Part 99: Having No Game

chess

I’ve got this not-quite platonic friend called Rob who, sometimes, when he’s telling me about all the pretty ladies he failed to seduce as a teenager, gives a long, disappointed sigh, shakes his head in a slow, sad rhythm – like he’s an exhausted middle-class father who’s just found out his son’s been stealing from the sweetshop – and says, ‘do you know what was wrong with me back then? I had no game.’

When Rob talks about ‘game’ he’s using gangsta street slang. He does that sometimes, and I am down with it. But I’m aware that you might not be quite as cutting-edge inner-city as me and Rob – which is why I went on urbandictionary.com and found this definition to help you along:

High levels of ‘no game’ [are] evidenced by frequent failure to engage the opposite sex in meaningful exchanges which lead to dates[.] Often result[s] in the person with lack of game becoming bitterly angry at the world and nitpicking individuals for reasons such as ‘bitches having boyfriends.’

What the urban dictionary doesn’t explicitly mention, but I think you’ll agree is suggested, is that game is all about one’s ability to ensnare members of the opposite sex using the methods of flattery and flirtation. On reflection, despite the fact I didn’t know him then, I can see why Rob might have had problems in this area as a teenager – although, as I’m sure he’d want me to let you know, his game is all good now. Or so I’ve been told.

My game, however, is questionable.

I’ve certainly been known to exhibit bitterness and anger, often in public. And I have most definitely nitpicked bitches for having boyfriends. Loads of times. It’s basically all I do, other than try to beat my high score on 94 seconds.

Don’t get me wrong, I excel at flattery and flirtation – meaningful exchanges are totally my thing, due to the hypnotic power of my big blue eyeballs – but I also suffer from a crippling emotional paradox. I believe, with all of my beating heart, that every straight man I meet finds me so sexually desirable it’s all he can do to keep himself from ejaculating right there on the spot. Yet, at the same time, I also believe, with just as much of my beating heart, that I’m so undesirable it causes men’s libidos to shrivel into tiny little raisins with legs and crawl out the nearest door.

This does not make it easy to determine whether flirtatious exchanges are likely to escalate into romance. Which has, inevitably, led to some ethically questionable behaviour on my part. Like, for example, when I went through that phase of getting off with unattractive men because I didn’t realise they were taking my fluttering Disney eyelashes and relentless cleavage exposure seriously. And then, by the time I did, I was either too drunk or too grateful for the attention to do anything to halt the proceedings.

Nowadays, I don’t get off with anyone. I can no longer tell when I meet new men whether there is a spark that might ignite a romantic fire, or whether there is indifference or repulsion. Every exchange is filled with the same jittery blah – like white noise. Mostly, unless there’s free wine, I go home and watch music videos on the internet.

And this is a problem, because, back in the days before I was emotionally crippled, the main thing that used to attract me to a person was how much they were attracted to me. I find men sexy who find me sexy. So long as they don’t find me sexy in a creepy way. Or have a beard. Or a wife. Or a date of birth earlier than January 1974.

I need to work at turning my meaningful exchanges into sex or romance. But I have absolutely no idea what a woman of my age and experience might do to develop better game.

If you’ve got any advice, I’d love to hear it.

Or you could try your game on me – so long as you meet the strict criteria I detailed above.

And remember, I like wine. And whisky.

*Image by Salvatore Vuno at freedigitalphotos.net

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Part 98: Nuclear Bunkers

nculear

We should be more angry about nuclear bunkers. We should, in fact, be rioting in the streets, wielding flaming torches. I should be on horseback right now, riding into London, naked but for an ornamental chastity belt, toting a spear with which to start the revolution. But I’m not. I’m sitting on my sofa, naked but for a leopard-print dressing gown, The Hairy Bikers on mute, picking listlessly at a bowl of lukewarm pasta.

I think relationships are partly to blame for anesthetising our collective rage. But I’ll get to that later.

