A million love songs

‘This track came on and I thought, “That’s not him. That’s not this kid I’ve just seen.”

“About that tape you gave me, what’s on it?”

‘I said, “It’s me…”

‘So I said “That Million Love Songs track, is that you singing?” He went, “Yeah.”

‘But who’s made all the music behind it?’

I said, “I do it all in my bedroom. It’s just me, the whole thing.”‘

Take That, For the Record

I went on a date earlier this week, and a hour or so in, my least favourite question came up.

‘When did your last relationship end?’

What do you say to that, at thirty-one, when you’ve never had a last relationship? 

When it comes to love and relationships, I’m pretty much still a teenager. I have no experience of making an actual relationship work, no knowledge of the compromises it involves or the communication it requires.

I worry about that a lot, as you’ll know if you’re a regular reader. I want children. I want, if I’m honest, to be loved. And although I don’t believe you can rely on someone else to fill the gaps in your self-esteem, but I want, need, someone to prove me wrong about every assumption I’ve made in my life regarding my disability and my spiky personality making me unlovable.

I’m a cynic, but I’m also a diehard romantic.

When I went to see Take That live, for like the hundredth time, in June, I was always intending to follow up with a blog post. I was going to write about the way my affection for the band has changed over the years: twenty-two years ago I would hole up in my room and play the lyrics I loved over and over again, notably the bit at the end of I Can Make It, where Mark Owen croons ‘I bel-ieve we can make love, forevvvver.’

These days when I hear that lyric, it makes me laugh. It makes me think ‘Ow, that would chafe,’ rather than ‘OMG, that’s so *romantic.* In general, many of the early tracks have meant less and less to me as I’ve got older. I still listen to them, for their nostalgic value, but (luckily) they don’t speak to me the way they did when I was a pre-teen.

So these days, I mainly listen to the more upbeat, newer stuff, as do most of my friends. Being a Take That fan is (honestly!) less about having a huge crush on Gary Barlow and more about the cheerfulness of familiar pop music, of something that feels safe, and familiar, and uplifting all at the same time. It’s about one of those rare moments when I go to gigs and am amazed by the way three guys can unite a room full of women.

But A Million Love Songs holds a special place in my heart. Written by Gary when he was sixteen, it smacks of a teenager’s view of love, but it’s lovely nonetheless. Last night, when it came on shuffle, I switched off the lights, sat on the floor with a glass of wine, and thought about what it means to me.

‘Close your eyes but don’t forget 
What you have heard 
A man who’s trying to say three words 
Words that make me scared’

That’s how I feel about the idea of love in a reciprocal, healthy relationship. I want it, but fear that I won’t find it, or that I’ll find it and it’ll all go tits up, properly holds me back.

There’s part of me, too, that feels I missed out. That giddy, childish, carefree early relationships passed me by and that now I have to take it all so much more seriously, because I have so many hopes and dreams invested in it.

Sometimes, that pressure makes me want to run in the opposite direction, to not give any more of myself to potential partners, to avoid hurt by avoiding hope. Sometimes I just need something that lets me be eleven again, with less fear, less worry.

And sometimes, just sometimes, I can make it feel like that’s true.

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Just missionary: why *anyone* can write a sex blog

It looks like I had it all planned out, doesn’t it? I think I’ve even gone so far as to claim in an earlier post that the whole ‘(of sorts)’ thing was designed to let me write about anything I wanted because I don’t believe that there’s any reason to split blogs into strict genres. It’s almost believable.

Except it’s actually bullshit. The real reason I tagged the qualifying bit on the end is that I’m so clearly *not* a sex blogger – six sexual partners, five of them for one night only, a fear of receiving oral, a flirtation with a d/s dynamic that wasn’t even a thing when I started writing SBOS – I wanted to write about sex, but I didn’t think anyone would take me seriously.

Where am I going with this? Well, I read this post by Girl on the Net earlier and started thinking about which of my posts get the highest hit rate or number of retweets. It’s harder for me to tell than her – the majority of my posts have similar figures – but without a doubt, two types of posts get retweeted more than others. The sex ones and the ones in which I write about my relationship with my body.

