Heads, shoulders, knees and jizz

My bedroom ceiling is low, and he’s short. Not ridiculously so – though you wouldn’t know it from the fuss he’s made about it – but short enough that when he stands on my bed and puts a hand in the air, he can touch it. Or brace himself against it – one hand on the plaster, the other jerking his cock.

I’m not into this. But I’m into sex, that’s who I am, so I’m pretending.

Earlier, he tried to get me off with his knee. Literally wedged it between my legs and rubbed it up and down. Apparently, someone let him whip them one and he’s fascinated by the fact I got flogged the week before, but his idea of playing rough? It’s just, well, rough.

I wrote the above in Hyacinth’s session at the weekend. I haven’t written about sex I’ve had for a long time now – thought I was done with it, in fact – but I’ve been thinking about this for a while, because I think it reflects badly on everybody involved.

When he didn’t text for ten days after our first date, despite telling me repeatedly that I gave ‘the best blow job he’d ever had,’ a friend said, ‘He’s intimidated by you, I reckon.’

I don’t really believe in intimidation in this sense – my view on it is very much in line with this – but equally, I can see that I’m not everybody’s cup of tea. I’m loud, outspoken, not particularly elegant or ladylike, and not everyone wants me to blow them in my kitchen within seconds of walking through the door, right?

In truth, I went down on him because *I* was intimidated. He was the first guy I’d been on a date with for a while who I’d actually fancied, and he’d said by text that he wasn’t looking for anything serious, which was, y’know, fine, even if it wasn’t, really. So, we sat through a date where I felt distinctly more interested in him than he was in me, to the point where I was actually surprised when I said, at the end of the evening, ‘If you want to come back with me, you’d be welcome.’

So, I sucked him, and fucked him, and later that evening he came in my mouth, and then he vanished for 10 days, and then he came back, and I fucked him again, and then he texted me, incessantly, for days, telling me how horny he was, but bailed on actually meeting up.

When I called him out on that, it was indeed that I was ‘intimidating,’ he said, and I was furious, with him and with myself. Furious about the cutesy ‘Oh, I’m not intimidating, it’s just a front I put on,’ text I sent in return, rather than telling him the truth, which was that, actually, I went down on him for the same reason and – guess what – I’d never swallowed spunk before him. Furious that because he was relatively attractive and intelligent I’d marked him as ‘out of my league,’ before we’d even said hello, and had used sex to try and lure him in.

Furious that, after all that, I still fucked him one more time.

And furious that, on my lowest days, I still think this is the best it’s going to get.

 

 

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e[Lust] #79

Elust 79 header
Photo courtesy of Marie Opens Up

Welcome to Elust #79

The only place where the smartest and hottest sex bloggers are featured under one roof every month. Whether you’re looking for sex journalism, erotic writing, relationship advice or kinky discussions it’ll be here at Elust. Want to be included in Elust #80? Start with the rules, come back March 1st to submit something and subscribe to the RSS feed for updates!

~ This Month’s Top Three Posts ~

The Joy of Sucking Cock

Making Porn

My Valentine

~ Featured Post (Molly’s Picks) ~

The One

Midweek Fantasizing – The Portrait

~ Readers Choice from Sexbytes ~

*You really should consider adding your popular posts here too*

Marionette
All blogs that have a submission in this edition must re-post this digest from tip-to-toe on their blogs within 7 days. Re-posting the photo is optional and the use of the “read more…” tag is allowable after this point. Thank you, and enjoy!

Thoughts & Advice on Sex & Relationships

A kiss is just a kiss
Turning Corners
Another Day, Another Planned Parenthood Visit
My first vanilla date
Want, Need the Power of your Masculinity!
I don’t know how to date.

