Part 178: Excitement

screenshot-2016-12-03-16-11-30

My friend’s sister is getting married and we’re all just fucking sick about it. It’s not jealousy, for once — we really do think she is making a terrible, terrible mistake. I mean, she can’t be thinking straight. There must be some serious denial at play here. Certainly, there is evidence of recklessness — such as how she’s thrown caution to the wind by having his name tattooed on her body in several places, although they’ve not even been dating for a year. (In case you’re unclear, my stance on people getting the names of their lovers or children tattooed on their body is best summed up by a line my brother said to me last year, when I told him my new boyfriend had his son’s name tattooed on his hand: ‘Why, in case he forgets it?’ Although, I do know a woman who has her dead dog’s name tattooed on her forearm and I feel that tips over the precipice of mawkish into brilliant, so it’s a fine line.)

This guy, the friend’s sister’s fiancé, has all manner of warning signs flashing in neon colours all over his personality. He has spent his adult life in and out of prison, he is controlling and violent, he belongs to a polyamorous swingers circle*, he lives in the box room of his elderly mother’s terraced house (the bloke is in his fifties), he is not physically attractive, in either the conventional or unconventional sense. And while I am all for living differently, there is a point at which one must draw a line; a point at which someone’s disregard for social norms morphs into sociopathy. This guy, the fiancé, has reached that point.

‘What does she see in him?’ I asked my friend, when she told me about the impending marriage and her fears for how it would unfold. (Badly.)
‘I dunno,’ she shrugged. ‘She says he’s exciting.’

And I rolled my eyes, cracked a wry smile and thought: ‘Ah! That old chestnut.’

For which of us hasn’t been intoxicated by the ostensible excitement offered by a selfish cad, with regard only for his dick and his ego? Which of us hasn’t felt the sharp, twisted pang of maltreatment and mistaken it for longing? It is easy to confuse unkindness with excitement when your life is a grey series of snapshots: a montage in which you push a vacuum cleaner around the flat, buy discounted three-packs of sellotape from WH Smith and check the Facebook profiles of girls you went to school with, who always seem to be doing very well, thankyouverymuch, if Facebook profile pictures are reliable measures of wellbeing, which they very probably are not.

Excitement is the great big booby trap lying in wait for single women — and, let’s be honest, married women too. It snaps up around our ankles, ensnaring us in its grip. If we’re not careful we very soon end up ragged and strung out, chain-smoking by the river, stress lines criss-crossing deep grooves into our faces — and I’ll just remind you, if you’re still tempted, that the sex rarely holds up after the first month or so. So just beware of that darling, when you feel bad about yourself over Christmas.

It feels good to have finally relieved myself of the need for ‘excitement’, after many years being seduced by its pull.

Not that it’s all good news.

The big story I bring you this week, from the coal-face of dating, is that boring straightforward men can also be massively selfish, egotistical and disappointing. Just because they are a bit geeky and loserish and have fashioned a persona that foregrounds kindness, it does not mean they are truly kind, dynamic, selfless people in real life. In fact, the thing I have learned, lately, is that when people tell you they are kind they are usually only doing it so you won’t shout at them when they act like a prick. Kindness in this scenario acts as a kind of mudguard, in the same way indifference does with your common or garden variety arsehole.

‘So what do you like about him?’ My friend (the one the one whose sister is currently lost to the mists of excitement) asked me, when I described a recent lover, who I thought, perhaps, had the potential to father my children, if only he’d stop being so evasive and dull.
‘He’s gentle,’ I replied.
Now it was my friend’s turn to roll her eyes. ‘Gentle in bed, or gentle, like, picking up a hedgehog?’
‘Gentle with a hedgehog.’
‘Ah that’s nice babe,’ she said, ‘But he’s also boring and a liar. You don’t really want him. You’ll go off the idea.’

And she was right.

It turns out kindness is just as good a cover for sociopathy as excitement, in the kind of guy who didn’t lose his virginity until five or six years after most of his mates. Fuck. Now I remember why I went for the excitement, once upon a time.

