Part 177: Eleven Essential Pieces of Life Advice

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Yesterday, I read the worst magazine feature that has ever been written. I’m not going to do you the disservice of linking it here because: fuck them and their heteronormative nightmare reinforcement. Fuck them and their sponsored content reminding you just how empty your life is, should you be conducting it sans husband and children. Suffice it to say the article was a list of ‘eleven essential pieces of life advice’ (given by a b-list 90s celebrity who apparently has to do this for money now) and number four was ‘never underestimate the love of a good man.’ (There was another thing about the ‘school run’, but I was so pissed off by the time I got to that I had already texted my housemate and asked him to bring home a very cold bottle of sparkling wine and a straw).

Fuck. Yourself.

It was the kind of article that makes you want to appear in a primary school playground during pick-up up time and perform a naked one-woman show in which you smash wine glasses and graphically describe all the casual sex you’ve ever had.

Anyway, in the spirit of reparation I decided to write my own eleven essential pieces of life advice because, God knows, I can do a better job of it than the people at Red Magazine.

1. When people give you advice, it is inevitably about them. Unless they are your mother
Everyone is basically insecure and uncertain. We all wonder whether we’re doing life right; we are all terrified that the choices we’ve made are the wrong choices. We are all afraid we’ll die sad and alone and then God will make us watch a slide-show of our failures before relegating us to Hell. This is why when we are asked for advice we reinforce the rightness of our own choices by telling the advisee to do what we have done. Or what we imagine we might have done in the same circumstances. Or what we would have done differently because we’re so miserable now. (See for example: ‘It’s probably best to have babies around 35. You’re more sorted then.’ And: ‘In the long term renting is just throwing your money away.’) People who give you advice are only trying to make themselves feel better, unless they are your mother in which case you should probably listen to her. She’s the only one who cares.

2. Don’t tell me you don’t want another drink; I don’t need to hear that
If you have agreed to join me for an evening out, in any capacity whatsoever, you should probably know that I want to stay out late, drink too much, have an argument about politics and then fall asleep under some coats. It is a Friday night and there is absolutely no need to get home sober before 2am, even if you have work in the morning.

3. If you haven’t got a differently sexually oriented bff of the opposite sex, you’re losing at life 
Look, I don’t want to fetishise homosexuals — I know they don’t exist merely to provide company and companionship for fabulous but neurotic 30-something women who might otherwise fall victim to barbiturate poisoning. On the other hand, I’m not sure I’d be able to get through life without mates who send me bitchy gifs, screen grabs of tragic displays of heterosexuality our mutual friends have committed on social media, and who are willing to let me sing show tunes at them until 1am on a Wednesday night. And they never even want you to suck their dick in return. Which you can’t say about marriage.

4. Don’t wear floral prints to a wedding, unless it’s a slut dress
Are you over the age of twenty-four? Yes? Then chances are — unless it is skin-tight, cleavage revealing and made from some kind of satin — florals are going to make you look middle-aged and frumpy. I’m sorry. That’s just the way it is. You need to decide on sexy or smart. Cute and girlish is over for you.

5. Sometimes people need space
Don’t take it personally. I mean, sometimes people are dickheads. But give it a couple of months before you make up your mind.

6. If he’s made you cry before he’s administered the second orgasm, it’s time to say goodbye

7. If he’s made you cry before administering the first…I don’t know what to tell you babe. But it’s nothing you’re going to want to hear

8. Cultivate a network
The world wants you to think that one person is enough. Your spouse. Your boyfriend. Your best mate. Your nuclear family unit. Toxic one-on-one relationships where you can vacillate between smugness, stagnation and guilt. I want to tell you that the thing you really need is a network. Lots and lots of connected nodes on a web of relationships so that there’s always another option. Trust me on this. I know what I’m talking about.

9. If he cheated with you, he’ll cheat on you
I try to avoid clichés, but nonetheless. Worth remembering.

10. Don’t worry about the corporate affairs of Coca-Cola, you’re only alive for so long
God knows, life is suffering. And while we ought to do our best to make sure we pass on as little suffering to our fellow humans as we possibly can, may I just say: there are very few pleasures that equal an ice cold coke from a can on a hot day, or during a hangover. The Earth is almost definitely going to burn soon. Take pleasure where you can find it.

11. Vegetarianism is not better for your skin, though your soul might prefer it
My acne improved tenfold when I started to eat steaks. Still can’t look a moo-cow in the eyes, but so far, that’s a price worth paying.

