Part 130: Unrequited Love

kitty love

I fucking hate cats, usually. Like men, they’re either ugly, good-looking but dumb to the point of irrelevance, or else transparently cunning. And, also like men, they do that thing where they treat you with indifference, until you withdraw your affections, and then they’re all over you like salt on chips. Aloof, mewing fleabags that jump out from nowhere, hissing, with arched backs and spite-contorted faces, or else cross your path on Friday the thirteenth and curse you with bad luck forevermore. And they make me sneeze. I was a big fan of that woman who, a few years back, was caught on CCTV, as she chucked a cat into a wheelie bin, when she happened upon it, during her daily stroll.

‘Drown the lot of ‘em’, I used to think, secretly – because saying stuff like that out loud is more likely to get you ostracised from polite British society than just about anything else, including – it would seem, from the many blind eyes turned to geriatric celebrity sleazery – child abuse.

But then, about six weeks ago, a tabby appeared in my back garden, eyeing me with a delicious malevolence; her yellow-green eyes flashing as she peered out from behind the bushes. You could tell, by how her languid movements suddenly turned razor-sharp, and from the way she turned her nose up at the double-cream I offered, that this was a kitty of above average intelligence, charisma and ability. I wanted her. I wanted her in that immediate, essential way you sometimes want a strong-backed stranger, except without the sexual overtones. I wanted her to want me; I wanted her to rub her kitten fur against my legs, to jump into my lap and fall asleep, purring as I fondled her velvet ears.

Don’t misunderstand me. I do not wish to steal the cat from my neighbours. I know she isn’t mine; she’s made it perfectly clear that she has a loving owner who feeds her and provides her with stability and comfort in a manner I am not capable of at this time. I’m not asking much. I only want her to love me on the side; to visit me a couple of times a week for cuddles, chicken bits and a saucer of cream and return to her family afterwards.

But she’s not feeling my moves, and I don’t know what to do next.

It’s very hard with cats, because when they ignore you there are no obvious means of covertly attracting their attention – by which I mean you can’t ‘accidently’ send them a text message written for someone else, or find out where they’ll be on Saturday night, using your advanced social media surveillance skills, and turn up wearing a skin-tight mini-dress and red lipstick.

This is new territory.

I know where I am when men don’t want me. I can play maudlin pop music, down a few bottles of Prosecco and recall incidents from the past where he demonstrated that he was a total scumbag who didn’t deserve my love in the first place (there are always plenty of those) – and before I know it, I’m over the worst of the heartache and fantasising about someone new.

But that method has proved ineffective with cats. I can’t find a single decent love song about kittens, the Prosecco just makes me cry and even her most terrible behaviour endears her to me all the more. Such as her predilection for hunting small creatures and toying with their corpses.

There she sits, in my garden, crouched low, scrutinising a tormented mouse as it jumps hither and thither and cowers in the grasses. When I walk over to investigate, she mews with disapproval, snatches the mouse in her little cat mouth, flashes me a cruel glance and pads off to set the mouse down further up the garden, where she can prod and tease it unwatched, before, no doubt, tearing it apart in a demented frenzy and delivering its eviscerated carcass to her owners as a sadistic thank-you for their ongoing provision of food and shelter.

It doesn’t matter how much I try, it’s clear, from the way she’s consistently rebuffed my advances, that next door’s cat won’t be gifting the dead mouse to me. Which means I’ve failed at the crazy cat-lady hurdle of long term-singledom – which, I suppose, I can choose to see as a silver-lining, in the dark cloud of rejection. That’s the thing with unrequited love – there’s always a silver-lining.

*Image is “Cat Trying To Catch Love Heart” by mack2happy at freedigitalphotos.net. I’d like to point out that the cat who’s won my affections is considerably better looking than the cat in this photo.

Part 129: Keeping Your Name

creepy

When I was a small girl, dressed in moss-green corduroy dungarees, with plaited blonde pigtails (which I had to braid all by myself because my mother was not capable of fashioning hair into anything other than a scrappy ponytail), I loved fairy tales. There was nothing I enjoyed more than having morality served up in narrative form – so that I could digest it whole – accompanied by slightly sinister illustrations, to hammer home the message, whatever it was, and usually it was don’t lie or cheat, work hard, never trust spinsters, (unless they have wings and a wand), remember that your Daddy loves you and will do all he can to protect you (unless he marries a controlling bitch step-mother type, in which case, good luck) and, if all else fails, don’t freak out – because you can just fall asleep and in a hundred years or so there’ll be a man along to save the day.