But you’re not reading me for the filth. The sex I have, d/s dynamic or not, is pretty vanilla. My love life is a car crash, but I hope you’re not reading me for that reason, either. I hope you’re reading me because you can relate. I hope you’re reading me because I try to capture the mundanities and the day-to-day dramas of my life as much as I do the ‘Wow!’ moments.

One thing I’ve learned in the course of blogging is that I don’t want to document all the sex I have, and certainly not in public. Generally I’ll write about sex for one of two reasons: because a particular detail is haunting me, or because I’ve learned something about myself. If I wrote about every sexual encounter, it would leave you cold. Fucking can be as dull to read about as anything else.

If Girl on the Net gets the urge to do any more stats analysis, I’d be really interested to know how the posts about her relationship stack up against the really filthy ones on throat fucking and the like. Because I’m a fan of both but it tends to be the ones about navigating the realities of life with her partner (including the sex they have) that stay with me the longest. And again, not because my reality is in any way similar, but because I’d rather there was one cock, one cunt and an insight into the emotional dynamics behind the sex than three cocks, tits everywhere and a face covered in jizz at the end of the post.

If it sounds like I’m slagging off posts about the kind of sex acts the majority of us might never try, I’m really not. Hell, I’d never have stood in uncomfortably damp knickers in the queue for security at Gatwick if it hadn’t been for this post. It’s just that I wish there were more sex blogs out there and I wonder if what puts people off is not just the thought of putting the most intimate aspects of their lives out there for the world to read about, but the fact that they don’t think they’re having the right kind of sex for a sex blog.

There’s no kind of right sex for a sex blog. If you want to write about it, there’s a good chance I’ll want to read about it. Even if it’s just missionary.

Hell is other people

Another day, another helpful article on the top 10 things you can do to be happier. First things first: I don’t begrudge people sharing this stuff. If it helps you, great – and often there are one or two things in any such list that have worked for me personally. Clinical depression is unlikely to be solved by healthy eating, sunshine and exercise alone, but those things are all beneficial.

There’s actually only one point on the list that I didn’t think was universally true:

2. Connect with people

Our relationships with other people are the most important thing for our happiness. People with strong relationships are happier, healthier and live longer. Our close relationships with family and friends provide love, meaning, support and increase our feelings of self-worth. Our broader social networks bring a sense of belonging. So it’s vital that we take action to strengthen our relationships and make new connections.

Again, if I’d written this a while back, I’d have taken a much harder line. But I’m trying to be less defensive in general. Essentially, I don’t think that when I’m low other people are always beneficial – often I hit rock bottom precisely because I’ve over socialised and I’ve burnt myself out. When I’m in the full grip of constant panic attacks I have nothing to offer socially: socialising isn’t a distraction because I can’t focus on what the other person/people are saying: I need time to re-centre myself, steady my breathing and be present in the moment again. I can’t do that when there are people demanding my attention. But what was interesting was that when I voiced concern about the above on Twitter, a decent number of people replied saying ‘Me too.’

So, here are five points summarising my take on depression/anxiety and social interaction:

1. Not everyone finds socialising easy

Presumably the above means that on average ‘people with strong relationships are happier, healthier and live longer.’ Or perhaps they all are. How do you measure strong relationships anyway? Isn’t that pretty subjective? Either way, this isn’t quite as simple as it looks. Some people live miles from their family, others have problems making friends. I think all of us sit somewhere on the autism spectrum, and for those of us who are worried about that, or worried that they don’t have enough friends, or a partner, or are just plain lonely, being told to spend more time in other people’s company is yet another trigger. Introverts like me, who’ve spent months in therapy battling an inner belief that somehow it’s better to be extrovert, don’t respond well to the prescriptive ‘It’s always best to be around people’ tone of the above: sometimes it is; sometimes you do need space. If you can, try and learn which of the two you need more at any given time.

2. It’s normal that people want you to socialise

It’s hard to recognise it when you’re in the depths of despair, but the people who care about you just want you to get better. They also worry that you’re a risk to yourself, especially if their understanding of depression is limited. It’s natural then that they want you to be around other people: those people can keep an eye on you and make sure you’re not drinking too much/self harming/a danger to yourself. What they don’t always understand is that introverted depressives need that space for proper recovery: being around other people might be a distraction, but it’s an exhausting one and it doesn’t leave me with any resource to care for myself on a more basic level. If you’re worried about someone who’s depressed, check in with them, but respect their boundaries. If you’re depressed, check in with the people who care about you when you can – it means a lot to them.

