“Sexy Beast” or Just “Beast”?

Couldn’t not reference this pun. Source linked. It’s a t-shirt!

I was going to begin with a Miriam-Webster definition of attractiveness, but that’s not terribly helpful, is it? I guess the truth is, I want to vent about my self-image frustrations.

The thing is, I’ve never been all that attractive. Back in the days of being 20 stone (300 pounds/136 kilos) I look an awful lot better, but I’m never going to be Brad Pitt, however much I work. See the picture at the bottom for a comparison.Even with all this in mind, I’m hurt when a woman says that my body is not her favourite thing about me.

Let me give you a for instance. At a party I met an absolutely beautiful woman with whom I began to talk, flirt and mock. We fooled around and I bullied her a little about a guy who was following her around like a puppy.

Weeks pass and we chat occasionally on Facebook. One time while drunk-messaging, she lets slip that she’s had a crush on me since the party. I utterly disbelieve her and CCQ her about three times before I’m willing to allow for the possibility and agree to a date. The date was wonderful – she was clearly really attracted to me, and wanted to pursue the relationship further. Nonetheless, my body image issue got in the way later and could have seriously messed things up had she not had experience dealing with the crazies.

Unfortunately, my mind seems to see attractiveness (with relation to me, anyway) in a very binary kind of way. Either you think I look good or you don’t. There’s no grey area. Of course, that’s not how I’m attracted to people. I can be attracted to this element and not that, and come to an overall “yes please” conclusion without the bad things being the be all and end all.

I think I need to find some sort of middle ground. I know I’ll never be a swaggering, self-confident fat guy like James Cordon or Gnarles Barkley (yes, random. They’re the two that came to mind, okay?). I also don’t have to believe that I have the looks of a cathedral grotesque. There has to be a middle ground and I need to find it. I need to come to terms with the idea that someone can be attracted to me despite rather than because of my body. I need to come to terms with the idea that that’s a good thing.

Before, after and "as if"

Before, after and “as if”.

30 Days Challenge: Day 28: What attracts you to someone

Well, I think we’ve discussed before what can instigate a crush, so let’s talk a little about what I look for in something long-term.

I’ve dated different body types and nationalities, so much as it’s a cliché, appearance doesn’t massively effect that tingly feeling in my chest and doesn’t cause me to think about a person at odd times of the day.

I think the thing is chemistry. If we have good chemistry, if we can talk or not talk for hours without being uncomfortable, if we can watch and mock TV together, or if we can share utterly stupid inside jokes. I’m kind of weird, so I really appreciate when someone is willing to be weird with me.

The truth is, although I have a sex drive like anyone else, it’s not the thing I miss most about being in a relationship. Not even close. I like the shared, open and close relationship that’s really hard to achieve outside of a relationship.

To clarify, I think it’s harder for men to have that kind of relationship, as many men are afraid of seeming ‘gay’ with their other friends. Much as I’ve complained about being a gay friend in the past, I wouldn’t trade those relationships for ones with hetero-normative men, because I know that nine times out of ten I wouldn’t get the kind of support and love I get from the close friendships I have.

I posted on Facebook recently that “there are no likeable hetero-normative men in my novel. This could be a problem.” The truth is, I’m far too open, honest and ridiculously emotional to conduct a lot of close relationships with that kind of guy, so I find it rather difficult to relate to them.

Anyway, all of this is beside the point. If I had to summarise this post in one sentence it would be this: I’m attracted to a person we can have honest conversations and silly fun in equal measure. Anything else is just topping.

Relationships, Singledom and Emo…ness

You know that guy on cheesy American sitcoms who is afraid of commitment but loves sex? I never really understood that guy. I’ve been in relationships where I don’t see it progressing further, and that’s important to be honest about, but to be wholly and generally anti-serious? I don’t get that.

