New Year, New Me. Goodbye

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They say we never really change. In a school report dated June 23rd 1989, my reception class teacher notes that, while I am well advanced for my age, with a penchant for creative activities ‘such as story writing and junk modelling’, able to read independently and tackle rudimentary maths problems, I also have a tendency to ‘rush [my] work or become frustrated.’ It’s early evidence of impatience — which is one of my less-nice character traits, alongside spite, greed and reckless honesty. I’ve always wanted to be slightly better than I am at things; I’ve always wanted to rush ahead – to get results, quickly, or else I might as well give up.

Unsurprisingly (as you may have noticed if you’ve been a regular reader over the past five years or so), this attitude has not often been useful in the sex and relationships arena. Taking it slow is not a thing I know how to do by instinct. Which leads to most of my romances burning out within the first couple of dates, or else just sort of becoming an emotional void into which I pour my hopes, dreams and self-esteem, until I am left — quivering, husk-like, pessimistic and often drunk — at the open mouth of the future. Or maybe I’m just a drama queen — which is another long-lasting character trait that my reception class teacher kindly left off the school report, although I have life-long friends and family members who will attest to its enduring role in my personality.

This blog has been a great way of dealing with my impatience. Of getting to know myself; of having to return to the same work over and over again, even when I really didn’t want to. It’s been a job of channelling all my insecurities and upsets into something separate from myself. Of rediscovering my love of story writing and junk modelling. It’s been a relief and a therapy and I have been glad for it’s existence. Especially that time I won an award and had my picture taken for a glossy magazine.

But I can’t keep writing it forever and ever.

And although it’s true that we don’t really change, we don’t stay the same either. I don’t feel acerbic and scornful about love any more. I don’t want to keep hanging my autobiography off the fact of my not having a permanent lover, because, at last, it doesn’t feel like something that defines me. I feel (despite my penultimate post, which I wish had been funnier darlings, sorry about that but they say it gets worse before it gets better and things are ok now. I swear) sort of optimistic and sanguine at the same time, if they are even different emotions. My life is good. I am so lucky. I don’t want to blog about being single any more — I have got other things to say.

So, I will still be writing, just not here. You can follow my progress on katiebeswick.com if you’re going to miss me. I have this fledgling plan to start blogging about all the books I’m reading, which will probably be as boring as it sounds — but fuck you, I’m doing it anyway.

Ciao for now and lots of love.xxx

 

Part 167: Sexy

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Oh my God, I looked so sexy yesterday. No idea why. I take no credit for it. I’ve been drinking like a fish all week, house a shit-tip, eating the same egg fried rice out of the same pan with the same fork for dinner every night, even when it started to taste fizzy. I rose late and got dressed mid-morning; sobbing over a podcast about female genital mutilation as I applied my liquid eyeliner, which spurted straight out through my tear ducts, Jackson Pollocking gelatinous black clumps about my face. I spent 30 seconds or fewer blowing my hair dry (I haven’t had a haircut in months and the back bit’s grown into a fetching half-mullet) and there was a big red spot threatening to burst from my chin. But it didn’t matter. I was hot*. Sometimes sexy happens, without effort, in the most unlikely moments. In the same way that, sometimes, you roll up to a wedding looking like a jacket potato that’s been done up in drag — despite spending £400 on a new dress, shoes, professional make up and eight personal training sessions, because you knew a scatter of your exes would be there, with their pregnant wags.

What yesterday reminded me, as I accepted appreciative honks from white van drivers and seduced myself with a pout and a sideways glance in all available reflective surfaces, was that there is nothing sexier than a sexy single woman. I don’t think it’s possible to dispute that (and neither do I ask you try. The comments section of this blog is exclusively for complimenting me. All other correspondence will be destroyed). You never really see sexy wives, or, if you do — hello there Kim Kardashian, Beyoncé, I literally can’t think of any others (you may use the comments section to complete this list, if you really must) — they’re diluting it by banging on about their husbands left, right and centre, until it’s no wonder he released that demented sportswear collection, or fucked Becky with the Good Hair.

Sexy and single is dangerous. It’s powerful. Women’s untamed sexuality is the biggest fear dogging all societies. It’s at the root of the patriarchy — if you can still read that word without vomiting. It is why some cultures cut women’s clitorises off, or sew their vaginas shut with cotton and an unsterilized needle. It’s why there’s so much pressure to settle down and get married; it’s why, when you do, your husband will knock about with prostitutes, or come home late and belligerent, or grow fat and repulsive and tell racist jokes to waiting staff. It’s scary for the world at large, the thought we might posses all this hotness and just keep it to ourselves. Think about that the next time your Nan asks if you’ve met anyone nice.

