THURSDAY, 19 FEBRUARY 2009
As a woman of words, Ms R is perplexed. Truly she is feeling a little out of touch with adjectives used in modern parlance. When a woman is described as curvy, Ms R automatically thinks of someone with a bust and hips, as opposed to say the boyish athletic type or the skinny, bony type. You can be slim and curvy; you can be voluptuous and curvy. When you are really fat, you do not have curves. Which brings us to one Beth Ditto. Whether you like it or not, she is a fat chick. Now, if she’s happy with that, well and good. But what’s really behind the Ditto worship?
Stylist Katy Grand, a woman who makes a lot of money out of rags, has featured Ditto on the cover of her new magazine, Love. We are informed that designers were falling over themselves to dress Ditto for the feature. More likely they wanted to work with Grand. Fashion writers, who would sooner amputate their arms to lose weight than be ‘curvy,’ are hailing Ditto as a role model. Well they can pretend all they like, however this isn’t about making fat girls feel better. There is no democracy in this posturing. Fashion thrives on the shock of the new. And fat is about as big a shock to fashion as you can get. Because let’s be real: clothes do not usually look great on seriously obese people. (They do look good on curvy, large people.) Which brings us back to this nonsensical situation where we’re being asked to accept that a woman who would medically be described as obese is now desirably ‘curvy’. There is a strong sense that this is a quest for redemption; a kind of Hail Mary for fashion writers who spent years selling us pictures of girls who are not just slim, but seriously underweight and unhealthy.
When Ms R’s best friend recently went on a diet she did so after announcing she’d put on two stone and felt ‘fat.’ She did not say “Ms R I’m going on a diet because I feel curvy.” What next? Will we have ‘anorexic’ being described as ‘trim?’ Short people being described as ‘nearly tall?’ Or dead people being ‘just past asleep’ because the word ‘death’ becomes too much for us?
Beth Ditto is fat. And if you think that’s fine, good. But don’t pretend that she’s anymore than a fad. As for ‘curvy’ you can stick a spade on a canvas and call it art. Most people will still see a spade.
THURSDAY, 12 FEBRUARY 2009
You can’t hurry love apparently. But you can package it. Or at least you can package romance. The emails in Ms R’s junkbox have been telling her this for weeks. Am I not the only one who thinks there is something seriously awry when millions of people are putting in ‘romantic weekend’ on Google search? They’re all here: ‘romantic getaways’, ‘romantic hotels’, ‘romantic dinners’. In a matter of two days, one night or even a few hours your relationship will have vim and vigour, making it worth talking about to others. Let’s face it, that’s what much of this romance industry is about. What is Valentine’s Day if not a public show that you too are loved up and coupled up. Look, you’re here in Paris, in a country hotel, in a candlelit restaurant to prove it.Ok you’re playing with your respective phones and not talking but at least you’re here. That’s got to be worth something.
What is baffling is how women – not young, impressionable women, but older women who’ve lived and loved more than a few times – turn into little girls at the mention of February 14th. “I want some of that” they’ll say. If they don’t get it, they will make sure that their partner lives to regret it in the months ahead. It’s one day. One manufactured day against all the other days you spend together; the days that are yours and don’t belong to some American card company. Ask yourself, “Why does this matter to me?” And more often than not the answer will be “Because every one else is doing it.”
It’s plain sad that we have to look outside our relationships, outside the moments that only exist between two people, for verification of how we are doing in the world. Yet perhaps that’s the way of things in general: our homes, our jobs, our sexual practices are all up for scrutiny. Relationships are not about comparison; they are actually nobody’s business but the people having them. A woman secure in herself and her partner/lover should be able to smile enigmatically when her friend breathlessly announces, “We went to Paris, he gave me roses on the train and there was champagne in the hotel room.” Instead we have women, successful, smart women, losing their minds over a stupid day and dropping hints that, unless they too matter on a Saturday, (as it is this year) then there will be hell to pay. Forget the rest of the year, what matters is that they have joined the “Look at me I’m loved up club.” So they actually never talk. Who cares? It looks good.
MONDAY, 9 FEBRUARY 2009
Today dear readers we revisit a place we’ve had a lot of fun with before. Namely the self-obsessed nature of journalists who can’t comprehend they are not the story. Anyway today it’s whitebreadhead Polly Vernon who is telling us why she doesn’t want children with all the style and elan of a two year old throwing a tantrum.
Polly’s got her straw man out and she’s throwing him around.
Guess what I don’t want? Babies. I never have and I never will. Please don’t tell me I’ll change my mind. It’s patronising, and how the hell do you know anyway?
Whew, two questions to open. Oh I get it. You sat down with those other mushy brained chicks at Observer Woman and said, “What about a really provocative angry piece about not wanting children.” And they said, “Wow Polly, that’s SO top of everyone’s discussion agenda right now and nobody’s every thought of the concept before.”
Why don’t I want babies? I’ll ignore for a moment the insolence of the question. I’ll ignore the fact that nobody ever asks a woman who wants kids why she wants kids; no one ever tells a woman who expresses a deep-rooted compulsion to procreate that she’ll change her mind. Instead, I’ll say: for lots of reasons. It’s not that I am a power-crazed career bitch. I mean – I am; but that’s unrelated.
The strident nature of your writing suggests that strangers are stopping you in the street on the hour and asking you if you have children. You’re lucky: I only get charity campaigners.
I really don’t like what parenthood does to grown-ups. But modern parents en masse? That pampering cult of Bugaboo-wielding, Mumsnet-bothering dullness?
Yawn.So you’ll be talking about fellow journalists who wrote pieces like this and then had children?
Spare me. Spare me the one-track conversations. Spare me the self-righteousness, the sense of entitlement (you, with the toddler-on-wheels: astonishing news just in! You don’t have pavement priority over the rest of the world!). Spare me the pretensions of martyrdom and selflessness. (It’s my experience that parenthood doesn’t make anyone less selfish. Humans simply extend the sphere of their selfishness when they have kids, so that it embraces the kids and dishes out a fierce battering to the rest of the world. Also – no one has a baby out of selflessness. You really want to be selfless? Adopt, lover.) And please spare me the pitying glances (I promise I don’t want what you have. Honestly, I find it mind-boggling that you don’t want what I have. Are you quite sure you’re not poleaxed with jealousy?).
I’m older than you Polly. I don’t have kids. And won’t. And my four good friends are all mothers. Yet I’ve never experienced this. We talk about politics, about books, about food,about how their husbands should be put down. We also talk about the idiot mums at school, you know the journalists who’ve had children and go all ga ga and protective over them. Then we drink. After that they ask about my sex life. Maybe you’re just too busy shouting all the time for people to engage you in conversation?
There are other reasons. I like my lifestyle, my career, my body, my capacity to run off to New York at short notice if the opportunity arises. I like that my money is my own to squander. I like that my weekends can be slept away, or drunk away, or read away; that I am not sleep deprived, or if I am, I can remedy that easily. I like how last-minute my time is, how disorganised, how guilt-free.
You’ve told us you’re obsessed with your skinny body before. Still if you really want to lord it over other women, the thing to do is have two kids and get back in your jeans in two weeks. That’ll give you the oneupmanship you crave.
Mine is not an easy position to maintain. Partly because our society won’t have it. Partly because our popular culture denies it… How perverse of me. How contrary. How (someone actually said this to me recently) not normal.
Oh come now Polly. This is completely fatuous. Nobody gives a flying fuck. Is your child-free status really of concern to people who are worried about mortgages, jobs and marriages? Admit it, the pressure you’re feeling comes from yourself and you can’t handle it. At 37 you’re wondering if you can sustain yourself on a diet of City breaks. Will it be enough at 47? At 57? How many cities can you go to?
It doesn’t help that fertility is the great cultural preoccupation of the day. While TV and film scriptwriters and commercial novelists have given up flogging the idea that marriage and monogamy will save us, they now seem extremely attached to the idea that motherhood will save us.
Polly, you gotta stop reading chicklit. Try reading philosophy: might improve your argument.
There is nothing new here. It’s just cut and paste manufactured angst about something that really isn’t an issue. It’s not new: there were women who didn’t have children 30, 40, 50 years ago. Granted they didn’t have a work experience magazine to shout about it but they were true individuals in a society that was in transition. Polly is dancing about on a bandwagon that isn’t rolling, except in the imagination of media females. We don’t care and we wish you’d find something to write about that did matter instead of your own self-obsession.
WEDNESDAY, 4 FEBRUARY 2009
It is a fact that all desserts taste better once you have declared them off limits. Think about it: if we were to accept liking dessert as a perfectly, normal, natural occurrence, the thing would not be so desirable. But if we make a really big deal about the supposed cost of eating it, a chocolate pudding becomes a lot more interesting.
Ms R was twittering away to Peach last night on the subject of men who say they want it but then back right off. “Why do they do it?” asked Peach.
