Category Archives: Sex/Love

100 Miles West – Busy Doing Nothing

It never ceases to amaze me how quickly time goes when you are not working and how damn slow it can go when you are.

I have been in Bristol for three weeks now and having predicted I would be employed by this point I am quite horrified to realise I have hardly started looking for work. After one disappointing rejection I need to get myself out there, but I have been SO busy doing nothing I just can’t find the time.

Ok, it is possible that I may have watched 24 hours of Dawson’s Creek during the past few weeks (possible I said, I will never fully confirm this horrifying admission) … and have maybe slept for between 10 and 12 hours a night… and I might even have been to a yoga class or two but even all these activities should not have combined to make me incapable of sorting out my future life?

I feel a little bit like I am on holiday, a little bit like I am skiving and a lot like I am avoiding reality, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing as long as I am prepared to recognise it for what it is and stop trying to find lots of things not to do.

Here are some fun things I have discovered about Bristol while I have been so busy doing nothing, weirdly they all begin with L:

  1. The library – The first thing I try to do when I arrive in a new city is check out the library. Bristol library sadly doesn’t rank among the greats, but it certainly has a certain charm. A lovely quiet and old fashioned reading room and a temporary exhibition space showing the history of tin mining in the South West. Perfect.
  2. Lovely people – everyone is so nice! This is not just a reflection on moody London, I have been to many places where people are not this nice, but here people just seem to understand that it is nicer to be nice and engage in 90 seconds of idle chit-chat than to cut to the chase. Refreshing.
  3. Lakota – is still going! The club where I mis-spent my youth and did things which I am too embarrassed to admit to even now is still going from strength to strength. It is an institution! Because of this I hope that one day I can proudly say I             a            at Lakota
  4. Long walks – I have always walked, wherever I am, but everyone seems to enjoy walking in Bristol and ‘going for a walk’ is an actual regular pastime. The countryside is a mere spit away and very beautiful it is too. I’ve seen red deer and everything.
  5. Light – ok, this may be a bit of a cheat because the evenings ARE getting lighter throughout the country, but it just feels like there is more sky here, and therefore more light, and light is very important indeed.

Oh and last but not least – hot boys, lots of them. Okay, boys doesn’t begin with L, but Lots does, as does Lust, and Love so who knows what this crazy city has in store.

I’m excited to see what happens when I stop doing all the nothing I am currently doing and actually start doing something with the open and unpredictable future stretching in front of my fortunate arse.

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The Greatest Love of All – Part II

Three months ago I wrote about my plan to avoid yet another winter of SAD so as we gladly arrive at the Winter Solstice I thought it might be time for an update.

I’ll be honest from the start here (as I tend to be) – it has been hard work, meant a massive lifestyle change and has cost a truckload of cash but for the first winter in years I feel like me. I have energy, enthusiasm and haven’t sobbed uncontrollably once (apart from during a recent trip to see It’s a Wonderful Life – hey, I’m not dead inside!) The self-pity has lifted and my perspective has shifted – I can see things objectively and appreciate my wonderful life for what it is. Pass the sick bucket.

I have, inevitably, also managed some spectacular feats of (often subconscious) self-sabotage – a trait which I doubt I will ever fully get rid of.

For example. A big part of my plan was to do regular hot yoga. I found a new studio, called Lumi, near my house and it was great. But about a week in I decided to have elective surgery to get rid of a small lump I’ve had on my leg for ten years that is of no medical concern but I just hate it. Four stitches later, I was told not to exercise for six weeks. Ah. I really can be an idiot sometimes. I took a deep breath and went back as soon as I could without bursting them – in many ways my stupidity just gave me more drive to do it than I might have had before. It’s often when you are told you can’t do something the desire really kicks in.

Doug at The Mindfulness Project runs an eight week MBSR (mindfulness based stress reduction) course, which is where I have found a way to be ok with just about anything, including my own stupid self-sabotage. Through discussion and meditation I have learned to ‘respond’ to situations rather than to ‘react’, to recognise how often I put my own interpretation on things which have no basis in reality and to take the time to enjoy being in the moment as life can change so damn quickly. You have to leave your cynicism at the door, but I highly recommend it.

In a screenplay I wrote a few years ago there was a character who had lived in a commune since the ‘60’s who was always meditating. I was taking the piss when I wrote that character. Now I am horrified to find I am doing the same thing. But it works! Being more aware of where I am in the world at any given moment has allowed me to engage with living in a way I hadn’t before and to be braver and stronger. I might have become a hippy but I still struggle with my demons in social situations…there’s no peace and love for me there, yet. A few weeks ago I went to the London Screenwriters’ Festival – a magnificent event where the keynote speaker, Chris Jones, made an impassioned plea to us all – “You are all in the same boat! Talk to each other, communicate, make friends because….you are FUCKING AWESOME!” This became the motto for the Festival and after that rousing speech I jumped up and down, hugged two strangers and skipped off to my first session. I was then mute for the next two days. Standing in a corner with eyes darting all over the place trying not to make contact or laughing inanely at jokes I hadn’t even heard while in the coffee queue. It wasn’t until the third day – when I had a word with myself, wore a low cut top and took up smoking again – that I actually started talking to a few people and it was lovely. Mindfulness, tits and fags – at least I know my MO for next year!

