Protected: One for the guys
March 6, 2013
Protected: Confident dating
February 28, 2013
Protected: A love tale come true
February 20, 2013
In a box
February 12, 2013
I’m enjoying poetry at the moment – challenging to write about ideas and emotions, but truly satisfying when you manage to capture them in words. I’ve just finished editing Courting the Dark – the very first novel I wrote and which I have now reached version 4 with – that’s how many times I’ve changed it! I plan this to be the last time and in doing so, I added quite a bit more of the inner workings of my wicked teenage character Lily, who drives the plot and the narrative forward in the acerbic way only a sixteen year old could.
Having two teenage daughters myself – both with quick, brains, quick wits and even quicker tongues, I’ve been on the receiving end of the acid many times – but teenagers also have a pure and true vision of themselves and life unaffected by the ‘baggage’ older adults collect en route to enlightenment (or not). If one could distill this clarity of thought in amongst their confusion with growing up and learning how to live life, I think their vision of the world would be pure poetry, so I gave Lily a voice to make some. Here are her thoughts on her unrequited love for Matt.
I hear you talk.
You walk and talk with others, not me.
I sense your presence.
I watch you listen.
You share your presence and your attention with others, not me.
Like a tramp looking through a window.
You’re inside, warm and loved.
I’m outside, cold and lonely.
A box full of darkness,
Because along with the love and the longing and the wishing,
There’s pain too, and pain is dark.
Pain, and anger and rejection.
Valentine’s Day is here, and lost love – or lack of love, will affect many people on the 14th February. Life isn’t all about romantic love, it’s about the love between all people, so smile at that stranger as they pass by, in case they have some hurts tucked away in a box too. Smiles have a way of opening doors – and boxes …
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A writers group is hopefully underway shortly so let me know if you’re interested in getting your ideas into words too.
When I was out walking the other day
January 22, 2013
I met a woman along the way.
I smiled and nodded and asked how she did.
She smiled and nodded and said she was good.
She told me she’d been happy and smiled in her past,
She told me she cried and been sad, but that had passed.
She told me she’d learnt how to lose and still smile –
As you don’t lose at all, it comes back after a while.
She said she’d learned how to let go;
how to grow;
how to go…
She said she’d learnt how to receive as well as give,
she said she’d learnt to let others live, live, let live!
She said she’d learnt the measure of control,
and how she’d learnt how to love from her soul.
She said she’d learnt how ‘I love you’ meant all,
but only if said with no expectation to pall.
She now understood the seasons’ ebb and flow,
and despite being autumn, there was still much, much more to know.
Nothing she’d lost was ever a waste,
because the fruit of her future was still there to taste.
I smiled and thanked her, and said I was glad, at last,
the me from the future had met the me from the past.
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The Dinner Party
December 6, 2012
Christmas ain’t Christmas without a bit of a spooky tale, so here’s mine …
‘Of course – do we know them?’ He just laughed. We were on the phone so I couldn’t see his expression.
‘See you later then.’ He sounded happy – certainly not how I’d expected him to be after Clem, but he’d gone and I was left wondering.
‘Was that who I thought it was?’ The voice was muffled from under the table. The owner’s prone legs were splayed across the floor, extending oddly from under the table cloth, as if a murder victim had just been hastily stuffed out of sight.
‘Yes, and he’s coming tonight.’
‘That’ll be interesting after all this time.’ The tone was sarcastic.
‘Oh.’ Silence, then more curiously, ‘who?’
‘He didn’t say.’
‘In that case it’s going to be really interesting.’ The table shook as if the murder victim’s spirit was attacking it and then both table and legs settled into stillness. I waited for the body to rise from its last resting place, but table and legs remained motionless. It made me feel queasy but I didn’t know why.
‘Are you ok under there Alex?’ I asked, suddenly worried.
‘Yeah, just thinking.’
‘About Jay and Clem and the way they just went – you know.’ Alex didn’t need to say any more. I did know. More than Alex did, in fact; but I was keeping that to myself.
‘Yes, well if you’re done under there, we should lay up now.’
‘Yep, all done, I’ve tightened up all the screws so it shouldn’t collapse under the weight of the food – or the conversation.’ The comment ended in muffled laughter and the table shook again. The legs wriggled out from underneath it, bringing the rest of the body with them.
‘Haha! Very funny.’ I turned away and went back to the kitchen to find the wine. Tuneless whistling floated in from the dining room and I guessed the table top was being transformed for the dinner party now it was safe to sit at again. I ignored the annoying whistling and turned my attention to the wine rack. I usually relished choosing exactly the right wine but my head wasn’t on it tonight. All I could think about was the plus one Jay was bringing – and what about Clem? I checked the clock. It was already seven-thirty. They were all due at eight. I called to the table and its legs.
