Monday, October 23, 2006

let me entertain you
Oh my. This is going to be a difficult post to write – convoluted and very long – untangling the skein of my thoughts might take quite some time. However, as I’ve been mulling it over since I woke up on Sunday, perhaps it will end up making some kind of sense. At first the title was going to be “stepping out”. Stepping out with my friends, stepping out into the disco lights, stepping out of my comfort zone – with the softly unspoken invitation: step out with me, come out…
And I should say hello to all those Isle of Wight friends – who apparently have been reading along for quite a while now – I hope I haven’t written anything bad about any of you; I hope I’ve only written bad things about me. (Thank goodness Blogger went for a burton on Friday night otherwise I might have let the surprise party cat out of the bag.)
Gradually, over the last three years, the lights of the UB have become very fierce – this is my therapy, in many ways. I’ve illuminated myself to a degree that is perhaps only comfortable when the audience stays in the dark. Too late now, of course. No point corpsing so I may as well carry on regardless and hope that their affection for me and mine for them will carry us smoothly over any bumps. But still, surely, they or I will at some point cry “too much information!” How can social situation continue when there are no masks for one person and everyone there knows that some kind of account will end up being published – a very partial and badger-centred account? The badger that appears here is no more real, no less of a construct than the woman who walks and talks and experiences life. Opinions, feelings and selves are mutable, fleeting things – but words, words that get written down, they have a permanence and inflexibility that can be judged. Do I want my friends to be my jury?
So, did I get something for the weekend?
I had a creeping sense of apprehension about going. I knew I’d be alone at Badger Avenue and, frankly, I don’t do too well when there’s no one to see what I’m up to. I also thought that it might be a useful trial run for if/when TA moves out. Oh dear. Friday night passed with red wine, cheese and Simon Schama talking about Caravaggio. Not great, but not bad (me, not Simon – Simon was fascinating). Through a certain prism it could be viewed as a decadent and indulgent night in solo. Let’s look at it in that light, shall we? Let’s not consider it in the cold, grey light of the dawning realisation that I’m perilously close to having a drinking problem.
Saturday? Saturday I read newspapers, mooched about, procrastinated, ate hot cross buns and read a new-age self-help book I found next to the bed I had – unusually – decided to sleep in. There are twin beds in my old bedroom now and I slept in the one that TA usually takes, not sure why, but I fancied the change of scene. The book was called The Way of the Peaceful Warrior and it made me think of TA and wonder if he would find it interesting. I tried to inhabit my head, tried to make the most of the uncomfortable silence. I’m not sure I succeeded.
And so it was time to get ready for the party. Unhappy with my options I had decided to raid my mother’s wardrobe – surely she must have a sparkly top that I could wear with my lovely, elegant wide-legged black trousers and princess shoes. It appears that women in their late sixties don’t need sparkly tops and I came away empty handed even after a thorough firk. In the end I settled upon a lightweight cream v-necked jumper. Subtle, hopefully classy. It still needed something so I borrowed a rope of seed pearls. I was suddenly in the zone. What the French call “in good face”. The make up worked better than usual and, daringly, I decided to literally let my long hair down for once.
Prozac seems to be the best form of beauty therapy there is. I’ve noticed the clothes I choose to wear and the way I choose to wear them has changed. I’m enjoying them more, I’m standing straighter. I’m loving the “lady look” this season. There’s an aspect of auto-erotica to this enjoyment. I don’t know how other women relate to their bodies. I don’t know if women that are only ever attracted to men get that same inside-out appreciation. Sometimes I get a fetishistic thrill from a look that has more to do with what I find attractive – I guess it’s narcissism or perhaps better understood as a way of being both Pygmalion and the ivory woman. Whatever, those pencil skirts and “sexy secretary” fashions are really working for me, in all senses. And it seems that I’m finally able to understand TA when he tells me I’m beautiful. That sounds vain, but honestly I’ve never thought I was remotely pretty, all I’m saying is that I can see now why I might be considered attractive.
Recently – what with all the soul searching between us – I’ve been thinking deeply about how I relate to men and women; the different ways I experience attraction. With men there’s always been the instant attraction and I’ve been able to appreciate the physical with no intention or desire to get to know the person. That’s not to say I can’t form a deep relationship with a man – I’m closer to TA than anyone else in the world, even K1 and my family – rather, it’s just that when I’ve been attracted to a woman I’ve fallen for the person first and the body second. I wondered if that was because I have greater respect for women or whether I experience greater – there’s no other way to say this – “phwoar factor” from men. (TA has the most beautiful bottom in the whole world – honestly it’s a thing of sublime perfection.)
