Susan Calman is a lesbian, she lives with depression, and she resigned her job back in 2006 to become a stand-up comedian. If you don’t know much about me yet, let me be even clearer about the fact that I’m a lesbian. I also recently resigned my job in order to locate a new quality of life because I need to find better ways to manage my own experiences of depression and anxiety. There’s more! Would you believe we both adore cats? And most importantly of all – it seems we’d both be ecstatic to find ourselves within the world of Cagney and Lacey.
I wonder if it may please Susan to see I have a Scottish name, even though I’m English. Susan is definitely Scottish, and she’s shorter than I am. We’re both aged in our forties, but I managed to be born first, in the 1960s (just), so I have at least some experience of that decade. Susan has published a book. I haven’t published a whole book (yet). All or none of these things may be significant.
I’m not going to become a stand-up comedian. I’ll just put that out there. I may become a stand-up poet, but that’s hardly a new career because it doesn’t happen too often; just every now and then at an open mic.
I say there’s nothing going on between me and Susan Calman. However, I did spend this last weekend in her company in fantastic sunshine – the first time my shorts saw an outing this year for something other than trying to keep fit. My bare legs should certainly have impressed. Sadly, Susan made no comment. You see, she was only there in book form. Well – digital form, actually, on kindle – so options of physicality were further reduced. I usually like to stroke a printed book cover. But there are times when the bevelled buttons on a kindle can be equally fascinating.
The important thing is that Susan Calman doesn’t have to be impressed by me. I’m writing this blog post because I found some calm, comfort and camaraderie in her newly-published book, Cheer Up Love: Adventures in Depression with the Crab of Hate (Two Roads, 2016). That’s the point of all this. And maybe I would have experienced that even if I wasn’t a depressed lesbian adorer of cats (with a Scottish name) on the cusp of my own latest journey of (re)discovery.
Depression gets to us all. That’s the other point of this. Depression doesn’t discriminate. It’s part of being human. And Cheer Up Love is a very human book. Susan invites the reader to engage and then immediately ignore what she’s just shared, because she knows this is a very human trait. That in itself is extremely engaging, and why Susan Calman should not be ignored. Cheer Up Love is for all humans, and I encourage everyone to read it.
There is, of course, an extra joy for me in identifying the lesbian visibility in Susan’s book. That is why I started sharing my writing online. Susan Calman and Me. We know about lesbians on TV and in popular culture. I was one of the first to write in-depth about Beth Jordache and the lesbian kiss, after all! I therefore thank Susan for writing this:
You may not know this but as a lesbian with mental health issues I am in one of the highest risk groups on television you will ever encounter. If you watch a TV show and a character wears sensible shoes and feels a bit down quite a lot, then she will either a) get murdered b) kill someone c) kill themselves d) kidnap a child e) burn something down f) all of the above. In fact, some writers seem to believe that if you have a lady gay character in a show they automatically have to be mad in some way. Which doesn’t reflect reality of course. I have many heterosexual friends who are far more disturbed than any lesbian I’ve met. But it suits a traditional narrative that to be gay you have to be, in some way, a little bit wrong.
Susan Calman and Me. We might just be a little bit right.
Susan Calman and Me. She has inspired me to poetry. Newspaper blackout poetry, to be precise. These words below are borrowed from the book extract which appeared in The Observer Magazine on 24 April 2016, in order to create a revisioning of our combined truths.
So let me recalculate. That’s two (albeit non-consecutive) weekends I’ve spent in Susan’s company. MrsCalman (@LeeCormack) need not worry. All I wanted to say is (and this comes without criticism, or inappropriateness of any description): #SusanIsAwesome. And now Susan Calman will know I really did read her book.