Erotic Fiction

Soft Lips
The Introduction
Erotic Fiction: “Words”
Darkness and the Rose
Taste
THE SESSION THAT WENT WRONG
Be Careful What You Wish For
Motivation
porn
The Tube

Erotic Non-Fiction

For You, It’s Always Yes
Gawan: Intro to Flogging
The Talker: An Introduction
My wildest fantasy: Ship slut
Marionette
Time for something quick…
Spread Legs and Open Mouth
My Girl in Havana
Let’s Watch some Porn

Sex News, Opinion, Interviews, Politics & Humor

An Artist’s Story: Tails and Portholes
Sleeping With Our Future President
To Dude Who Was Offended By Lack of Escort
Try Love, Not Anger
Risky Sex
Why Cosmo is the worst (again!)

Writing about Writing

Condoms: fictional contraceptive of choice
Writing Fat Characters In Erotica

Thoughts & Advice on Kink & Fetish

Masochistic Mastermind
Take me to where I need to be.

 

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[e]lust #78: The one with ‘£10.53’

Malin James Elust 78 Header Image
Photo courtesy of Malin James

Welcome to Elust #78

The only place where the smartest and hottest sex bloggers are featured under one roof every month. Whether you’re looking for sex journalism, erotic writing, relationship advice or kinky discussions it’ll be here at Elust. Want to be included in Elust #79? Start with the rules, come back February 1st to submit something and subscribe to the RSS feed for updates!

~ This Month’s Top Three Posts ~

£10.53
Balance of Light
Advent Calendar 2015 – Day 24

~ Featured Post (Molly’s Picks) ~

Why Sex Fiction?
On using him

~ Readers Choice from Sexbytes ~

*You really should consider adding your popular posts here too*

Guest blog: ‘Quite Delightful’, James Deen and me
All blogs that have a submission in this edition must re-post this digest from tip-to-toe on their blogs within 7 days. Re-posting the photo is optional and the use of the “read more…” tag is allowable after this point. Thank you, and enjoy!

Thoughts & Advice on Sex & Relationships

Make-Up Sex
Wide Open
Believe in You
I am softly athletic
Making a Short Story Long

Erotic Fiction

First Kiss
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
A Spicey Christmas Eve Tale…..
The Annual Christmas Party
If Only He’d Said Yes…
Very Very Necessary
concrete
Holly and Ivy…
Frothy White Stuff
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
30 Minutes

Thoughts & Advice on Kink & Fetish

Boundaries
Stress Makes You Blind and Your Cum Orange
On Eating Ass
Confessions of an Ambivalent Masochist
Joyous Jizz

Poetry

Ode To My Favorite Sex Toy
Earth
Fuckable

Sex News, Opinion, Interviews, Politics & Humor

Lady Fapping: The Itty Bitty Kitty Committee
Does Size Matter?
A Feminist’s Guide to Sexting with Cavemen

Erotic Non-Fiction

Having Angelic Sex With The Virgin Mary
New Lingerie

Blogging

The First Day of the Rest of Our Lives
40. 41. One.
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e[Lust] #76

Elust header
Photo courtesy of Charlie in the Pool

Welcome to Elust #76

The only place where the smartest and hottest sex bloggers are featured under one roof every month. Whether you’re looking for sex journalism, erotic writing,

relationship advice or kinky discussions it’ll be here at Elust. Want to be included in Elust #75? Start with the rules, come back November 1st to submit something and subscribe to the RSS feed for updates!

 

~ This Month’s Top Three Posts ~

Sex and the post-birth vagina

Lonely Things

Just the two of us

 

~ Featured Post (Molly’s Picks) ~

Tiny, shiny, bity snaps of steel…

I have fallen in and out of love with myself

 

~ Readers Choice from Sexbytes ~

*You really should consider adding your popular posts here too*

I had An Abortion

All blogs that have a submission in this edition must re-post this digest from tip-to-toe on their blogs within 7 days. Re-posting the photo is optional and

the use of the “read more…” tag is allowable after this point. Thank you, and enjoy!

