Sunday, 22 February 2015

Being a woman

I was born in 1970, the year that The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer was published.

I remember the book sitting on the shelf in my Dad's study, and because it was towards the top of the bookcase, I assumed it was a sex manual - which is exactly why I nicked it when I was 14 and sketchily read it under my covers.

Bloody hell, was I cacking disappointed. If there was any sex in it, I hadn't got a clue what sort of sex it was. And by the time I got to the bit about women drinking their own menstrual blood, it was time to slip it unseen back onto the shelf, and try that book that said 'Kama Sutra' on the cover (whatever THAT was).

I do not know enough about feminism to write about it properly, like a proper person who knows things. I do know that I, and all the women of my generation, are indebted beyond belief to writers in the Age of Enlightenment, who defended the rights of women, and the Suffragettes, and social and electoral reform, and proper contraception, and probably even the second world war - plus the post-war feminists of course, including Germaine Greer. If I was born in 1870... well. If I wanted to write, I'd have probably done it in secret and under a male pen name. I'd have been a dab hand at using a mangle. I may have been called Fanny. And as for being a pilot - it was 20 or so years before the plane was invented and 60 years before the infamous Amelia Earhart flew across the Atlantic.

And so here I am, with a wealth of hope and opportunity being tantalisingly dangled in front of me. I could be a doctor, or a brick layer, or even - yes - a pilot. But I've also got to think about having babies because unfortunately, men can't do that yet. And there's this other related thing that's getting in the way. My periods.

Women and hormones


The day before my period, I feel so shit that I can hardly see straight. My head is banging and my spine aches. I feel really low and very cross at the same time. I've been to the Docs and there's nothing to be done. Just sit tight and wait for the menopause to pop it's delightful smiling head round the front flap and say, "YIPPEE! YOUR WOMB HAS DRIED UP!"

Millions of women suffer similarly. And you can handle it if your job is sedentary, or if it's not too complex, or if you're at home. But when I was flying - shit, sometimes, it scared the effing pants off me. You try and ride over it, forget about how you're feeling, for various reasons - the main one being that you are EXTREMELY BUSY proving that women are just as good, and able, as men at flying effing planes.

Which is stupid. Because one of the first things you learn as a pilot is not to fly if you're feeling ill. Even if you know that whatever it is that's wrong will not get any worse. Feeling off colour is just another layer of stress to deal with in the cockpit, and however well you think you're dealing with it, it will cloud your judgement.

My premenstrual-ness would affect my ability to talk on the radio, my landings, my navigation. I'm not saying I flew like a twat - I didn't (at least to my knowledge) fly dangerously - but I wasn't on my game. And when you're a pilot, you've always got to be on your game.

For example. A typical radio conversation with the tower when the painters were in would be something like:

Me: Golf Tango Whisky Alpha Uniform ready for departure.
Tower: Golf Alpha Uniform, runway 27 out to the west, left turn, wind speed 9 knots, clear for take off.
Me: Huh?
Tower: Who was that?
Me: Ummm... say again Gold Aqua Dolphinium Uniform
Tower: ....is that you, Golf Alpha Uniform? Got the painters in again?
Me: *burble*
Tower: Just effing take off. We've got a jet coming in in a minute and you're cocking everything up. Piss off.
Me: Oh. Righto. Golf Alpine...oh, fuckit.

*Accelerates off runway and into carpark*

So I'm eventually getting round to the point I want to make. *Obvious Klaxon* Women are biologically different from men, and their lady parts present issues that men don't have. Our hormones and smaller body-frames mean that perhaps we are less able to do the physical jobs that men do. But perhaps our fundamental ability to bear children makes us naturally better at other things; roles that involve caring for others, as an example.

