The Millennial is in New York…

… And I cannot write this blog without him. I lack confidence & the belief that there is any point to this endeavour whatsoever…

Here is a comprehensive list of how you can amuse yourself instead:

  1. Binge watch Russian Doll on Netflix. I’m running a temperature & it’s giving me the chills.
  2. Afterwards, add (a) My New Year’s Resolution by Mae West, (b) Migas 2000 by The Liminanas & (c) I Go To Sleep by Anika to your playlist – wherever that may be.
  3. Re: 2(b) I cannot understand a word of French but apparently she’s reading out a recipe – please translate below if you are, in fact, parley-ing the Francais, I feel we might all need to cook it… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dSy9QpmcpEE
  4. If you can’t be bothered to do as I advise in points 1, 2 & 3, enjoy this Mae West wisdom I have transcribed for you:
  5. ‘Ooh… For the New Year, I’m gonna stay away from temptation… as long as temptation stays away from me…*
  6. Um… Aw… And when I have to choose between two evils I’m gonna pick the one I never tried before…*
  7. You know next year, I’m gonna keep a close check on my conscience – I can’t have that bothering me…*
  8. Aw… And I’m gonna have good will to all men. And the more men… the more I will…’ *
  9. I hope you are loving New York, Millennial…
  10. *IT MAY BE THE 3rd FEBRUARY BUT I THINK WE SHOULD ALL UPDATE OUR DATING RESOLUTIONS FOR 2019 ACCORDINGLY – THANK YOU & GOODNIGHT. X 

For more tales of Bad Romance – a Netflix series waiting to happen – please come back when the Millennial returns or buy the book here.

Teeth

One last thing before the tales of revenge. Last year, when I was going through it, what I hated most was getting flaked on last minute. In one particular instance, on a spring bank holiday, it happened so late I was at the bar already. He explained he was in bed suffering from a hangover. A whole tube stop away. At 7pm in the evening. And would not move. I’d forgotten to bring a book, there was a deluge of thunderstorm outside and I had no umbrella so I sat and finished my drink and recalled that – when I was writing the Style column, women I met randomly would tell me stories of what happened to them, thinking it would help – and this was the winner:

This girl matched with a man on Tinder in Virginia – how I don’t know, it’s possible her location preferences were set to 3,796 miles – and things were going so well she bought them a room in a fancy hotel for when he was next visiting London, and she was in fact in the £300-and-something suite, sex-poised in stockings and suspenders, had just uncorked the champagne, when he cried off. He wasn’t coming. Maybe he said sorry. Maybe he did not. But this girl was the kind of girl I like. She would not admit defeat. So she messages another man she was also talking to and asks him to come instead. After an initial show of reluctance vis a vis that she was waiting for another man entirely, he came and saw and she conquered, and six months on she’d met his mother and they owned a dog together and even now, as far as I know, they’re very happy still.

So, I thought – OK – let’s give this a go – messaged another man I was speaking to, who said if I gave him half an hour he’d change his shirt and come meet me if I found a place within easy reach of the northern line, and when he arrived he proved to be a wholesale upgrade on the man I had been waiting for – being handsomer, fitter, and having actually turned up – and I might now be writing to you with a Norfolk terrier yapping on my knee, as he roasts potatoes in the kitchen, only when he kissed me it was like – pick your metaphor – a labrador licking my face or as if he were trying to floss my teeth with his tongue. There was nothing to do but soak up the saliva with the sleeve of my cardigan, and go home alone.

Dates, in theory, are supposed to excite you, but after a while – as I tell the Millennial – you end up approaching them like trips to the dentist. You have to go along no matter how little you like it – everyone says so – it’s for your own good. But you’re filled with trepidation, knowing full well the horrors a man might perpetrate on your mouth.

For more tales of Bad Romance come back next Sunday night or buy the book here.

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Donald Trump & the end of love in London

In her 1983 novel Heartburn, Nora Ephron explained her compulsion to turn aspects of her life into a repertoire of jokes.

She made everything into a story, she wrote:

‘Because if I tell the story, I control the version.

Because if I tell the story, I can make you laugh, and I would rather have you laugh at me than feel sorry for me.

Because if I tell the story, it doesn’t hurt as much.’

