Part 103: Camping

camping

A couple of weeks ago my friend Joni, Amy’s mum – you remember Amy? My mate who threw the dinner party where I was diagnosed as a psychopath – and who has demanded I let you all know that she did NOT, in fact, serve warm rosé at that event, as I told you she did when I wrote about it, what can I say, I’m a massive liar – messaged me on Facebook. ‘Remember that time you camped with us at Pevensey Bay and got drunk, sick and homesick and stayed in the tent all day,’ she wrote, ‘is that reason to be single?’

Well, Joni, I’ve thought about it and I’ve decided that, yes, camping is a reason to be single – everything is, if you think about it hard enough and are only half serious – but not because I freaked out on that trip. Camping is only a reason to be single when you use it as an extended metaphor. As I am about to do now, for your delight and pleasure.

All my life I thought of myself as a city girl. I was London born and bred (and I will leave Yorkshire to return there just as soon as fate sorts his life out and grants me a doctorate and man with enough money to buy the Big Breakfast house, which, I have been reliably informed, by a bloke with no teeth who runs a café nearby, can be purchased for the reasonable sum of seven million pounds). I liked Brutalist buildings, fast cars and tube trains. The sound of sirens. Buying cockles in the pub from a man with a white coat and a wicker basket. I liked swearing, and anonymity. Shouting at strangers. Boys with staffies on leads and hooded tops and great big spliffs hidden in cupped hands, like snails curled inside their shells. Girls with over-sized earrings and hard stares and faux fur coats, who looked as if they might fuck you up at any given moment, but almost never did.

I was not down with the outdoors if it involved the countryside – where they only have miles and miles of grass and weeds and nervous sheep grazing on clover.

I was certain, as I moved through my adolescence and into fabulous, that all I needed was my concrete edged home city – which was cold and indifferent and would never love me, but which I could shape myself to, if I really tried, so that eventually our edges would rub together in a manner not entirely unlike something from a porn film (I’m not really talking about London now. I’m talking about boys. You probably know that, because I told you this was a metaphor, but I like to make sure the dumber among you don’t get lost – as usual, you’re welcome).

And then I went camping.

And the grass was both silken and spiky, and the weeds were dandelions that you could blow into the azure sky and wish upon, and the sheep bleated songs and stared right at you when you bleated back, like they might fuck you up and any given moment, but almost never did. And it was beautiful – even when the rain soaked through the canvas and made your nightie damp.

I didn’t have to meld myself to the countryside because I was already part of it. I could just lie on my back and absorb it through my pores and my ears and my big blue eyeballs, and then fall asleep and wake up broiled by the sunlight and trudge to the communal showers dressed in flip-flops with wild mad person hair and all the camping people would smile and say good morning and let me wash myself at a trough as though this were perfectly normal. Which, of course, it was.

Can you see what I’m getting at here? CAN YOU? Camping is the man I want that I didn’t know I wanted – that’s the metaphor!

No, he’s probably not going to be that alpha male with the chiselled jaw line and the mean Rottweiler eyes and the cold indifference that I’ll try but never succeed in shaping myself to. He’ll be open and expansive, like an azure sky, and I’ll be able to lie there and drink him in through my pores and my ears and my big blue eyeballs and he’ll be underneath me like the ground – but only sometimes in a sexual way – supportive and balancing and only wanting to hold me up.

Now I know about him, so I have to wait, patiently single, until he comes along.

Don’t get me wrong – I still want to move back to London. I did not have room in the metaphor to point out that I suffer from hay fever. Which makes camping an activity I actually don’t love all that much. This does not undermine the central thesis of this post, though. I still deserve a kind strong man who loves me. I’m just saying it would be a bonus if he had seven million pounds going spare. And I also wouldn’t be totally adverse to a staffie, or a Rottweiler.

*image by duron123 at freedigitalphotos.net

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Part 102: Difficult Women

difficult women

I often read and, up until recently, when an internet addiction destroyed my ability to engage with texts exceeding 600 words, I mainly read the branch of literary fiction that commonly includes a central or supporting character one might define as ‘difficult woman.’ She is usually headstrong, emotionally intense, sexually active and intelligent. She has a career – or else she doesn’t have a career but gets into all sorts of trouble doing exciting things like being a suffragette or refusing to have sex with rich and powerful men or being locked up in secure units of mental health institutions and forced to take cold baths. She is often beautiful and wont to fall in love, but the men she falls in love with are entirely unsuitable or die young or possess the disposition of what we in South East London call ‘wrong ‘uns’. Thus she is rarely married and, if she is, it always ends in disaster.

Once I finish reading these books I’ll pass them over to my mother who, without fail, will call me to discuss the plot and say, ‘I’m really enjoying it.’ And then, also without fail, she’ll mention how much she likes the difficult woman character and say, ‘you know what Kate, she really reminds me of you.’

