Cringe Culture: Trust Me (BBC One)

Cringe Culture is a weekly look at what’s making me cringe in books, TV and film. If you have any suggestions for things you would like me to cover comment below or email hello@terriblypersonal.com.

cringe
Here I am, cringing at another lie!

I’ve been watching Trust Me, BBC One’s drama of lies staring Jodie Whittaker. The final of its four parts aired on Tuesday and left me (and a lot of other viewers) a little confused.

The drama centres around Cath (Whittaker) a dedicated nurse who is unfairly sacked for raising concerns about the level of care patients are receiving. Unfathomably, she decides to steal her doctor friend’s identity (and degree certificates) and is soon working as a doctor in Edinburgh. The rest of the drama focuses on Cath, or Ally as she is mainly known, trying to keep a lid on her lie as she continues to work, forms a relationship with her superior and attempts to keep her daughter’s father from making the short trip up from Sheffield and catching her in her lie.

I won’t spoil the end for any one who hasn’t watched it – but it did leave me shouting, “WHAT?!” at the telly and wondering what the point of the whole thing had been.

Anyway, I’m not here to debate the wonky ending, I’m here to talk about all the cringe-worthy moments.

You might think that a serious (and largely dark) drama wouldn’t be rich in cringe, but there you’d be wrong. From the moment Cath decides to lie the viewer is gritting their teeth in preparation of her getting found out. The first lie is one thing, but throughout the four episodes she has countless opportunities to come clean and each time she decides not to, and in turn embeds herself deeper into her falsehood, you cringe. Throughout a lot of Trust Me, I was wondering why Cath didn’t just leave the hospital and run away to avoid being found out. She’s grimly determined to stick it out, for reasons that are never satisfactorily explained.

Then there’s her treatment of patients. She seems to be doing a grand job at first and we momentarily relax thinking she’s got this and it’s all going to be fine. But then a trickier case, requiring urgent care comes in and she is completely flummoxed. Time stretches out whilst she hyperventilates and wonders what to do, eventually she yells, “I don’t know what I’m doing,” at her colleague (a feeling I’m sure we can all relate to when the printer goes wonky on a Friday afternoon). Still, she gets away with it and her treatment of patients mainly goes off without a hitch.

To stop her lie being discovered, she ends up having to fabricate more lies. The most sinister of which is that her ex, Karl (a bit of a no hoper) was abusive towards her and her daughter. Whilst Karl was a bit of a shit we understand that he wasn’t violent towards his family and this lie seems most unfair. Cath, to her credit, always seems a little uncomfortable when she tells it but whether this is because she’s backed into a corner and close to being found out, or because she genuinely feels bad about trashing Karl is unclear. Every time she gives this lie as an excuse for her new start in Scotland we cringe. It was one thing lying for, what we expect are noble, reasons of getting back at the NHS and giving her daughter a better life. But this plain untruth makes it clear to us: Cath is a liar.

For all it’s unexplained bits (how did she pull it all off, technically?), and ambiguous moments (are we meant to like Andy, or is he a bit suspect?) Trust Me was an enjoyable watch, despite the cringe factor. It’s always uncomfortable to watch someone lying when you know the truth, it’s painful to see them dig themselves deeper in an effort to keep up the pretence and that effort was acted beautifully by Jodie Whittaker.

Did you watch Trust Me? I’d love to hear your thoughts on it in the comments or at hello@terriblypersonal.com

10 of my Most Pointless Fears

ONE:  That I will be wrongly convicted of a crime I didn’t commit.

TWO:  That my cat will sit on my face whilst I’m asleep and suffocate me.

THREE:  That I have slept for two days and missed a day of work – somehow without anyone calling me to find out where I am.

FOUR:  When I go to meet someone at a planned place, at a planned time, I worry that I invented the plan myself and they won’t show up, despite having proof on my phone that the plan was indeed made by both of us.

FIVE:  That I sleep talk all my secrets, even though I don’t have any secrets.

SIX:  Halfway through a really high note of a song (that I’ve already committed to sing) I worry that people other than my boyfriend can hear my caterwauling.

SEVEN:  That somehow what I’m listening to on Spotify is being broadcast on my Facebook page. Although is there any shame in Celine Dion and Lisa Loeb?

