Ugh. Like it isn’t already bad enough when a sloppy new romance breaks out all over your Facebook feed. Yet another FB irritant is about to be unleashed:
This is a really sensitive and moving account of love with a morbidly obese man. Rather beautiful!
All that romantic posturing and expense; we’re just over it. We have to keep love alive on the other 364 days of the year, too. We suspect, in any case, that it isn’t really aimed at us.
But on the other hand, Valentine’s Day can offer us an excuse to make romantic gesture, or to simply remember that we are lovers as well as friends. And that ought to be celebrated, I think.
So, I’m giving away two identical competition prizes today. To win a signed copy of The 52 Seductions and a bottle of Calvin Klein Euphoria, you can choose which of these you want to enter, depending on your mood (or, hey, go for both – I don’t mind).
Seductive Valentines: What’s the best seduction you’ve ever carried out? Or maybe you’ve got something wonderful planned for tonight?
To enter: you need to follow me on Twitter or Facebook, and share your answer on either here in the comments section, or on Twitter or FB with either #grumpyvalentine or #seductivevalentine.
I’ll announce the winner on the morning of 15th February. My decision is final, which I rather like.
And can I gently suggest that a copy of The 52 Seductions would be a wonderfully romantic gesture for your long-term lover? Just saying.
I’ve never been very good at food diets. But when it comes to following the different sort of diet prescribed in my new book, The Man Diet: One Woman’s Quest to End Bad Romance, I thought I was doing well. My motivations, you see, are greater than shedding a few centimetres around the waist (though that would also be much appreciated). They are about feeling good inside by cutting down on “junk food love”: Facebook stalking binges; callous sex; obsessing about men with friends, for example. The stuff that it’s hard to avoid, but that makes us feel like crap and erodes our self-esteem, just when we should be flourishing most.
But even the desire to be good to myself, to be the best woman I can be, has not kept me on the straight and narrow recently. I admit it: I’ve fallen off the Diet bandwagon once or twice in the past few weeks – and, unlike after a chocolate cake moment, I’m not licking my lips for more. In fact, I’m regretting my slip in resolve quite bitterly
The slide from grace began two weeks ago when I had arranged to see a guy for a drink. We’d met once at a dinner, and I’d followed up (breaking one of the rules of the Man Diet right there: No Pursuit). He acquiesced with charm and before we knew it, we were the last ones in the restaurant, draining a bottle of cava. We moved on, then, to the Groucho Club. Here, despite having had far too many drinks (breaking still another rule of the Man Diet: Cutting Down on Booze), he ordered us another. Then another. Suddenly we were kissing. It was terribly exhibitionist, but by this point I felt that my limits had dissolved in alcohol; and the inevitability of going home together felt overwhelming. A voice in my head said: “This is not going to be healthy for you. Sleep with him and feel rotten tomorrow when he shows no interest.” Echoing the voice was the question: “Why? Why do this?” My answer was that in addition to his being good looking and fun, a trophy of sorts, I felt it would be boring to pull out now.
And so the inevitable happened. A night of of pleasant-enough but ultimately forced passion ensued – forced being the only type of passion that happens when two people aren’t particularly enthralled by each other or bonded by insane chemistry. As he kissed me goodbye the next morning – I do have to hand it to him for his displays of affection even in the cold light of day – the arbitrary, programmatic nature of that kiss and the preceding ones hit me with a dull thud. This truly was anti-romance, and worse, now I had to put up with the deafening silence that would follow his exit (in addition to the hangover throbbing in my temples).
A few days later, I had an email from him, saying he would maybe see me “one day” again, but generally he was not comfortable with post-sex meetings with women he had no intention of dating. I felt crap and rejected, despite not wanting to date him either. I was also aware that I’d put myself in this situation and had nobody to moan to but myself.
See, one of the big problems with junk food love is that it is addictive. So having had one unsatisfactory experience, I quickly sought another to erase the bad taste left by this encounter.
I sought it with a truly hot guy, a friend of a friend. I was abroad and looked him up in his hometown. I had entered our meeting without expectations, but after three hours of intense conversation, and several drinks, I felt it would be a “waste” not to push it further. So further is where it went. Turning this encounter into a spot of junk food love was a particularly bad choice because I liked this guy. He was interesting and complex as well as really good-looking. But instead of leaving our evening with a “nice to meet you”, a peck on the cheek and the chance for it to develop into something real, I pushed it into the sexual sphere for validation. Why, I reasoned tipsily, have a hangover with nothing to show for it?
But as with so many men, the disjoint between night and day was as harsh as ever. Hot Man was all sweetness before the bedsheets were parted: as soon as the sun rose, the game changed vampire-style, and it was a case of hustling out to work as quickly as possible. Our delicate, new intimacy couldn’t withstand the flip from boozy, candle-lit night to factual, non-sexy day, though I wished it had. So, sitting in the taxi in last night’s clothes, I felt uncomfortably bloated on junk food love, and not a little melancholic.