“Because once they have embraced the concept of you, they have to then accept the reality. It takes a lot longer. Men are slow.”
“And why is he peeking at me on Facebook after having said he wants nothing to do with me?”
“Because now you’re gone, you’re a lot more interesting. Off limits is more fun.”
Men, it seems, are on an eternal emotional diet. As anyone who’s tried to accommodate a dieter knows, it makes it bloody hard to figure out what to cook. One minute they’re binging on you and the next they’ve gone all bulimic and are purging. You offer up a well balanced plate and they turn up their noses. So you take it away and then suddenly they want it. And then they don’t again. They can eat normally for months and then, suddenly, without warning, they have emotional anorexia. They’ve eaten so much they need space to expand so they wander off but you discover they’re still nibbling. Elsewhere. Doing the sensible thing, you remove their place setting at the table, only to find that they still want to hang around and pick now and then. It drives you mad because you have no idea what the hell you should be putting in your shopping bag: friendship, lust, love, occasional meetings- it’s starting to mess up your life. So you stop inviting them for dinner.
And that’s when they suddenly develop an appetite. It seems they have gone out and seen what else is on the table and it’s not as good. Or, more likely, they realize they are missing emotional nourishment. Which is all very well but frankly how does a woman know it’s for real. When do we start believing you? After you’ve pushed the chair away once? Twice? As Peach points out, it’s just easier to give up and move on. And once we’ve done that, in most cases, you won’t ever get the chance to sit down at our table again. See the thing about women is that while they understand diets and are quite willing to give them their due, in the end they know they don’t work. Life is far too short to pick at the chocolate pudding. Either you dive in or you don’t bother.
SUNDAY, 1 FEBRUARY 2009
“Sorry forgot I was married”It is a brave or stupid man who attempts to pull the wool over Ms R’s eyes (unless she has asked him to, in which case silk may be preferable.) This hasn’t stopped men from lying to Ms R and imagining they got away with it. And it’s the latter part of the sentence that Ms R has problems with. Being a woman of experience she is used to the selective amnesia – as blogging colleague Suzanne Portnoy puts it – exhibited by men in their quest for a night in the sack; after all they are creatures of ridiculous optimism. How else to explain the number of fat, ugly guys who say things like “I”d give Angelina Jolie a good seeing to.” Yeah, like you’d have a hope in hell.
Ms R has had her fair share of amnesiacs. A few years ago she was at the Brixton Academy when she ran into her gym trainer and two of his mates who were investment bankers. They all ended up going back to the Knightsbridge flat of one of the bankers, for whisky and backgammon. It got late, the other investment banker left and Ms R’s gym trainer went to bed somewhere. Anyway Ms R ended up in bed with the banker, which was good since it would have been an expensive taxi home. And it was fun. In the morning, she went to the bathroom to spruce up. Oh how thoughtful: stacks of female cosmetics in the cupboard. Not the discarded stuff left by an ex, but stuff in current use. Evidently she was away. Shame, he was nice. But there you go. A one night stand.
Six months (yes SIX MONTHS) later she gets a phone call. “Hi, remember we had that amazing night together…”
Ms R had no idea who it was at first. “Oh yes. It was a good night.”
“Do you want to go out tonight.”
“I’m busy, how about tomorrow?
“Umm no, tonight would be better.”
“Like what. You’re ringing me after six months to ask for a date and you have one night available?
“Girlfriend’s away isn’t she?”
Silence. “Yes she is.”
Ms R probably didn’t even need to see the cosmetics to figure it out. Sometimes a woman of experience can just feel it. Guys who always want to come to your place. Guys who you never see on weekends. Guys who won’t give you their phone number and say they prefer email because they ‘can talk’. Generally – not always – they have something to hide. Sometimes the game gets really silly: they know that you know but they don’t admit it.
Sometimes you go with it because it suits you for the moment. You want to see what line they’re going to come up with to explain their absence during school holidays.
“You like to take your holidays when places are overrun with kids?”
It is often the case that men are actually just waiting until you ask. And are almost relieved when you do. Ms R had a lover whom she’d seen a few times. Something wasn’t right so she asked him.
“You’re married, aren’t you?”
“Well, sort of…yes.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“It wouldn’t have changed anything.”
“Oh yes it does.”
It’s a fact of life that the older you get, the more chance a man is attached in some way, even if it’s just a serial killer ex girlfriend. However, instead of attempting to make the choice for you and cocking it up, Ms R much prefers a man to give her the real deal up front, and let her decide what she wants to do. Honesty is worth brownie points.
THURSDAY, 29 JANUARY 2009
In this brave new world of ours where bankers are finding new pleasure in macrame, Ms R had hoped things might be different. She imagined that maybe we could all turn our minds to finding fulfilling lives and not trying to contrive ones that we think we’re supposed to live. She prayed that newspapers and magazines would stop complicating life and making women (not Ms R, she just shakes her head) feel inadequate.
Instead, it seems the same old themes keep getting repeated ad nauseaum. At this time of year, two weeks before the compulsory display of love fakery that is Valentine’s Day, Ms R notes that papers and magazines are full of advice on how to ‘get a man.’ This nonsense in itself is enough to convince Ms R that she should officially provide a counterpoint to the wet white bread that passes for advice to women. Of late Ms R has also noticed huge hits on certain posts – always the ones to do with dating and relationship advice. And so Friday is the day we will deal with it. It will not always be gentle but it will be fair. This blog is not about fence-sitting.
There is nothing better than meeting someone who makes your toes curl, who makes you light up every time you see them, and who makes you shiver when they kiss the back of your neck. However there is nothing worse than being so desperate for it or not knowing when you’re on to a good thing.
To begin, Ms R is reaching back to a very early post that receives more hits than any other. It’s a good place to start. (And lots of people have copied it so it’s time to reclaim it.)
He didn’t call..and neither should you
A lack of qualifications in digital electronics has not prevented Ms Robinson knowing that staring at your phone will not make someone call. While some women realise this is a good time to slink away with their dignity intact, there are many who see it as a signal to advance further onto what has now become shaky ground. The plan seems to be that if they continue to relentlessly call, text and email they will remind their date how wonderful they are because, somehow, he must have forgotten. How did that happen? Oh yes, he had such a good time he got early onset Alzheimers. See where I’m headed? Don’t make me hit you over the head with it.
One acquaintance of Ms Robinson’s could not believe she was not getting a second date and invoked the Law of What Happens in the Movies as her get out clause insisting that something must have happened to her date for him not to call. The chances that he, like Deborah Kerr in An Affair to Remember, had been knocked over and was now languishing in the corridor of some NHS hospital pining for her were pretty much nil.
There are many reasons why a meeting seemingly packed full of all the essential ingredients –laughter, sex, mutual love of cats – may not result in another. Here are some of them:
He suddenly remembers he’s married
His girlfriend is back from holiday tomorrow
He’s testing the market to see what else is out there before he jumps from his current relationship
He’s trying out women who aren’t his usual type
He went home and realised he had a type and you were not it
You reminded him of his last girlfriend
He thinks it might ruin the friendship
His friends told him not to
He decided you would be too good for him since he is a bastard
He likes you too much already and he’d feel bad going out with other people because you are so nice
He didn’t like you in the first place but he figured he’d get laid. He did and now he’s off to do it again
You said ‘us’
It was one date. Ok maybe two. It wasn’t a contract. You can’t – I repeat – can’t control what anyone else thinks or why they think it. Sometimes in life, shit happens. And frankly at this early stage, this isn’t shit. It’s just dating.
TUESDAY, 27 JANUARY 2009
The call came from Geeklawyer. “I need you Ms R.”
“Everyone needs Ms R but alas she does not feel the same. Get to the point Geeky.”
“I have a restaurant review to do and I need to take someone glamorous, witty and charming who understands how to cook and eat steak. As you are Australian and it will be Australia day I thought it would be rather neat.”
Neat. Who uses that word? Still a meal at Goodman in London’s Mayfair was not to be shunned. Even if it meant Ms R had to put up with someone as uncouth, ill-mannered and rude as Geeklawyer.
We arrived outside the restaurant in Maddox Street. Goodman is one of a chain that originated in Moscow, the London restaurant being the only non Russia/Ukraine/Siberian outpost. As you’d expect from Russians, they do things differently. For a start they have an attractive blonde Russian girl to greet you. Not a peroxide, blingy, purse-lipped, snarly blonde but a young woman who looks you in the eye; the sort who could jump out of a helicopter, ski and and shoot deer at the same time. Beautiful and competent. But not pretentious. London restaurants take note please. In fact all the staff here are excellent. They certainly put up with Geeklawyer.
The restaurant is dark and woody as serious steakhouses should be. The clientele are mostly men which Ms R wholeheartedly approves of. Geeklawyer, however, did not .
“It’s not fair,” he whinged, “You’re here with me and all those other men are looking at you.”