 

Erotic Fiction

The End of the Run
Ladies Who Lunch
kink of the week: dirty panties
Release
Brutal Nights
Because I Knew I Shouldn’t
Erotic Fiction: “Everything”
Look, Don’t Touch
As one night ends…
String Quartet
Unmasked: Part 1: The Gift
The Secret Rolls

Erotic Non-Fiction

The lick of love.
Tickle & Tease
Oral Sex, Don’t Forget Oral Hygiene – Whoops!
Feed my senses
Camming With A Foot Lover
Finding the Edges
Word power
The Mail Room
Doing It Herself

Sex News, Opinion, Interviews, Politics & Humor

I Had An Abortion
The 7 Dimensions of Cock

Thoughts & Advice on Kink & Fetish

When I Thought the Scene Was Done
Introducing the Abject Kitten, Part 2
The Joy of Fear
Talking About BDSM With Your Therapist
On Denial (and topping from the bottom)

Thoughts & Advice on Sex & Relationships

I Did It My Way
Two
Fuckin With Fuck Boys Part II
You don’t need my permission to fuck my lover
Undercovers

Writing About Writing

The Hunt for Adult/Sex Friendly Businesses

 

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e[Lust] #75: The one with ‘On Rape Fantasy’

Kilted Wookie
Photo courtesy of Kilted Wookie

Welcome to Elust #75

The only place where the smartest and hottest sex bloggers are featured under one roof every month. Whether you’re looking for sex journalism, erotic writing, relationship advice or kinky discussions it’ll be here at Elust. Want to be included in Elust #75? Start with the rules, come back November 1st to submit something and subscribe to the RSS feed for updates!

 

~ This Month’s Top Three Posts ~

Is it hate? Am I a fraud?
On Rape Fantasy
Just Breathe

 

~ Featured Post (Molly’s Picks) ~

sex, surgery, celibacy

Sex, Death, and Squirting

~ Readers Choice from Sexbytes ~

*You really should consider adding your popular posts here too*

On Filth

All blogs that have a submission in this edition must re-post this digest from tip-to-toe on their blogs within 7 days. Re-posting the photo is optional and the use of the “read more…” tag is allowable after this point. Thank you, and enjoy!

 

Erotic Non-Fiction

How I Became an Escort
I’m 2 and 0 for the season
He fights back
Hands On
The foodslut and the semifreddo…
The Photographer
Ex-Nazi girl: my hand on the back of her head
I Belong To You

Thoughts & Advice on Kink & Fetish

Disciplinary Drives
Surrender
On Filth
On sex positivity in public play
Cock Rings 101
A New Scene

Thoughts & Advice on Sex & Relationships

The Fuck Feast Sexual Literacy Test
Sex Toys in Relationships — Yes, it’s OK.
Negotiating Power
Out of Touch
Don’t catfish: Be you.

Writing About Writing

On Jackie
Trigger Warnings (revisited)

Erotic Fiction

This would be fun
The Fucking Machine.
Erotic Fiction…With Aura
A Little Romance
Domination Dreams
My Pretty Dead Ones
Crushed…

Sex News, Opinion, Interviews, Politics & Humor

5 Hilarious Pieces of Anti-Sex Propaganda
19 Reasons to Cheat on Your Boyfriend

 

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An Open Letter to Cosmo

Dear Cosmo,

I’m writing to tell you that I watched Channel 4’s Sex in Class last night, and I kind of hoped that the teenage boys who said the kinds of things in the tweets below would grow up as they, well, grow up.

Having read your article, I’m not so sure. I haven’t bought you for a while, to be honest. I read you in the hairdresser, if it’s a choice between you and Hello, but if Red or Marie Claire, or even Good Housekeeping, are available instead, then that’s what I’ll pick up.

But let’s be honest, The Last Sexual Taboo (…or is it?) is a good strapline. I’ve been walking past you a lot this month wondering what *is* the last sexual taboo. I still wouldn’t have bought you, but I probably would’ve flicked through you in M&S to find out the answer. And then, as luck would have it, you turned up in the seat pocket of the flight I was on last night.

And I thought ‘Surely it’s not anal?’

Spoiler alert: It’s anal.

I could start by saying, Cosmo, that I don’t think anal is the last taboo. I seem to remember years ago reading that 1 in 3 couples had tried it. I like it. I fantasise about it probably more than I fantasise about anything else. The first time I tried it was fucking amazing. It still scares me a bit, sometimes it hurts, and I worry about it being messy/dirty. But I *do* like it, and although it was a guy who proposed it the first time I tried it, it’s been my suggestion nearly every other time since.