And so it is with me and this blog in which I am describing certain dates in such detail now because soon I shall tell you tales of other women braver than me and I want to secure your sympathies – so you are lusty for the retribution they take.

I know matters have gone irretrievably wrong when the line I’m going to tell the Millennial enters my head – the one that will make him laugh, with that adorable snort that’s addictive to provoke.  

‘People say #MeToo ruined dating for men,’ I told him, of my second (and final) date with a man so full on in the first week I was already calling him The Mad Macedonian:

‘#MeToo hasn’t ruined dating for men – they’re using accounts of what sexual maniacs got away with as a tip sheet… We went to dinner at this place he picked that I thought was fancy since it was in Westbourne Grove, only to end up sat in too-fancy shoes on a table next to stacked chairs and a mop and bucket.’

‘For whatever reason he announced he had to wash his hands and that his penis was very small, and then, after we’d eaten, calculated my exact share of the bill and walked me to a bus stop where he grabbed me by the pussy. Donald Trump-inspired. Right in the middle of the street.’

That one was laughable at the time. Not tragic. Just deranged.

But the next man who caused a Millennial-ready line to pop into my head, well – I’d got my hopes up…

He was a divorcee which I thought exciting, since divorcees – it strikes me – believe love exists, and know they lost it. They were honest with themselves and brave too. So they’re back, hunting for what I’m hunting for, which no man I’ve met yet seems to be.

This man departed one October morning saying he owed me an orgasm. (Actually four but he wasn’t counting.) Cancelled all the dates we planned subsequently, without suggesting rearranging and – when I enquired – explained he was looking into a trip abroad since he had time off and nothing else to do.

‘This is the tale,’ I knew then and there, ‘of the man who’d prefer to spend seven days in Auschwitz than see me again.’

Of course I’m writing this later, much much later,’ Ephron admitted…

At the time, I did not laugh. I howled.

For more tales of Bad Romance come back next Sunday night or buy the book here.

To publish unpublishable books, look to your readers

An author always writes the book she wants to read. So my short story collection, Bad Romance, was intended for women like me. Now, every time I get a letter from a beautiful creature who loved it, I keep her words with me. Because I know I’ll need them to sustain me the next time I try to publish a book. For me, they prove – so deliciously – that my audience does exist when everyone in the publishing industry insists it does not.

I wrote my first tale, Julia’s Baby, when seized by the black urge to pull apart a white wedding. The second story, Goddess Sequence, came to me when I was drunk and wishing to revenge myself against a man who had not so much broken my heart as torn it out and stamped on it. Both stories turned out old fashioned peculiarly English things – like the twisted tales of Dahl, Saki and Waugh. My first reader, my friend Sarah, laughed at them, wanted more… I wrote on…

I did not know short stories did not sell. Above all, I’m aware of a reader and aware of their previous commercial successes. In the 1920s, the most popular writer in the Soviet Union was a short story writer called Mikhail Zoshchenko who described how incredibly shit it was to live in the Soviet Union. Dark but very, very funny…

So here we are, I thought, in the 21st century, with more single people alive than at any point in history, and the last heroine properly poking fun at how we live now – still Bridget Jones (who is married with a baby now…)

To live in a city like London today is to experience daily struggles undelineated and uninterrogated by memoir writers (who by definition write about themselves) and literary novels which – Rose Tremain recently pointed out – prove almost impossible to finish. I try not to sound bitter but sometimes it’s hard. All I’ve had from those in charge are rejection slips which you’re just expected to take – and are as Isaac Asimov once said – ‘like lacerations to the soul.’

Without readers, Bad Romance would still be languishing in a drawer somewhere. But then, after years of failing to get an agent, I was put in touch with an undeniably brilliant one by a friend and this lady arranged for me to meet Katy Guest, projects editor at the crowdfunding publisher Unbound.

I was excited to meet Guest because she was the last ever literary editor of the Independent on Sunday and her opinion mattered to me dearly. She was the first person with any power to tell me she loved my stories and thought if we could just get enough readers to believe in Bad Romance, the critics would love it too.

I had no idea how hard it would be to beg readers to pay upfront for a book that did not exist. But I was lucky that Julia’s Baby had by then been published in The Spectator so I had evidence of what we could achieve together. Thanks to 300 plus book-mad individuals, we managed to raise the cash we needed within 90 days.