I hope my mum means this as a compliment, but knowing her I reckon she probably does not. She is speaking truth, which is her thing. My mum really believes I am one of the headstrong, beautiful women who just cannot find a man able to both intellectually stimulate and impregnate her, but who gets through life winning anyway.

And I make my mum right.

I have no qualms in confirming that if my life were a book my character would conform to the difficult woman archetype. I’m intense, emotionally unstable, occasionally sexually active and, as you’ll know, I am sharp as a tack. Like the archetypal DW I excel in drunken flirtation, tearful public confrontation and, as an added bonus, I am very bad at housework. This is why all my favourite male friends are gay and I am no longer on speaking terms with anyone I have ever had sex with.

Having discussed it with another single difficult woman over the weekend I would like to draw your attention to the reasons why we difficult women are prone to single life. As me and my mate decided, after two bottles of red, these reasons are that men can’t handle it – or else they can but then we have to settle for less than we’d wish to or sacrifice the part of ourselves where the fire burns. ‘As soon as I get involved with a guy’ my friend said, ‘that creative part of me shrinks to make room for him.’

Ugh.

There are very few alpha males who are willing to fuel our fabulous by letting us shout at them and cooking us meals and telling us we are unique and wonderful and that they loved us all along, even when they were pretending to be indifferent and callous (difficult women do not fall for betas). Alpha males usually try to change us, so that we might fill the role left void by their mother. We do not fall for that shit. So they find someone who will and continue to fuck us on the side, until the situation becomes untenable for everybody involved.

I would like to remind you that difficult women are extremely capable and very good company. We can drink whisky on the rocks without wincing; we can decorate our own house thank you very much and sort out our own orgasms and yours as well if necessary. We can annihilate authority figures who are rude to us or people in general who refuse to give us exactly what we want.

But we’re not great at getting a second date. I don’t know why. You’d be fucking lucky to have us.

You probably can’t though.

Sorry.

Those are the generic conventions of literary fiction I’m afraid.

Not that this is a fiction. For the most part, I’m totally sincere.

*Image from http://weheartit.com. As ever, contact me if you are the copyright owner and you have beef. As ever, I’d like to remind you that I do not have the finances to make legal action worth your while.

Part 101: Enid Blyton

dwarf

You can always tell when I’m undergoing a period of what psychologists refer to as ‘regression’ (that is, for the uninitiated, when you retreat into your childhood behaviours to escape from stressful adult experiences), because I start reading the Malory Towers books, like I used to do when I was a seven-year old. And, sometimes, when it gets really bad, I’ll move onto the The Faraway Tree series after.

But recently I’ve been thinking about this pattern of childish activity and I’ve decided that enough is enough. I’m chucking my old books in the bin. The lot of them.

I know Philip Larkin said it was your Mum and Dad that fuck you up, but, I’m sorry to report, Philip got that wrong. My Mum and Dad did their level best, but their inadequacies had little effect on my emotional development.

It is entirely Enid Blyton’s fault that I am what I am.

I particularly blame her for my lack of dating prowess. She relentlessly poured 1940s’ middle class morals into me, via charming stories about pixies and schoolgirls and trees you could climb to reach a magical land that was sometimes more fun than your real life and sometimes totally fucking awful – you never knew, you’d just have to go up and have a poke about and if the worst came to the worst you’d have an adventure and in the end you’d escape and slide down a big swirly slide and go home to a kindly mother who’d reward you with jam sandwiches and ginger beer. These were morals I thought would apply in an abstract way to reality. They have, in fact, turned out to be absolutely useless for navigating 21st Century romantic life on the mean streets of Armley and Woolwich, where I spend most of my time.

For example, in the Malory Towers world, people who do wrong things – such as tell outrageous lies, show off about their riches, steal from their classmates or treat others with indifference and cruelty – are punished in a timely fashion in a way that gives closure to their victims, but leaves hope for future redemption. Like in The Second Form at Malory Towers, when Daphne flees with everyone’s money and jewellery and has to hang off the edge of cliff looking after little Mary-Lou who’s run out to protect her. Remember that one? How uplifting it was to the spirits and how it made you believe good would always triumph over evil in the end, and everyone would get their money back?

Or in the last book, when Gwendoline Mary, who has been a right bitch from the start, is knocked for six by the news that her father is ill and that she will not be going to a Swiss finishing school after all, but must return to the family home to nurse him. An event that will be the making of her, in the end.

I had always thoroughly expected this pattern of virtue-reward, vice-punishment to apply to relationships, and also to other things, like employment and friendships. It does not.