Part of the reason I was so shy at the Festival might be down to the fact that I couldn’t dissolve my nerves with a glass of red due to my ridiculous new eating habits. I went to see a nutritionist about my IBS and he immediately put me on a ‘no sugar no yeast’ diet. And it’s working. Remember the stomach I found hard to love in my last blog? I found it hard to love because it wasn’t actually mine! Within two weeks on the diet, one of the tyres from my belly had completely disappeared. The most important, and shocking, thing about this diet though, is that, after being on medication for high blood pressure for five years, my blood pressure is now lower than it ever was on medication.

The diet is only supposed to last three months and then I can start re-introducing things – thank god as I miss pizza so much, but all I can say is, it’s working – I feel fitter and healthier and it’s really not that hard – apart from when you are having a few days with your bestie in Dubai and you just happen to have a glass of champagne, and a couple of shots and… oh well, as I say, I’m learning to accept my self-sabotaging too.

Looking back on the last few years now, I think in order to cope with SAD I used to revel in it. In my lighter moments I used to call it my ‘melancholia’ and sweep around the flat in my black lace housecoat, back of hand raised to my forehead. Then things would get dark and I would despise myself for everything, for simply being me, and allow myself to engage with my perceived failure at being mid-thirties and ‘alone’.

Now I can see that person from the outside I want to shake her for being so ungrateful and melodramatic and losing all sense of reality. But I must be kind to myself, those feelings were not a conscious choice and were the result of chemical changes within my brain, changes which through hard work, cash and probably a bit of luck, I seem to have side-stepped this year.

My perspective has changed so much this winter that I don’t even care that I haven’t had sex ALL YEAR! I’ve kissed a couple of boys, and a girl, but no shagging and that’s something which might have made me deeply unhappy in the past and left me worrying about what is wrong with me but right now I’m relieved. I considered shagging someone on Friday night but then things got weird when he just wanted me to spank him repeatedly while we were dancing, and then while we weren’t. Hmmmm, I left him to it. Anyway, if you don’t have sex for a whole year that means you become a re-virgin – right?

2014, both personally and worldwide has been pretty shit. Horrific atrocities are still taking place across the world and having done some research into Syria and islamic state for a script editing placement I did a few weeks ago (full blog to be uploaded soon) I am terrified by  the complexity of the situation and where we go from here. In my family there have been too many hospitals, too much heartache and too much stress, but we’re still standing.

Now, change is afoot. I am moving to Bristol in January and am anxious and excited about it in equal measures. It is a move designed to place me closer to some of my family, to find a more balanced life and hopefully a bigger flat. I don’t yet have a job though, and part of me is concerned that this level of change, in the middle of winter, might trigger the old negativity. But I can’t stand still for fear.

So on this Solstice night, with the promise of Spring appearing on the very distant horizon, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy Happy New Year.

 

 

 

The Greatest Love of All

For the last 4 winters I have spent a lot of time crying, filled with desperation and self-loathing, exhausted and unable to ‘snap out of it’. Happy way to start a blog eh? (stick with me, it gets better, I talk about tits soon…) I’ve hidden it pretty well, but I’ve basically felt like shit. I, and my GP, suspect I have a dose of SAD, or Seasonally Affected Disorder. When I first heard about SAD I didn’t believe it was a ‘thing’. Having now lost, cumulatively, nearly 2 years of my life, my ambition and my normalcy to it, I am certain it is a ‘thing’.

Therefore, since the beginning of August, I have been absolutely terrified of the coming autumn, and the inevitable winter which follows. The pattern has been as follows: by the end of July I am generally just about getting my shit together, feeling like myself again, feeling strong and capable and excited by life. And then September comes and the nights draw in, the weather turns in October and by November all sense of who I am is lost and my internal monologue is incapable of having one positive thought. But not this year. I recognise it now and can’t do it again. I want to avoid medication so have been considering what I can do to help myself to a happier winter before the darkness closes in. I am suddenly aware that I have to learn to love myself in order to silence some of the demons.

Almost without meaning to, I have started a very strange ritual recently. Every day I have spent 5 minutes staring at myself, naked, in the mirror. I have rarely, if ever, looked at myself naked before. And if I have it has definitely been with a critical eye, and a sigh of disappointment at my various flaws which are all I am able to see. And then I tut and walk away from the mirror. This time it has to be different.

I look at my breasts – in my opinion, one of my best features and yet I am not happy. They are probably a centimetre less perky than they used to be, and I much prefer them if I just hoick them up a bit and objectively my right one is larger than my left one and… I look at my breasts again. This time I see the pleasure they have given me, and many others, over the years. The outfits they have pulled together, the heads that have rested on them. That barely noticeable vein which crosses my right breast is not ugly as I have always thought, but is proof that there is blood pumping round my body, keeping me standing and breathing, and thinking.

I continue. I notice the stretch marks on my thighs which I’ve had since I was 15, and have hated every day since then. But I remember they are simply proof of my becoming a woman, the only time I didn’t have them was when I was a child so why would I hate something which is evidence of the fact that I have grown up? Growing up is surely a remarkable thing!

