Tag Archives: love

cracks

Remember when we were kids and you never stepped on the cracks? You always looked down when we were walking together, to make sure. You’d talk and listen and laugh but always with your head down, your slightly shaggy brown hair falling over your eyes and making you unreadable. Remember I’d look up and around me, up at the buildings and over their tops at the sky, and if I wanted to point something out to you, a bird, a funny sign, a pretty cloud, you’d have to stop before you could look. Remember we were never in a hurry so it didn’t matter then. Your feet knew the route – the right path on the solid, unbroken paving slabs – from your house to my house, from my house to yours; it was your house then, ‘my parents’ place’ you call it now, I don’t even know who lives in mine. It might be empty.

Remember sitting on the wall across from the park and watching what we thought of as the ‘little’ kids on the swings when we decided we’d got too old. Do you ever wish it could be like that again? Or later, when we were teenagers and suddenly you were taller and our whole bodies changed, when we lay together in my new attic room and made inevitable love in the afternoon sunlight and the scent of pine.

Remember how we moved together, tentative, curious, but natural and easy as breathing; remember how, once we’d lain naked there that first time, it was as though we could never really be separate again; nothing as pedestrian as clothes could stop that feeling of our sweat intermingled on our skins. Remember later still, how jealous all your lovers were of me, how jealous all my lovers were of you; how difficult it was for them to understand that neither of us could ever really be owned. How difficult for us to understand that anyone could. Remember how our union seemed to irrepressibly laugh at their ideas even when we tried to respect them, how it had gone deeper, then, already, and couldn’t be removed; how unselfishly, how unflappably we shared one another; remember the nights when we admitted that we were single, or the nights when we just didn’t bother trying to resist whatever force it was that pulled us together again, as big as the tide; the nights after dinners or a drink or two when we’d reach into one another’s clothes and find exactly what we expected all over again.

Remember how we’d talk late into those nights, in the dark, feeling the warmth of your breath on the back of my neck, or sometimes my breath on yours; your fingertips in my hair, mine all along your spine. Remember we’d tell each other all the secrets of our various conquests and failures, little things they said or did, you’d make me laugh imitating some strange, silly girl, some poor girl who by then must have realised that you could never really love her, not because of me but because you didn’t know how. Your body became like an extension of my own, I knew every fold and every hair; I could never mind you seeing me naked, never even remember to think about it and cover myself because you’re a mirror. Your eyes are like a mirror – they take the colour of what you’re wearing that day and reflect it, turning faintly blue, faintly green, faintly brown from day to day so you always look put-together; when you’re naked they are grey. I like the way they age as your clothes do; that Batman t-shirt you’ve had forever started out black and so your eyes looked dark when you wore it, and the light in them looked brighter, everything is more lustrous against the darkness. Now it’s so faded, the print cracked and almost disappearing, it’s the same colour as your naked eyes, the real colour, so when you put it on your eyes don’t change, they’re grey, endlessly grey, deep as a whole hall of mirrors, and you look older. When you’re old maybe you’ll start to wear white and your eyes will be pale, colourless as water, and the pinpoints of light won’t show up in them to make them sparkle and you’ll just have two black dots; maybe, but don’t do it until then.

Remember when we both moved away and for the first time had to talk, really talk, to one another on the phone; how I hated the phone, how dreadfully I missed you with that horrible plastic thing pressed to my ear, how far it was from your fondly-remembered lips, your warm morning neck, the brushing touch of little bunches of your hair, still always slightly tangled, slightly overgrown. How your voice sounded different and far; even when I was happy and when you made me laugh, more often than not after those late-night conversations I’d feel suddenly cold, missing you, I’d feel empty and so alone and no-one else could quite do, though heaven knows they tried; I’d distract myself, I’d play with men, it was great fun, I’d never admit that it never felt the same. Hand in glove. Every time we’d finally manage to hang up, I always wanted to call you straight back, the click of the receiver into its cradle a sharp cruel snip to the thread that connects us, the un-bilical cord; I’d feel that cold that starts in my chest, spreads out from the inside, and I’d start to cry, quietly, not knowing why, then sleep and dream.

Remember when I visited you in the spring, the day I arrived was sunny and we sat in your garden among the patchy grass and all the beautiful weeds, the smell of smoke drifted across from your neighbours having a barbecue, we sat there talking until well after sunset. Bindweed climbing up your fence, whisky and ice in a shallow glass, you’d started smoking again by that time too. The next day when we went for a walk, remember you said you’d show me the city, that spring was so beautiful; I had those big sunglasses on and all the stones of all the buildings looked almost pinkish and warm, everything glowing because we were together. Remember that night when we were in the park and you finally told me about the twenty-five girls and the sense of emptiness you felt with them, the difficulty you’d had in trying to understand them, trying to care; remember how you looked away from me, although it was almost dark by now and everything was hazy, streetlit sodium-vapour orange, and for the first and only time I saw you cry. When we’d talked it out and kissed and smoked and kissed again, deeper this time and more urgently, when we’d dried you off, we walked back to yours in silence and this time I was the one to look down and watch your feet: this time you stepped on the cracks.

love, music, wine and revolution

Or: Why I don’t like Valentine’s Day.

