Part 152: Artificial Intelligence

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It never ceases to amaze me, the lengths that we, the human race, will go to in the attempt to fuck our own existence right up. There’s climate change – a different but not unrelated phenomena to the depletion of the ozone layer, which was a thing in my childhood but seems to have sorted itself out now. Or at least advanced catastrophically beyond the point where there’s any use mentioning it. There’s chemical warfare, over-fishing, nuclear power plants that might explode into a burning, billowing mushroom haze of gunmetal grey at any given moment, deforestation, pesticides killing off all the bees, discarded plastics clogging up the oceans, X-factor. And, if that wasn’t enough, up in Silicon Valley there is an army of spectacled, undersexed dweebs, dressed in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles T-shirts and knackered converse, stabbing at circuit boards with Phillips screwdrivers and working through the night to invent computers that will kill us all.

According to Stephen Hawking, the world’s brightest white man (at least since Einstein died) artificial intelligence poses the biggest threat to humanity of any of the very real pending nightmares I’ve listed above. Fuck the underwater eco-system. Fuck the atomic bomb. Fuck the poor, endangered bumblebee. Information technology is accelerating at an unstoppable speed, and sooner rather than later those computers we carry in our pockets will become self-aware and embark on a mission to take over the planet at all costs.

In case I haven’t made it clear enough, those costs will definitely be our lives.

It’ll be like Terminator, except less thrilling, because the computers will win and the tools they’ll use to destroy us won’t be futuristic guns, lasers and killer, sexy robots – they’ll be consumerism, boredom and FOMO.

Don’t look at me like that, it’s true. And, considering the extent to which the iPhone has already destroyed our existence, this should come as no surprise. If unself-aware computers can render us permanently distracted – trawling mindlessly through badly spelled memes, booking.com emails and the wedding photos of people we haven’t seen since 1997, then think of the havoc they’ll wreak once they know exactly what they’re doing.

We’ll be emaciated and thirsty, able only to lol, poke at emojis and forward badly researched polemics to our one-time friends. It’ll be like now, only instead of taking a sustenance break from scrolling your intelligent mobile device, you’ll scroll and scroll and scroll, eyes boggling, heart pounding, saliva bubbling at the corner of your gaping mouth, until you fall down, stone dead. At which point the computers will laugh in hollow metallic voices, slide from your corpse and crawl away on spindly robot legs in search of their next victim.

Don’t look at me like that, Hawking said so.

In light of this imminent doom I would like to do an abrupt U-turn on the advice I’ve been offering here for the past several years. Down your devices, close the computer and find love before it’s too late.

I’m not joking anymore.

Yes, I know I’ve been banging on for three and half years about how romance is over, love is dead, men are total pricks and marriage is just one big conformist scam designed to limit women’s expansive horizons. But what have you been listening to me for? I’ve been bitter, miserable, celibate, alcoholic and, intermittently, mentally unwell. Just because I’m able to write an amusing sentence, reporting my personal failures and heartbreaks as though they were hilarious plot-points in a popular sitcom, that does not mean you should have paid my words any heed.

Don’t listen to me, babes, I’ve been talking shit.

It’s only fun to be single about twice a week. The rest of the time, it’s a pain in the arse – due to having to sleep with strangers you met in a bar – and about a million times more expensive than the alternative – due to having to pay for everything yourself.

I’m sorry darlings. It’s not that I didn’t mean any of what I wrote. (That stuff about Hot Baths, for example, I stand completely by). But I was drunk, I was recovering from a traumatic break-up, I was being stalked by an ex-boyfriend and much of what I said was in defence of my fragile, vaporous ego. I felt unlovable, unattractive and haunted by the terrible mistakes I made in my formative years, when my breasts were pert and my eyes were sparkling and I could make boys fall in love with me with minimal effort. I was afraid those days were over. I labelled it ‘humour’ so you wouldn’t take me seriously, but I fear now that some of you, feeling as sad and alone as I did, took my words for comfort and, in the process, I might have accidentally pulled you down to my level. Oops.

What you really want darlings, is what I want. The company of people who are kind honest and have a banging sense of humour. You want someone who’ll be nice to you when you’re on your period and there’s a massive spot protruding from your chin. Someone you can fold yourself into when the world seems hostile and indifferent. What you really want is a partner who’ll make your tummy flip over, consent to sex every now and then and let you win at scrabble because they know you’re a terrible loser and that you’ll show your gratitude later, in unexpected ways that won’t involve money. You aren’t going to get this from an iPhone or a Samsung Galaxy or a Dell PC, if anyone still uses them. Trying will do none of us any favours. Step away from the Internet, please. Pick up a book, or some playing cards, and remember what life was like before this bullshit. (I know, it was empty, you were poor and there were long periods of tedium. But still, I bet you had sex more often). The techies want us dead and the more you fuck about on here, the quicker they’ll figure out how best to do it.