3. Socialising in the age of social media is fucking hard work

One of the things that puts me off socialising is how flaky people are. The numbers for my thirtieth halved in the weeks running up to it – the only comfort is that I see it happening to other people too, so I guess it’s normal these days. Increasingly I only make plans with friends who I know are reliable – yes, it means the pool of people in my life has shrunk, but the others were contributing more to my anxiety than they were to anything positive. On a similar note, learn if you can to be honest with people about where you’re at: I have friends who I don’t want to cut out of my life completely, but who I just can’t cope with when I’m at my lowest ebb. I still need to learn to be honest with them about that ‘I can’t see you right now, but it’s nothing you’ve done, it’s just where my head’s at,’ rather than the cowardly and upsetting option that I tend to plump for at the moment: ceasing contact for large chunks of time with zero explanation.

4. The social interaction you want won’t necessarily be the social interaction you get

I know what kind of socialising boosts my mood – tea or a glass of wine with a trusted friend; creative activities like baking, writing or craft – more so with strangers than with my friends. I know what kind of socialising kills my mood – big groups of people in the pub, socialising that’s centred entirely around alcohol, house parties where I don’t know many people. Small talk…

The problem is that, in the UK at least, most people’s social lives are dominated by the latter, whether it be drinks with colleagues, weddings, or just a Saturday night out in town. There are many reasons for this, ranging from expense to geography to plain old following the status quo. Probably the most useful thing I’ve learnt in recent years is that it’s ok to turn that stuff down if it’s really not working for you – just make sure you arrange stuff that does work for you with people who make you feel safe, instead.

5. Try not to cut yourself off completely

Linked to the last point, chances are that even if you’re a fully-fledged introvert, you need some level of interaction to function healthily. I know now that I like to be around people, even if I’m not interacting with them – so it’s better for me to go and read in my local Starbuck’s than it is to sit and do it at home. Likewise, last time I had a bad break up, I went home to my parents and returned pretty much to my teenage state for a couple of days: they were around, providing background noise, someone to talk to if I wanted it and most importantly of all, affection, but they didn’t expect anything of me, and if I wanted to sit in my bedroom, listen to music and cry, they let me. I felt better so much quicker than I have done on occasions where I’ve withdrawn completely.

The flip side of this is that I still believe it’s a great idea to learn to be at ease with your own company: at home, in bars, in restaurants, overseas. I’ve lost that, temporarily, and it’s gutting to me, because it’s such a large chunk of what I recognise as me. There’s nothing wrong with doing things alone: last year I travelled alone to New York, where I was meeting friends. In the immigration queue at JFK I started chatting to a woman who was on her own. She’d flown to New York to celebrate her 40th on her own and you know what? I didn’t know why she was alone, whether by choice or circumstance, but I honestly didn’t feel sorry for her. I thought she was brave and admirable for doing what she wanted to do and not needing another person there to do it with her.

Relationships with other people are great, complete isolation is bad. Of those two things I am pretty certain. But dear media, if you’re reading, let’s see a bit of balance around the way we talk about happiness and social interaction. It’s a game of quality, not quantity, and all that really matters is that you work out what works best for you.

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?

On growing out of kink

I haven’t bought my Eroticon 2015 tickets yet. There are a few reasons for that: better to wait until payday, fear of a repeat of last year’s anxiety attack, and, most worrying of all, the ‘hope’ that I’ll be in a relationship that means erotica/sex blogging/kink will no longer be a part of my life.

I use ‘hope’ in the loosest possible sense. I’m not actively looking for a relationship in which I’m unable to express my submissive desires. It’s just that, well, finding decent guys on dating websites is hard enough, so inevitably, there are things on my wish-list I’ve decided I’ll compromise on if I have to. And finding a partner who’s at least a little bit dominant may be one of those things.