Today, I’ve woken up with a double chin, which is alarming, though unsurprising due to the beer and the rice and the pepperoni pizza I bought for £1.49 and posted into my face while FaceTiming my brother at 10.30pm. The sexy didn’t last long (‘Oh. I see you’ve made an effort,’ my friend’s husband laughed, when I rocked up to the pub at lunchtime with my double chin and t-shirt with a stain on the front). But I don’t mind. As fleeting as sexy is, it’s better savoured alone. Unlike sex, which is another thing entirely.

*I really was hot as well. After noticing my sexy and coming up with the idea for this blog post, I video-called my mate to tell her a story about a cat (which I promise I will tell you another day. It’s just that I have guests arriving in 22 minutes and I don’t have much time right now), she answered the call and said, ‘Wow. You look sexy today!’ And I said: ‘Oh my God! I know right? It’s so weird – it just happened out the blue. I’m gonna post a blog about it tomorrow. Anyway, do you remember when my sister and her girlfriend had that cat?’

**Image is “A Naked Woman In The Bathtub” by njaj at freedigitalphotos.net

Part 154: Good in Bed

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Remember back in the day, when you could tell everything you needed to know about a man’s sexual prowess by how nimbly he could unhook your bra? What happened to that? Being ‘good in bed’ wasn’t an issue. The criteria for assessment were singular: can he release your breasts in two seconds or less? It was so easy. We didn’t even care about orgasms back then. It was all about the bra and, later, how quickly he could find your knickers afterwards. (Although, to be fair, we were having orgasms, left right and centre, because our boyfriends knew what they were doing – even though they were 19 and carnally inexperienced. It’s just nature, babe. And nature knows there is no point in sex if you don’t orgasm.) Impressing us was not rocket science – it was basic coordination coupled with minimal dexterity. Not that that stopped the boys from trying.

For most of my adult life (and, if I’m honest, for quite some years before I was an adult) men have been telling me that they are ‘good in bed’. More often than not this is because they want me to agree to sleep with them — but not always. There are some men for whom being ‘good in bed’ is such a foundational part of their identity that they will drop it idly into platonic conversation; like you might drop a pebble into water and turn away before you see the ripples fan out and fade to nothing. His lovers go wild with ecstasy, this breed of man will tell you; they shriek and scream and ejaculate shoots all over the ceiling. They wake up the neighbours two doors down. He can’t help it. It’s probably to do with his massive penis. And the fact that he is so unusually attentive.

And you nod and smile and imagine him naked; allowing your brain to click back through his monologue, replacing the conceptual women he has endlessly pleasured with a version of yourself, sans cellulite. And then you think ‘nah’. You think, ‘I don’t care what he was doing to me, if he’s that full of himself I would definitely find it repulsive’.

The truth, of course, is that ‘good in bed’ doesn’t really exist. You can’t be good in bed any more than you can be ‘good’ at eating, breathing or digestion. Sex is a healthy bodily function that you do by instinct. You might be bad at sex — just like you might be bad at eating (see anorexia, bulimia, obesity), breathing (respiratory infections) or digestion (IBS, gallstones, Crohn’s disease) — but usually this means you have a medical or psychological impairment. You need treatment, and to stop over-thinking.

That doesn’t change the fact that pretty much every sexually active person will, at some point, come to think of themselves as ‘good in bed’. How could they not — what with the kissing and the nudity; the touching and the moving the other person to climax, six times out of ten. We’re all total stud muffins, when we’re not melting out of our own skin over some sexual faux pas or another.

The problem is that there’s a disjuncture between what ‘good in bed’ means when we’re talking about our own abilities under the covers and what it means when we’re describing someone else’s.

When we describe ourselves as ‘good in bed’ we are normally referring to all manner of esoteric sensory subtleties that we imagine we employ, for our partners’ delight and pleasure: the exotic positions and tender caresses, the gentle bites and the slow, sexy, hair pulling; often, moves we have borrowed from novels, or porn films. We imagine that our lovers are uniquely aroused by the magic in our loins or fingertips, because, mostly, our lovers have a fucking great time when they sex with us.

When we describe someone else as good in bed, however, we are invariably referring to his or her willingness to give oral sex, expertly or otherwise.