Nuclear bunkers, for the uninitiated, are massive blast-proof underground caverns, equipped with computers, ‘decontamination rooms’ and canteens, that the British government built all over the country during the Cold War. They were intended to protect MPs, the monarchy and, perhaps, if there was space, a few useful civilians, in the event of a nuclear Armageddon. The public – that’s us – were not informed of their existence, despite the fact that many millions of pounds of our hard-earned cash were spent on planning and construction.

Then, as now, the powers that be liked to pretend we were all in it together.

Then, as now, that was a lie.

The British government were intending to let us – including me, who was, at the time, a cherubic blue-eyed baby showing early signs of genius – melt to death, while they retreated underground for a decade, hoping, by the time supplies ran out, the world would be habitable again.

We should not forget this.

But, now that the imminent threat of nuclear attack has retreated and the secret’s out, we’re happily pretending this colossal act of betrayal never happened. The nuclear bunkers lie deserted. A few have been converted into tourist attractions – frequented entirely by primary school classes and the kind of middle-aged, middle-England couples who holiday within reasonable driving distance of Nantwich.

And we sit on our sofas. And we watch Dragon’s Den. And we do nothing.

How have they done it? How have they managed to hoodwink us into accepting this outrageous state of affairs?

By diverting our attention.

This is why they have raised student fees, why they pay newspapers to feed us stories about kittens*. It’s why they allow Twitter to exist. It is why they make a great big fuss about non-issues like benefit fraud, hoping we’ll turn on each other so they can return to drinking champagne and eating caviar smeared blinis, assuring us that the wealth will trickle down, if we work hard and behave properly.

We can’t trust a single thing they tell us.

We know this, but yet, like cuckolded lovers, we refuse to believe what is right there in front of our faces.

It’s bollocks. It’s all bollocks. It’s all predicated on a lie.

And what’s worse is that they know everything about us. They know, for example, that sex and romance provide the best distraction of all. This is why they promote marriage above all else, why they incentivise it via tax breaks, why they sent men into protest groups to seduce women who were getting too close to the truth. It is why there is a Royal Wedding every time the going gets tough.

We mustn’t fall for it.

Being single isn’t just a life choice anymore. It isn’t merely the result of your interpersonal inadequacies. It’s an act of resistance. It is protest. It is riot. And, while I salute those comrades who have joined with me in this gesture of civil disobedience, I do think less of those who haven’t. I believe it’s only right that the coupled among you should go ahead and organise the revolution, in a show of allegiance (and to prove you’re not fatally distracted from the greater good), while I stay here, and finish my pasta.

*This might not be true.

*Image by luigi diamante at freedigitalphotos.net

Part 97: You’ll Be You, Regardless

When I mention friends and family on this blog I always always use real names (with one notable exception). I do this because a) this is not a fiction, b) if you don’t know them already first names are unlikely to give them away, and c) they love it. My friends and family are egoists, just like everybody else.

But today I want to tell you about my friend Marie and I want to let you know that she is not called Marie in real life. The reason I have decided to give her an alias is this: if she knew I was writing about her she’d be horrified.

There is every chance she’ll read this post and never speak to me again. It’s a risk I’m willing to take because, let’s face it, I’m a hella fun. She’s got a lot more to lose from the termination of our friendship than I have (just jokes, I love you Marie. Don’t leave me).

Unlike my other friends Marie is a private person. Type her name into google (you can’t, you don’t know it) and there will be not a trace. You would not learn anything about her at all, except for what she does as a job and how long she’s been doing it.

Marie is the place I go to in my mind when my self-esteem is curdling and I want to feel better about being single. She has been single ever since I’ve known her, which is a very long time. And there is nothing wrong with Marie. She is everything anybody ever wanted in a woman. She is incredibly beautiful. Like a movie star on a good day. All tumbling blonde locks, button nose and big Disney eyes with endless lashes. She is kind, clever and stylish. Once, she wore a pillow case to a party and all the other guests stared at her with envy and asked, ‘where did you get that amazing top?’ She is also rake thin, with buttermilk skin. I’d hate her, if she hadn’t won me over by failing so spectacularly in the romance department. She’s a disaster. For example: she asks me for advice about men and listens when I give it to her.

