May 13, 2013 § 102 Comments
On the whole, I tend to steer clear of the subject of sex. Well, here, anyway for fear of being bombarded by fucking weirdo trolls. And even though I completely agree with James Salter – America’s neglected genius, according to the big profile of the writer in yesterday’s Observer – that the sexual life is “the real game of the grownup world”. In Saturday’s Guardian review of his new novel, All That Is, it said that “the cycle of meeting, flirting and fucking forms the book’s basic dramatic unit.”
Well, certainly it forms MY basic dramatic unit, and everybody else’s, even if some don’t see it quite that way, or aren’t so quick to admit it.
Times in my life there have been longish periods without sex, but of course during those periods it never occurs to one that anyone else on the planet is experiencing or has ever experienced a fallow period. You see the world as a place where everyone else is at it like dogs. Then it suddenly happens again, and you think, phew! Back in the land of (grownup) living. You feel part of the adult human race again, where you rightly belong. Not in some throwback virginal space that infantilises you, somehow, so that whenever you go to a fucking movie or read a sex scene in a novel or see some couple eating each other’s faces on the pavement, you feel like a child again, cut off from the mysterious world of grown-ups. And as for when one of your own offspring is having sex and you’re doing the laundry of a dreary Tuesday morning and the damp clothes spill out of the washing-machine with an avalanche of unopened Durex packets from the jeans’ pockets, you think, what’s the fucking point, why don’t I just head directly for Shady Oaks this minute, and not even pass Go? Well and truly knocked off the perch of meeting, flirting and fucking. Not even a substitute in “the real game of the grownup world” but resoundingly shown one’s red flag.
Thought I’d got to that point once SYT beat his retreat before Christmas. We never stopped seeing each other, but the grown-up gaming had popped its clogs. Of course, I didn’t stop nursing some daft hope, especially when my other beautiful young friend (whom I have called Dave and Tom in this blog, I think, to the confusion of all, just because I forgot my pseudonym for him – let’s kill off Dave and stick with Tom – and whom I am not sleeping with, but we like to flirt) bet me a tenner that SYT would come good again.
Well, Tom was right (always is). Took longer than he predicted. The wager stated that SYT would have come good by 8 April, and it wasn’t till a month or so later, so Tom was a bit out. So he’ll have to make do with a fiver.
But that’s cheap at the price , I say, for being back in the land of the (grownup) living.
I’m walking around today, ten feet tall.
April 16, 2013 § 179 Comments
From yesterday’s Times (I am still here, see?):-
There are many downsides to being self-employed, but one great advantage is safety from ever being sacked. So it is with being a plankton. At least we’re spared being shafted by some bastard, and with the amount of stories currently abounding about marital breakdown, I am beginning to think my measly status is the safest, most sensible and secure.
I am lucky. I am out of the woods. Time has done its cliched but welcome healing. I remember all too well, of course, the torture. I saw it as this tunnel which I just had to get through; didn’t know how long it would take to emerge, but I always knew that emerge I eventually would. Logic dictated that no human brain could sustain that pitch of emotional agony for ever. There was total black at first but, after some weeks, a pin hole of light miraged at the end of the tunnel, and gradually increased in size and form and became (with a little nudge from Prozac) a reality. The scars remain but the searing has gone.
But all around me I see collapse. I hear story after story of marriages atrophying at the rate of shops closing down, and the emotional landscape seems as spent, derelict and desolate as the high street. The stories are all of men shutting up shop for the greener grass of the Other Woman, and my heart goes out to the wives graffitied all over with pain and rejection like metal roller shutters. They are thrust untimely, unwittingly (NB. I don’t say unjustly, though, in many cases, unjustly too) into their own tunnels through which, no choice, they are just going to have to travel; only in this case the travelling is a whole deal worse than arriving.
People say it takes two years but that is what they say about settling into a new house in a new town. No, the marital breakdown tunnel is different. It’s not just a question of “settling”, like shifting positions on a sofa to get more comfortable. It is not just getting used to the layout of new streets and kitchen and neighbours. It is re-forming the geography of the entire self and I reckon it takes a lot more than two years for the easing.
Yesterday I heard about Sally’s particular hurt; the day before it was Claire’s; today it is Harriet’s. Tomorrow, inevitably, it will be Milly’s, Molly’s or Mandy’s. This daily conveyor belt of middle-aged women entering their own, lone tunnel, each unhappy in her own way, has given me pause.
In a funny, perverse sort of way, plankton are safer. Maybe not the way we might choose to be, but safer all the same.
