Monthly Archives: April 2012

My Big O

I like to think I’m an ordinary woman. I’m 35, I’ve got a good job, enough friends and I know how to enjoy myself. I’m currently single but I’ve had a few nice boyfriends and a few not so nice boyfriends…see? Ordinary. But I harbour a dark secret – I have never had an orgasm. That’s the hardest thing I’ve ever written so I am going to write it again. I have never had an orgasm. I’m defective, I’m abnormal, I’m a freak.

With so much open sexuality around these days, the pressure to divulge every aspect of your sex life has never been greater. Sex And The City paved the way for women of my generation to be open, even positively vocal about their sexuality and not be afraid of it, but I don’t remember Carrie and co. ever talking about the possibility of being Anorgasmic (what a charming word). In fact, the one time Samantha ‘lost’ her orgasm she cried for a week!

The most annoying thing is, I enjoy sex. A lot. I enjoy the intimacy and I do experience intense pleasure – I just can’t close the deal. Has this Anorgasmia affected my sex life? No, not really. I sometimes feel frustrated after sex but how can you miss something that you’ve never had? Has it affected my love life? Definitely yes. You see, my exes fall into two camps – the ones I told about my little problem and the ones I didn’t. The ones I told were sympathetic but immediately saw it as a challenge, declaring “I’m going to be the one to make you come!” Inevitably I didn’t come and we would both feel like failures. The ones I didn’t tell, I faked it with as best I could. However, if the relationship became serious I felt as though I’d been lying to them, but by then it was too late to admit it and so the relationship would break down. I have therefore found it easier to hover in a holding pattern of NSA relationships – booty calls by a musician who spent a lot of time on the road, a bartender who would come over after work, I once, maybe twice, met a stranger on a train (Erica Jong has a lot to answer for) and even got lucky at five out of five weddings one year – a lot of fun, but I’d quite like to get serious now.

In case you’re wondering – I have tried everything. Some of my nicer boyfriends came up with ingenious positions and bought me impressive sex toys but…nothing, and I have also spent literally days reading the ‘casual encounters’ section on craigslist and masturbating but…nothing!

I wrote a screenplay last year and in it I invented a character, an old hippy dude who knew the art of orgasmic meditation – it was a sub-plot really but I liked the idea. A few months later the only friend who knows about this (until now!) handed me a newspaper cutting about a guru who had helped hundreds of Anorgasmic women using his yogic massage technique. I went to see him. He was the embodiment of my character so I simply couldn’t take him seriously and frankly, my prudish English sensibilities just couldn’t handle it.

It did make me determined to finally get to the bottom of my inability to orgasm though so I went to see my Doctor. She didn’t really know what to say – it’s hardly a life-threatening problem, but she performed a physical examination, and thankfully told me my vagina was 100% normal – and that I have a clitoris, hooray! She referred me to a psychotherapist (I love the NHS but I did have to wait 12 long weeks) who said she couldn’t help me because my Anorgasmia clearly wasn’t caused by any trauma – I was never abused and haven’t had any terrible sexual experiences so there was nothing she could do. Back to square one.

I always just assumed it would happen one day, but the older I get the less likely that seems. The funny thing is it used to bother me a lot. I used to genuinely believe I was defective, abnormal, a freak and – much worse – not a real woman, but I now know these feelings were just projections of what the men I was with expected from me and what society’s expectations exacerbated. Recently I have started to accept that it is simply part of me, and not a massive part either, just a small part of what makes me, me. I don’t need to be ‘fixed’.

I’ve decided to share my story because I’m not ashamed of it anymore, and I’m not going to spend my life pursuing something which might never happen. According to statistics, an estimated 10-15% of women are Anorgasmic. That’s a shocking amount of women potentially feeling like failures, as I often have, and there is no reason why they should. Sex And The City may have kick-started the debate, but there’s a lot more to say and I just hope women continue to speak up and talk about sex in real terms, not just the pornographic, fantastical terms we are constantly bombarded with by the media.

Of course sex is a big part of a relationship, but it’s definitely not the biggest part and we should not feel ashamed that our experiences are different, that is what makes every woman both ordinary and extraordinary. I have decided that with my next partner I am going to be honest and if he’s a keeper he’s just gonna have to deal with it. At least he’ll know I’ll be happy with a quickie and I’ll never have to pant and scream like Sally Albright again.