“Geeky” I said,”All men who accompany MsR must live with the reality that she will be chatted up, and the possibility that she will be taken away from them. Deal with it.”
Goodman does steak. This is not the place to bring your lettuce pushing fashionista nor your timid vegie. Sure there is a salmon dish on the menu in case you slept with her earlier and you want to feed her before you dump her, but really it’s best avoided. It is however a good place to bring a mistress since there are loads of cheeky, tucked-away alcoves and with its business clientele you can always pretend you are interviewing. If someone you know walks in, you could always ask them to put your lover in the steak ageing room, a place where upwards of 300kg of the world’s best meat from Australia, the US, Ireland the UK resides until it is deemed ready for consumption
They bring it to you uncooked on a huge plate and you choose. Geeklawyer is a glutton so he chose 800gms of rib-eye. Ms R settled on 250gms of Filet Mignon which had been hanging up in the mistress hiding place. Now Ms R has eaten a lot of steak and this was up there in the top two of all time (Ms R can’t remember the other one). A few green vegetables and a slurp of bearnaise and she was in heaven. Geeklawyer was meanwhile eating like a man condemned, as well he should. Ms R could see him growing into his banquette seat: most of the seating is chocolate brown banquettes making it kind of like a playpen for carnivores. Really there is nothing like this place in London. They are serious, passionate and smart about steak.
Ms R got tired of showing Geeklawyer how to use cutlery so she went outside to have a cigarette and promptly got chatted up by some friendly men doing the same.
“Who are you here with?”
“Oh nobody. An acquaintance I feel sorry for.”
“Gosh you’re really nice to be doing that.”
Ms R can’t remember most of the conversation but she does remember threatening Geeklawyer with the steak knife: a four inch long, inch wide beauty from Brazil. Clearly this is not the place to break up with your partner. Arrange the ambulance first.
There was a delicious chocolate fondant for pudding with pistachio ice-cream. All desserts are made in house, which is a change from the usual bought in puddings. There was dessert wine which Geeklawyer whinged about until he got. There were some discussions about other bloggers but truthfully Ms R can’t remember them.
After all that food, Ms R wants to lie down. Does anyone want her to review a hotel for them?
More men than women: Yes
Vegetarian unfriendly: Yes
Mistress friendly: Yes
Staff attractiveness: Very good
SUNDAY, 25 JANUARY 2009
Oh so much to comment on and so little time. Those who know Ms R’s theatre of operations know that she tends to blog more when she is putting off other things: in this case a confrontation with Excel. Don’t ask. Let’s just say I don’t do spreadsheets.
Anyway we digress. Unlike most commentators, Ms R is not too disturbed about the recession. Finally we can dispense with the stereotypical characters who seemed to exist in newspapers but didn’t really infuse daily life that much. You know what I mean: endless spurious accounts about a journalist’s (as always I use the word loosely) supposed encounters with wealthy men about town. They were always called Tom, worked in Hedge Funds, popped over to St Moritz when they felt like it, took drugs all day and had beautiful, young girlfriends, who loved threesomes. It all went on every night in …Notting Hill.
They partied a lot, were frequently photographed and lived in Notting Hill where there were endless dinner parties where all these people seemed to meet. Tom lived near the journalist’s other ‘friend’ the Yummy Mummy who wore white jeans and was married to a banker (always). She was called Kate and probably lived down the road from Anna, the older woman who attracted younger men in droves. Anna was of course a MILF or Mother I’d Like to Fuck. She lived in Notting Hill with her husband who was usually called Rupert and was probably screwing someone else in Notting Hill, who discussed it with her best friend who lived in…Notting Hill. Everyone shopped and ate in Notting Hill. How on earth did it fit all those people?
Yep the whole world was in Notting Hill if you believed any British magazine or newspaper (Search “Notting Hill in The Times of London). Anything that was socially or culturally relevant happened there. Like a bunch of second rate chicklit authors, the journalists decided that they needed a context and Notting Hill was it. And joy of joys, it might even get their low grade musings syndicated in America. However read New York Magazine and you’ll see that, like most of us, they don’t care about Notting Hill. In fact they don’t care about London
Time to get over yourselves people. You were never the centre of the world. In fact you never really existed.
FRIDAY, 23 JANUARY 2009
On occasions when Ms R has written about the differences between men and women, there will always be the inevitable voice in the comments box, “But Ms R, men and women want exactly the same thing.” That may well be so, however, what you have to realize – as do those who are doing the wanting – is that they want it done up in different packages. This is highly inconvenient as quite often there is no time to work out what the appropriate wrapping should be. This can result in extreme points of view, whereby a woman on a first date wants to be treated like minor European royalty while the man is thinking only of the moment she kneels and worships at his throbbing altar. Not good. Ms R once sat through dinner with a man who looked thoroughly bored to be there, expressing discontent with his food. It was evident that he didn’t want dinner at all but was thinking of afterwards. He didn’t get it. And he didn’t get IT either.
What women may consider to be the ‘simple things in life'(a delightful phrase straight from dating ad central) are often utterly complicated for men. Asking you out, for example. Say you’ve gone out with him once, had a good time and know that he doesn’t have a wife, girlfriend or serial killer past. Naturally you might think the second date is no big deal. Wrong. Sure he wants a second date. He had a nice time. But now he’s thinking, “Shit, if I ask her out again she’ll think I like her (which he does) and her expectations will be greater. Shit, damn, what will I do? I know, I’ll back off for a while to let things cool down and then I’ll ask her out again. Yup that’s it. I won’t call her until next week. And I’d better ignore her emails.”
So he duly implements the plan. Meanwhile you’re thinking, “We had a good time, I made it clear I was happy to see what happened and did not suggest he meet my friends. So why has he not contacted me? MY GOD, it is a whole TWENTY FOUR HOURS and he has not asked me out again. I blew it didn’t I.” After a couple of days of this and no joy, you decide to email. “Hi, just wondering how you are” or something equally benign and toothless. He does not reply. The weekend comes and you spend it in bed eating croissants and chocolate. What is the point of getting out of bed? He does not want to see you so you may as well become morbidly obese. Who cares?
By Tuesday, just when you’ve played “I WILL SURVIVE” or more subtly, Joan Armatrading’s “Me, Myself I” on a continuous loop for three days, you are ready to face the world. Without him. Except now he is ready to face you again. Except he does know it’s been several days so instead of calling to ask you out again he decides to test the water.
Cue email or somesuch, “What are you doing?” It is not a trick question. The trouble is with your stomach puffed up on pastries and the militant words of girlfriends ringing in your ears, you are in no place to see it clearly.
And right now when you both want the same thing, it is about to slip away.
WEDNESDAY, 21 JANUARY 2009
Today we stand on the precipice of blog history. As the tidal waters swirl ever faster below us we must remember those bloggers before us who made great sacrifices so that we could humbly post. (Like who for example?)
Today I sit, slumped before you. A blogger who is wondering (panicking) where her next post is coming from. A blogger who wants to do for her country what it has done for her but cannot. A blogger who sees thousands, nay, millions of other bloggers doing it so easily and asks how, what, where (and what is the fucking point really)
At times we might think our blogs do not matter. Most of us cannot boast readers in the thousands. Or even a thousand. But that does not mean our service is any less important. (Really? Sounds pretty unimportant to me?)
Today the challenges facing bloggers are real. We must choose: choose between spending time on our blogs or our actual money making jobs (Well it’s pretty bloody obvious, no?) Blogging has never been for the faint-hearted (gutless maybe…)Those who began blogging when the interwebnet was still held together by tumbleweed and string made hard choices. They put up with server problems and unprecedented outages but they still kept going. Time and again these bloggers called their ISP provider to find out what was wrong. Tirelessly they spoke to call centres in far off lands. But they never gave up. (you’re bullshitting aren’t you?)
Today we reach out in a new spirit of blogging. To those bloggers who seek to bestow ill upon us (What the fuck are you talking about?) I say we will not allow you to break our spirit. To the sex blogger, the political madman (DK you know that’s you) the blogger who thinks that feeding a cat is a good reason to write a blog, know that while Ms Robinson does not agree with you, she extends the gift of comment.
So let us mark this day with how far we have come (you do know your readers are fewer than last year?) and in this Siberian winter of blogging despair, let us brave the unwelcome keyboard to give freely. Let it be said that when that lone reader came to the blog we did not falter but wrote; because we knew it mattered.
MONDAY, 19 JANUARY 2009
Ok you gotta love it. I mean this from The Times in London yesterday.
“Scientists have found that the pleasure women get from making love is directly linked to the size of their partner’s bank balance.
They found that the wealthier a man is, the more frequently his partner has orgasms.
“Women’s orgasm frequency increases with the income of their partner,” said Dr Thomas Pollet, the Newcastle University psychologist behind the research.
