Shoop Shoop

Sometimes, conversations on Twitter rumble on in the background for so long, I forget what the original point was. This was one such conversation and I had to actually go back and retrace it to its roots. Turns out I started it. Colin Firth: would he be good in bed?

Most of Twitter said no. ‘He’d take it *way* too seriously, ‘ seemed to be the most common concern. And from there it spiralled into a conversation about what makes us assume a man will be good in bed. Dancing appeared on the list, as did ‘quiet confidence.’ But kissing? Kissing came up again and again and again.

I make no secret of the fact that that’s a long held belief of mine. Potential partners have lived and died (not literally) by their kiss.

Way back when I was seventeen or so, there was a guy in a nightclub. He may well not have been attractive, but the Smirnoff Ice  had been flowing and when he approached me on the dance floor it didn’t take much to persuade me to snog him.

‘Who was that guy?’ one friend asked, as we stumbled home. ‘He looked like he’d fallen from the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down.’

Harsh.

But fuck me, he could kiss.

I think he was only the second guy I’d ever kissed, in fact. He was the first to show me that good kissing (and ok, ok, a well-placed thigh between my legs) can make me wet faster than anything else. Kissing makes me want to both rush headlong into full on sex and delay full on sex for as long as possible so that we can just keep on kissing.

Cher had it wrong, sadly. You can’t tell if he loves you so from his kiss – like it or not, that is in the way he acts. God knows good kissers can make you feel like it’s love, though: I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve said to friends, ‘But how can he kiss like that and not *mean it?*’

With sex, I think if you asked me to rank positions by preference, I could do it pretty easily. Missionary, WoT, Doggy. If you asked me to list my preferences regarding kissing, I’d struggle. Those butterfly-soft kisses all over my face when his cock is deep inside me? The ones that are so punishing they bruise? The first one of the evening, when, for a few moments at least, I get to stop worrying about when I’ll next see him and just get to enjoy it?

How on earth could you ever choose between any of those?

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Damaged heroes and tea-swilling heroines

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So, by my calculations there are 7 days and oh, 12 blog posts left until the end of October. And I really want to hit the full 31 posts because I have a bit of a project that I want to launch on November 1st and I’m only going to do it if I complete the blog posting challenge successfully.

With that in mind, missing this week’s Wicked Wednesday was a slight disaster.

It sort of took me by surprise, even though I’d been thinking about the prompt since a conversation I had with Kristina Lloyd at her book launch last Saturday night. Well, sort of. It actually also ties in really nicely with something I’ve been thinking about since I went to a couple of events at the Cheltenham literature festival at the beginning of the month.

Anyway, let’s start with the prompt. I feel a little guilty saying this, but drunk, rambling man in a bar feels a bit cliche to me. Or rather, it feels cliche, but also an entirely feasible situation with which to start a story.

Back, briefly to the literature festival. The first talk I went to was this, on the ‘Rise of the anti-heroine.’ Although I fully recognise that feminism still has a long way to go, and that men and women are far from equal, I’m always stunned as to how much this affects women in fields like literature. It’s supposedly harder to get published if you’re a woman, something which kind of makes sense when you look at things like the statistics behind ‘The Year of Reading Women.’

I have a handful of notes from that evening – one of which just says ‘relatable, likeable.’ Another is a quote from Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn, which i failed to copy down exactly but is something along the lines of ‘Feminism is the ability to have female characters who are bad.’ One of the authors on the panel said that women writing chick lit are told that their female characters must be the kinds of women you’d want to sit and drink tea with. I think that’s meant to mean ‘sweet and nice’ – in short, the kind of women I personally loathe spending time with. I’m pretty flawed and I like to spend my time, both when I’m reading and in real life, with women who are equally so. Which is probably why I haven’t read chick lit for years. Someone else said that what we refer to as ‘the anti heroine,’ if it was a male character would simply be referred to as realistic and interesting.

I finished The Lemon Grove back in August, and so I asked Helen Walsh about her portrayal of anal sex in the novel, which caused a bit of a stunned silence, but hey, I can handle that. More specifically, what I asked was ‘Is an openness and a love of sex for the sake of sex a characteristic of the anti-heroine?’ The answer was pretty much ‘Yes.’ So you can imagine my joy when, after I’d asked that question, a middle-aged man (in a mainly female audience) asked for the mic and posed the question ‘Why does writing strong women have to mean writing about sex?’ I gave him side-eyes, but I don’t think he noticed. I can’t quite remember what the panel said, but my answer would be ‘Because for so long we haven’t been able to. So suck it up.’ As an aside though, things are hopefully changing. The boy walked in on me in the middle of reading that anal scene: when I asked him what he thought of it he said ‘You might want to use some lube, love.’ Which is definitely progress of a kind.