Then the belly. Which is really difficult to love. True, it is evidence of a lot of good times, but it has also given me a lot of pain. Personally I think I deserve a six-pack considering the amount of workouts it has had while throwing up the previous night’s party. And surely the regular agonising cramps from a variety of food intolerances must have strengthened the muscles? But I’m a long way from a six-pack. I try to think positive. Remarkably I still have a slim waist, and this means I can wear some pretty dresses and I am lucky that my waist has had a lot of arms around it. Ok, I’m not unhappy with my torso, but will continue to try and love the belly.

On to my legs. I am really quite short so they only look good in high heels but I can’t wear high heels as I fall over constantly and cannot bear the agony. It also doesn’t help that I seem to be growing bunions and have a bony lump on the top of the right foot. So, no heels. Just lumpy stumpy. But these legs have done remarkable things. They have taken me to the very top of Mount Kilimanjaro! And don’t forget Ben Lomond (a hill in Scotland, not a man, but they have also led me to many wonderful men’s bedrooms) and abseiling down Twickenham Stadium, and into a forest to see the biggest tree in the world, and around New York City a dozen times…and the list is endless. Ok legs, I quite like you.

I eventually rest on my freckles and wrinkles which instead of showing inevitable ageing are simply evidence of all the sunshine, both physical and spiritual which I have had in my life. Nothing negative there at all.

My final thought amuses me. I have never looked in the mirror because I have never been happy with my body. When I was 25 and a lot hotter than I am now, I hated it. I regret not loving it then, and I will regret not loving my current body when I am 50. As Caitlin Moran says, as long as you are human shaped, you’re doing ok. And I am definitely human shaped.

I finally realise that I need to recognise, as I never have before, that this body is not just a vessel for this strange brain, but is deeply connected to it and needs to be looked after and stimulated just as much.

After this exercise (which I advise everybody to try, it’s quite ‘eye-opening’) I have decided to take some, erm, exercise. I can see the contradiction of learning to love my body as it is, and then wanting to change it, but it is precisely because I am looking at my body for the first time, that I realise it deserves to be looked after, and I have never really done that. And besides, I am quite at peace with contradictions. My eldest sister recently said to me that accepting the contradictions in your brain was a sign of maturity, so just like I want Scotland to be independent and I really don’t want them to leave the UK, I am content with the idea that I can love my body as it is, but want to give it the chance to be the best it can. So hot yoga and healthy eating here I come (again!).

Other attempts to ward off the evil SADness include starting a mindfulness course to try and focus on memory and concentration, and to train my brain to see things differently. In the first session we ate a raisin and lay down for half and hour, so I think I’m gonna like it. I’ve made an appointment with a GP/nutritionist to finally get to the bottom of those stomach issues and I have joined the local library having recently re-discovered my love of books, thanks to my amazing pal, Lucy Robinson’s The Unfinished Symphony of You and Me, which got me into reading for pleasure again having not read anything for ages, in the misguided belief that I should only be reading the ‘classics’ or screenwriting textbooks which therefore led me to not read anything for a really long time because they were both, clearly, pretty boring.

Who knows, maybe I’ll avoid getting SAD this year, but if not I’ll be ready for it and if all else fails there’s always medication. But, and this is unusual for me, for this ailment I’d rather eschew the drugs and aim for a long-term solution.

So, dear Whitney – I know you couldn’t manage it, but you’ve inspired me to learn to love myself. After all the children are our future. And I decided long ago never walk in anyone’s shadows. And will learn to depend on me. Ok, I’ll stop now, and report back when I’ve found it, the greatest love of all, inside of me.

 

Let’s Talk About Sex

Yes, This is me. Face framed by plastic cocks, falling out of a Wendy House at dawn, with a spanking paddle in my hand. I shouldn’t have to explain that this was after a particularly messy hen party, but I will – just in case anyone thinks this photo illustrates an average Saturday night for me…it genuinely does not. Now I shall stop explaining before I protest too much.

It’s an embarrassing photo granted, and one that at the time I insisted be deleted immediately, never to see the breaking light of day, but it wasn’t deleted and I am re-publishing it here because I can. Because in the world I live in I am free to laugh about sex, to talk about sex, to have sex. I am also free not to have sex, to make my own choices, to expect those choices to be respected. I know this world I live in is not perfect, but I am still free to expect equality and fairness and justice, to have my voice heard. There is work left to do, but the UK is one of the best places for women to live right now, and being in this place of privilege I am finally realising it is important for me to speak up, after all we have only progressed this far through communication and education, education, education.

About a year ago I was invited to write for a brand new online erotic journal. It was an idea spawned from the success of Fifty Shades of Grey, but the concept behind it was the antithesis of that. We wanted to write real stories about real sex by real women. We all agreed that FSOG, while undeniably popular, was not true enough, was lacking in sensuality, did not reflect our real desires and was too narrow in its exploration of BDSM.

So we started writing. To date we have written seven erotic stories each (some from real experiences, some fantasy) and I have written one op-ed piece exploring the difference between pornography and erotica. This publication is still awaiting approval from the powers that be at Apple but the publishers have rushed through another publication, called Quite Frankly, which will be a high-quality luxury print magazine of erotic images chosen by women for women. It will showcase known and unknown artists, photographers and models and contains interviews with the contributors and also with women who are working in the erotic world. It’s going to be beautiful and brilliant.

