Anxiety

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So far, the winter is not going brilliantly. On top of a recent bout of norovirus, I have been suffering with terrible anxiety. It is crippling, all-consuming, terrifying. I have been chronically anxious for just about my whole life, obviously, but this is something different. My anxiety used to be attached to more or less tangible things: to exams, to job interviews, to moving house, to messages from my ex boyfriend, to the concept of dying. But not anymore. Now, it floats around untethered, weaving worries from the silvery threads of the cobwebs on the ceiling of my room.

Now, it manifests physically. I can’t bear the darkness. It makes me think I’ve gone blind. I don’t fall asleep. Or else I do but then I wake up in the night unable to swallow. There is a clunking sound in the pipes. I twist and writhe beneath my duvet, in between bouts of vomiting into the bathroom bin. I am crippled by paralysing pins and needles that engulf my whole body. I have diarrhoea. My feet are heavy and numb, like rocks. My hands open and close back in on themselves; my fingers curl up like claws. I cry all the time. Or else, if I’m not crying, I am very close to the edge of bursting into tears. I sleep sixteen-hour days. Or, at least, I lie in bed trying to dispel the adrenaline, gasping fitful snatches of sleep when they appear. I am unable to get out of bed before 1pm.

What are those strange orbs crowding at the periphery of my vision? Am I dying? I think I might be dying.

Did you ever see Cat on Hot Tin Roof?

Fractured scenes from it keep playing in my mind.

Maggie: Why can’t you lose your good looks, Brick? Most drinkin’ men lose theirs. Why can’t you? I think you’ve even gotten better-lookin’ since you went on the bottle. You were such a wonderful lover… You were so excitin’ to be in love with. Mostly, I guess, ’cause you were… If I thought you’d never never make love to me again… why, I’d find me the longest, sharpest knife I could and I’d stick it straight into my heart. I’d do that. Oh, Brick, how long does this have to go on? This punishment? Haven’t I served my term? Can’t I apply for a pardon?

I ring my friends.

‘I feel a bit anxious.’

‘You’ll be okay. Have a nice bath. Light some candles.’

‘Yes. I will. That’s a good idea.’

‘Make yourself a nice dinner and get some sleep.’

I heat some ox-tail soup from a tin and eat it with an old ryvita I find at the back of the cupboard. I sprinkle lavender oil onto my pillows.

Deadlines shoot by, missed. I can’t read anymore. Nothing longer than a blog post. My eyes scan pages and the words jump around and buzz up at me like angry flies, frightening and incoherent.

I check the Facebook page of the cousin of a girl I went to school with. Her daughter is ill. They are waiting for a bed at the Queen Elizabeth hospital in Woolwich. I check the WhatsApp profile of that guy I was seeing. He’s online now. Who is he talking to?

Remember when I used to read?

There is a clunking sound in the pipes.

I am so selfish.

Last month, I cried at a lunch with my sister. My tears fell in wet streaks and splashed off my chin onto the table. She didn’t know what to say. I couldn’t tell her what was wrong. There weren’t the words for it. It’s everything and nothing. It’s a vinegar sensation burning holes in my heart.

I call my Mum.

‘Me and Holly were saying it might help you to try some medication.’

‘Oh.’

‘We didn’t mean it like that.’

‘I know.’

‘Just for a bit. We’re worried about you.’

‘I know. I’m sorry.’

‘Why don’t you speak to a doctor?’

‘Yeah. Maybe. I’ll think about it. Maybe I just need to stop drinking first.’

I poke and I prod and I scratch at lumps and pimples and bruises on my body. I wonder which one is a tumour that might eventually kill me, and which is innocent, benign, nothing to see here babe, move away.

Maybe I need to stop subscribing to all those cancer blogs.

I dial 111.

‘You need to calm down. You have to learn to stop over-thinking every little thing.’

‘There’s a pain in my chest.’

‘You’re okay. Breathe in deeply. Hold it for two beats. Breathe out to the count of four.’

‘_. _ _. _ _ _ _.’

‘How does that feel?’

‘Better, I think.’

‘Good.’

‘I’m scared I’m going to die of this.’

‘You’re not going to die of this.’