If Marie is single, then being single is the thing to be. You would not look at her life and feel even a passing shadow of pity – you’d just rue the day that you stood behind her in the queue, waiting while God bestowed all the best qualities upon her and then put you together from was left over: breasts and acne.

The bad news is that Marie seriously jeopardised our friendship on Saturday, by calling and telling me that she has found a man. To love. And have sex with. I almost started to dislike her, until her new-found romance reminded me of two very important points. The first of which was this: nobody admirable defines themselves by their romantic relationships.

You can always gauge precisely how tedious a person is by timing how long it takes them to tell you about their lover, partner or spouse. Marie did very well in this department. It took her a whole twenty minutes and considerable prompting before she disclosed details of her new romance. She, like anyone worth knowing, had other shit to talk about.

The other thing speaking to Marie reminded me was that a relationship will not, indeed should not, make a fundamental difference to how you feel about life and, most importantly, about yourself. ‘Its just the same.’ She said, ‘but now, I sometimes see him.’

You are you. It is very easy to forget that when you’re single. You are fabulous, sometimes. Other times you arrive at work late, wearing ketchup stained pyjama trousers, hoping to convince your colleagues that you’re rocking chic new day wear. Sex, even regular sex with someone who makes your tummy flip over and your face break into a beaming great smile when they enter a room, will not change that.

Unless you hook up one of those psychos who cuts you off from your family and convinces you that your fabulous is a mental illness in disguise.

Avoid those.

Trust me.

I’ll say no more, but I’ll leave you with the words of my favourite verse of Billy Joel’s My Life – a song that will have to serve as the sole boost to my self-esteem now that Marie has gone and found herself a lover.

First they’ll tell you you can’t sleep alone in a strange place
Then they’ll tell you you can’t sleep with somebody else
Ah but sooner or later you sleep in your own space
Either way it’s okay you wake up with yourself.

Beautiful, innit? And true.

Part 96: Overachieving

success

Years ago, in the days when I was officially ‘youth’, life was different. For example, almost nobody had a mobile phone, and everybody who was anybody watched Neighbours. For another example, our main aspirations were, in the following order: drinking alcohol purchased from a bar, finding ourselves in situations where we could use the word ‘cunt’* with impunity and having sex – with whoever showed an interest, so long as they were not related to us by blood.

We spent a lot of time standing about outdoors, with no purpose.

We did have the internet (I’m not, like, antiquated), but the only things we used it for were MSN Messenger and gap-year email updates.

Also, Toni Braxton was a thing. Ditto Moesha.

Back then, achievement was not part of the mainstream. No one cared what you earned, or how well you’d done in your exams, or if you’d won a silver medal in the annual Greenwich Borough cross-country. The single thing that mattered in terms of your social standing, so far as I can recall (I was drinking quite heavily and occasionally dabbling in recreational hallucinogens at the time – so I cannot vouch for the accuracy of this recollection), was how many people you’d slept with, and whether any of them had got you pregnant.

We unanimously considered success to be contemptible. And, even though we didn’t actually know any famously successful people personally, we had sources that confirmed our suspicions.

Every now and then there’d be stories of friends of friends who’d met a famous person. Usually, the famous person was someone from EastEnders. Usually, the meetings took place in the toilets of Ceasar’s Palace, Streatham, and involved the famous person behaving obnoxiously. Such stories proved to us that the successful were pretentious, ‘full of themselves’ and unworthy of emulation.

Only the tedious and the egotistical attempted to achieve anything other than sex, which, if you were lucky, might be accompanied by romantic love.

In those days, a mere twelve percent of us got five or more A-Cs in our GCSEs and fewer of us passed (or attempted to pass) A’levels. Some of us went to university, where the stakes were higher achievement wise – but not by much. It was still okay to just lay about smoking weed in your pyjamas, playing Bishi Bashi on the PlayStation until it was your turn to make the tea.

There was no pressure – you could just be in the world.

