Saturday, 17 November 2012

In which I cry on the hall floor

It was just before 3am last night when it occurred to me that I might not be coping very well with my break-up after all.

There were a few subtle signs; namely that I was curled up, foetal position, on my hall floor, still wearing my stilettos, crying drunkenly and hugging my cat.

The Essex Boy broke up with me two months and six days ago. I didn't write much about him on this blog while we were together, but suffice to say I loved him very much. The reasons for our break up are simple - I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him, but he didn't want to spend the rest of his with me.

I had seemed to be coping pretty well. After taking a day off work to cry, I picked myself up, brushed myself down and carried on with my life. I took sleeping tablets at night so I wouldn't lie awake thinking about him, I swapped baths for showers, I signed up to help at my local Cadet Squadron so I'd be busy, I collected the gorgeous Oscar from Cat Protection, I had a fringe cut. Friends commented on how well I seemed to be coping as I chatted to my ex in the office (we work for the same company) and said wise, balanced things like, "He's not a bad person, he couldn't help how he felt."

Crucially though, I also embarked on a rebound. The Rebound was an army officer who pursued me relentlessly and made me feel sexy. However, he also called all the shots and lived for the drama. One night he'd be texting me until gone midnight asking about my sexual fantasies... the next night he'd pretty much ignore me while we were out with friends. I let this continue for six weeks, despite the fact that I wasn't even sure I liked him, and the sex was fairly mediocre.

Which brings me neatly back to why I was crying on the hall floor at 3am this morning. Being rejected by someone I wasn't even that interested in was a deeply unpleasant experience, and made me realise just how little I was valuing myself. Everything I've been doing has just been a distraction, and I've not allowed myself to grieve, because grieving hurts. Plus I don't want a new boyfriend - I can't imagine opening myself up to anyone at the moment - and I certainly don't want to be messing about with boys who purport to be almost thirty and yet behave as if they're characters in Dawson's Creek.

So I've made a decision - no men until at least Christmas. And I don't just mean no sex... I mean no kissing, dating, flirting... not even any lingering looks across the bar. I am one of the flirtiest people I know, so this might be tough, but I have to stop needing a man in the wings to be happy. The only men in my life will be my closest friends, my dad and brothers, my minky little cat, and this picture of Digby Ioane.

That's going to be enough for now.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Men aren't victims of feminism... but that doesn't mean they're not victims

There's an article in the Guardian's G2 supplement today by Suzanne Moore, critiquing a new book called The Second Sexism by Professor David Benatar (probably no relation to Pat, unfortunately) which claims that men are being discriminated against, and that it's largely the fault of feminists. (Disclaimer: I haven't read the book, I'm just paraphrasing Suzanne's article.) Now, I like Suzanne Moore, I think she is an interesting writer and supporter of women's rights, and I think that even within this article, she makes some undeniably good points... but I think she also makes some glaring mistakes. 

First off, Suzanne says: "Every so often a new tome details how men, not women, are discriminated against (apart from rape, murder, equal pay, genital mutilation, the power imbalance in politics, business, education, law and arts they may have a point)."

Now, she's obviously right on a lot of this. Women are still vastly under-represented in politics, business, law and the arts - and even if they're not, in areas like sport, media coverage still focuses almost entirely on men. But genital mutilation? I'm not suggesting that this isn't a hugely important issue for women, and I'm aware that female genital mutilation can be much more invasive and damaging than male circumcision. BUT. According to L Markowitz, M Sternberg, and S Aral (2006), data from a national survey conducted from 1999 to 2002 found that the overall prevalence of male circumcision in the United States was 79%. Just because it's generally more acceptable to circumcise a man than a women doesn't mean that it's ok. In my opinion, this is certainly an area in which men can claim themselves to be prejudiced against, particularly when looking at the Western world, where the female equivalent is certainly less prevalent, if no less horrifying.

Suzanne then goes on to say that, according to Benatar, "One of the ways men are more discriminated against is that there are more of them in prison than women. I may be missing something here, but I thought it was to do with them doing more crime?"

She's probably right - I don't know the stats, but I'm assuming from this that it's correct to assume that more men do go to prison, and it's probably because they commit more crimes, or, indeed, worse crimes. However, isn't saying that more men go to prison because more men commit crimes a bit like saying more women are part of the sex trade because more women choose to be prostitutes? We can't analyse the reasons that women do more of something - be strippers, give up work to look after the kids, book bikini waxes - and then just write off the fact that more men go to prison as being because they're bad people. I recently read an article about young women in gangs, which said they often sleep with many of the gang members in order to gain acceptance (I'm paraphrasing and I can't remember where this article was, sorry - I'd make an appalling investigative journalist). Is it too much of a leap of faith to assume, for example, that more men in gangs commit violent acts in order to gain acceptance? Shouldn't we be considering why more men are committing crimes? Couldn't that be to do with some kind of discrimination against them - some kind of cultural expectation that men are 'hard'?