Part 169: Unsolicited Advice

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One of the reasons I haven’t become a mother yet (putting aside the bad boyfriends, the years of celibacy, and the relentless sexism of the particular career path I have chosen) is because of the onslaught of unsolicited advice that falling pregnant would inevitably encourage. I always feel for new mums: posting snaps of their just-born babes on Facebook, knackered, newly incontinent, stitches stretching from perineum to cervix. All they want, in those days and weeks after having expelled a human from their genitals, are compliments about how precious that human is, and visitors who’ll look after the baby in another room so they can take an uninterrupted three-hour nap (and maybe think about bringing a homemade lasagne or a massive roast chicken while you’re at it). Instead, they are bombarded with advice — from the mawkish (‘cherish every moment because time flies’) to the moral (‘So good to see you breastfeeding hunny. It might get tough but keep going! Breast is best for baby.x’) — disguised as congratulation. I have no idea how anyone refrains from writing FUCK OFF in all caps and chucking their baby out the window, just to see what the smug twats will write then.

I’ll say this, and I’ll say it once (at the risk of defying my own rules as I set them): if somebody wants your advice they’ll ask for it. If nobody asks for your advice you can safely assume you are living an unenviable existence and continue on your merry way. You know who especially doesn’t want your advice? Single people. I absolutely promise we are not looking at your relationship wondering how we might recreate a similar bliss in our own lives. We either want to fuck your husband or else we wonder how you manage to fuck him — or if you even do anymore, because since he grew that beard we really can’t see how you’d stomach it. (Remember when you invited us to your wedding without a plus one, even though we’ve known each other for twenty years — even though you knew it would be swimming with our exes? This is divine retribution and you are just going to have to suck it up with good grace, cheap wine and cigarettes cadged from your husband’s aunty, like we did).

When we come to you, broken and defeated because we thought the guy we’re seeing was into the idea and then he started cancelling dates and telling us it was because he had to visit the dog he’d left behind when he split with his ex-girlfriend, we are not seeking advice. What we want is one of these three things, which I list in no particular order: for you to set us up with a friend of a friend who turns out to be the love of our life, a story about a time you were similarly defeated, vodka. Whichever of these you decide to offer, it is also important to remind us that men are remorseless cunts (if we’re lesbians this is still an acceptable message) and that we are talented, loved and beautiful. If we are childless, in our mid to late thirties and you sense we are somewhere around the thirteenth day of our menstrual cycle, you might also want to remind us about Danish sperm donors, and that woman in Lahore who gave birth at 70 (but don’t phrase it so as to suggest we are in any way looking down the barrel of our fertility, because that will really piss us off).

I think I might need to start smoking again.

Part 156: Standards

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I was mooching around my new hometown the other day, scraping my heels along the pavement and making suggestive eye contact with hot passers-by, when I overheard two (very) posh young women, draped in Egyptian cotton and gladiator sandals (I’m presuming they were on their way to a toga party, having not yet learned that fancy dress is undignified – but we can forgive them, they were under 25) discussing the dating game – as all young women are wont to do from time to time, regardless of wealth or social class.

‘My number one rule,’ said the first girl, flicking her heavy, honey-coloured hair over her shoulder and running her tongue suggestively over her perfect, even teeth, ‘is never date a man with change in his pockets.’

‘Of course, darling,’ laughed her mate, who had the same honey-blonde hair and straight, ice-white smile. ‘That’s cardinal.’

And off they traipsed, presumably to fuck men who only pay with £50 notes or a Coutts Silk card.

I’ve been thinking about these young women quite a bit this past week. As I age (imperceptibly to the human eye, but with an alarming inner-acceleration that means I feel somewhere in my late 40s, despite having barely cleared a third decade), I often come over all maternal and worldly whenever I hear younger women discussing their love lives. If there is anything to be said for a decade of being single, it is that it gives one significant experience from which to offer romantic advice. And from my perspective as a more mature lady – who has definitely, if not exclusively, dated men with change in their pockets – I want to say this to any young women who might be reading: darlings, don’t dismiss a man out of hand because of trivial, surface concerns, such as whether he has a job, or career prospects, or any money to speak of (if you have reached the age of 26 and are still looking for someone else to complete you in a financial and social status sense, you are going to end up very miserable, somewhere along the line). Yes, he might carry change in his pockets, but he might also have a massive dick. Or incredible cheek-bones. Or he might enjoy watching 30 Rock on a Saturday morning, and then having sex with you, very slowly, before going home. There are things in life other than money. And if I have learned one thing I have learned that he’ll always have something to compensate for his perceived flaws. Because humans are complex and surprising and capable of wonders that might not be immediately obvious, especially if you begin by dowsing them with your social prejudices.

