Sunday, November 25, 2007

I’m holding out for a heroine

I spent the weekend in my Venice, no nothing romantic or extravagant, we know I mean Birmingham. I and one of my oldest friends Marina booked a hotel room, lined our stomachs then headed out to our old haunts on Hurst Street. This is the Birmingham gay scene, a once secluded and almost seedy night spot without the Soho tourists and the Canal Street ‘Queer as Folk’ extras. It was a perfect weekend wandering from bar to bar reliving our University memories. We laughed till we choked, drank until we fell over and ate as if it was our last supper. Some things never change, oh except the introduction of gay chic into Hurst Street with additional ‘cool’ bars, several luxury flats and a Tesco Metro!

It is during the weekend I began thinking how much I enjoy the relationships I have with my friends. There is little pressure with good friends. I can be myself, not worry about the extra thigh width and I do not have to compromise my life or personality in order to keep them happy. It is unconditional love and if we irritate each other, excuses are made; we can go home and laugh about it later. But, there’s one key element friends cannot fulfil and that’s real intimacy; the kind you only get from a partner.

I am enjoying my path to self discovery and I need to be single at the moment in order to not make the same relationship mistakes time and time again. However, by being single it’s inevitable that at some point the lack of intimacy is going to dominate the mind. Oh who am I trying to kid? Sod self discovery, I can’t stop thinking about sex.

You could say being in Birmingham surrounded by beautiful women was the perfect opportunity to have a casual fling. I have a London postcode, I can easily give a fake number and never have to see them again; but pulling wasn’t an option. When I turned my back for two minutes Marina was accosted by the local psycho who was waiting for a date with her ex-girlfriends gynaecologist! By the time we were ready to move on to a club, Psycho was well and truly welded to our sides. With the no show of the fictional gynaecologist and by being nice; social lepers we were, lady magnets we were not.

That’s by the by, because I only want to sleep with someone I’m physically attracted to and have a connection with. A connection not instigated by consuming copious amounts of alcohol. Evidently this will lead to falling in love, moving in and buying a cat; something I am not ready to do. So what do I do in the meantime to curb all thoughts of women?

Even sleeping is adding to my frustration. Every night another woman appears in my dreams. Sounds great but I am one of those that have never got satisfaction through my dreams. I am just getting intimate with Cate Blanchett in a bath (see Elizabeth for any clarification) and the bloody Armada kicks off and I wake up; spending the entire day at work cursing the Spanish and feeling frustrated.

This does not bode well when working in a very straight environment. The gay population appears to consist of me and the non gender specific security guard. So, imagine my shock, excitement and amazement when I walked through the canteen and witnessed such sexual tension between two beautiful women I went weak at the knees. I had to do everything in my power to not run towards them shouting ‘I’m one of yooouuu!’ before sandwiching myself between the two in a desperate bid to have some female contact.

Being single is right for me at the moment, I need to understand myself before embarking on another relationship. I am holding out for someone spectacular, my ‘wink factor’, where only true love will do. So before I cross the boundaries into inappropriate work conduct and stalk the two hot women or start leaning against strangers in the queue at the supermarket cash tills; what do I do? And please no hand or battery operated suggestions.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Willing Donkey

A donkey wakes up and decides to take some me time and walk to look at the mountain view. On her way out, her life donkey partner asks “Would you mind taking these carrots to my Cousin Angela who lives mid-mountain?” “Yes, of course” says Donkey and off she meanders.

A short time later she bumps into her old stable-mate, Sheep, grazing on the winding path. “Hey Donkey will you take this bag of wool over to the west field” she said “it’s a little out of your way but you don’t mind, do you?” “Yes, that’s fine” Donkey replies and she continues on her day trip.

Whilst pausing for a sneaky carrot, Mr Farmer catches up. “I know it’s your day off but I’ll pay you to take these potatoes to the east field”. “Yes, no problem, see you tomorrow” and Donkey continues.

A few tiring hours later and heavily laden, her niece Donklette comes bounding over. “Aunt Donkey, will you take this small yellow twig to the top of the mountain?” Donkey realised she could not climb any higher, this was the final straw! With shoulders slumped and tail dragging Donkey turned and sadly stumbled down the hill.

Are you a willing donkey that cannot say no? I am a ‘Social Yesser’ I try to keep others happy by saying yes to every social invitation. Inevitably I let everyone down because unknowingly I have arranged to go to the theatre, a friend’s birthday and am meant to be spending the same evening in Venice.