And yet. One of the most frustrating conversations I’ve had in recent weeks was with my best friend, who I adore. She’s got through her fair share of unsuitable men over the years, but she’s had some great sex with these men. Recently, she’s started dating a nice guy, but, in her words ‘It won’t last if the sex doesn’t improve.’

Ok, so for her, sex is a priority. Great. All the more frustrating then when, over brunch, I was talking about how it’s only in the last year or so that I’ve really started to embrace submission and how fantastic it would be if I met someone who I not only liked and fancied, but who also shared my kinks, and she said ‘Oh, but that wouldn’t really matter if you met the right person.’

FFS.

I feel like, in a way, I’ve come reluctantly to kink. In the past month two people, completely independently, have pulled me up on my claim to be vanilla, citing my increasing desire for pain, bruising and toys as proof that it’s simply not true. Not to mention increased participation in things like Sinful Sunday. Not only are they right, I’m also having the time of my life, sexually: I’ve discovered what turns me on, I have a sexual partner who’s happy to explore that further with me, and I am *loving* it.

I’ve written before about submission and self-confidence, and unlike Girlonthenet, I still think there can be a link between low self esteem and submission. I think it tends to be a more passive kind of submission – a letting someone else take charge so you don’t make any false moves, rather than purely because it turns you on – but I’d argue that it’s submission nonetheless.

Novels like Fifty Shades of Grey would have us believe that the only reasons you could possibly be interested in BDSM are a) difficult childhood b) trying to hold onto a billionaire who had a difficult childhood. They also promote a very fixed view of what BDSM means: it’s spanking, flogging, bondage, waiting on your knees for your Dom to turn up.

It can be any or all of those things. It can also be none of them. Girlonthenet wrote a wonderful piece a while back about being a ‘stroppy submissive’ and I associate with it more and more. When the boy grabs my wrists and forces them high above my head I don’t submit willingly: I try to wriggle free, desperate to get my hands on his belt, to suck his cock, to touch him. I let him slam them back against the wall, my rings clinking as they hit the plasterboard, and I beg him to let me have his cock in my mouth. When he refuses I don’t look at the floor while my inner goddess pirouettes with joy, I tilt my chin up and look him square in the eye. I’m as defiant in submission as I am outside of the bedroom.

I’d love to find a long-term partner who loved all those things about me and who wanted to embrace them within our relationship. Even before I started exploring my submissive side, sex was a key interest: I’ve been writing erotica for years and years. Not buying an Eroticon ticket for 2015 because I’d met someone who didn’t like that side of me would be a massive let down, really. It would mean I’d compromised massively on who I am. But would I put kink to one side if someone was perfect in every other way? Quite possibly, yes.

If I do though, it’ll be because I choose to compromise. It sure as hell won’t be because I ‘grew out of’ kink.

You took the words right out of my –

I hate women who don’t know how to be on their own. You know the ones – the girls who say, ‘God, I don’t know how you cope with being single!’ when their longest period of being out of a relationship is 2 weeks, or, worse still, the ones who say, ‘Oh, I love being single,’ when really, they never are.

But often I think strong feelings like that towards a particular group of people are born out of something uncomfortable that that group reflects back at you. It’s similar, in a way, to what I was getting at when I wrote this.

I’ve been single literally my whole life. It makes me uneasy when, on shows like ‘Take me out,’ girls say ‘I’ve been single for 3 years,’ and everyone gasps. Because if I talked about being single in terms of years, what would I say? When do you start counting? From birth? Sixteen? After uni?

I’ve been single my whole life, but I’ve never truly been without a man. Since my teens I’ve slipped effortlessly from one infatuation to another. The thought of being truly alone, without even a crush to provide that rush of emotions, that sense of being alive, scares me.

In the past I’ve used the word ‘love’ pretty indiscriminately to describe how I felt about those crushes. I grew up in a family where the word is used freely – I tell my parents and sister that I love them pretty much every time we speak – partly through force of habit, partly because it’s true, and I want them to know it.

It’s not a word I’m afraid of, essentially. But when the boy said, during an argument, something along the lines of ‘I was talking to a friend about this and in her view the problem is … that you’re in love with me and I’m not in love with you,’ it really jarred. It felt like a cheap shot, and I told him so.