Weighing oneself down with invisible ‘standards’ by which to evaluate potential love interests is very unwise. Romantic partners are not a corporate hotel chain. Rigid conformity to arbitrary social and cultural mores is not an indication of anything at all, expect, possibly, blandness. Yes, you’ll want him hygienic, and yes you must, of course exit, at all costs, at the first sign of any violent or abusive behaviour – however hard that might be. But your only other criteria should be whether he turns you on and how promptly he answers text messages (there is a very delicate balance between too soon and too late. Artistry in this regard must not be underrated.)

This is why, to my mind, internet dating is a flawed concept. The notion that a man might, with the tick of a box, dismiss me because I’m shorter than 5’5, wear my hair in a pixie crop and list ‘theatre’ under ‘hobbies and interests’, is enough to make me suspicious of the whole game. As if the corporatisation of our base desires wasn’t off-putting enough, all by itself.

Chemistry is the thing – and timing. And if turns out terribly, at least, with change in his pockets, he’ll have bus fare home.

*Image called something like ‘British Coins’ from freedigitalphotos.net, as usual. (Am I the only one who credits my photo sources? Should I be doing this? Might I get sued if I stop? This is a concern now that I have a little money to speak of – although my income from the blog remains, happily, zero.)

Part 59: Heartbreak

Heartbreak* is the common metaphor that we in the English speaking world use to describe the intense feelings of desolation, grief, anger and physical pain that result from the termination of love affairs. As you will know, if you have had the kind of life experience that has led to you taking refuge in this blog, ‘heartbreak’ is not simply a handy hyperbolic imagery for use in literature, popular music and similar. No, heartbreak is a real thing. People have died of it, in novels.

In real life (if you can call what I am currently living ‘real life’- it often feels like a tame BBC sitcom that only tiresome people find amusing) I have yet to observe heartbreak directly snatch its victims into afterlife oblivion. But I have certainly witnessed it spiral a few into addictive drug use, obsessive mobile phone activity, violence and stomach destroying wine hangovers that last all week. Don’t worry. I have indulged in only the latter three psychotic behaviours on that list. Which makes me practically normal in heartbreak terms.

There is a popular proverb that you will have heard if you’ve ever been heartbroken and whinged to a friend more than twice about your pain. ‘The best way to get over someone is to get under someone else’.

As you will have probably realised, anyone who has ever offered you this wisdom is either emotionally retarded or wilfully deceiving you for their own gain. Listen single people, for unlike most of your friends and family I do actually have your best interests at heart, the best way to get over someone is not to get under someone else. The best way to get over someone is to have a hot bath, eat a steak, and undertake an intensive period of psychotherapy. Mini magnums are also v.good.

As you’ll know darlinks, I do usually like to keep it lighthearted on these pages (mainly because my maudlin heartbreak poetry is not something many people have shown an interest in reading), however, there are some hard facts that every human being needs to face up to if they are going to experience prolonged happiness in their day-to-day life. This is one of them: whether through death, deceit or drudgery your romantic relationship is guaranteed to end at some unspecified point in the future. Of course, just because something is definitely going to end that’s no reason not to enjoy it in the short term. Indeed most of life’s pleasures rely on some definitive ‘end’ to make them pleasurable in the first place (holidays, novels, meals, sex, phone calls to old friends, sleep). But it is utterly stupid to rush into a new love affair before you have found joy in being with your good old self. Being alone is one of life’s inevitabilities. No one is going to save you from it – so you might as well find pleasure in it. I’d advise you learn to enjoy being alone as a matter of urgency (there are many tips for doing so in my archives if the thought of your own company really freaks you out).

The other reason why heartbreak is a reason to be single is more obvious, but is often ignored by my own friends and ex lovers due to their selfishness. If you’re still heartbroken over your last love, you aren’t going to be able to commit to a new relationship in any meaningful way. And, though I’m loathe to offer any advice that might result in someone else having the kind of love that the universe has thus far denied me, meaningful relationships are really the only kind worth having. Luckily, most of my coupled acquaintances are currently nurturing heartbreak and seeking refuge in a bland relationsham that involves maniacally fulfilling milestones (mortgage, marriage, motherhood) and posting about them on Facebook. This means I can feel superior to them because I’m single, and secretly believe in true love at the same time. Which I like to see as something of a milestone in the healing of my own heartbreak. Result.