It is very hard to connect with other people. Their voices are loud and irritating; when I listen to them speak it feels as if someone is tapping very hard against the inside of my skull. I am separate, very far away. I am watching life at a pinprick distance, as if through a backwards telescope. Or a spyhole on the outside of a door.

I have lost the art of conversation. I used to be so good at that.

I interrupt people halfway through their sentences. Or I ignore them.

I say boastful, barbed, spiky things.

I don’t trust any of them.

I have forgotten how to love.

My interactions don’t feel as if they belong in the real world: they are more like dress rehearsals. Eventually, I’ll hone the witty, confident, charismatic character that I think I used to have, or that I could have, one day, if I could only stop slagging everyone off and maybe do something about all this pain.

Sometimes I see my dead friend’s absence in the shadows of strangers on the high street. But oh. She’s not here anymore. She’s gone. She’s turned to smoke and faded away on the thin air.

This is really my life.

Do you think a glass of ice-cold prosecco might help? With a raspberry dropped in to make it more festive? A whisky on the rocks? Then another one? A little brandy just to move it all along? Remember that bit in Cat on a Hot Roof?

Brick: Somethin’ hasn’t happened yet.
Big Daddy: What’s that?
Brick: A click in my head.
Big Daddy: Did you say “click”?
Brick: Yes sir, the click in my head that makes me feel peaceful.
Big Daddy: Boy, sometimes you worry me.
Brick: It’s like a switch, clickin’ off in my head. Turns the hot light off and the cool one on, and all of a sudden there’s peace.
Big Daddy: Boy, you’re, you’re a real alcoholic!
Brick: That is the truth. Yes, sir, I am an alcoholic. So if you’d just excuse me.

I’m smiling and nodding at a woman I used to work with. We’re in a café. The lights are very bright.

We’re drinking tea. She is talking about her son. Or her brother. I’m not really listening.

What is that numbness in my little finger?

‘Sorry, can you excuse me a minute?’

I call my Mum.

‘It’s nothing, Kate. Go and see a doctor if you’re really worried’.

I go to the doctor. To the hospital. They give me an enema; pass a camera up my bum. Is this nothing or will it turn into a thing, do you think?

It’s nothing.

And then I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. No, really: really. I can’t breathe. Can I? I’m talking, so I must be breathing — isn’t that the sign — but they were wrong about that, weren’t they? Don’t the police get different guidance on breathing after that black guy, the one in America, died — I remember something from that podcast. What was his name? Am I suffocating?

Is that a pain in my chest or my lungs?

Breathe.

It’s nothing.

Is that pain in my lower back or my kidneys? Where would you feel the pain if it was coming from your liver, if you’d damaged it irrevocably?

A trainee doctor I knew once told me that alcoholics sometimes choke to death on the blood from the burst blood vessels in their throats.

How much do you think Amy Winehouse drank before it was enough to kill her?

Why do I wee all the time?

Am I going to die soon?

There’s a weird hollowness that moves up and down the inside of my body. It starts in my diaphragm.

Is this nothing or will it turn into a thing, do you think?

I’m hot. I lay on the bathroom floor and press my cheek against the smooth, cool tiles. I’m cold again. My skin puckers up into goose-pimples. The thousands of tiny hairs on my arms and legs stand to attention, they are beautiful, slightly bent like erect penises, or flowers reaching up towards the sun.

I’m shaking.

Do you know what, darling?

I don’t think I’m very well.

Part 174: Small Happy Things

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I used to go to school with this girl — let’s call her Poppy (even though Poppy is as amusingly far from her real name as you could possibly get. I don’t want to reveal her real name, for obvious reasons — mainly that I’m going to say something mean about her in the next paragraph — you are just going to have to trust me that I’ve made quite a funny joke). We weren’t close. She was in the year above so we didn’t have any classes together, but we did have similar after-school interests that meant we knew each other by name. Anyway, in that random way that sometimes happens, Poppy has stayed a permanent, if fringe, figure in my life, because once or twice a year — sometimes less, if I’m being perfectly honest — I bump into her out of the blue. It’s as if the universe keeps deliberately shoving her in my face, like warning. Who knows for what.