Oh well, as Damien Marley once said: Life is a thing when you learn you learn you grow.

*I try not to judge, but can I just say: if you are so broken inside and frightened of intimacy that you cannot love another person without adding a third, forth or even a fifth party into the sexual mix, then you have no business being in relationships at all. Get some therapy. Join us when you’re whole again.

**Is it inappropriate to use a picture of a baby I found on google to illustrate a this blog? Have I mentioned that I want a baby very, very badly and it’s leading me to make some questionable choices? Can you save me from this hell? Can you? Babes, can you? Please?

Part 177: Eleven Essential Pieces of Life Advice

id-100355343

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 176: Henry the VIII

screenshot-2016-10-25-14-21-20

I’ve been thinking about Henry the VIII a lot recently. I don’t know why, entirely. Certainly it’s been precipitated by a not insignificant amount of murderous rage towards my ex-lovers, which tends to surface during the onset of winter, when I realise I’ve got a barren few months ahead of me, sexless and alone (I mean, that was also true of the summer, as it turns out, but it’s a lot easier to convince yourself that sex is just around the corner when you can luxuriate in the caresses of the sunshine and wear tops that ‘accidentally’ reveal your nipple) and perhaps if they hadn’t been just such massive dickheads, all of them, for years on end, I might be not be such a neurotic mess now.

Instead of taking personal responsibility for my circumstances (and my choices, because, let’s face it, when you met him in the street at 1am, drinking from a can of supermarket brand cider, you knew he was unlikely to turn into Mr Darcy) I’ve found myself not entirely without sympathy for King Henry’s beheading model. Even though I abhor domestic violence it would just sometimes be very satisfying to see the heads of all the lovers who’ve ever hurt you roll off a guillotine, entirely separate from their bodies. You can’t deny that. Even if you’re really nice.

It would give one a certain amount of confidence, I think, and calm the mind, to know that if he stopped replying to your text messages and then hid from you in the street, you could order some minion to relieve the Earth of his presence, rather than having to awkwardly avoid eye contact the next time you saw him in Tesco. It would definitely be far easier than having to look at Facebook posts of the walking holiday he recently took with his girlfriend, who is his fiancée now, apparently, and, oh, guess what? They are both very pleased. There’s even a picture (she’s made it her profile shot babe, because that’s the type of woman he’s into now) where he is holding his hands in the shape of a heart, right at the base of her spine. Isn’t that just lovely? Doesn’t that image encapsulate the exact kind of romance you’d like to have in your life? Don’t you feel happy for them — and not at all like drinking half a bottle of ice-cold vodka and fucking some bloke you only just met?

(And can I just tell you about her cover picture? It’s a panorama: she is silhouetted atop a mountain, her face turned away from the camera, her hair snaking sexily down her back as she stares into the hazy distance. That’s a beautiful pic hun. It definitely makes me think she is spiritual, calm and connected to nature and not at all that she is a pretentious, insecure, self-absorbed nightmare behind whose back he’ll definitely be fucking other people, just as soon as she stops baking him vegan brownies.)

What has become increasingly obvious (to me, you probably already noticed) is that I have enough vindictive and controlling personality features to actually be Henry the VIII in my next life, if it turns out you can get reincarnated in the past (especially when you factor in my penchant for Catholicism, despite viciously opposing most of its basic tenets). The one surprising thing, actually — and the other reason I’ve been thinking about Henry the VIII more than the normal amount — is that I am fast catching up with him on the romantic partners-count too. I mean, it’s not wholly surprising, because I’ve got great big blue eyes, a banging body and am in every way more aesthetically appealing than an obese sadistic Tudor monarch with gout and a mouldering fur-lined cloak that he rocks out for ‘best’. But still. It’s come as something of a shock considering all I ever really wanted was monogamy — by which I mean a really sexy husband who likes my personality and wants to touch me a lot. (Although, I have been reliably informed by people with actual experience of marriage that the wanting to touch* eachother a lot abruptly ceases, the minute the ink dries on the certificate. So, maybe it would never have worked out for me anyway.)

