If you’ve noticed that I’ve gone totally silent on the blog and Twitter front — without even saying why — I can only apologise. Yes, the year got off to a busy start and all that waffle, but that doesn’t make me any different from the rest of you. What’s really going on is that I am trying to restructure this blog, which will likely involve shifting it to a new site under *gasp* my real name.
That site will feature the typical kind of content you find here, as well as the articles that I do as part of my freelance work. Of course, the thought of a new site made me think I wanted a whole new look, and that’s what’s taking me so long. (Either that, or I’m spending nights in my pants watching box sets of Game of Thrones before the new season starts. You decide.)
Thanks, as ever, for reading. And don’t forget: Game of Thrones starts on the 1st of April! I certainly won’t.
I am obsessed with my hair. It’s long. There’s a lot of it. I spend entirely too much time worrying about how much more shiny it can be (Moroccan Oil, people – works wonders).
Men also love hair. Think of your last quality kiss? Bet he was up in your hair. I bet he even enjoys a bit of hair-pulling. You probably do, too. I’m not judging.
Hair is great. For me, it provides a few things, which the writer in me can’t help but to alliterate:
- Comfort — If I’m writing, thinking or stewing, you can also bet I’m twirling.
- Cheat — I feel like if my hair looks good, people don’t notice what doesn’t look so good. Result.
- Cover — When all else fails, I just hide behind it. Usually in photos. Turns out, this is both obvious and unphotogenic.
Why hair? Bet you’ve already guessed that my concerns are not entirely cosmetic, nor superficial.
To me, Christmas, the end of a year, it’s all very thoughtful. I take a lot of stock, not only in the year that’s passed, but on the passage of the years that preceded it — the choices that comprise a lifetime, all thrown into focus by a holiday that forces family and friends together and elicits status updates (delivered personally rather than on Facebook). A holiday that causes you to look around the table and note who is there, who isn’t — and who could’ve been.
So back to hair.
In my day job, I recently met a trichologist, a ‘doctor of hair.’ (And yes, I did inquire as to how I might make my hair even shinier). She informed me that long hair can be years-old. My own carries the last six years with it, at least.
And then it hit me — why hair and loss go hand in hand, or scissors in hand, as the case may be. In a movie, you know a woman feels loss when she stares in front of a mirror, wet-eyed and holding comically oversized shears for a DIY haircut. We read about women in books, who after tragedy, head straight to the hairdresser. When my own father died, I rushed to lop off about eight effortfully cultivated inches. I didn’t even think about it; it was impulsive.
Hair is an immensely powerful symbol. Certain religions mandate its cover to contain its energy, often sexual. Some cultures cover the dead in it, as it is technically dead, but still grows and thrives. And in countless cultures, mourners shave their heads to sever ties with or to honour those who’ve died.
But all this shaving might not be about symbology. Maybe it’s about cutting pain out of your life. In fact, after talking to the trichologist, I was half tempted to run to my stylist immediately and demand that she eliminate the bad memories of those six years.
- The end of a 10-year relationship.
- The heartache of the one that came after it, so full of promise — and stacked odds.
- The toxicity of certain nights out and the toxicity of the men I met on them.
- A bad job, followed by an unchallenging job, followed by the horror of acquiring an addiction to Mafia Wars as a result of boredom at said job.
Cut it all off, I thought. Start fresh.
But I thought better of it. Firstly, I love my hair. It’s the longest — and shiniest — it’s ever been. Shot from behind (and waist-up), I’m pretty sure I could be mistaken for a Kardashian.
And of course long hair is incredibly feminine. And I love being a woman.
But more than anything, I earned those memories. I learned from them. While I don’t always act it, I should be smarter by now. Isn’t it better to carry that with you than to cut it off and bury it deep?
You may have figured it out: I’m no Christmas girl. I’ve lived too long and I can happily buy my own gifts. And I think we should work to conjure ‘our better angels’ all days of the year, instead of just the one. But like long hair, I like to carry the memories of past Christmases — good and bad — and all the learnings of all those year-ends with me. Because we do get smarter. And that’s almost as good as shiny hair.