EIGHT:  Sometimes mid-conversation I am gripped with the fear that I have forgotten my accent and started using another one without trying to or being able to hear it. This has never actually happened (to my knowledge).

NINE:  That the way I have been pronouncing my name (correctly) for 27 years is incorrect and next time some administrator asks me it over the phone they’re going to erupt into laughter.

TEN:   That all my friends have gone to the trouble of creating alternate WhatsApp group chats without me to talk about me behind my back, or simply to avoid having to listen to my ‘jokes’.

Lies I’ve Told During Awkward Social Interactions.

I’m an introvert. Most of my social interactions are catastrophic, especially if they involve more than two other people and dancing.

I think we’ve already established that when my back’s against the ropes I become a little economical with the truth. I’m not an out and out liar…but on occasion I have pretended to be something I’m not. Why? That’s a question I’m still trying to answer. It’s not that I’m ashamed of who I am. It’s more that I don’t like the idea of someone who’s practically a stranger knowing all about me.

Here are 5 lies I’ve told whilst out in the world existing with other people:

1) I can play the cello.

I actually told my boyfriend this when I first met him. 8 years later I hope he’s noticed that I do not play the cello, or any musical instrument for that matter. The worst thing about lying to new people is that new people sometimes become your all the time people and you have to back track on all the fiction you spun when you were too nervous/drunk to be your real self.

2) I can sew.

I say this to people all the time. I told my boyfriend this when we met. We have an unused sewing machine collecting dust in the spare bedroom as a direct result of this fib.

3) I’m from Wrexham.

I never pick anywhere exotic to pretend to be from. Just north Wales.

4) Yes, I love XXXX band.

This is a lie I told frequently as a teenager. Now I realise that it’s fine to love the music I love and that boys who love Dave Grohl more than life itself are rarely worth five minutes of your time.

5) I work as a teacher/a solicitor/doctor.

A few years ago I had a job that was so depressing I couldn’t bear to disclose it even to strangers. Instead I would tell them I was a teacher, or a doctor, or a solicitor as a way of avoiding my own misery.

So, how about you? What fibs have you told in the face of an awkward social interaction? Let me know in the comments or at hello@terriblypersonal.com.

Cringe Culture: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

Cringe Culture is a weekly post in which I’ll look at books, film and TV and discuss the particular elements that make the audience, or characters, cringe.

Eleanor Oliphant

Recently, I read Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine which is the astonishingly brilliant debut from author Gail Honeyman. I’d heard and read all sorts of wonderful things about it and was so glad to finally get around to reading it that I inhaled it in two days flat. It did not disappoint.

Without revealing any spoilers, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is about the titular Eleanor, who is a bit of an oddball to say the least. As we are introduced to her life at the start of the book we learn it is one of routine and pragmatism. For instance, Eleanor eats the same meal deal every day and wears the same clothes. She reads voraciously but often chooses the first book she sees in the shop because she doesn’t see the point in hunting for something just right. Her weekends are similarly regimented and she spends them catatonic on cheap vodka and notes that she often doesn’t talk to a single person for the duration.

We come to understand that Eleanor is lonely and perhaps because of her significant lack of social contact she’s developed a few quirks. These quirks lead to the novel’s cringiest and most uncomfortable moments.

Eleanor Oliphant is not a character who particularly feels embarrassment and it is perhaps her lack of shame, or social graces, that causes the reader to cringe on her behalf. She often misreads social cues or is completely oblivious to standard social etiquette. On one occasion she gifts the host of a party with a half drunk bottle of vodka and a packet of cheese slices, reasoning that all men like cheese. It is her steadfast belief that this gift is entirely adequate that makes the reader grit their teeth with embarrassment for the poor soul.

Through the novel, Eleanor has many awkward encounters, though she is rarely aware that they are uncomfortable. When she first orders a pizza she wonders if the delivery man will bring a comically large black pepper grinder and passes him his money in an addressed envelope. When a helpful shop assistant tells her to go and get a make over at the Bobbi Brown counter in a department store, Eleanor asks where Bobbi is, expecting to see her. Perhaps the most painful encounter of this sort is when Eleanor, having had her nails manicured allows the nail technician to delve into her ‘shopper’ and grab her purse,

I remembered the unfinished remains of the egg sandwich which lay within – she gagged ostentatiously as she removed my purse. A slight overreaction, I felt – yes, the odour which escaped was somewhat sulphurous, but still, no need for pantomime.