Let’s go back to men. Based on what I’ve said up till now, you’d think male characters have a much easier ride of it. After all, complex men are just realistic and interesting, right? Well, yes, up until the arrival of a certain billionaire (by the by, I was in WH Smith today and the covers in the erotica section are now literally fifty shades of grey. Who is still reading/publishing/buying these novels?)  Except it seems that in erotica, if you’re writing men  who have much growth/self-discovery to do as the heroine, men who are still learning about/discovering their own desires and men who make (sometimes pretty awful) mistakes as a result of that, those men are automatically ‘damaged.’ I call bullshit. *That’s* equality – learning about sex, about desire, about what turns us on and off, about sometimes misjudging things is something we all do, not because we’re male or female, but because we’re human. Those are the kind of men I want to read, and more importantly the kind I want to write. The photo at the top of this post is my notes from feedback from my writing group: at the top right it says ‘Neither character has proper character arc; he’s on the margins; entire relationship is a projection onto him.’ Those things are top of my list of things to fix. Because I don’t want cardboard cutout men, or women who are dependent on those men for everything they discover about sex. Real men do get drunk and messy in bars. So do real women. Life is messy. Fiction should be too.

Time is a feminist issue

I’ll begin this by saying that I think a lot of people may disagree with what I’m about to say. Certainly the friend I mentioned it to this evening did. Please do add your thoughts in the comments, whether you agree or not – I’d be interested to hear other people’s thoughts.

Anyway. In comparison with a lot of women, there are very few claims on my time. I work full-time, sure, and there are a couple of hobby-related regular commitments in the evening, but I’m not raising children, working hours and hours of overtime or caring for someone who’s sick or elderly. I’m a single woman, a free agent, and my diary is relatively uncluttered.

None of that means that my time isn’t valuable. There are lots of things I need/like to do when I have free time – meet friends for drinks, laundry, food shopping, blogging, writing. And I like to know in advance where those things are going to slot into my week. That makes me neither a better nor a worse person than someone who likes to fly a bit more by the seat of their pants.

I should also, in the interests of full disclosure, remind you that time keeping is not one of my strengths. I’m regularly 15-30 minutes late. I’m occasionally guilty of doing that thing where you send a ‘Just leaving now!’ text when you still have wet hair and are wearing only your knickers.

But I don’t bail. Last night I went to someone’s birthday drinks. She’d invited somewhere between 15-20 people. Most had replied to say that they’d be there, but when I turned up, halfway through, the majority had texted some excuse as to why they had to cancel at short notice. This kind of shit drives me crazy. As she said herself, if people had said no in the first place, or the week before, she could have made the decision to cancel. The way it actually worked out, as the night wore on the pub kept moving us to smaller and smaller tables as it became obvious people weren’t going to show. I doubt it ruined her birthday, but it can’t exactly have made it, either.

So yes, both men and women can be lame. But in my experience it’s far more often men who are guilty of suggesting plans, promising to confirm by a certain time/day, and then not bothering, so the woman has to chase, which makes her feel needy, naggy and generally pretty damn unattractive. Once or twice I’ll forgive this, but if it becomes a pattern, not so much. If it becomes a pattern I will nag you, I will become shrill and needy, and I will pick a fight, even though it won’t help.

Why a feminist issue, though? Well. You could (and I’m going to) argue that men call the shots much more in dating than women do, especially in the early days. I see tweets every day from women about men who’ve arranged dates only to cancel at the last minute. And, something which I’ve had more experience of myself, and which I hate even more: men who initiate conversations via dating websites, who want to flirt, who want to sext, who want you to give up a good chunk of your time to interact with them online but who have no intention of meeting up in person, Men who can’t even be bothered to take the time to draft something new when they message you via said sites. Men who clearly haven’t even taken the time to read your profile. Men who, essentially, think their time is *much* more important than yours.

That’s the impression it gives too when, a bit further down the line, a guy suggests meeting up on a Sunday and says he’ll confirm by, let’s say, Friday evening. I generally like to have my weekend plans firmly in place by Friday, but I like him, so, ok, I can wait till Friday. Friday comes and goes. Nothing. Saturday evening comes. Still no word. I text, and ok, by now I probably sound a bit stroppy. I say something like ‘I guess tomorrow’s not happening, then? And the reply, of course, says ‘Sorry! No, couldn’t make tomorrow in the end.’