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Demon Days

Several years ago my friends and I coined a phrase for a condition which, at the time, we believed was unique to us. We called it The Demons. We were in our late 20’s and we had begun to lose our fear of being judged by others so we were overjoyed to finally talk about this condition openly and honestly.

We were all successful, happy women, blessed with good families and good friends and pretty much without a worry in the world. Why, then, did we constantly get distracted and often lie awake at night unable to stop these demons from zooming around our heads. Demons which generally consisted of;

‘I shouldn’t have had that last glass of wine, I behaved like a dick’-‘I laughed too hard at my own jokes tonight’-‘I shouldn’t have said that mean thing about that girl’-‘my work is gonna find out I can’t really do my job’-‘I forgot to phone my mum again’-‘I should be doing something worthwhile with my life’-‘I’m never gonna find true love’ and the predominant question nicked from Eliza Doolittle – ‘what is to become of me?’

As you can imagine, it was exhausting! At an age where we should have been in our prime we were more lost than ever and couldn’t stop worrying about where life’s journey was going to take us. I have since found out that we were not alone and this is a common phenomenon. In fact The Demons is a well used phrase…. We were simply participating in this zeitgeist of shared first world problems if you will.

When you are having a demon day you don’t listen to Gorillaz of course, you listen to The Carpenters. I’ve seen grown men cry along to The Carpenters on demon days -I don’t think demons are solely a female issue. However, if you are a woman, you might also listen to Joni Mitchell and right now I wish I had a river I could skate away on – this last week has been the first time in a long time that these familiar demons have peeped their cheeky little heads above the parapet. Why can’t we just be grateful and happy with what we’ve got?

Although I never suffered with the demons as much as some of my friends I had thought I’d banished them forever when I changed the direction of my life last year and started to pursue my dream of becoming a writing rather than fantasising that I would one day get round to doing what I felt I should be doing and save some orphans.

But, a couple of weeks ago, I did what I had promised and sent my first piece of writing off to a website. Instead of the longed for rejection letter I got a note of enthusiasm… we love your piece! We want to publish it this week! You can imagine my surprise and fear and utter shock at this turn of events and I spent a lot of the week either just crying, yelping at strangers in the street with excitement or chewing my hand off in anticipation. When the piece

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didn’t get published these feelings were inevitably accompanied by shrouds of self-doubt and reluctance to believe it would ever happen but I have decided to relax and just be happy that they liked it, THEY LIKED IT! But still the demons persist…

I’m starting to realise that the demons only appear when I engage with real life, when I put myself out there, when I risk criticism or hurt and I am reluctantly accepting that the glory of real life might be worth the demons.

Back when we ‘discovered’ this condition, and we were all suffering from varying degrees of demonization, two of my closest friends tried to run away from the demons by going to northern Spain for a few days. I couldn’t go – I think I was working – but something seemed to happen on that trip and they both came back from it having made decisions about their lives and their futures and in many ways having banished those particular demons forever. They now have other demons to face, but at least they have moved forward and dealt with the first round of demons which were holding them back.

I now need to move forward too…I have done a lot of running away in my time, but mostly to have fun, not to navel gaze, so maybe it’s time I started. I have a couple of weeks off work so I am going to see a dear friend in Portugal who has kindly offered to put me up in his parents beach house for the week. I plan to stare at the sea and hope these demons wash away to make space for new ones, the old ones are getting tired. But I know I mustn’t banish the demons forever, I need to understand them and embrace them for what they are – part of the glorious tapestry of living. Without the doubt and fear they encourage we’d all basically be even bigger self obsessed wankers than we are, and the (first) world would be an even shittier place.

Bring it on you demons! See you on the other side!

Lost In Music

I’ll be honest with you. I suck at commitment. Really suck. A mere five weeks into my blogging career and I really don’t feel like writing today. No offence, but I can’t be arsed. Is this the beginning of the end? The classic ‘Janey gets really enthusiastic about something for 0.5 Seconds before being distracted by other things’ syndrome?

Squirrel!