‘If you’re done there, can you check the oven? I’m sorting the wine.’
‘OK.’ It was louder than expected and I turned in surprise as Alex appeared in the kitchen doorway, flushed and dishevelled from the table wrestling.
‘Maybe have a bit of a tidy up too?’ I added pointedly. Good humoured laughter bubbled around the hallway.
‘Um, I see what you mean.’ The reappearing vision was sleek and immaculate. I felt imperfect and uneasy. I pushed past into the cool of the hallway, assessing which me I saw in the mirror. I wondered what Jay would make of me, five years on. Five years – had it really been so long; since Clem had happened? I was startled out of my reverie by the doorbell jangling insistently.
‘It’s for you-oo,’ came light-heartedly from the kitchen, along with the smell of perfectly cooked Beef Wellington.
‘I’ve got it,’ I called back impatiently. I opened the door, the angry angst-ridden me well hidden under the hosts charming bonhomie. ‘Ange, Mike – how are you? Ange enveloped me in a cloud of too-strong perfume and billowing chiffon.
‘Darrrling, how are you – it’s been ages.’ She was right – for all the overdone lovey-ness, it had been the same five years of ages as since I’d seen Jay or Clem.
‘We’re good, thanks Ange.’ I disentangled myself and Mike’s less flowery and more business-like hug was a relief. ‘Come on in.’ I turned to call out to the kitchen, but Alex arrived with drinks right on cue. Eventually the storm of hello’s, hugs and darrrrlings dissipated and we moved into the warmth of the lounge, warily convivial. The bell went again and I rushed to answer it, trying to quell the jitters that it would be Jay this time. It wasn’t. Agitation overcame courtesy with the Betterware woman collecting the catalogue she’d left earlier. I flung the unwanted package at her and slammed the door in her face. Belatedly a wave of shame made me redden. I re-joined the forced conversation in the lounge, knowing the only conversationalist I wanted to bandy words with was yet to arrive, but God knew who with. Unbidden, the old jealousy consumed me. I wondered if I could even be civil to Jay’s plus one. Trying too hard to concentrate on Ange’s gushing, I almost missed the third ring, but in the visceral depths of my gut, I heard it instinctively. I was beaten to the door. Momentarily I hated Alex with a hatred I’d felt only once before but I didn’t have time to dwell on when. The lounge door burst open and before I could prepare myself, Jay was standing in front of me.
‘Hey,’ he was embracing me and I was drowning in his sharp-spiced smell, his proximity, his warmth and the desperate yearning I still felt for him. My head spun and I held onto him tightly. ‘Such a long time.’ He breathed the words into my ear and they spiralled round my head like a tornado funnelling into oblivion. In the eye of the storm, was his plus one. As my head cleared and my vision settled, she stood quietly and ominously behind him in the dark hallway. I pulled away sharply, waves of fear travelling up and down my body like electricity, sparking, shorting, sparking; killing.
‘Clem!’ My exclamation killed all talk in the lounge. I sensed something behind me and found the lounge conversationalists had clustered there, mixing their sweat and perfume with my dismay. Jay smiled at Clem and beckoned her in. The clamouring bodies behind me parted like the red sea for the unexpected, and mysteriously, very alive, plus one.
She passed through us, as if we didn’t exist; or maybe she didn’t exist? I was starting to doubt my own senses and sanity now. Jay just smiled enigmatically, and followed her. From my vantage point obliquely opposite I observed her apprehensively. Exactly the same as the last time I’d seen that elongated bony face, with its too large eyes, black, black hair and white skin. Now if possible, the pale complexion had become almost translucent; unhealthily waxen, as if she really wasn’t there at all – the way I’d thought it was.
‘Who’s hungry? Shall we sit for dinner?’ The jovial enquiry broke the tense silence, and the buzz of who was sitting where eased us round the table. Legs sticking angularly out from a lifeless body as it sprawled out from under the table. I found myself directly opposite Clem and Jay; the last place I wanted to be.
‘Clemmie, darrrling; where have you been hiding yourself?’ Ange didn’t wait for a reply. She rounded straight on Jay. ‘We thought it must have been a crime passionelle when she just disappeared and then you went persona non grata too.’ I watched Ange preen herself for what she considered wit. Mike wriggled further back in his seat beside her, face closed, but body expressing his discomfort. I knew what was going on behind those blank grey eyes. I’d heard him explode at her once after she’d been particularly pretentious at one of our dinner parties long ago – Christ why were we having this one?