And the morals you learned from fairy tales were weird, when you thought about it – because in fairy tales, you had to wait around for a man before anything was sorted. In my real life, however, it was women who got things done. My mother was a woman and she cooked and took us to school and went to work and kept the household ticking over while my Dad was out doing unspecified masculine things at Crown and Manor Boys Club. My Nan was a woman and she worked several jobs and did everything on her own because her husband had died before she was thirty and there was no-one else to do it. The head teacher at my primary school was a woman. The prime minister was a woman, and, although no-one said a good word about her in my house, you couldn’t deny that she got shit done, and had the courage of her convictions to boot.

I have a vivid memory of reading a line in Dodie Smith’s The One Hundred and One Dalmations where the prime minister is described as a ‘he’ and balking.

‘But Mum!’ I said, outraged, ‘the prime minister is a woman.’

‘Not usually, Kate. It’s usually a man.’

I was horrified. Whose doing was this? Who had allowed the men to be in charge of things? Men were there for decoration, surely – or annoyance, or to poke at broken electrical appliances with screwdrivers and then give up and buy a new one.

Here are some of the men I knew as a child: my uncle Paul, who sometimes had too much to drink and stripped naked at the Christmas dinner table; the school keeper, who lived in a ramshackle little cottage on the school grounds and who moved so slowly that you sometimes heard his wife call him an imbecile to his face; this bloke called Martin who my Dad played cricket with and who put my new kitten inside his mouth – the whole kitten, right inside – when he was invited over one time, for a quiet night in.

But still, I found it hard to entirely dismiss the messages I was receiving via folklore and literature, which is why I was petrified of old women – and why, against all my better instincts, I trusted my father to take me through the haunted house at Alton Towers, in the belief he would protect me from the terrifying plaster moulds of haggard, menacing witches, rather than dangle me gleefully in front of them.

And, indeed, some of the messages from fairy tales are worth absorbing. Such as the one about how names are important, for instance. In Rumpelstiltskin, the little goblin’s name was the source of his power and giving it away, in a fit of self-satisfied jubilation, led to an inevitable catastrophe – he was no longer entitled to the Queen’s baby, and his foot was wedged into the floor (possibly for eternity, I don’t quite remember).

I never told strangers my name, even when I was seventeen and trying to pull them in nightclubs. Your name was who you were, an intimate fact that you could choose to make public: your name was the form of the shape of yourself in words; the thing that mutual acquaintances might use to call you forth, as an imagery, when you weren’t there.

So as a child it was upsetting to me that women – strong important women like my mum and my nan and the prime minister – changed their names after the event of marriage. They just gave up the form of who they were, to become someone new, someone more like the man they’d married, and less like the person they had to face everyday in the mirror, even when they’d done terrible things, or were heartbroken and covered in acne and quite, quite sure that they’d made all the worst life choices. My mum and my nan and the other newly-named women had to look in the mirror and, underneath it all, that familiar, comforting shape of themselves no longer remained, as it otherwise might have, permanent, solid, unchanging.

And I know, now that I’m all grown up (lol), that you don’t have to change your name when you get married. Although an alarming number of people do choose to. Which is fair enough, I suppose, if that makes them happy – even if it does cause me a certain amount of bafflement. But staying single, of course (unless you’re undergoing some massive identity crisis or another), means you don’t have to make any name-altering decisions at all. Which is one more reason to recommend it.

*The sinister image that accompanies this post is “Green Witch Like Creature In Swamp” by Victor Habbick, from, as ever freedigitalphotos.net.

Mediations on Summer (1)

Scented flower

Outside, in the garden, there are delicious grasses and wildflowers: bluebells with rich purple nectar, daisies dripping neon pollen, lush green ferns – and yet, as soon as I open the back door, bees swarm inside the house and smash themselves against the windows, trying to escape again.

I’m starting to think they’re not very bright.

Part 128: Dance Moms

A couple of months ago, after five long years of hard graft at the cerebral coalface – learning how to teach with a hangover (just jokes any employers reading) and use words such as ‘auto-ethnography’, ‘phenomenology’ and ‘transmediality’ with a straight face – I got my doctorate. Since that momentous event I have mainly been getting manicures and sitting on my parents’ sofa eating crisps and watching Dance Moms.