It's wonderful living in an age where women are generally offered the same opportunities as men (and yes, I know that there are exceptions). But I wonder if we (women) are sometimes guilty of forcing our square pegs in round holes. Not a euphemism. I know that this sounds like a comment from the stone age, and I am honestly not saying that we should all become nurses and primary school teachers - although many of us are, and damned good ones too. And I'm definitely not saying that we should simply stay at home and look after our children.  Only that we shouldn't ignore our strengths.

Because some of them are strengths that most men do not have.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Seeing your children through the eyes of others

We - that's me and the boys -  met my Dad's new squeeze the other day. I'm going to call her Irene. She's nice (and has provided good fodder for a future blog post).

Anyway, we all sat down at a table in a a pub. Bit awkward, making small talk, shuffling chair legs. Pretending to be engrossed in the menu. But Irene is staring at Teen. Teen has noticed, and is sweating slightly. He is making a strange gurgling noise, and his focus is fixed on the middle-distance - as it happens, on the large bazoomas of a rather attractive waitress.

"My, what an attractive young man you are!" says Irene. Very, very loudly.

Tween snorts with laughter and derision, forcing diet coke out of his nose. Teen has turned white - now red - now grey. Ashen. Then, suddenly, he mutters something about the toilet and dashes off in the wrong direction (as it happens, towards the waitress with the big bazoomas).

Irene is unfazed. "What a lovely looking boy!" she says. "He looks Italian. Is his father Italian?" (More Tween snorting.) "Lovely eyes. Did you see his eyes?" she asks me. "Yes," I replied, "I am his mother. I have seen his eyes."

Whilst I might normally write Irene off as deranged, she is not the only person to have commented on Teen's looks. And there was an occasion when we were on holiday in Wales when he was swarmed by teenage girls (he was 13 - they were 16) which made me feel very ill indeed. So logically, I understand that he is good looking.

But when I look at him, I see an awkward boy with the face of my ex. A boy who has spent most of his life in my pocket, who is literally part of me, and who has built up layers and layers of love and arguments and laughter and sulking and angst and all the other shite that 'family' throws at you. I look at his eyes and see my child's eyes - they function and have my colour and reflect his feelings. The shape of them reminds me of my ex husband. And that's pretty much it. But others obviously see something else. Something....attractive. Sexual even. (Excuse me whilst I throw up in a bucket.)

He IS NOT A SEXUAL BEING! He is MY SON! Fourteen years old. Doesn't know his arse from his elbow. And if I catch any women looking at him, I will tell them to fuck right off and come back when he's 18.

But seriously (actually, I was being serious), all this has made me realise that there is more to my son than I thought. To me he is a moody teenager; to others he has a sexual edge (*shudder*) that I simply don't (or won't) see.

Tween, who I think is much more attractive (probably because he looks more like me) is yet to come out from behind the glass wall of puberty. Irene complimented him on his green eyes, but it was Teen that she couldn't stop looking at.

For fuck's sake. Put your tongue in. You're 72.

I just need to get used to it. There will be girlfriends (or boyfriends perhaps) and I will be nice. Charming. "Cake?" I will say, and while my back's turned I will hiss, "Hurt him and you will know pain..." and they will say, "Pardon?" and I will say, "What time is your train?"

And when she takes his hand under the table, I will pretend not to notice. And when she looks into his eyes, those eyes of his that remind me of my ex, I will quietly leave the room.


And then the fun began...

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Tuesday, 3 February 2015

A Love Note

Love bites you when you least expect it.

Following on from last week's post about Love, I got this. An email. The most touching, softest, gentlest, generous, warmest email I have ever had. And funny, too. The most perfect love note.

I want to share it with you. 

The subject line was: The Little Things....


There are so many things I want to do with you.... the little things..... 

I want to walk round a garden with you (holding hands but both of ours tucked in my pocket because yours is cold). I'd guess what all the plants are called and you'd say "ah, right", but you wouldn't give a shit.... and that'd be ok.

I want to go for lunch with you, ‎somewhere with a cosy fire. We'd have to swap places because I'd be too bloody hot! Your hand would be on the table and I'd be stroking the top of it without realising while we waited for our food. 