‘Crime passionelle and Jay? Oh, Jay would never hurt a fly. He wouldn’t be the one to be involved in a crime passionelle.’ Clem smiled icily and everyone froze a degree colder. Her eyes slid back to me. Jay interjected quickly.
‘We’ve been on a bit of a tour.’ Four pairs of eyes trained on Jay and waited for more. Clem remained supremely aloof, face shadowed, tensed, dangerous; in control. ‘Clem was a little unwell so we went some places to make her better.’ He flashed a brilliant smile at her and then at me, as if including me in the secret of the places they’d been to make Clem better. That last time, I’d left her, the skin had been pale as death, the face a mask, blood pooling stickily under her head.
‘You’re looking well now.’ Mike offered it up dubiously, and Clem nodded graciously at him. Ange looked at him as if he was mad – a green-eyed stare like a cat would give its enemy. Clem looked quiet and serious. A far cry from the lascivious woman who’d tried to steal greedy kisses from me just before I’d left her broken and lifeless.
‘The starter’s mushroom pate. I hope you all like mushrooms?’ Alex was valiantly trying to break the ice patina rapidly spreading over us.
‘Magic mushrooms, darrrling?’ Ange’s trill made the rest of us cringe.
‘Oh Ange, really …’ Jay patted her arm as if she was a naughty but delightful child. She tittered and combed her hair flirtatiously at him. Clem’s eyes swivelled back to her and the dark lights in their depths terrified me. Where had they been to make her better? How could you make a dead body better?
‘How’s things in the psycho industry then Maz?’ He was talking directly to me. I pulled myself together enough to reply.
‘Oh, mad as ever.’ The laughter was appreciative and I breathed out, avoiding Clem’s black-eyed stare, wishing I’d never visited their house that day. ‘I dream about you day and night, Maz. I want you. I know why you are always round here, always offering to help, always checking in on Jay … ’ Her hands were clawing at me, grasping, squeezing, her mouth almost on mine, her heavy breath hot on my face, stealing my own away from me… ‘You know what they say about psychiatrists don’t you?’ I might as well play my audience for all I could if it would deflect that hateful stare from me. ‘You can’t tell them from the patients …’ Raucous laughter showed it had been well received and the wine choice I’d made had been a good one – one of the highest alcohol volumes I had, and chosen specifically for that reason, but not to promote gaiety, to promote softening. Jay’s softening, Jay staying, Jay, Jay, Jay. I tried to shut down the insistent voice in my head, but it was replaced instead by Clem’s,‘Maz, Maz, Maz.’ …
The memory of that last time I’d seen her couldn’t be ejected from my thoughts now. It had taken me over body and soul. She wouldn’t leave me alone; I couldn’t wipe the slimy disgust of her saliva from my lips or escape from her burning eyes, or the threat she posed … ‘Maz, Maz, Maz.’ … ‘Get off me you stupid bitch. It’s not you I come here for, but Jay.’ I flung her forcefully away from me and her head cracked against the table edge…
‘Do psychiatrists live in the real world, or their imagination, do you think, Maz?’ Clem was coolly vicious. The conversation around us flowed on, witticism, quip, joke, flirt, ‘more wine?’ No-one else heard her low-voiced question. They weren’t meant to. Only she and I were in this discussion.
‘This is real, so of course the real world.’
‘Is it what?’
‘Is it real?’
‘Of course it is.’ I looked at the exaggerated expressions on the other dinner party guests; wide-eyed, laughing, bored, polite, exasperated. I realised they weren’t talking to us and we weren’t talking to them. There was an invisible barrier between us – like we were in another world, alongside but not touching. Clem smiled mysteriously. ‘Are you dead, or alive?’ She tilted her head quizzically and my mind rushed back to that day again. Her face collapsed in on itself as if life had imploded as her head struck the table; first the surprised look, then the blankness of death. She tumbled awkwardly to the floor and lay there. The table wobbled and then was still. Her legs stuck out angularly from the lifeless body as it sprawled half under the table. Shock turned to nausea as I turned to see Jay coming through the door to the room. Could he forgive me?
‘What do you want me to be?’ I considered the question. The real answer was neither. Alive meant either I was going insane or she was some awful thing from beyond the grave. Dead meant she was some awful thing from beyond the grave or I was already insane. ‘Or more to the point, why am I here with you, and they can’t see me?’ I looked around at the four other faces. They seemed even more distant than before.