With my flair for melodrama, I felt like beginning this post like Allen Ginsberg’s Howl, insofar as, when it comes to married men, I have seen the best women of my generation ‘destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked’ and roaming the streets (or their mobiles) ‘looking for an angry fix.’ Worse, a lot of them, the best, are stuck on a shelf, waiting for a commitment from a man who just won’t while denying a bunch of eligible bachelors the pleasure of their company.
I mean, we’ve all seen enough films, read enough books and heard enough anecdotes to know: this rarely works out for the other woman. And in life, it’s often best to assume you’re not the exception and then be pleasantly surprised.
But rest assured, this is no moral rant. In fact, the older I get, the more grey the whole area of infidelity becomes. On the one hand, I can see the benefits for the ‘other woman.’
- She has total visibility on the nature of the relationship and makes no assumptions about the man in it.
- Her assignations, which can be few and far between, are all about heat and passion and lust… and good underwear. Things don’t get old; they don’t fall into patterns.
- She feels like she’s winning…. That is, until she feels like she’s losing.
And that’s the part I don’t like so much.
- She imagines herself and her lover in situations that may never come to pass. Forget walking down the aisle – a city break would likely do, but logistically may never happen.
- She spends too many weekends and holidays alone.
- When she’s hurting about all of this, she can’t talk about it. The moral quandary of her decision reserves its discussion to a very few, and even then, she may be glossing over the finer sticky details.
But let’s go back to the start. What really bugs me is the idea of a bunch of really smart and sexy women, with something very real to contribute, getting stuck.
I know us women.
I know that too many of us in these relationships stay home in primetime, wearing our best skivvies, waiting for the buzz of that mobile.
I know that sometimes we put on the clothes and the make-up and we go out with the intention of ‘getting over him by getting under someone else.’ (Pardon the crass line, but it neatly sums up the thinking.) We drink too much, we flirt with men who are not remotely worthy of our company – we may even end up with one of them in our beds. And the whole time, we do this as though he – the true object of our affection – is somehow aware. It’s like he’s nanny-cammed our locals and sleeping quarters. It’s as if he knows. We really got him, right? While he’s at home sleeping soundly with his family, we’re swallowing toxins and bedding strangers.
(Note here, reader, that this behaviour isn’t just reserved for married or taken men. It could be your hang-up on ‘the one who got away’ or your lust for something unrequited. Or worse, your unspoken desire for someone who doesn’t know how you feel.)
Believe me, I’m not judging. Nor should anyone who knows what it feels like to want and seek love. But you could circumvent the pain and the longing and the uncertainty by looking at fidelity in that old way: to your own self be true.
Despite my earlier reserve, you are exceptional. Create situations that allow someone to surprise you by treating you that way.
When you’re talking about how to attract men, making a marketing association is at the same time completely wanky and totally apt. After all, pulling is primarily a marketing exercise… and an association that plenty of relationship writers and single men and women have hastened to make.
I give you this example (those of you know me have heard it before). Once, I sat with a group of single women at a table in a pub.
- Woman 1: I heard that the key to attracting a man is really nailing your ‘USP.’ (For those of you not in marketing, this is a unique selling proposition.)
- Woman 2: Okay, let’s try. What are all of ours?
- Woman 1: I think I’m funny.
- Woman 2: I’m successful.
- Woman 3: I’m really caring.
- Me: I have a giant rack.
- Man at neighbouring table: Unsolicited high five.
What’s the point of that story? I suppose I’m trying to entertain you, but in marketing terms, it’s ‘proof of concept’ that this blog is ‘evidence-based.’
So if I have convinced you in any way that I know how to market to men, perhaps you’ll allow me to give you some counsel on developing your personal brand.
And that advice is: don’t.
As soon as you start looking at yourself as a brand, it means your focus is external. It’s that old, ‘being looked at, instead of doing the looking’ thing we’ve discussed. A lot.