Equally, I don’t understand the people who can’t be friends with the gender they’re attracted to. I don’t really understand how sexual attraction can short circuit a friendship. God knows I understand the frustration it can cause – I’m considering hiring out my over-developed gay friend skills* in the Yellow Pages – but it’s never stopped me from being a good friend to those people who I already thought were awesome.

I have lots of attractive, awesome female friends. Many of these friendships began as crushes on my part, but developed into strong platonic relationships. As someone who is primarily straight and definitely single, this can be quite frustrating at times. I suppose this post is to remind me (and anyone else in my position) that sex isn’t what makes a strong relationship, and to be thankful to the people in my life and on my international friends’ lists. It’s also because my complaining about it is both churlish and irritating even to my ears, so I’m trying to get it out of my system.

That said, I am still looking for the right Her (as one of those friends would put it) to curl up with on a too-small sofa or bed to laugh at terrible TV and to cuddle on a bad day.

So, yeah. Line under saying this shit outloud. Suck it up, Dainty.

From my playlist, this song seemed most appropriate:

*Gay Friend: (n) 1. Regardless of gender or sexuality, a gay friend is a very close friend who is never thought of sexually or romantically, but who continues to be surportive.
2. Someone with excessive training in the Friend Zone.
Etymology: from the genderless, supportive friends of cinematic romantic leads.

 

 

30 Days Challenge: Day 21: Short goals you wish to fulfill by the end of the month

Let’s say the end of October, since it’s the 24th of September and there’s no overestimating my laziness. So, here’s the plan:

1) I want to type up the pieces of novel I have in notebooks into the main manuscript. I’ve been writing in bits and bats around work, commuting to work, sleeping or socialising. It needs typing up and I want a Galaxy Note.

2) I don’t know about any more, to be honest. I can think of a kiss or two I’d like to steal, but I’m not putting that here due to being a crazy person. I dunno. Maybe lose some weight? Mainly the writing thing really.

3) I’d like my Spanish to be palpably better. I’m told that karaoke will help. This from the linguist friend who gave me “priest tacos on a stick”.

Mmmmm… monotheistic…

This has been a typically coherent party political broadcast from your friendly neighbourhood Brit in Mexico.

Insomnia: SMM

Sucks. It really does. I’m not sure what sadistic mental motherfuckery makes it appropriate for the psychological inland revenue to come poking around 4 hours before I have to drag my ass across town and be a teacher, but it really fucking sucks.

Ah. That’s a little better actually. Sometimes you need to use phrases like “sadistic mental motherfuckery” at 1am to really know you’re alive.

There’s nothing on my mind that affects my present – just a recent out-of-character shitty action and its consequences that I keep thinking about. Yeah, I know. Karma. It’s not going to make my class any better in a few hours, though, is it?

 
All that having been said, if anyone wants to buy me a t-shirt or five with “sadistic mental motherfuckery” on the chest, I would readily accept them.

30 Days Challenge: Day 11: A letter to one of your exes

Dear JRP,

We haven’t spoken for a while. I think you’ve blocked me in most ways we might communicate. I think it’s because of something I did after we broke up. Whatever, that’s not what this letter’s about.

I just wanted to say that what happened between us hurt me a lot. You went from thinking I was amazing to barely tolerating my presence in the space of four months. Just as the first helped my confidence massively, the second knocked me down. I think that’s why I was sent reeling and rebounding right after.

I am sorry things didn’t work out, because I thought you were pretty amazing too. Still, you’ve taught me a lesson about going too fast and mistaking ‘new relationship energy’ for ‘forever’. I couldn’t go back, since I think we’ve both seen sides of each other we’d rather we hadn’t. Nonetheless, I’d still like to be your friend. Drop me a line sometime.

A.

30 Days Challenge: Day 9: Your definition of love

I was going to skip this as ‘trite’ with a sarcastic comment, then I saw an angle to go at it from, so I’m actually going to talk about this.

Firstly, I’m not going to talk about the love for family or friends. Much as both have supported me through so much that I may not be here today without certain members of either group, I think it’s an easier question to answer, much as it is often far more important than romantic love in certain points in one’s life.