This is the closest Eleanor comes to being embarrassed (deep shame is another matter though) but she soon recovers enough to inform the technician that she won’t be returning as she could do a better manicure at home, for free.

The way others treat and react to Eleanor is on the most part heartbreaking but there are moments that make you cringe too. Eleanor refuses to let it bother her though, at least outwardly.

Early in the novel she overhears her workmates talking about her, an episode that is repeated later in the novel, neither occasion phases her but when her colleagues realise she’s in earshot the reader does cringe for them – is there anything worse than talking about someone and then realising they’re close by? Did they hear anything? How should you proceed now, do you act like nothing’s happened or apologise? Well, no one apologises to Eleanor.

Eleanor’s formal way of interacting with her peers, perhaps a way of keeping them at arms length, or a result of not enough practise, makes the reader squirm. There are countless examples of her rather superior, naive way of talking to other people.

There’s the time she goes for a bikini wax and dismayed with the results berates the technician, though the entire interaction is cringeworthy, not just Eleanor’s eruption. There’s also the way Eleanor, herself judged on her looks by others, snobbishly judges others, especially poor Raymond. The first time she meets him she remarks, “A lot of unattractive men seem to walk in such a manner, I’ve noticed.” Later, there’s the time she appears to buy Raymond a drink only to corner him as he sets off home to request her £4 back. What makes you cringe isn’t that she requests the money, but the way the whole exchange comes about and Eleanor’s obliviousness to the idea of buying rounds because she’s never been in a position to witness what most people consider normal, social behaviour.

Even Eleanor’s references are strange, betraying her lack of social interaction and showing how she lives in her own little world in her head. She chooses a nail polish colour that reminds her of a deadly, poisonous frog. When she has her make up done she remarks that she looks like “a small Madagascan primate” and is thrilled.

The unfortunate Eleanor also has a facial disfigurement and through her eyes you see what it’s like to be stared at and shied away from for reasons beyond your control. It’s the normalcy Eleanor treats the negative reactions of others with that really make you sad. When she first enters the nail bar she notes that the technician

and her companion were both staring, their expressions a combination of alarm and…well, alarm, mainly. I smiled in what I hoped was a reassuring manner.

and later at a party,

She didn’t smile at me, which is the normal state of affairs in most encounters I have with other people.

On these occasions I don’t cringe on Eleanor’s behalf, but for the way other people, so concerned with outward appearances, treat her as though she is completely devoid of feelings and intelligence.

I could talk about so much more in relation to this book – it’s one that makes you snort with laughter on one page and punches you in the gut with sadness on the next.

Have you read Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine? What did you think? Let me know which parts made you cringe in the comments.

Anti-Social Drinking – I’m an unfriendly drunk


I have a strange relationship with alcohol.

I’m shy and quiet. In a Brady Bunch context I’m much more Jan than Marcia. I don’t really enjoy social interactions. But, for some unfathomable reason, despite my proclivity for solitude, I still feel the need to socialize every once in a while. Whether that’s because of some human biological need or simply because today’s media, and social media, make it seem like if you aren’t surrounded by a big group of friends you aren’t living life, I don’t know. Either way, when the urge to socialize presents itself, I turn to the bottle.

A glass of red wine or two help to warm up my conversational side. After half a bottle of pinot noir I stop worrying that everything that comes out of my mouth is nonsense. A couple of cocktails might see me to the dance floor and keep me blissfully unaware of the awkward way my limbs flail about, slightly out of time with the music. If I ever hit the hard stuff (gin, in my case) I can be inclined to utterly lose my integrity.

It goes like this; a few glasses of something drive my social anxiety away. But a few glasses of something also usher in someone I like to call “Drunk Me”. Drunk Me doesn’t stop after a few glasses, she keeps drinking and drinking and drinking. The consequences are usually embarrassing and almost always lead to a headache.

So what, Sober Me doesn’t like the Kardashians? Drunk Me has found a group of impossibly well-groomed girls who look like they’re all about having a good time. They’re propping up this bar that serves brightly coloured drinks that all taste like sherbet. They love the Kardashians, in fact, they might be Kardashian-Jenner super fans. Drunk Me suddenly develops a deep love for the Kardashian universe and even squeezes out a hysterical tear when she tells her glossy new friends that, “Khloe’s weight loss just really inspired me, huns.”


