Being Open on the Internet

…is not always wise. People read about your innermost thoughts and exploits from afar, and sometimes become obsessed with you. Without even meeting you, they may think they have fallen in love with you. Then, because you mention or recommend particular events, or you hold them yourself, they know where to find you. They turn up and actually meet you, having read your blog for months before. They don’t tell you how much they’ve been following you, just that they love what you do, which is not so unusual.

Last year this happened and I got to know a man, as a friend, and as he was an intelligent, eloquent and erudite life model, I let him into my professional circle. I wasn’t interested in him romantically, but I thought he was interesting. In our evolving model-centred scene, he is an innovative player. I was already with a partner, and not looking for more. I was clear about that, yet because parts of my earlier blog refer to more open phases of my life where I existed outside of monogamy, the man knew that within me was also a more adventurous side.

I did note in our first proper meeting his interest in freer sexual encounters. My own openness to discussing this stems from a sense that less conventional relationships are important if more people on the planet are to love and be loved as they ought. I do make a distinction however, between what I consider a really positive idea that may work for others, and what I personally prefer for myself. Let’s say, I have experimented with alternatives, arguably not enough and even less in more enlightened recent times when much is shared online and beyond about such fascinating ways of life; but at the point where I am in life, I find my needs are best met with one mate. Building one solid relationship as well as strong friendships around me. I think it’s the way I am wired.

Some months after connecting with the man he had opportunity to tell me how he’d fallen for me a while back (before we’d met); but what felt really awkward was, he imagined that had he only informed me of his desire sooner, he and I might be an item. This is a most ridiculous idea to me. As if my feelings didn’t even come into it. As if just announcing his apparent love at the right time would have been enough. There is only so much one can read from a blog; but if you ran a careful search of my writings you’d find that my partner Steve Ritter was already known to me several years before we got together. We were friends for some time before partnering. Trust was built in the real world preceding our intimacy.

Once when I was 22 I got together with a guy I hardly knew nor spoke the same language as, and our first sexual encounter I now realise would have been described as rape by a contemporary definition (when he thought ‘no’ really meant ‘yes’). That lasted 5 years. Now I am nearly 40. I like to know people properly before I am really interested in anything substantial. Such naivete and arrogance on the man’s part just put me off, made me feel more closed, and angry that I had considered him friendship material. Obviously he was too self-obsessed and driven by his libido. I’m not interested; but I am a bit scared. I realised someone as canny and generally smart as him could get past many preventative hurdles for avoiding dodgy men at Spirited Bodies, and still find his way to causing strife. It’s true that my own openness does leave me vulnerable to such types, while many women would close the door on him immediately and never take a risk.

No real harm done. He isn’t so bad; and he is interesting, just not good for me. He ought to be more realistic about the internet. Sending me an epilator was also not a savvy move. I am far too fond of my bush. For context, the epilator was not completely out of the blue(!) He’d offered me one as I’d entertained the idea of trying pube removal, to see how vulvic baldness feels, but I turned down his offer. If I was going to do it, I’d get my own device. Coming from him was wholly inappropriate. To then send it to me anyway was just wrong, and the symbolism of controlling my feminine wildness showed extraordinarily poor judgement.

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Recent self portrait in menstrual blood, charcoal, fineline ink pen and beetroot water.

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My flaming bush celebrated in Victoria Rance‘s painting, from her class at Blackheath Conservatoire

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Working Through Anger (and my Voodoo Child)

Yesterday was disabling. Unsent angry letters! It worked though because by the end of the day the anger was gone.

Today was melancholy and introspection, treading softly, taking care.

What a difference – I know where I’d rather be. The morning felt delicate, tender; the evening light, beaming.

I really didn’t know how long it would take to diffuse the anger; it was so dominating, it felt like it might stay a while. I think the answer was in allowing it to take over me, not blocking it. It didn’t feel like a choice, but at some other juncture I think it was.