Malory Towers is not like real life and The Sopranos, where all the people, but especially the men, behave as badly as they possibly can and everyone secretly finds it very attractive and wants to have sex with them regardless. Where indifference and cruelty are rewarded with money and orgasms, and yes, death, eventually. Although we’re all rewarded by death in the end regardless of our morals, so real life and The Sopranos don’t exactly teach us a lesson worth learning there.

But then again, nor did Enid. And all I can conclude from my experience is that filling your child’s head with upright Christian morals, framed in occasionally racist and often sexist tales of sprites and imps and sardine sandwiches at midnight, sets them in very bad stead for conducting functional relationships indeed.

So take heed, any parents reading, and do your child a favour: burn the books. Especially if you ever want grandchildren.

*Image by Franky242 at freedigitalphotos.net.

Part 100: Women

woman

Friday night. Somewhere in the North of England:

‘I’ve worked out,’ she said, ‘that if he gives you his number then – if you log in on your phone – you can get on his facebook, like you’re friends.’

‘Maybe,’ I suggested – as she thumbed through his pictures, ignoring me completely, ‘this is not the world’s greatest idea.’

‘Oh. My. God. Look! Some girl’s just posted pictures of them camping together.’

‘It’s probably his sister.’

‘It’s not his sister. I’ve already stalked his sister’s profile.’

‘Oh.’

‘Do you think it’s his girlfriend?’

‘I don’t know. It could be.’

‘He shouldn’t be fucking about on Plenty of Fish if he’s got a girlfriend.’

‘Well. No. He shouldn’t.’

‘Shall I text him?’

‘That seems a bit extreme. I mean, they might just be friends. And you’ve only been on one date.’

‘I’ve texted him.’

There was a long pause as we sipped on our drinks. I glared into every nook of the empty bar, hoping to come across hot men to flirt with. There were no hot men.

‘He hasn’t replied.’

‘Oh.’

‘The absolute bastard.’

*

Women. We are all mental.

I’ve been out the game for a while so I forgot.

No wonder the male half of the species wants nothing to do with us, other than sex.

And if they could glimpse even a fraction of the panicked insanity that infuses every potentially romantic interaction they’d definitely go off the idea of that as well.

Men, you should probably know that what we want is babies and long-term commitment. Even if we’re fucking about with several of you, pretending all we want is a good time. Even if you tell us you aren’t looking for a serious relationship right now. Even if we’re charming and funny and good-looking and confident and sleep with you on the first date.

Especially if we sleep with you on the first date.

Especially if that first date sex results in an orgasm.

It doesn’t matter if you forget to compliment us. It doesn’t matter if you pay or don’t pay for the meal. It doesn’t matter if you’re an idiot, or a sleaze, or lazy Tory with a THC addiction. It doesn’t matter if you dress unfashionably or say rude things about the waiter.

It doesn’t matter if you don’t call us back, or ask us out again.

We’ll just presume you’re playing by The Rules and that will attract us all the more.

If you exhibit the correct amount of interest – not too much, nobody likes desperation, but just enough to keep us hanging in there – we will very likely pour all our hopes and dreams for the future into you, as though you were an empty vessel, and become upset when you don’t live up to our expectations.

I don’t know why God made us this way. But I’ve decided to trust in Him so you’re going to have to deal with it.

Are men like this? Do you screen shot our text messages and send them out to your mates for interpretation? Do you rifle through our old letters while we’re in the shower, trying to work out whether the fact that we’ve kept love-notes from our exes means we’d sleep with them, if they asked? Do you post passive-aggressive messages on our social networking profiles, to mark your territory?

I suspect you don’t – I hope you don’t. Otherwise the world is utterly fucked.

You should probably also know that there’s no way to win with us. If you’re tentative and unsure we’ll stalk your facebook profile and send you intense text messages and put on the pressure until you back off completely. And if you’re honest and upfront and nice and straight with us then we’ll get bored and sack you off for someone more aloof.

I’m trying to step back from my own crazy and avoid allowing it to drive my behaviour towards the opposite sex. I suspect the crazy is why prostitutes exist and I try to remind myself of that so as to have a moral reason to disregard it. But it’s hard. It lures you in.

And ignoring the crazy has meant that I’ve spent the last half-decade virtually celibate, crying into my single malt whisky and watching QVC on a Saturday night instead of bearing my cleavage and trying my luck with the menfolk.

I have no idea how anyone manages to start and maintain a relationship.

I am starting to suspect that whoever wrote The Rules might have had a point. But I haven’t read it so I’ve got no idea what that point might be. Perhaps I’ll buy a copy, because, I’ve realised, if I’m ever going to be in with a chance of giving birth to fat little babies, I had better embrace my crazy and get back in the game.

*Image by imagerymajestic at freedigitalphotos.net