*I don’t really mean touch. I mean sex. In case you’re not very adept at inference.

Part 174: Small Happy Things

Screenshot 2016-08-06 21.32.02

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

ID-10069345

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 169: Unsolicited Advice

ID-100214272

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 168: The Bird Woman from Home Alone 2

My friend Tom’s parents invited me to dinner just before Christmas and I was terrible, terrible company. I sat morosely, my eyes puffy from weeks of tears. I had no jokes to tell, no witty anecdotes with which to entertain my hosts. My nails were unpainted and I wore a sludge-coloured shirt and jeans ripped at the knees. I drank the champagne they offered in long, thirsty gulps and answered questions in tight monosyllables; utterly dispelling their long-held illusion that I am a confident, charismatic young* woman on her way up.

I don’t expect I’ll be invited back.

I was going through a bad patch, as you will remember if you read this blog or spent any time with me whatsoever during that period. I had just changed jobs, moved to a new town, hooked up with an unreliable cad (but oh! His green eyes and his slow, cunning smile and those cheek bones!) and heard that yet another of my school friends was about to have a baby — a thing which seemed very far away for me, even though an Ouija board once told me (through the spirit of my future daughter) that I would give birth in 2017 (good luck next person who sleeps with me! You might be the father of my child(ren). Won’t that be a laugh?). The end of last year was bad for me. There was much sobbing by the river, chain-smoking of Marlborough Lights and drunken text message sending, even though I am in my 30s and doing my very best to keep life from descending into Sex and the City cliché.

At the end of the evening, as Tom, his parents and I wound down with brandy and little chocolate mints, Home Alone 2 came on the TV. I had forgotten most everything about the film. I had particularly forgotten about the bird woman who lives in Central Park (or some kind of warehouse thereabouts), where she wanders aimlessly, wearing a shapeless grey frock, a bulbous hat and an oversized dress-coat, feeling terribly sorry for herself. Her cheeks are ruddy, her hair greying and matted — she has a twinkle in her eye but it is activated only when three hundred pigeons descend, pecking at the hideous dress-coat, vying for spaces on her body where they might perch.

She is, unsurprisingly, absolutely covered in bird shit.

There is this scene where she and Kevin (if you’ve never seen the movie Kevin is the small boy who finds himself implausibly alone in New York City after an unlikely airport mix-up) have a heart-to-heart. He is the first soul she’s spoken to in two years or more, she tells him. She doesn’t trust, these days. She doesn’t love. ‘The man I loved fell out of love with me.’ She explains. ‘That broke my heart. When the chance to be loved came along again, I ran away from it. I stopped trusting people.’

I felt all the eyes in the room dart towards me, and away again.

Oh my God. I was the bird lady.

‘Oh my God,’ Tom said. ‘You’re the bird lady.’

It was my rock bottom. If rock bottom can occur when you’re a pampered guest in a Battersea town house, drinking Courvoisier from a heavy crystal brandy glass.

As is usual (I’ve seen JK Rowling on Oprah), my rock bottom was followed by a swift and decisive life-change and things are better. Look, I’m really trying to not turn this into a motivational post. I am not sufficiently recovered to wish happiness upon you or anyone else. I have no advice to aid you in your recovery (if you read this for recovery rather than Schadenfreude). I just wanted to remind you that sometimes things are shit, and then they get better — because occasionally I want to do sincerity, and you’re just going to have to deal with that.

*go fuck yourself.

Part 167: Sexy

ID-100206075

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 164: Not Giving a Shit

Screenshot 2016-02-14 22.17.41

The problem with not giving a shit is that it’s very hard to do publicly. By which I mean: people who tell you they don’t give a shit are, invariably, lying.

If you genuinely couldn’t care less about a given person, place or subject then you don’t mention it at all. The non-mentioning reflects your state of mind, which is: blank to the point of emptiness. You are definitely not thinking about the thing, because you don’t care about the thing.