There are of course other explanations here. That he’s generally flaky. That he just doesn’t give a fuck about me. There’s probably some truth in both of those statements. But I do think it’s partly because he’s a man, and because he’s been socialised to believe that his time, his wants and his needs, take precedence. And even if he doesn’t believe those things, he has *no idea* how often women’s time is at the mercy of the decisions men make. So boys, if you really want to be feminist, start by texting when you say you will.

20 things all men should know about sex

I know, I know, I’m not Buzzfeed. But bear with me. Someone asked if I would guest write a post about 25 things all men should know about sex and I turned them down. Which, retrospectively, was probably an error. It was a good opportunity. But a) I don’t think list posts are generally that interesting and b) I wasn’t that keen on the ‘all men’ part, so instead I asked Twitter what answer they’d give to that question. Three bloggers (if you count Bangs & Whimpers as a unit) kindly offered to contribute their top 5 and here they are, along with mine.

Horny Geek Girl

While everything HGG has to say here is a great point, I’m particularly with her on point #3. Just because someone says yes to something on one occasion doesn’t mean they’d say yes tonight. Check in – regularly. And check out Horny Geek Girl if you like sex blogging, food porn, geekery or great tits. You’ll find her here and here.

1) Sex isn’t just about penetration. It’s not about getting us wet enough that you can ‘slip’ inside. Lots of ladies can’t come from penetration alone. Sex is about mutual pleasure. Which leads nicely to my next point.

2) Sex doesn’t have to stop just because YOU came. As I said before, it’s about mutual pleasure – ladies can multiple orgasm much more easily than you men, and for some even if they don’t come it’s still a pleasure. Communicate with your partner, is she enjoying it? Is she wanting more?

3) Just because a woman has shared her body with you doesn’t mean you now own it. I don’t care where your cock, hands, tongue etc. have been, my body is MINE. Yesterday, today and forever. I may choose to share it with you again, multiple times, or exclusively, this still doesn’t mean you own it. It is MINE.

4) Yes, women can enjoy sex, yes, we can enjoy multiple partners, yes, we can sleep with whoever we want whenever we want. No this doesn’t mean you can call us slut, slag, easy, tramp, etc. unless we ask you to. Mutual respect. If you get a high five for ‘banging’ the hot chick from the bar, I want one for fucking the hot guy from the gym.

5) Sex is messy. If you’re getting busy and there’s blood, please don’t freak out. This can mean we’re on our period but often it just means you were a bit enthusiastic and your nail scratched the delicate tissue and it’s bleeding a lot because when we’re aroused blood cause the area to ‘engorge’ and swell. A rinse with cool water usually fixes it. Freaking out over it makes things awkward. Please don’t freak.

Bangs & Whimpers

Bangs & Whimpers write lots of seriously hot little vignettes about their escapades on their Tumblr, which comes highly recommended. You can also find them on Twitter. Here are their top 5:

1) It isn’t a race
Sex shouldn’t be rushed. The quicker you thrust the less likely the person you’re fucking is going to relax. Yes, okay, thrusting quickly IS going to give someone an orgasm but you need to vary the pace, switch things around a little. Slow, long, deep strokes varied with quick ones. We’re not saying quickies aren’t great and don’t have their place – we are saying you have to have variation. Speed isn’t sexy. Sex should be viewed as a good meal with at least three courses – starter, main and dessert. Not a KFC or McDonalds.

2) Communicate
We aren’t saying talk all the goddamn way through with a running commentary. Or indulge in ridiculous clichéd sexy talk. Or even anywhere in between the two. Letting the person know what she’s doing is feeling good and you’re about to come is always useful. Generally encouragement on either side is great, although we said earlier it isn’t a race, cheering each other on is just lovely.

3) Make sure you’re clean
It sounds obvious but the woman you are about to fuck has probably a) shaved her legs b) trimmed her bush c) moisturised, buffed, trimmed and perfumed herself in anticipation of this moment. We aren’t saying you need to do exactly the same but decorum dictates your dong should be clean. We’re probably going to put it in our mouth so make sure it doesn’t smell like days old washing (yes, this did happen to one of us)

4) Saying you don’t wear condoms just isn’t cool.
There is no exception here. You just can’t be too careful. Even if your partner is on birth control you are both at risk of STIs etc. it sounds boring and oh yes it feels different and better without one – sorry sunshine – no bag no shag.

5) Oral sex is the gateway to an orgasm
Well, it is in our book anyway. So its worth spending a little time down ‘there’ even if its to get a small precursor of what is to come. Likewise, she will want to spend some time getting to know your cock, after all you’re going to put it inside her, right? And if you can make her come with your tongue you are in for a really good time. Hell, she might want to marry you!

Any Girl Friday

Em, aka Any Girl Friday, writes a beautifully fun, thoughtful and discursive blog. She was also good enough not only to contribute her top 5, but to expand on her thoughts here. You can find her on Twitter, too:

1) Wet, wet, wet. Nothing is worse than a guy thinking that a quick nipple flick and some half hearted neck nuzzling is enough to get the engine running. It’s not. Guys who rush straight in, fingers ready, like horny 14 year olds, need to know that we probably won’t appreciate the friction burns. Lube it up, suck your fingers first or get her to suck them before you start exploring.

2) A WOMAN IS MORE THAN JUST HER BOOBS. Sure, it feels awesome when you treat them to some time but other parts exist bro; don’t ignore her shoulders, collar bone, back, inner thighs, neck or stomach. Also, that area above the knicker line feels incredible when lightly kissed or if you run your fingertips across it.

3) Kissing – this is my number one bugbear. As teens, snogging for hours was the hobby of choice but as we’ve gotten older it seems to have fallen by the wayside. Now, a bit of kissing at the start is the most you can expect. Nothing is hotter than kissing combined with some heavy petting though so don’t rush past this step. Kiss her lots!

4) TEASE. Good foreplay and build up will do wonders for the get her wet situation. This includes oral, clit play, kissing, exploring each other’s bodies and spending the time it takes for her to be turned on.

5) Don’t buy into the media bullshit about women and sex. Our orgasm isn’t an elusive holy grail that is only possible on the third Tuesday of a leap year, so don’t believe for a second that leaving her hanging is acceptable. A women is entitled to sexual pleasure, to enjoy sex and to do what she wants in the bedroom without being judged or being held accountable to society’s warped standards of femininity.

And here are mine:

1) Trust is paramount, and not just in the bedroom. The sex, and the general mood, will be a hell of a lot better if you’re reliable, make cancelling on me a once in a blue moon exception rather than the rule, and are honest about stuff from the get-go, even if it might upset me. If you’re seeing multiple people, I deserve to know that – only then can I make an informed decision about whether I want to sleep with you or not.

2) Intimacy is best served as a sandwich – even if you’re absolutely amazing at making me feel like I have your full attention before the act: not checking your phone, asking interesting questions, lots of kissing and slow build up, it’s a waste if as soon as we’ve fucked you’re up and off the bed disposing of the condom and generally not letting me savour the moment. Cuddles aren’t obligatory: lying with me for a bit while I bask in the glow is.

3) Don’t forget to tell me that you think I’m beautiful/hot. I feel like this gets lost sometimes, especially when you’ve been fucking someone for a while, but it makes my day to hear you say it.

4) Don’t be afraid to suggest trying new stuff. Obviously, no means no, but if I say ‘maybe,’ or my current favourite, ‘No… Er, yes?’ it means I probably am up for trying what you’re proposing, I’m just nervous about it and might need some coaxing. Point #1 above should help with this.

5) It’s not all about my clit. I suspect this is a little bit my wildcard, and some (many?) women might disagree with me, but I’m not a huge fan of you rubbing my clit when you’re fucking me. It’s true that I probably won’t come from penetration alone – it’s happened a few times, but it’s the exception rather than the rule – but penetration is a pleasure in its own right and playing with my clit, whether it’s me or you doing it, just makes me feel like I’m trying to pat my head and rub my tummy all at the same time. I’d rather just focus on that wonderful sense of fullness, if it’s all the same to you…

So there we have it – 20 things all men should know about sex. If you disagree or think there are other key ones we’ve missed, feel free to add them in the comments.

‘Being Thick Gets Dick’ – My Take – Part 2

So, on Monday, I wrote a post inspired by a piece over at My Potential One True Love, on whether girls who don’t play down their intelligence are less likely to get laid. I concluded that, personally, I don’t ever feel that I have to dumb down to attract guys, although sometimes I choose to. Before I wrote the post, I had a conversation on Twitter with Juniper from The Cut of my Jib about what is actually is that puts guys off intelligent girls, if it isn’t their brain power. With regard to me, at least, these are my conclusions:

I never shut up

I live on my own, and I love it. Seriously love it. But even though I obviously get to talk a normal amount when I’m in the office every day, as well as when I’m out with friends, it’s as if when I’m home alone, the words are just building up in my head, dying to escape, and so, when I find someone to bombard with them, I, well, do just that. My parents say that when I go and stay with them, I’m exhausting for the first couple of days while I’m offloading the backlog of conversation that’s built up in my head, and then, once I’ve got it out of the way, I go back to talking a normal amount. I think uni had an impact here, too – my Cambridge friends all believed that any subject was fair game for an argument/heated discussion, so now when someone says something that I feel strongly about, I can’t just let it go. 

I don’t think boys (and other people too, but this post is about boys) mind that per se, but I can see that it could get pretty tiring after a while. I’m always confused by those girls who drag their boyfriends round the shops on Saturdays – haven’t their boyfriends had enough of them by now, don’t they want a break from each other? – but maybe those girls are quieter and more restful to be around,  so the boyfriends don’t have to have time out just to replenish their conversational abilities, or, y’know, just to remember what quiet sounds like.

Juniper said she even talks during sex, although about sex, not about what she’s having for tea. I think I actually have been known to talk about what’s for tea during sex – in my defence, it was because I got jumped while I was in the process of trying to put tea in the oven.

I overthink everything

Ah, another Cambridge legacy, this one – although perhaps one that’s linked to the depression, as well. If something hurts me, angers me, upsets me, I can’t just let it go – I’m totally incapable of distracting myself by watching a film, or reading a book – I just keep turning it over and over in my mind, considering the various what ifs from all the different angles, and often, when it comes to relationships, settling on the version of events that is most harmful, most destructive, because I can’t bear the thought of getting hurt because I was naive, or because I turned a blind eye to something. It’s knackering inside my own head – I can’t imagine how tiring it is for someone else to try to follow my train of thought.

I don’t really fit in / like other people

You know that line about how you can feel loneliest of all when you’re surrounded by other people? Yep, that’s me. I’ve never quite felt that I fitted in – I’m absolutely shit at small talk and I feel on the fringes of both normal people and people with a disability. At eleven, my mum took me to NHS physio sessions with a load of other kids who had cerebral palsy. I was pretty sure I wasn’t as disabled as the other kids in the group, but how could I be certain? It’s like that thing where you put on weight, but you don’t notice it  when you see yourself in the mirror; only when someone shows you a photo of yourself. It was confusing, because I thought I was normal, and there was society telling me that I wasn’t.

Up to that point, I had a pretty big group of friends, but in the years that followed I found it much more preferable to have a handful of very close friends instead – people who understood and liked who I was, and who didn’t force me to step outside of my comfort zone. Meeting new people, which had never been my favourite thing in the world, became steadily even less appealing. I threw myself into my studies, told myself that boys would never be interested, and then set about proving myself right. And somewhere along the line, proving myself right, and disguising my vulnerability with an almighty temper, have become pretty much par for the course.

So yeah, I don’t think it’s my intelligence that puts guys off – I think it’s all this stuff: the fact that I’m a larger-than-life girl who’s capable of being much too intense, way too neurotic, and who won’t have watched any of the films you’ve watched, so won’t be able to have a casual discussion about those with you, either? I never, ever wish I was less intelligent, but I do often wish I could tone myself down a bit. Am I the only one that feels that way?

‘Being Thick Gets Dick’ – My Take – Part 1

The lovely Laurie at My Potential One True Love blogged a few days back about what she at one point in her post called BTGD (Being Thick Gets Dick). She’s uncertain whether this term is crude, so she didn’t title her post that – I think it probably is crude, but I don’t care. After all, my keyring says Cunt. 

Anyway, that’s beside the point. I think it’s an interesting topic. Judging from what she said in her blog post, she and I come from similar backgrounds – homes where education and intelligence are valued, and where your opinions are listened to. For me, the same was true when I went to uni. True, I did a French degree, so there were way more girls on my course than there were boys, but the boys I did know treated me as an intellectual equal, even if, when they declared Madame Bovary to be romantic, my response was: ‘No it’s not, it’s shit.’

In fact, all the boys who’ve played a major role in my life – the ones I’ve slept with, loved, had massive crushes on, my friends – have been pretty damn intelligent. Of the five guys I’ve slept with, three have been Oxbridge-educated, although that’s not, *ahem,* a condition for entry. They listen when I’m ranting on about my views and opinions and they give the impression, at least, of taking me seriously. What’s more, they’re capable of taking me seriously over a glass of wine and then fucking me senseless later in the evening. So far, so good – I’m getting my dick without having to pretend to be in the slightest bit thick.