Poppy is perfectly pleasant, if sometimes to unwarranted extremes — last time I saw her, for example, she threw her arms around me and squealed in a kind of over-the-top, enthusiastic way that left me cold and rigid all over — but the reason she gets on my tits is because she has this habit of being deliberately vague about the details of her life. She’s an actor, you see, although she is barely, if ever, working. Fair enough, I am friends with lots of mostly out-of-work actors. But every time I ask Poppy how things are going — and I mean every time, from 1997 to now — she wafts her hands dreamily in front of her face and smiles a thin smile. ‘Oh,’ she says, ‘there’s some really exciting stuff in development, but I can’t say anything yet. You know how it is.’ And I think: ‘No, Poppy. No, babe. I don’t know how it is. If anything even vaguely exciting is happening in my life, developmentally or otherwise, I tell everyone I come across, in tedious detail, including dogs and small children.’ Needless to say, I have never yet seen Poppy bring any of these exciting developments to fruition. Though I’ll be really happy for her when she finally does. (I won’t).

You might have noticed that I have been absent from this blog for some time (despite promising regular postings). My absence is not because I’ve been eating cheese in my bed and mainlining Netflix, as is usually the case during a prolonged writing hiatus, but because, and this is where the Poppy story comes in, I’ve been developing other things that might or might not come to fruition. Sorry to be vague, darlings. I know that it’s so fucking annoying. But all of a sudden I understand why Poppy keeps her cards close to her chest — it’s really disappointing when creative projects you’ve worked and worked and worked at for months or years come to nothing. Which happens more often than you’d probably imagine. I know, I know, you could shut the fuck up about it and wait for the project to materialise into something great or dissolve away, like a tissue on water, but (and this is what I never realised when I was busy judging Poppy), when you’re working at something quietly you want people to know that you’re still in the game. You want everybody to be in no doubt that you have not given up totally on your creative pursuits, although that’s definitely what it looks like from the outside. What I’m saying, then, really, in a rambling anecdotal way, is that I just want you to know that I abandoned my promises about regular content not because of laziness, for once, but because of my enthusiasm for something else that I might or might not one day tell you about.

Anyway.

What has propelled me back here is a sudden upsurge of happiness that I wanted to document before it passes and I’m back to smoking, drinking and contemplating whether or not to slit my wrists before I chuck myself in the river. It’s sort of ironic that my surge of happiness would come now when the rest of the world is completely depressed.

And there is a lot to be depressed about, let’s face it.

The world has gone to shit. Things are not good, generally speaking; globally speaking. Wealth inequality, terrorism, rapidly spreading xenophobia. Brexit (or not). The Zika virus. Donald Trump’s hair (oh and the fact that he has been accused of chid abuse and not one mainstream media outlet thinks this is worthy of headline coverage). Climate change, the slow, painful death of the seas and all life contained within them. ‘Digital Marketing Executives’ and other myriad wankers earning six-figure salaries while teachers, plumbers, doctors, nurses, paramedics, teachers and social workers see diminishing financial returns on their sacrifice.

It’s wall to wall horror and tragedy, everywhere you look.

But I have always been contrary and, true to form, just as the world is wallowing in existential gloom, I’ve started to see beauty everywhere. The bats swooping down over the river as I cycle home in the dark (no street lamps here after midnight, it’s rural), the wafting scent of honeysuckle on the morning breeze, the sky, clear and navy at night, the stars all spread out and sparkling, like diamond dust. Sometimes the beauty is so much I can’t even breathe. And even when there is nothing in particular to stimulate a dopamine rush, say I’m pootling along on an ordinary Friday afternoon, schlepping to the co-op in the drizzle, I’ll suddenly find myself overcome with an unexplained euphoria.

It goes against everything I ever believed about myself. I assumed I was just a miserable bitch, default setting. Sure, I’d had euphoric moments: the morning after good sex with a hot young lovely, the time my first boyfriend said he loved me, when I got told about my PhD scholarship. But they were rare and fleeting and always suffixed with misery of one sort or another (the hot young lovelies rarely call back, as well you know; my first boyfriend eventually dumped me because I made an insensitive remark about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; er, hello? Have you ever tried writing a PhD?). I presumed — from observing both happy friends and melancholy ones, and  reading the old women’s magazines I find abandoned in the staff kitchen — that only significant, unlikely milestones (pregnancy, babies, marriage) would herald similar natural ecstasy. But no. It turns out all you need for happiness is yourself, and a bicycle. And the sweet honeysuckle air of an English summer.

