- and ohh hold on, wait no I'm 60, wait *Annie wheezing*. You know, because you hear these, you hear this ages, well I hear them and I think nothing to do- oh hold on, it is plenty to do with me *Annie laughing*. 

Annie [00:27:00] It's funny, isn't it? 

Marian [00:27:00] Yes! 

Annie [00:27:01] So I mean, on reading the book I- it kind of pulled me in and held me. 

Marian [00:27:07] *Softly* Oh God, thank you! 

Annie [00:27:07] From early on I felt really like held by the story and also just by Anna herself, who, as we've just learned, 48 years old, loves a pastry, gets her Botox, is like fiercely honest and independent, but flawed, as we all are! 

Marian [00:27:24] Yeah. 

Annie [00:27:25] And it's just so refreshing to read about a character who's just, it's just so honest. And there's a kind of, I was trying to think about how you'd feel upon finishing it, there's a sense of relief. It's a sense of relief of feeling so represented and seen. 

Marian [00:27:42] Oh God, you're so nice. 

Annie [00:27:43] But that's just me. But that must happen to you all the time as a writer. Like you must have a legion of women who come to you and say, thank you for writing me. 

Marian [00:27:52] I mean, the weird thing is that, like, I felt so disconnected all my life and then when I started writing, people said to me, that's me, you wrote the way I feel about X or Y. And it just- that's been the greatest gift for me, is people letting me know that I'm not the weirdo. And it comes back to kind of me being honest. Like I will write about my shameful feelings like, you know, jealousy or like, you know, messing up a friendship and as you say, the carbs, you know, it's almost like carbs are illegal. 

Annie [00:28:30] Also the sex! 

Marian [00:28:33] The sex! Yeah! 

Annie [00:28:38] This woman having wild and fucking brilliant sex, you don't often get to hear or read about that. 

Marian [00:28:40] And I think that's a shame. 

Annie [00:28:42] Absolutely. 

Marian [00:28:42] I mean, and I, you know, look, we are allowed to be whatever way we are. And like, one of Anna's sisters is happily dead from the neck down *Annie laughs*, like that's how she is. She is absolutely at peace with it, you know, and so is her partner, they are happily dead from the neck down together. But I really, it bothers me when women are presented as joyless about sex or like, or that we kind of shut up shop, you know, the minute we get, you know, a ring on our finger God forb- you know, that's such an awful phrase. You know, or that women will only, that they don't enjoy sex and that they only use it for leverage, or that they dole it out like err, you know, like something very, very precious on birthdays, anniversaries and at Christmas *Annie laughs*. You know, there's plenty of women who love sex! Or they love it for a while, and then they're too tired if they're going off it and they don't fancy a man anymore or whatever, whatever their circumstances are, they go off him for. And then things change and they're like, oh hello, you know, I'm back as a sexual creature. And that it's an identity that can morph as we move through life, but erm, yeah, like Anna, you know, she split up with her long term partner, and they hadn't had sex for a long time, and she'd gone on HRT and suddenly, like, everything was back and, you know, work and order and she was, you know, on the loose in New York. It was before she left and she thought, well look it, I'm going to enjoy meself. What I really like about her, she's one of my favourite characters, is that she's, she's very kind of ordinary, but at the same time, she's like, you can't shame her about sex. You know, she just thinks it's like, it's available to her. 

Annie [00:30:25] It's a right. Yes, yes. 

Marian [00:30:26] Yes, yeah. 

Annie [00:30:27] It's her right. 

Marian [00:30:28] It's her right. And erm, she's unapologetic about it. 

Annie [00:30:33] Just for the listeners, I brought a book for, for Marian to read. We're interviewing the author of that book on another episode. But something in that book really struck me, which is this idea of, maybe it is the birthright of women to be promiscuous. 

Marian [00:30:45] Yes! 

Annie [00:30:45] And maybe that is the huge skeleton in civilisation's closet. That we were never taught *laughs* that-

Marian [00:30:50] Yeah, yeah. 

Annie [00:30:51] That was allowed or aspirational or just like our God given right? 