Sorry I’m back. No it’s not. Stop being so negatory Ballantyne, I may be tired but I am here and I am writing.

Ok, I’m tired because I just spent five hours salsa dancing, which was the last thing I got really into before I started writing again. But I haven’t done any dancing for 6 months. See? I suck at commitment. Anyway, it was great to do it again, and it was with a terrific group and a fantastic teacher but I have to say, over five hours we danced to about six tracks and the music for the most part was not good! I actually like salsa music a lot. And after a few years and several Spanish lessons I can now tell the difference between good Latin music and bad, and this didn’t hit the spot, or rather, the soul. Maybe it just wasn’t loud enough but instead of feeling every beat in every inch of my body and letting the music propel me through the tiredness, I found myself too aware of my surroundings, knackered and sweating in a basement club off Tottenham Court Road on a sunny Sunday afternoon, to dance like no-one was watching.

I’ve been thinking a lot about music this week, mainly because music helps me write and I am currently writing my second screenplay, exactly a year after I wrote the first one with a wonderful group of people in New York. Spring seems to be an inspiring time. Anyway, the first screenplay, entitled Come As You Are, relies heavily on a score by Nirvana. I knew before I sat down to write it that Nirvana were one of the hardest bands to license. But I carried on regardless as I never thought in my wildest dreams I would actually finish it, let alone want to send it out to competitions/agents to try and get it made. Idiot. Nirvana’s back catalogue is owned by several people, mainly nutty Courtney Love and poor old Frances Bean and they are very protective over it. At least they are in good company, like The Beatles and Dylan they are one of the most use-restricted artists. Fortunately the new screenplay has a large 1950’s influence so I hope the music will be slightly more usable. One of the best tracks I’ve found so far is called ‘London Is The Place For Me’. Check it out, it’s a classic… But I do hope it’s displaying 50’s irony at it’s best. If you compare this to what was going on musically and culturally in New York at the time, you might get a glimpse of why I am so drawn to that city, over London where ‘the English people are very much sociable’ apparently. As I say, check it out.

The first record I ever bought was Girls Just Wanna Have Fun by Cyndi Lauper. It seems my 8 year old self knew what was important, even then. I clearly remember going into Our Price in Southgate Mall, Bath, with my pocket money in my sweaty palm and going home to play it over and over and over and over again. What’s brilliant about that record (and I know a lot of people will say nothing is brilliant about it) is that I still own it. And it gives me goose bumps every time I hear it because of that memory, and that knowledge. At the risk of sounding like an old fogey, kids ain’t gonna remember the first song they ever bought any more, in future formative memories are going to be very different. This is why I was so excited yesterday, on National Record Store Day when I walked into Rough Trade West and went straight to the counter and asked the owner (now a celebrity in his own right) if I could buy the new Good Cop album, which is beautifully pressed in clear vinyl and comes with a clear CD as well. The staff there were all very excited, a man behind me saw me buying it and got very excited and there was such an amazing buzz about the place, that it made me yearn for the old days.  At least there is still a rebel alliance alive and well and trying to hold on to those memories. People with kids, take them to a record store to buy their first song, and if you no longer have a record player, buy one. They’ll love you for it.

Squirrel!

Don’t Stop Believing…

It’s been a busy week. I’m trying to write a screenplay in a month with Script Frenzy, hold down a full-on day job, and support my amazing friends whose talents know no bounds. Consequently, I have yet again neglected to push ahead with New York plans… but that’s what happens when London gets fun.

This week I’ve been to see Good Cop, Lorna Blackwood and Haiste and Lawrence all utterly entertaining and brilliant in very different ways. A lot of my friends are talented artists and I am in awe of each and every one of them. To hang out with creative people, who know what they want and spend every day in pursuit of their dream is pretty inspiring. I have always assumed they followed their dream because they have no choice, making that classically wanky assumption, that their talent dictated their life’s choices because they simply had to find an outlet. I am now revising this assumption, not because it’s necessarily untrue but because there is a lot more to talent than that. You need passion, determination and a little bit of luck to make a living out of your talent. Sadly many talented people have never succeeded because they lacked one or all of these ingredients, and some ‘less’ talented people have succeeded simply because they possessed them.