It started with writing rationally, cataloguing. When that was through and sending would obviously not yield constructive results, I moved on to harm wishing. I was consumed by righteous rage and this revealed something profound (to me). Whilst imagining awful accidents befalling the person in question, I reasoned to myself that that is the only way I could imagine them coming to a transformation whereby they may acquire enough humanity that we may get on again.

To clarify: this wasn’t considered or premeditated visualisation. It was in-the-moment-blind-and-going-nowhere rage.

As I reasoned however, I remembered a childhood preoccupation. As a small girl with an angry, unloving Mother; I used to wish she was dead. And I would picture her dead and buried in our garden. I even imagined her rotting bones.

I was not surprised when as a teenager I was told she had gotten a degenerative disease – MS. The thing is now, I associate that condition and disability with my Mum becoming a more decent human being with whom I have a reasonable relationship. Dependence on others changed her outlook, made her humble.

So when I momentarily wish ill on people messing with me now… I ultimately mean them good!

Melodramatic pose I am currently doing for sculpture; this is called an ecorche – (underwiring and) basic bone structure, muscles, no skin

Life Affirming Beauty

My dearest friend invited me to a gathering at her house whereby her women friends may meet for the first time, and transform energy in her house which had had too many experiences with men in it which she wished to put behind her. It did exceed all her expectations and I met the loveliest of ladies there who with open hearts did connect easily sharing food and stories, advice and laughs. It was a breakthrough and my friend cried with joy to bring her life to this place of amazing uplift. I felt honoured to share in her experience and to have been with her the longest time on her life journey. We have been through shit together and seen each other in decidedly unfavourable circumstances. We fell out too at least once when working on a performance project together brought us to breaking point. A few months later after not talking, we realised we had overcome some block and were closer than ever. We reached a new level of being able to be with each other and it was a relief. Having said our worst to each other, we’d had it out, and there was no need for more upset, just gratitude for each other’s friendship. I am so proud of her now.

When are unkind words necessary?

When you run out of options, patience is exceeded. If they are not nasty for the sake of it, then some difficult but honest words may bridge a gap in time. Some things are hard to say and may only emerge in a conflict, but from there growth is possible, and if embraced can lead to greater clarity.

Therapy Breakthrough

Typical. Just as I was about to discontinue seeing my psychotherapist, we get to the good stuff. Sex and my early sexual experiences; my relationship with my Mother.

The truth is I had put off discussing sex as my therapist is Muslim. Stupid I know, prejudiced too, but I felt weird bringing it up and opted to talk about everything else instead… until she brought it up.

I had been unhappy with my boyfriend’s living arrangement and my anger levels were disturbing. After a few weeks of probing this situation, she said, “But doesn’t it affect your sex life?”

I already liked her, little though she says – it makes what she does say all the more poignant – and from then I found a whole new level of appreciation for her. No one else had said that. If she had been Western I have no doubt that I would have been talking about sex with her from the off. But then, how to spot the breakthrough?

She was so right. Sex is very important to me, perhaps my strongest currency. It wasn’t that we weren’t having sex; I will always find a way! But that our truest intimacy was compromised. Our ability to get to know each other in every way that we would, without interference – that felt in question. No amount of communal aspirations could make up for that. It is a base that we needed and are establishing now for ourselves, and for which I am most grateful.

The pressing difficulties of the present out of the way, we were free (my therapist and I) to delve naturally into the past. That my Mother had resented my burgeoning sexuality when puberty struck, had given me many issues. It felt good to cry, and I knew we are only just beginning.

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Pictures of me by Sue from The Pastel Society, 18/2/12

Crazy Cousin

10 years ago I heard through my family, that a second cousin of mine had been sectioned in a mental hospital; he was only 18 and I didn’t know him. I did know what his Mother was like however, and my ears pricked up. I suspected immediately that rather than insane, he had simply been misunderstood. His Mother was very over-protective and any normal teenager might be deemed crazy by the reactive backlash her overbearing may produce.

