Part 122: River Phoenix as Chris in ‘Stand by Me’

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The other day I was sitting in the hairdressers – having accidentally dyed my hair an alarming shade of orange I was forced to undergo an intensive procedure, involving bleach and scissors and resulting in a pixie crop that appears to have taken its inspiration, colour-wise, from the fur of an ageing labrador. There I was, flicking my big blue eyeballs between Facebook and the weathered pages of an old Glamour magazine, when my stylist asked me a question and inadvertently caused me to reveal repressed teenage yearnings, which explained an awful lot of things about my terrible romantic decision-making processes, and potentially set me on the path to emancipation (by which I mean sex, with someone who isn’t more or less a scumbag).

‘So,’ he said – lifting the tinfoil to check whether my hair had achieved the desired shade of yellow – ‘what’s your type?’ This was not completely àpropos of nothing, as we had, some moments before, been discussing our respective romantic failures. (It is possible, in hindsight, that he was trying it on, subtly – however, I didn’t register if he was because 9am scalp full of bleach is not my most sexy, self-assured hour.)

‘River Phoenix as Chris in Stand by Me,’ I said. And then, after a pause: ‘Oh God. I really mean that.’

Listen, if we became friends and you asked me – on a night out in a restaurant say, or over tea in my living room – about my first love, I would tell you the story of when I was seventeen and walked into a church hall (for secular purposes) and experienced metaphorical fireworks as my soon-to-be-boyfriend did a roly-poly off a plastic chair. But that would be a lie. My first love was Chris from Stand by Me, the 80’s movie about four boys from Portland, Oregon, who go searching for a dead body in the woods.

As is usual when it comes to first loves, he has remained my relationship archetype well after the point where I should have got over it.

Not that you can blame me. As you’ll know, if you’ve ever watched Stand by Me, Chris is a pretty special guy. Tough, resilient, spontaneous, unpretentious, witty, honest, loyal, kind, smart, unafraid of confrontation, protective of the people he loves and very, very good-looking.

(And that bit where he says to Gordie, ‘it’s like God gave you something, man. All those stories you can make up. And he said ”this is what we’ve got for you kid, try not to lose it.” Kids lose everything unless there’s someone there to look out for them. And if your parents are too fucked up to do it, then maybe I should.’ Oh GOD! It’s like: who wouldn’t want to marry the man that boy grows up to be?)

He also dresses remarkably well, considering that he wears one outfit for the entirety of the movie. You can’t go wrong with a white t-shirt and jeans, as far as I’m concerned.

Every single time I have dated, or snogged, or slept with a person I’ve done so because they’ve reminded me of Chris, in one way or another.

This has led to some questionable encounters. For example, I once made out with a soldier who I had just seen drink a pint of urine, because he had shaved head, like Chris, and that was what my brain focused on.

But I am 30 now. I have to get real if I want to make babies, and getting real requires being honest with myself, and with you. Chris is a child and also fictional. And, by the end of the movie (when we discover that he grew up to be everything you ever wanted a man, as his adolescence suggested he would), dead. None of these are qualities I genuinely want in a lover, if I think about it sensibly.

A new archetype is required, in order that I make the necessary leap into proper adult attraction, to men with whom there’s a future. I’m thinking a cross between George Clooney and Ross out of Friends might do it. (Although I’d like to point out that I have never been sexually attracted to Ross out of Friends, in any way whatsoever.)

*Image from starstills.com

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Part 121: Serial Monogamists

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There’s a friend of mine, who I’ve mentioned here a couple of times before, both by her actual name and using the pseudonym ‘Bonny’ when I’ve wanted to divulge the more intimate details of her sexual past, which she wouldn’t want broadcast over the Internet, if attached to her real identity.

Bonny is what you would call ‘experienced’, romantically.

She has had a lot of serious boyfriends. Like many, many, many. I just counted the ones I can recall – trawling my brain (addled this week by an overdose of 7up, Haribo and tangy cheese Doritos) for their bland faces and the names I never bothered committing to memory because I knew they were not long for Bonny’s world – and I reached well into double figures, before I was distracted by a text message.

(When someone you’ve recently slept with texts that they think you’re a ‘great person’ with whom they could be ‘good mates’ that indicates you were crap in bed, doesn’t it?).

(And should I take the offer of a friendship at face value? And, if so, do I want, or even need, more ‘mates’? Isn’t my social circle complex enough?)

(And do friendships even happen by people asking for them? Isn’t the making of ‘good mates’ conventionally more… sort of…organic?)

(And while, yes, I’d almost certainly have sex with him again, should the opportunity arise – what with my biological clock being about to explode and a lack of any serious alternative offers on the table – (or maybe not, who knows, he was pretty weird) I find myself wondering whether this is a man I can be bothered wasting platonic energy on.)

(Does this mean I’m more discerning about choosing friends than I am casual sex partners? Might that – in any way – be a good thing?)