Marian [00:30:56] Yes. 

Annie [00:30:56] And it's so lovely to read about a promiscuous woman. 

Marian [00:30:59] Yes! And like-

Annie [00:31:00] Who's 48. 

Marian [00:31:01] She's 48 and she has no intention of stopping yet. That's so interesting what you just said, you know, but like, it was how, it was how society was. They kept a lid on it. Because, you know, if the women were off riding left, right and centre, it was a far harder job for the men to keep it all under control. But because they were the ones running things, you know, they could be promiscuous because they were the ones who made the rules. 

Annie [00:31:35] Let's just get on to Mistakes quickly, because in the blurb of the book it says 'we all make mistakes, but when do we stop making the same one over and over again?'. Marian, what is your most repeated mistake? 

Marian [00:31:47] Ooh, let me see. You know the phrase 'fight or flight?'. 

Annie [00:31:54] Yes, yes. 

Marian [00:31:55] When we're afraid. Fight or flight, or freeze is another one. But I recently heard another other one called fawn. 

Annie [00:32:01] Right? 

Marian [00:32:02] Yeah. So when I'm afraid, I don't fight and I do show up, so don't flight. Sometimes I freeze, which I'll come back to, but often I will fawn. I will meet the person I dislike and have to meet for whatever reason. And instead of establishing my boundaries, I mean I've got slightly better at this, but I end up instead bending over by fawning. And I mean, I understand why. I mean, I've done it with men in the past. You know, when I was afraid of being assaulted, you know, like women do it. We become really, really nice to them. It's one of the ways that women keep themselves safe. I mean, I'm not talking in particular about me and men, but just in general. Kind of trying to kind of calm them, placate them, you know? And then I hate myself for doing it when I come away. And so I've got better at- you see freezing was another thing when people would say something insulting or cheeky to me, and instead of me saying, how dare you? Or, you know, I go inside myself for words and there was nothing, and that's actually freezing. And these are responses from the amygdala. They're not something we have any choice over. So it's very hard to unlearn them. But yeah, I fawn when instead I should be, not even fighting but just shutting things down. And I have made strides recently but it's still difficult. 

Annie [00:33:34] I was reading a thing by Emma Barnet, do you know her? 

Marian [00:33:38] I do, course, yeah. 

Annie [00:33:39] About how women overcompensate in conversation a lot of the time with men and they're given very little and they just go, go, go try and fill the gaps, try and-

Marian [00:33:49] Yeah. 

Annie [00:33:50] Go around the houses with words to make everything okay. And she did this experiment where she just said the bare minimum, *laughs* like the man and was just, she said it was so empowering. But her job as an interviewer is to be comfortable with silences. 

Marian [00:34:03] Yes. 

Annie [00:34:04] So she's good at that. It's very hard to do.

Marian [00:34:07] I'd say it's almost impossible. Yeah. I've never actually tried. Wouldn't it be great. 

Annie [00:34:12] Just to say the minimum? 

Marian [00:34:14] Just for the crack? Just, you know, no *Annie laughs*. Yes. Maybe. Dunno. Dunno is even better. 

Annie [00:34:21] *Laughing* Dunno! 

Marian [00:34:21] Dunno.

Annie [00:34:23] How has turning 60 changed things for you, if at all? 

Marian [00:34:26] Kind of not at all Annie, I don't mind ageing, I mean, at all. Like, I've always felt more comfortable getting older. I was never, never a good young person. I just couldn't, I couldn't enjoy any of the benefits. But the word 60, especially for women, I mean, that's the age when women traditionally retired, like when we were put out to pasture, you know, when we really were deemed to be beyond any useful purpose whatsoever. But I don't feel- I feel about 43. 43 is an excellent age, I think. 

Annie [00:35:03] Oh yeah. 

Marian [00:35:03] I suppose ageing has also changed in that like, I was going to say with the fish oils and everything but I don't take any fish oils like I live on absolute rubbish *Annie laughs*. But like, I dunno, you know I'm still doing new things, like I've started rock climbing, doing via ferratas- 

Annie [00:35:21] *Whispers* Stop! 