I always wanted to be a writer, always. One of the reasons I never tried and took a boring office job instead is because I believed I wasn’t talented, or at least not talented enough. I could never be like Shakespeare or Toni Morrison so why bother trying? (I incidentally saw Toni Morrison give a lecture a few years ago and when she walked on stage… well, I don’t believe in God but if I did, she would be it). What I have now come to understand is the exquisite pleasure that you get from trying, and – what an idiot you were, younger Janey – if everyone thought like that no-one would ever write a word! Maybe this talent idea is a little bit overrated.

After such a busy week, I decided yesterday that the tension in my right shoulder was not going away and thought it would be a good idea to have a massage. I am not a regular patron of the massage parlour so when the lady on the phone asked me whether I wanted aromatherapy or deep tissue massage, I plumbed for deep tissue thinking aromatherapy sounded a bit wet. This train of thought continued when, nearly naked and lying face down on the massage table, the masseuse told me that, ‘My deep tissue is really deep so just holler if you need me to adjust the pressure’. Why oh why did I immediately see this as a challenge? At that moment, I knew there was no way I was going to holler, I was going to take the deepest depth of deep tissue massage she could give me, and I was going to bloody like it. Humph… IT WAS UTTER AGONY! It got worse when I turned over and could no longer hide my intense grimacing and lip-biting from her and had to sustain a face of mild indifference and attempt to ‘breath into the pain’. It was then that I started thinking about determination.

I am not ambitious or competitive, I never had a career goal and I’ll freely admit that I hate games. All games except backgammon, Go Fish, Shithead, Trivial Pursuit and Scrabble from time to time, can be banished to Room 101 as far as I’m concerned. But I am determined. I have this fucked up notion that I have to be bloody good at everything I turn my hand to. Not the best, but the best that I can be. Failure is not an option. I’m like the astronauts on Apollo 13.

It is only now, when I am doing something that I actually enjoy and care about, writing, that I realise failure is actually a massive option and more than that, it’s a probability. What surprises me is for the first time in my life I am not running away from it, in fact I am gagging for my first rejection letter.

So, as soon as this pain deep in my muscles subsides I’m going to jut out my chin and march down to the post office to send off some scripts. And when I get that first rejection letter I’m going to watch this, which was recorded during my ‘sabbatical’ last year. Enjoy.

 

The Long And Complicated Road…To Nothing.

Firstly, I’d like to apologise. It appears that I have taken to bastardising song titles for my blog headings and I simply don’t seem to be able to stop, so if it offends anyone, I am truly sorry.

A few weeks ago I was visiting a very cool friend who lives on a houseboat overlooking Tower Bridge. There were four of us and we had a couple of afternoon beers before starting on that ancient discussion, boys. We were all single and as we talked about our various love lives one thing became clear…every one of us was plagued by a long and complicated nothing.

Most of us have one. It usually starts with a spark or attraction to someone or even stems from a relationship which we feel could really become something special, but for many different reasons it never fulfils that potential, and we are simply left with the bitter taste of disappointment and, essentially, nothing.

My personal long and complicated nothing can be summed up in two sentences. He loved me but I didn’t love him. Several years later I loved him, but he no longer loved me. It’s that simple. However it can often take me an entire bottle of wine to tell this story, and in my mind it is still not over, I have still not achieved ‘closure’ (if I’m going to live in America I need to get with the terminology), I probably never will. The crazy thing is it was never even a relationship, it was a complicated friendship, sure, but within the boundaries of romantic love it was always, basically, nothing.

What distinguishes the long and complicated nothing from an ex-boyfriend or a crush/affair which didn’t work out is almost indefinable, but its root lies in the fact that we believe that this one has a real chance, this one is ‘the one’, our soulmate and if this is what we believe, in our bones, then how can it possibly not work out? The answer is, we were wrong. We must learn to say these words – I was wrong about him. Or even better – game over, I lost. It’s okay, it doesn’t make you a failure – what makes you a failure is not being able to let it go. Not being able to recognise it for what it is. Nothing.