I want to follow you around while you take photos. I'd be asking stupid questions like "why this photo?" and ‎"what is your motivation here?". And you'd be politely answering like you always do, but thinking "what a pillock!". 

I want to go and watch comedy with you, look at you while you laugh and see your eyes come alive (you're never prettier than when you laugh).‎ After I'd say "I'm funnier than that!" and you'd say "hmmmm really?" and we'd laugh some more. 

I want to look around the shops with you, pointing out the things I think you'd look beautiful in - you'd probably disagree because I'm a man and we're useless! ‎You might try some stuff on and I'd say "that's stunning" - but I'd only be looking at you, not the clothes. I'd try on some hats and we'd laugh at how silly they look on my enormous bonce!

I want to go to the seaside with you and be hopelessly touristy. We'd paddle in the sea even though it'd be freezing. We'd try to eat chips and shoo off seagulls‎ before giving up and going for tea and cake. I'd "accidentally" touch your leg with mine, ‎before getting a bit braver and gripping your knee between both of mine. 

I want to play scrabble with you. I want us to keep score forever so that it's something like 563 games to 459 games to you. Always to you! ‎Bound to be. You'd be looking at the board saying "chhaaaaab, draaaaaab, scaaaaaaaab, fraaaaab" and I'd be saying "frigging hurry up". Your slightly unique music choice playing in the background.

I want to sit on your sofa, watching something funny on tv, gently stroking your arm while you put your head on my chest. Part of me would want more, but part of me would want it to last forever just like that. ‎I'd kiss the top of your head and whisper that I love you (you wouldn't hear).

You see, some guys do the big things - gestures, actions, massive shows of affection. And there's nothing wrong with that. It works. It's tried and tested. 

But I like life to be one long series of little things, seemingly unimportant at the time, but all part of the big thing! 

When we've spent time together, and I go, I want you to think "I can't remember exactly what just happened there... but I'm pretty sure it was lovely".

I want to see you again darling, and do some little things x

Monday, 2 February 2015

Love at 44

My love life is arse about tip. It really is up the swanny.  I thought that, by now - over two years since my divorce - I'd be settled down with someone new. I'd be part of a bigger, blended family, living in a shabby house full of sweaty teenagers and marked sofas, drum kits and chaotic dinners. Come the evenings, there would be a log fire lit in the winter, drinks outside in the summer. My new partner would be bookish, funny, caring, witty, sexy. He would bring me a cup of tea in bed. I would tickle his feet. Our children, wary of each other at first, would given time all get on like a house on fire.

There would be board games, shouting, dancing.  Flowers.

Scrabble.

Instead, I am living a quieter existence with my own two boys in a little house that we have made home. I am happy here - in fact, I'm closer to my boys than I have ever been - but my choices of boyfriend have so far been shocking. Shite, quite frankly.

The Boyf, who I have written about often, chucked me (again) last week. We had a complex, long distance relationship, built on insecure ground. His ex wife hated me, and last summer her harassment led to me calling the police. I never met his son, and his daughter only once. He wanted nothing to do with my kids. He was depressed.

Not the most wonderful set-up for a serious partnership, I grant you. But I gradually got used to our on/off relationship, filling the 'off' bits with internet dates. These haven't been wildly successful; there was the guy who turned out to be gay; the guy who was still living with his wife; and the guy who wouldn't stop talking. I'm still seeing the last guy. He is, at least, extremely good at filling the silence when the kids aren't at home.

Dating in your 40s, second time around, is a completely different prospect to dating when you were younger. Yes, the pot is smaller, but you are changed, too - you are more self-assured, more independent, more knowledgeable about what you want. You're better at sex, simply because you've had more practice. You're not afraid to ask for what you like (and yes, I'm still talking about enjoying yourself in the sack). You are probably pickier with men, and find it hard to settle for someone who appears less than perfect. You'll have learned from past mistakes and are keen not to revisit them.