Anyway, I think the route to everlasting love goes through two stages. First, you have the douchy-analytical cum optimistic phase, followed later by what I’m going to call the You Did What?! phase.

First, you find someone attractive in one (or more) of three ways: aesthetic appeal, sexual appeal and social appeal.

A lot of people might say that “aesthetic appeal” and “sexual appeal” are the same thing. I disagree. Have you never found someone attractive whom you didn’t want to sleep with? To most people, the answer is yes. To the rest of you, I think you should consider either your standards or your honesty with yourself.

The example I often use for aesthetic appeal is Kiera Knightly. She has an appealing look and a friendly face. I really enjoy watching her in movies and listening to her accent1. That said, I’m not sexually attracted to her. My personal taste runs to women with more womanly curves. A friend once joked that there’d be “nothing to play with” once you had a slender girl like Ms. Knightley in bed. I’d still happily watch her in any movie she popped up in.

Love love love her storyline in Love Actually.

Secondly is sexual attraction. Everyone has their type, interests, turn-ons or whatever else you want to call that spark that makes you Want someone with a capital W. Most people understand that on an instinctive level, so I won’t bother going into here.

Lastly is what I called “social appeal”. It’s not a perfect label, but it represents your desire to talk to someone and to be around them. It’s your desire to be their friend. For some people it’s cinematic, musical, political or comedic compatibility. Whatever it is, it’s that thing that makes friends into best friends and fuck buddies into partners.

This is the clincher, I think, when it comes to love. If you have the last with at least one other type of appeal, you’ve really got something. It’s at this point that many people say the L word. Sometimes it’s a door to pass through to get to the real stuff, other times it’s just new relationship energy given control of the mouth, and in others still it’s a verbalisation of proto-love – the stuff that inevitably leads there, but before the You Did What?! stage.

The You Did What?! stage is the most important one for longevity, I think It’s knowing all the worst, shittiest things about each other and still wanting to curl up together to watch bad TV. If you can survive the worst of your past, then with just a little work, you can survive anything as a team. This stage also involves coming to terms with anything they are or do every day. Perhaps not easy, but if it’s right it’s right. If there’s something you know you can’t live with forever, then you’re just treading water.

Okay, that did turn out a little trite, and you mileage may of course vary. This is my opinion based on a number of needlessly complicated relationships. But basically, love is facing shit as a team, rather than a pair of singles players2.

1I think I’ve spoken on this blog of my love of accents before. Therefore it shall go undiscussed now.
2Ew, sports metaphor! Get it off, get it off!

Discipline and the Classroom Relationship (with a side-salad of self-loathing)

Today I was removed from the class I have been teaching since August ostensibly because they need help with the end of year projects. The real reason is because I simply can’t control them.

This year was the first time I’d ever taught full-time in a school. I’ve worked for months at a time in the UK, but never from summer to summer. I’d never developed a relationship that had to sustain discipline and order for an entire year. So, I didn’t give it much thought this year. So I failed.

As it is, I tried to be the friendly-funny teacher it’s easy to be in a seasonal school. No, not just that – I was myself in class, and in real life I am friendly, kind of funny and more than kind of disorganised. When I began to have discipline problems, I resorted to threats and anger. This is not the way to go. Not even a little bit.

Don’t get me wrong: my failure didn’t turn 28 angels into 28 monsters. It doesn’t work like that, either. It was a difficult class, which I was assigned since, and I quote “we figured a man could handle it”. Putting aside the implied sexism, they were wrong. Other teachers have problems with that class, but I have the most. They don’t respect me, they don’t like me and they don’t want to do my work. Those students who are eager to improve their English are stupider due to my relationship with the class monkeys and their accomplices.

I do feel guilty about this. I really do. I’ve spent the months since my failure became apparent trying to fix it. The truth is, as I said before, once you lose that relationship, it’s almost impossible to get back.