If you’re trying to sucker people into buying you, you’ll likely succeed, but you may lose focus on the act of shopping. I’ve discussed this before, too, in my post on bras. If we seek too much to be titillating, are we losing sight at who and what is doing it for us?
The point about good brands is that they are sustainable. Their vision, actions and missions have parity. People come to them instead of the inverse. And most of all, they themselves are discriminating. They are focused on the company they keep and the affiliations they make. It’s that kind of marketing that engenders ‘brand loyalty.’
Pursue that loyalty instead of grabby buyers. Those just come and go.
If you want to attract men and you say you like girls, you’ll achieve your goal. But I’m not talking about those types of girls. I’m talking about Girls, the show. The one where they talk like Dawson’s Creek. Or worse, Grey’s Anatomy, which means that every other sentence begins with some needy woman telling a man or her superior what they don’t get to do. “You don’t get to tell me you love me.” “You don’t get to tell me how to do my job.” “You don’t get to tell me that this hospital is cursed and at least one of us will be killed come May.” Sorry. Where were we?
Oh yes, Girls.
Girls wins all sorts of acclaim; creator Lena Dunham sweeps some hardware at key awards shows and critics say it’s raw, refreshing, nuanced and funny. It celebrates female relationships. It’s emblematic of emerging adulthood in New York. And it is undoubtedly all of these things.
I bet you know what’s coming. You can sense that I have an issue with Girls, so I’ll save you the suspense and come out with it.
I’m not concerned that it’s about privileged people overdramatising their first-world problems. I’m not bothered that it’s self-consciously hipster, like the first excruciating moments of Juno. I’m concerned that when it comes to sex and sexuality, it’s actually just too… real.
What’s wrong with that, you ask?
Well, I’ll tell you.
When you come right down to it, sex is fairly ridiculous. People who think sex tapes are hot haven’t given theirs a proper viewing — that or they have access to the editing suite at Vivid Entertainment. It’s animalistic. You make funny shapes with your body parts. Often, things get squished. There are… sounds, not always made intentionally.
Lena Dunham does her best to show us this kind of sex — and she succeeds. We spy cellulite; we see gangly lovers; we cock our heads and take in the relative gracelessness of the most popular positions; we witness the cruelty of being used. Can we identify? Sure we can.
But here’s the thing. To my mind, the best part about sex is that, if you’re with the right partner, it gives you the conceit that you are super hot and sexy and your body is beautiful and your partner thinks you’re really good. (Then you wake up, and the rosy glow gives ways to those nasty interruptions: the fears and niggles, those crises of confidence.)
Sometimes, isn’t it better to bask in the rosy glow? What’s wrong with seeing ourselves as airbrushed, edited and choreographed? After all, if life is a narrative, shouldn’t we aim for the fairy tale? Isn’t a documentary awfully uninventive?
Love and sex provide such a bounty of awkward moments that I actively choose to give more air time to the beautiful ones. Even if that air time is stylised and unrealistic.
In my last post, I spoke about desensitising the privacy of our most private parts so that we might be able to talk more openly about violations of them. You might therefore reason that I would welcome the recent celebrations of all things vag: labia cupcakes, hats and wedding gowns, vaginal earring sets, Naomi Wolf’s new one: Vagina: A New Biography.
So maybe I’ll surprise you when I say I don’t.
It’s not that I don’t appreciate anyone jumping into the fold (ha!) of bringing our sexuality out of the shadows, it’s just that it’s all so effortful, so self-conscious, so overdone. It’s all gone a bit vulgar.
To get biological, what separates us from animals is that we have developed a whole host of functions that make it so that our reproductive aims do not have to be the sole purpose of our existence. This has made the hunt and chase of sexual partners fun. Sexuality is a subtext, a whisper, a suggestion. It starts as an unspoken muddle of signals and body language and uncertainty, until you choose — and that’s the best part, the choosing — to make it explicit.
Because we are no longer apes, we don’t need to flash our engorged red bottoms in order to attract our mate. I feel the same about an over the top flashing of a representation of our labias.