‘What is going on?’ I hated her. Now I remembered that hatred in fine detail where I’d only remembered it dimly earlier. I wanted to address Jay, but he was across the divide with the other dinner guests. It was only Clem and me here.
‘It’s confession time, my dear. Just tell them what really happened and we’ll leave you in peace.’ I didn’t want Jay to go, but I wanted Clem to. Greedy, demanding, disgusting, hateful Clem, who’d taken my Jay and made him infatuated with her. Greedy, demanding, disgusting, hateful Clem, who’d tried to kiss and paw me when the only one I wanted to do that was Jay. Greedy, demanding, disgusting, hateful Clem, who had Jay, and didn’t even want him. ‘I won’t go away until you admit you killed me.’
‘Fell?’ Clem’s voice was sinuous like a python coiling round me.
‘Why did I fall?’
‘You just fell.’
‘I didn’t just fall. Tell them, tell them!’ Her voice rose from its soft sibilance to a harpies’ shriek. I covered my ears in agony as her banshee wail made my head split apart and the blood pooled stickily under it.
‘I pushed you, OK? I pushed you off of me, you slut, and you hit your head on the table.’ My voice reverberated around the room as the dinner party froze, forks in mid-air, glasses poised to clink, heads’ thrown back in surprise. I catapulted back through the eerie barrier from Clem’s world to my own.
‘We said to absent friends, Maz.’ Alex touched me lightly on the arm, ‘and how sad it is Clem isn’t here anymore, but we’ll toast her anyway – across the ether.’ She turned to the rest of faces round the table, all looking oddly at me, and added, ‘to Clem – RIP.’ I breathed in the smell of fruity red wine and Beef Wellington, over-perfumed women and after-shaved men.
I looked gratefully at my wife Alex. Jay and his new girlfriend looked back.
To me she still looked exactly like Clem.
I’m @StorytellerDeb on Twitter
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If you fancy longer reading in 2013, my new novel ‘Chained Melody is out on 18th January and will be available then on Amazon.
A magic bullet for love?
August 18, 2012
Quite by accident in my research for The Strategy, I chanced on the name of Julian Savulescu and wondered what an Uehiro Professor of Practical Ethics at the University of Oxford, Fellow of St Cross College, Oxford, and Director of the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics did. It led me to read his joint paper with Anders Sandberg about the potential for neuro-enhancement of love and marriage, which is where I’m at now in this blog. Ok, so the paper was written in 2007 and maybe some things have moved on since then, but the ethical debate still applies, and it interestingly tangentially supports the aspects behind my own theories of why relationships falter in the forties and fifties, and for women, particularly, often never get going again. Here’s the paper in its entirety:
Essentially there are a number of reasons behind monogamous relationships:
- For procreation and the continuance of the species
Oh, yes – I forgot to start with there is one biological reason for our inherent physiology to promote monogamous relationships, and that is the one above. The others are all socio-economic or culture related, and support it. These are they:
- We are healthier when in a stable happy relationship – blood pressure decreases, stress levels are lower, social bonding is better, there is less danger of spread of sexual disease etc.
- It creates a more stable society in as much as there is a greater level of contentment, less change and therefore a better maintenance of status quo.
- Our culture has encouraged a view of love or being in a loving relationship as an ideal status and so it is a goal we all seek, to a greater or lesser degree.
- Financially the (welfare state in the UK) state has less potential burden to meet if families are stable and therefore children are nurtured and maintained by the parents, needing less state intervention by way of social welfare support – adoption, fostering, social workers, educational support etc and of course the involved relationship partners should be enjoying the benefits of better health overall with a similar lack of demand on the state healthcare-wise.
- Philosophically, we all need something to believe in – it may be God, religion, politics but for many it is in the power of love to create a happier and more fulfilled life.
- Essentially we are social beings.
- Children from stable families are much less at risk from abuse.
And indeed, most societies and even animal species show a preference for monogamy – read the paper for the research statistics. This preference for monogamy is evolutionarily based on the fact that children require a stable relationship to reach sufficient maturity to ensure survival of the species. Women are more programmed towards stability as they are at greater risk from the process of procreation (pregnancy and childbirth) so will seek to minimise change and destabilisation from having multiple sexual partners, whereas men are at minimal risk so are prone to proliferate their sexual activity amongst many partners for best results. However women maintain control at this earlier stage of life since they are essential as the actual life bearers, so men are forced to concede to their preference for the time being. However, move past the age of the need to maintain the status quo because of procreation – i.e. into the forties and fifties age groups + and that degree of control by the women fails. Men no longer need to defer to women’s choice. The children are raised and they are free to choose at will. Choice for them still tends to be dominated by preferring the more attractive pro-creational qualities in women, because they are still biologically driven – i.e. younger, more attractive women and hence the male choice in this age range is for the younger, ‘sexier’ women. If the men by this stage have also – as one would expect – achieved a degree of economic success and social status, it becomes much easier for them to choose amongst this more ‘attractive’ group, thereby leaving the older women now out in the cold. There are statistically many more older men in second marriages or partnerships with younger women (see partway down column 2 on P33 of the article, relating to note 35).