I paid him a visit and felt confirmed of my theory. He had been driven to some minor violence and locked away. Oh and experimented with hard drugs, which were now more available to him than when he lived at home. He was of course drugged up on prescription pills, and had a new set of friends on the ward, who were troublesome enough to help keep him sane. We became firm friends; I knew I could fill a unique role where other relatives would fail. Having gone off the rails myself I knew that if I hadn’t had the freedom I’d had in those formative years, I could have ended up in the scary place he was. As it was I was able to find the best possible place and friends with which to share that experimental time. My crazy cousin was no more mad than we had been, except that a duality of a loving/repelling relationship with his Mother blocked his potential to find commune elsewhere. In this light my own Mother’s seeming hatred of me was a blessing; she’d had no problem freeing me.

Growing up became a big ordeal for my cousin; there were several episodes in hospital, rounds of medication, sheltered housing, therapy. Other people in the family didn’t know what to make of him, but I remained constant. He grew enormous for a few years on the drugs, and let his hair and his beard get longer and wilder. His room was a state of filth with quantities of porn, piled, scattered. But he did learn to cook and sometimes accommodated my non meat-eating ways, even if he threw a steak on his own plate to balance the vegetable overload.

He was shy of women as girlfriends, but comfortable as their friend. Most of the people in his family were women, and when he was housed with lots of people I saw many girls come to him for counsel. When he got better his sisters invited him to stay for long periods.

Confidence takes such a long time to establish, and normal work has eluded him. He is much better now though and been off the meds for some years. He looked like a new man when last we met in the Summer, much slimmed down and clean-shaven. He was doing some voluntary work and about to begin a course in Autumn. He wanted to take me out for a meal, he has ever been grateful to have a kindred spirit to talk to. I remember nearly 3 years ago, he came to see a show I performed with a friend, and in the opening scene, I climbed out of a suitcase, naked. I had not warned anyone prior to performance of the nudity, and it was my cousin who decided never to come to one of my show’s again! At least he always asks now if there will be me naked in the show and on finding there will be he declines invitation. I guess it just feels wrong to see one’s family naked for some.

My cousin took a picture of me in Highgate Wood

I met my cousin when I was in the middle of a long relationship with an Italian, and had become somewhat estranged from friends of my wilder youth. My cousin was not dissimilar to some of the men I used to know, and I guess being away from them made me warm to him the more; he bridged a gap, and did not arouse Massimo’s jealousy! I grew very fond of my cousin and he laid down a lifelong foundation in me for a love of bears – men who are big and gentle, kind and strong.

Taking Time For Ourselves

At the first meditation meeting of the Women on Fire, most of us were tentative about speaking up, coming forward. Judith had some salient advice; many of us, whether by nature or nurture who knows, feel drawn to helping others a great deal. All too often to the detriment of looking after ourselves. I don’t know if this message came to Judith from spirit, as they say in shamanic circles, or if she just felt it intuitively. I felt its resonance.

I am not sure if people around me in my life would especially notice whether I take enough time for myself. Not having children, other dependents or a regular full time job means I am more likely to be taking time for me. The way I reflect on Judith’s advice, is to consider more, how many years I have given over to trying to nourish the impossible. In other words, relationships with men which were mighty troublesome.

I am so happy and grateful to be in more favourable circumstance now. It has perhaps been in trying to establish where my priorities lie in friendship that I may have felt myself spreading a little thin. It is needs part of the process of finding out how different friendships fit.

The regular meetings with the writers workshop in the theatre are already providing valuable structure. I have to present an idea, pitch a project and I am unused to doing this in such a group. Whether I come up with the right project or not, I know I won’t be satisfied unless I have given myself the appropriate amount of quiet and private time in order to realise whatever ideas I may.

At the Women on Fire meeting I tell them I am there because I want to root myself more, so that I may build my work more effectively. I am in good company.