Excuse the Cop Out

September 13, 2011 § 19 Comments

Tuesdays are going to be a bit of a cop out day regarding my blog because I am going to be posting my Monday Times column in the blog every Tuesday.  With the exception of five days in August, I have been posting every day without fail, so I hope you won’t resent a post that is not original (ie. published the day before in the Times) just once a week.  Each post takes quite a while to write, so it’ll give me a little breather to get on with all my other work, including a book I am working on.  There will be the odd repetition but I hope all you loyal followers won’t mind. Here goes, yesterday’s first Times column regurgitated here:-


When I was married no one ever asked me about my sex life, the implication being that married sex is so pedestrian it is on a par with a pavement.  Now that I am a plankton, I am asked about it on average twice a week.  I am a woman in her forties and I am wondering why on earth it is so fascinating to all and sundry.  Is it a vicarious thing?


At dinner the other night a merry married man, a good friend, plunged straight in there before the soup.  We had just sat down and his opening gambit was, “So, has there been any interesting happenings over the summer?  Any men?”  I think he thought he was being sympathetic in some way, rather than intrusive, and because I know him to be a good and kind person, I gave him the benefit of the doubt.


But still I spluttered (as I say this was before the soup).  Not because I am some pent-up prude or even really minded the imbalance (I know him well and though I ask questions for a living, I would NEVER ask him about his sex life).  I am an open book in many ways, but even I have my limits.  It was more because it was so blatant and so soon.  And, as always, I was completely unprepared.


I mumbled some left-of-field nonsense about a man I had never met but whose prose made him very attractive.  He waved that fanciful notion off, with some reason, and interrogated me for tales of men I had met, that had some grounding in reality.  I laughed and told him I had simply been trying to put him off the scent.


“It’s far too early in the evening for me to be telling you true stories,” I said, even if I had any up my sleeve.  I poured him a large drink to imply I might tell him things when he was drunk; hoping that by the time he was drunk, he would forget to ask again.


But he would not be put off.


“Come on, what’s been happening?”


“Oh, this and that,” I said airily trying to conceal my desperation at the turn the conversation was taking.  (My desperation in general?)


“What I want to know is have there been any deals?”  What he meant, obviously, was, have you been screwing anyone?


Whether I have or not is immaterial.  I should have told him to fuck off and leave me alone.  But he is a friend and not the prat I am making him sound, and I am too polite.


I simply laughed when what I wanted to do was to disintegrate.


I thought, I am normally quick, intelligent and sharp but right now I am helpless.


This is what it feels like to be at the coal-face of plankton humiliation.



§ 19 Responses to Excuse the Cop Out

  • John says:

    Miss P, Your sex life is between you and your lover(s) and, frankly, not any business of friends – whether they are “very good friends” or even old boy freinds. I am in my 70’s now and live alone and even I get enquiries from “concerned friends” whether I am getting enough. I tell them to fuck off and please don’t just drop in without calling me first.

  • Bambi says:

    I often get asked this since becoming Plankton. Never when I was married. There is something about separation/divorce that somehow makes your life more “public”…more up for general discussion… Which, as a reasonably private person, I hate(d). I have a friend who is a young widow and she has experienced the same – questions not just about lovers/boyfriends and sex life, but also about finances and other personal matters….

    So, when asked this question, I now turn it back on the interrogator -smiling sweetly, I say, “Oh, noooo, but you MUST tell me about YOUR sex life”. It usually makes people realise how invasive their question is and, if they are married, they generally shut up 🙂 , but, if they persist, I tell them very firmly that, really, the stories I have to relate would be too saucy and shocking, so, no, I absolutely cannot tell them anything! Occasionally this might even be true 🙂

  • DAN says:

    I would be very careful in relation to this so called freind of yours that you are saying is such a good freind !

    If you were only at the soup stage of a meal there wasen’t obviously a lot of alcohol involved at this stage , so would seriously question the motives behind such intense questioning in relation to your sex life !

    You had already tried to derail the topic of conversation, and while not knowing the person concerned, my sences are sending off alarm bells as to his intentions or observations.

    I’ts like somebody sticking there toe in the water to check the temperature before DIVING IN, so to speak.

    I again must say i may be totally wrong, but just note any further enquiries in this area, and always remember, a closed mouth catches no flies?


  • Sarah says:

    I’d be tempted to invent a whole rack of amazing lovers, take the piss completely and then say “and how about you?”. Might as well enjoy yourself if you’re going to be creative.

  • fantasyescapist says:

    WTF?! How utterly intrusive and nosy! I’ll tell the person straight to drop the topic. I didn’t know your sex life was a subject of discussion like some cheap tabloid. Even teens that recount their sexual escapades to mates I think are tacky …

  • Lydia says:

    No one would dream of asking me or if they did I would swiftly deflect it. I would say I do not talk about personal matters.

    I think because of the Times etc you need to be careful not to be exposed. There are lots of examples – Le Petit Anglais and that English lawyer in Russia who lost her job and the policeman who blogged in relation to whom it was held his identity could be disclosed. Although of course it may not really matter.

  • EmGee says:

    Yes, this man was intrusive and rude, but you are not only out of the closet, you are now a cause célèbre. Your private matters, whether you are agreeable to this or not, are now considered suitable for dinner table conversation.

    I like Bambi’s response to the nosy dinnermate, just turn the tables.

    I love your blog, and since I am not a Times subscriber (nor ever will be), I am glad you are posting the articles.

  • Jo says:

    Baffled and don’t understand this at all.You are a mature intelligent woman.Not a simpering teenager.
    Why didn’t you just say (with a smile,if you like),’none of your business’.
    Simple.Easy.End of story.Not difficult at all.Friend or not.No problem.
    Anything else,simply ridiculous.