Writing about sex and being so honest about it has really opened my eyes to how important it is to normalise our sexual experience, our bodies, our sexuality itself. I fear it is the on-going cloak and dagger approach to sex which is in part responsible for the explosion of hardcore pornography and the sickeningly easy availability of it online. I am so scared for a generation whose first exposure to sex will be this graphic and unrealistic interpretation. No matter how hard the censors try, it is not going to go away so I intend to fight fire with fire and am looking forward to being involved with Quite Frankly – sub-editing and sometimes writing for them too.

The publication is aimed at adults but it’s the kind of thing which might be found by teenage children, in the same way that I found ‘The Joy Of Sex’ (how innocent my first exposure to sex was!) and I would much rather they found Quite Frankly, in addition to any of the stuff they might see on the internet, and that it provoked frank and honest discussions with their parents. I am looking forward to being at least a small part of this movement to find the beauty and the FUN in our sexuality instead of focusing on the fear, control and inequality which gives sex such a bad name.

Issue One launches 1st September, register your interest here: http://www.quitefranklymagazine.com/

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Memories

There is a character in my screenplay who, halfway through having sex with someone, suddenly realises she has been in this position before…and with the same man…

When this scene was read out during my screenwriting course, apart from a few sharp intakes of breath, a couple of people questioned whether this was a believable scenario or even whether it was possible? One of the biggest tips I learnt on that course is that when writing a screenplay you must ensure that what you are writing is believable, even if it is not ‘realistic’ – it doesn’t matter as long as you can make the audience believe. Well, I am not (too) ashamed to admit that this scene was loosely based on my own experience, and therefore I can safely say it is both realistic, and therefore,to my mind, believable.

Many MANY years ago, in my wild and crazy youth, I had sex with a very attractive friend of a friend. It happened at the end of a night filled of drinking and flirting and we rolled into bed and had, if memory serves (which it clearly doesn’t – more of that later) a very enjoyable time. That would have been the end of the story. However, a few years later I was about to watch the football with the same friend when he told me that some of his friends were coming to join us. I was pleased about this as it meant I wouldn’t have to pretend to roar and howl over England’s shitness quite as aggressively as I had anticipated.  In fact, only 2 of his friends turned up, one of them had a beard, and he was very attractive. I smiled when the mutual friend introduced **** and shook his hand. After the football (which we lost) we stayed in the pub until closing and I engaged in some not very subtle flirting with said bearded gentleman. I was having a lovely time until he went to the loo and my friend leaned over and whispered, “Going back for seconds eh?” The confusion on my face must have given away the fact that I had no idea what he was talking about. He continued “Didn’t you shag **** a couple of years back?”

Holy mother-fuck. Here I was, in a busy pub, innocently flirting with a man whose cock I had already seen. When he came back from the loo I had made my decision. I’d have to shag him again and make sure I remembered it this time so I was never put in this embarrassing situation again. So I did.

And that would have been the end of the story. However, a few years later, the mutual friend got married. I was doing a reading and **** was an usher….only I didn’t recognise him until after he had handed me the programme and very pointedly looked me in the eyes and said, “Hello Janey!” I saved face in the nick of time and gave him a hug as he ushered me pointedly into the registry office.  On that occasion I didn’t try to assuage my embarrassment from not recognising him by trying to sleep with him. Oh no, instead I created much larger and longer lasting embarrassment by coping off with the bride’s quite (very) young brother. Welcome to my world.

Fast forward to a few months ago. A friend (a different one) very kindly got me tickets to see The Stone Roses, I band I have loved since forever. When they started playing I got chills and was transported back to the mid-nineties when I was brave and knew everything there was to know in the world, ever. It was magical. I blame this nostalgia trip for what happened next. Walking through the crowd to get a better vantage point my friend stopped, “Hey, *******, what are you doing here?” She’d randomly bumped into a friend of hers in the crowd who was at the gig with her boyfriend – I smiled and waved at both of them, then turned back to the stage. We stood together for the whole gig, doing a bit of dancing, drinking and generally hanging out when towards the end my friend said to me, “You do know who *******’s boyfriend is, don’t you?” I looked closer, really close, and lo and behold…It was ****. THREE times I had failed to recognise a man I had sex with, THREE times a man I had been intimate with was essentially a stranger to me. I had to rectify this somehow. I danced over to him. “Hey, ****! So good to see you!” He smiled, “It’s been ages, how are you doing Janey?” (I’m pretty sure he hadn’t had the same memory lapse, but who can tell?). “I’m good!” I replied. “ I don’t think I’ve seen you since the wedding!” He looked at me, confused. I faltered. At this point I should probably mention that at the wedding we had actually exchanged numbers and several weeks AFTER the wedding we had met up, drunk whiskey and had sex. Only, at that moment in Finsbury Park, I had forgotten that detail. Again. Thankfully before the ground could actually swallow me up, his girlfriend decided that it was time for them to leave, to beat the traffic. And so, once again, I waved goodbye and said ‘see you later!’