To get ideological, I think we feminists have a lot better things to do with our time than all this labial gazing. I don’t care if you call it your yoni, your pussy, your cunt or your mini. Just call it something that means something to you and be good to it. Protect it: keep it healthy and practice some critical gatekeeping. And by all means, if ever someone is reckless with it, whether forcibly or clumsily, treat it like it were any other organ and say so, as loudly as you need to, until you are understood.
That said, to get sartorial, it is an organ. Like all organs, it’s fleshy and not necessarily ugly but by no means the stuff of stylistic depiction (why do you think that artists like Georgia O’Keefe opted for flowers?). I would no sooner go to a wedding wearing a likeness of my stomach or walk around with a small little nose pendant hanging off a necklace than I would swan about with an externalised fanny.
Further, these labial creations are too often made out of felt. Now, I don’t I have to tell you, but felt as a fabric is a real boner shrinker. It’s heavy, obstructive and the last time you probably used it, you were making a costume that involved Elmer’s glue.
And that readers, sums up my point. In a past post on hosiery, I spoke about the need for us to grow up. I fear that these vaginal creations and conversations are silly and ultimately demeaning. I’d rather pay my vagina some respect by demanding it myself.
Often times, attracting men starts with one of your most basic assets: your voice. We could speculate that men like smooth voices, velvety voices, sultry voices, but the truth is, we don’t have a lot of control over how we sound. We can try not to squeak and up-speak (asking questions at the end of all sentences) or stammering and being sheepish…
Oh who am I kidding? Did you think for one minute this post was going to be about your pipes? Of course I care more about what you say then how you sound saying it. Especially to men.
Voice came into sharp focus these past two weeks, with revelations about Jimmy Savile’s sexual harassment — and the various parties that helped facilitate his actions or to cover them up. Where were the voices, we ask? The halls of the BBC, the Stoke Mandeville hospital — they should have sounded like Greek Choruses. But they didn’t. People were mute. Women were mute. Victims? Many mute, or worse, unheard. Why?
The Savile debate has been heated and layered. We’ve heard people point out that, dead, he cannot defend himself. That stripping his knighthood now is largely perfunctory. Other voices counter by asking who defended his victims, and express a desire to ensure his ‘legacy’ is honest. Perhaps the most troubling topic is how people measure the severity of his abuse. Some qualify his actions as perverse and puerile, but ultimately, not as severe as the full-on abuse that others insist occurred. And that’s what got me thinking.
Women, for a long time, have been made to believe that our anatomy is fragile and something to be ashamed of. People have talked about the internal nature of our sex, the fact that we can be ‘penetrated’. There’s a new celebration of vaginas (more on this to come), so perhaps we’re making progress, but I can’t help to think that if we demystified our sex, toughened it up, so to speak, just regarded it simply as a part of our anatomy, then shame and disgust would not force us into silence. Society wouldn’t be so tempted into a metaphorical cover up.
Now, to be clear, it’s not just any piece of anatomy. I can do without my little toe. I cannot live without a system that gives life and pleasure and love. But bear with me — if Jimmy Savile approached you in his spangley sex pest trackie bottoms and whacked you in the arm, you’d say — loudly — ‘WTF?’ You’d probably ask other people if they saw. You might even instinctually whack him back in the same place. Harder.
But you wouldn’t hold onto that experience and let it shape you.
Too many of us have that lascivious relative who asks us when we’re small to sit on his stiffening lap. Too many of us have been groped in public. Too many of us have just swallowed it, felt like our insides are on display and let it ruin our day — if not a week, month, year or lifelong psychology.
Do not mistake me. Being pulled into a closet, tricked into a flat, being molested, entered and/or raped is a trespass beyond imagination. Sexual predators play psychological games that shame us into submission. So does a misogynistic system. I am not blaming any victims.
What I am saying is that regardless of scale, like being whacked in the arm, we know abuse when we feel it. Let’s hear that ‘WTF?’ And if some ignorant, saggy-bosomed nurse sits at your bedside and tells you to keep schtum when Uncle Jimmy comes to visit, rap her right in those institutional tits and tell her to do one.
Find your voice. There is nothing too fragile about us to fight back.