There’s one upside to these encounters: they have reminded me just how useful the Man Diet is. My next step? Taking a leaf out of my own book.
The Man Diet was published by Avon on 30th November as ebook, with paperback to follow on 22nd December.
If you’d like to write your own Whisper, we’d love to read it! The submission guidelines are here.
It was all a very long time ago, but I still dream of her.
Her eyes were the first thing I saw — they were the only part of her I saw — pale blue, looking at her instruments, watching what the boss was doing, and handing him what he needed before he asked for it. That in itself was unusual, for so many scrub nurses would just dump whatever might be needed, and let the surgeon pick for himself. I did ask the boss what he had found, what he was doing, but I didn’t pay any real attention to his answers; I was watching her.
I saw her later in the coffee room, but it was crowded, no place to talk to her. But she did have blond hair, as I’d suspected, cut quite short. The theatre sister told me she was new, and told me her name.
I saw her around from time to time, but never had a chance to approach her directly. And then, she didn’t seem to be there anymore. The theatre sister told me that she had moved on, a promotion elsewhere. She deserved the promotion.
It was maybe a year or so later that I saw her again, for I’d changed jobs as part of the rotation. And this time I didn’t faff about, but talked to her and asked her out. I was as pleased as I was surprised when she agreed.
Things were slower then, gentler perhaps, or maybe I was too diffident. We went out for a while, I enjoyed her company, and I though she enjoyed mine. She was one of the few girls that I really wanted to get to know better, not just as a notch on the bedpost. No, the only girl.
We did talk of going off for a ‘dirty weekend’ but somehow we could never make it happen, our rotas never gave us more than a few hours together. We drifted for a few weeks, not really getting anywhere.
One evening we went for dinner on a boat moored in the harbour near where she lived. It wasn’t as grand as you might think, the boat wasn’t much bigger than a converted trawler, but the atmosphere was pleasant, relaxing. And we could walk back.
She invited me in for a coffee, and looked into the lounge, but her sister had occupied it. So we went upstairs, to what I guessed was the drawing room, though it didn’t seem to be used very much. She brought me coffee, and we chatted. I wasn’t the only one who was captivated by her; she told me I had a rival. It didn’t surprise me.
I don’t quite know how we were one minute on the sofa, and the next on the floor, but we were. Nor do I know how I got her blouse and bra off, but I did. And there we were, having a ‘snog ’n’ grope’, though truth to tell, I was doing most of the snogging and groping.
“They’re not very big,” she said. They weren’t, but I though they were perfect, firm and tipped with small, pink nipples that liked being sucked.
She was lying on her back, eyes closed, looking relaxed and happy, with a smile like the Mona Lisa’s. She was wearing a pair of Lee jeans with a belt and buckle. Lee jeans, she was always insistent, not Lee Cooper’s, because they fitted her bum better. I couldn’t get my hand under the belt, and the zip stuck.
I tried to release the buckle single-handed, without looking. It simply would not undo, and even when I looked directly, I couldn’t see how it released. I half sat, and tried with both hands, pulling, pushing and tugging, while she lay there, still smiling quietly. I could not undo the buckle. I startled her, and she sat up.
“How did I get like this?” she asked. She shook her head a little. It wasn’t rapture, or even enjoyment that had put the smile on her face: she had fallen asleep.
“What time is it?” When I told her, she said I had to go, for she had an early shift the next day. Actually, a bit later the same day. She dressed quickly, and we went downstairs. She looked in on her sister, but looked out very rapidly. Things were going better there than they had been upstairs. She kissed me good night, and I held her close. For the last time.
I had an email from her recently. She’s a grannie twice over now.
I did say it was all a very long time ago.
The author sent me a postscript a few days later, which I think adds a lot to the story:
I hadn’t seen her for years when she stopped me. I hadn’t seen her, she had seen me.
It was a strange time then, for most of the people I knew went out of their way to avoid me, only those few who knew what it meant could speak openly, and they said that they too had been shunned. It wasn’t cruelty, people just didn’t know what to say.
I’d married, taking the hint that “it might be your last chance”, and we soon had a daughter, and then a second. Perhaps, like most men, I secretly wanted a son, perhaps I didn’t hide any disappointment well enough. Yet she was a lovely child, though she seemed somehow a bit fragile, transparent.
Four months later she died, they called it a cot death. It happened abroad, so there was no post-mortem, no coroner, no inquest and no counsellors. Just an urn to bury in the garden. Life was desolate, even though “you never really loved her”.