But things done changed.

Nowadays the youth are into achievement, in a big way. Achievement is popular culture. YouTube superstars who have yet to grow pubic hair that they can shave from their genitals, teenagers with seven book publishing deals, twelve-year-olds winning Oscars, toddlers launching a perfume range.

Everyone’s at it, even the adults.

Working hard all day and then, in the evenings, blogging or designing clothes in the shed or making novelty cupcakes and promoting them to famous people on twitter. All in the hope that someone somewhere will notice and praise us and prove to the world, at last, that our lives have been worth living.

In this culture of ceaseless striving there is no time for meaningful relationships. There is no time for sex, unless it’s perfunctory. The twenty-three-year-olds already have everything you could ever want, and more life experience than you do. This is because they did not spend their formative years on Plumstead Common, stoned, drinking Dad’s holiday grappa and being sick in the bushes. They had experiences, in law firms and publishing houses and criminal gangs, that gave their lives velocity.

The youth of today will be able to spend middle-age sitting back and enjoying the fruits of their labour. But, unless you sort it, sharpish, in ten years time you’ll be exactly where you are now, except more bitter.

You do not have time to waste flitting about forming bonds of affection with strangers. You only have time to think of a worthy ambition and then use all resources available to make sure you achieve it. You have to prove your worth to the world right now, this minute.

Just in case you die tomorrow and the only word they have to use on your epitaph is ‘loved’.

*For any Americans reading, this is a far more benign word in the UK than it is in your country, even though it is still considered fairly taboo.

*Image by pakorn at freedigitalphotos.net

Part 95: Academia

Academia

When I decided to give up my life in pursuit of a doctorate, things were bad. I worked in a job I hated so much that it caused me to experience actual, physical resentment (which, in case you’re wondering, feels bit like how it would feel if you swallowed concrete). Every day from 9-5 I would do tedious things with excel spreadsheets and bits of paper and take orders from stupid people until it was time to go home. When I got home my flatmate would be snuggled on the sofa with her lover, and so I’d go inside my bedroom, play some Ashanti, neck a bottle of wine and cry.

I cried a lot. Often loudly in the street, for no reason, or for very feeble reasons – such as the sudden appearance of a puppy in my line of vision, or a dead baby bird, or the plot of the first Sex and the City movie. I kept bumping into girls from school who’d ask me about my job and my love life and then say hostile, patronising things like, ‘but, you used to be really clever’, or, ‘I’m sure you’ll get a man soon’. And, at weekends, I just could not stop sleeping with my ex-boyfriend and getting off with his mates at house parties.

Things had to change.

For a while, I toyed with the idea of travelling the world – but then I realised that I had no desire whatsoever to spend months living like a bourgeois hippy, existing out of a back-pack and trying to fool both myself and the world that an extended postcolonial holiday had made me spiritually rich. I did have the vague idea that it might be nice to one day have people address me as Dr, and that being forced to spend a period of years writing 100,000 words on an obscure subject would work wonders for my writing prowess.

So here I am. And, you’ll be glad to hear, things have improved. I very love my job. I very love my friends. I have reconnected with my intellect, such as it is. I only cry when I’m on my period, or at any film involving romance. And I hardly ever sleep with my ex boyfriend (or, indeed, anyone), although I’m saying nothing about his mates – mainly because I don’t want to close down any options.

But there are some things about the academic life that I did not think through. Such as that it is not a sexy profession. Nobody normal fantasises about doing it with a dusty old don. And, if they do, it’ll be because they haven’t met many. Academics are very weird, as a species. Because of the amount of time we spend conversing with books, we find human contact startling. We don’t know what to say, or how to say it flirtatiously. We talk to civilians using words like ‘demonstrably’ and ‘heterogeneous’, and then we wonder why they back away with watery repulsion in their eyes.

I have done my level best to avoid picking up such social habits by spending my leisure time reading Closer magazine and drinking whisky with friends from the old days, but I’m not convinced it has worked. I’ve definitely lost my mojo – if the state of my love life over the past 18 months is anything to go by.