I say this as a person with whom others (friends, colleagues, cab drivers, repair men, postal workers, relatives, waiting staff and, once, a homeless alcoholic) seem unnaturally inclined to share details of their sex lives. (Perhaps it is because they presume I am getting so little.) Oral sex is pretty much the final word when it comes to sexual satisfaction. This is why homosexuals are generally so very happy.

That’s not to say that you can’t have a fulfilling sex life without oral. I am never going to patronise you by suggesting that ‘good sex’ has a formula; that climactic epiphanies are only to be found in a loving relationship (in my experience hatred adds a compelling dynamic to the proceedings), or by complex karma-sutric positioning. Missionary will do. There is nothing to learn. Sex is in our nature. The only person you need to love, my darling, is yourself.

All I’m telling you is that if you wish to be regarded as good in bed; if you dream that rumours of your sexual prowess will transmit and, like a virus, replicate and grow stronger, spreading to produce more sex, preferably for you: give head. It’s all anyone wants. Trust me. I’ve been single for a lot of years, and I’ve been listening.

*Image is Couple Enjoying Foreplay Together” by imagery majestic at freedigitalphotos.net

Part 143: Heterosexual Married Men

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I don’t want to imply that there’s no point whatsoever to heterosexual married men. That would be unfair. I’m sure some of them are quite good at their jobs, for example. And I’m willing to admit they are necessary – for impregnating wives, mowing the lawn, paying plumbers in cash, sustaining the golfing industry, getting the car washed, indulging in extra-marital affairs they will come to regret and so on. Socially speaking, however, they’re redundant. Certainly, they have no business whatsoever spending time in places where single heterosexual women hang out, and talking to us.

Let me make this quite clear to those married men who might be reading: when we’re all dolled up, out on the tiles with our cleavage packaged alluringly in satin, clutching an expensive cocktail in our newly manicured paws, we do not want to talk to you. When we’re at the supermarket, bulk-buying quavers, our leggings clinging to our peachy buttocks as we reach for the Tropicana, we do not want to talk to you. When we’re chatting up your mate, running our fingers over the lapel of his suit jacket, laughing giddily while looking him right in the eye, we do not want to talk to you. You are nothing to us. You are there, inevitably, but individually you are alike and forgettable, like dust particles, or pigeons.

It’s not that we’re bitches. Although it’s likely that we are. We’re more than happy to congratulate you on the birth of your firstborn or ask you about your weekend over the water-cooler at work. In most circumstances we’ll be polite, friendly and accommodating. But don’t get it twisted. You should know that we don’t care about your jokes, your hobbies or your opinions on the economy. We might pretend that we do, because social conditioning means we’re programmed to act outwardly inferior to men who’ve had their confidence inflated by a woman making a public commitment to provide blow-jobs on tap. But we don’t. We have our regular retinue of female and homosexual male pals to offer hilarity, social commentary and networking opportunities. Heterosexual men are for flirting with in anticipation of sex. And if you’re married we are going to feel bad about doing that.

I’m not suggesting that marriage necessitates your becoming a recluse. By all means, head out with your boys to the gym or a ‘nightclub’ or a football match. By all means, invite your existing female friends to the pub and challenge them to game of pool in order to neutralise the bubbling sexual tension. By all means, take your wife out to dinner and make feeble witticisms at the waiting staff. But on absolutely no account whatsoever are you to approach a single woman when she is out in public and behave as if your charisma is reward enough. It is not — unless you are uniquely charismatic, like Jack Nicholson or Jesus. Which you aren’t.

It’s not that we single women want to sleep with everything that moves. Although some of us do. It’s more that we want our social relations to carry a frisson of possibility that it is simply not possible to create with a married person. We put up with our married female friends because we know there will be a time when our lives are back on a level playing-ground; they’ll get divorced or we’ll get married and we’ll find each other’s company bearable once again. And sure, at that point, once we’re married ourselves, things will be different. Once I’m married you can invite me to dinner parties and we’ll argue about the merits of the public vs the private school system until my husband takes me home because I’ve become shrill and obnoxious after too much port. I might grow to like you then, and regard you as a friend. But that’s the fictional future.

Right now, my life is hard enough, even though I spend seventy percent of it sleeping. I have no idea what I am supposed to talk about with heterosexual men who there is no possibility of my ever having sex with. There is no guidance for that in popular culture (unless they’re a manual worker doing labour at your house, in which case, offer them tea). I suppose you do get the odd one that’s into theatre or The Sopranos, but they tend to have that annoying habit of banging on about the factual minutiae of their interests as if you haven’t got a PhD.

