The Hidden Village of Aspergers

August 20, 2017

We need to talk about Kevin.

(Note: this mentions abuse, so may be triggering for some readers)

Never push a loyal person to the point where they no longer care. – Kevin Pressman

For my dad, I cried a thousand tears  / For you, I won’t cry one / You were rotten to my brother and abusive to my mum / I know you’ll look down on me for being a fat, depressive Jew / But I’d rather be anything as long as I am not like you – LucyShadow, ‘Kevin Pressman’

I’ve not posted on this thing for a long time, due to working two jobs, going to Space gigs, the usual, and not having much to say, but I’ve wanted to talk about this for a long time. As some people who know me might know, I write songs. I’ve been writing since I was 13 or 14, played my stuff at open mic nights and have started writing, or trying to, again. One song I wrote used an old tune I’d written in high school, and it ended up being a massive coping mechanism for me because I was finally able to articulate how I felt about my ex-stepdad.

It all began with football. More specifically, it all began with Kevin Pressman.

A bit of background for non-football fans: Kevin Pressman is a former footballer. He’s currently goalkeeping coach at Millwall, but he is most known for playing in goal for Sheffield Wednesday for nearly 20 years, during which time he scored an amazing penalty against Wolves in the FA Cup and made 404 appearances, the most out of all post-war Wednesday players. He joined Wednesday as a teenager in 1985, and left in 2004, aged thirty-six. He was one of many players let go by Chris Turner. Four years earlier, in 2000, his contract had run out, and as this article shows, he was pretty bitter about it. He’d grown up supporting Sheffield Wednesday as a kid in Dronfield, he’d outlasted several other goalies – Chris Woods, Pavel Srnicek (RIP), Matt Clarke, Ola Tidman, and so on – and had helped out with coaching at the club academy. Even now, he still cheers Wednesday on and irritates many a Sheffield United fan on Twitter. To the disappointment of many Wednesday fans, unlike other players who’d done their ten years, he never got a testimonial, which seems like a huge kick in the teeth for someone who’d spent so long at the club and been so loyal. (Even though, there are petitions calling for a Pressman testimonial, though the man himself is presumably too busy with his charges at Millwall.) I’d always thought Pressman was cool as a player, and along with Matt Le Tissier, Alan Shearer, Zinedine Zidane and the great Marco van Basten, he was one of my non-Everton favourites as a kid.

Where does my ex-stepdad come in? Well, firstly, he’s a Sheffield Wednesday supporter, and one of my best memories of him involves them. I was desperate for him to take us to Hillsborough, and in 1997, he took me, my brother Jack and my ex-stepbrother to see Wednesday play Chelsea (who, incidentally, are my current stepdad’s team). Wednesday lost 4-1, Dan Petrescu – who had recently moved from Wednesday to Chelsea – got a ton of abuse, and an annoying man behind us commentated throughout the match. But for me, it was like a bonding experience and a chance to spend quality time with my ex-stepdad. Football was one of the things that brought my dad and me together, and it was the same with my ex-stepdad, and it was part of a bigger picture. While he and Jack had a bad relationship – and for the sake of Jack’s privacy, I won’t go into detail as to why – I was the one who tried to be a good stepdaughter and make him like me. I did my chores and pretended to enjoy the incessant walks we went on. I even internalised some of his values, which is why it took so long for me to admit I had depression and needed help. Several years later, when he and my mum separated, Mum apparently asked, “How do you think Lotte will feel?” He dismissively replied, “She’ll be OK.” I started crying, because I felt like I’d been cast aside like a piece of trash. I also found it strange how he never came to visit me while I was a student, yet after the separation he sent me a card, which I threw in the bin. It felt like he only cared when it was convenient. I remembered how he’d comforted me at my maternal gran’s funeral, how I’d cried in his arms after admitting I’d been self-harming (Mum was at choir practice and Jack was too young to help). And now this.

What made it worse in retrospect was finding out that he’d been abusive to my mum – emotionally, if not physically. I’d heard them arguing, and by ‘arguing’ I mean yelling at each other and him making her cry. My dad had never done that. I won’t go into detail about the things he said, out of respect for Mum’s privacy, but one of the reasons why she is an alcoholic is because of him. At least he wasn’t abusive to me, thank G-d, but Mum and Jack are my flesh and blood, and if you hurt them, you hurt me too.