Common sense and a diary will help me but what happens if you are the ‘Oklahoma Yesser’? Those who prefer to say yes to all significant other requests than to deal with the guilt they feel by saying no. When asked by her fella to help paint a bar he was refurbishing, Annie is a girl who just can’t say no. She was poorly, tired and had completed a long day’s work; however Annie cancelled her arrangement with her sister and the sofa and obediently went. On arrival she painted the men’s urinals until four o’clock in the morning before starting her day job.

It is better to be a ‘Yesser’ than the ‘Serial Noah’ who declines all invitations, is unhelpful, unreliable and ultimately stops being liked. But there must be a middle ground and after much deliberation I have an uneducated suggestion. Choose six or seven life priorities; for example family, friends, job/money, partners, health, fun, home. If by saying yes negatively impacts 3 or more of your priorities then maybe that’s the time to say no!

Annie could have saved herself a hideous evening painting the toilets if when asked she totalled up her priorities. By helping her partner the impact on her health, fun, home, family, and work outweighed any guilt. But that’s easier said than done, how could she actually say no? There are several refusal techniques; The Positive – “Hey honey, I'd love to but I’m exhausted and won’t be any use.” The Unhelpful - “How can you even ask, you should have organised help in advance” and finally my favourite; The Emotional Refusal, “Sod off, I’m not a donkey!”

Monday, November 12, 2007

Who let the dogs out

Coming out is incredibly hard. To anyone that argues differently, I would have to ask ‘Have you just forgotten?’ Initially it can be frightening to say ‘I am gay’ with the uncertainty of others' reactions. Will I be rejected, bullied, persecuted, an embarrassment to my family?

I came out partly through necessity. My parents were coming to stay in the one bedroom flat I shared with my partner and we did not feel we could satisfactorily explain the sleeping arrangements. Of course they knew, they had met my ‘special friend’ repeatedly and were just waiting for me to come clean.

My sexuality was fully accepted by family, friends and - other than the odd bigoted remark from Misogynistic Malcolm - work. In fact, the rare occasions I have been bullied or attacked has been by other lesbians. When first out and on the scene, I was living in what I like to describe as the ‘British Equivalent to Venice’ aka Birmingham! I was attacked in a gay pub toilet by a sour faced woman and two gigantic heavies... and no, I was not doing anything dodgy, so why was I attacked?

Did I throw my drink on her, steal her girlfriend then insult her checked shirt and dungarees combo? No, far worse than that, I was wearing a skirt in a gay bar. I escaped with a few bruises after hitching up my A-line and discarding my heels. With arms flaying, lighter flicking and high pitched shouting of intelligent words I managed to disorientate her Sasquatch bodyguards and make a run for it. These women travelled in a pack and preyed on people they considered different.

Shortly after, Birmingham introduced a door policy only allowing two pack members in a bar at any one time; any more and they were likely to start attacking people. The rest had to wait chained up outside drinking lager out of bowls. They are a minority group but ‘Pack’ awareness should be raised with warning signs on toilet doors.

So why do the packs form? Are they bullies or are they just scared of anyone who does not fit the stereotypes and guidelines they live by. I wanted to do some research on the bullying mentality and found an interesting website If you want to read the psychological profiles or how to deal with adult bullies you should take a look (page link below).

‘The serial bully is an adult on the outside but a child on the inside; he or she is like a child who has never grown up. One suspects that the bully is emotionally retarded and has a level of emotional development equivalent to a five-year-old, or less’.

I had a friend who was a serial bully. She was devious and manipulative and would intentionally seek the emotionally needy to work her magic on. She had a split personality that fooled even the most intelligent. Her technique was to make you a nice home-cooked meal one night then sleep with your date the next. When being the brunt of her jokes affected my life and self esteem I walked away. Yes, she did what all child bullies do, she spread rumours and turned friends against me. She still has her pack, they sit in bars looking intimidating and bitching about those they are jealous of.

Did being attacked in a toilet and have a friend and her gang spread malicious rumours affect me? Of course it did. For a start I have never worn a skirt on the scene since! When invited out by my ex-friend to meet the old crowd next weekend for a catch up, I declined. I knew instantly I would rather eat my hands than spend an evening with incredibly insecure, unemotional and spiteful women.