So ladies, if, like me , in your middle years, you’ve ever wondered why an otherwise attractive and intelligent single woman is passed over by the men in her own age group, here is your answer. You have become part of the less lucky social groups the paper talks about because of perceived lessening or lack of desirability – yet the populace of these groups have many admirable qualities of perhaps greater value than the ones whose qualities are valued higher because of youth, or perception of physical beauty. Empathetically the paper talks of equalising the situation and giving everyone an equal chance by the use of drugs, as well as the reasons for using the same drug to enhance relationships already in existence but in potential danger of breaking down.
Well, love isn’t dependent only on similar philosophical and cultural beliefs, social similarities or appropriateness of interests or intentions. Underlying all of these over-layered inclinations are the hormones and chemicals that first set our pulses racing and subsequently assist in the enforcement of attachment or bonding between us: oxytocin, testosterone, vasopressin, CRH and entactogens. They are the constituent elements that could go into a little magic bullet to make love grow or stay: a love pill. By careful manipulation of the chemical and hormone levels within a body you could actually encourage someone to fall in love with you, or having done so, keep them in love with this little (theoretical – I don’t think there’s one on the market yet) pill.
Wow! You say, so I could force someone to fall in love with me and then stay that way? My prayers are answered! The introduction agencies, matchmakers of the world and internet dating agencies would all be jumping about with joy at this, perhaps – until everyone was in love and never changing their Facebook status again – and then they’d all be out of business. But would this happy pill be so happy in reality?
Firstly, who would decide who took it or not? Who has control over your emotions? You – or someone who wants to control you? Isn’t the right to choose for oneself one of the first and most important human rights we still have?
Who decides whether a relationship is appropriate for it to be supported or maintained by such a drug? Everyone’s perceptions are different. What is a good situation for one is a bad situation for another. The paper suggests a scenario where (P39: second column) Peter is promiscuous and making Joan, his partner, unhappy, so if Joan was given the drug, she could overlook his promiscuity and be happy again. As long as she was also being able to be self-fulfilled within their relationship, this could be deemed to be a worthwhile relationship to support with the drug. Personally I wonder how any relationship where one person is serially betraying loyalty and faithfulness to another could ever be regarded as a ‘good’ relationship, and for all the valid and salient points the paper makes until here, I feel it falls dramatically over its own feet at this stage.
How much artificial interference should we tolerate before we decide we have created a world where we have no solid basis in fact and not sufficient strength of character to simply accept that some things happen for us and some don’t? Recently the US justice system has said that it will allow commutation or reduction of sentences on criminals where they can prove that their crimes are due to a chemical imbalance, if they allow that balance to be redressed. But does it change the fact that the crime has been committed – especially when that crime may be rape or murder? And what if they stop taking the medication? What next?
Wouldn’t the giving of an unequal advantage – making oneself superlatively attractive to another by the use of drugs be ethically and morally wrong when we champion equality elsewhere? Recently we had the nonsense of a Paralympics athlete being challenged about entry into the Paralympics because his artificial limbs actually enabled him to run faster than an able bodied sportsman so he was being regarded as no longer disabled.
Finally, have we become so arrogant that we believe we have an entitlement to everything, including love? The paper also considers whether we should try more to change relationships and attitudes and not people. I believe the answer to that is most definitely yes. Human beings aspire and achieve greatness because they question, challenge and test themselves. They try, they fail, they try again. In doing so they both improve themselves and the world they live in by self-analysis and change. If we rely on a growing quick-fix culture that uses the advances in science to create an artificial love-life rather than concentrating on finding something like a cure for cancer, then we will lose our ability to achieve anything philosophically and developmentally worthwhile.
I am single and in my fifties. I am told I have an attractive physique and face, and am intelligent and pleasant to be with. I have not been chosen by anyone as a permanent partner for the several years I have been widowed, and of course that is disappointing, and at times lonely. However, do I really have the right to manipulate someone else to ensure I obtain lasting love simply because that is what I would prefer to have?
A magic bullet for love? Please don’t shoot it at me; I’ll find my own form of death – or love.
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