Bad Romance finally appeared this February 8th. Julie Burchill read it, loved it, wrote a rave review. Called me ‘the Saki of sex’. Volunteered the tagline: ‘Bad Romance makes Girls look like Little Women.’ In publication week, it was flagged up on the front cover of ES Magazine and Grazia. Press is a hard thing to get for books and I thought all the attention would demonstrate there was a mass market for my work. It didn’t. Now I watch as books launched with equal – or less – aplomb, succeed as Bad Romance sinks into obscurity.

But then another reader got on her white charger – Alice-Azania Jarvis, features director of ES Magazine, and the master interviewer behind a salon at The Ned whose guests have included everyone from Elizabeth Day to Otegha Uwagba. Those in the know, think hers is the most compelling chat you can get in London and the waiting list to get in is getting about as long as Givenchy’s in the Markle aftermath…

I was so lucky, she had me as a guest, for in the audience, there happened to be another Alice – a Ms. Revel, the book-loving entrepreneur behind Reading In Heels (FutureBook BookTech Company of Year Finalist 2017) which ships out 2000 copies of books she loves to a rapidly expanding horde of readers every month. She asked if we might produce a special paperback edition for her purposes. And as radicals, she and Unbound agreed terms. The book will be shipped out next week.

‘From our point of view, it’s a really exciting move,’ Revel explains. ‘Eventually… as our membership increases, we could potentially fund publication of the writers that our customers want to read. Not just the ones available to us thanks to the big publishers and their schedules…’

To me, every reader who loves my work is a hero and I dearly hope the Reading In Heels girls will become my heroines too… If somehow, in spite of everything, they contrive to make Bad Romance a success, it’ll be thanks to readers, readers and readers alone.

Twelfth Night

In 2018, my New Year’s resolution was to fall in love with a man who had his own parents so I didn’t have to spend Christmas with mine. You might think criteria that consists of ‘no orphans’ would do the trick but twelve months on I’m still as solitary as the fairy on top of the Christmas tree.

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This week I read a ponderous article in The Atlantic (is there any other kind?) that restated the cliche that the Millennial and I hate above all others: ‘dating is a numbers game.’ According to this theory, you’re single because you’ve not met enough men, when our problem is we’ve met far more men than we can stand already. The Millennial, for instance, dated relentlessly throughout the whole of his twenties and is rewarding himself on his 30th birthday (happy birthday heavenly Millennial) by giving up like all the rest of us. By rights, there ought to be a thousand think pieces about how the singles have all gone on strike against the apps that oppress us. Instead, there are just endless articles about how Millennials aren’t having any sex anymore, which only causes me to wonder who the hell they’re surveying since Tinder has unleashed, to my certain knowledge, a chaos of sex unrivalled since the dying days of Ancient Rome.

Yes, here I am, as stuck as the scratched Blondie record my mother gave me for Christmas, going on and on and on about how we’ve Bumbled and Happnd and Pofd for so many years it no longer makes sense. Dating is only a game if that’s how you define roulette, played out in the grottiest, least fun casino on earth. Sure, when we first approached the table, it was all very exciting. We had hope – that’s the chips. And we swiped so fast – that’s the spinning of the wheel. And any match might be our lucky number…

Only they weren’t. We staked our bets and lost. Our stock of chips runs down. Which only inspires desperation. You like the look of a number and pile everything on it, thinking to win back everything you’ve lost. We see other players screeching with happiness and making a great fuss. With this number – that looked so promising in the half-light – our hopes are up. But no, it goes the same way as all the others. We feel so embarrassed… Start to blame ourselves. Conscious that we need to keep a portion of our hope to deal with everything else that’s going on in our lives. That’s why we’re retiring, in ever increasing numbers, and if this were anything but metaphorical, and we’d lost all our money, casual observers would congratulate us for kicking a habit so manifestly depleting our existence.

And so we do, we serial daters, want to stop, we’ve had enough. In no other realm of human endeavour would we be congratulated for doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results. ‘Albert Einstein said that was lunacy,’ says the sleepy Millennial, yawning and falling asleep on my sofa.

‘Perhaps,’ I reply, packing up my fairy in a box. ‘That is why they call me batshit crazy.’ 

For more tales of Bad Romance come back next Sunday night or click here