A couple of months later I was walking down a corridor at work, head down, lost in my thoughts, when she came over, and put her arm on mine.
“I’m so sorry to hear about what happened,” she said. She had hardly changed. She was late for her next appointment, there was time only for a minimal update. And she was gone.
I’ve never seen her again.
If you’d like to write your own Whisper, we’d love to read it! The submission guidelines are here.
Now, I’d like to start by saying that I don’t really approve of Valentine’s day. There is something mean-spirited about setting only one day aside per annum for romance. Better to spread the love across the year, non? Also, it’s tacky. I mean, so’s Christmas, but at least that doesn’t have a pulsing undercurrent of sexual desperation.
That said, I know that some of you will be obliged to venture into the world of Valentine gifting (that word should never have become a verb), so I thought I’d throw my hat into the ring. Nice and early, so that you’ve got plenty of time not to screw it up.
Gentlemen, I’m looking at you.
1. Let’s start with the basics. Flowers. They are nice things. Everybody likes them. Inexplicably, however, only women can discern between those bought in a petrol station and those bought from a proper florist. Guess which kind goes down better? Yup: the ones that require a small amount of foresight on your part. Sorry about that. If by some quirk of fate you are forced to purchase the forecourt variety, pick the carnations out and take them out of the plastic. They will stil look awful.
2. Lingerie. My heart sinks just thinking about it. It IS NOT a compliment to buy your partner size 10 knickers when she’s a size 16. Similarly, a DD bra will not make a B-cup swell with pride. Check the size. Don’t buy anything in a red/black colourway, it’s not nice. Nylon gives us thrush. This is not the moment to introduce us to thongs; trust us, we’ve tried them already and thought better of it. And ladies, can I make a plea against comedy men’s undergarments? Please?
3. Booze. Not Lambrini. In my case, a bottle of Hendrick’s, some ice and a crystal martini glass. I must remember to email this post to Herbert.
4. Restaurants. Hell, no. Any other night of the year except Valentine’s night. There is nothing more dispiriting then sharing a room with a handful of love-lorn waiters and a group of couples who have not ventured out in each other’s company for at least the last twelve months. Stay home (see below).
5. Cooking dinner for your partner is a lovely idea. Keep it simple though, eh? A wily cook will assemble a feast from gorgeous items bought from that chi-chi local deli. An idiot (i.e. Herbert, two years ago) will arrive home with a pair of duck legs in a carrier bag, and then proceed to cook them with a black cloud hanging over his head, shouting whenever his partner enters the kitchen. He was forced to buy me a good dinner the following night by way of apology.
6. It’s cold outside in February. Whatever it is you’re planning, you will die of exposure. Don’t.
7. The card. If you harbour a talent for writing elegant, sincere messages in the damned things, well bully for you. A single question mark is not enigmatic, it’s cheating. You will just have to suck it up and say something sincere. Believe me, I find this every bit as painful as you do.
8. Only attempt breakfast in bed on a weekend. It’s not useful on a Monday morning.
9. If you’re planning on giving a gift that casts aside all that tacky Valentine’s convention and demonstrates your ability to think laterally: consider carefully. No woman is romanced by a Soda Stream (Herbert again). If it has been bought from a garden centre, she probably doesn’t want it. Unless she really, really loves gardening.
10. If your partner complains that you’ve not spent enough on their Valentine’s gift, dump them. Seriously. It will save you trouble in the long run. However, bear in mind that, when you partner shreiks, ‘What the fuck is this?’ on opening her gift, you may have bought the kind of thing mentioned in #9.
11. You shaving off your pubic hair does not count as a Valentine’s gift. Just so you know.
There! I expect outbreaks of marital harmony to flourish across the nation. No, really, don’t thank me.
Win a gorgeous Valentine’s Gift
Just in case you’re really stumped for ideas (or simply fancy a treat), Fair Squared, purveyors of ethical loveliness, have donated two of their fab gift sets in Love (rose) and Sleep (lavender). I have opened the box for a sniff, and they smell wonderful. Each set contains a scented candle, bath soak, soap and body oil, all wrapped up in a stylish box.
For a chance to win one of these, all you have to do is be on our mailing list – click here for the (very short) entry form. Existing list members can just add a comment at the bottom of the page to be entered. I will pick the winner at random, and then contact them via the email address provided, asking for a mailing address. The competition closes on Tuesday 8th February 2011, at 12pm.
Do check out Fair Squared’s website for other lovely treats – such as their Fair Trade condoms.
A lovely new guest post is up now.
Following my post on Friday about our secret, small wedding (Love is Tiny), today’s Whisper is blogger Mr London Street’s elegant account of his own elopement. Beautiful, spare and moving. You can read it here:
You can read more of Mr London Street’s writing: