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.

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 154: Good in Bed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part 153: Moving

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Are you thinking of moving house – packing up crates filled with your old crap and carting it all to some new pasture where you can remake your life, again, in the hope it might one day be as good as it was that summer when you were 17 and anything seemed possible? Well, I can give you some advice: don’t bother. Moving is shit, and anyone who tells you otherwise is either rich or insane or, possibly, both.

For days I have been surrounded by half-empty boxes; birthday cards from 2003 litter the path to my flat like Hansel and Gretel’s breadcrumb trail. Piles of crumpled t-shirts loom like a depressing, post-apocalyptic mountain range. There is a cumbersome stereo-system with a working double-tape deck and a rotating 3-CD player in the middle of my living room – how obsolete must technology become before one dumps it? And what am I supposed to do with the DVD cases with no DVDs inside, nine-year old paperwork that I can’t bring myself to throw away, and the boxes full explicit photographs that I might or might not have let an ex-lover snap, back in the days before revenge porn?

And how come all my clothes are inside-out?

Why have I got so many shoes?

I am 300 miles from home. There is no internet connection, no mobile phone reception, and, within seven seconds of arriving, a neighbour with no teeth and a pot belly shouted at me for slamming shut the communal door and waking up her baby. For the first 48 hours in my new home I suffered from a violent sick-bug and was confined to the soulless, empty bedroom, where I shivered on a threadbare towel. And I have spent so much money on furniture and removals vans and estate agents fees that I probably won’t be able to afford a holiday for a decade or more.

It would all be far simpler, I keep imagining, in fraught, feverish rages, if I had a husband to help me lug boxes up the stairs, chuck away odd socks, mop my fevered brow and tell the downstairs neighbours to go fuck themselves. I could curl myself into him and everything would be safe and well and right with the world. I could stroke his face and tell him I loved him and we could make a baby to live in the spare room. Although, of course, the reality is that if I had a husband I would very likely have told him to go fuck himself by now, and, potentially, punched him square in the face. Because this is what I’m like, readers. Especially when I’m strung out and sad and vulnerable. Which is why I don’t have a husband, or, indeed, any applicants for that position.

So I’ve lugged the boxes all by myself, moved furniture, mopped up my vomit and tried my very best to stay in a foul, pessimistic mood. Feeling sorry for oneself is always comforting, after all. But then a waiter in a café gave me a salted caramel shortbread, on the house, because I got teary and homesick ordering a cup of tea. And then some friends invited me for a delicious Japanese meal and their little dog jumped up into my lap and dotted my face with gentle puppy kisses. And last night, as I made my way home from the pub, half pissed and all well again, thankyouJesus, I happened to glance up at the navy night sky. It twinkled back at me, like a blanket of diamonds (except without the blood-money ethical darkness that can fuck one’s enjoyment of diamonds right up the bum-hole, if one isn’t careful) and I thought, ‘this isn’t all bad. This rural life-change’. Despite myself, I felt joyous and hopeful and something very close to happy. It was as though all the rage and bitterness and vitriol that fuels me, my spiky life-force, had been sucked clean out, by nature, like a hungry dog sucking the marrow out of a bone. Which was very nice, of course. Although let’s hope this contented, optimistic phase doesn’t last too long, because how one is supposed to navigate life as a happy person is anyone’s guess.

*Image is a stock picture from freedigitalphotos.net

Part 151: Dumb Girlfriends

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I used to have this boyfriend who was a total prick. But I liked his mum – and every now and then we’d go round his mum’s for dinner and she’d stare at me over the boiled carrots and say, àpropos of nothing, ‘be a clever woman, Kate. Be a strong woman.’ At the time, I found this unsolicited advice baffling. I considered myself wise and strong and utterly without naïvety. As the young do – especially when they’re having sex all the time. With hindsight, however, and the experience of age, I’ve decoded the subtext of her words. ‘Don’t take his shit,’ my boyfriend’s mum was telling me. ‘He can’t be trusted. Watch out.’ Only she couldn’t say that out-loud because she loved her son, despite his badness, which is the mother’s curse. She was doomed to endure his crap forever – whereas I, she was reminding me, had an escape route. It was years before I worked that out for myself. I should have listened more carefully.

My mate Becky had a similar experience. One night her mother-in-law drove her home in the inky darkness and pulled over the car, turning to look Becky right in the eye. ‘Just be careful,’ said the mother-in-law, cryptically. ‘He’s like his Dad,’ (a notorious philanderer) ‘he won’t make you happy.’ And with that, she looked back at the road, drove away and they never spoke of it again. A few weeks later Becky heard a rumour that her man had slept with a prostitute. He denied it and she played dumb for a while – but a year or so later she dumped him, finally, moving on to less wankerish pastures.

All women will play dumb at some point in a relationship. We pretend we don’t know what we do really know, because accepting the truth is just a massive faff. We are conditioned to default to stupid. Relentless cultural fantasies of blissful monogamy mean that we assume our partners will do their best to make us happy, and behave decently, like the lovers in sitcoms and movies and story books. Thus, women (and sometimes men, but women mostly) turn a blind eye to terrible behaviour, pretending, even to ourselves, that we don’t believe it when someone tells us our lover has been gambling the mortgage money, or taking coke at work, or shagging his ex behind our back. We surf on the waves of our disbelief, until the truth smashes us in the face and we are forced to confront what we knew all along, really, but were just too scared to acknowledge.

Playing dumb is all well and good when you are very young and beautiful. Post-adolescents can flutter their eyelashes, powder their noses, drink cheap white wine and embrace naïvety to their heart’s content. When it all comes crashing down the pain and the torment and the tears will provide a valuable life-lesson, and they’ll be young enough to move forward, carrying the hard-won wisdom like a mantle.