  • Erin says:

    And don’t you hate it when later, you think I should have said this, I should have said that : ( But at the time, you are so floored that the mind just goes blank. Married friends are well meaning but let’s face it, they take a lot for granted, and I think the curiosity comes from their own sagging sex life and the erroneous thought that when a woman gets divorced, she all of a sudden has this wild, naughty, jam packed social life like Samantha Jones on Sex and the City (and secretly wish they had it too!) So they prod and pry and think they’re going to hear a good tale – vicarious, like you said. The old divorced single woman cliche is alive and well, and as fictitious as ever.

  • plumgrape says:

    I think this is quite a moot blog post. I asked a woman I met last week if she was “spoken for” after I recognised her as an interesting individual and thinking that I didn’t really want to discuss some of the finer points of my desired conversation with her husband and interestingly she found herself unable to answer! I wonder what one is supposed to understand by that? That she can converse?
    “What I want to know is have there been any deals?” What he meant, obviously, was, have you been screwing anyone? I think you must mean metaphorically, of course, as in screwing the publisher? This I also think is your own personal interpretation and supposition. If women will compete in the workplace and edge men out from work and if women will bring their “makey feeley” communications to the work place then I suppose we men have to accept the mixed message as a given. No?
    I think your friend meant a book deal. Perhaps we will all feature? And I still say, Plankton: You are a man!
    Good luck with the book. Please may I have a signed copy and when I see your picture on the back cover then I will truely really know your sex.

    • EmGee says:

      You asked a woman you had just met if she was ‘spoken for’? I’d have been at a loss for words too, all the while trying to figure out how to make a hasty exit.

  • Fi0na says:

    My comment addresses this and your previous post really. Just for noting I am 45, post child and divorce and (mostly) happily single with all the freedoms it brings. You remind me of Bridget Jones. In fact I am starting to wonder if you are not, in fact, a post apocalyptic BJ. Did you bear Mark Darcy 4 children prior to discovering his affair with a nubile human rights lawyerette?? take him for all he had?? I jest of course, you are much more part of the sisterhood, conciliatory, out to help. But you did both land a juicy column with a major newspaper. So sitcking with Bridget for a moment – and whether marrieds “get it”. When I was a smug married, I watched those movies with a sense of amusement borne of the fact that I imagined it would never happen to me. Least of all when I was at least ten years Bridget’s senior. I never imagined I would be out there again. It was horrific train-wreck enough to watch when Bridge and I were 32 (and I safely married since 24). I guess for the less sensitive married person. Your “predicament” (which it’s not by the way plank) is amusing in a voyeuristic-bridget-jones-there-butfor-the-grace-of-god tyoe of way.

    • The Plankton says:

      Hi Fiona, Thanks for this. I am replying because you are one of several people who have mentioned the fact that I have “landed” a “juicy” (in what respect do you use the word “juicy”, I wonder? Sexual? Financially lucrative? If the latter, how do you know?) column. Others have mentioned a book and film deal with a grudging tone that I cannot fathom. I write for a living. I have been writing this blog virtually every day since July. That I might use the ideas and words in it – my ideas and words after all – and turn them into something that might earn a few quid seems to me not only logical but essential to survival. I am a single mother. I have earned a modest living by the sweat of my pen and have done so since I left school. Needs must. It is what I do. It is all that I am able – am qualified – to do. Can you or anyone else explain why anyone should grudge me earning a penny out of it? I am at a complete loss, except that people must regard writing as a mug’s game which any fucker can do and those who do it professionally really don’t deserve to earn any money out of it, along the lines of some clueless illiterate git who once told me, when I was working in some shit restaurant and writing my first book between shifts and in all the spare time I had (which was practically none), that he wished he had time to put his feet up and write a book. Best, Plankton

  • DAN says:

    SORRY PLANKTON, YOU OBVIOUSLY MISSUNDERSTOOD my reply to your post re your reply to fiona, if this is my comment that you are using in excuse the copout !

    I certainly dident mean it the way you SAID IT !

    I was actually supporting your point of view and was actually promoting all that you were saying, and only that your blog may someday create a screenplay (NOT BOOK- well maybe, as previously stated, anything is possible !) or film, because of your experiences, but not necessarily by you but by somebody else, bassed on your experiences and reading your blog !

    There is certainly enough information in your blog and the replys by your avid readers ( for which i am one !) to accomplish such a task .

    Just said i’d clear that missunderstanding up !


    • The Plankton says:

      Don’t worry in the least bit, Dan, I know you are a loyal follower. Poor Fiona got the thin end of my tongue because various commentators seemed to be vitriolic at the idea of my landing a column/book/film spin-off of this blog and hers then came and I was feeling rather pissed off about it and decided to speak up about it at last. Best wishes, Plankton

  • DAN says:

    Dont worry plankton you will always be forgiven !

    All of us planktons have moments when we all feel vulnerable to any comment made about us !

    I’ts just very important that what we are writing is not missenterpreted in the wrong manner.

    Thirty people can read a sentance and take 20 different views as to what that statement is saying .

    At least on your blog we can correct any missenterpretation as you have seen on countless occaisions. HOW GREAT IS THAT ?



  • plumgrape says:

    Well done, Dan, absolutely true. I told a Canadian friend this evening that I had directly asked an American if she was “spoken for”? I got no reply or response at all. Rob said that he thought that was ridiculous because it implied ownership! I said that I had recently read that all things reflect sex=ownership, but that I had thought as a Briton this was a straight question implying or enquiring about whether a person could even be seen or not. 30 questions and 20 different interpretations indeed. We are all speaking ten thousand languages and they may be the teachings, learnings and understandings of our mothers putting their own personal and interpretive slant on our subsequent comprehending of our own mother/mother’s tongue.

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    Does managing a well-established blog like yours require a large amount of work?
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