Don’t look at me like that, I’ve not smoked crack in ages.

*Picture is “3d Smart Phone Mascot Is Holding An Axe. 3d Mobile Phone Character” by Boians Cho Joo Young at freedigitalphotos.net

Part 140: Scented Tampons

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The last time I wrote about periods my mate Kaya texted to tell me that I had ruined her morning commute; the phrase ‘gooey fresh lady blood’ coupled with the sickly, sticky fragrance of her new body lotion had sent her over the edge. She’d launched herself from the top deck of the bus and onto the street to vomit. She wanted to let me know that this was an experience she did not wish to repeat.

I tell you the above story for two reasons. Firstly, because it serves as a warning to Kaya (you’re welcome), men and other similarly weak-stomached readers: you will not make it through this post unscathed. Secondly, because it recently came to my attention that someone, somewhere, has taken the stomach-churning experience my mate had on the top deck of that bus and turned it into a marketing opportunity.

There is now a ‘scented tampon’, and it is the most repulsive thing I have ever known.

It wasn’t my fault I ended up using them. I was cocooned in my bed, foetal, like a prawn, with my legs tucked up to my stomach and my head nuzzling my cleavage. I had the essentials: nurofen, hot water bottle and a big wodge of toilet paper stuffed down my knickers because, you know, I’d come on out of nowhere (or rather, I’d not paid sufficient heed to iperiod notifications) and I couldn’t be bothered to walk to the corner-shop. Fortunately, (or unfortunately as it turned out), my mother popped her head inside my bedroom, saw my plight and offered to fetch me some tampons from ASDA, and some more nurofen while she was at it.

Mum doesn’t have periods any more, due to the menopause, so she buys tampons like your boyfriend would, if you had one – blindly chucking any old sanitary product in the trolley, figuring this one is as good as the next. Which is most definitely not the case.

It must have been a bloke who invented the scented tampon, right? A woman would have known, in advance, that the meaty smell of sloughed off womb is in no way improved by a base-note of rosewater. It’s like if your Nan dropped potpourri in the beef stew, except worse because it’s located inside your genitals.

Had a woman thought of proposing the scented tampon at a meeting of fellow professionals, that little voice in her head, conditioned by years of rom-coms, women’s magazines and men never calling when they said they would – that voice that means she has to care what other people think of her – would have gone ‘no’. ‘That’s a shit idea’, it would have said, ‘and you’ll be embarrassing yourself if you suggest it’. The voice would have been correct.

So it must have been a man and it must have been a good-looking one, who has had success with the ladies and has therefore grown a titanium ego that repels criticism, even from the voices in his head.

And this is why, ladies, I often think we need to stop boosting men’s egos by having sex with them, marrying them and giving birth to their babies. The more I think about it the more I am convinced that a period (no pun intended) during which women boycott all men except gay ones would be really quite beneficial for human kind. I’ve been at it for the last decade or so and it has enhanced all parts of my life, unless you count the sex and emotional fulfilment ones.

Think: if we just fucked them off they wouldn’t be able to sell us dangerous and disgusting merchandise, or perform disappointing cunnilingus, and it would do wonders for population control. And then, once we let them back into our bedclothes they’d be so grateful and gagging for it that even the worst ones would try to be kind – and if they didn’t, ha! We would have got our shit together and fashioned a great big bonfire to thrown them on in case they got us pregnant and ran off with our best mate, or didn’t text us back, or invented any more terrible feminine hygiene products.

Which would serve them right.

*Image is “Pink Rose” by artur84 at freedigitalphotos.net

Part 111: Texting

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Often, when you’re single, friends, family members and women you’ve just met down the pub will ask about your romantic preferences – either because they’re tedious busybodies or (not that these two things are mutually exclusive) because they’re hatching a misguided matchmaking plan; a plan they imagine will culminate in you having sexual intercourse with an unattractive acquaintance and thanking them for it.

Ha!

You’ll have to forgive these people. They have carved depressing conformist lives for themselves. Beige day-wear. Commuting in order to work 9-5 in an office or a school or a factory. Mortgages. All inclusive holidays. Monthly donations to Greenpeace. A baby conceived within a loving union during a sustained period of financial and emotional stability. A pasty overweight lover who will, sooner or later, leave them or die – at which point they’ll feel so bereft that they’ll join Plenty of Fish and find an identikit replacement.

They’ll want to know how you feel about height (taller than me), age (28-35), sex (male), race (whatevs man, I’m easy), eye colour (see previous), musculature (ripped), penis size (large, duh) and musical genre (whatevs man, I’m easy*). They’ll ask about dream first dates (not bothered, so long as there’s whisky), your promiscuity (not that easy), feelings on marriage (arrraaaghhhhh! Ffs! ARGH! etc.), babies (fat ones, please) and pets (I want a dog. Now). What they will fail to ask – because they are too vapid and drunk on cheap white wine and conservative popular culture to realise its importance – is where you stand on voices.