Who knew?

Part 171: Brexit

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I wasn’t going to write about the referendum because, really, by now, we’ve heard everything that needs to be said on the subject. But there again: have we? It strikes me that one of the things conspicuously missing from either side of the debate is a serious consideration of how this shit-show will impact my sex life. Because make no mistake: whatever the outcome of the referendum I am going to find it very, very difficult to ever have sex with anyone ever again.

As I type, there are fewer than five hours until polling closes. Tomorrow we’ll find out in no uncertain terms whether the British populace wishes to leave or to remain in the European union. (And by ‘no uncertain terms’ I mean a couple of percentage points either way.)

Meh.

Despite my being involved in several vociferous social media disputes (I do love an argument and, by the way, I’m very very good at them) I can see the benefits of both possible results. Remain and there might be a little surge in the value of the pound (as I’m currently out of the country any increase in the value of my money is much appreciated. Plus babies, if the pound crashes I will be fucked), Europe will make a bit more of an effort to make us feel special for a while (it’s like when you break up with a guy, and then he begs you to change your mind so you do, and suddenly he starts behaving much more considerately: taking you out and buying you flowers and showering you with little kisses, instead of just sitting gormlessly on the sofa playing Fifa. It never lasts, of course, but it’s a welcome relief from relationship tedium) and we definitely won’t need visas to take a Spanish* holiday. Leave and there will be change (always good), lots of political brouhaha (meaning the papers can divert their attention way from documenting celebrity cellulite this summer) and your racist uncle will finally have his views legitimised by a majority, which means he’ll probably be more chilled out at Christmas.

The whole debacle has utterly put me off sex though. All the men you thought might be worth a go turned out to be thick swivel-eyed fascists, or else earnest right-on lefties who will definitely, at some point, wear socks under their sandals at the beach. Also: you have to think — Gove and Farage and Boris, Cameron and Osborne and Blair, they definitely have sex sometimes, and some of their wives are quite good-looking. How does this happen? How can you put aside your hormonal responses and work out whether you’re fucking someone hot, or someone who will, one day, end up looking and smelling like Nigel Farage? Let me just say my darlings: I’ve thought long and hard on this matter and I’ve come to the realisation that you can’t. (For example, I spent several months a few years ago in a furious online tryst with an old acquaintance. I was smitten. I was into him in all ways, especially sexual ones. Thankfully things did not get physical — because today a picture of him appeared in my Facebook timeline — he’s on holiday somewhere in the Med— bearded and 5 stone heavier. He looked like a vagrant Brian Blessed, only dressed in union jack shorts, holding a pint aloft as though it were a trophy, wearing a stunned, moronic grin. Like, I would probably have married this man, had he asked me five years ago. Would I have come to my senses? Or would I be sexing someone repulsive now, on a regular basis?)

I hope the powers that be have some kind of plan for resetting the national libido, post-result, because, whatever the outcome, I predict a massive decline in British sex. And when have I ever been wrong?

*Though, tbh, I’ve never be overly taken with Spain as a holiday destination. Granted, the weather’s usually good, but it’s a bit arid and bleak, as a landscape, and all the best coastal resorts spoiled with British pubs and perma-tanned Essex Hen Parties (I’d like to say here: no judgement. I’m more or less from Essex myself and I once threw up in an ashtray at an upmarket bar in Puerto Banús. Also: I’d just like to apologise to Greece for the incident with the tampon in the pint-glass on that 18-30s trip circa 2001).