I figure that since I am now in the world’s top most educated one percentile I no longer need to prove my intellectual firepower by watching University Challenge, documentaries about D-Day and Flog It!

In case you have been living in a remote cave, or a sealed box or a luddite commune and are yet to engage with this cultural phenomenon, Dance Moms is the brilliant American docu-series about an overweight dance instructor called Abby Lee Miller and her elite competition team. But primarily, it is about the dancers’ crazy Mommas. Each week, we watch as Abby Lee – whose chins the make-up artists contour ever more expertly as the series progress – choreographs conceptually baffling routines for her pre-teens (often involving a hard-hitting ‘message’ or serving as a moralistic rumination on the state of contemporary life, such as, for example, the national award-winning ‘Last Text’, in which the eleven-year old dancers represent the dangers of texting while driving in a lyrical routine where they all die in a horrific car accident), while the mothers look on from a glass ‘observation mezzanine’, where they make underhand, bitchy comments about each-others’ children and start arguments, which occasionally escalate into physical violence.

I’m obsessed.

Of course, part of the attraction of Dance Moms is that it allows me to vicariously re-live my childhood dancing dreams.

Between the ages of five and eleven, I was into dance. Not out of any genuine love for the medium, nor any real desire to pursue the discipline in a professional capacity – I occasionally watched Top of the Pops and even at that tender, pre-adolescent stage I felt mostly contempt for the lythe, vapid FE performing arts college drop-outs who were reduced to fulfilling their ambitions of success in the ‘cultural industries’ via public displays of mediocrity in the form of free-styling as backing dancers for Chesney Hawkes. No. I wanted to be a dancer for vague ethereal reasons to do with Degas paintings, which I knew about because my Nan once brought me a postcard print of ‘The Rehearsal’, and the tiny plastic ballerina inside my jewellery box, who performed a ceaseless pirouette to the tune of ‘Swan Lake’.

Anyway.

I did go to dance classes. But my Mum was not the type of woman who was going to find fulfilment by abetting her daughter’s participation in conventional, feminine pastimes. Indeed, I can pinpoint the moment of my dancing downfall to the specific occasion of my first recital, for which my mother failed to fashion a tutu from stiff yellow tulle, as the mothers had been requested to do, resulting in my appearing on stage dressed in a purple leotard with two strips of creamy crepe paper sown hastily to the waist. At the same recital, I watched some older girls perform the bedroom scene from Grease and I quickly abandoned the fledging ethereal dance ambitions I’d been harbouring in exchange for more satisfying aspirations, on which my mother’s poor home-ec skills would have little impact – such as drinking dessert wine from the bottle, making perfect smoke rings using a fag and my mouth and sneaking out the bathroom window with strong-backed boys who might get me pregnant.

This will never happen to Maddie. Whose mother has never forgotten to make her costume and who has achieved my vague dance ambitions by appearing as an alcoholic nymph in a blonde wig in that new Sia video.

Not that I hold a grudge against my mother for her terrible costume-making in the late 80s. She’s done me a favour, role-model wise. Those Dance Mom’s embody everything there is to loathe about the traditions of marriage and motherhood. They are (with the exception of Dr Holly) stupid, bitter, narrow-minded and vacuously passionate about trivial matters.

But I keep watching because I love everything about Abby Lee. I love her rasping voice and her piercing eyes and her blatant favouritism. I love her button nose and her delicate wrists and her scarlet talons. I love her honesty and her cruelty towards the mothers and, occasionally, their children. I love how she has a fat fluffy little Bichon Frise called Broadway Baby who dies and is stuffed by an expert taxidermist. I love how she is rich beyond her wildest dreams, simply because she works hard and is amazing at something she loves.

Most especially I love that she’s single. That she’s achieved every thing in her life without a man, and doesn’t feel any less fabulous because of it.

If you think about it carefully, by watching series one to three back-to-back and hardly sleeping, Abby Lee is the greatest feminist icon of our time. Okay, unlike Germian Greer, she probably doesn’t get much sex – but she certainly proves that ain’t nobody got time for sex when they’re fabulous. Which is a thing us single people would do well to bear in mind, on lonely summer nights, when we’re eating crisps alone in front of our parents’ telly, trying very hard not to think about the future.

Sexpert

sexpert

Hola Blogfans!