He believes the phenomenon is an “evolutionary adaptation” that is hard-wired into women, driving them to select men on the basis of their perceived quality.”
Aside from the matter of expensively educated men in white coats calling voyeurism ‘science’ Ms R reckons that there are plenty of women who would fake an orgasm for the latest Balenciaga handbag. Perhaps it’s not so much the men giving women orgasms as the money. Of course we could sensibly say that women have better sex when they feel secure and money equals security. But then why have countless pampered, spoiled wives turned to their pool boy, personal trainer and delivery man for sex.
“Aaah oooh..just tell me how much you make again…ooooh God, I could buy so much with that..I mean..wow…you are amazing…”
SATURDAY, 17 JANUARY 2009
Back when Ms R was in her lycra wearing twenties, we had the pill, we had jobs, money and power. And we had sex. But we didn’t have sex like they’re having sex now. We didn’t have sex on the internet, sex on email, sex by text, online casual sex; in fact sex in your face 24 hours a day. We probably had as much actual sex as anyone is having now but we didn’t write about it, photograph or make it a must-do and discuss priority.
We felt little need to tell the world, usually confining any mention to our closest friends and then only because we were afraid the condom might have come off or we forgot to take our pill. We were not naïve nor were we over confident. We just took it as it came. The relative limitations of communication meant that we waited to hook up and we didn’t mind it. It gave us, especially young women, time to reflect on both person and deed before rushing in again. Still we felt like we rushed in and there were the usual ‘should I’ searching questions to ourselves after we’d gone to bed with someone. There was some pressure to have a boyfriend as there always is, but what there wasn’t was the sexual pressure that young women – and men – feel today to perform. So really everything was the same, except it was different…
When we were finding our way in the eighties, porn was still something in magazines. Men had to actually go out and find it outside their homes. And so an actual woman without her clothes on was still rather a nice thing to have for a man. And a woman who was warm, real and sensual was pretty special. Lovemaking itself was still something pretty cool; something that men still regarded if not as a big deal, as a deal anyway. As a woman you held some value. Now in my forties and still as private about who I have sex with, everything around me has changed. And I’m not sure it’s good (for them..it’s very good for me) Yes we experimented back then but what we didn’t have to live up to was anyone else’s idea of sex. Sure our friends told us about the blow-jobs they gave and we wondered if we were doing it right but really it didn’t cause any sleepless nights; we had lots of other things on our minds.
Partly I think this was because we didn’t view sex in a competitive sense. It was still essentially a private act between the people who did it and perhaps Cosmopolitan magazine. The past fifteen or twenty years has changed all that with sex now being on display 24/7. The result of this groaning, moaning smorgasbord is that plain old lovemaking between two people is not enough. Now it’s about doing it like a porn star, being available and ready for every permutation and combination. Supply is everywhere with the inevitable result that the value of the goods on offer is low. Men – and it’s not entirely their fault – are now conditioned to expect blow-jobs and cum on your face sex on demand. At the same time, they are faced with women so upfront about their sexual experience that they feel they have to perform to porn star standards.
The thing is, that when you actually talk to them, men are still men, no matter what they tell you when they’re in bed with you and their dick is doing the talking. And that means they don’t want it if they know everyone else is getting it. Sorry but it’s still the way. They’ll take it, but they won’t hang around. You can fight the biological imperative all you like but in the past year the conversations I’ve had with men both young and old suggest that while they’re happy to take the girl who offers herself for a bit of fun online or at a pub or whatever, they’re going to take even longer to find one who doesn’t. Which presents something of a problem for a woman who though looking for a partner, has conditioned herself to believe that by having devil may care disconnected sex in multiples she’s exercising her right to choice, when in fact the opposite is true. Plain fact is that the man who perceives a woman to be sexually available at the click of a mouse is not going to think ‘commitment.’ And why should he when has this whole menu of women willing (or so it seems) to cater to his desires?
When Ms R talks to these girls who are ‘having sex like a man’ as they put it, 99% of them are not happy. They’re screwing and getting screwed but they’re like hamsters on a wheel to nowhere. Perhaps we had to get here, the era of the perpetual zipless fuck? And having got here maybe now – like all movements who have to claim extremes to prove a point- the point has been proved we can move back down the spectrum to a place where sex has its place but it isn’t the only place to go, or even the first.
THURSDAY, 15 JANUARY 2009
Ms R has just spent four action, fun-filled days in New York; a city that does exactly what it says on the tin. Excess is still the raison d’etre. Upon her arrival Ms R stepped out of her hotel for an overview of the city’s retailers – just to see how they were getting on really – and had barely gone a block when she heard a phone conversation. Well it wasn’t so much a chat really as a tirade. “He’s a fucker, a mother-fucking, fucking fuck (repeat sentence several times)” As a woman who likes to tell it straight she appreciated the sentiment.
Wanting the ultimate cupcake experience Ms R found the Magnolia Bakery (49th and Sixth) where cupcakes listing under the weight of calorie laden icing begged to be eaten. She couldn’t decide on one so she bought four. And a brownie. That was the morning after she thought she was ordering shots of vodka but it came in martini glasses instead. A hangover in -5 degrees is a strange, out of body, experience; but that is how Ms R feels about NY. Even the homeless are more fun here; they don’t just stand around moaning; they do great card tricks that make you feel that you are the hopeless, stupid one. The garbage collectors have sparkly come back lines. “Hey buddy how are you today?” “Me? I’m just tryin to turn 15 cents into a dollar.” The next day it was “I’m just a squirrel tryin’ to find a nut.” There is strangely an innocence about this place. For all its buildings, neon and attitude, you sense a naivete that Europeans don’t have. As much cynicism as there is in the water here, there is also a sense of ‘we gotta keep going.’
The impeccable women of the Upper East Side with their full length furs and box fresh blow dried hair did not disappoint. Neither the restaurants. A perfect Italian meal on East 64th at La Houppa and stunning food – and buzz- at Cookshop which I want as my neighbourhood restaurant. Long legs and smart chat from the barmaids: London please take note: Attitude is not about scowling to portray some outdated notion of ‘cool’ – it’s about a smile and personality. And being helpful. Like the security guard at the Rockerfeller Centre who tried to persuade the ticket girls when they were closing down that Ms R and her friend needed to get up there as they were ‘my friends from London’. He didn’t manage it but he tried. He didn’t have to.
A friend of Ms R’s was in town for a couple of days too (Ms R was there in marketing consultancy role). Ms R found time to swing by his hotel for a lie down.
Let’s just say in the city that never sleeps, neither did Ms R.
TUESDAY, 6 JANUARY 2009
As many of my fellow bloggers have pointed out, there is a really sickly slew of posts out there in which the writer delights in telling us that 2008 was really good for them and giving syrupy thanks for what they have But why wait? Ms R can already tell you why 2009 will be far better for her than it will be for you. In this year in which endless newspaper articles are urging us to take joy in divesting ourselves of stuff, Ms R is way ahead of the pack. Giving up shopping is a token act: Ms R is all about the macro picture.
For example, not having savings of any sort means that Ms R does not give a flying fuck about interest rates. Up, down, all around who cares? Instead Ms R only has to worry about earning money and these days that is becoming far easier to solve than where to put money if you have it. If she has no money, she goes to see her young bank manager who likes her very much. Last time she bargained down the lending rate by O.5%.
Ms R does not own property: She does not have to worry if her house which was worth £10 million last year is only worth £25,000 today. This means she does not get invited to dinner parties by other property owners to discuss the falling property prices, thereby prematurely ageing and losing a good chunk of her life in the process. She has more time to have interesting conversations and thus increase her chances of getting laid by a man who is equally amusing and farsighted. This may well be the husband of a woman who is too busy discussing property prices. Just saying…
Ms R does not have children. No worries that she will produce a gang member/bulumic/stupid posh kid/teenage mother/accountant/banker/Harry Potter loon. She is meanwhile free to avail herself of her friend’s teenagers if she wants to hear things like “My teacher is a stupid fucking cunt” have her computer fixed or her Ipod loaded with 10,000 songs. If she wants to feel loved, she cooks the teenagers a high carb, high sugar meal and immediately feels the warm glow of gratitude. Of course their mother has paid for it all.
Ms R is not carrying extra weight. She is therefore free to concentrate on making British pounds instead of losing them.
Ms R does not have a husband. She can borrow one if she really feels she is missing out.
As always – and especially at the start of a New Year – it is win-win with Ms R.
FRIDAY, 26 DECEMBER 2008
Ms R emerged from the sugar and fat infested storm drain that is Christmas, and headed for the snow which is where she is now; Switzerland to be exact.