But here’s the thing: if you are over, say, 22, you are too old to play dumb anymore. You’ll do the rest of us no favours if you keep pretending to believe that he really was working late, that his ex is a crazed liar, that he did do a tiny bit of coke that one time, but he was stressed, it’s nothing really, he hasn’t touched the stuff since. The simplest explanation is almost always the true one. If someone told you he spent your savings on the horses, it is because he did. If your friend’s friend says they saw him with a hooker – he slept with a hooker. It isn’t complicated. Thirty-seven million men and women, worldwide, have signed up to a dating agency that facilitates extra-marital affairs. We are not honest, as a species.

The least you can do for yourself is to heed the advice of my ex-boyfriend’s mother. Be strong. Be clever. Be wise. Don’t take his shit and remember, there is always an escape route – there is always something better, waiting just around the corner, so long as you face the truth head on, like a warrior.

Peace out.

*Image is “Close Up Shot Of Couple Making Love” by photostock at freedigitalphotos.net

Part 150: Rylan’s Teeth

ryland-clarke I’m afraid I have nothing more to say about dating. You have sucked the dregs of my wisdom on that subject. I am but an empty husk blowing my way through reruns of Seinfeld, tubes of Pringles and occasional yoga classes. There are no new experiences to report. The last ‘date’ I went on was for the purposes of reality television – and you already know all about that disaster. My recent attempts at flirtation have sunk, like the proverbial lead balloon, without a trace. And I have finally realised that I like myself too much to spend a glorious summer trying to interpret possible meanings of the ‘x’ at the end of a badly punctuated text message. I am celibate until further notice. Tinder is erased. Ditto Happn and my account with match.com.

I am not currently open to applicants (unless you happen to be tall, dark, handsome, into theatre or some other branch of the arts, amusing and kind, with left-leaning politics and a job doing something worthwhile – such as nursing, or teaching, or writing, or planting trees, or building sustainable housing or researching ground-breaking treatments for cancer. I’d also be open to a criminal lawyer. But no-one too earnest. And if you can’t give as good as you get in terms of an argument, then darling, it is never going to happen. No? Not for you? Then move along please, there’s a rather long queue forming and I haven’t got all day).

So let’s change the subject.

Have you been watching Celebrity MasterChef? The food’s not up to much, they keep making the contestants work in professional kitchens with tedious results, and if I recognise one ‘celebrity’ per episode, it’s a miracle – but OMG, Rylan’s teeth!

I mean: have you seen them? He has taken the predictable route of the recently famous and invested in questionable, expensive dentistry that has left him with teeth so white they could illuminate your late-night summer garden party, like a set of neon fairy-lights, or the moon.

They are huge and startling. Great big comedy gnashers that just simply will cause him problems at some point in the future. Because how could they not? If the bleach doesn’t poison him, the veneers, surely, will fall off, one by one, into a mug of tea, or a tumbler of whisky, or his dinner. Or else he’ll become so disoriented by the weight of his new molars that he’ll accidently chomp off someone’s genitals, when he only meant to give a little nip.

I am transfixed. I am drooling in anticipation of the inevitable disaster with an unambiguous Schadenfreude, driven by the kind of moral laxity that fuels our contemporary media culture. It’s fascination tinged with pity and horror, admittedly – but I try to keep a lid on the pity because otherwise I might have to ask myself some serious questions about what the fuck is happening to the human race, and how do we make it stop?

It is always the case that a sudden, drastic change in appearance is borne of some seismic life shift. Like the time I pierced my nose because I had recently begun puberty and it was only right that I should violently assault my body, with a gun, the way it was assaulting me. Or that other time, when I got my heart broken into tiny, jagged pieces and dyed my hair green because I didn’t understand about chemicals and it took two and half years to grow out, which was about the length of time my heart took to heal. Give or take a decade.

And don’t be fooled: a sudden, drastic change in appearance is a sure sign that someone’s life has recently got worse. Except if the change makes them look comparatively amazing, as in the glow of a wanted pregnancy, recovery from serious illness or that bit in Death Becomes Her where Goldie Hawn takes the eternal life potion and turns up at her book launch five stone lighter, in a floor-length Jessica Rabbit dress, with dewy, come-to-bed eyes and breasts you could trampoline on, if you were a baby mouse. Although that latter example proves that even changes for the better can have unanticipated and tragic results, so long as you’ll take your proof from camp comic fiction.

Thus, is important to address sudden, drastic changes in appearance in a timely fashion, finding the appropriate balance between ridicule and concern, and reminding ourselves and our loved ones that there’s more to life than looks, you know – even if we do live in shallow times.

And as I’m always striving to be a better person (lol) let me say this:

Rylan, daring, if you’re reading – and I really hope you aren’t because despite my reputation as a relentless bitch, I don’t think you need to feel any worse about yourself than you already do, and actually, babe, I think you’re great; especially since that Grayson Perry thing contextualised your cultural and social significance and memorialised you in technicolour for future generations – come round mine. I’m good at dealing with ‘issues’, and I’ll show you how to be fabulous with greasy hair and period stained pyjama trousers (hint: this only works when you’re streaming the latest episode of Dance Moms). I’ll even teach you how to view a no-make-up selfie in a way that doesn’t make you want to shoot yourself in the face, although you’ll need to bring gin for that – and a couple of those cheesecakes you made in your debut MasterChef round. They looked good. And what with my extended romantic drought, I could certainly go a cheesecake.

*I got the image of Rylan, above, from talentzone.co.uk. If you own the image and resent me using it please be reassured that I make no money whatsoever from this blog. Or email me if you want it removed. You’ll find my details in ‘contacts’.