Tag Archives | self help

Illicit Reading

Thank heavens for the Kindle.

The untold hours I currently spend feeding a small baby (should I actually be gazing lovingly into his eyes? Probably) are greatly improved by the magnificent one-handedness of this little wonder. I had failed to love it sufficiently until now; but even with one arm around the baby and one hand holding the bottle, I can still turn the pages with just my thumb. This is, indeed, The Future.

Given the Kindle’s simplistic operation, I can also spend quite large sums of money with just that thumb. What am I buying? Well, I blush to admit it really, but I’m indulging in an orgy of my favourite genre. No, not erotica, or at least not the traditional kind. I’m tearing through reams of organisational porn.

You may be familiar with the kind of book I mean. The whole market exists to cater for people who, like me, would cringe at reading a self help book. Org porn is not at all fluffy; in fact, it carries the distinct whiff of testosterone about it. On the face of it, these books instruct you on how to be better organised, plain and simple. But that isn’t the root of their appeal. What makes org porn so compulsive for readers like me is their implied meaning. If I am having to read these books, then I must be bloody busy. And if I am bloody busy, then I must also be bloody important – or at least, I must have the potential to be bloody important if only I read enough of the genre.

Stuck at home with an infant, this is a highly seductive message. I have spoken of my love for Tim Ferris before (and how the ones we love disappoint us the most), but in the current context, his books are practically sweet nothings to my ears. If only I could learn to master work like he has, I would not only be rich, but also potentially the tango champion of the world. Or something.

I once even considered starting a blog about this kind of book. Then people would send me them for free! Imagine! I’d be SO organised! Everything would be perfect, forever.

My current fix is Baumeister and Tierney’s Willpower: Rediscovering Our Greatest Strength. I am really quite extensively sucked in. Through reading this hallowed tome, I have now identified myself as suffering from ego depletion, because I am exercising willpower in so many other ways (not caving in and going to bed at 8pm, for example), that I don’t have any left when it comes to, say, writing a blog post (sorry, readers. I know). I am also reliably informed that dieting to rid myself of the unsightly baby weight that currently plagues my mid-section would be counter-productive. Low blood sugar will only sap my will further; instead, I am better off sticking with the cake, and focusing my energies on remembering how to string a sentence together again. It’s just wonderful how these books tell you what you need to hear.

And my reading of Willpower has led me to another little gem of a book, Getting Things Done by David Allen (dontcha just love the covers on these babies?). A true classic of the org porn genre, this book starts with the assumption that you are a busy exec with, like, a zillion projects on the go, and that you’ll need an incredibly complex filing system in place to help you to remain zen-like in the face of all this stuff. Suffice it to say that I’ve just spent rather a lot of money on index cards and files, and have taken to emailing voice-memos to myself whenever I undergo yet another stroke of genius that must be recorded for future reference.

I don’t learn. A few years ago, under the guidance of Mr Ferris, I attempted to outsource my work to a remote PA service in India. My not-terribly-executive job often involved conducting evaluations, and this left me with hours of taped interviews to sift through. My bright idea was to get a non-native speaker to transcribe the inane ramblings of a group of seven year olds from Chatham.

You will have already predicted the outcome; I did not. My deeply enthusiastic remote PA would upload the sound files, take a couple of days poring over them, and then email back transcripts that would make Edward Lear blush. They were utterly, utterly random. I used to read them just to amuse myself with the odd juxtapositions of words that would come up occasionally. Sometimes, the PA would think she detected a theme emerging, and so would try to bend the transcript to fit; hence, one document seemed to record an eight year old discussing the finer points of adultery.

The moral of the story is that, if you’ve got time to read org porn, you’re probably not rich enough to afford a decent PA, remote or otherwise. But it didn’t put me off. You just watch me. This time next year, I’ll be getting so much done, you won’t see me for dust. Probably.

Read full story · Comments { 2 } · Comments Policy

The Man Diet

Today’s guest post is from Zoe Strimpel, author of The Man Diet, which follows her quest to free herself of bad dating habits. You can find Zoe’s blog here


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.

Read full story · Comments { 2 } · Comments Policy

Dare…the Have Anal Sex by Coralie Trinh Thi

When I told Herbert I’d bought this book, his response was: ‘Why do you need a book? It’s obvious, isn’t it?’

Well, he has something of a point, but I don’t think I’m alone in wanting the security of having a book in my hand whenever I try something new. I mean, I put the book down when it gets to the sex bit, obviously. You know what I mean.

Either way, Dare… seems to try very hard to put me off altogether. I sympathise with the author, who has to get a whole book out of ‘use lots of lube’ and ‘go a bit easy the first time, eh?’ but the material she uses as padding leaves a lot to be desired. The problem is that Trinh Thi seems to find it hard to let go of the mystique of anal sex. She wants it to be extra-special, exclusive, dirty. When this attitude is applied to a ‘how to’ book, it results in a lot of mixed messages.

For example, a quote:

“Some people feel that participation in anal sex makes them feel ‘used’ or is something only prostitutes would do…The truth is, however, most prostitutes flatly refuse anal sex.”

Which leaves me…where, exactly? And that’s without even going into the chapters on the mystical and historical aspects of anal sex. I skim-read those.

The most basic things I want from a ‘how to’ book are clear facts and guidance, and reassurance that I’m not doing something dangerous. This book fails to even make those offers.

Perhaps you could recommend a better ‘how to’ guide for anal sex? I’d love to hear your tips.

Read full story · Comments { 3 } · Comments Policy