Marian [00:35:21] Yes! 

Annie [00:35:22] *Whispers* rock climbing. 

Marian [00:35:22] God I'm so, I'm so tediously proud of that. Like, yeah, you can be 60 and you can do new things, or not if you prefer! That's the beauty of it. Like, nobody has to do anything. But I like the, the kind of the point that you don't have to stop either if you don't want. Yeah, that age has become something far less prescriptive than it used to. 

Annie [00:35:47] Yeah. 

Marian [00:35:47] And I think I've got slightly better. I've got better at understanding myself. You know that like all the, well many of the mistakes I made when I was younger, like in friendships and in relationships, they were because I didn't, I didn't have a full sense of who I was. And I often, I was afraid to say my truth or, or then I'd go through those spells of standing up for myself because it was about time, and then I'd overdo it, you know? And I'm just better at that. But it's- I am a very slow learner, and I think that's the whole thing about life is that we are slow learners and we don't know until we know. 

[00:36:27] *Short musical interlude*

Annie [00:36:37] Marian, what is a change you'd still like to make, or see? 

Marian [00:36:40] I would love to know the fundamentals of interior design. 

Annie [00:36:45] Oooo. 

Marian [00:36:45] Because there are rules. 

Annie [00:36:46] There are. 

Marian [00:36:47] And they are guarded like the secrets of the *Annie laughs*, you know, some arcane discipline. And it's, it's to do with things like proportion, you know or- 

Annie [00:36:58] Light, lots of light. 

Marian [00:36:59] Light! Or how you balance colour, that you have your main colour, then you have your second colour- 

Annie [00:37:03] And textures. 

Marian [00:37:03] Textures! You've done this!

Annie [00:37:06] Well, I've just had a room renovated, so- 

Marian [00:37:07] Right, right, right. 

Annie [00:37:08] So I'm learning myself. Yeah. 

Marian [00:37:10] Yeah, I like, I knitted for like a short insane patch of time. Before that I used to paint ginormous canvases- 

Annie [00:37:19] I'm dying to see one of your canvases. I heard you talk about it so I really want to see some of your paintings. 

Marian [00:37:22] Oh, I'll send you some photos. Before that I upcycled furniture, before that I used to make and decorate cakes. 

Annie [00:37:28] So you clearly need to do things with your hands. 

Marian [00:37:29] Yeah, I do, I love colour, and I love assembling things. I would just love to know how to do it right.  

Annie [00:37:40] Yeah. You mentioned as well, self-acceptance as a major. 

Marian [00:37:42] Yeah. 

Annie [00:37:42] Would you be wanting to talk about that or no? 

Marian [00:37:44] I would because it's the lifelong battle. Like it ties into everything. I mean, definitely my appearance. like, it's really hard as a woman to just be as I am. 

Annie [00:37:58] It's one of my favourite things that you do, is talk about the fact that you get, you know, fillers. 

Marian [00:38:04] Yeah. 

Annie [00:38:05] I just think it's actually a really radical act of kindness to women. I cannot tell you, like, you just don't see people talking about it out loud. You put it on your Instagram! 

Marian [00:38:16] I did because, thank you that's so nice of you. 

Annie [00:38:19] It's true. 

Marian [00:38:20] Well, yeah. So I have fillers and I have Botox and sometimes I have profhilo. I mean, that's a lot. 

Annie [00:38:27] I don't know what that is. 

Marian [00:38:28] Profhilo, okay, profhilo is its hy- hy- hyaluronic acid injected subdermally, and it stimulates collagen. So it doesn't kind of do anything obvious, but it just makes you look bursty and fresh! 

Annie [00:38:40] So people go, you look well! 

Marian [00:38:42] You look, yeah, well. You look well slept, well rested! Yeah, and err, and people will say to me, you look well, you look well rested *Annie laughs* and I couldn't just sit there and smile and go, haha, drink lots of water yeah, staying out of the sun. I just thought, I cannot do it to other women. I cannot say it's down to double cleansing or whatever, you know, and I'm not saying anyone else who does what I do should out themselves. Do what you need to do. 