It’s the middle of the day. I’m in my most sexual nightwear (ancient striped hot pants, vest-top with snot on it). The curtains are closed. And all is good with the world – for I have been named number five in a list of the UK’s most influential sex bloggers! I’m an official sexpert. Who’d a thought it? (Certainly not me, since, as I’ve definitely mentioned, sex in my life is less than frequent and totally satisfying. BUT STILL! )

If you are as elated by the news of my national influence as I am, then you can view the list here, where you will also find nine other bloggers, who are no doubt getting a lot more action than I am.

Ciao for now.

x

*Image is “Sexy Target” by Salvatore Vuono at freedigitalphotos.net.

Part 127: The Moral High Ground

Jesus

Earlier today, I was waiting for a taxi, due to the rain pouring out of the big purple sky directly onto my head, and a concurrent lack of hat or umbrella, and also, truthfully, because taking cabs is what I do best – if you don’t count bitching on frenemies, and failing to stifle seething envy over women more successful than me, particularly ones who are good-looking. As I waited, I spied three men in the corner of the cab office, huddling from the torrential downpour, conversing in booming, ecstatic voices – apparently unbothered by the fact that I could hear every word they were saying, an attitude which I’ve taken as carte blanche to reproduce their conversation, verbatim, here:

Man 1: So – does your girlfriend know you have a wife?

Man 2: Yes. She does not mind!

They laugh.

Man 3: But does your wife know you have a girlfriend?

Man 2: Ha! No. She does not!

Man 1: They have children, brother! She would kill him!

All three men fall about laughing. I exit the cab office. Man 2 catches my bedraggled, rain soaked eye.

Man 2: Hey sexy. How are you?

Despite the ease with which I might be tempted to pass judgement on Man 2 and his moronic mates, I have decided not to take the moral high ground. Partly, this is because I’m trying to be more like Jesus (more of which later). Partly, it’s because I’m flattered anybody finds me sexy when I’m dripping with rain water. Mainly, it’s because it has dawned on me in recent weeks that, when you’re single, and particularly when you’re me, you are in no position to take the moral high ground over anything.

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it before, but I am not a nice person. I do bad things, and they thrill me.

Like the time I told a telephonist to die, in escalating screams, when she called to collect an outstanding credit card payment. And the time I called my mum a cunt. And the other time, when I punched my aunty in the face. And all those mornings after I insulted people at parties and woke up and vomited into a shiny porcelain toilet bowl and felt bereft because of the alcohol but also, admiring of my own drunken, bitchin’ wit. And that one Christmas, when I had had sex with my ex-boyfriend, in his car, in the middle of a blizzard – with the wind cracking against the doors and the snow circling us in great clouds, like a flock of angry angels – because someone told me he had a new girlfriend, and so: fuck him. Literally.

Being single forces you to push up against the edges of your own morality, to square off with it, face to face, in a way that being in a relationship doesn’t. For example, look at Hitler – who was famously coupled, and who famously took the moral high ground, to his eternal detriment, despite being history’s most notorious cunt.

Although, in Hitler’s defence, it is easy to feel morally superior when you’re in a relationship. This is because a) your single friends will career about engaging in reckless behaviours which are likely to seem bad, from your narrow, conformist perspective and b) you will have reason to mistrust your partner, especially if you’re a heterosexual woman, because men are arseholes, as demonstrated by my cab office encounter, above.

As a single woman, accepting my own badness has been liberating. But it has also required becoming more forgiving of others. I am not, I’ve realised, a better person than the cheating cab office cad. Indeed, I have come to understand that cheating cads possess a darkness I also possess, and that I’m sort of into. It’s seductive, although I have long since learned that following my instincts in that area is a bad idea. Which is why I’m trying to be more like Jesus, and why I’m looking for a man who’s more like Jesus too.

No! Wait! Listen.

I understand better than almost anyone that goodness, in its pure form (i.e. not doing wrong things because you have no compulsion to do them), is not sexy. Although I have learned, in recent months, that goodness is sexy – but, like just about nothing else, it is only sexy when it’s an affectation. Imagine: a hot, ripped young thing who is sometimes drawn to the darkness but who stays out of its way through choice, and willpower. That is strength of the kind Jesus was talking about – I think, having surmised His meaning from the sporadic Christian assemblies that punctuated my secular education, browsing internet scripture and that month I spent in a mission, in 2010, when things were, spiritually speaking, at rock-bottom.

Strength is not about being ‘good’ per se; it is not about being good in the core of your soul, like a dove or a new-born kitten or a primary school teacher. It’s about being good because you realise, with the clarity and precision of sunlight breaking through clouds, that goodness might make you happier, in the long run.