So, what would I have done differently? Well, I would have spent an early class building a class contract with the students. I grade and return within x days, all weekend work taken on Tuesday in return for not standing/leaving class, no cell phones, finishing work etc. I would have set a routine for the beginning and end of every class. I wouldn’t have asked them not to behave like monkeys.

So, what have I learned? Well, I’ve learned that teaching teenagers is hard. Duh, right? It’s a real juggling act to be someone they respect/like but will also work for. It’s something I need to work on.

I prefer teaching adults. I’ve learned that. Adults have their own motivation (or the government who pays their unemployment cheques) and work as much or as little as they are able. It’s easier to develop a relationship, and when there are issues of discipline, the rest of the class are your allies, not your enemies.

Do I still want to teach teenagers? Good question. Honestly, I don’t know. The other 11-18 year olds I’ve taught haven’t been as bad as that one particular class. But, again, those were classes I taught for shorter periods of time. I’m hoping to get another, similar role in Mexico City next year. I think I’ll spend that time making my decision. Right now, I’m feeling like a failure and I’ve been struggling with my depression lately. I may not be a good teacher, but I’m smart enough to know that it’s not a good time to make a big life decision.

The First is the Model for the Rest

Or: Why I Go For Weird Girls

Gamer Girl

Lately, I’ve been reading Lust in Translation. It’s a fascinating, well-researched read with jolly insight from the American journalist who wrote it. It feeds well into interests I gained in a non-conventional relationship I had in the past. If you want my review, that was it.

Anyway, what really inspired me to write this post was the beginning of chapter 3:

In theory, a university-educated white woman (like me) could date and marry an immigrant Mexican laborer who didn’t finish high school. But although I occasionally meet working-class Mexicans, I have had romantic partners who shared my ethnicity, schooling and economic standing. Even when they weren’t American, my boyfriends have been stock analysts and journalists.

The way we sort our sex partners intrigued researchers at the University of Chicago. They wondered how a Mexican man in Chicago, a city of 3 million people, might find that every potential girlfriend he meets comes from the same town in Michoacán. MEanwhile my girlfriends gripe that all the eligible men they know are lawyers from New Jersey.

As I think I have said before, I come from a small village in South Yorkshire, whose people are ex-coal miners and their families. Almost everyone loves football, beer and not being called ‘gay’ by their friends. Therefore, isn’t this the kind of woman I should be attracted to?

This section got me thinking about my relationships, and about what might have affected them. It got me wondering whether our first relationships have a palpable effect on the relationships that follow. As a sample of one, I’d like to submit myself for the study, though I’m far from the first to theorise on this point1.

I think I’ve always been ill at ease with the ‘Come On You Reds!’ environment of my upbringing2. That’s what my mum says, anyway. I think the thing that had the most affect, though, was my first relationship.

My first girlfriend was a close friend of mine when I was 12 years old. Since I was a fat kid who covered his insecurities with stupid jokes, that’s her first point in the ‘weird’ column.

In truth, I don’t really remember much about C from when we first met. The strongest impression I have of her is the cartoon-like character she became in her search for identity during pre-adulthood. I remember watching Wiccan rituals enacted with fruit juice in plastic cups, and I remember her going to our American-style prom in a black lace evening dress she could have stolen from a Victorian widow. I remember her sarcasm, misanthropy, outspoken opinions, poorly-dyed black hair and growing interest in alternative culture. In sum, I remember a strong sense of her differentness, which I think still affects me today: long after I realised that my first love was wholly ridiculous at that delicate time in her life.

What little Internet footprint I can find of her tells me one thing: the people I’ve become close to since then would probably have a lot in common with her.

C was in my life for six years in one role or another; even as a dubious friend when my next relationship started.

The relationship in question started when the girlfriend of a good friend of mine needed to talk to someone about leaving him just as I needed to talk to someone about having been left.