Stomachs are of course not all that is stretched to breaking point during the quaintly named holiday season: Peace, love and understanding are all pushed beyond their natural limits; relationships which were on the brink are by now on the edge of destruction. Here at Ms R’s Snow Towers, friend’s eldest son is fed up with his girlfriend and we have, as they say, a situation. Things are getting decidedly frosty and one of the main causes is that his girlfriend has not understood that you do not attempt to have those awkward discussions about feelings and emotions – also known as taking him to the Other Side – when his brain is taken up with other Important Things and therefore least positioned to go there.
This is usually when:
He is watching sport (a no brainer)
He is getting ready to watch sport
There is sport on TV that he is not watching or interested in but you will be interrupting him nonetheless
If he is cooking as he will not be preparing a meal; he will be making ART and this should not be disrupted
Before he goes to work
When he is at work (positively suicidal behaviour for any relationship)
When he returns from work
When he has Man Flu/Man Cold/Man Death
When he has a newspaper in his hand. NB: it does not matter that he is not reading it, the intent is enough
When he is trying to figure out Transformers, Lego or anything which involves wires and extension leads
When you are lying in bed
After you have had sex
When he is watching YouTube
On holidayThese are naturally the bare minimum; a skeleton if you wish. All other times are up for grabs. Alternatively you may decide to do what many smart women have done and simply not bother TALKING ABOUT IT. This has the advantage of keeping him guessing and casting you as a woman of mystery and allure. By NOT TALKING ABOUT IT he will forget he is in a relationship and if you do this enough times it is quite possible to take a twenty year marriage that has seen you morph into cook/mother/counsellor back to year zero where he was prepared to go out and slay dragons for the opportunity to lie next to you and hang on every single word.
As always with Ms R it is win-win.
WEDNESDAY, 24 DECEMBER 2008
At Ms R Towers we are not generally fans of Christmas. It is in many ways a sad time leading to reflection about things lost and lives not lived. Ultimately it leads to January, otherwise known in the Northern Hemisphere as god’s eternal endurance test. Ms R has never liked Christmas: her father left at Christmas many years ago and therefore it is inextricably associated with a certain blankness and abandonment. Luckily her family are not into compulsory fun and the day itself is treated much as any other. This year Ms R will be spending the 25th with her best friend’s family. It will be fun, not least because there are small children, one of whom is two and is intent on liberating the tree from decorations and himself from everyone else. Christmas is for kids. So where does that leave you?
Ms R is aware that this year many of you who have previously never experienced tough times will, for the first time, be facing a change in circumstances. If not now, then possibly in the New Year. Ms R understands what it’s like to be fired: it’s happened to her four times, mostly when ad agencies lost clients – once when she fell out. She knows what it’s like to wake up and wonder who you are because you don’t have the job you had yesterday and she has experienced the feeling of being unintentionally shut out from colleagues who still have the job. We are all different and perhaps as a writer it is my fate to be tossed around on high seas: creative people are used to feeling pain on a daily basis as we wonder if anything we have done is any good, if anyone will pay us and whether to wear a short red dress to visit the bank manager.
They say adversity makes you stronger: it worked for Ms R but it also makes her quite bored with adversity. However there lies the choice: Do you give in because your chosen path is blocked by a big ugly hairy monster or do you find another path? Ms R has chosen the latter but it hasn’t been easy. It has forced her to literally plumb the depths of her soul and sometimes of despair.
You will come out of it. And sure you might go into it again. But remember this. You are not your job. Or your bank account. God’s (all of them) plans for the universe surely did not include making you rich. But we or more importantly you are not here for a long time. So you have one choice. You can sit and think about the tomorrow you might not have or throw yourself into today with abandon and live like there is no tomorrow with only one proviso: that you don’t intentionally hurt anyone else. The rest will happen anyway.
WEDNESDAY, 17 DECEMBER 2008
Ms R began her Arts degree studying psychology but soon swapped it for politics. If she had continued she might well have ended up like the psychologists at Edinburgh’s Heriot-Watt University: wearing white lab coats and watching romantic comedies for real money. Instead she is sitting here writing this for you, for free. (Note to self: must do something about that.)
The psychologists emerged stuffed with popcorn to conclude that romantic comedies give people unrealistic expectations about relationships. Don’t know about you but I kind of saw that coming. Here at Ms R Towers tastes tend towards the French, the obtuse and the arthouse. Ms R regards romance as something that is tense, exhilarating, passionate, frustrating,immobilising, delicious and insane. Comedy is expected to be funny. Romantic comedies do not work because in a desperate bid to be funny they take the tension out of romance and replace it with indecision. All of the execrable ‘romcoms’ written by Richard Curtis rest largely on indecision where the protagonists can’t decide if they are friends or lovers. They don’t know if they hate each other or love each other. They are usually emotionally shallow and sexually immature: an accidental sighting of girl with towel wrapped around her is too much for the man. The men have no idea how to undress a woman and the women are perpetual virgins who blush at the mention of sex and are uncomfortable with their bodies.
Romance in the modern era usually involves sex except you wouldn’t know it from watching a romcom. These people are too busy not making decisions to have sex: in fact they appear to lack sex organs. Still it’s a good thing. Can you imagine the indecisive, shambolic Hugh Grant character asking for a blow job?
“Umm I was wondering if perhaps you had thought about..?”
“Thought about what?”
“Well err, umm you know..if perhaps you well liked to ..”
“What are you trying to say?”
“I’m sorry, I really don’t know..this might be awfully rude of me but I’m sure it would be really nice .and for you too I mean”
“What ARE you talking about?”
“Thingy, my err thing and your mouth.”
“You want a blow job?”
“Err gosh, I mean oh dear, I mean yes, yes I think yes. Sorry.”
If the character in the romantic comedy were true to form it would take the bloke three months to ask the girl out. She meanwhile would refuse because she thinks they should just be friends. And she feels fat. Another month. She agrees. They arrange to go out but he takes the wrong bus and doesn’t get there. Two more weeks. He sends her flowers. Another two weeks while she decides if he’s a bastard or not. They go out again. He can’t decide whether to kiss her but finally does. He changes his mind. A month. A friend intervenes by organising a convenient dinner party. Three more weeks. They realise they like each other but then he has to get up the courage to have sex…
This is why romantic comedies aren’t realistic: you can’t fit that into 90 minutes.
SUNDAY, 14 DECEMBER 2008
The following is an updated version of the third piece I ever wrote on this blog.
There’ll be times when you’re walking down the street and you’ll see two twenty-somethings with legs all the way to Lithuania and that paradoxically world-weary manner of girls who have the world ahead of them. This being North London they are indeed from Lithuania. You shoot them an appreciative glance. A bit of envy maybe but nothing deep. All you have to do is remember what they have ahead of them: adoration yes but also the insecurity of youth, the men you longed for and never understood, but mostly the constant jostling for your place in the world; that nagging feeling that you had to be at the centre of everything because if you weren’t you simply didn’t exist. Sure you looked great in a scrap of white broderie anglaise and bare legs but it was accessorised with existential angst which kind of let the whole thing down.
You can’t pinpoint it but at some point you stopped wishing you were six inches taller/had blonde hair/had larger breasts/had smaller breasts/had a nose like Cinderella in your kid’s storybook. You attract more interesting men than you ever did when you were younger. You have hotter sex, better conversations and your intellect is equally voracious. And, having got to this point, you don’t need to be the life and soul of the party; attention becomes something that matters more in private. You admire youthful beauty but you don’t envy it: Charlotte Rampling once said that now when she sees a young girl being admired she thinks, “that used to happen to me.” And yes beauty in itself is worth admiring; not to do so would be quite unnatural and churlish.
You understand that there are men who are obsessed with younger women (Yes there are men who do so because they legitimately fall in love but we are talking obsessives here), many who themselves are not beautiful or secure in themselves and wish to buy beauty as accessory. You know from experience there are men who do it because they fear their own mortality: after all women age gradually and have time to get used to it; for men it can be a smooth run until their mid-30s when they are struck by the stark realization of a beer belly,love handles, going bald or a doctor’s warning.Women meanwhile have noted that their bodies do start changing early (remember when your breasts were naturally near your neck, your tummy flat no matter how much you ate?) and have time to take preventative action
Ms R had never struck the kind of men who say ‘women over 35 are past it’ until recently. She struck it on a blog… they were professional men who operated in an insecure world and probably know little of the world and less of themselves. The comments were nasty. It made her angry: not the words of the men themselves but the fact that she let it touch her. “Welcome to the real world fairy princess” said a friend.
Ms R is aware that ‘youth is beauty, anything else is not worth considering’ is pretty much society’s default setting but she doesn’t want to be infected by it because actually she’s finally having a good time and it’s this moment that counts; right now. As a woman you spend years hating yourself. A lot of those pretty twenties are wasted you. And sometime in your late thirties you suddenly hit that point where you like yourself – and a lot of other people like you more because of it. You blossom. It’s the point you were meant to reach and you weren’t going to reach it if you didn’t get older. Ok so the title of youngest in the room is gone for good and a wise woman will never try to hang on to it. The rest – sexy, smart, sorted, funny, clever – is up for grabs.