Anyway, let’s talk about the article. Shall we start with the subheadings? Here we go:

  1. Pressure to perform
  2. ‘Dick slips’
  3. Remember the vagina?
  4. Why does he want it?
  5. An erogenous zone?

Two things strike me about these subheads, Cosmo. They’re very negative, and they’re very male-focused. And the problem with the article is evident from the very start:

“I was never interested,” says Jill. “I didn’t want to do it, and I didn’t want to talk about it. But during sex, he would say “Can I put it in your bum?” every time. It seemed really important to this guy, so Jill finally agreed. […]

“It was not enjoyable at all,” she says. “We used lube and a condom and we tried foreplay. But I could hold on for only two or three minutes before I said “I can’t do it!'”

Prince Charming finished up with some vaginal sex that night, and Jill spoke loudly and often about how awful it had been for her. “But he kept on asking.” Eventually he cheated on her, citing her unwillingness to have anal as one of the reasons. Would it shock you to know they broke up?

I wonder why you included this cautionary tale? You could have done a lot with it. You could have pointed out that if you’re switching from anal to vaginal, you need to use a new condom. You could’ve pointed out explicitly that the guy behaved like a dick, rather than just sarcastically referring to him as ‘Prince Charming.’ I’d even have been on board with you pointing out that it’s not ideal to go from ‘I didn’t want to talk about it’ to ‘[I] spoke loudly and often about how awful it had been.’ At least, I think that’s what you mean. When your sentence is ‘Prince Charming finished up with some vaginal sex that night, and Jill spoke loudly and often about how awful it had been for her,’ it’s not clear which was awful: the anal or the vaginal.

OK, so in the next paragraph you are explicit about the guys who have ‘dick slips’ being ‘true assholes.’ This paragraph is a bit better, tbh – it actually begins to tackle the issue of consent responsibly. Still not what I was expecting from what you put on the cover, though. And then you really go and ruin it again.

So when did the vagina stop being the holy grail? When I was growing up it was a treasure to be saved for special occasions with special people.

Honestly, you make a mockery of the newsagent in the town where I went to school, who wanted proof of age before he’d sell you, Cosmo. You had such an opportunity here to inform women about something that can be really hot. Instead, you slipped the tale of the woman who genuinely likes it under the subheading Why does he want it? You picked a married women who said ‘We love it,’ and you phrased her reasoning thus: ‘Rachel likes it because she likes to please her husband, but also because it feels good to her.’ Because god forbid you pick a woman who does it *just* because it feels good to her.

Finally, two paragraphs from the end, you get to the point I think you should have been making all along (although you could’ve dropped the ‘in relationships’ bit):

Women in relationships who mutually decided with their partner to have anal sex talked about a profound experience.

I see what you did here. You commissioned the article from someone who’s thinking about trying anal for the first time because you thought that would make for a more approachable, less intimidating article, right? I disagree. I think the author’s attitude to anal is fearful enough here to actually be off-putting. And maybe I’m a humourless bitch, but I don’t find the ‘thinking of taking a trip to Brownton Abbey‘ line funny, either, especially in the context of an article that seems to suggest that anal goes hand in hand with problematic, immature communication.

You’re getting a new editor next month. And god, I hope for your sake that she brings a fresh approach to mainstream sex writing.

On language learning and sex

On Thursday nights, every other week, I teach English to foreign workers. A few weeks back, with the rest of the class absorbed in a pretty basic exercise, I found myself perched on the desk of a Spanish student whose level of English is well above that of the average student in the lower-level group.

‘I thought we talked about this a few weeks ago,’ I said. ‘You were going to try the higher group, remember?’

This particular student is a real sweetheart. We’d talked previously about whether her grammar was good enough for her to move up a level – I was adament she was, her argument to the contrary was that she occasionally makes mistakes with her tenses. Of course, she could stay in the lower group – it doesn’t make a huge difference to me – but the more I thought about it, and I did think about it a lot, on my way home, the following morning, the more I realised that what makes me sad about it is that she’s letting her fear hold her back.