So now that I’ve very nearly (please God, please) earned that Dr title I’m in a right Catch 22. I’m quite convinced that I will remain single forever and ever if I continue my academic life, unless I happen to stumble upon some handsome research cad on my journey (and I don’t see how that’s likely as, well, see my comments on the sex-appeal of academics, above. The alpha-male I favour tends to choose more a more aggressive career path). However, I have no other skills, apart from paper shuffling – which I refuse to return to, and blog writing – which is hardly viable financially. And I do enjoy academia, a large amount.

Is that a Catch 22? I’m not sure, but there you go. Academia – a reason to be single, because, I’m finding, it’s a thing that is probably worth being single for.

*picture by digitalart at freedigitalphotos.net

Part 94: Realism

realism

My ultimate romantic conceit, the scenario my brain presents when it wants to make me feel all squidgy inside and hopeful about life, involves a man from my past appearing out of the blue – at a party, say, or just turning up one day at my workplace – and declaring his undying love for me. It might not be the most adventurous fantasy, as these things go, but what did you expect? I’m a straightforward woman who only desires simple things in this life: money, the missionary position, romances with men I already know, terakyi salmon with sticky rice, and whisky.

My fantasy male appears in my day and night dreams as various incarnations of platonic friends and not-so-platonic acquaintances – who I might (or might not) have had my way with once or twice, in a drunken but dignified manner, but with whom there is still the requisite degree of mystery.

You know who you are.

(Although, I’m open to offers. So long as they’re not from ex-boyfriends, should they happen to be reading, who have had their chance and proved wanting.)

The fantasy scenario, as transcribed from a recent dream, goes something like this:

Party with people. The people mingle. Music. Laughter. Dancing. Boy From The Past enters staring wistfully over at Kate who is looking mighty fine in skin-tight sequined leopard print, drinking cheap fizz from a champagne flute and talking about herself with gay abandon (or, more likely, with an actual gay man, who is usually her companion at such events). Boy From The Past approaches Kate, takes her by the waist and turns her towards him.

Kate: Hey!

BFTP: Alright.

Kate: Oh it’s you! How are you? It’s been ages.

BFTP: Yeah, good. Good. Things are good.

Pause

Just got engaged.

Kate: Oh. Did you? That’s….

BFTP: Listen, can we go somewhere and talk?

Cut to: Bedroom. Lights are low. Noise from party shakes the thin walls.

BFTP: I’ve been thinking about you.

Kate: Yeah?

BFTP: It’s driving me mad. I’ve just proposed to (insert name of fiancé). I don’t know what I’m doing.

Silence

Are you listening?

Silence

Do you know how many times a day I think about you?

Kate: How many?

BFTP: Four.

Kate laughs, but her heart folds over, like the melty clocks in that Salvador Dali painting everyone had a poster of in the 90s.

Kate: Ah. That’s just enough to flatter without sounding stalkery.

BFTP: I know. (Beat) I think I love you, Katie.

Romantic embrace – potentially leading to sex and a period of heightened drama that includes the break-up of BFTP’s engagement, followed by babies and/or marriage.

The End

Whilst, as you can see, this all sounds idyllic and not a million miles away from situations that occur all over the world, every day, it is important to bear in mind that what I have just relayed is fictional.

Experience tells me, if my dreams were to come true, they would not play out like that.

Reality is usually a disappointment.

For example, there have been several occasions when platonic friends have declared romantic feelings for me (although not, admittedly, recently), and, on all of those occasions, I have FREAKED THE FUCK OUT. By which I mean I have receded into silence, pulled my face into a stiff, admonishing frown, conveyed through my body language that, I’m sorry, it is never going to happen and then swiftly changed the subject and never ever mentioned it again.

In real life, we do not like to have unsolicited affection bestowed upon us, and, even if we do, it is rarely bestowed by the few men who we have fantasised about seeing naked. It’s always the ones we didn’t mean who take us up on the offer.