The lesbian community is small, there are very few places face to face or online women can socialise exclusively. Let's not let the minority group ruin these places for the rest of us. Remember if they are unleashed and charge in your direction, walk away, they are emotionally retarded and so very jealous of you. For those that do bully, we are all adults, isn’t it time you got some therapy and grew up?

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Footprints and Fishing Gnomes

It’s a beautiful autumn day. A small group of us are standing in a woodland area surrounded by the smells, sounds and stillness that comes with nature. The sun is trying to break through the clouds and just not quite making it, so the group huddles together keeping the cold out. Spindly trees stand tall and disappear into the sky above. At the base of these trees, amongst the wild flowers, small unobtrusive wooden posts have been knocked deep into the damp soil.

Each post bears an engraved plaque with a name and some a small poignant memento; a sleeping cat, a ballerina and one a smiling fishing gnome. We are not in a graveyard we are in a nature park and this is where our friend’s ashes will be buried.

She was diagnosed, treated and died within 3 months from a brain tumour. My Mum’s best friend was 59. Her daughter, much younger than me, has taken a small group following the service to her Mum’s resting place. Dad, my supporter, holds my hand for the first time in years and still I can not find any suitable words for someone who has just lost her Mum.

The previous day on route to the farmers market, my Mum and I light heartedly discussed our funeral arrangements, as you do! We decided the family should be scattered at memorable locations on our home town beach. My Mum by the beachside café, my Dad the cliffs below the golf course and the siblings drew the short straw with me scattered on the nudist beach and my sister the - yet to be drained in 20 years - yacht pond.

I would also like a bench with a plaque saying, ‘Believe in your soul, you’re indestructible, always believe it’. But please, no where near the nudist beach I would like some fabric between bottoms and my bench. Yes, I am lightening the mood as her family did when they paid tribute to a woman who positively affected so many around her. She would also laugh at the thought of my Mum's ashes peppering the beachside cafe 'all day' breakfast for years to come.

Where we stood surrounded by the memories and footprints of loved ones, overwhelmed by the sadness of death, there were no suitable words; so instead we drank some wine, hugged, cried, laughed and made plans for Christmas.

What footprint do you want to leave? What mark on the world? Mine will not be spectacular; I’ll never find a cure for cancer or create world peace (I do have some ideas for the later though!). I can make someone smile when they realise my plaque is the chorus from Spandau Ballets ‘Gold’. They can later curse me as they irritatingly sing it over and over in their heads for the rest of the day. I can also try and make life a little easier and nicer for those around me. So I am ending my support free sabbatical and telling some important people I love them.

Her footprint has been left and is all around us. It was felt by the 200 mourners of all ages who filled and overflowed out of the service room. We all saw the strength and resilience of her husband and children; a day she helped prepare them for and she left no words of love unspoken. Hopefully all those who were there will question what footprint do I want to leave? And act upon it.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

There's no place like home!

Between regenerating my brain cells following a rather excessive weekend, unintentionally antagonising a couple of lesbians and now staying at my parents meaning privacy is impossible; there had been no time to write this week.

To summarise last Saturday a group met at lunchtime to celebrate a friends birthday. Following the accidental eating of a four cheese and magic mushroom pizza we watched the West-End production of 'Lord of the Rings' before heading to a local bar.

We unanimously thought the show was great, a real spectacular. If the actors had not spoken in unidentifiable Gaelic accents it would have been even better. I am not sure the opinion of a mushroom mashed group counts for too much though. So, if anyone has a intelligent critique of the show please post in the comments.

Eight hours later and several more pizza's; ten thirty somethings are captured on video sporting highly flammable backcombed quiffs and I have a strong sense of deja-vu. I have not taken mind altering drugs since 1997 at an 80's fancy dress party. I was wearing a polka dot power suit, accessorised with shoulder pads, gold hoop earrings and highly flammable backcombed hair... arrh! After taking various illegal substances I was found by friends in a room on my own having a fascinating conversation with a poster of Micheal Jackson.

I am now at my parents and loving it. Home cooking, television in front of the log fire and fresh air. When do your interests change from pubbing and clubbing to long walks on the beach? Is it about growing up and wanting a slower, healthier pace of life or is it that your body and mind can just not recover like they used to?

I have to go, I'm being called as disappeared for 10 minutes. The parents and I are going on a hike through the countryside ending at the Farmers Market... and no we will not stop to pick mushrooms!