Right now, the only concern I have with married men is meeting their eligible bachelor mates. Because how’s a girl supposed to write a sex blog if she never has sex?

*Image is “Young Couple Sitting On Sofa” by imagerymajestic at freedigitalphotos.net.

Part 129: Keeping Your Name

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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.

Part 124: Brass Instruments

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When I started this blog, I made a pact with myself; I promised I would never use it to tell embarrassing or mean stories about people I’d slept with, on the basis that doing unto others as you would have them do unto you is a sensible dictum by which to live your life – despite the fact it’s from the Bible (Luke 6:31). And I have pretty much adhered to the terms of that pact – although, I’ll hold my hands up and admit that I’ve been mean about my bad ex-boyfriend in almost every post I’ve written. Still, I don’t feel too awful about that because I know him well enough to know he’s flattered – not least because I always attempt to infuse my reminiscences with affection as well as bile. And, anyway, he should count himself fucking lucky. I could have been worse.

The thing is, I’ve decided that there’s not much point in writing a sex and relationships blog if, on the rare occasions I do let a man inside my bedclothes, I keep all the gossip to myself, and lie to you by writing about how I only watch QVC and eat cheese in my pyjamas. It’s not honest, frankly.

And also, I need an outside perspective.

Because the other thing is this:

Men keep playing brass instruments at me in sexual scenarios and I don’t know what to do about it.

I say keep playing. In truth it’s happened twice* – but that seems like an above average amount, especially considering that my sexual career has had more or less an eight year hiatus, due to – well, if I knew that babes, I wouldn’t be writing this.

The first time I was faced with a brass instrument in the bedroom, it was probably the most erotic thing that had ever happened to me. I was seventeen. I was naked. My (now ex) boyfriend (no, not that one) pulled a trumpet from under his bed and played it with his breath and his finger-tips – as though it were part of his body, or mine. It was beautiful, spontaneous and seamless. He was very excellent at the trumpet. I swooned and promptly submitted to all of his sexual advances. Of course, because I was utterly infatuated with him, and because it was the early 2000s and, like most of my generation, I was smoking an obscene amount of hydroponic weed, I might have misremembered this event.

Perhaps because it was some twelve years later, and I didn’t know the bloke that well, perhaps because he preceded it by telling the story of how he’d once pulled an unlikely artefact from a girlfriend’s vagina (and then, for reasons I don’t understand, he took her picture from a drawer, and showed it to me. It felt, from the manic look in her eyes as she grimaced into the camera lens, as though she were sending a warning, telepathically, from the past), or perhaps because he chose to play Baggy Trousers, the second time I was faced with a brass instrument in the bedroom it was not the most erotic thing that had ever happened to me. It was really, really weird. Was he trying to impress me, or was he – using a subtle, baffling form of ridicule – taking the piss? It didn’t help that this time the brass instrument was a tuba; a heavy, unwieldy, tuneless thing – as favoured by Harold off of Neighbours – almost the size of me.

It is testament to his good looks and the sedative power of a strong jaw line that I did not ask ‘what the fuck are you doing?’, and leave immediately.

Is it cruel, writing that? Am I an unspeakable bitch? I know I’m probably breaking all sorts of sex-related, unspoken trust rules – although if you are going to insist that women you don’t know behave impeccably after they sleep with you, it is probably best not to play the tuba and talk them through a wodge of hot ex-girlfriend photos, while they sit next to you in their underwear, wondering where the fuck it all went wrong, and whether, perhaps, their bad ex-boyfriend might consider a reconciliation, if they promise to get pregnant right away.

How is one supposed to respond in brass instrument related sexual encounters? I think this is an important contemporary question that needs answering, and I’d be grateful if you could concentrate your considerable intellectual powers upon it for the next hour or so.

I will be on the sofa, eating cheese and watching Diamonique Jewellery with Alison, patiently awaiting your response.

*I have just remembered a third brass instrument related sexual incident from way back in the day – when I was unwittingly present as my mate shagged a saxophonist called Malcolm. (He had a massive, black and white picture of the Twin Towers on his living room wall – and I recognised them, so it must have been some time just post-9/11.) This, however, is not my story to tell.

*Image by scottchan at freedigitalphotos.net

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!