Part 170: He’s Probably Not a Psychopath, Darling

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There’s this corner of the internet where people go to get over their exes; forums and blogs and support groups dedicated to recruiting women (and much more occasionally men) as professional victims. They are easy to spot. ‘Living with a Narcissist’, they’re sometimes called, or: ‘Surviving a Sociopath’. According to these sites men don’t just behave really badly because we can all be selfish dicks and our culture has no respect for women. Women don’t just sometimes get swept away in unwise love affairs because we are all lonely and broken and have readily accepted the lie that the love of a good man will fix us. No. The central philosophy of this particular underside of the internet is this: if a man has treated you like shit it is as a result of his clinical psychopathy. He is a sociopath. That’s why he didn’t love you how you deserve to be loved. There is no other explanation.

I am fascinated by the online psychopath movement and the (mostly) women who subscribe to it. I can’t get enough. I just scroll and scroll through the sites and the blogs and the forums, riveted; my mouth slightly open, a faint string of drool hanging from my bottom lip, like a car-crash voyeur, except more judgemental.

The movement is populated by women too smart or too beautiful for your common or garden variety arsehole. They gather online in their hundreds (thousands, maybe?) convinced they’ve been duped by Machiavellian con-artists. Absolutely certain they have been done-over by charismatic psychopaths so skilled at manipulation it would have been impossible for even the most highly attuned psychologist to see through the act.

They take to the internet, these hapless victims, and they comfort each other with inspirational stories of ‘growth’ and ‘truth’ and ‘healing’; they take to the internet and they pen heartfelt words of advice for readers who have suffered a similar fate. It’s ok, they want you to realise: it wasn’t your fault. His cheating (and it is usually cheating that ends the relationship even when his jealousy/drug abuse/violence had long played a starring role in the romance) was nothing you could have predicted from his behaviour or his track record with friends and lovers. If a man has treated you badly it is all on him. You shoulder none of the blame whatsoever.

On the one hand, I get it. Of course I do. I’ve been there. Rejection is cruel. It is embarrassing to admit you’ve been dumped or duped; painful to face up to the fact he found someone else who was better looking or better company than you are. You were not enough. How can you possibly love again in the face of this brutal truth? What if the next one and the one after that fuck off with someone else too? What will you do? It’s too frightening. Believing a sociopath trapped you in his inescapable web is easier than accepting that people are unpredictable and that even the best of us is capable of behaving terribly.

On the other hand: I hate to break it to you babe, but your ex is probably not a psychopath.

You know how he lied to your face for pretty much the entire relationship — how he went all weird about you getting a lift from that bloke at work and then it turned out he was going down on his own colleague, for months and months and you suspected nothing? You know how he wouldn’t introduce you to friends or family and it transpired he was living a double-life with a wife and kid tucked away in Donegal when you thought he was just travelling for work? You know how you loved him so much and he broke your heart and now he doesn’t care one little bit? Yes, it’s shit. But it is, I am afraid, life. It happens all the time. People are fucked up and, frankly, if your husband cheating is the worst thing that’s ever happened to you then you are very lucky.

I know you feel sad. And yes, your trust is shot to shit and, yes, it is going to be a very very long while before you’ll let go and love with all your heart again, if ever. But you do not need to cultivate a career as a professional victim. You do not need to join a support group for survivors of narcissistic lovers. That’s the kind of self-delusion that made you ripe for a con in the first place.

None of us likes to get our heart broken. And none of us are immune to slagging off our exes. I’ve definitely done my fair share of that, and I have definitely used the term ‘psycho’ — but always with self-awareness, I hope. Always with tongue in cheek and in the full knowledge that however badly I have or haven’t been treated I have played willing role in my own downfall. I saw what he was and I picked him. He played the game and I played right back. I heard the lies and I believed them because it was easier than the faff and upheaval that truth (whatever that is) would bring. (I am flawed, but I am nobody’s fool, except occasionally alcohol’s.)

Let me end with an anecdote:

Once upon a time I sat at a Harvester somewhere in urban Kent eating a microwave lasagne opposite my ex-boyfriend. We were at a crossroads in our on again off-again relationship (and I was at a crossroads in my life: Bored in my job and desperate for stimulation, even the distressing stimulation that comes of romantic drama). I had recently written to his live-in lover to tell her that we were sleeping together again and maybe she ought to think about that before she had a baby with him (leave me alone. I was watching a lot of EastEnders at the time and, anyway, I never said I was a nice person). ‘I can’t believe she hasn’t left you,’ I told him. ‘What did you say to convince her to stay?’ He shoved a chip into his fat mouth. ‘What do you think I said?’ he laughed, ‘I told her you were crazy.’