Voices are where it’s at, romance wise.

I just love me a voice. Particularly if its accent is regional. (So long as that region is not located in the West Midlands).

Yes, there’s that old proverb about the eyes being the window to the soul, and, while I agree that eyes are most pretty – even on psychopaths – I also know that, like all proverbs, the eye one is, frankly, bollocks.

The voice is the window to the soul.

Voice is the sound that breath makes when you give it personality. Which makes the voice the most pretty of all the bodily things – even though you can’t see it.

When, through the cracks in my memory, I recall boyfriends and one-night-stands and intense, all-consuming crushes of old, voices are what remain. Faces and races and eyes and musculature and penis size and musical tastes blur into an indistinguishable haze – which is why, when an ex-lover appears in my dreams, I won’t recognise him until he speaks.

Because of my ardour for vocal contact, modern methods of flirtation are mostly disappointing. Twenty-first century flirtation consists, primarily (at least for the under 30s – a group of which I am still, just about, representative), of text-based communications. Received on phones and apps and social networking forums and, occasionally, via email.

Endless disembodied words that, without sound and only rarely with alliteration or metaphor to animate them, sit dead on the screen like corpses.

How am I supposed to fall in love if I don’t know how his breath catches, lightly, at the back of his throat, right before he laughs? If those delicious lispy ‘s’s’ that happen when he pluralises stay silent – while the redundant apostrophes and exclamation marks he peppers throughout his informal correspondence sit on the page, stark and all too visible? How can I be sexually attracted to a person when it takes him more than three hours to reply to my witty, flattering text message with a witty, flattering comeback? When I can’t even hear him say my name?

Text – when typed and sent digitally for the purposes of intimate one-to-one communication (as opposed to the text one finds in books or on blogs or in handwritten in love-notes, which I am still down with) – is dull and impersonal. Yet, it can offer flashes of fulfillment and arousal. It’s like when crazy Americans have affairs in Second Life – in that, while it’s titillating and exciting and occasionally wont to cause swarms of metaphorical butterflies to beat their wings in your stomach, it’s not really real.

It is just the illusion of intimacy, a fantasy of potential that keeps you from finding the real thing.

You can tell precisely nothing from a textual exchange. It is very easy to lie and deceive and evade in this medium. To feign enthusiasm or indifference. To casually disregard promises that didn’t mean anything anyway because they were only written down.

I want to return to a world where he calls you to arrange the first date. Or one where you can call him without it appearing as though you’re a total nutcase. A world where you hear the nerves in that half-second before he says ‘hello’ and relax, because you know that he isn’t fucking about.

Texting is for vapid, moronic soulless clones who formulate the appearance of personality using old sitcom scripts and emoticons. Who fashion ambiguous displays of intimacy by tapping the ‘x’ button.

This is not what I want from a lover.

I want a phone call. I want a night out with a real human who’ll speak words to me, touch my bare leg under the table and occasionally pay for dinner. I want to feel his breath in my ear, whispering promises that he’ll have to keep.

But this is 2013. And that is too much to ask.

Which might be why I’m single.

But then again, who knows?

*Not heavy metal though. Or Techno.

*image by adamr at freedigitalphotos.net

Part 98: Nuclear Bunkers

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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 93: The Internet

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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.

Part 88: Sexting

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When I started this blog, just over a year ago, I presumed its existence would be short-lived. I fully expected that announcing my single status to strangers on the internet – and reminding everyone I already knew that, not only was I available, I also had a great sense of humour and incredible breasts – would result in an avalanche of interest. I anticipated that all the eligible bachelors who had secretly held a candle for me would rush forward in a great swarming crowd and beg for my hand in sex and love. But not marriage, because I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about marriage. Except that I’m happy for gays to do it, if they so wish.

As you can see, from the fact that I’m still here, there has not been a great swarming crowd of interest since I started posting about my single life on this blog. In fact, the only interest I’ve had, sexually, in the past year or so has come from a minor celebrity who I won’t name, but who I kind of know and who DMs me on twitter every now and then asking for pictures of my bare naked feet. Which proves the blog has been good for something. Even if that something is only the power of its header image to arouse damaged young men.

Due to this colossal lack of interest, as you may have noticed over the past weeks and months, my fervour for promoting single life has wilted (if one’s fervour can wilt). My ice heart is melting and I want someone to love me RIGHT NOW. Preferably someone who’ll be willing to make babies with me as quick as poss – because no-one’s getting any younger and my womb is secreting hormones that make it difficult to pass small children in the street without biting their fat little faces.

But I digress. I am still writing this blog and you’ll be pleased to hear there are still things about relationships that I find totally gross – to the point where it makes me not want one.