There are external changes, too. You might have kids - who need to be put first. You might be working all hours God sends to keep the wolf from the door, so simply don't have time to date.

You might just not have the energy to date any more.

To be honest, I'm getting to that stage. There's one man left that I have my sights on, but he lives a looooong way away. I hardly know him. He has his own responsibilities. But he has said lovely things, is gentle and funny and bright. He writes well. I imagine he might bring me a cup of tea in bed occasionally. And he might even speak to my boys.

And if he doesn't work out, I will cry. Either that, or go on an extremely long holiday. Or watch the entire box set of Game of Thrones in one sitting - with the curtains closed, surrounded by a mountain of Kettle Chips.

Actually, probably all three.

So if he's reading this - and of course he isn't, because if he ever read this blog then he wouldn't want to know me any more - then I'd like to say to him: My entire relationship with mankind rests on your broad shoulders.

Please don't let me down.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Getting old

Not quite me (yet)
I'm 44. A mere slip of a girl to some; an ageing witch to others. I'm sort of mid-way to being dust, which you might think would make me morose - but it's the opposite, really. We're all going to die, after all, so there's no point worrying about that. Rather, I fit my skin a bit better than I used to, which means I can concentrate on doing what I can do, without getting anxious about how others see me.

And usually, what I want to do is lie in bed and fiddle around on Twitter.

I've had two kids, and they are ace. Generally. I've had one husband - and he was ace at first, but then turned out to be a bit of a nob. But that's ok, because we got a divorce, and now things are better (on both sides, actually). I've been lucky enough to have been employed for most of my working life - fingers crossed, touch wood, spit on a tomato - long may it continue. My mum and dad are still alive. Just about. And I was privileged to have both of my grandmothers around until relatively recently.

It's family that matters, I think, as you're getting on. Family and friends, of course. I imagine that sadness comes only if you find you are older, and you have no one to love. Or who loves you.

As a woman, I'll admit that the last couple of years have been a shock when it comes to mirror action. All reflective surfaces in this house have been turned around. I have turned it into Haven for vampires.

It's something to do with the elasticity of the skin. Or its luminance. Or something. And all of the Kylie Bottie Cream in the world won't replace that. And the wrinkles, having been held off with wallpaper paste for the last ten years, have broken through and now litter my face like sodding cracks on a London pavement.

The temptation is to 'get them done'. To 'mend it' somehow. But I'm not broken - this is supposed to happen, isn't it? It's not like I wasn't expecting it (JESUS! WHAT THE FUCK ARE ALL THOSE LINES DOING ON MY FACE? I MUST BE DISEASED!). We've all seen old people, and they're all liney, aren't they? Apart from the ones who look 'alien-smooth' (Barry Manilow - I'm talking about you.)

I get cross at the media, and at other women, for feeling like they have to 'do something' about their ageing faces and bodies. Because when they 'do' something, it makes me feel uncomfortable that I'm not doing it. It makes me feel that I'm at fault, somehow. But because I also recognise that I'm not at fault, logically, the whole thing makes me very frustrated indeed. I wonder sometimes if, when I'm 80, I'll be the only woman in the old people's home who actually looks 80 - and I'll be surrounded by fellow dementia sufferers who all look to be smooth-faced 40 year olds.

I won't care. I'll be too busy singing Love Shack at the top of my crackly voice and weeing in my chair. And I'll be the only one who can laugh at myself because everyone else's faces will be too tight.

The one thing that does bother me, though, is the slippage in eyesight. I've always had dodgy eyes (long-sighted), but recently I also seem to have become short sighted too - which is a bit of an arse, quite frankly. There's an awful lot of squinting at tiny instructions (most recently on the Canesten tube - where, how much, should I rub it in...?), turning the light on, and eventually asking my children to read it for me. I have reading glasses, but keep forgetting where I put them (premature alzeihmers).