April 2, 2013 § 39 Comments
From yesterday’s Times. There has been something of a time lag with the column because of space issues, so below is old news to readers of this blog, for which I am sorry:-
For the first time in years, I have been thinking that maybe being on my own for what increasingly looks like forever may not after all be tantamount to social, emotional, sexual and any number of other kinds of death I care to come up with. I am beginning to think – with an emphasis on beginning – that the “advantages” of being a plankton do have some merits and remaining one till I fill my box could turn out not to be the defining tragedy of my existence or the reason to top myself forthwith.
Well, obviously I am not right in the head. This new worldview is so far removed from my default setting, I must come clean and offer an explanation.
I have never taken anything stronger than paracetamol my whole life, unless you count the pill and, once I’d given that up, an epidural for the births of my children. But on 1 January, after a certain amount of SYT-related gloom, much hand-wringing and research and talks with my GP, I decided to do the sensible thing and take some Prozac for six months.
I was worried it would alter my personality. Not that I am particularly enamoured of my personality, but it’s the devil I have known for a smattering of decades. I was also feeling rather chuffed with myself for having lived through the shit that I have lived through these past few years since my marriage broke down without a single “prop”. It then occurred to me that there is nothing especially noble about that, just as there is nothing noble about people who decide to go through labour without pain relief. It is merely a matter of choice, and I have chosen to think a little prozac prop may now be just the ticket for a little while.
Friends – an awful lot of them it transpires – told me it is just like setting the dial back from minus a few degrees, to nought; that it simply helps one out of a rut and to see things a little more brightly.
From day one, I was closely monitoring the effects. No difference for several weeks. Then about a fortnight ago I was aware that I just felt normal, precisely as it had been described: back to nought. But in the past few days I have felt an old energy return, a zest for work again and, utterly bizarrely, definitely a more brazen attitude to my singleness.
I’m not saying I no longer want a husband – prozac is not a total miracle, and I am still me – but that that is no longer my resounding 24/7 raison d’etre.
Now of course, I wish I’d been rather less bleeding “noble” and started quaffing this stuff years ago!
March 13, 2013 § 206 Comments
…though you would be forgiven for wondering.
My column seems to come out in the Times only sporadically and the rest of the time I feel as though I have said in this blog an awful lot of what I have got to say. Oh, I suppose, in fact, my blabbering on can carry on without end. Perhaps it’s just that I have become lazy, in which case I am a bollocks and sorry. The happy pills seem to have, well, not worn off, but the energy isn’t quite as it was when they first kicked in. I feel my normal self, which I suppose was their point but at the same time this feels something of a swizz. I thought things might look brighter, and they don’t. Marriages atrophying all about me and Still No (realistic, available) Men for a seasoned plankton such as myself. Plus ca(cedilla, ou?) change. There again, bit of bad news? I feel it, but I guess if I wasn’t on prozac I might feel it all the more.
I haven’t seen the SYT for a couple of weeks and I miss him, or at least the idea of him. As for the up-all-night-fellow-vodka-drinking fellow: we went out on the razzle at Groucho’s a few nights ago and are seeing quite a bit of each other, but in the purely pure sense. He’s in love with an Impossible. I still fancy, though am not in love with (have had the wit to stop myself), my own SYImpossibleT.
Any other twinkles? Yesterday afternoon, in deep country, I met a possible one but he would be a RQALOT (Really Quite A Lot Older Twinkle), and the disparity with SYT might be too large a gap for me giddyingly to bridge.
So, no, same old fucking story. Or, rather, ahem, same old story.
February 26, 2013 § 78 Comments
From yesterday’s Times:-
When I was young, I remember complaining that if I went to a party of, say, 100 people, sixty would be couples, thirty-five single women (including me) and five “available” men. Two of these would be gay or asexual; two commitment-phobes or emotionally incompetent or obsessed with their mothers or thick as pigshit or famously cruel, or some other complex variant which was a nigh-on terminal bar to romantic possibility. The last one, always the most handsome and attractive, would invariably trap me in a corner and look piercingly into my eyes and tell me how madly he love he was… with a woman called Mimi who had the physical attributes of Bardot in her prime, the intellectual ones of Simone de Beauvoir and the heart and soul of a goddess.
I mention this because another younger fellow has hoved into view, handsome and brilliant and talented and I see him a lot and we stay up drinking and smoking (what on earth has come over me!?) and talking all night. Oh, it’s some pathetic chasing on my part of lost youth, and a desire to live a life that at least has some edginess to it, in the absence of any hope of what I really desire once more, or at least think I do, namely long-term married intimacy and companionship.