I have a strange habit of remembering lines from films which no-one else remembers, and not remembering the famous lines. In Wayne’s World, when Donna from Twin Peaks is running after Wayne, Garth stops her and says ‘Get over it, go out with somebody else.’ Donna from Twin Peaks (I can never remember her name) quickly takes this on as a mantra, repeats it twice and then grabs the first guy she sees, snogging his face off.  How I wish I could be like Donna from Twin Peaks!

I have, of course, been out with several somebody elses, and I have never become stalkish about my long and complicated nothing because I am too forgetful to obsess but in the dark times my mind always returns to him, wondering why? and what if? and if only… And all the other staple questions which give rise to life’s eternal conundrums and which basically mess up our heads.

I have come to the conclusion though that my long and complicated nothing, which has lasted for nearly FIFTEEN years now, has to stop. It’s not funny any more. It came to a head 18 months ago with several hand written letters and lots of tears and tequila, but I still haven’t let it go. I will always love him but he is a completely different person from the man I knew so well in my youth and what breaks my heart (more to say it, than the simple fact of it) is that I feel he has failed to fulfil the potential I saw in him when we were 21 – and if I believe that then I could never have been happy with him, or made him happy…I don’t know much but I do know that disappointment is not a good basis for a relationship. He is now with a girl who I suspect he will settle down and have children with and who I am sure makes him happy and I wish him well. It gives me hope that there must have been at least some honesty in my feelings for him as the idea of him being happy makes me very happy. But I must accept that this is no longer any of my business.

Now that I have decided to embark on this exciting and unpredictable journey ahead of me, be it New York or an attempt at a writing career (preferably both), the next few years are going to be full of exciting somethings so I need to remove all of the nothings from behind me – starting with the long and complicated ones so I can make room for that wonderful super-something which will inevitably (cock-eyed optimist anyone?) come.

I know that one day I will be able to echo the words that Fraulein Maria so wisely sang:

Nothing comes from nothing,
Nothing ever could
So somewhere in my youth, or childhood
I must have done something good.

 

Help! I Need Some… Support Pants.

Now, I know it appears that summer has been and gone, but I shall relate to you a little cautionary tale in case it decides to return.

A couple of weeks ago, when it became clear that the weather wasn’t a tromp l’oeil and it might indeed stay warm for an entire day, I decided to wear some Spring clothes. Unfortunately most of the clothes I own are still in storage from my 7 months ‘sabbatical’ last year so I was left with a sweet little dress which I picked up in Mexico. As my flatmate will confirm, I am definitely not a morning person so even though I did look in the mirror before I left the house that morning, I cannot guarantee that my eyes were fully open.

Unsurprisingly, by lunchtime that day, when I had seen my reflection a couple of times, I started to have the intense realisation that not only was my dress definitely not appropriate office attire, but that things were bulging and hanging out in the most unacceptable places. Thankfully, my office is close to Shepherd’s Bush Market so despite the heat I threw on my overcoat and 10 minutes later found myself naked behind a rail of velour leisure suits and half a shower curtain, pouring excess inches into an array of support underwear which would have given Buddha a waist line to be proud of. You can imagine how much effort this exerted and soon I was feeling positively peckish so I paid up and, feeling confident that all the lumps and bumps were straightened out, headed to my favourite falafel shop.

It was only when I returned to the office that I realised the support pants I had purchased were rather long on the leg and it looked like I was wearing lycra cycling shorts underneath my very pretty, if slightly indecent dress. I spent an entire meeting with my boss trying to push the pants up/pull the dress down and of course came out of it not having a clue what had just been discussed. Normally I would have just worn my coat for the rest of the day and jumped on the bus home immediately after work but that evening I was going to the theatre. Dahling. Luckily it was only in Hammersmith so on the way there I dived into Primark, grabbed another, shorter, pair of support pants and put them on in the Lyric Hammersmith’s fancy new toilets. Finally, feeling

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positively fabulous I waited at the bar for my friend with a glass of wine. Trying to ignore the fact that I was suddenly having trouble breathing I chatted to my friend as we took our seats. Just minutes before curtain up my breathing became so laboured that I rushed to the toilets yet again to peel off the new support pants – which I then discovered were a (UK) size 6 to 8… I’m sorry, which woman who is a size 6 to 8 EVER needs to wear support pants?! As I sneaked back into the pitch black auditorium, with everything hanging out, I sighed and settled down with my wine resting on the handy shelf which is my belly.