Not that you have to completely indulge such a realisation. I’d say a bit of spite, once or twice a month is, ultimately, necessary – to keep one grounded. Especially if you’re single. Like Jesus.

*That’s Jesus. By Lanmee. I got him from freedigitalphotos.net. No, I don’t know why he’s waving the crucifix around rather than dying on it.

Part 126: Prince William’s Comb Over

20140424-005027.jpg

Remember when Prince William was young and hot and we all considered applying to read Art History at St Andrews so that proximity might make him want to fuck us? It was a very exciting time, when anybody could potentially have fallen pregnant with the illegitimate spawn of an heir to the throne, and been able to live in a palace on state handouts. Well, those days are well and truly over – as evidenced by recent pictures of William and his wife, Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge (I’ve decided to use her full title because, with those hats, the jowly smile and the balding, horsey husband, she’s really grown into it), who have been working tirelessly for our nation, touring Australia with their baby, stroking koala bears.

William is not hot any more. He now sports a comb over – for reasons which remain unclear, but which, I’m certain, are altruistic.

An expensive education and exposure to the fashion and cultural élite will have alerted William to the fact that the comb over is the least attractive of all the hairstyles. Even 1970s footballers abandoned the look eventually, presumably because their sex lives had stalled to the point of non-existence (second wave feminism was in full swing, remember, which means it’s more than likely that the few women who weren’t repelled by ubiquitous, badly covered bald patches, were distracted by political lesbianism, and therefore unavailable for WAG duties).

I move in illustrious circles – I used to know someone who knew William personally, and I sometimes spend New Year’s Eve with a bloke who drinks with Prince Harry, on skiing trips to Verbier. This gives me unprecedented insight into the motivations of the Royal family.

Thus, I have deduced that, being his mother’s son, our future king has adopted his current look in solidarity with us single people – the lepers of the 21st century. He knows what it’s like to be all alone, having read Bridget Jones and also from that period when him and the Duchess were on a break. He can remember how it feels to sit in one’s underwear on a Saturday evening, smoking a dry Marlboro Light one has found at the bottom of the bag one last used at an office Christmas party in late November, listening to Ashanti, with Ant and Dec’s Saturday night Takeaway on mute in the background. He knows that that can be very depressing, especially when one gets zero text messages from friends, or from members of the public one wishes to have sex with.

William is sensitive to the tendency single people have, in such desperate moments, to look at couples and think ‘they have it better’. Like how, this week, I have been excessively YouTube-ing interviews where Yasmin Le Bon, the willowy, toffee skinned supermodel from the 90s, discusses her husband, Simon, of Duran Duran (I am aware that the dated choice of celebrity couple might well be the saddest part of this story).

It is not possible that Yasmin Le Bon has a worse life than me. At 30, she was married to a rock-star, with three children, of model quality. She was tall and gorgeous and heads turned when she walked into the room. Most days, she didn’t leave her bed for less than $10,000.

I am 30 now. I am about to move from a mouldering flat in the least salubrious part of Leeds, to the spare bedroom of my parents house in the least salubrious part of south London. I am five foot two, and my best days are behind me, looks-wise. When I walk into the room, business continues as usual – or else people leave. Some days, I leave my bed to scrabble about the bottom drawer, where I keep burnt out lighters and overdue council tax bills, because I’m pretty sure I saw a pound in there, the last time I looked.

Thank God for William, then. Who wants to remind us that romance is not all Yasmin and Simon Le Bon. Most couples aren’t gorgeous sexy famous people with model-quality children and unlimited funds to spend on exotic holidays.

‘It’s not better’, William is telling us, subliminally, via his haircut, ‘to be in a relationship. Some relationships are shit from the beginning, and even if you get yourself into a half decent one with a partner you find sexy, his hair might start to fall out and he’ll fashion the remaining little wisps of it into a makeshift wig. And that’s not even the worst thing that could happen! He might develop an alcohol problem, or start a half-hearted affair with an old friend who is less attractive than you. Or he might not have an affair with anyone, but then he’ll go off sex altogether. Or decide to vote UKIP.’

And do you know what? When William’s right, he’s right.

I don’t know why I was ever opposed to the monarchy.

*Freedigitalphotos.net didn’t have any stock images of comb overs, unfortunately. It did, however, return multiple pictures of roosters for every ‘comb over’ search I made. This one, by Gualberto107, is my favourite.