For example, I am trying to think of stuff I couldn’t give a shit about and I am finding it very difficult to do. Caber tossing maybe? But there again, I’m not one hundred percent sure what caber tossing is. (UPDATE: Turns out caber tossing is inhumanly beefy men (and women I presume, although not in the first few google images, which is as far as this research went) — think Incredible Hulk, but grey skinned from the long Scottish winters — wearing kilts while lifting and then throwing giant logs. It looks quite fun. You see my point? As soon as you start to consider a thing you have an opinion and, therefore, by definition, you give a shit.) This is why it is so much more painful not to receive a reply to a text message than it is to be told flat-out that you are no longer required on the sex and companionship front. The radio silence communicates, in a volume louder than words, that not a shit is given and that feels horrid, because you’d rather be thought of negatively than not at all.

We all would rather be the anecdote about that crazy bitch with the hair than never mentioned again and evaporate into obscurity. It’s basic human nature; we are all terrified of the abyss.

What people mean, when they say they don’t give a shit, is that something they actively dislike or are annoyed by is being forced upon them (see me and: football, liquorice, John Simm, overcooked meat, details about your forthcoming wedding plans, post-2004 Ricky Gervais, arguments for the privatisation of the NHS), or, when aimed at person or statement, that they feel slighted but don’t want those around them to notice and so have chosen to front with aggressive bravado.

‘I don’t give a shit,’ always indicates a lack of emotional intelligence. It is a transparent device, concealing a profound inability to tell it how it is. (see: ‘Do you like my new dress?’ ‘That colour makes your skin look pasty,’ ‘I don’t give a shit what you think,’ and ‘My ex called’, ‘Are you ok?’ ‘Yeah, course. I couldn’t give a shit.’ ) This is why I have removed ‘I don’t give a shit’ from my vocabulary and started using it as a litmus test for friends and potential lovers.

Damaged people are everywhere. Stalking the streets, like apparitions in soiled leisure wear; sending messages to women they’ve met online about how much they enjoy having their ‘hairy balls slapped hard’ (no, really); sucking up narcotics through their veins and their noses so that they become numb to the searing void pain has eaten in their souls. They are marrying your friend, swearing at your mum when she takes too long to pull away at the traffic lights and some of them are running the country. And all the time they pretend that they don’t care, while their barely suppressed agony seeps out and poisons the world.

I want my friends and lovers to give a shit and know how to express it. I want them to tell me when I’ve hurt them, made them angry, happy, horny, crazy, sad. I want a life that has sincerity (although not one without sarcasm and bitching behind people’s backs, obviously), one where what matters is that you know how you feel and how to deal with it (see: ‘Do you like my new dress?’ ‘That colour makes your skin look pasty,’ ‘I didn’t need to hear that. Next time I ask you about my clothes choices, you have to lie, unless we are near a wardrobe so I can avoid disaster before I leave the house,’ and ‘My ex called’, ‘Are you ok?’ ‘I’m not sure. I got this sharp pang in my stomach, a bit like when you veer too close to the edge of a cliff. I don’t miss her, day-to-day, but I do feel regret and sadness about how it ended.’)

*I realise the header image is somewhat out of whack with the overall tone of this post. But you know what, babe? I don’t give a shit.

Part 163: The Art of War

ID-100367445

It struck me recently that I have been doing life all wrong. You’ll probably have noticed as much if you read this blog on a semi-regular basis. For it example, it turns out that spending 70% of every day alone, in your pajamas, leaving the bed only to fetch cheese strings from the fridge and, occasionally, to quench your thirst by swigging orange juice straight from the carton, is not great for your mental health. See also: continuing relationships with men who have stood you up more than twice – especially if you suspect they’re concealing an opiate addiction – and watching Dance Moms to the point where you understand what a ‘sickled foot’ is and feel actual, physical pain when Abby Lee resigns.

On that note, have you ever read Sun Tzu’s The Art of War? It’s a military strategy written by a Chinese general in the 5th Century BC, broken down into easy-to-digest sections such as ‘Waging War’, ‘Attack by Fire’ and ‘The Use of Spies’. It remains popular with army types, business strategists and, if The Sopranos is to be believed, Italian American Mafiosi, all of whom are engaged in physical and psychological battles, where strategy and overcoming the enemy is paramount to survival, or profit.