Hmm, ‘don’t like’ is kind of not strong enough to express how I feel, but then ‘hate’ is maybe a little much. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone else if they are into it, it’s just really, really not for me. And when I talk about this I sometimes get some raised eyebrows, which makes sense, I guess; I’m not single, I haven’t been single for any appreciable amount of time in my adult life, I’m in a happy, stable, mixed-sex relationship, I was born to parents who were and still are in a happy, stable, mixed-sex relationship, I am in love, I love love, I love being in love. I am a hopeless ‘romantic’, in some ways. I love love songs and romantic old movies. I cry like a child at West Side Story (I watched it again last night, NO REGRETS. My partner had never seen it before!) and Carousel and South Pacific, especially ‘A Wonderful Guy‘. I cry at weddings. I cry at the last episode of Futurama. Heck, in the course of ‘researching’ this post (lulz, googlenews-ing ‘valentine’s day’ = ‘research’) I found this story: ‘Couple use the same recycled Valentine’s Day card for 70 years’, and greeted it with a huge DAAAWWWWWWW.

So I thought I’d be dead topical and write it down here: what is my beef with Monday?

Okay, deep breath. The most obvious one first: it’s consumerist as fuck, and I don’t really like consumerism. I don’t want to get labelled a terrible hypocrite here because as some of you will know I like shoes, a lot, and fashion and good food and music and gin and xbox games and books and lots of other things which are available for money and so I do buy things. I just don’t like getting told or feeling pressurised to do so, and I really, really don’t like the idea of someone I love getting told to buy particular things – roses, chocolates, knickers or whatever – for me on a particular day (it’s not even my birthday!) because Society Said So, or because Everybody Else Is Doing It, or because it’d somehow increase their chances of fucking me that evening — more on that later.

The dealio with everyone from stationery companies to salad vegetables desperately cashing in on something as beautiful, multifaceted, joyous and real as human interpersonal relationships just turns my stomach. It makes me sad (okay, I admit it, the ‘love cucumber’ makes me laugh, like a lot (NB: ‘love cucumber’ does not mean what you think it means), but the overall tendency makes me sad). A capitalist recuperation of something that should be uplifting and surprising and wild, reduced to something so uninspired, so tired, so obvious: how fucking romantic.

Furthermore? It’s heteronormative, and it’s boring. This particular commercial appropriation of a religious non-event (seriously you guys, unlike Christmas it is not even in the Catholic calendar of saints and hasn’t been since the 1960s) stares reality down with the faces of countless identikit heterosexual, young, white couples. I had a look at the Cosmopolitan and AskMen websites to back me up on this one and I can’t say I recommend the experience; it made me feel like vomiting, develop some new frown lines, and get so angry and confused I had to go for a walk round the block, seriously. If I may digress for a mo because this shit is bananas, please could you look at this ‘top tweet’ from AskMen:

Wow. I am literally speechless, which doesn't happen often.

WOW HOLY SHIT, I’d better go tell all the single straight guys I know. Guys, guys, Operation Cry Me A Ladyboner is off, abort, abort! It turns out that ISN’T the way to turn women on after all, those mysterious creatures! Because when men cry it isn’t a physical reaction to pain or negative emotions, it’s to get to the pussy. O-kay.

So yeah. I think before that BLEW MY MIND, my point was something about how all those ads and magazines and pop-culture fluffy things, that I’ve seen, are very much aimed at one gender with the aim of impressing, ‘snaring’, or ‘conquering’ members of the opposite one. (‘Make your man melt’ with… some Ray Bans? Erm no thanks Cosmo. Also it’s fucking February). Lingerie company La Senza illustrate my point with their subtle slogan ‘He ♥’s me, he ♥’s me hot [sic]’. Because every woman worth her salt has a male partner, right? And I’m sure we can all relate to that skinny, Aryan-blonde model, too. All of the people pictured on both the magazine pages mentioned above (there are 30 in total, I counted) are young, white mixed-sex couples, or on the AskMen site, young, white women lying around looking available. Yawn.