Bonny is a classic serial monogamist, like Darren Day, Rod Stewart and Ian Beale off Eastenders.

Serial monogamists are very easy to identify: not only are they always, with sporadic gaps of three to six months, maximum, in committed relationships, but they are also wildly romantic – gushing endlessly over their latest beau, making ill-advised plans for a future together, proclaiming the intensity of their love to anyone who’ll listen and bouncing back in record time when the inevitable happens and it all ends in tears, one way or the other (a thing they never wasted energy worrying about while the relationship was happening, because they also tend to be naive optimists, and anyway, it’s the 21st Century – there are plenty of fish, advertising their availability on Tinder).

I find serial monogamy depressing.

I want romantic love to be a real thing that is, like a diamond, precious, rare, strong enough to withstand extreme pressure and prone to flashing ostentatiously, when it catches the light. I certainly don’t want it to be a thing you can do over and over and over again, with just about anyone – like tennis or sex. A thing that you can pack in whenever you start losing, or it begins to feel unseemly.

Being in love with an endless string of people feels like cheating to me.

And even though it looks like a lot of fun when Bonny and Rod Stewart do it, I’m not sure serial monogamy can be worth it, in the long run. It certainly hasn’t worked out great shakes for Ian Beale – although he is with that Denise now, isn’t he? And she’s hot as and very worthy of love – what with having been held hostage in next door’s basement and tortured by her murderous ex the last time I was paying proper attention.

But who am I to judge?

I just reckon, if you’re going to sleep with loads of people, you might as well do them all at a similar time. Mix it up a bit.

And stop falling in love.

It’s driving me mental.

*Image from 10incheslab at freedigitialphotos.net. I don’t know why! I just thought it was cute!

Part 120: Sue Ellen

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I used to own a T-shirt with the slogan ‘I Love Sue Ellen’ embossed across the front. It was dusty purple, made from that thin, soft cotton that feels like luxury – even though it costs next to nothing and is likely fashioned into garments by oppressed children, from scraggy old bits of fabric found discarded on the floors of Third World factories. And it used to cling to my boobies in a very fetching manner, and rise up to reveal my midriff, which, at the time – due to exercise, youth and genetics – was toned and washboard flat.

I fucking loved that T-shirt. Although I have absolutely no idea where it is now. It has gone to the heaven of lost things, along with all the earrings I have ever purchased and that sky-blue Paul Smith stiletto I misplaced a few years ago, when I threw it at my brother, on Plumstead common, during a drunken fight in the snow.

But I digress.

The thing I want to tell you about is Sue Ellen. You know, the character off Dallas. Married to JR Ewing (him of the oil baroning, massive Stetson hat and philandering). Let’s ignore the fact that this is an ancient cultural reference and get to the important point: what a woman.

If I could be anyone when I grow up, I’d be Sue Ellen.

That face. The pearlescent teeth. The permanent, unchipped manicure. The lingerie business. The alcoholism that never quite got the better of her. The shoulder pads. Those watery great eyes that lull you into thinking she’s fallen for it, but then there’s a golden flash and you realise: shit, this bitch has a gun in her purse and she is not afraid to use it.

The only thing that would dampen the experience of being Sue Ellen, as far as I can tell, is the disastrous relationship with JR – the man she loved, for her sins, but who didn’t know how to love her back (and also that stint in a mental institution, and the subsequent postnatal depression). For example, despite the fact he had the world’s sharpest woman waiting at home, JR kept shagging about with lithe, dumb, younger women and making up daft excuses that Sue Ellen was too smart to fall for, but that she sometimes pretended to believe, as women are wont to do, because dealing with an unfaithful lover is a massive faff. As she proved when she embarked upon a revenge affair, and fell pregnant, and was never quite sure if her husband or his arch nemesis was the father.

Poor, beautiful Sue Ellen – made to deal with having her self-esteem smashed to bits on a regular basis – which, of course, was JR’s method of control. In betraying her, he made himself the main thing about her life. He became the sun around which she was forced to orbit. And that was sad, because, as I’ve proved, she was capable of so much more.

If only JR had been brave enough to be with her properly, and love her without the drama and cruelty, as she deserved to be loved. But that was never going to happen, except when it did and then it turned out to be a dream (don’t fret too much babe, that happens to me most nights).

No-one can convince me that Sue Ellen wouldn’t have been better off single. Just imagine the life a woman that fabulous might have led, if she hadn’t married a podgy smooth-talker who couldn’t keep his dick in his pants. It’s a good job she’s fictional, and can therefore remain a role model for ladies like me, who haven’t quite decided how to live yet.

And let’s not forget, she divorced the bastard in the end.

(Then the horrendous 2012 series went and ruined it. But we won’t discuss that here because: for fuck’s sake.)

*Got the image off Google. Via virginmedia.com. I’ll take it down if you own the copyright and ask me. Don’t bother suing – as ever, I’m skint.