Annie [00:39:09] Of course, each to their own, yeah. 

Marian [00:39:10] But I couldn't, it comes back to it, I hate secrets, and I would just rather- like people were saying on Instagram, you have to tell me what skincare you use. And I thought, that won't actually do any good. And that just made me feel better. I hate even saying this because it's so out of step with the times, I struggle with my weight, you know, like, I love sugar. And I was, like so many of us just so programmed that there's only one way to look if you're a woman, you know, like, 12 foot tall and four stone. And I will never be that person so I'm in a constant battle of trying to have what I like and trying to forgive myself for how I look. And I spent so much of my life worrying about food and what I eat and what I weigh, and hating photographs of myself. And I just thought, it's meaningless. It's absolutely meaningless. Like I'm a well intentioned person. Like I do my best to be decent and kind. And that I spend time in my head thinking oh fuck, you know, all that bread I ate. You know, that'll be on my gravestone. *Annie laughs* you know-

Annie [00:40:31] 'Marian Keyes, all that bread she ate' *laughs*. 

Marian [00:40:32] Yeah. And like, bread is such a wonderful thing! 

Annie [00:40:36] It's one of my favourite things in the world. 

Marian [00:40:38] It's the best thing in life, yes! 

Annie [00:40:38] With salted butter. Like you just can't go wrong with it. 

Marian [00:40:40] Oh gosh, oh yeah, I mean really!

Annie [00:40:43] But isn't it so annoying that we are conditioned to, you know, have to forgive ourselves for eating this stuff, or not! Or just being raging with ourselves. You're right, it's such a waste of time and energy. But also it's there and it's lovely to be honest about it and true about it, because I think we all feel that. We all feel that. 

Marian [00:41:01] And, you know, I see the change in generations after me and I love that, you know, I absolute- and I love the way people refuse to be shamed. Like you can't, you know, and I love that people have reclaimed the word fat. And said you can't use it as a slur, it's simply a descriptor. I would love to be there. And maybe I'll never get there, I want to try because I'm alive and I have enough to eat and I have function, I can walk. You know, there's so much I can do, and I have so much to be grateful and happy for, and instead, you know, like a good I dunno, 7 or 8% of my brain is constantly at me about the bread. Or the whatever's. 

Annie [00:41:49] You're making me want some bread now. 

Marian [00:41:50] Yeah. I mean yeah! 

Annie [00:41:52] Did have it in my head there. 

Marian [00:41:52] Vienna roll *Annie laughs*. Oh, stop. 

Annie [00:41:56] So the book we have been discussing is called My Favourite Mistake. It is the new book from Marian Keyes. It is out now, as I speak you can go and get it, you can go and buy it, and you will not regret it. Go and meet Anna Walsh and fall in love with her like I did. Listen, Marian, thank you so much. 

Marian [00:42:13] My absolute pleasure. It was so lovely to meet you. 

Annie [00:42:17] And you. 

Marian [00:42:18] And such an honour to be here. 

Annie [00:42:21] If you enjoyed this episode, you are in for such a treat as coming up next week we are starting a mini series on bodies and change. World leading gynaecologist, Doctor Jen Gunter will be answering your questions on everything from menopause to menstruation. We have pop star CMAT, who hit the news recently wearing a dress showing her bum crack to the Brit Awards. She's going to be discussing self-esteem and body confidence. And renowned academic and journalist Afua Hirsch, the author of the book Decolonising My Body, will be talking about her personal journey, unpacking eurocentric beauty standards and unlearning some of the myths we've all been conditioned to believe around women's bodies. I'm really looking forward to getting stuck in and for you to hear these conversations. That is a mini series on bodies here on Changes. Make sure you subscribe so you don't miss out. And as always, we are so grateful for you listening and sharing and just telling people about this podcast. We never take it for granted. Thank you for listening. Changes is produced by Louise Mason with assistant production from Anna de Wolff Evans. See you next week!