Other signs of ageing? We all know them: liver spots, dry skin, a penchant for period drama...but also a steadyness, a logic, a 'fuck it' kind of attitude. A realisation that, when you go out, no one is looking at the hat you're wearing that you think is awful. An inner contentment. A faint smell of wee.


And then the fun began...


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Thursday, 22 January 2015

STIs and the divorcee

Here I am. A divorcee looking for love and, on the way, having a bit of rumpy pumpy and how's your father. What could possibly go wrong?

I've been seeing this guy (Billy*) for a little while. To be honest, I'm not sure he's right for me in lots of ways. But he's very, very, VERY keen on bed action. If you know what I mean.

Don't get me wrong. I like bed action. I'm a fan. I'm not bad at it...I've seen the films, I know what I'm supposed to do. So when Billy has suggested giving it some, I've not been shy. I've given it a good go.

But here's the thing. Although I'd remembered about the pregnancy thing (which as you know, is etched on every woman's very soul with a sharp pointy thing) I'd sort of forgotten about STIs. Yes - when a partner sneezes on all your downstairs parts and gives you... a disease.

I think.

So here I am, with a guy who's been dating for SIX YEARS, who's keen on sex. And I'd sort of not remembered, or hidden behind a bookcase, or something, that he may well be riddled with stuff. Stuff that involves, at the very least, a greenish discharge.

And lo! Two days later, the itch began. Like scattering cayenne pepper all over your lady bits, and smearing Philadelphia in the creases. Shit, fuck and all other curses - has he given me the clap? Have I finally, aged 44, got a sodding sexually transmitted infection?

YOU FUCKER!

So now, of course, I'm on Google in a frenzy, finding out what it means, how it can be cured, will I die from it (or go blind, or mad... or am I getting it confused with syphilis (yes)) and, most of all, should I be washing the towels/washing my hands/ disinfecting everything within reach so I don't accidentally infect my kids and the cat?

(As is now apparent, I know very little about STIs.)

An appointment with the lady doc was made. But in the meantime, what would I say to Billy? Erm... either I've been mistakenly using sandpaper for Andrex or - perhaps you should get yourself checked out? You've given me the clap, you bastard, and I'm never seeing you again? Fuck off, you fucking fucker?

In the event, I waited. I didn't want to go throwing round accusations that are based on the knowledge I picked up in sex education classes, aged 12. But obviously, I blamed him, and phone calls have been spent with me doing a lot of silent swearing. And sulking.

Anyway, off I go to the docs.(By the way, I had my smear test last week, so this was the second leg-flopping appointment in seven days. Jeez.) I love lady GPs. They're matter-of-factness immediately makes you think that this is the most normal thing in the world. Lying on a doctor's bed on scratchy paper, feet together, knees apart, speculum up your jacksy. chatting about the weather, or being gently reprimanded for not using a condom, or the state of the NHS.

My GP has one look at my lady parts and almost wretches. At least, that's what I see.  "Christ! That's a severe case of thrush!"

I didn't care that I was leaking cheese - I could have kissed her. Thrush? Something that can be cured with a pill and some cream? I felt like running round the waiting room with no bottoms on shouting, "IT'S OK! I'M CLEAN!" and pointing to my front bottom. In sheer elation.

So it wasn't Billy's fault. It was my cycling/winter clothes/not enough sleep/being run down or something. Lovely GP said it could be triggered by too much sex. Just something that tips you out of balance. We've probably all had thrush at some point - we all know the triggers.

But the whole episode has made me think bloody carefully about the risk of STIs. Billy refuses to wear a condom.

Perhaps I should refuse him?