Anyway, during one of these all-nighters, at about 4am, Dave told me in his cups that – tra la! – he would ravish me in a moment. I thought, gosh, men are like buses: none for several years, then two (young ones) come along at once! There might be something in this infuriating cliche about giving off the “right vibe” after all.
Well, up to a point. SYT has not “materialised” again although we still see each other and despite Dave’s conviction and bet that he will. And Dave, for all his flattering talk, is not about to ravish me, alas, because he is dedicated to his passion for Mimi, the most perfect and beautiful creature that ever graced the earth. She shares the passion but doesn’t entirely know it, and so for the moment it is impossible, but were he not to remain true to her, always and for ever, his whole life would be meaningless and a lie.
When he told me he would ravish me all night – though he used a somewhat earthier term – were it not for Mimi, I took it as a compliment and thanked him politely as if he had given me a pot of home-made jam. I meant it too.
Once a plankton, if you’re anything like me, you clutch at any straw going and are preposterously grateful for the merest crumb.
February 20, 2013 § 42 Comments
…although I do see it might seem as though I have.
Last week was half-term and I have been having an intense time – children and too many late nights. Didn’t get to bed till 6.30am on Tuesday morning, or until 5am on Saturday. There is a new young man in my life. I am not sleeping with him, and nor are we ever going to (that’s a story for another day, but in a nutshell he is in love with someone else for whom he is going to sacrifice his life. My teenager summed it up with a wisdom beyond his years: “He’s a poet so he wants to feel the pain.” ) Fred is not even a twinkle, therefore, but he and I are making friends and he has a certain fondness for alcohol and a youthful energy which I can’t quite share, but sad old bag that I am, I can’t quite resist at least trying to. I have been on the vodka and the fags, even though I am teetotal and haven’t smoked since I was 29.
It’s a temporary thing. I am not a smoker or drinker and am not about to become either but this past week has been quite fun, not behaving in my normal, predictable way. I blame the happy pills! Time now, though, to return to responsibility and adulthood, but fun while it lasted. A flirtation, pure and simple, nothing more, nothing less, except the development of a chaste friendship.
I am still seeing SYT but Fred has not yet won his bet that SYT’s planning on sleeping with me again, nor will he, I swear. SYT is a very determined young man. I’m not sure if it is admirable resistance on his part, or if he now finds me repulsive. All I shall say is that as far as sex is concerned, young men haven’t got a great track record for resisting temptation, especially when in their cups. So let’s take a wild guess. Yup. Repulsive old bag, that’s me!
But because of the prozac, I don’t really care.
February 12, 2013 § 136 Comments
From yesterday’s Times (at last!):-
A divorcing friend has just met someone. Not bitter!
She paid about a million pounds for the privilege to an agency called something like Baying at the Moon. Get me on the subject! I have heard rumours about these agencies, that they are so desperate for men on their books, they canvas for them on the streets. And they don’t charge men a fee, and still they have a ratio of about a hundred women to every in-clover male singleton they can lay their hands on.
Perhaps I exaggerate, for my friend has found someone very promising within weeks of separating from her husband. If I had a million quid, I suppose I might have to join. Anything not to have to do the “filtering” myself. Every day one online site sends me profiles of possible “matches” and without exception these men list outdoor activities as if a man who fancies a spot of hiking, sailing and mountain biking is the bag of gold at the end of every woman’s rainbow. I don’t get it. I hate outdoor activities. I like being indoors, preferably sitting still with a book or jolly conversation. These men all refer to “ladies” not women, which gives me the shivers, and live miles away in places like Cheshire.
My friend is having a second date. They’ve been texting each other like billio and have acknowledged that they are both too grown-up to play games. They have had startlingly honest conversations already about sex and marriage and what they both want. No time, at our age, to beat about the bush. We just must lay our cards on the table and push on. I am feeling optimistic for her. For myself, not so much.
Talk about January being the month for hibernation. Nothing been happening except battening down the hatches. Last night, first time in weeks, I went really wild and ventured into the night to see Lincoln with two girlfriends. The next “jolly” in my diary, (Lincoln is many things but jolly ain’t one of them), is a drinks party – in March! Otherwise blank.
Because I can’t afford the Moon, perhaps I should take solace in the fact that wise Dave is so convinced that SYT is going to be back for more, he’s even bet me a tenner.
“It’s so bleeding obvious,” he said after he met him. “If you can’t read the signs, how he looks at you and what he says, then I’m not going to spell it out.”
I wish he would because I am illiterate in these matters. But when SYT never returns for more and I win Dave’s bet, I’m thinking of putting the money towards the Moon. Bleargh!