But here’s the embarrassing bit. Sometimes I like to play the ditzy woman in the company of men. I don’t mean that I pretend not to know stuff that I do know, more that I’m er, guilty of steering the conversation in the direction of subjects that I’m much less knowledgable about. In her post, Laurie used this quote from the ITV show Take Me Out:

“So, like, you seem proper intelligent, yeah.  Like if I asked you, like a question, would you be able to answer it?  Like do you know what the capital of Germany is then?”

Why is it always bloody Germany? Let’s just clarify at this point that I do know what the capital of Germany is, but when people (sometimes boys, sometimes not) catch me out on geographical knowledge, it usually has something to do with Germany. My Granddad, who used to sit me on the rug in front of the fire and quiz me about world capitals, would turn in his grave if he could see some of the howlers I’ve committed with regard to German geography. I told my mum it was landlocked (she reminded me it has a Navy). The boy and I once had a conversation about the countries that border it. I was doing ok, and then I ran out of ideas. I think he said something like ‘You must know what the other one is. It’s pretty big,’ and I replied ‘Er, Russia?’

To be fair to me, this is not entirely wrong, it’s just very out of date. It turns out that it’s easy to forget about the existence of Poland in modern Europe. I can’t remember if he laughed so hard he shed actual tears, but I do have a distinct recollection of watching his shoulders shake. And truth be told, I liked it – making him laugh was worth bringing my intelligence into question for.

And so I’ve not stopped asking silly questions, or at least phrasing my questions in a way that makes it sound like I’m about to ask something really stupid. Lying in a hotel room with him, watching postcoital BBC World (the sexiness of my life knows no bounds), a report came on about the Central African Republic. I said ‘Can I ask a question about the Central African Republic?’ He smirked. ‘Are you going to ask where it is, because I’m going to give you five seconds to decide you don’t want to ask that question.’ That wasn’t what I was going to ask, and I could have protested that he doesn’t take me seriously, but really, where’s the fun in that? Far better to squeal in mock indignation at his meanness, because it’s true – that is the approach that’s far more likely to end in laughter, and ultimately, more sex.

But he’d fuck me either way, as, I’m sure, would other guys, so why do I do it? I could get laid and maintain some dignity. Well yeah, I could, but here’s my theory. Clever girls never get to be the class clown. They’re too busy sucking up to the teachers, making perfect revision notes that get photocopied for the rest of the class (yes, I really was that obnoxious) and, if I’m really honest, trying not to get bullied. It’s only by the time we’re in our twenties and thirties that we’re comfortable enough with ourselves, secure enough in who we are, to want to draw that much attention to ourselves. It’s not that we think that we have to play thick to get dick – it’s just that we’ve always wanted the opportunity to try it. Most girls did it at fifteen. Me? I’m doing it now.

OK, Cupid, we’re done

I was talking to a friend the other day about New Year’s Resolutions. Her theory was that you should save them for Spring, because the desire for change is greater when the weather’s warmer and the whole world feels like it’s renewing itself. It’s not a bad theory, but  I’m even more in favour of an even gentler approach: that we put too much pressure on ourselves generally and resolutions should be avoided at all times. Life is pretty damn hard: be kind to yourself.

With that conversation in mind, as well as this blog post which I wrote a few weeks back, I spoke to another friend. I told her that my plan is (eventually!) to stop focusing on my short term pleasure/happiness, and instead to dedicate myself to the long game. She assumed, unsurprisingly, that by ‘the long game’ I meant finding a guy to settle down and have children with. I didn’t, actually, or at least, not entirely, I more meant that I want to find a calmer, more steady sense of contentment than the one I have now. Quite a few people have commented on my post about babies, saying that yes, it probably is best to call it quits on friends-with-benefits type relationships, and work harder at finding something more meaningful if that’s what I want in the long term. I agree, with the first part, at least, and so 2014 will be the year I stop sleeping with the boy. Honest.

‘Great,’ she said, ‘I’m sure you’ll meet someone fantastic, there are loads of great guys online.’ 

‘I’m going to stop internet dating, too.’

There was a pause. A long pause. Then she said ‘Well, I can understand why you’d want a break, but I’m sure you’ll feel more like it if you have a month off.’

‘No,’ I said, ‘I mean it. I hate it, and I’m not doing it any more.’

We went back and forth like this for a while – her trying to persuade me that I’d feel better about it after some time off; me increasingly pissed off that she just didn’t seem to get what I was saying. Sure, OKCupid and Tinder can be fun; and can be flattering, but they also exhaust me and play havoc with my already fragile mental health.