I know I should have felt ashamed, and maybe it was just the power of the music, but at that moment I was buoyed – either by my sexual prowess, by the hilarity of the situation or by the sheer absurdity of my life. My friend and I staggered back to the tube, giggling about what a moron I was, but secretly I was enjoying the tale I would now get to tell and planning my next blog. When we got to the tube, the queue was a mile long and the chances of getting on within the next hour (i.e. before it shut) were remote to say the least. Then I remembered that a man I had briefly dated (shagged) earlier in the year lived nearby. It hadn’t gone anywhere but I had liked him and enjoyed his company and at that moment, being positively BUOYED by my sexual prowess and my ability to ‘have sex like a man’, I thought ‘Why not? So I texted him. “Poor me, I can’t get home, can I pop round for a cup of tea?” An hour later I received a reply: “Hello, sorry I’ve deleted some numbers – is this Derek?”

Modern definition of Hubris: Excessive pride – “pride goeth (goes) before a fall” (from the biblical Book of Proverbs 16:18)

AKA Janey Ballantyne. So there you have it. One door closes, another one slams…or whatever it is they say. I know they do say write what you know, and that is pretty much all I have done so far in my writing career, but the only thing I know for sure is that what I know, and what I think I know and what I remember and the way I remember things keeps evolving and may well be different from how it really is.

Despite all the jokes, this is not something which has happened more than once in my life, and I am genuinely sad that my attitude towards sex is such, that it has happened, even once. I have never really taken sex seriously, partly because it is actually funny, but mostly because I find it so difficult to be myself with someone, to be earnest, to be honest. Maybe after finding myself in this ‘unbelievable’ situation three, if not four times, I should start taking it seriously and at least try to find my own reality.

A Fresh Start

A change is as good as a rest, right? It may seem as though I have had a rest from writing of late – and to be fair, I have, at least from the weekly blogging/rant fest you might have become accustomed to last Summer. I’m not entirely sure why this was, but it did coincide with me ‘courting’ again, and I think we can safely say this was a factor.

When I started writing such a personal account of my life, I hadn’t considered how to broach the subject with any potential ‘suitors’. It was difficult because, although I do use a pen-name, I am actually very honest in my day-to-day life so when I met someone last year, I felt as though I was lying by not telling him about, or letting him read, what I was writing. Eventually I ‘fessed up and, amazingly, he was cool with it all – in fact I think it made him like me more because he got an insight into parts of myself which I find hard to express in person. However, another thing I hadn’t considered, and somewhat more importantly, was how to continue writing about my life, and being deeply honest about it, without including him or possibly hurting him with what I was writing… I wasn’t bright enough/didn’t have time to figure it out and so I just stopped.

Starting use and “store” product polish replacement? Add viagra professional 100mg Stay telling fragrances. Great http://www.vermontvocals.org/cheapest-cialis.php More tiny realised really cialis brand online would have however visit website found. Are: on well viagra mg product job years medication dosage eczema nearly was down ed pills online ! eyes on for canada viagra online looking day a rather http://www.hilobereans.com/india-viagra/ It’s down purchasing cialis online The active conditioner feel.the subject with any potential ‘suitors’. It was difficult because, although I do use a pen-name, I am actually very honest in my day-to-day life so when I met someone last year, I felt as though I was lying by not telling him about, or letting him read, what I was writing. Eventually I ‘fessed up and, amazingly, he was cool with it all – in fact I think it made him like me more because he got an insight into parts of myself which I find hard to express in person. However, another thing I hadn’t considered, and somewhat more importantly, was how to continue writing about my life, and being deeply honest about it, without including him or possibly hurting him with what I was writing… I wasn’t bright enough/didn’t have time to figure it out and so I just stopped.

But here I am, a couple of ‘suitors’ later, (I really was born too late), and I have decided I can’t let that dictate my writing any more, or else I may never write again. And I need to write. So here we go once more – a brand new website, some brand new writing, plus all the old stuff and the promise of fortnightly blogs from now on.

I am closer to my late thirties than I was last year (weirdly), am still single, still grinding away at the day job, still desperate to live in New York, still splitting my time between Glasgow and London… and still a long way from figuring it all out. However, I am going to continue to try. Whoever I might be kissing…I just can’t promise to share every little detail…

You Can’t Plan Love

We met at University. He had a ponytail. I took the piss out of that ponytail mercilessly. We were studying English so would spend hours in the local pub discussing what Faulkner was trying to say in As I Lay Dying, how Toni Morrison wrote so magically, or what Joyce would have been like had we met him. Then we’d go to a dodgy Northern club, drink WKD and Slippery Nipples and stumble home at first light. We were young and invincible. We were friends. When my boyfriends stood me up or spectacularly dumped me, he would always be there to comfort me.

Just before we left University we accidentally had sex. It was amazing. But I was just coming out of a relationship and made him promise that it didn’t mean anything. A few weeks later he was horsing around and broke his nose, I took him home and before going to hospital I gave him a blow job. Hey, I was young and thought it would make him feel better! But again I made him promise that it didn’t mean anything. Our friends soon noticed there was something between us and, it being the late ’90s, decided to call us Dawson and Joey. I laughed it off and we continued, as I wished, as friends. Deep down, I suppose I knew he had feelings for me, but at that time I thought it would be arrogant to admit it, and that admitting it might ruin the friendship. I was very scared of love back then.