What it is not, I have come to understand, is a dating guide. The Art of War, is not, in any sense whatsoever, a self-help book in the tradition of The Rules, Men are From Mars Women Are From Venus, Keeping the Love You Find, or similar – none of which, I should probably point out, I have read. The Art of War is, in fact, the only relationship self-help guide I have ever read, except that it isn’t, as I’ve just pointed out (despite the efforts of several men with tiny penises to make it so – FYI, I’ve not read any of these either). It was only this week, on discussing my dating tactics with a therapist, that I realized why my romances I have tended to go spectacularly amiss.

I’ve been selecting lovers, and subsequently treating them, as though they were opponents in ancient warfare, rather than equal partners whom to trust, nurture and one day, perhaps, make tiny fat babies with. For example:

• ‘The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.’

As any of my ex-lovers will tell you, I very much enjoy a great explosive row that allows one to expunge negative thoughts and feelings in a tirade of insults and objects blindly flung across a domestic space. However, I also know that if one really wants one’s own way, this is a risky strategy for success. Better to subdue him and slowly manipulate him into doing what you want without fighting. I find blow jobs are often quite effective in this regard. Also, asking in front of his mother when you want him to do stuff you know he won’t want to do. Alcohol can be quite useful in both situations, for tranquilization purposes, so long as you aren’t dating a bloke that gets wound up and aggressive, or impotent on it.

• ‘Force him to reveal himself, so as to find out his vulnerable spots.’

Remember that ‘39 questions to make someone fall in love with you’ quiz that was circulating online last year? I have long used a version of this to ensnare men and make them susceptible to manipulation. For example, if he tearfully describes how his Dad walked out on him the week before his 12th birthday, I have tended to realize he will likely have a deep fear of abandonment, which is one of the easier fears to exploit, and, when necessary, have threatened to withdraw my company and labour until such a time as he does what I want.

• ‘Regard your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys; look on them as your own beloved sons, and they will stand by you even unto death.’

Mostly, he’s my enemy, but every now and then – usually after he has delivered a particularly intense orgasm – I consider him my soldier and therefore attempt mother-figure type behaviors, such as cooking him dinner, stroking his poorly shoulder and sending him texts asking where the fuck he is at 3o’clock in the morning.

• ‘Pretend inferiority and encourage his arrogance.’

A taxi driver once told me that men don’t want a woman more educated than them. Thus, at the wooing stages, it is very important to pretend to be a little bit stupider than you actually are. I find this is easily done by a) giggling a lot, b) asking basic questions about subjects on which he feels he is an expert (snooker, Mortal Kombat, the molecular impact of environmental pollutants on the atmosphere, whatever) and c) emphasizing that your PhD is in an expressive arts subject and, therefore, non-threatening.

• ‘Anger may in time change to gladness; vexation may be succeeded by content. But a kingdom that has once been destroyed can never come again into being; nor can the dead ever be brought back to life.’

You won’t always be pissed off because he borrowed £56 and never gave it back – one day it might even make an amusing anecdote for a blog post. But, once it’s over, it’s done babe. If the relationship ends you have to go no contact and sign up for an extreme sports event, such as a half-marathon or Iron Man challenge, to take your mind off him and replace the endorphins you’re no longer getting from sex. Otherwise you’ll end up in a decade-long on-again-off-again nightmare that will severely impinge on your ability to form functional romances long into the future.

Actually, that last one is quite good advice – although you’ll be unsurprised to learn it is the only one I have failed to implement. The rest are, obviously, terrible, terrible strategies for establishing a stable, satisfying romance. And while most relationships are shambolic, painful and dysfunctional, you probably want to avoid following my example, if you can help it.

Don’t do as I do, is the moral of this story.

*Image is ‘Art of War’, by Stuart Miles from freedigitalphotos.net.

**Shout out to Trish from work, who told me – after I published my last post – that the way to keep your whites white is to dry them in the sun. This will bleach them naturally, removing unsightly faded stains and other evidence of debauchery.