Earlier this year, I had a few weeks of back and forth flirting with a guy on OKCupid. The conversation repeatedly came back to his desire that we should meet for drinks, and then get a hotel room and fuck each other senseless. The bit that made me wary was that we couldn’t just go back to his. When I mentioned it to a friend, she said ‘He’s married.’ And so I asked him outright. And sure enough, yes, he was. His wife though, apparently, was ‘fine with it,’ so I went along with it too, enjoying the flirting and the potential for some dirty, no-strings sex like I used to have. I was nervous, sure, but I had no intention of backing out. He, however, did – the night before we were supposed to meet.

That was my last serious interaction with anyone on the site. I still have an active profile, still reply to the odd message, but not really with the intention of it going anywhere – I genuinely hate the emotional ups and downs, as well as just how hard you have to work at the communication, all, it seems, with very little return. 

So, I plan to start 2014 by deleting both my OKCupid and Tinder profiles. Meeting someone is important to me, but feeling calm and emotionally stable is so much more so. I have much more to say about this blog post by Juniper, but suffice to say for the moment that the first few months of this year will be given over to rediscovering the state of solo contentment that she describes so beautifully. Maybe, eventually, I’ll rejoin one of what I consider to be the more serious dating sites – match.com or the like, but for now, I’m giving myself a break from boys.

Educating Yorkshire or fuck, teachers are hot

When Educating Yorkshire was on, back in the autumn, the potential hotness of the teachers in it never really crossed my mind, which was surprising, because a) Caitlin Moran had quite a lot to say about it and b) way back when I was the queen of the teacher-crush. 

In my early teenage years, I went through crushes on teachers like most girls go through snogging boys in their own year group. There was the cute Geordie tech teacher who ended up being the reason I took Graphics GCSE despite not being able to draw, the history teacher with a penchant for Disney films and yet another tech teacher with amazing forearms. It was all pretty harmless though, until I got to my GCSE year and fell head over heels for the French teacher.

The French teacher was not hot in the way most teachers are hot (ill-fitting suits, intelligence, geekiness, a willingness to lavish attention on you not for how you look but for how you think); he was hot in the sense of truly, truly beautiful. With every crop of new starters, the rumours got more far-fetched – to start with it was claimed that he’d modelled for Next before he became a teacher, and in later years progressed to something about modelling Calvin Klein Y-fronts.

The latter was not totally improbable. He cycled to school every morning and he looked, well, as good as someone can look in lycra, largely because he was hung. Oh yes. He was hung, and I was sixteen, discovering masturbation and erotica, and god, I wanted him. Even to this day I can conjure up the smell of his aftershave just by thinking about it and remember how horny I’d get in 5th period A-Level French, which he taught sitting on his desk in shorts, because he taught boys PE the period before.

Despite some major breakthroughs on my part: I introduced him to my parents, who started inviting him to dinner, I managed to get myself invited along on upper sixth French cinema trips, nothing ever came of it. Oh, ok, I went from being a pretty average linguist to an offer to study languages at one of the best universities in the country, but was the reality of fancying a teacher any better than fancying a boy your own age? No. For me, at least, it was worse.

French was a bad choice of subject for me. I already had massive confidence issues, especially when it came to my body, and I just wanted to fit in. Ironically, my emotional instability at the time was such that everything I did prevented me from fitting in. He wanted to video classes so we could see the errors we were making with the language and learn to correct them, but the video camera sent me into total meltdown. My grades were on track, and I was interested and inspired by the subject still, but I’d storm out of lessons, throw stuff, burst into tears at the drop of a hat. Looking back, it was probably the first occurrence of the depression that’s plagued me ever since, but at the time I couldn’t understand how I could want someone so badly when liking them had such a devastating effect on my self-confidence. It was as if something about liking a grown up, who, let’s face it, was never going to reciprocate, sent me into total regression.

So, partly, I wanted to write about him here because I find it interesting that something which I’d now expect to boost my confidence actually had the complete opposite effect, but also because it’s not something I’ve succeeded in consigning completely to the past. A friend of mine has a dinner party game which consists of conversation starter cards (god, we’re middle-aged already, aren’t we?). We were playing it last NYE and I pulled the ‘Which relationship in your past would you like to revisit?’ card. Technically, it was cheating to say that, despite my hellish behaviour, I’d relive the years from 16-18 in a heartbeat, because it was never a relationship, just a *massive* crush. But do I wish I could relive those years again? Hell yeah. Because I’m still curious about what it would have been like to fuck him – I’d really like to see if what was under the lycra lived up to its promises.

