Archive for category So Wrong

Infidelity

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.

Sweet revenge.

(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.

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Brand building

brandingWhen 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.

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Girls

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.

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Vaginas

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.

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Crushed velvet

My time at the Union Chapel was fruitful for this blog, as I not only speculated about the kind of man on stage, but was also reminded of the power of a certain type of woman in the audience. I like to call her the Crushed Velvet.

You know this woman. She dresses like Stevie Nicks in skirts made of scarves. Or she might have macramé pants. She’s usually skinny and pretty tall (and because of that, tends to slump a bit). Her hair is long but slightly unkempt. She has a pretty voice and she probably plays acoustic guitar. At night, she lights candles, burns incense and writes songs or poetry. The lyrics are prone to be a bit shit.

This may not be the prettiest of pictures (nor is it the ugliest) but hear me now, ladies. This woman — the Crushed Velvet — is cleaning up out there. No one can bag a man like she can.

I’ve always gathered that it’s her vulnerability, or that men get a sniff of her emotional instability and assume she’ll be a wildcat in the sack. Whatever the reason, this woman is pined after by the sensitive singer/songwriter type described in my previous post (if not invited on stage to duet with him).

Since I was at the Union Chapel with a thoughtful man, I asked him about the siren song of the Crushed Velvet. He explained something to me in simple terms that frankly frightened and enlightened me in equal measure. Using an analogy from nature, he said that men are typical predators. When they see an alpha female in a pack, they assume she is either already spoken for or will require too much effort to take down. So they look for the weak ones on the perimeter. The ones caught up in their own long limbs.

Despite the analogy, it occurred to me that it’s not easy to be a man. As women, we take for granted that it must be hard to muster the courage — and the basic energy — to approach the object of your desire. You can understand them going for easy wins.

That said, I’d rather we wore a welcoming smile and had an open — but straight — posture that attracted men with confidence and charisma rather than questionable frocks and fragility.

I also like to go against nature. If we charm them into our circle and surround them with our strength, who’s the predator now?

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Male friends

This is an excerpt from a recent article on SheKnows.co.uk that is in the style and voice of Soho. For more of my articles, click here.

It’s logical to assume that having loads of male friends will open doors to other networks of male friends, increasing your chances of finding one suitable for you. It’s also nice to have access to the other side’s playbook. We love hearing men talk about women — and we love getting their advice on our romantic dilemmas. After all, who knows the male mind better than… a man?

Yes, male friends have their perks. They think differently, they talk straight and they forgive easily. We don’t get ‘girl drama’ with a man friend. Of course, this also means they may be less thoughtful and attentive confidantes. Let’s not diss the girls.

But they also carry risks if you’re single.

Risk 1: Blocking anatomy

First ask the question ingrained in our minds since When Harry Met Sally. Is there such a thing as a platonic relationship between a man and a woman? If the study results published in the Journal of Sex Research (2011) are right and men think about sex 19 times a day, then the answer is no. They have likely thought about having sex with you — and if that’s true, they probably don’t want somebody else to. Check to see they are not working against you when you are working a room.

Risk 2: Confusing signals

This one is pretty obvious, but worth stating. If you’re out with a man, especially one-on-one, other men are bound to think you are with that man. If you’re a good listener, your eyes will be locked on him and you won’t be able to survey the room. And if you’re scanning, the people you’re making eye contact with might think you’re a player wasting another guy’s time.

Risk 3: The good time girl

Being one woman in a group of men (or one of very few) certainly lets other men know that 1) you’re a lot of fun and 2) you can keep up with the boys. It can also lead people to think you’re a bit “laddish” and not a serious prospect.

Risk 4: Weight gain

Men eat and drink a lot and you will, too, if you go out with them often.

With all this in mind, what are our risk management tips?

  1. Use one-to-one time sparingly — Know your motive and plan accordingly. Are you looking to pull or are you looking for a catch up? If the latter, either stay in or resign yourself to a night without a new number in your phone.
  2. Integrate women into your group — This will help you look more approachable and feminine. Who knows, you might even play matchmaker.
  3. Keep your eyes open — If it’s true that men and women can’t truly be friends without romance getting in the way, take a closer look at your group. Ask if what — or who — you’ve been looking for is in front of you. It happens all the time.
  4. Remember that men do forgive easily — If you have to abandon them for a romantic pursuit, they might be more understanding than your female friends.
  5. Ask if it’s worth it — Are your male friends giving you more joy than finding a new mate would? If the answer is yes, then who cares about the risks above? They are far outweighed by benefits.
  6. Join a gym — You’ll need to work off those pints and crisps.

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Hats

Happy anniversary Will and Kate. It’s been one year since my friends and I watched the wedding, and one of the (usually) sharpest among us, upon hearing that the maid of honour Philippa was about the enter, asked where Kate’s sister Pippa was.

Oh, I’ll take any chance to relive that.

Anyway…

Male readers may want to relive the sight of Pippa’s bottom as it sashayed into the Cathedral, but to mark this one year celebration, I am going to address another hot topic of the royal nuptials: Beatrice and Eugenie. Or the hats. Oh, those hats.

I’ve often wondered how men feel about hats, probably because I often wonder how I feel about them. In theory, they’re great. They have a practical benefit and a stylistic flair; this is especially key in the cold and damp weather that comes with London living.

Speaking of cold weather, I think men love knit beanies. I gather this when girls put them on before leaving the pub on a winter’s night and men just smile stupidly (the more stupid the smile, the more he fancies her). I also think certain fedoras, trilbies, whatever they’re called, are a sexy solution to bad weather – and as a recent trip to Vegas proved, a decent dance prop.

But extreme hats? I think we can all appreciate the artistry, but honestly… Beatrice and Eugenie were a subject of conversation, but who wants to be spoken about like that?! Also, can we for a minute discuss the fascinator? This may be the best named accessory on earth for the sheer fact that it is so fascinating, and by that I mean it sort of makes women look like those primordial deep water fish that have light bulbs and other fishing rod type ‘bait’ hanging off their heads. Do men understand what we’re trying to achieve with these things? Do we?

The thing is, the more extreme our choices, the more aware we are of them, and of ourselves, and about other people’s potential perceptions. Sometimes this feeling is welcomed; other times, it’s downright uncomfortable.

I give you two anecdotes.

Once I tried on a drapey, buxomy Vivienne Westwood situation at Liberty. When I left the dressing room, the wise salesperson said that while the outfit was ‘different,’ I emerged with my head held high so he recommended it without hesitation. My confidence, and its preservation, were the deciding factors.

Secondly, I studied art history at uni with a much beloved feminist professor. We were discussing the Cabanel painting of the Birth of Venus in contrast to another of its time, Manet’s Olympia. My professor taught us that what made Olympia so modern and (at the time) shocking was the eye contact and mental engagement of the subject, whereas Cabanel painted his model with her mental organ pinned down by her hand. In a weird way, I’m tying this back to hats. Your brain, probably the most sexy body part you’ve got, is inside that head of yours, so cap it off with something worthy of what’s going on in there. Don’t pin it down with ridculous cheap looking details. Go for quality. Go for something that makes you feel confident and then sashay into a room like Pippa down the aisle.

Or Philippa as the case may be.

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