The Last Vice

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This month I decided to take a break from dating, whilst still fully in the throws of my latest fling. I realised I’d had enough while weeping onto bedsheets that still smelled of a man I’d known a month, having flown to another country to meet up with him. This was not the first time I had travelled hundreds of miles for a man. Once I become attached to a mate I get drunk on lust, high on dopamine and engage in sleepless nights of frantic sexting which render me useless at everyday tasks. Please don’t expect me to concentrate on work when I have a hot man to fantasise about.

I have given up so many of my vices this year (I am nine months sober from alcohol and even drink decaf coffee, I’m practically a saint) but men are much harder to shake. I haven’t been in a serious relationship for years but I can’t seem to let go of casual entanglements. I get giddy on stomach flipping kisses. My fragile ego gets a boost from being looked at the same way Homer Simpson looks at beer. The couplings may last a few weeks or months but I always end them before any declarations of love are made. I try to keep civilian casualties to a minimum.

There’s nothing wrong with serial dating, it’s just not right for me. I have a whole set of emotional baggage, am damaged from years in an abusive relationship, have low self-esteem and a habit of picking men who need to be “fixed”. So many men have gone on to marry the girl they dated immediately after me that I should start charging for my services or open a Centre for Wounded Males. Need the rough edges of your potential life partner smoothing out? Send them here, I’ll happily talk through their daddy issues until the early hours or buy them beard oil when their face is rough enough to sand timber. Once they’re feeling better about themselves I get bored and inevitably boot them out of my life. I will pick fights or change my behaviour, letting my dark side out and quickly extract myself from the relationship. I’ll tell them we can stay friends, without meaning it. If I stay friends with them I am treated to happy status updates, engagement announcements and wedding pictures. I don’t need to see that shit. Most of the time I block their number and social media profiles before they’ve even had a chance to digest what’s happened.

Why don’t I settle down with one of these suitors? Well, the person they are dating doesn’t really exist. The perma-grinned, perfectly made up girl who will laugh at their jokes and is never too tired for sex is pure fantasy. A friend once compared this version of me to Disneyland, somewhere that’s great fun to visit but eventually you get tired and want to go home. Once the initial high of the first flush of attraction wears off I suffer crushing low mood, debilitating paranoia that I’m about to be hurt and am a weeping wreck. That’s when I know it’s time to end it.

I did come close to falling in love when I met a guy a couple of years ago who was funny, sweet, already in therapy and wasn’t scared of my darkness. Eventually I got scared he’d hurt me so I pushed him away. It was a test, I wanted him to fight for me, but he didn’t. We reconnected this year and after a few flirtatious coffees where we struggled to keep our hands to ourselves we ended up in bed. It should have been Happy Ever After except for one thing – he has a live in girlfriend. I would love to say our hookups ended as soon as I found out I was the other woman but they didn’t. Sadly my moral compass must have gotten lost in my last house move and I let things continue longer than they should have. Told you I was damaged.

But no more, I’ve gone cold turkey. Full on man detox (mantox, if you wish). I need time to heal. I’m losing the fake smile and suppressing the overwhelming desire to please everyone because I am hollow after years of giving parts of myself away – my heart, my money, my time, my energy. I’ve got nothing left to give and after putting myself last for almost 10 years I am going to claw back some of my dignity, self respect and maybe I can start to forgive myself for the way I’ve treated others. And myself.

Chills, Thrills and Penis Pics 

Was one of your resolutions for 2017 to find love? Then you may be one of the thousands who signed up to Tinder in January. If you have no concept of Tinder, perhaps you’ve been living under a rock or recently released from a cult, here’s the deal; it’s the world’s simplest dating app. All you need is a Facebook account and a smartphone. You enter basic details of what you are seeking: gender, age range and distance from your location and Tinder will find singles in your area. It’s stunningly superficial, users have 500 characters and six pictures to sell themselves. You swipe through a series of profiles – right to say you are interested and left to say you are not. If you both “like” each other you have a match and true love can blossom 😂

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13/10/03

I never thought a date at the age of 21 would change the course of my entire life. And to think, I was 15 minutes away from cancelling. I was on a train en route to another city to meet a man for the first time who was already giving me butterflies. He seemed too good to be true – honest, funny, charming, intelligent – on paper he was perfect (if such a thing existed). By his own admission he wasn’t the best looking guy going but I’ve never been hung up on looks. I find a person can become more or less attractive based on their behaviour rather than whether they have a beard/specific haircut/body type. I was so nervous I felt sick. I hadn’t been on a date with someone new for three years. At the penultimate stop I hovered at the door, wondering if I should just turn back and go home.Read More »

Breaking the silence

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I apologised to my rapist. It took me five years to write that sentence and will take me many more years to understand why. What happened that night in August 2011 has haunted my dreams, damaged my friendships and obliterated my trust in men.

I relive that night and the aftermath frequently. I know my rapist. He was a close friend. He’s the husband of one of my best friends. Before today we were the only two people who know what happened that night.Read More »

Just a bit of banter…

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I’ll always remember the first time I encountered sexual harassment in the workplace. I was 17, new to a small company where I was the only female employee. I was encouraged by my boss to be “one of the boys” and join in with the office banter which seemed to revolve around critiquing the tits of the models in lads magazines. I shared an office with Peter, who was in his late 30’s and proudly displayed pictures of his wife and children next to his desk. Peter became really interested in finding out about my life and would quiz me on my breaks. Did I have a boyfriend? Had I had a lot of previous boyfriends? Where did I like to go out? Had I ever had plastic surgery? I felt uncomfortable with his questions, especially when I found out he was relaying my answers to the rest of the team when I wasn’t around.