S was kind of a mainstream breath of fresh air after C, although she didn’t exactly go with the flow of the crowd, either. She had a tattoo, several ear-piercings and a belly button bar. At the time, freshly pressed from the grim North, this was amazingly exotic to me. She was (and is) sarcastic, occasionally acerbic, intelligent in a career of morons and with an interest in Gothic fashion. We had a comfortable, if staid time together, where she often humoured my geekier side that grew along with my independence. I suppose that’s why I was initially drawn to E, after far too long a mourning period.

S, along with a couple of my other exes, as one of my best friends, regardless of geography. Although that held back my recovery for a while, I’m glad we were able to stay civil.

The torch I carried? Seems appropriate.

Okay, so on to E. The truth is, I’d carried a little torch for E for a while. Well, maybe not a torch, but it was certainly bigger than a matchstick. Maybe it was just the idea of sitting naked while discussing the likelihood of Romana returning to Doctor Who3.

Anyway, E was an is pierced in several interesting places, is into Doctor Who, roleplaying, LARP, Sherlock Holmes, oh and polyamory4. She has her share of ‘The Crazy’ which either complimented or rubbed up against mine depending on the direction of the wind. I had a crazy, complicated, fun and educational year with E which is still a regular topic in my after-dinner conversations.

During that year, I had two little flings5. One was with a sweet, clever and slightly socially awkward girl who came to my flat to watch Glee. The other was with a strong, passionate roller girl with whom I sometimes regret not having had the courage to pursue something more serious with. They were and are two amazing, weird and sometimes baffling woman who could never be mistaken for each other in any circumstances. Neither would they fit into daytime TV’s narrow sphere of normality, save Glee-girl, who passes only because her shyness hides her intelligence and originality.

I am not going to discuss my experience at the Heaven’s Basement concert, as that is a post or two in and of itself.

Lalla Ward as a vampire. Because I can.The movie is Vampire Circus. If you don’t know who she is, Google is your friend. And I judge you.  

That brings us to this past year, then. First is J. She was my boss at a seasonal ESL school who I mocked for trying to keep a photocopy unstickmaned. She was pierced, tattooed, cynical, just back from Russia and as into me as I was into her. This last was particularly surprising to me, as I can only say for certain that that had happened to me once before. Anyway, we shared the same silly sense of humour, career and plans for the future. She even had previous dealing with my particular brand of the Crazy. Within a month we were in love, engaged, living together and had confirmed jobs in Mexico. Only two of those are still true. Yes, sometimes it is weird, but I only choose the girls who can deal with ‘weird’.

Now there is P, a weird Mexican I met on the Internet who likes ice sculpture, video games, zombie walks and cats. She’s an ex-roller girl who almost moved to Paris for a man. I totally get that. She has tattoos, piercings and cynicism; all of which seem to be prerequisites in my dates.

Again, the relationship is moving ridiculously fast while we come to terms with each other’s Crazy. Hm. There’s a lesson there somewhere.

So, yeah. I’ve had minor-crushes on attractive mainstream(ish) girls, but never ones who can only talk about The X Factor and the Kardashians. They included a Belarusian (discussed before on this blog), a deceptively normal-looking rocker, a fellow teaching student with man issues and a girl with dreadlocks, unshaven armpits and a tendency to fall of the roof when writing poetry. Okay, maybe I don’t go for mainstream girls.

I haven’t made a personal, romance-related blog for a while. They usually turn to angst and self-criticism in my experience. Regardless, writing out my romantic history like this certainly shows that I have a mental type6.

So, maybe C still haunts me today. Maybe she’s why between a girl with pink hair and tattoos or a girl with blonde hair and fashionable clothes, I’ll always as Pink Hair for directions. An alternative, of course, is that I’m just looking for someone as abnormal as myself. Pot-AY-to, pot-AH-to.

Assuming anyone is reading this: have you had the same experience? Looking back with honesty, is there one kind of person; one model of personality that you keep coming back to? How far can you trace it back? Why do you love the people you love?