Secondly, I am an Everton supporter myself, but reading the interview with Kevin Pressman, I began to see parallels between his relationship with Sheffield Wednesday, and my relationship with my ex-stepfather. Pressman loved Wednesday to pieces, gave his all for the club (especially in Steel City derbies), and stayed with them through the good times and the bad, even after they were relegated, even when he was dropped in favour of Chris Woods, and they eventually cast him aside like a piece of trash, never even giving him a chance to say a proper goodbye (compare to how Everton treated Tim Howard in 2016). While I was upset about my mum remarrying at first, I genuinely wanted to make a go of things. I wanted everyone to get along and I really wanted my ex-stepdad to love me. I wanted to win his respect and since Jack was the ‘bad’ child, I felt I had to be the ‘good’ child. Sometimes I felt like I wasn’t good enough. Like Pressman, I felt like I’d been kicked in the teeth when my ex-stepdad – like the powers that be at Sheffield Wednesday – stopped caring. Sometimes I even wonder if he resented the fact Mum had children. And like Sheffield Wednesday in the 00s, my blended family began to show cracks. Pressman wanted to get Wednesday back into the Premiership, and I wanted a normal family, but my parents grew further apart and split, living separate lives under the same roof, then in separate houses, then officially divorcing in 2008. I may not be a goalie (back when I played football, I was more of a defensive midfielder), but I understand the pain of being loyal, or trying to be loyal, to someone, only for them to gradually erase you from their life.

One day, I had a dream about Sheffield Wednesday, and a line about ‘watching Kevin Pressman’ got stuck in my head, and gradually I came up with more and more lines and wove them into a song, the song I’d been meaning to write for years. Music has been one of my coping mechanisms, and writing that song was a huge release for me – I still listen to it when I need a kick up the arse. I’m going to end this post with the final line:

I’d rather be at Hillsborough watching Kevin Pressman / Than spend another life with you.

 

 

April 21, 2016

An open letter to Roberto Martinez

Dear Roberto Martinez,

I’m not going to lie. Until recently, I fucking hated you.

I attributed Everton’s every failure to you. I read Everton forums and tweets and blogs to stoke my hatred. I built you up into a monster and saw you as a thing rather than a person. The very sight of your face or the sound of your voice filled me with rage. I hated you more than I’ve hated any human being, besides the man I call Itachi. And I wanted you dead.

I fantasised about killing you. I planned how and when I was going to do it. I’m not proud of this, but I had intrusive thoughts, like a voice in my head constantly telling me to kill you. Someone or something was telling me, “Kill this man, and you will be rewarded.” I figured that Everton fans would hail me as a hero or a god. Luckily, the opposite occurred. When I told other Everton fans what I felt, they called me crazy and a psychopath and said I needed locking up. I was banned from two Reddit pages and even the most negative of Everton fans told me I’d gone too far.

I have to thank you, because you made me realise I needed help. I saw a picture of you carrying Luella, your daughter, as you walked round the pitch at Goodison Park last season, and for an instant, I didn’t see a thing, a target, a hate figure. I saw a loving husband and father. I saw a human being who loves Jabugo ham and idolises his dad and dances badly to Jason Derulo and watches TV on his L-shaped sofa with his wife. More importantly, I saw a human being whose death would make many people sad, and the thought of your little girl growing up without a dad – just like I did – made me realise what I felt was sick and wrong. Even if the chances of me acting on my thoughts were virtually nil, I wanted to stop having these thoughts. One Friday, I had enough. I broke down crying and got an emergency appointment with a kind doctor who referred me to the local mental health services. I saw them a few hours ago today, as it happens.

I built you up into a monster and stripped away your humanity in order to make you easier to hate. I no longer saw you as a person, but the epitome of everything that had made me miserable this year. It was not you I hated. It was what you represented. Panic attacks, bleeding arms, and my mum hooked up to drips in a hospital bed, the week before I saw Everton lose to Swansea.

When I saw you after Liverpool’s 4-0 thrashing of Everton, any remaining hatred I had for you disappeared. You looked tired and sad, and older than your 42 years, with your rapidly disappearing hair, the lines around your mouth and the shadows under your big dark bloodshot eyes. You looked like a man who knew his time was running out and his job was on the line, that he had become a joke and a hate figure, and had nowhere to hide. You admitted the match was a disaster. I don’t know what goes on in the dressing room at Goodison, but I wouldn’t want to be you right now. I wished I could put my arms around you and say, “It’ll be OK.” Instead of rage and hatred, I only felt pity and sadness. Sadness that it could have been so different. You came to Everton full of life and promise, and we adored you. Now it’s 2016, and things are looking bleak for you. What goes through your mind when you see banners with ‘Martinez Out’ on them, or you hear the Liverpool fans laughing at you and chanting your name ironically? We’ll never know.

I’ll be honest, I don’t think you’ve got what it takes to manage Everton, but I wish you well in whatever you do. You seem like a genuinely nice person, and an interesting one at that, and your heart is in the right place, and I want you to be happy. I don’t wish harm on you anymore. I don’t see you as a monster, but as a flawed, ordinary human being just like me. Because that’s what football managers are – Klopp, Mourinho, Wenger, Rodgers, Derry, whoever. Just flawed, ordinary human beings with wives and kids and lives outside football.

Having obsessive thoughts is fucking shit, Roberto, especially when they turn me into a person I don’t want to be. Let’s hope that you’re the last person I feel like this about.

Yours,

Lotte

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