So. We surprised the birthday girl. It was great – a really lovely gathering of friends and acquaintances with a rich shared history of twenty years or more. It’s rare, I think, to still be in touch – even if that touch is tenuous – with so many school friends, particularly when we all live in different places now. There was genuine merriment along with the alcohol-induced kind.
We moved on to a local bar. The Jolly Sailor has featured here before and in my life, particularly my teenage years and early twenties, it has been a landmark of huge psycho-geographical importance. It’s a bar with a dance floor; it’s the launch pad for downstairs debauchery as there is a nightclub (the only nightclub for miles around) in the basement. At one point, a crowd of us would meet there every night of the week. The world of the Jolly and Colonel Bogey’s has it’s own centre of gravity and for miles around, people are pulled into its orbit.
I was convinced I would bump into Jay at the Jolly; Jay the boy I was engaged to and lived with from age seventeen to nineteen. Two tumultuous years of intense closeness that ended in heartbreak and resentment. There’re still questions I’d like to ask him – there are parallels between how we ended up breaking up and where TA and I are now – questions about how he viewed me and what happened to him after we broke up. This isn’t as far fetched as perhaps it seems. Social-worker E had bumped into Jay last summer and they had talked of me. Apparently, I’m still the woman he’s had the best sex with – how’s that for a recommendation? Sadly, I wouldn’t be able to repay the compliment, but still it was nice (and saddening) to hear. E and I talked it over and she said, “but Badgergirl, you’ve always exuded a sexual appetite.” And I was astonished, but also knew what she meant – I’ve always been earthy, sensual, hungry for pleasure. Greedy, frankly.
I scanned the bar but couldn’t see Jay. The Jolly is in many ways like dancing in the living room – it’s safe. I don’t live there any more so bystanders don’t matter, the friends I have from the Island have known me for so long and seen me behave so badly that there’s nothing I could do that would shock them – I think, I hope. I continued to let my hair down – danced like a loon, wanted everyone to riot.
There was a very beautiful woman standing at the side of the dance floor. She had something of the air of a Pulp Fiction-era Uma Therman about her, only even more noir. I was capering about as usual, a bit unsteady on my pins. Grinning and laughing and feeling on top of the world with the familiar dance choons of the last ten years lifting my spirits higher. As a single girl, it would usually be at this point in the evening that I would start asking the most morose-looking man to join me. I can never bear for anyone to look sad or lonely – if a dance or a kiss can make someone join in the fun then I want to help. Understandably, this philanthropic impulse has got me into trouble on more than one occasion. I have woken up on many a morning bleary-eyed and replayed the events of the night to be confronted with the pain of once again being the entertainment, comedy or otherwise. For the past five and a half years TA has been my stabilisers and I’ve been grateful of the security he has given me – allowing me to freewheel down the steepest hills with barely a wobble. I’m scared at what might happen if I have to ride through life with only my own sense of balance to keep me upright.
Uma – dangerous, beautiful, magnetic – Uma was watching us all. I smiled and she smiled back and then she was dancing with us. After a while she was dancing with me. Funny, if she was a bloke I’d think she was coming on to me. She disappeared for a while and then she was back and we were very much dancing together. There wasn’t much to say; it seemed like we had spun away from the world. I was dizzy and giddy and felt as though I was dancing through a dream when she leant close, even closer and asked if she could kiss me. Somehow I had left the Jolly far behind and stumbled into the pages of a Jeanette Winterson novel. Only, seemingly, I was playing the self-deceiving married woman only out for a thrill and breaking the heart of the virtuous Amazon – the wild woman who has complete knowledge of her desires. After a series of kisses that burnt me to a cinder. She left me, asking that I join her in the subterranean netherworld. I hesitated and then, shocked at the enormity of that had just happened and angered and shamed by the leering of the men nearby, made a run for Badger Avenue.
My phone call woke TA, but my shell-shocked voice and tearful explanations left him undisturbed. It was he that thought I would have (perhaps should have) consummated my passion for K2 that difficult summer two years ago when meeting her completely knocked me off my feet. Somehow he doesn’t think that my duality has any bearing on us, but I do. I don’t want to betray the sanctity of our marriage. And, selfishly, having been the third in a three-way love affair, I don’t want to experience that kind of pain again (or inflict it either).
I’m still reeling. I’m still wondering whether I should have followed my lust down into the underworld. And, while it was just a provocative dance and a passionate kiss with a willing accomplice that has no bearing on my real life, which I’ll be able to shrug off as drunken high-jinks for the amusement of friends that have known me for many years, they won’t really need to read these words to know that I’m not being straight with them.
Sunday, shaking with shock, I took off my mother’s pearls and remembered the last time I wore them: my wedding day.

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