I want to be clear here - I'm not agreeing with Benatar. He obviously doesn't even understand feminism - for example, he says that men are discriminated against in terms of parental leave, apparently without realising that we'd like equal maternity and paternity pay as much as he would. And I'm not suggesting for a moment that white, middle-class men are a deeply persecuted section of society. But if girls are outperforming boys at school... if men are committing more crimes... if quotas are leading to excellent men being replaced on the board by average women... well, these are all things we should be considering alongside our traditional feminist causes. It's about equality, people. It's not us against them.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

In which I write a letter to myself, aged sixteen

When I started this blog, I was in a confusing place. Newly single for the first time in, well, ever, I had a lot of soul searching to do. I called it Goodbye Ruby Tuesday because I felt I was at a major turning point in my life, saying goodbye to the girl I had been for so long and saying hello to... someone new. I didn't know then who that person would be.

A little over a year on, I feel like a whole new woman. It wasn't long ago that I told Forces Wife I felt I was "still making all the same old mistakes", but I finally feel as if I'm growing up. And with that new found sense of wisdom, I thought I'd tackle something I have been wanting to do for a while... a letter to my sixteen-year-old self:

Dear R*,

You're sixteen, and you think you're a grown up, so I know you're not going to listen to a single word I have to say. At 27, I am officially too old to "understand you" - it's all such a cliche, isn't it? Regardless, I'm about to tell you a few things that will make your life a whole lot easier:

You're not going to do that well in your GCSEs. I know, awful right? Well, not really... sure, mum will go mental (more on this later) but let's face it, you're pretty lazy and you're not that interested in most of your subjects. But don't worry, you'll pull it out the bag for your A-Levels. Having done next to no work this time around, you'll work really hard for those and get the grades you need to get to your first choice university. (Drop biology the first chance you get though - a D at AS-Level is worth about two beans to the university admissions board, and you'll get more free periods to play UNO with Forces Wife work on your Psychology coursework.)

This year, you will meet your first love. He's wonderful. You will have some wonderful times together, and some mind-blowing sex. But remember, he's just your first love, he's not your only one. Between you, you'll royally screw it up in a couple of years. Enjoy it though - he does love you, you do love him, you're just young. Maybe consider breaking up before you start uni though. Just a suggestion.

I know that you and mum hate each other right now. This year will be the worst. It'll all start to improve when you turn 18, and you'll actually move back home for almost five years after university. (Seriously - houses are a lot more expensive than you imagine.) When you have your heart broken for real at 25, she will be your rock. Just remember this - she only wants what is best for you, but she is only human. She makes mistakes too.

The biggest mistake mum ever makes will have a disproportionate effect on your self esteem. Please try not to let it define you. If you take it to heart, it will take you more than ten years to deal with the repercussions. A few days after you get those disappointing GSCE grades, you'll both be going to see some very high achieving friends of yours and their mothers. Mum is embarrassed by your comparatively low grades. This is her issue, not yours. She will tell you to "make an effort" because "at least you're prettier than them" - the implication being, of course, that you are relatively lacking in all other areas. This comment will lead to you defining yourself by your looks for many years. One day in more than a decade's time, you will wake up and realise that you have been relying on men who do not deserve you at all to validate you. If you could realise this now, you'll save yourself a lot of misery and heartache.

On a related point - don't cheat. It will never, ever bring you happiness. You are ok on your own. Don't self destruct in that way - just end your floundering relationships the right way and move on. Maybe sleep with a couple less people too. The number of people you sleep with is nothing to be ashamed of... it's just... well, maybe just avoid the ugly ones, ok? And your university housemates. That ain't ever going to work out well.

Keep in touch with your friends. Someone you aren't that close to now will be your rock in the most difficult time of your life. In fact, aged 27, the vast majority of your close friends are people you already know. Treasure that. I don't know whether I should tell you this, but the man who you will love throughout your early twenties and who will eventually break your heart is also someone you know already. In fact, you snogged him quite recently. Yep. Him. It won't work out, but he will teach you so much about yourself. Be kind to him.