Peter kept finding ways to come over to my desk, usually under the pretence of borrowing some stationery. He liked to put his hands on my shoulders and slyly look down my top or he’d reach past me and brush his hand against my chest. I started wearing high necks and baggy clothes to deter him. I told him I didn’t like having my personal space invaded but he didn’t listen. I was friendly, smiley and chatty with anyone who came into the office but when we had client meetings I’d often hear one of the guys say, “Watch out for her, she’s a maneater.” I’d blush with embarrassment and tell them to shut up but it just seemed to encourage them.

One Friday night everything changed. I was in the tiny office kitchen washing dishes when I heard Peter come up behind me. He reached in front of me to put his cup in the sink and pressed up hard against me. Even with my limited sexual experience I was aware that he was pushing an erection into my hip while breathing heavily into my ear. I froze and tried to speak but no words came out. After what felt like hours but was likely a couple of minutes Peter calmly walked out of the kitchen and went home. I felt sick and angry. What gave him the right to violate me like that? I had to speak with my boss on Monday morning. This had to stop.

On Monday I got to work early and marched straight to my Managing Director’s office, asking if I could speak to him about a serious matter. He seemed distracted but asked me to sit down. I was anxious, I had only been with the company a few months and was desperate to make a good impression. I relayed the incident on Friday and told him about some of the other comments that had made me uncomfortable. He listened calmly and didn’t look shocked when I told him about what Peter had done in the kitchen. When I was finished he asked me if I was taking some “harmless banter” too seriously. Was I normally “this sensitive” to workplace ribbing? I was dumbfounded and assured him that this was not normal workplace behaviour. He told me he’d have a meeting with the rest of the office and speak to Peter when he arrived at work.

I never saw the team meeting take place, or the meeting with Peter. When I asked my MD he told me they’d both happened when I was at lunch. For a while things quietened down, I relaxed and enjoyed my work. The guys in the office hardly spoke to me and would often whisper and point in my direction but I was busy so didn’t give it much notice. I had an appraisal coming up and was looking forward to getting feedback on my performance. When the day came I went into my MD’s office nervous with no idea what to expect. What I got was a character assassination from him and another director. I was told that my work was unsatisfactory, there had been complaints from the rest of the team about my attitude, the standard of my appearance had gone downhill, clients had complained about my telephone manner, petty cash had gone missing from the office and the blame had been put firmly on me. I was gobsmacked, particularly as none of these issues had been mentioned before that day. I was told I no longer had a place within the company and they would have to let me go. It was two days before Christmas and I was unemployed and confused.

I knew nothing about employment law, the company had no human resources department, just a couple of directors who had accused me of theft. I knew in my heart what happened was wrong and was livid but was also relieved to be out of there. My number one priority was getting another job to pay the rent. I managed to get temporary work to get me back on my feet but the whole experience left me bruised and bitter.

I would love to say this was the only time I’d ever encountered harassment in the workplace but sadly it wasn’t and I often ask myself what I’ve done to deserve it. Do I give off some signal that tells people it’s ok to be inappropriate? I am often accused of being flirty by female colleagues but that’s just the way I speak to people, male and female. I have a friendly, open nature and am a tactile person. I don’t think that entitles me to some of the comments I have had over the years.

A few lowlights:

“Are you going to unleash the beasts at the Christmas party?” asks my boss, pointing to my breasts.

During a conversation with a female colleague about hand size my manager wanders over, looks and says to me, “Your hands are massive, my cock would get lost in them.”

“How many drinks does it take to get you in the sack?”

Married colleague: “Do you have a boyfriend? I’m looking for some fun and you’d be perfect.”

I have to double check the calendar to make sure it is 2016 when some of the office “banter” makes me feel like I’m in an ancient Carry On film. And whilst the behaviour may not have changed my attitude towards it has, I know I have the law on my side and I’d rather piss off a few people by speaking out than leave myself open to the threat of a sexual assault.

My Missing Mummy Gene

I am used to being the odd one out: first of my friends to leave school, get a job, leave home, get married, then divorced. At the age of 33, I am in the minority once again. I am the childless one. All but three of my close friends have children, and two of them are trying to get pregnant. I fall in love with their babies. I buy gifts, change nappies, listen to all the stories of sleepless nights and cracked nipples and I give the well-rehearsed smile when it’s suggested that :“You’ll be next”. But I won’t be. Having a child was never part of the plan.

I find it difficult to articulate why I don’t want kids to my friends; it’s hard to describe a deep-seated feeling that you’ve had for most of your life. Aged 19, I went to my GP and asked to be sterilised (he refused to even refer me to Gynaecology for at least ten years). If I do ever tell people I don’t want kids, I am told that one day I will grow out of the notion, the biological clock will start ticking and I’d better start making plans.Read More »

No Man Is An Island

When people ask me why I got divorced I give them the simplest answer – because I was cheated on. It’s the version of the story that paints me in the best light. If you asked my ex-husband the same question, the answer would be a little bit different. He would probably site fraud. He met and fell in love with a seemingly vibrant, happy 21 year old. He didn’t know that I was hiding a massive secret – I was suffering from severe depression. He wouldn’t find this out until 8 weeks after our wedding when he received a call from the local hospital to say I had been admitted following a suicide attempt.Read More »