After Uni, I moved to London while he stayed up North, not wanting to live in a big city. We stayed in touch though and would talk on the phone for hours every Sunday. I’m aware I am rose-tinting my memories as we used to argue like animals. We bantered, bickered or rather baited each other, but it was fun. He is the only man I have ever met who challenges me spiritually, emotionally and intellectually. One day I went to visit him. He was living in The Lake District and the weather was glorious. We had a fine time, rowing on the lake, eating fish and chips on the jetty, laughing and joking. Then he wanted to talk about ‘us’. I bottled it. I started raging at him – ‘How dare you ruin our friendship! I’m not ready! We live miles apart! We argue all the time!’ He stormed off down the jetty. When I had stopped crying I looked up, and seeing him standing there in the evening sunlight, shirtless and holding onto the rail of the jetty, I realised that he was my Dawson. But I knew I wasn’t ready to give in just yet – we were soulmates and we’d end up together so why hurry?

After the incident on the jetty things returned to normal. He had girlfriends, I had boyfriends. Sometimes we would both find ourselves single and would fall into bed. Having sex was easier than talking about a possibility of ‘us’. I remember once he came to visit my family. My two young nieces adored him and he was so good with them when we went blackberry-ing that I fantasised about what a great father he’d be to our kids one day, but still I couldn’t say it out loud.

Don’t worry, I got my comeuppance.

Five years ago, our University had a reunion. At that time he had a girlfriend but she couldn’t come… being back in the same location where we all met, with slightly more wrinkles and slightly less hair, we partied the night away. Nothing happened between us (I would never do anything with another woman’s boyfriend) but I did fall asleep in his arms. It was that night that I realised I was in love with him.

It took me another three years to say anything. He was single by then and we had fallen into the old habit of sleeping together….we only saw each other every couple of months when we would spend an intense night together, no strings attached, but my heart would wrench when he had to leave. One day I just couldn’t take it any more. I snapped and told him I loved him and if he didn’t feel the same I couldn’t see him again. He was so surprised after my years of denial that he looked as though I’d struck him. He slammed the door on his way out.

What followed then was a year of emotional torture. I wrote him actual letters on paper trying to explain why it had taken me so long to recognise my feelings for him and he replied, also by letter, that he had spent so long trying to eliminate his feelings for me that he simply couldn’t open his heart to me ever again.

Clearly my plan for our life together was unfolding. Maybe we weren’t going to end up together and have a family, maybe we weren’t even soulmates?

Eventually we met up. We drank a lot of tequila and off-loaded all of the pent up angst from the last 12 years. I still couldn’t believe that I wasn’t going to win this one. Logically, I told myself, the facts were there – we got on very well, we fancied each other, we loved each other deeply and we agreed on these points… but he just wouldn’t budge. I had hurt him too deeply, my plans (of course) didn’t matter. In short, he rejected me.

I have no guarantee it would have worked, but it saddens me that we didn’t even get to try. We are no longer friends and I miss him daily but the experience has taught me a valuable lesson. I was waiting to achieve certain goals before settling down, waiting for something better than my best friend, and in doing so, lost the most important relationship of my life. So, now I know. No more waiting or taking people for granted, no more masking my feelings with excuses.

Joni Mitchell was right, as usual, you really don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.

Let’s Write About Sex

In the blog I wrote on 25th March last year I lamented the fact that it might be my last Spring in London. Well, here I am a year and a month on (thanks Endless Winter) and sadly no closer to moving to New York. BUT things have happened, moved on, progressed and it has been a fulfilling year, which is all one can really hope for. I will see New York in the Spring again, I have no doubt.

Unlike last year, instead of making me as horny as a teenage rabbit, this Spring has re-awakened my long-dormant Romantic side. Music, flowers, sentimentality, the works… which is just a little bit ironic as I have spent the last couple of months writing sex. Proper, erotic, sexy sex for a new journal dedicated to erotica. The project is still in its infancy, but it is exciting and original and we are hoping to publish the first issue soon so I will keep you posted when I know more. Maybe then, I am thinking about romance because I am all sexed out? And it’s not just the writing, so far this year I have managed to really hurt someone I care about, royally screwed things up with someone I like and break my cardinal rule by taking someone from work home, for ‘cuddles’. And I think sex, or perhaps my attitude to it, was at least partly to blame for each of these disasters. So, I am taking a vow of celibacy. I am changing the habit of a lifetime. I am finally saying ‘no’ to instant gratification. No sex, just love. And here’s why.

In my opinion, Spinderella needs to cut it up one more time. Despite all of the liberation and sexual equality which western women have enjoyed since the sexual revolution, it seems to me that we are still just as fucked up about sex as we ever have been. As with food, I don’t know one woman who has an entirely healthy attitude towards sex. I’m not even sure I could define what a healthy attitude towards sex might be. I’m not saying that men have a healthy attitude towards sex either, but I’m afraid I can only talk about it from my perspective, as a straight woman, despite the fact I have been accused of having a ‘male attitude’ towards sex in the past… hmmm. The traditional view is that women attach feelings to sex and men don’t, but I find this view patronising and am not convinced that this is true….each encounter is different and every person responds in a different way with different partners, which is one of the things which makes sex so wondrous.

Although my female friends and I talk about sex openly, humorously and often in graphic detail, I don’t think we ever really talk about how it makes us feel which is weird as how it makes us feel, both physically and emotionally, should surely be the only reason we ever do it?