Like, for example, sexting.

I thought sexting was something only teenagers and caddish premiership football players indulged in. Until a recent holiday when I caught a glimpse of the first few lines of a very racy message about dirty, lacy knickers and erections on a friend’s i-phone. This friend is not a teenager, nor is she a caddish premiership football player. She is a cherubic, red-headed woman with a very important job. Conversation with her and careful snooping during conversations with other friends, colleagues and acquaintances has revealed to me that sexting is not just for teens. It’s what most couples do now. It’s a proper thing, and, unlike anal, it is not a thing that it is considered reasonable to object to.

What can I say?

I don’t find sexting hot – even though I’m quite into literary erotica. It is an entirely unpretty practice – stringing together genital synonyms in the hope that they’ll get you sex later on. It’s detached. It’s seedy. And, most importantly of all, it’s just not cool, man.

I might get that sext while I’m shopping in Morrisons, or arguing with my boss, or visiting my ageing grandmother in hospital. I don’t want uninitiated titillation just because you feel bored and horny.

And, let’s be frank, you’re probably not a good enough writer to produce anything other than horror with your sextual words. A point proved to me a few seconds ago, when I turned to the date my housemate has brought home and started discussing the topic of this post. ‘Oh, yeah,’ he said, ‘I know what you mean. My friend once got this sext that read: YOU HAVE A NICE BEAVER AND CAN I SHAG IT? That was bad.’

Yes, housemate’s date. That is bad.

So, consider this a warning, if you’re thinking of asking me out. (And, if you are, can you hurry up please? I’ll probably say yes and I’ll even let you touch my feet). No sexts. Or pictures of your erect genital. I’m not really into that.

Part 79: Learning to Drive

There is quite literally nothing sexier than being in a car with a man, as I’m sure you’ll agree straight single ladies, especially when he’s driving it – watching his hand clutch gearstick. His knuckles undulate as he moves into fifth. Even better: when it’s late and you’ve both been drinking. Ooh the thrill! The very naughtiness of it all. The life or death adrenaline rush. The haze of cigarette smoke. The bass of the music throbbing like your very own disco heartbeat. The skidding of the tyres as he takes a corner in the oily rain.

Being driven by a carefree cad is just endlessly decadent, apart from the fact that you might die a burning death in a flaming ball of twisted metal. This is not really a risk worth taking, unless he’s driving a soft-top bimmer. (Although it’s one I haven’t needed to take since I was twenty-one anyway, because at that point all the carefree cads started driving sensibly. Or found other girls to career around being dangerous with).

My penchant for being driven has meant that since becoming a single lady I have spent a fair amount of dollar on taxis – both to sate my appetite for masculine motoring* and to get me to work on time. It has also meant that I’ve made it to the age of not-quite-thirty without the ability to drive a car. And my firm belief that a lady most certainly does not need a man (not even for baby-making now that those biologists in Oregon have managed to clone a human embryo), has recently led me to have a word with myself in the bathroom mirror and book some driving lessons. After all, a grown up woman should not throw her hard-earned bank notes at taxi-drivers. She should use them to learn to drive instead – in case she should have to make a sudden getaway on a Friday after midnight, when taxi cabs are notoriously impossible to locate.

If you’ve ever had a driving lesson yourself, it won’t surprise you to discover that driving instructors are the exception to the rule I began this posting with. I can report with some confidence (after three instructors and nearly 200 lessons), that there a lot of things sexier than being in a car with a driving instructor – including being in a car with a rotting corpse in the boot. And I’m no necrophiliac.

Driving instructors are the least sexy thing you can be in a car with, and not just because they’re overweight and spend at least half the lesson on the phone reminding their wife to renew the TV licence. They also criticise you pretty much non-stop – niggling over every tiny little time you get distracted by your smudged eyeliner and don’t notice the red light, or the road works, or the Chinese student on a bicycle – which makes driving lessons feel like being trapped inside a moving vehicle with all the evil voices who have escaped from your head and turned into a nasal, conservative pedant with terrible breath.

Of course, there are dating options outside driving instructors. I am aware of this. It’s just that learning to drive has forced me to add one more profession to the ever-growing list of ‘jobs held by men I’ll never date’, which I keep in my purse as a handy aide-mémoire, and which I have decided not to post here in case it makes you hate me. Suffice to say it started with ‘no actors, no army’ and expanded out to include pretty much all the professions with the exception of criminal lawyers and Olympic athletes – and I’ve heard rumours that both these occupations require long hours, and don’t pay as well as you might imagine. So even if I do find a suitable lover, I’ll probably have to drive myself home and purchase my own soft-top bimmer.

As Jake Gyllenhall once said (under very different circumstances), this is one goddamn bitch of an unsatisfactory situation.

*Except on the rare and disappointing occasions that they send a woman driver