THURSDAY, 11 DECEMBER 2008
MONDAY, 8 DECEMBER 2008
A few weeks ago, one of Ms R’s friends, a smart, attractive thirty-something had a job interview. She used to work in banking but went to Australia with a boyfriend, came back and found herself out of a job. And it has been thus for over a year, so when this opportunity came up with a wealth management firm, she was very excited and sought Ms R’s advice. Said friend is academically very bright but her problem, even when in work, has been that she doesn’t project herself.
Because she was going for a client facing job where the clients would be mostly men who would need convincing to invest, Ms R advised her to ditch the dark suit she usually wore to interviews and wear a tailored red dress and heels. Ms R knew the red dress would enable her friend to project femininity and confidence immediately. And she’d look pretty hot too. Nothing wrong with that. It’s called using what you have. People have been doing it for thousands of years. It worked. The interviewers were men. Ms R knows these things.
So are we ok with that? Because it astounds Ms R that while female commentators in the media applaud the ‘feminist’ Madonna cavorting around half-naked in a leotard, they are distressed by bright young women taking part in a beauty contest. India Knight in the Times pointed out that these women were subjecting themselves to being ‘stared at and scrutinized’ making it sound like they had been kidnapped and trafficked. No, India, they chose, just as they chose their courses at university. And it’s not up to you to choose for them.
What is so wrong with some bright twenty-somethings taking part in a beauty contest? Apparently they are ‘promoting sexism’. Oh that old chestnut. So India, when you wear your low cut dresses that show your breasts, where are the men looking? Moreover, being ‘scrutinised and stared at’ is what we do to each other every day. on the street, in the gym, everywhere. Whenever we go for job interviews we are heavily studied (by both men and women). Are they looking at our brains alone? No, they’re looking at the whole damn package. That is how life works. And you can put on your dungarees and scream but it won’t help.
Ms R was twenty-something once and she knows that some of the girls may have entered the contest for misguided reasons of self-esteem and approval. They probably drink too much and sleep with unsuitable men for the same reasons. The thing that makes Ms R laugh is that many of the commentators who find this episode distasteful are the same women who applaud a young woman’s right to drink like a man and screw around as examples of equality. You know who you are.
Personally Ms R wouldn’t have had the guts to enter a beauty contest at their age. But with widespread body dysmorphia in our liposuctioned society it’s great to see girls who are confident enough to say,”here I am and I think I’m attractive.” And maybe some of these women wanted some light relief, an antidote to the relentless grind of study, exams and worrying about getting a job. Dare we entertain the thought they wanted to be admired? And have some fun.
At the same time these are bright girls who have opinions. Perhaps they’ve decided that feminism is about individual choice, not collective dogma. And it’s this individuality that some so-called feminists have failed to recognise. Whether the choice is wrong or right is irrelevant.
FRIDAY, 5 DECEMBER 2008
Ms R was once feted and paid stupid amounts of money by advertising agencies who said she “saw the world from strange angles.” People pay for that sort of thing. And so while the rest of you are saving the dripping from your roast dinners and selling your children for coal, she is looking on the bright side. Last night a man on the TV told her (well not her, he told others but they were not listening) that consumers aren’t shopping.Some may find this alarming but for Ms R it is the answer to almost everything that bothers her.
With no money and indeed no credit, surely this means there are far fewer opportunities for women to get it wrong. If they cannot buy, then they cannot buy clothes that were not meant for them. Win-Win. Because we don’t have to look at them. It is astonishing how many times Ms R has watched a woman try on a pair of trousers that are straining across the hips screaming “get out of me idiot, you’re hurting me” while she is saying, “Do you think I need a smaller size?”
But it’s not just about size. Without liquidity, women cannot indulge their needy little girl: the one that emerges when she’s been dumped, wants to show an ex-boyfriend what he’s missing or (despair) wants to be ‘sexy.’ Does this mean we can look forward to fewer leopardskin print clothes, the leather trousers, the PVC leggings, the sequined bolero, the unfeasibly low cut top, the tutu skirt, the floral slip dress? (sorry it’s not part of this set but I hate it). Yes we can.
Like those ads that say “Drink champagne responsibly” (surely if you drink champagne responsibility is the last thing on your mind) there will be ads telling women to “shop responsibly.” Your Lady Dictator likes to think of this as a kind of cleansing programme, a detox if you like. And like any detox there will be withdrawal symptoms but a whole new industry of Credit Card Clinics will be set up where women go and reflect for a few days. Naturally all major cards are not accepted.
Meanwhile whole section of society used to shopping because they had nothing else to think about will be forced to do other things. Husbands will get more sex, children will get nourishing oat and dried fruit biscuits baked for them, the dog will get walked. And we will be spared the fashion mistakes, the disasters, the eyesores. It is win-win.
MONDAY, 1 DECEMBER 2008
Maybe it was delirium caused by Ms R’s over enthusiastic intake of flu germs. Maybe it was just a longing for a simpler, more innocent time. Whatever it was, Ms R lay on the sofa looking up at the ceiling yesterday thinking about the roll call of men that, like it or not, a woman has to trip over in her life to truly say “I lived.” Or maybe “I did it to prove I existed.” Watershed men. Not the whole twenty or so previous years. Just the experiences you had to have.
A boring girl at school’s more interesting boyfriend: Ms R didn’t have boyfriends at school. She wasn’t really allowed out with boys until she was sixteen but there was a party in Year 11 and Kay was going out with John. Ms R got bored with hangin’ with the girls and went outside to the garage to have a spliff with the boys. She kissed John who said “You’re the best kisser” and then returned to the dull girls who asked what she’d done. Of course she didn’t tell. And she still doesn’t.
Boy with tattoos and long hair who didn’t read books and was generally thick: Ok, Ms R was doin’ her rebellious thing. It lasted three weeks and now when she thinks of it, she needs to have a very long shower. A hot shower.
Brothers: Not at the same time. Almost. Gray was a surfing iron man champion and his stepbrother Luke was just a laid back guy. Ms R was seeing Gray but one day when Gray annoyed her she left his double bunk beds while he was soundly sleeping dreaming of waves and went to leave. She walked past Luke’s bedroom and went in. Sometimes when Ms R thinks of this she has to take a shower. A cold one.
Brothers (Again) Didn’t learn the first time. Not as good looking or as good in bed as the previous brothers.
Two best friends at university: Ms R slept with Bob and then slept with Dr. Peter (med student). Neither was that good. One day while they were all lying on the floor not going to lectures, Bob suggested they have a threesome. Ms R thought it was a silly idea. Twenty years later she thought it was a good one.
Older Man: Lived with one for five year, twenty two years older when she was 22. Learned that an older man will always pick the film. One day he said “You have to leave to do what I’ve already done.” She didn’t but a few months later when they were invited to a sixties party and he said, “But I was there” she knew it was time to go.
The boss: Nah, just messing with your heads. Ms R has never done that one although there have been a few “We would never do this but let’s just snog and go back to the party instead” moments.
Travellin’ men: They turn up with backpacks in Thailand, India or Bali, they speak to you of other faraway places where there is always sunshine and laughing children and fresh exotic fruits. They love you and leave you. Or you love them and cry when you leave them. You swap addresses but only realise when you’re much, much older that it’s pointless. Or on one occasion you meet one, naked, on a beach and marry him.
Bloke who can’t shag without drugs: He was in the music business, picked Ms R up in the lobby of a hotel in Sydney and gave her lots of coke. A month later she got tired of being called ‘babe’ and having a blocked nose.
Younger men: Not for life and not if they’re looking for a teacher. But some fine moments have been had by all and French films would not exist otherwise.
Married men: Ms R didn’t actually do this until she was forty. The man in question managed to treat her like a filthy slut and look after her as if she were a precious jewel all at once. Nothing but fond memories. And a birthday card every year.Bad Boys: Expect little and enjoy the education. They will seduce you and make you feel like the most important, beautiful woman in the world. Then they will disappear. One day you will run into them with a girl on their arm and they will introduce you as if you’ve been dying to meet her.
The one who still loves you but made his choice: Put on the wrong song and think of this one and all bets are off.
FRIDAY, 28 NOVEMBER 2008
And so we find ourselves, economic shenanigans notwithstanding, lumbering on towards the Christmas party season. The time of the year where women everywhere duty bound to get it out for Santa. Although Ms R has not inhabited an office for several years (and has no Christmas parties to go to boohoo) she was privy to the party rituals of the British female for many years. And she can tell you this: it’s all about sexual stimulation. Gatecrash an office party anywhere and you can bet that fully 90% of the females will be trussed up in the shortest, tightest, shiniest dress they could find. Everywhere you look there will be breasts; towards the end of the night there may well be nipples (after that there will be smudged mascara and tears but that’s another story). This will not be limited to the more junior staff either: grown women who during the day regularly bark orders will, at Santas’ behest, reveal their sexual selves.