As soon as I decided I wanted to be good at French, I got good, pretty much. In class, at least. On a holiday to Australia aged 16 I took a grammar workbook which I realised later was aimed at university students. There were no explanations or examples, so I worked through it to the best of my ability, only to find that more often than not I was getting the answers wrong and I had no idea why. I couldn’t recognise how far I’d come in a couple of years, only that I wasn’t yet where I wanted to be.

And I made my life, and a lot of other people’s, an absolute misery.

For two years running, my best friend won the end-of-year French prize and it seemed so bloody unfair, even though, looking back, I can see exactly why that was the case. She was a meek, obedient, disciplined student, good across all four skills, while I, despite being the one with the offer of a place at Oxbridge and the one who spent all her free periods reading French novels, applied myself only to the things I was comfortable with, namely Reading, Writing and Listening. Not speaking. God, no.

It wasn’t all my fault. I had a filthy temper, which I could now tell you was born of anxiety, but at the time I, and everyone else, just assumed meant I was a stroppy, difficult bitch. My French teacher, with whom I thought I was desperately in love, believed that speaking skills were improved by filming class discussion or debating activities and then playing them back to us, so we could identify our errors. I know a bit about language teaching now, and it’s not a terrible method, but his major failing was not recognising just how much it didn’t work for me, and mixing it up a bit.

We had an agreement: I knew that what bothered me was seeing myself move on camera; the jerky movements that to me screamed ‘disability,’ so I sat out of shot. You could hear me, but not see me. And still I hated it. It made me cry, it made me shout, it made me anxious as fuck in the run up to lessons where I knew we’d be being filmed. I know now that disability has coloured my views about every aspect of my body – I don’t like seeing myself move, hearing my voice, still photos that I can’t control … the list goes on. I wish I’d been able to tell him that calmly.

I owe the change to my Cambridge interviewer, who recognised I was too young and too lacking in confidence to be able to handle the challenge of a Cambridge degree straight after leaving school. My gap year was obligatory. Learning to speak French was not. Not for them, at least, but my mum wouldn’t let me get away with just working my summer call centre job for another year.

And, to cut a long story short, in a bakery in Switzerland I really learned to speak French. I doubt, even when I was pretty much fluent, that I was ever grammatically perfect. But I was revelling in the language, really enjoying it in a well rounded manner for the first time ever. I got a job abroad because they needed someone to speak English with the tourists: I spent most of the Winter letting the Brits struggle on in pidgin French before switching to English once they’d reached maximum fluster.

I was so immersed in the language that when things went wrong ‘Putain!” was more instinctive than ‘Fuck!’ I delighted in the fact that the French for ‘pussy’ is ‘chatte’ and that I could drive my boss crazy by answering with a slangy, drawn-out ‘Ouais,’ rather than the crisp and polite ‘Oui, Madame’ that she expected. All stuff that I picked up by just throwing myself into the language, and not overthinking it.

I’d love to say that that was the last time I feared throwing myself in at the deep end, but of course, it wasn’t. I never worked in Italy, or found an equivalent way to immerse myself in the Italian language and as a result the Italian I picked up during my degree has pretty much wilted and died. And I certainly haven’t lost that fear when it comes to sex – even when I’m doing something I love, like giving head, I still worry that my technique could be better. There’s a balance to be achieved here somewhere: if I love the act despite my worries I’m not letting it hold me back. And technique, like grammar, has a place in sex, certainly, which is why I’m always sorely tempted to go and do this.

The girl that I teach moved herself into the higher group after we had that chat. I’m pleased for her, because I think she’ll be having more fun. And fuck, just like sex, when language is fun, it’s *really* fun.

To read more Wicked Wednesday, click below.

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*I realised halfway through this, that it’s kind of an extension of/development of the thoughts behind this post. That’s ok though, right?

My Biggest Fan

There’s been a post about talking to my dad about sex on my to-write list for a while, now. But, although I find it weirdly easy to talk to my dad about sex, it’s less easy for me to work out why. So bear with me.