Generally, your life won't work out quite how you imagine. You'll have some setbacks at work - but you will be doing a job you enjoy and are good at, so just focus and move on. When you do eventually buy a house, it won't be with a man, and this might temporarily feel like a bad thing, especially when all your home-owning friends have done it with partners. But hey, you can't even imagine how good it will feel to do that all by yourself. You won't be married by 27, and yes, several of your friends will be, but you'll have an incredible man in your life and for now that's enough for you. And you won't be pregnant by 30... or at least I bloody well hope not!

So that's what you need to know. Respect yourself, be true to yourself, work hard, and have fun. It will all turn out ok.

Lots and lots of love,

R x

*Also, the blog name references Ruby Tuesday because she shares my initials. Oh yeah. Not just a pretty face.

Monday, 17 October 2011

In which I come out of hiding

Well, it's been a while, hasn't it? I have no excuse for my absence except that I am happy, and "happiness is a bitch to creativity"'. It's much harder to write about a Saturday night spent curled up on the sofa with a DVD than it is to write about emotional fuckwittery and crying in the bath, and it's also far less interesting for you to read! Also, I don't need the therapy like I did six months ago. And it was therapy. To paraphrase Caitlin Moran;

"You can always tell when a women is with the wrong man, because she has so much to say about the fact that nothing's happening. When women find the right person, on the other hand, they just... disappear for six months, and then resurface, eyes shiny, and usually six pounds heavier".

So, that's where I have been. Curled up on with Essex Boy in front of a range of DVDs, drinking white wine and eating ice cream, meeting friends and family, and reading the style section while he looks over the sports pages on a Sunday morning. He is kind, and clever, and funny, and it feels right. I haven't gained six pounds though. Not yet.

But that's not all I've been doing. While my weekends have become a blissful picture of coupledom (bookended by hours spent on the M25 and hundreds of pounds spent on petrol), I have also made the biggest commitment in my life as an independent woman - I've bought a house! After years spent living at home and saving my money like Ebenezer Scrooge, I have finally had an offer accepted on a one bed terraced house about fifteen minutes away from my parents. (I didn't want to be too independent, who would help me put the shelves up?) The house is a tiny two up two down, but it has a garden! And stairs! And a corner bath! And parking! It's perfect and I can't wait to move in - something which could take some time, judging by the speed the solicitors are currently progressing. I'm hoping to be in by Christmas, although I won't have any money left over, so the festive season will most likely be spent sitting on the floor in my empty living room, admiring a single bauble.

I'm excited and nervous about living alone. Being able to decorate the place myself, eat whatever I want, and watch endless episodes of Gossip Girl are all things which appeal to me immensely. Then there are benefits to come from not living with parents, like being able to come home whenever I want (rather than receiving a text message to check I'm still alive every time I work late) and not having to sit in my bedroom like teenagers whenever I have a friend round. There are a few things I'm worried about, of course - the expense is a major concern, because I won't have anyone to help me out and I've just spent my life savings on the deposit. And I'm slightly concerned about security, although if I'm honest, large spiders are more worrying to me than any other kind of intruder.

Overall though, I think it's going to be a huge adventure, and I can't wait.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

In which men can do no right

Last week, a colleague of mine went on a first date. They had a lovely time, she said, and she enjoyed herself more than she expected to. The following morning, she received a stunning bouquet of flowers at the office.

The level of debate this bunch of flowers caused was unprecedented. Personally, I thought it was romantic. That's the kind of thing us girls are always moaning that men don't do, right? And we all know how nerve-racking it is waiting for him to text or call after the first date - flowers tell us all we need to know. He likes you, he had a good time, he wants to see you again. However, some of our other colleagues disagreed. The words "too much" were bandied about a fair bit. For her part, the recipient said they were beautiful, but that the date "wasn't that good".

This is the bit problem with men making grand gestures, particularly early on in the relationship. They don't know the girl that well, so they don't know how they'll be received. The thing is, the way you feel about the flowers in a situation like this is completely reflective of the way you feel about the man. If Essex Boy had sent flowers after our first date, I'd have been thrilled, but then I was mad about him from day one. If I hadn't liked him as much, I may have appreciated flowers, but they wouldn't have made me like him more... and if I knew I didn't want to see him again, they would just have made me feel guilty.

What do you think?

Sunday, 7 August 2011

In which I try to unpack my emotional baggage

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a woman in possession of a new boyfriend will suddenly become irresistibly attractive to all the men she liked before, none of whom were interested at the time.