 

1  One and Two, for example.
2 Come on you Reds!
3 A lady of my acquaintance is due a thorough induction in the not-so-distant future. 
4 Polyamory from Miriam-Webster: ” the state or practice of having more than one open romantic relationship at a time.”
5 A reminder – Polyamory from Miriam-Webster: ” the state or practice of having more than one open romantic relationship at a time.”
6 Though not a physical one, but I think posting pictures would be undignified.

Not a music fan?!

You’ve got to be kidding me!
(I love this movie)

As I write this in my Rosetta Stone notebook1, I am sitting in a house… somewhere near Mexico City. I’m accompanying my lady friend to a rehersal of her band. I am surrounded by so much equipment that I don’t know whether they’re going to make music or launch this lovely antique-filled home on a mission to Mars.

Dolly Parton

This’ cool, right?

I love music. I do. I enjoy rock, pop, country, jazz, ska, soul, Motown and more. My regular playlists are so eclectic and varied that no two songs played back-to-back seem to gel at all. From Deep Purple through the Supremes via Dolly Parton, I love all kinds of music2. It seems, however, that I l love music less than almost everyone else I meet. This rules goes double for anyone I happen to sleep with.

I don’t know if anyone else has had this experience, but I never give a correct answer when it comes to favourite bands; I can’t name a guitarist from a single riff3, and I don’t know which band started which monumental movement that should have changed my life.

They guys I’m listening to now are great. Really, they are. I won’t have to put on my boyfriend-wow face and fake enthusiasm. It’s good stuff. I’m even pretty sure I can name all the instruments. After I finished this bit of scribbling, I also helped with the tambourine (badly) and some English grammar in the lyrics! I’m quite proud.

That said, I’m not really sure what genre their music is, nor which bands might have inspired it. I feel like Knives Chau being mesmerized by something I know nothing about4.  I just don’t have the language to discuss music, just like a non-linguist wouldn’t have the words to talk about phonemics, the Proto-Indo-European language or diphthongs. In the broadest possible strokes, I can say if I enjoy some vocals, a guitar solo or lyrics. I kind of know that Bowie was a New Romantic and Marvin Gaye was Motown. Regardless of any of my other traits or interests, this seems to make me a lesser person; I’m less cool and less interesting.

Case in point: on my journey to Mexico City last week, I was flicking through the poorly catalogued music collection on the bus. I came across a song I really enjoyed, with a lead singer whose accent really appealed to me4. I was berated by lover and ex alike for never having heard of the Cranberries. It was a name that I sort of recognised, and when their hits were yelled at me, I did recognise some. Nonetheless, they weren’t a band that was ever really on my rader until I accidentally listened to a  mislabelled song on a Mexican bus.

The song in question:

Right now, I’m surrounded by people who are enjoying making great music. I’m enjoying listening to it while I write. Isn’t that enough? Shouldn’t that be enough?

I have no issue with musical culture or how much it means to some people. I just don’t really understand it. It is, I suppose, the same way that other people don’t understand my passion for Doctor Who, the BBC’s Sherlock or Supernatural6, for example. What does bother me, however, is the ‘indie elitism’ that one sees far too often. The “my music is better than you music” mentality is what put me off looking outside the mainstream for the majority of my teenage years (another girl’s influence, as it happens).

I like music, but I know nothing about it. What’s wrong with that?

Please comment if you’ve had the same experience. Maybe you’ve got your own story of non-musicista prejudice? Let me know. Tell me I’m not alone.

1 The British Museum’s finest.
2 I know, I know. I’m sure you’re already rolling your eyes at my examples.
3 Except Queen’s Brian May.
4 If you don’t get the reference, do yourself a favour.
5 My weakness for accents is a whole topic in and of itself. The next time I do something stupid for a pretty accent, I’ll let you know. Refer to this post for reference to my summer spent chasing Belarussian crush I had entirely thanks to the pretty, atypical way she spoke.
6 If you don’t know them, look them up. Seriously.