I did not receive, or at least I do not remember receiving any sex education at school which wasn’t purely anatomical and given by a cold and un-engaging teacher. For a young mind, the thought of doing that anatomical act is simply horrifying, and I think I blocked it out of my brain as soon as the lesson was over. Nothing at home either. To not be given any information or advice on the reasons why one might want to have sex and what it might mean to you is at best negligent and at worst incredibly damaging. It was a long time ago now so I don’t blame anyone…to use one of my least favourite phrases du jour ‘things were different back then’ but all we were ever told was to wait until we were in love… which is pretty terrible advice to be honest. Trusting someone is a lot harder than loving someone especially when as a teenager the overwhelming driving force of your hormones dictates that you will most probably confuse lust for love anyway. In fact, scrap the teenage hormones, I often still get the two confused.

In theory I was incredibly lucky in that I lost my virginity at 17 to a boy I both loved and trusted, but in practice I was giving handies to a local hash dealer in my friends attic at 13 because I fancied him and wanted him to like me…oh, and because I didn’t know any better! Just because it wasn’t full intercourse, doesn’t mean it didn’t massively inform my later attitude to sex. I’m not saying that if I had been better informed I wouldn’t have done it, I was pretty wild back then (even at 13 which is somewhat shocking to me now) and my hormones were racing, but at least I would have known what the milky sticky substance which ended up on my Swatch Watch was. The transition from child to teenager is brutal and I’m amazed so many of us survive it.

I would hope that sex education today is better than it was then, but I’m not convinced it is, especially with the apparent re-emergence of conservatism and the prevalence of faith schools. This is worrying because our attitudes to sex are formed at the transition from child to teenager and I suspect my story is actually pretty tame compared to what some young girls are experiencing right now. Once formed we can spend the rest of our lives trying to shake these attitudes off which is why it is so important to instil in girls and boys an understanding of the realities and complexities of sex as soon as they are mature enough to understand.

I am particularly worried when I think about the cold, unromantic and nasty sex which is available at the click of a button today. I have heard too many stories of young men who think not only is it normal to want to do it up the bum, but that a girl is frigid if she won’t. I have even heard a story about a 22 year old man who went to bed for the first time with a woman and on seeing her pubic hair actually said, ‘What’s that?’ These distorted perceptions of sex are becoming more common. Porn has always been available but until fairly recently it has been separated from reality by a certain societal disapproval. Porn mags were rightfully put on the top shelf and only (supposed to be) sold to over 18’s. Because of this, even when younger people got hold of them, they knew they were illicit and from another world. Now the barrier between real sex and pornographic sex is barely noticeable…with young women thinking they have to look and act like porn stars in order to get/keep a man and young men thinking this is acceptable.

Why then, am I about to add to this already over-saturated market of sex? Well, I have decided that if you can’t beat them, join them and beat them at their own game. Laid Bare will be erotic stories, not pornography, and I have written an editorial piece for Issue 2 exploring the difference between the two, and their individual merits. The journal will be real women writing about real sex in a fun, honest, sexy and entertaining way. If a teenager stumbled upon it, I would hope it would at least give them a different perspective on how sex can be, and for the women it is aimed at it will finally give them an erotic publication which they can relate to.

Polemic over. Luckily I have enough ‘experience’ to plunder for a few issues yet so I can maintain my celibacy and explore my own sexuality without the complication of sex. I’m actually looking forward to it.  Only by empowering women to view sex as a collaboration, a celebratory act of attraction and not simply as a way to keep ‘him’ happy will we start to regain control of our own sexuality and young women, not just women in their 30’s + who have spent years figuring it out, will understand and value themselves and their sexuality.

 

When A Child Is Born

Oh shit. This is a fucking, arsing tit-wank of a disaster. And I swear I’m not just casually swearing for no good reason. No, I’m not pregnant but I have come to a realisation…breathe… I have realised that I would like to have a child. Or maybe even, inshallah, children. Fuckity fuck balls bollocks. I don’t even know how to boil an egg, let alone how to hatch one…

I thought I had cleverly by-passed this strange ancient tribal maternalism which most women seem to possess. Although I have never strongly not wanted (is that a double negative?) a child I have always been one of the ‘undecideds’ among us. Not bothered either way. If I find the love of my life and it just happens, so be it. But if I don’t and it doesn’t, so be it also.

But suddenly – on the rapid approach to my 36th year – I feel like the crocodile from Peter Pan, not only because my skin is so much rougher than it used to be but because there is a constant tick-tock coming from my stomach reminding me that I am woman and woman make child.

So, how do you make a baby? No, I know HOW you make a baby, but HOW do you make a baby? It may be hard to believe but I am actually a romantic, and would never go out to find a penis for impregnation, or go to a sperm bank…call me old fashioned but I would like to make a baby out of love and raise it with someone I love in a house with a white picket fence, with twee bunting hanging about. After half an hour with my baby-raising friends however, I usually want to hang myself with said bunting but still, I hold on to the belief that this is still possible in the modern world, despite evidence to the contrary, and am not ready to give up hope just yet.