What prompted this post today is, well, Father’s Day, obviously, but also this tweet by @Juniper3Glasgow, and her blog post about her dad, too.

My parents know I write erotica. They know I have a sex blog. My mum says: ‘Do you think one day you’ll write a different genre?’

My dad says: ‘I went for a drink with N the other night. I told him you’ve just had an erotic story published. He asked if he could read it?’

No. Not this time.

There are two problems with the story I’ve just had published. One is that it’s deeply personal. The other is that my bio has a link to my blog, and thus not only the details of my sex life, but also my Sinful Sunday pictures. They *definitely* don’t need to see those.

If I ever get something published that’s less personal, would I let my dad read it? I don’t know. It’s not the sex that I think he might judge, but at the moment he thinks everything I do is great, and he’s the fussiest audience I’ve ever met. Whether it’s film, TV or books, he prefers indie, European, generally pretty bleak stuff. Would my writing match up to the quality of what he’s used to reading? I doubt it.

But, there’s a benefit to that, too. If he thinks something is good, he’s always shared it, with little concern for age-appropriateness. He let me watch 9 1/2 weeks at age 15, and I, in turn, a year later, lent him my copy of Marie Darrieussecq’s Pig Tales, which is pretty filthy. Sex is not a topic that’s off limits. I’ve explained sex positivity to him, and the pull for me of writing erotica, which is best captured by Guy New York’s book Write ’till You’re Hard:

‘Sex is a natural way to look at self-discovery, and it’s one that is often overlooked or ignored. Mostly because we’re afraid of sex, and there’s a giant stigma against erotica as being a non-serious genre. Which is a load of shit. Sex and relationships are at the center of all our lives…’

My dad’s family shy away from physical affection and touch, as well as talking about feelings. He couldn’t really be more different. I grew up believing it was ok to ask for hugs when you wanted or needed them, that it was ok to cry (whether you’re male or female) and that men suffer from anxiety and fear too, and that doesn’t make them any less of a man. It was a good grounding for a feminist take on the world.

I have a box in the cupboard stuffed full of letters from my dad. He writes every couple of months, always on headed paper, only ever writing on one side, always asking more questions about my life than he tells me stuff about his own. We speak too, regularly, but there’s something about those letters. A lesson about writing, perhaps. That it’s worth it, that it matters, that it’s not a waste of time. Whatever genre you choose.

Spreading the Love

I make no secret of the fact that I don’t really believe in the categories we divide blogs into, even if, for ease, my blog reader is set up that way. Fashion. Beauty. Food. Sex. Travel. Lifestyle. Don’t they all have stuff in common?

If I write about why I love matching underwear, is that sex blogging, or fashion?

Erotica inspired by nail polish. Beauty, or sex?

Sex I’ve had overseas. Isn’t that travel, too?

You get the idea.

I’ve wanted, for a while, to set up something regular to encourage people to write something based on a monthly prompt, a prompt that could be interpreted in ways that fit with all of the above.

And then the idea became fully-formed sort of accidentally. One day I clicked the ‘Log in with Facebook’ button on Pinterest, and because I was Facebooking as Charlie, Charlie’s Pinterest account was born. I had no idea how I might use it (much like the Tumblr I recently created), and then it occurred to me that every month I could have a board of pictures on a certain theme, and you guys can use it a springboard for a post, should you feel so inclined. I’ll post links to all the entries in a monthly round up post. There won’t be prizes, but I may send out the occasional Twix, as Girl on the net once used to do for posts I particularly love.

This is not restricted to the six blog categories I mentioned above, either. If you write a different kind of blog and you have an idea that fits with the prompt, join in! It can be fiction or non-fiction, image or words. The whole idea is to break down the artificial boundaries between blog types and get people reading great stuff they might not otherwise find.

I have a few ideas for monthly themes so far. Glitter (fuck, I love glitter at the moment), Texture, Inspirational Quotes. If you have suggestions and you’d like me to add them to the list, please let me know in the comments below. The first prompt will go up on April 1st.