After such an epic day of several underwear changes it occurred to me that in actual fact I wasn’t any thinner when I was in Mexico, I wasn’t any more toned, in truth nothing was different about my body except I was a little bit more tanned. So why was I more than happy to wear this dress almost every day for two months in Mexico and think I looked gorgeous but in London I’d prefer to waste a whole day and a whole lot of energy chasing after the perfect support pants? Come to think of it – and I’m horrified I haven’t yet mentioned these words in this post but ‘when I was in New York’ I never once even thought about support pants and I lived on a diet of pizza and beer. So, pizza and beer in New York, tacos and tequila in Mexico (yes, I am that clichéd)…why then am I wasting my time trying to eat salads, and the odd falafel wrap, here in London when there appears to be no direct correlation between what I eat, how I look and how I think I look?

In celebration of this most simple yet liberating of realisations, I headed home to eat pizza and drink beer. But I did put the little Mexican dress back in the cupboard to give my mind a chance to catch up with my body…or the other way around.

Oh and in case you’re wondering I have done bugger all this week about moving to New York…I have been too busy eating pizza and tacos and cake.

Poems In The Key Of Life

When I was 16 I somehow persuaded my parents to allow (and pay for) me to go to New York for the summer. I would be staying with a friend who had lodged in our B&B years earlier when she was a student at Bath University. She now had an incredible apartment on the Upper East Side and she was at work every day so all I had to do with my time was explore.

I have never felt freer or cooler than I did that summer. I spent days wandering, wearing out my green DM boots, tossing my hair from side to side and chain-smoking Lucky Strikes. It was while smoking one of these Lucky Strikes, on the steps of The Met, that I met Willie, the homeless poet of New York. He offered to read me one of his poems for a dollar and give me a bright pink copy of it too… a pretty good deal for a dollar, I thought. But Willie didn’t just read me his poem on that sunny day outside The Met, he performed it, big and bold and ballsy, just for me, just for a dollar. Sadly I lost my pink copy years ago, though I can still remember how it went;

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Let’s love one another
No matter what we be
Let’s love one another
And we’ll allow each other, to be free

Ok it might not be William Shakespeare but it was Willie, the homeless poet of New York and it epitomised the spirit of the city for me. At that moment, I was hooked. I had to find a way to be there by any means.

A few weeks later and I was back in Bath doing A-levels. It might have been the boys and the booze which distracted me from pursuing my dream, but I suspect it was more likely fear – everything else was just an excuse. The Tisch School of the Arts or an ex-poly in Yorkshire? Yep, I chose the safe and easy option.

I am not one for regrets however – hell, Edith said it best, “Je ne regrette rien” and it’s truly been a wonderful life thus far. Indeed, I suspect only now am I ready to squeeze everything out of this nearly 20 year old dream.

So, to the 5 point plan:

  1. Apply to do a Masters. This may also help with the second part of the dream, to be a writer. In fact, to come full circle, The Tisch School would be the perfect place. The only obstacle is of course cash. Could take another 5 years to save up. Time to look into scholarship options.
  2. Get a job. This week I will be emailing everybody I have ever met who might have any connection to New York to see if they can get me a job in my current field – watch out, it could be you!
  3. Go as a tourist for 3 months and just see what happens. This is an attractive option (mostly because it doesn’t involve working or studying) but of course it also involves cash and there is no guarantee that I will find a way to stay longer.
  4. Find an American husband. If you have read my previous blog A Soiled Romance you will know how utterly rubbish I’d be at doing this.
  5. Get immigration to allow me in on the basis that my Father, who was adopted, is certain that his biological father was an American stationed in Dublin, although we have absolutely no proof of this. (Apart from my Dad discovering through a DNA database he has a 3rd cousin in San Francisco – pretty cool huh?) But somehow I don’t think those friendly immigration officers will go for that.

Damn, 2 out of the 5 point action plan are non-starters but it’s still gonna be a busy week… in the meantime, with Willie’s words still ringing in my ears after 20 years I am going to heed them and get out there and spread some love . Namaste.