How to live alone

Some are scared to be by themselves, while others revel in solitude. And most of us nestle somewhere in between. Give us a roomful of people and we’ll crave a padded cell, yet watch us walk into an empty room and cry for company like a puppy spending its first night away from its mother.

I am moving in with my boyfriend next month. It will be the first time in five years I have had to live with anybody. I knew this time would come eventually – that day of reckoning when my arrivals back at home, pissed, clutching a McDonald’s and staggering into the furniture would have to end. Or at least happen only when he’s away.

When I first started to live on my own, I was in a state of shock, I think. On the first night, a friend who’d helped me move stayed with me, but as I closed the door on her the next day, I sat on the sofa for a while, listening to the wailing sirens and unfamiliar voices from the streets below – streets I didn’t know at all – and wondered what I would do with all this space. All this freedom. All that time. I had never felt so free. I had never felt so sad.

I was coming out an eight-year relationship when I moved house and my fragile state shows in unpacked boxes I have had to look in for the first time in five years. Books I must have known I would never read, old notepads filled with “just popped out” or “I love you” messages between me and my ex and, amid the valentines, birthday cards from dead relatives and pictures my little sister used to send me, an old Greggs bag.

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I wondered what had been in it to warrant its preservation. And then I remembered, it was the first thing I ate after the last box had moved in. My first pasty as a single man, a bachelor. Alone. Not realising its significance years later, I must have shoved the wrapper atop the nearest box and thought nothing more of it.

Imagine a greasy old paper bag stirring up so many feels. It’s the main reason I can’t bear to look at old photos too often – I’m a sentimental, emotional wreck. The more of the past I have behind me, the more it absolutely devastates me. All my mistakes, stacked to the ceiling in row upon row – behind me but forever around me.

But now I won’t be on my own any more. This is exhilarating and terrifying. There have been some amazing things about living alone, and some terrible things.

Things I did when I lived alone

1. Ate ham sandwiches for lunch ten days in a row.

2. Revelled in the pathetic hedonism of standing in my underwear, eating an Easter egg straight out of the fridge.

3. Explained “it’s my cleaner’s year off” when a one-night-stand sees my kitchen in daylight for the first time.

4. Made friends with a whistling kettle as it’s the only “voice” I’d hear all day.

5. Stared out of the window for hours but nobody ever looking up, nobody ever seeing me.

6. Realised that absolutely every food available in a supermarket is geared toward two portions or more.

7. Treated my freezer like a cupboard marked “things I will never want to eat”.

8. Frantically tidied up before that bloke from Grindr came round.

9. Had a bath with that guy from Grindr.

10. Stretched out like a starfish in my kingsize bed on the first night – only to return to my normal “side” for every night thereafter.

11. Went out on dates with just about anybody with a pulse to avoid sitting in and staring at the walls.

12. Not got dressed until 5pm because nobody could see.

13. Experienced next-level hangovers. For some reason hangovers always 20 times worse when you’re alone, but at least nobody is there to nag you.

14. Always knew where absolutely everything I owned was, because there was nobody else there to move it. Except my keys – I can never find those.

There are lots of things I will miss about living on my own, but I won’t miss them half as much as I would miss seeing his face every morning.

So I’m sorry bachelor pad – it’s not you, it’s me. We’re done.

More like this:
17 things single people do that make couples want to kill them
Falling leaves, romantic walks and endless parties – autumn’s no season to be single
The post-breakup bachelor pad survival kit
Why everybody needs a broken heart

41 things an embittered ex is thinking about right now

1. Not you.

2. What shall I have for dinner?

3. Do I have enough money on my Oyster card?

4. Not you.

5. Do I even still need an Oyster card? I’m wary of being overcharged if I use my contactless.

6. What shall I wear for tonight’s date?

7. Not you.

8. Who was that missed call from an unknown number from earlier?

9. There’s a message. Should I listen to that?

10. Who even leaves messages these days? Text FFS.

11. Not you.

12. Do I have time at lunch to buy something for tonight’s date?

13. Mind you, I don’t want to come back late from lunch with carrier bags, right?

14. Seriously why would anyone leave a message?

15. And withhold their number?

16. Now I’m thinking about you. Continue reading 41 things an embittered ex is thinking about right now

27 things that happen to single people at weddings

It’s the noise every singleton dreads in the summer – that gentle thud on the doormat. Yes, it’s a wedding invitation with your name on it.