While Ms R wishes they could do it with more style, the real point of this is that these women are out to to look sexy. Ms R will bet you a Bear Stearns and a Lehman’s that upon hearing the date of the Christmas Party, the first word that comes into their heads is ‘sexy’. There is nothing wrong with the sentiment itself; it is perfectly normal to want to feel that way; we are women after all. Isn’t it interesting that given the opportunity we will choose to present ourselves in the most tantalising way. Is anyone forcing us? No? It is part of life, part of who we are and we enjoy it. We like to be admired and yes, we like our bodies to be admired. So are we promoting sexism in our offices by doing so? Well if you share the point of view of certain ‘sexual’ campaigners we are. Today in modern Britain (with a huge economic crisis underway) the government and various campaigners have decided that lap dancing clubs are promoting sexism because women are seen as ‘sex objects not people’.
Of course what these misguided puritans are doing is hanging their thin argument on the “if a woman is displaying her body in a sexual manner she must be forced into it.” Rubbish. Ms R has met many of these women and she can safely tell you that a lot of these girls enjoy their work and know fully well what is going on. Moreover they are in control of the situation, probably far more than the girl at the office party who has no idea what is going to happen and probably won’t know since she has drunk too much champagne. So are we to ban office parties to protect young women from themselves; from being cast as the office slut because they ended up in the stationery cupboard with their boss? No of course we’re not.
Yes there will be dodgy establishments just like there are women for whom prostitution is not their choice and yes, you may not think it a great career choice. It would not be Ms R’s. Nonetheless to accuse lap dancing clubs of being responsible for workplace sexism is utterly ludicrous and pathetic as is the idea of classifying them as ‘sex encounter establishments’. Ms R has been in ordinary pubs where there is more chance of some awful bloke getting close to you – and she wasn’t being paid for it. While glamourising such businesses is wrong..and Ms R has spoken of this before – the fact remains that most of the time we are talking about consenting adults in a transaction.
That is more than can be said for the hopelessly drunk girls in mini dresses who may well do untold damage to their career prospects this Christmas. But, like the lapdancers, it’s their choice.
MONDAY, 24 NOVEMBER 2008
So Gordon Ramsay has allegedly been caught with his hands in another woman’s cake mix. Ms R is not surprised, mostly because people secretly exchanging recipes can hardly said to be news. Mostly Ms R is not surprised because Mr Ramsay spent a rather considerable amount of time declaring himself a ‘family man.’ And that as we know is as a good a clue that someone is having an affair or wishes to as any. Any man who continually feels the need to tell people how much he loves his wife or how great his marriage is usually trying to convince himself that it is in fact true.
Recently Ms R was doing some literary research and was out with a man whom she knew had a taste for extracurricular sex and had sampled it to excess (not with her; this was strictly professional). Of course she couldn’t let on that she knew so like any good researcher she let him open the conversation and talk about himself. Apropos of nothing (a warning sign if ever there was one) his second sentence – or it may well have been his first – expressed a high degree of regard for his wife, making her sound like she peeled grapes and washed his feet on a daily basis. In truth even if Ms R hadn’t been given the background story she would have rumbled him for sure. It was just far too insistent to be real. And yet it was clear that this intelligent and charming man thought his exaggerations sounded perfectly plausible.
Why do they make such a big deal about it all? Well perhaps unlike the men who are comfortable with their own ethical position on having different kinds of sex with different women, they’re not. Their excessive use of the words ‘family’ ‘love’ and ‘respect’ is a kind of Hail Mary for the religiously unattached: it provides instant sainthood. More than that it is insurance: should he be discovered cheating the ‘family’ man will be able to point out that he is so devoted he did not stray but was led astray. Gordon Ramsay as victim? What a delicious thought. We shall have to wait and see.
WEDNESDAY, 19 NOVEMBER 2008
Here at Ms R Towers we are busy writing. One sort of writing, follows another sort of writing: this week alone so far there has been four different kinds of writing for various projects.
“Goodness Ms R, that must be a serious head fuck for you.”
“Why thank you for your interest and concern. As a matter of fact it is.”
“Why do you do it?”
“Hmm, because I am unable to tile bathrooms? Because I like using my core competencies (really)? Because maybe, just maybe, I am screwed up and I have chosen the most intellectually time consuming way to make not very much money.”
Lest you are a new reader (yeah like there’s any left out there who are not occupied) do not be concerned: Ms R is not talking about being screwed up in an “Omygodimgonnacutmyselfifyouleave” sense. No that is just common. What Ms R is talking about is being slightly unstable enough to be interesting; she has been thinking a lot about this lately and it occurs to her that you have to be slightly fucked up and confused to be a half-decent lay anyway. Why else would you abandon yourself to some of the filthy stuff men want you to do in – and out- of bed when in truth you want to luxuriate in 600 thread count sheets and be made love to slowly and passionately. Instead you do all this other stuff. No you have to be mad.
Some men know this: how many times have you heard a man say “She was a bit mad but a great fuck.” The two go together. The slightly unstable woman is like the frog you put in boiling water. No matter how high the temperature gets it all seems fine to her. It’s quite likely that whatever you suggest will be greeted with “Hmm, Ok”. Break into the office at night and have me crawl the length of the hallway with my skirt up around my neck while the cleaner’s at the other end?” Sure no problem. How can I make this even more interesting for you? This has everything to do with the fact that the sensibly screwed up woman (as she shall henceforth be known) is usually intelligent and smart. The smarter she is, the greater her self-awareness, the more crises she has, the more screwed up she is the the greater her need to be removed from herself. She will therefore be amenable to having her £30 stockings ripped to shreds. Next morning, in the cold light of day she will ask herself, “Was I really half-naked in the freezing cold in a laneway with a man going down on me? I must be screwed up. But in a good way.”
There is apparently a man shortage in Australia. This does not bother Ms R since a) she is only here for one more week and b) she actually has never dated an Australian man since she was eighteen. The shortage is at its worst in Sydney which does not surprise Ms R: Sydney is a popular gay hangout. Any girl dreaming of a move there would do well to reconsider.
Of course the term ‘shortage’ is all relevant. After all, how many men is enough? Are we simply referring to members of the male sex who are technically alive? Or are we talking shortage of high quality, top shelf stock? Also should we make an assumption that every woman in the market for a man is only looking for one? If not, we do not just have a shortage on our hands: we have an epidemic. To borrow today’s popular parlance we have what is known as Man Crunch. Drastic measures are needed. Australia has traditionally had protectionist policies on imports, imposing high taxes. Lifting these will take time. No, action must be taken swiftly if we are to avoid a Man Meltdown and even worse, the possibility of contagion in the region.
Always about the solution, Ms R proposes a lending scheme to add liquidity to the market. Listening to middle class mummies in the local area, Ms R notices that many would give anything for time away from their husbands. And a bit more spending money. Why not combine the two and create a government backed secure lending scheme which incentivises women to loan their husbands out for the short-term in return for tax-free bonus payments. The more times he is borrowed, the more she receives. There would of course have to be a cap on how many times any one individual is borrowed lest this cause a stampede. Initially men can be borrowed for up to 7 business days for a flat fee. After that anything would incur a premium. Following the Australian government’s approach to first home buyers, First Man Borrowers (who are bound to be a little shy) will be given a deposit to encourage them to borrow.
“These are unforseen times,” said a veteran commentator. “We’re all in this together and we must act accordingly.”
Naturally some women who still have men are not pleased. “I’ve acted responsibly all my life, never played around, earned my own men and now they want me to share just because some chick never met the one. It’s so unfair.”
Another said, “I went without the playboys, the bad boys, the fast, expensive ones and made do with something modest. Now I’m paying for the stupidity and excesses of other women.”
Another commentator observed, “I haven’t seen anything like this since the Great War. If this continues we will all have to make sacrifices.” He called upon women to ‘turn’ lesbian. “It would certainly help if there was more girl on girl action; in fact I think it would be a welcome diversion in these troubled times.”
SATURDAY, 15 NOVEMBER 2008
Ms R is fighting rather a horrid chest infection and cold now; it is her second in as many months. Again, apologies to the reader who came by to find Ms R had not posted. Ms R is sick of making apologies but frankly what is the point of a blogger who does not put out..we’re talking words here. Which leads us to the status of Ms R’s non self-imposed man moratorium. Ah yes, you are due an update. But first some things that Ms R is finding unhelpful. Being stuck on the sofa means you start thinking too much. And Ms R was thinking that:
She has had enough of Misery Mania. The default setting of British people is misery but the media are fuelling it with distorted statistics (20,000 people laid off in a week. No you misery hoovers..over a year. Get a real job.) And so middle class people who are still walking, talking, working and feeding their families stand in bunches in the street exclaiming “Gosh it’s bad.” “Yeah, it’s really bad.” “We’re really feeling it.” Yes you and the 1 billion people in the world who have no food. Ms R is bored, bored, bored.
Public divorce porn. Ok maybe I’m jealous that mine was dull. It was amicable and there was no money involved. We had no money. And so one day we went to the place and we signed a form. And then we went out for coffee and cake. But really when did divorce become a front page item? Who knows what fairy dust Mads and Guy took back then to make them think they were compatible but honestly, here in the real world, it was obvious that a bicep busting sinewy chick was always going to call time when she found out he was a pretend cockney. Don’t ask us how we knew; we just did. Of course the best part of this is the idea that Gwyneth is supporting Madonna. You can just see it can’t you: “Maddy, shall I make you a nice quinoa salad?” And by the way Jennifer A. Ms R thought she was pathetic crying six weeks after irresponsibly losing a lover. How many years has it been? Enough.
British girls tendency to dress up for Xmas parties like little girls who’ve raided the dress up box. In fairness they are only following the exemplary standards set by celebrities who should know better but once again in a week or two, Ms R will be treated to the sight of tight, cheap black satin and polyester that are far too small for the wearer who seems to think that she has miraculously shrunk into a model’s frame because it’s a party. There will be too much glitter and frills and inevitably the displays of almost to the nipple cleavage which will invite closer examination. And then it will all go wrong with inappropriate sex with a colleague, tears on a dirty sofa somewhere and a reputation under question. Girls, say after me, “This year I will be channelling my inner classy chick not the dirty slut I long to be in private.” Wear a dress with at least 2 metres of material in it. Really it works for Ms R. Try a sleeve. Maybe two sleeves.
In between chest infections, Ms R was in the West End having her eyebrows groomed by the strict Polish girl. She stopped by a coffee shop and found that a blonde, blue eyed man with a great smile caught her eye. And then he suddenly turned to her from across the shop and smiled. And smiled again. She blushed. So he kept doing it. Friends of Ms R know that her default setting for men to go silly over is usually something Nordic so this was dangerous. He came over and said hello. Ms R responded and then said she had to go. It was only the previous day that a senior member of the Gang of Four had threatened to extend the man ban.
And then they told her: Apparently Ms R is allowed to play IF the man is not from London but passing through (which her smiling blonde friend probably was) and IF it is on neutral (hotel..5 star of course) territory. Also IF Ms R is in a foreign country and the man is foreign also.
Bring on the ski season. Looks like Ms R is off to Switzerland this year. The ski instructors are very friendly.
SATURDAY, 8 NOVEMBER 2008
Apologies to the two readers Ms R has left for not posting very much. There has been difficult stuff to deal with and it just wouldn’t go away. Nobody went away on the return flight though; it was barely half full. Ms R had thoughtfully booked herself into Row 44. The Chinese do not sit in row 44 since it means death to them, which makes it a good bet on Malaysian Airlines: Ms R had the whole row. Anyway row 44 survived along with all the others and here we are a few jet lagged days later, wondering why we are here.
We are here today because Ms R has been recalling her time spent in airport shops that purvey magazines. In the end Ms R didn’t buy any. She brazenly sneaked into Business Class and stole theirs. (Anyone who has shuttled between here and Australia for fifteen years should know how to do this.) Nonetheless as Ms R surveyed the glossies in the newsagents she realised she had little choice. No matter where she looked it was either The Body Issue, The Bikini Issue or The Party Dress Issue. It sounded like the sum total of Liz Hurley’s strangely insignificant life.
The Body Issue started off with a bang, featuring a tucked, exercised, organic-lettuce fed, styled actress declaring, “I’m finally happy with my body.” Maybe she didn’t say it but that was the editorial spin. “Look if beautiful me feels insecure then you’re in deep shit. But adore me because I work very hard to do this. And it’s not easy.” Subtext: You can’t have it but dream little girl.
Then it was on to the Bikini Issue. To help you understand where bikinis were worn, they were inserted into features on St Barts, St Trop etc etc along with pictures of celebrities who went there (the Frequently Spotted Breasted Hurley again) and tips on how many you needed per day (Three). No Bikini Issue would be complete without the Bikini Diet, (Who does these, honestly?)promising you that your genetic makeup (determining around 80% of what you look like) can be defied in two weeks. Subtext: You can’t have it but dream little girl.
Maybe the Party Issue would be fun. Oh goody. There are the black dresses by Lanvin and Gucci that YOU CAN’T HAVE. But look here’s a page of really crappy ones for £20.00. And here’s the Party Diet guaranteed to get you into shape for your best party ever. And just to show you what sort of fun you could be having, here are some celebrities recalling their favourites, “It was a lavish three day bash in Moscow: we were flown in by private jet and given couture to wear…” Subtext: You can’t have it but dream little girl.
Ms R doesn’t want to dwell on the dangers of the body image thing for many other writers and bloggers have done this. The aspect she finds most disturbing is the blatant infantilisation of women. Look at the way the actress poses in white underwear, faux pigeon-toed asking for our approval. It’s like a five year old asking for sweets. How many times do you see this as opposed to a strong, confident pose? Back in the day the only non housewife type glossy was Cosmopolitan. Run by Helen Gurley Brown, a feminist with a tongue in cheek approach its remit was to prepare young women for the brave new age they were in. It helped guide many of us into a male dominated world of work and told us we could also acknowledge our sexuality in a grown up way. And that’s the thing: it helped us girls think about being women in a modern age. Today’s magazines seem to be reversing this and turning the woman into a needy girl. No baby, we haven’t come a long way. And it’s only women who have themselves to blame. You get what you ask for.
THURSDAY, 30 OCTOBER 2008
Ms R and her sister were listening to gossip radio the other day. It’s not officially called that, however, it was radio and there was gossip. Apparently it was during the making of Mr And Mrs Smith, that epic classic starring Brangelina, that Brad first got very interested in the mercurial Ms Jolie. Noting that Angelina was having helicopter lessons, he developed an interest in helicopters. Just like that. All of a sudden. And Jennifer, didn’t twig. She didn’t notice when he too began spending more time with Angelina and the helicopter instructor. We all know what happened after that. Poor Jennifer is still saying, “But there were no signs.” Yes there were Jen but you were too busy eating delivered diet meals to see that Brad’s helicopter fetish was a trip out of the marital home.
How can an ordinary mortal tell ? Well frankly if you’ve been living with someone a while you get to know their behaviour. And so when they come home and start saying things like, “The Czech Republic sounds really fascinating” or “Bus drivers are really underrated. They’re actually really intelligent” you need to look between the lines. Stories abound of women of a certain age taking up dancing classes once a week. Very soon those classes mysteriously demand three times a week attendance. Meanwhile hubby doesn’t notice; he’s just glad she has a hobby. Unfortunately for him the hobby turns out to be horizontal and may well become a full time thing. Of course the reason he didn’t notice in the first place was that he had lost interest and therefore it wouldn’t have mattered if she’d brought Miguel the dance instructor home for tea. He probably would have poured him a beer and thanked him for entertaining his wife.
Habit, so often defined as a good thing, is definitely something to be wary of in relationships. Sure there are the things that border on endearing – a man’s love affair with his newspaper or his shed for example. And being cosy with someone is not a bad thing. But there is such a thing as getting so cosy you don’t see things anymore. Observing and reading about long-term marriages that have broken up, Ms R notes it is rarely something momentous like the husband coming home with a supermodel, “Hi Honey look what I found on the way home” but rather the fact that relationships become habitual and what was once cosy can easily become boring. There is the search for a distraction outside the marriage and at that moment it could go either way. Will the distraction become something that adds to the person’s life . Or will it make them see that the life they were living was at best, simply a habit? Human nature being what it is, it’s a tough one to call.
“Of course” said Ms R’s sister, “men are so easily found out because they’re crap at lying.” This is mostly true. Men make the worst liars, partly because they don’t think they will be found out. Unlike women therefore they haven’t thought far enough ahead of the consequences to put together a viable story. A woman meanwhile has it all plotted out. She has alibis, primed her friends and included contingency plans should he get a bit too suspicious. It is no surprise that women are in a league of their own as crime writers. On the whole once a woman decides to have an affair it is a relatively large undertaking. For a man it is just something else that happened while he was at the office. This difference in attitudes may explain why men get found out very easily.
Or it may be simply that the inclination of men not to clean up after themselves means they get caught out. Years ago one of Ms R ‘s clients was a very posh department store in Melbourne, called Georges, now closed. Its staff were well used to rich men with mistresses. One day a wife called to say there was a very expensive item of lingerie on their credit card bill. She had not received it. The person who took the call was smooth. “No worries Madam, he did ask us to send it to you. I’ll have it sent out straight away.” The man in question was alerted and you can be sure he never made that mistake again. Still, would any women swallow that explanation, however official? Only the Jennifers.