In the dark living room of my minuscule flat in the North of England, there is a brown cotton cushion appliqued with silken roses of richest red; tiny leaves are hand embroidered in moss green. It is stuffed with soft, plush, white duck feathers and perfectly complements the chintzy throws that cover the cheap sofa provided by my landlord. I love this cushion with a passion and ferocity I wish I could feel for human people. I purchased it from the homeware department of Marks & Spencers in 2009, and I paid £45.
There are many arbitrary ways of categorising our species – gender, race, and religion are the biggies – you’ll probably be familiar with them, and use them to create order inside your own brain. The thing is, these categories very rarely tell us anything useful about the individuals we have placed on opposing sides of strict binaries. Often, such classifications are just systematic methods for reinforcing dreary prejudices that contribute to hatred and violence. They call out for subversion and resistance, which might help society break down the tedious social conventions that stop life from being fun.
Over the years, my very own kinfolk have had a little go at confronting social norms inside the walls of our family home in a grotty London suburb. In a particularly memorable incident during the mid-nineties, my little brother wanted to accompany my Mum to ASDA with a patent pink Polly-Pocket shoulder bag he’d found in my toy box. There was a massive parental row which included my Dad bellowing the words ‘my son ain’t going out with a pink handbag’ through the window and down the street so all the neighbours could twitch their curtains and judge us for being a family incapable of adhering to gender norms. Of course, when the same brother became a drag queen in later life and regularly stalked the local high street dressed in sequins and a tu-tu, it only confirmed the suspicions the neighbours had nurtured about us for some years (that we’re a family of gender bending weirdoes – Oi! social convention, you bitch, that’s right: IN YOUR FACE).
Anyway, to return to my central argument, traditional ‘categories’ are really quite useless if you’re wanting to find out anything about what a person’s actually like. Thankfully though, I have found that there is a reliable binary that will tell you everything important there is to know about a human being – i.e. whether they will be compatible to live with you inside a house. The simple classification system I have developed is this: people who understand the need to spend £45 on a cushion, and people who do not. I call this the Soft Furnishings binary. The ‘people who do not’ group includes my open-minded father – the alpha male – who, on a recent trip to John Lewis, tossed aside a hand-made patchwork quilt, embroidered with a majestic peacock, muttering the words ‘fuck right off’, when he saw the price tag of £110.
I’m not going to analyse this too much, because it might cause me to become disturbed, but my choice in lovers tends towards the Freudian. I like a good, strong alpha male. And, even though I spent most of my teenage years screaming into my Daddy’s face and disappointing him by getting stoned and falling asleep on the doorstep, he is a good man who has taught me an important lesson. The alpha male does not get soft furnishing. They don’t care if the curtains are woven from raw silk by impish sprites with nimble fingers. This is very unfortunate because it means I and the men with whom I wish to copulate are on opposing sides of the Soft Furnishings binary.
These days, any potential a first date has to transform into a relationship is all but evaporated for me when I arrive at a gentleman’s house to find gleaming stainless steel surfaces; ‘stylish’ stripped floor boards; black-tiled bathrooms. There’s nothing worse than an alpha-male with ‘taste’. These are not a breed of human people who will be seduced by the downy comfort of a velvet lined coverlet.
I have all but accepted that I am not going to find a man I want to touch intimately who will also be willing to decorate the kitchen with Cath Kitson accessories and hang kitsch pictures of female icons such Audrey Hepburn, Patsy Palmer and Tinkerbell on the wall. Luckily, this frees me up to engage in other things, like buying lampshades covered in birdies and drinking cups of strong tea out of posy-patterned bone china. It also means that when I go out in off the shoulder red silk dresses and thigh-high lace up sex boots, I can concentrate on being fabulous for me, and rejecting all the alpha males who approach with a cold flash of my ice-blue eyes. I mean, sorry boys, but it’s never gonna work.