Drunk Me won’t stop there, either. You like Love Island? So does Drunk Me. You only listen to Ed Sheeran? Drunk Me thinks that’s a spectacular idea (despite once declaring Ed Sheeran, “the worst thing ever, literally please take a hammer to my head rather than playing his record.”) You’re vegan? Here, hold my bacon, because Drunk Me is now vegan too.

Sober me is strictly monogamous and super loyal. She holds all her friends up to her own moral standards, because who wants to be friends with cheats and flakes and liars? Not Sober Me. But Drunk Me, whilst she would never cheat on anyone (just like she’d never murder anyone, she’s drunk guys, not a nut job) has no issue whatsoever with her friends cheating or lying. Drunk Me would happily listen to the details of a friend’s affair with as much enthusiasm as if she were listening to a recap of her favourite box set. Drunk Me would have no qualms facilitating an illicit rendezvous. She condones the kind of behaviour that Sober Me despairs over. Just like Andrea, the drunk psychiatrist on Kimmy Schmidt.

When I’m sober I’m private and withholding. Sober Me chooses to share her most intimate thoughts with only those closest to her. Even then she draws the line at her most secret secrets, “some things are for me to know and no one else,” she reasons. Drunk Me has no barriers and no social decorum. She’ll share and overshare whether the timing is appropriate or not.

I drink to cope with the anxiety that socializing places my introverted self under. But drinking doesn’t make me a friendlier person. Sure, after the first few sips of a crisp gin and tonic my confidence is artificially boosted and I become more smiley. Eventually, though, it turns me into a liar in the pursuit of acceptance. A liar for a good (if slightly pathetic) reason is still a liar at the end of the day. Alcohol makes me dismiss the values I consider important in order to feel more involved with people who don’t consider those values important whether they’re drunk or sober. Drink unleashes in me a self-centred child who must have attention at all costs.

Oh, it’s your birthday party? Let me be a complete downer by spilling all my sad secrets. Not because I want to share these with someone, in fact my sober self has already decided to keep this quiet, but because right now I want everyone to look at me and say, “aw”.

But Sober Me is a good person! Yes, a little shy, a touch reserved. People don’t count on me to be the life and soul of the party. But I’m kind, for the most part considerate and I’m honest to myself and the people I know.

Drunk Me might be louder, more dynamic and armed with enough temporary confidence to dance on a table, but she’s a bad friend. And the person she’s the worst to is Sober Me.

Perhaps it’s time I hung up my wine glass for good?

5 Embarrassing Things That Keep Me Awake At Night


I’m sure we all have a list of embarrassing moments that we replay in our heads instead of sleeping.

My own list of embarrassing, insomnia-inducing moments is a mixture of stalwart classics (see #3) and a few ever-changing elements that I tend to replace in my cringe hierarchy rather quickly.

Without further ado, here’s what’s keeping me up at night:

1) When I tripped up in front of a long queue of traffic last week.
I was wearing new shoes. I tried to tell myself no one saw. EVERYONE saw.

2) In university my tutor returned one of my essays with the comment, “I can only assume you did not mean to submit this.”
He thought it was a draft! It wasn’t a draft!

3) When I wet myself in front of my entire class in primary school.
Pretty sure I will still be blushing about this when I’m dead.

4) When my friend complimented my other friend’s shoes but I assumed she was complimenting my shoes.
My shoes were new, and a bargain, and I was very proud. “Thanks!” I bellowed confidently, “they were in the sale.”
My friends paused momentarily to look at me with disgust and then continued to discuss the shoes the compliment was intended for.

5) The time I lied my way through a job interview for a craft magazine.
The interviewer asked me about what crafts I enjoyed and instead of being honest, I spouted a load of bullshit about paper crafts. The interviewer pressed me for details and rather than back down I carried on talking about scrap-booking (or, what I assumed scrap-booking was).
I did not get the job. Are you surprised?

So embarrassing, I’m blushing just typing this out.

What’s keeping you up at the moment? Let me know in the comments below, or get in touch via hello@terriblypersonal.com.