*In case you’re wondering, yes, I do realise that this week’s blog effort has the same theme as this week’s Xfactor. This was not intentional. However, I like to think of it as more than happy coincidence. Perhaps the universe is aligning with my brain in preparation for bestowing literary success upon me. Whatevs, after tuning into the big X, all I can say is: I do hope this blog entertains you fractionally more than the horrific MK1 entertained me last night. If that’s the X factor, then the moth that flew out of my wardrobe yesterday afternoon also has it.

Part 28: One Night Stands

Everyone knows that the freedom to engage in casual, meaningless sex with strangers at will is pretty high on the list of reasons to be single. There’s not a huge case for me to make here. Sexy lovely sex with hot randoms – what’s not to love, right? It’s the euphemism everybody thinks you’re using when you say you’re enjoying single life, or that you’ve moved on from your ex. ‘Oh’, they think – a bit jealously – ‘she’s having all the sex’.

I don’t know about you, single people, but I am definitely not having all the sex. You’re forgiven for thinking I am, because I like to use sexual metaphor to make joke (it’s funny init?), but I’m not. No, really, I’m not (I know! Look at me! I don’t get it either).

I’m not drawing attention to my lack of sexual liaison because I’m worried you’ll think I’m a slag. If anything I hope you do think I’m a slag, a little bit. It’s one of the more perverse of my many perversions that when I am called a slag it gives me a thrill. ‘Ooh’ my inner-voice says, ‘that person thinks you’re sexually promiscuous, and therefore a lot more interesting and free-spirited than you actually are’. My inner voice admires wantonness and indiscretion almost as much as I do and keeps trying to convince me to engage in more of it. Maybe I should listen to her.

No, I draw attention to my lacklustre sex life because I wonder if it’s just me that’s perplexed with the social expectation surrounding the frequency and quality of sex you’re supposed to have as a single. It’s the media who are to blame for my concern here.

A great big red statistic on the pages of a two-week old ‘Stylist’ magazine I found under some wet towels this morning suggests my lack of sexual activity puts me well in the minority. ’58% of you have sex at least once a week!’ it shouted, until I tore it into little pieces and told it to go fuck itself.

Obviously, some single people are having all the sex and enjoying it. One of my favourite friends, who is also my old housemate, for example. In the short while we lived together she had more sex than I thought was possible, with more people than I thought existed. A particularly memorable moment was coming home from work early one rainy Wednesday afternoon to find her dressed in a silk kimono, breathless and pink-faced in the kitchen, whispering ‘there’s a man upstairs, and we’ve just had sex ten times!’ under her breath as she stirred hot chocolate into a Winnie the Pooh mug. You’ve got to give credit to a person who is so totally and completely willing to indulge her every bodily desire. But, even though I admire her, all that shagging about looked like proper hard work. I wondered why she bothered with sex when one could derive equal amounts of pleasure from just going outside and smoking a quiet fag in the sun.

I don’t mean to give you the wrong impression. I am having some of the sex, occasionally. And it’s alright. In fact, it’s varying degrees of totally amazing, depending on how much you fancy the person and how pissed you are. But sexy lovely sex with strangers is simply not one of my favourite things. It definitely comes behind form-filling and eating the crusty burnt bits out of the bottom of the grill-pan when no one’s looking. I can’t be the only one.

What I find especially disagreeable is that the best thing about the one night stand is also the saddest: it’s fleetingness. The mutual agreement that this connection you’ve made with another human being will – no matter the intimacy, inhibition and velvet-sharp sensuality of your encounter – end, abruptly, with an embarrassed departure and one or both of you never calling or texting again. It’s too depressing. Too much like opening your soul for the purpose of letting a bitter, chilling wind inside. This is not wise behaviour, especially not for people (all of us) who are only pretending to be shallow in order to avoid engaging with the oily black reality that is waiting somewhere deeper, ready to pull us under.

Sorry, I appear to have gone dark and maudlin there. That was unexpected, but explains, possibly, my reticence to embrace the one night stand as the most best of bestest things for a single person to do. Still – we live in difficult times – it’s always worth seizing the pleasure of the fleeting moment when it presents itself. There’s no point in being single if you’re just going to sit indoors and fail to engage in any unwise behaviour that might be both fun and totally heartbreaking. Just remember, you don’t have to do it too often. Sex isn’t, you know, the only thing.