Or maybe it's just me, I don't know. What I do know, however, it's that I'd really like to be enjoying these blissful early days with The Man I Am Seeing (aka. Essex Boy) rather than having a war of words over text  with Future Husband. He seems to have forgotten that I was interested in him, and it was him who stopped texting me; that many of my phone calls went unanswered and unreturned; and that the last time I saw him he told me he "wasn't sure" whether or not he wanted to be with me. He is also failing to understand why refusing to see me or speak to me now, and sending me multiple texts (including the immortal line "I was coming round to the idea"), has really, really wound me up. FH seems to think that the fact that he was "coming round to the idea" of going out with me is something I should be happy about, even grateful for. A few months ago, I was wondering why we weren't together. He's now demonstrated some pretty compelling reasons. I just hope that our friendship can survive.

Meanwhile, Essex Boy is making me very happy. I'm not sure how much I should say about him - it's much easier to disect the confusing and downright weird behaviour of men I don't care so much about, and much harder to talk about someone I like more and more with every passing day. It's now been a month since our first official date, and I've done the journey from Bucks to Essex a couple of consecutive weekends. We've also been to our work summer festival, meaning that our relationship is well and truly "out" amongst our colleagues. I can't overexaggerate how wonderful he is and how lucky I feel to be with him.

It's pretty scary, though. I wasn't planning to meet someone I felt like this about so soon, and as soon as I met him, I knew things were going to change. I'd be lying if I said I was over Former Love of my Life; I know I wouldn't go back to him, but yesterday I was reduced to tears by finding last year's Christmas cards (featuring brief, neatly written messages which masked a lot of pain and confusion - when I wrote mine I wasn't even sure we'd still be together at Christmas). As my feelings for Essex Boy get stronger, I'm finding that the pain of my break up is coming back to the fore. It's like I'm trying to deal with it so that I can put it behind me once and for all, but I'm not sure how long that is going to take.

For the first time in my life, I'm aware of myself carrying some baggage into this new relationship. I'm so, so happy, but I'm all too aware that relationships that start like this can still end in raw, painful ways. That old cliché of "love like you've never been hurt before" is proving difficult, and I'm still holding back a lot of myself. I guess that's normal though, so early on. What I do know for sure is that while I'm lucky enough to have Essex Boy in my life, I'm going to hold onto him.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

In which living at home has some drawbacks

Since my relationship ended back in February, I have been living at home with my parents again. It's good. I get on well with my mum and dad - much better than I did when I lived here as a teenager, that's for sure. My brothers are lovely and entertaining, and I love that there is always company around when I want it. My washing is done for me and my parents own a dishwasher (something I have never had in rented accommodation), as well as a corner bath where I spend many happy - and sometimes less happy - hours. I have a lot more creature comforts than I would do in my own place, and always have someone to talk to.

And yet... after five months, I have come up against a problem. The truth is, deep down, I am still scared of my mum. Not in the same way as I was as a teenager, when all we did was scream at each other... in fact, we get on really well now, and I ask her for her advice on things all the time. The problem is that, despite the fact I am 26 not sixteen, I'd really like my mum to believe I'm still a virgin.

This is ridiculous, of course. I have had more than one boyfriend to stay over in the last ten years, and I've actually lived with two of them. Plus there was the diary-reading incident of 2001 - we don't talk about it, but we both know it happened. But despite this, when The Man I Am Seeing invited me to his house for dinner and, more crucially, for breakfast, my first thought was, "How am I going to tell my mother?"

My mum is not naïve. When she was fourteen, she had a boyfriend with a car. A few years ago, my nan found a picture of her as a teenager snogging my dad on the lawn, and was very excited to show it to us... until it turned out not to be my dad. When I once asked her to tell me something I didn't know about her, she revealed she'd dated a Moroccan boy when she was fifteen (I have no idea how; she never went on holiday abroad and she wasn't exactly brought up somewhere multi-cultural). However, my mum and dad did meet when she was seventeen, get married when she was 21, and they are still together more than thirty years later. Like many women of her generation, she missed out on being both adult and single.

I am not talking here about "having needs". My god, I certainly wouldn't admit to a one night stand! But I just can't decide how to position the news that I am staying over with a man relatively early on in the relationship, and that's a shame because the truth is that I think this guy is someone really, really special, and my decision to stay has just a little bit to do with sex, and a lot to do with spending some quality time together (and the fact that he lives an hour and a half away, and I'd like to have a glass of wine). I could just tell her this, of course, but like my teenage self, I sometimes think the less said on these things the better. I'll probably just tell her not to wait up, and then run. At least now I'm old enough not to have to ask my dad for a lift...