And dear Christ, the more I look at this fucking AskMen thing, the creepier it seems. Aside from the stunning advice above about crying, the second-most-questionable thing that caught my eye on that page may be “[Vincent] Cassel’s on- and off-screen personas are worth imitating if you want to score big with women.” O RLY, AskMen? Don’t get me wrong, I would agree that Cassel is definitely a sexy man, but the idea of some English loser reading this article and attempting to imitate him is toe-curlingly pathetic. Also, ‘on-screen personas’ that spring to mind: La Haine, Dobermann, Irréversible, Mesrine, Black Swan… yeah, that’s definitely what women go for, innit? Violent criminals, adolescent psychos and manipulative misogynists. We love that shit. It really does talk about ‘conquering’ a lot, as well. Actual quote: “Every girl can be a conquest if you use the Player’s technique.”

Will from The Inbetweeners tells it like it is

So, ‘becoming a better man starts here’, eh? Not so much.

Will brings me on to my next point nicely: It has really questionable, divide-and-ruley overtones about how ‘different’ women and men are (women like flowers, men like fucking?), and, creepier yet, normalises unhealthy interactions by suggesting that it’s pretty okay to trade gifts for sex or intimacy.  You know the stuff I mean, those adverts and articles that helpfully point you to what you need to buy, wear, eat, drink to impress your date, ‘get her in the mood’, or ‘warm her up’ as AskMen so, erm, rapily puts it in this frankly baffling piece where the fashion editor seems to recommend that you ‘make the sacrifice’ of not having penetrative sex, for some reason that I don’t quite understand, but doesn’t go into whether either or both of you get to come.
Now, being prescriptive about people’s sexual behaviour is the last thing I want to do, but I’m pretty sure that in a healthy relationship the only reason you should be having sex is because both (or all) the parties involved want to have sex with each other. Not because they bought you dinner or some other gift, not because you’re wearing nice underwear today, not because you feel entitled to it, not because you feel pressurised into it, not because it’s the 14th of February, not because everyone else is doing it, and fucking definitely not because you want to ‘stand by the water cooler with a smirk on [your] face’ the following day, you creepy bastard. Any suggestion that you have to look, dress, smell or act a certain way in order to be attractive is at once absurd and infuriating to me. And I just despise this idea of love, or sex, being ‘given’ conditionally by one unwilling partner (stereotypically, this seems to be a woman – why? Did I miss the meeting where we don’t actually like fucking?) and guaranteed or recompensed with goods and services. It’s boaktastic, and in addition, as Will might say, it’s a little bit rapey. Normalising the idea of boning someone who doesn’t really want to do it is seriously not cool. And if you ask me, neither is ‘planning a night of fabulous foreplay and steamy sex’. You can plan a wank, if you really want to, but Dr Alice would recommend not ‘planning’ anything ahead if it involves mind-reading what your fellow-sexer will want and feel like doing at the time. Surely that way coercion or disappointment lie? (Apart from anything else, and on a lighter note, all that satin sheets and candlelight and matching lingerie sets nonsense kind of pales in comparison to proper spontaneous sex in my book; that ‘unplanned’, frantic sex when you’re in a totally inappropriate location and still have your jeans half on and, er, anyway, I’ve said enough, there’s a fair chance my mum will read this.)

Last but not least, then: it, and our society in general, centralises and over-emphasises the importance of ‘romantic’ or sexual intimate relationships at the expense of other beautiful and meaningful interactions (between men and women, women and women, men and men). There’s this ridiculous pressure, this idea that everyone should be or needs to be in a consistent monogamous sexual relationship, and it’s stupid and it makes people feel needlessly excluded and lonely and it trivialises how important and supportive and rewarding other relationships can be – friendships, both with and without ‘benefits’; relationships with family or colleagues or teachers, which categorically don’t involve sexual intimacy.
Some people are asexual, some people are celibate, some people want to wait until they’re older or until they get married, some people have lost a partner, some people aren’t monogamous, some people are just single right now, and that’s okay. It’s not weird or wrong or sad or perverse or uncool, and it’s not okay to make people feel like they’re any of those things. And it doesn’t mean they aren’t loved. Love is a lot bigger and deeper and more exciting than the subset of relationships that fit inside the neat playing-card heart shape prescribed for Valentine’s Day. I can think of five or six non-sexual relationships in my life that are vital and fulfilling to me and that I’d be devastated to lose. Sure I love my partner to the end of the world, but at the same time I truly, madly, deeply love my friends, too; I love my brother, my sister and my parents; I love my ex; hell, I love my cat, and she never buys me anything. I want to celebrate and value these relationships, too – although as you’ll have gathered, maybe not with chocolates and roses and the rest of the bullshit that seems to come attached to ‘celebrations’ in this world!
So, oddly enough for someone who’s just spent hours writing about it, I guess my point is: maybe we should all chill out a little bit about sex. Sex is great (in my opinion), but it isn’t everything. It isn’t love. You don’t love someone because they give you things, or because they touch your genitals, and you don’t stop loving them when they stop.

So, er, happy Monday everyone!