And if you’re looking for a writing challenge in the meantime, why not try this? You’ve only got one week left! (Competition closes 23.59 GMT, April 2nd).

‘Could you translate this passage, please?’

December 2001. Two things occupy most of my thoughts:

1) Sex
2) My upcoming Cambridge interview.

The first of those has been bothering me for a couple of years by this point, ever since I learned how to make myself come. My desk has a mini shelf just next to my bed, and for some reason, because it’s low down I pretend my mum can’t see it, or rather, I pretend she can’t see the teetering pile of books on it. The pile that started off as mainly Mills & Boon ‘Blaze’ but now contains a couple of Nancy Friday titles, too – Men in Love and Women on Top, to be precise, because these are the raciest things sold in WH Smith and even though Amazon exists now and they’ll accept my Visa Electron, my mum will ask what I ordered, and I’m not good at lying.

My sexual fantasies are more fluid at this point than they’ve ever been since, with no sexual experience at all to go on – even my first kiss isn’t until January 2002 – and as I read about other people’s kinks I mentally flit from sex with other women, to BDSM, to rape fantasy, to anal. Everything seems possible.

My path through life hasn’t been dictated by my parents. Ever since they took me to look at a private school and I kicked off at the mention of Wednesday afternoons being dedicated to sport, they’ve pretty much left me to my own devices when it comes to studying. I have one frustrating conversation with my mum, when I’m choosing my AS subjects, which goes something like this:

Me: ‘I want to do AS French.’

Her: ‘Are you sure? Why don’t you choose something you’re definitely good at, like Chemistry?’

Me: ‘I’m doing French.’

This conversation could have been motivated by numerous factors. My mum, also a French graduate, never used it once she left university, and therefore doubts its usefulness – I want to point out that she picked children over a career, but I don’t. It could be that I’ve been consistently good at most academic subjects, whereas languages, which require confidence to speak in front of the class, have never been my thing. It could be that she knows I have a hopeless crush on the A-Level French teacher. She’s right about that one – it *is* what’s motivating me. But it pays off. Towards the end of Year 12, I get called to see the Head of Sixth Form.

‘What degree are you thinking of applying for?’ he asks. He’s barely 30, and he looks about 15. I don’t believe for a minute that he knows where my strengths lie.

‘Er, French?’

‘Great,’ comes the response. ‘And have you thought about Oxbridge?’

I haven’t. Oxbridge is for people who’ve dreamt of it all their life. I have Durham in mind. But he talks me round, and I pick Cambridge. My memory is that this is because it’s only 20 miles away and it’s not worth going all the way to Oxford for interview when I’m clearly not going to get in, but this seems ridiculous, looking back.

I remember what I wore, even now. Black trousers, purple fitted jumper with a cute keyhole neckline. We’re specifically asked not to wear suits. I wait outside the interview room and when the candidate before me comes out, she immediately has to knock and go back in, because she’s forgotten her scarf.

Shit, I think, you’ve fucked it. I think they’re looking for perfection, not absent-minded scarf forgetters.

The interview is a disaster. It’s one of the oldest and most prestigious colleges in the university, chosen because my Latin teacher once had a drink with someone who supervises there once in a blue moon. I didn’t go to the open day. I have no idea if it’s right for me.

They’ve made us sit a written exam beforehand, and now I know I don’t stand a chance in hell. I’m interviewing for French and beginner’s Italian, because you have to read two languages, but naively, I’m not for a second expecting questions on the latter.

More fool me. The first thing they do is hand me an A4 piece of paper with an extract from an Italian novel.

‘Could you translate this passage, please?’

I stumble through it. Fuck knows how. I can guess maybe 20% of the words, but the grammar is a mystery. I can’t give them the perfection they’re looking for.

And I’m right about that, in the end. I’m not what *they’re* looking for, but a month later I’m interviewed by a different college where I’m asked bizarrely easy questions like ‘Do you like Rome?’ They make me an offer.

They’re not looking for perfection, I realise, looking back. They’re looking for a spark. Which is a lesson I still have to learn about sex.

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