Stay safe. More info here:

http://www.sti.health.gov.au/internet/sti/publishing.nsf (the Ozzies are better at this sort of thing than us)
http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/sexually-transmitted-infections.html
http://www.brook.org.uk/your-life/category/stis



*not called Billy at all.
__________________________________________________

@secretdivorcee

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Wednesday, 14 January 2015

On Being Crap at Make up

Make up. It's the devil's work, as far as I'm concerned. I see women who are good at it; their eyes look dark and sexy and bruised - and their lips are glossy and defined. Their skin is smooth, cheekbones highlighted.

And I think: how the fuck do they do that?

Because when I put on make up, you can guarantee - GUARANTEE - that within 30 minutes, most of it has slipped down my face and come to rest just under my chin, like a muddy tide mark. Any mascara, waterproof or not, will be smeared all over my cheeks and forehead. Lipstick will only be visible on the outer bits of my lips; my inner lips will be back to their magnificent nude peeliness. Glitter on my eyelids will have migrated, somehow, to my ears.

In short - I look like a Jackson Pollock.

It was about six years ago that I went to a proper shop and bought a ton of Mac make-up. Most of it sat unused and so after three years, it went in the bin. Since then, I have lasted on Vaseline lip balm and what I think must be an HB pencil stolen from my son's pencil case, for eyeliner (it scratches a bit). Occasionally, when I'm looking half dead in the morning, I 'apply' blusher. Which gives me that 'clown' look that everybody (nobody) is going for these days.

Then, suddenly, it was 2015 and I realised that I might die without ever having known how to look good in make-up. So off I went to the shops.

I went into Boots and was drawn to the Benefit counter. I had been there before. Sometimes I just go to ogle the packaging (I'm always too scared to talk to the beautiful assistants). But that day, I was brave. I want some of THIS, I said, to a heavily face-caked lady, even though I have NO IDEA WHAT IT IS!  It turned out to be this:



Which, apparently, Kylie used to highlight her buttocks in the Spinning Around video. The lady told me that it wasn't really supposed to be for buttocks, rather for highlighting cheekbones. Even though I don't have any cheekbones (I do have buttocks, plenty of them), I bought it.

And while I'm at it, I said, I want THIS! It was a eyeliner pen. YES! I want to look like Claudia Winkleman!



I have to be honest with you. This is not the easiest thing to use. I mean, it works, but I am shit at using it. Here is my first attempt:



And my more recent goes have not been much better. But I. Must. Learn.

I. Must. Be. Claudia. Winkleman.

Since that day, Make Up Day, or M.U.D., I have been back for another round. Sparkly grey eyeshadow has been purchased, along with nude lip thingy, and - joy of joys - a proper tinted foundation. This above all things makes me happy. It has changed me from middle-aged slightly rotting face woman to a 30-something adult who is not yet looking death squarely in the eye. It's from No.7, who henceforth in this household shalt be called NO. 1!

(See what I did there.)

And the lovely, beautifully turned out, fully alive lady on the No.7 desk did this colour match thing - which as far as I could tell involves holding an electric shaver to your face and making a beeping noise. Somehow it tells you which shade is best for you and WOULD YOU BELIEVE IT - it only jolly well bleedin' works. Although when she said I was 'Cool Ivory', I mis-heard her, thinking she'd said 'Cool Library'. (Another sign of ageing. Shame they don't do glittery hearing aids.) "Cool Library," I said, "That's a bit Farrow and Ball!"

You know that look that much younger people give much older people? A sort of 'I pity you, but I've been told to be nice to you so I'm doing my damnedest not to show it'? That.

Anyway, it's ace, she was lovely, and so here's a pic. Well done Boots.


And there's the nude lip balm too. Which is nice, but I haven't yet worked out how to put on lip stuff and immediately not lick it all off. A bit like doughnut sugar. Any tips gratefully received.

So that's it. I feel all set now for a slightly older but more painted version of me to launch headlong into 2015. There's one particular meeting that I'm looking forward to in February. Please God - let me have figured out how to use that effing eyeliner before then. Less Pollock, less pillock, more.... Winkleman.

Yes. More Winkleman please.


And then the fun began...