And he was right. I was. We all were. Not a one of us was sane in that particular triangle. But I forgive myself, and I even forgive my ex-boyfriend. Because nobody is sane in the face of a future that involves certain death. Very few of us are secure enough to love one man or one woman forever and ever amen. We all behave badly. But that doesn’t make us psychopaths. It makes us human.

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 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 166: Breaking Up is Hard to Do

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Have you ever really wanted to break up with someone (because he instigates earnest discussions about the situation in Palestine when you just want to watch Masterchef and paint your toenails in peace, talks over you after three pints, and once questioned your intelligence, when you failed to correctly identify the Russian flag from a list of 10 contenders), but then you fall asleep on the sofa and when you wake up he’s cleaned the kitchen, covered you in a blanket and put the kettle on, and you think: Hmm. You think: maybe I’m being too hasty. You think: can I really be bothered with the rigmarole of Tinder and OKCupid and bad first dates and good first dates followed by bad second dates and that thing where you think you’ve met someone, finally, but then he goes off the idea for no obvious reason and you have to say ‘no’ when all your friends ask ‘has he called yet?’ And so, instead of breaking up, you just carry blindly on, occasionally drafting — though never sending — half-hearted text messages in which you accuse him of ‘not giving a tiny little rabbit shit’ and demand he either sorts his life out or that’s it, you’re done?

Well, I’m currently in a similar dilemma with this blog. I keep wanting to end it. I keep half-composing hilarious final posts. But then I think of an amusing anecdote, or I get fucked over by a witless cad, or I bump into a friend of a friend who tells me how much they love my writing (no! I swear! It happened!) and I chicken out. I don’t want to return to anonymity. This blog has given me a public outlet for my bile and humiliation. It was the only one who was there for me when I couldn’t get over my ex-boyfriend. It helps me to laugh when I accidentally sleep with a bloke on the first date and the hormones turn me into a crazy desperate Glenn-Close-in-Fatal Attraction impersonator, and he never calls again. It won me an award that time and I got 500 new Twitter followers and my face in a glossy magazine. I can’t think of a single other thing that has given me as much pleasure, and I’m including reading, sex and cheese and onion crisps.

How do I finish a thing that has given so much and never asked for anything in return (unless you count the annual request to upgrade to WordPress Premium, which I have so far refused)? I thought I’d do it with a pithy story about the beautiful man who broke my heart earlier this year and an appeal to commissioning editors to just fucking buy the book already (I mean, really, you think there’s much better out there?). But I realised that was desperate, and, like all public displays of desperation, unwise. Then I thought about a final post where I told you how Gregg Wallace (the fat bald one off Masterchef) was probably great in bed (I need someone who is gonna see my boobs and go, ‘Phwoar! Mate! Those are knockout! I’m beside meself here!’ I think it would be good for my confidence). And now I don’t know.

Do I stay, or do I carry this thing on? It’s been four years. I am no longer the woman who started Reasons to be Single in many, many ways. I’m contented now, for example, and I’ve stopped watching re-runs of Sabrina the Teenage Witch on a daily basis (these two states of affairs might not be mutually exclusive). I genuinely no longer care that I’m single (although I am constantly baffled by how this is the case. I mean hello? Babe? Have you seen my boobs?), whereas I used to just pretend I didn’t care, for comic effect — and also, if I’m honest, to get back at my ex-boyfriend, who used to read my posts and send deranged jealous messages that made me zing with spiteful satisfaction.

I want to write about other things now. I’ve got lots of projects and writing this (well, mostly feeling guilty about not writing it) is getting in the way of doing them.

And yet, something is pulling at the threads of my heart: yes, it’s almost over. But not quite. So I’m going to go all out. I’ll end this thing as I started. A post a day. Until I get to 200. Starting next Saturday because I’m running a half-marathon tomorrow (you can sponsor me here, if you feel like offering remuneration for the years of content I’ve provided, free of charge) and I’ve got a lot on next week. And we’ll see where we go from there.

I told you, I’m shit at endings.