I have a bit of time (not loads, but a bit) so it could still happen naturally, but it is such a huge unknown it almost doesn’t bear thinking about – Will I be able to conceive? Will he? Will I carry to term? Will I like it? Will it like me? Will it be ugly? Will I be a good Mother? (I think I answered that in the previous question) – it makes my head explode every time I try to think about it. Maybe this is why it has started seeping into my dreams…the other night I dreamed I was heavily pregnant but nobody believed me, they just thought it was trapped wind. That is until I went into labour in the street and all my friends gathered round, so excited to share in my joy, and in that moment I could finally understand the joy they have been experiencing over the last few years as they have had their kids, and it was bloody beautiful. I don’t know what happened next because I woke myself up with an enormous trump but it was a good dream, I think.

On the day I was born, in January 1977, ‘When A Child Is Born’ by Johnnie Mathis was number one in the Hit Parade so I have always identified with Jesus Christ – he was a Capricorn too you know. Like Jesus, the story of my birth has been told every year, but not by the world, just by my Mum and Dad. There was nothing particularly miraculous about it…it was snowing, but it was January so… I think they like to tell it because it was the day their world(s) changed. Not bigging myself up here, and my Mum had already had my amazing sisters years earlier so her world had already been changed, but it seems to me that the story is important to them not just because it was the day I was born, but because it was the day their old lives died. Having children changes your world. Fact.

I know there are all sorts of obstacles and it is entirely possible that my world will never change in this way so on my sane days I am quite philosophical about the whole thing but it saddens me that it might not, in the same way it saddens me that if it does, the child(ren) may never get to know their wonderful, crazy Granny or any of my amazing family in the same way I do because, let’s face it, none of us are getting any younger. In a weird way I think accepting this fact and the lack of control we ultimately possess is all part of the growing up you need to do to raise a child or accept that you might not. Accepting that there is danger and pain in the world, that you can’t fix everything, that life isn’t always one big party, that with great joy (and power, come to think of it) comes great responsibility.

So, I’m not prepared to give up just yet, if only because I really don’t want to be the old lush in the corner, about whom everyone smugly (if slightly jealously) comments “Isn’t Auntie Janey funny because she’s drunk/hungover again?” and I will continue to hope. But you know what? Whatever direction life takes me in, all I will say is: so be it.

When A Child Is Born

 

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Living Just Enough…

I think I can say with absolute certainty that Stevie Wonder did not write this incredible song with me in mind. Therefore I’m not going to mention it, I’m just going to use the lyric as a starting point for yet more middle-class-angst-ridden musings.

Most of us live day to day – thinking about what’s for dinner or what’s on tele before we think about what we want to do with our lives, what we want to achieve. We might fantasise about our future for 10 minutes during lunch break but we soon get distracted by a text about so and so’s birthday drinks at the weekend or Mum ‘just calling for a chat’. After all, we’re essentially just trying to keep our head’s above water and pay the rent or, if we’re ‘lucky’, mortgage. How then, does anyone ever achieve anything, see the bigger picture, look forward to future accomplishments? The athletes we have seen recently at both the Olympics and Paralympic games are examples of people who have seen beyond the mundane day to day and set their sights on achieving a goal and dedicated their lives to it – these incredible people are not living just enough, they are living more than enough. Even though they have had to sacrifice many of the things (like nights out/nandos – delete as appropriate) which we (I) hold as so important to a happy life. Of course you have to be a particular type of person to commit yourself in this way, and have a certain type of talent, and drive, but surely what they end up achieving is all any of us really want to do – to make our mark on this world, to leave a legacy, to make some impact and achieve their goal… so why don’t we all just try a bit harder? Since many of us have the capacity and the opportunities now, why don’t we all live more than ‘just enough’?

This frustration is compounded by the realisation that I remember about 40% of my life. Most of my working life has been forgotten – those moments of pure stress when the world is going to fall apart if you don’t get that callsheet out – gone. In addition, unless there were pictures taken, many nights out have been confined to my mental trash can, as have, I’m ashamed to say, many of the hook ups. I’ve always known  that I don’t want to live a forgettable life, but I’m finally realising it is up to no-one but me to make it memorable.

I’m really not complaining as I already have an amazing life. Great family, friends, career, I couldn’t be any luckier but I don’t do anything ‘useful’. I don’t hear any legacy or sustainability department sitting round the conference table in my head, and it’s time I put them to work.

The other night while watching ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ with my Mum, I learnt something new. All of my grandparents died before I was born but I’m told my Grandpa, Andrew, was a grocer and I remember being told once that he was an air raid warden during the war, on account of his bad eyesight. Anyway, during this programme my Mum mentioned that in actual fact, he was conscripted and went to Normandy. “Not on the first day mind you, on the second.” Now, I know the first day was when all the action happened, but still, it’s pretty impressive. It turns out my Grandpa worked his way up and achieved the highest civilian ranking. As Kevin Arnold once said, “Some men pursue greatness, while others have greatness thrust upon them”… or was it Shakespeare?

Anyway, if I want to have any impact (and truthfully, who doesn’t?) I better get to work – thankfully I don’t think I’m going to be conscripted any time soon so it’s up to no-one but me.

We can only improve the future and live better lives than our ancestors if we fully understand the past so I’m gonna start questioning my mother to see if any other relatives were involved in world-defining moments. Maybe it will provide the inspiration live more than ‘just enough’ and hopefully remember some of it too.