If the scene I have expertly crafted above were your reality, BFTP would carry on sleeping with his fiancé* out of guilt or – you’ve known him for ages, face it – because he’s just an arsehole like that, or he would have changed his mind by the morning. Or else he’d win you over, but the years would whizz by in a haze of drudgery and you’d wake up one day and there he’d be shriveled and old and riddled with liver spots and your belly would be a crinkly skin sack that you’d disguise with elasticated knickers and you’d wonder why you wasted all your fabulous on domesticity when you could have carried on drinking prosecco with your gay friends and carving a path towards greatness. Which is why it is very important to always follow up fantasies with a healthy dose of realism. And then an alcoholic drink, if the realism makes you need one.

*not that you’d necessarily find out about it. But, contrary to popular belief, that doesn’t mean it won’t have happened.

**Image by Simon Howden at freedigitalphotos.net

Part 93: The Internet

hippo

Hello. My name is Katie and I am addicted to the internet. And also, potentially, alcohol.

There are moments in life when one must look at one’s flaws and admit that one is not ready to embark upon a romantic relationship of any kind. That there is a great load of heavy, crushing baggage that needs unpacking before settling into close personal relations with a stranger, or a once-platonic friend.

Such moments can happen at any point during the working week, but are most common at weekends and on holidays – when there is no work to distract you from thinking about yourself and the perilous state of your romantic life.

For example, in the process of becoming addicted to the internet on a recent holiday, I discovered all manner of things about my inner-self that would have been potentially disastrous should I have entered into a relationship without knowing about them and addressing them accordingly (I’ve yet to do the latter).

Handily, these things can be separated into two lists, ‘Things I didn’t Know I Hated before I Had an Internet Addiction’ and ‘Things I Didn’t Know I Loved Before I Had an Internet Addiction.’ I’ll post them both below, but before I do I want to say this: just imagine, as you read them, the kind of bombshell such self-discovery would have dropped on a lover, had I had one.

It’s almost not worth thinking about.

Unless you’re actively trying to put yourself off having a romance, which I guess, if you’re reading this, you probably are.

Things I Didn’t Know I Hated

Selfies
The phrase ‘political correctness gone mad’
Open letters
The concept of a ‘Manic Pixie Dream Girl’
People who use the phrase ‘Manic Pixie Dream Girl’, as though it were a real, serious thing
Banal Feminism
Celebrity lifestyle profiles
Celebrities voicing opinions on politics
Any public figure voicing an opinion on politics, including politicians
Pictures of foodstuffs that contain chorizo
News items that reference twitter
Facial expressions described inside asterisks (*I want to shoot you in the face face*)
Knee-jerk government statements
Campaigns/protests that don’t involve violence or civil disobedience
People replacing their middle name with an ‘eccentric’ alternative (‘James “Madforit” Dean’)
My twitter persona
All people’s twitter personas (except yours)
‘Hun’ (as an abbreviation of the endearment ‘honey’)
Pictures of strangers’ hen dos, dinner parties and weddings
Pictures of friends’ hen dos, dinner parties and weddings – especially ones I was not invited to
New-fangled emoticons ()
Public declarations of love
Any person who refers to The Guardian as ‘The Graun’
Earnest sincerity
Ambiguous aggression
Live Q & As
Joyous announcements shared by friends and acquaintances online before they’ve texted to tell me personally
Arguing with stupid people
Puns.

Things I Didn’t Know I Loved

Cats
Praise from strangers
Pictures of animals and humans kissing
Princess Diana’s hair
Pictures of any infant mammal
Pictures of anthropomorphized frogs
Blogs about nail varnish
‘Bbe’ (as an abbreviation of the endearment ‘babe’)
Lists
Traditional emoticons (:))
Cheryl Cole’s face
The acronym OMG
Pictures of my own feet.

*The image used here recently did the rounds as a meme. So I’m presuming whoever owns the copyright is neither diligent nor litigious. If I’m wrong, please contact me before embarking upon legal action and I’ll take it down. It’s cute though – I hope you don’t make me.