We’re just people who fuck … and buy each other Christmas gifts?

Sometimes I worry that online shopping is my greatest skill. Seriously, I’m the kind of girl who not only has three Amazon wishlists for herself (one for stuff I’d like as gifts, one for boring stuff I need to buy myself and one for stuff to treat myself to – which is mostly erotica), but also has a private one that runs all year round with gift ideas for the people I love. I don’t technically *start* my Christmas shopping until November, but usually I know long before then what everyone else is getting. I don’t understand why people put themselves through the hell of the high street in December when there’s so much good stuff being made and sold by independent designer/makers and retailers. And books. If you have no other ideas, there are always books. Don’t even get me started on the joys of wrapping …

As usual with my blog posts, none of the above has that much to do with the central point here. The point is that, despite all my fabulous lines about how much I don’t care about him, about how we’re not even friends, just two people who fuck, I think I’ve pretty much undermined that with a lot of what I write here, so it probably won’t kill me to admit that, yeah, not buying him anything feels weird.

Actually, since I’ve known him I have bought him gifts at Christmas. Except for this year. Look, I’m trying to stay emotionally detached, ok?! He doesn’t buy me stuff, except for my birthday last year, when he did (best that I leave the specifics to your imagination!) This post isn’t about accusing him of a lack of generosity – he’s definitely well up on the tally chart when it comes to paying for drinks when we’re out and about, nor, really, about accusing him of not caring enough – he’s never made any promises regarding affection – it’s just that buying people stuff is one of the key ways I demonstrate to people that I like them, but I can’t do it with him because it just makes me look stupid.

So, essentially, I don’t want him to buy me a gift because I think I deserve to get stuff from him, or even because, whether I deserve it or not, I want it anyway (and don’t get me wrong, I do *love* it when guys buy me flowers). I’d like him to buy me a gift because then it means I can do  the same for him. Because, in my opinion, when it comes to saying ‘I care,’ nothing says it like ‘I spent twenty minutes tying this ribbon and it still looks wonky and shit.’

On imminent big birthdays

One of my best friends turned 30 today – the first in my uni friendship group to do so. I’m in the slightly strange position of being young for my school year, but old for my uni year because I took a gap year, which means that roughly half of my friends will be turning 30 before I do, while the others still have a year to go.

Let’s get one thing clear: I’m far from having a breakdown at the idea of turning 30. Casual sex aside, I’m really not a massive fan of a lot of things you’re supposed to spend your late teens and twenties doing – clubbing, getting blind drunk, travelling the world – so I’m quite happy to, shhh, whisper it, ‘settle down.’

Quite happy, that is, apart from one thing – I want to be a mum, and I’m worried that the things that need to fall into place for that to happen won’t fall into place until it’s too late. And when I say ‘want to be a mum,’ I don’t say it lightly – I’m the girl at dinner parties cuddling the babies of mere acquaintances, the one who inevitably doesn’t get to eat dessert because my hands are taken up cradling someone else’s kid who’s fallen asleep on my shoulder. I’ve wanted it for as long as I can remember and I don’t see that feeling going away any time soon. 

Society’s views on women like me aren’t often very helpful either – I know I shouldn’t let the Mail rile me, but god I was fucked off when Liz Jones wrote this piece. You might steal men’s sperm as payment for microwaving the odd ready-meal, love, but don’t you dare imply that it’s something the rest of us would do. I think a woman in her early 30s should be able to be open with a man about wanting to have a child without the man automatically assuming that that means that she wants to have one with him, and feeling accordingly threatened because that’s not something he’s interested in.

That, plus the fact that I can’t quite get my head around how I will meet, fall in love with and build a sufficiently strong relationship with a guy before the mental cut-off point that I’ve established by which I need to make this a reality (35, if you must know), means that my usual, defensive position is: ‘I don’t need a man in my life to have a baby, I’ll have one by myself.’ That line though, I’m increasingly realising, is just self-preservation – it’s my way of persuading myself, and other people, that I’m in control and have a game plan, even though the reality is, yeah, not so much.

More and more I’m realising that, while I would still have a baby on my own, I’d rather have one with a guy who I love and who I’m in a relationship with. The question is: if I know that that’s something I want from my life, should I give up the relationships happening in my life now that clearly aren’t leading to that in order to dedicate myself more fully to what I want in the long term, or should I stick with what’s working in the short term and assume that the bigger picture will sort itself given time?