The bit that bothers me isn’t the bit you’d perhaps expect. He doesn’t love me, I know that, and so it doesn’t come as a particular surprise to hear him say it. Sure, it stings a bit, because no one likes to hear stuff like that, but that’s all.

Being told that I love him, though? That I’m much less comfortable with. While I’m aware that if you read this blog regularly you might well have come to that conclusion, I’m still uncomfortable with someone else telling him that that’s how I feel. ‘I love you,’ is a pretty powerful phrase and I felt like they were my words to choose to say or not to say, as and when I felt ready.

I don’t feel ready. In this relationship (or whatever you want to call it) I can’t imagine I ever will be. Not that I haven’t conjured up its spirit on occasion: a few weeks back I was having drinks with a friend and she challenged my claim that I’m happy enough with the way things stand.

‘You don’t get it though,’ I countered, ‘I love him.’

She smiled sadly. ‘I don’t think you do,’ she said. ‘You talk about him like he’s the enemy or a battle to be fought and won. That’s not love.’

And you know what? She’s right. If you love someone, there shouldn’t be that much conflict, with yourself or with them. Despite what Hollywood would have us believe, loving someone doesn’t mean having to fight for them, or waging a constant battle against incompatibility. Of course, it is possible to love someone and for it not to come up roses, but if that really is how you feel, what should be coming across is affection, not aggression.

The other thing I think you realise as you get older is that love should be less about you than it is about the other person. Yes, that’s trite. Yes, it’s cliché, but it is essentially true. Most of what I get from him is still about me, selfish though that is – it’s about my sexual confidence, my thrills, my needs. If I’m brutally honest, my attitude to his needs is more often than not that if he doesn’t like what he’s getting from me, he should end it and get it elsewhere. Because I’m compromising so heavily on the open relationship side, I tend to think that all other compromises should be his.

I’ve never been a big fan of the line ‘You have to love yourself before somebody else can love you,’ – hey, we’ve all fallen for people with flaws – but I do think it’s easier to love someone else if you already love yourself. If you believe in what they see in you, it’s easier to look outwards and focus on them. If you don’t, love is just a line you’re feeding yourself to keep fear and loneliness at bay, and that can’t be healthy.

With all that said, I’d be gutted if, when it ends, I, or anyone else who knows about us, writes the whole thing off as pointless because we didn’t love each other. I think society still has a tendency to gloss over situations that don’t fit a standard narrative – especially the media. It’s bullshit. Love isn’t the only thing that can change you; it’s not the only thing you can learn from. It’s just one potential happy ending in amongst a whole heap of others.

Game changer

Mini-breaks are game changers. Literature (in the loosest sense of the word) and film both tell us so.

Take Lydia in Pride and Prejudice. It’s not Wickham & co. being stationed in Hertfordshire that causes problems here. Oh no. It’s when she goes to Brighton for a spot of seabathing (I may be paraphrasing) that it all goes dreadfully wrong. And how do Wickham and Lydia get punished for their flighty behaviour? They are, according to Mrs Bennett, “banished to the North.” The death of lust is spelt out by having to spend an indeterminate amount of time in one (fairly grim) place.

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Why difference is hot

I have a work crush: a tall, rangy, floppy-haired designer who wears skinny jeans and a pretty smile. He’s male model hot, sure, but more than that, I’m drawn in by what he’s good at – the fact that in an hour long meeting he can cover an A4 page with beautiful, intricate doodles a million miles away from my wonky hearts and stars. Every so often he pauses in his scribbles to pick up his mug, which, appropriately, is emblazoned with the slogan Hot Tot Tea. He catches my eye and I look down at my notepad and blush. I haven’t mastered the art of checking him out subtly yet.

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It’s not my intention to give you blue balls

Last night, Laurie over at My Potential One True Love wrote this, about dating and being single. I liked it and it resonated, so I shared it on Twitter. Since setting this blog up, I don’t think anything I’ve tweeted has been retweeted so quickly and so widely. Clearly it’s not just me for whom it rings true.

If you read this blog regularly, you’ll know I don’t really date. I say I’m going to date, but in reality my patience levels with OKCupid are similar to those of an eleven-year-old boy with ADHD.

And here’s why.

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