Even if you’re given the opportunity to take a +1 with you, flying solo at a wedding can be a harrowing experience. And at least one of these things – at least – is totally guaranteed to happen to any single person at a wedding.

1. You are seated next to another single person.
This person is boring.

2. You may even be lucky enough to be at an entire table of single people.
The bride and groom had a little chuckle about this as they did the seating plan, but they’ll be laughing on the other side of their faces once you’re all drunk and heckling the speeches.

3. You are warned not to catch the bouquet.
“It’d be a waste,” they say. “You haven’t even met anyone yet.”

4. One half of every couple thinks you’re out to steal their man.

5. The other half of that couple wishes you would steal their man.

6. A married man confesses he’s always fancied you.
You’re the third person he’s said it to, so don’t get excited.

7. You get too drunk.

8. You don’t get drunk enough.

9. The bride or groom’s parents ask if you’re “courting”.
They then make a well-meaning but asphyxia-enducing comment about how you were always “the loner” as a child or you are “too flighty to be tied down”.

10. If you’re a bridesmaid, the best man makes lots of awful jokes about how it is tradition that you hook up.

11. You hook up with the best man.

12. If you are the best man, there are loads of jokes about how you and the groom used to bum and that he’s the true love of your life.
Probably best not to confirm this is actually true.

13. You spend half the reception avoiding all the people you snogged at previous wedding receptions.

14. You are better dressed than all the couples.
Your outfit is commented on incessantly throughout the day. You get ‘looks’ from the bridal party. An old person calls you “trendy”.

15. If you’re spotted talking to anyone, a friend will swoop over and whisper “Well? Do you fancy him?”
Even if it’s the vicar.

16. As the vows conclude, someone will joke “You next”.
You roll your eyes so hard, the force of it drains the font.

17. Every other single person at the wedding assumes you are “up for it”.

18. No other single person at the wedding will be “up for it”.
Not with you, anyway.

19. Your dancing will be better than everyone else’s.
Everyone is envious of your moves, especially the couples shackled together by commitment and a shared natural lack of rhythm.

20. Couples at your table beg you to tell them all your salacious singleton tales if one-night stands and dating an hook-ups.
They quickly go off this idea once things get X-rated and they realise they’re probably not going to have that kind of sex again until they divorce. You are, of course, making most of it up.

21. You are charged with looking after your friends’ children while they go off and have a dance.
Any bad behaviour exhibited by these children once your babysitting stint is over is blamed on you, because you are single and don’t know anything about children.

22. You blanch at the photographer saying “Let’s have one of just the couples”.
Even worse, as you slink away, your friends shout after you “No! Stay! Come back, it’s fine.” Break the camera.

23. You swear too much and this is attributed to your relationship status.

24. You inappropriately say that you quite fancy the bride’s father.

25. You end up consoling one half of whichever couple starts arguing because one of them is too drunk.

26. As the last song is played, and you quite happily drain your eighteenth glass of wine that hour, someone sidles up to you and tells you that they “just want you to find someone”.

27. They then suggest they are that someone.
It’s the best man again. Christ.

More like this:
17 things single people do that make couples want to kill them
Why supermarkets make the singleton sad
Say no to couple envy
The post-breakup bachelor pad survival kit

Image: Flickr

Gay’s the word

Last night my boyfriend and I were on a train coming back from a few drinks with a friend. At one stop, a group of younger people got on. They were in their twenties, I guess. They had been to some sort of concert and were wearing various items of band merchandise. I suppose 10 years ago we’d have said they were “emo” – nobody says that any more, do they?

There were four of them. One looked like an artist’s impression of Guido Fawkes, there were two more devastatingly ordinary boys and then a girl, who was very excitable and babbled about gigs she’d been to and made up loads of transparent lies about things that had happened to her at them. So far, so normal.

And then, in the middle of a really weird story about some metal band dipping their hands in ramekins filled with blood (no idea) she said “I know that sounds really gay, but…” and then continued. None of her acolytes batted an eyelid, but I, a middle-aged gay man staring into the abyss of our future hope, flinched and I felt ill and I couldn’t hear anything else they said because that word was ringing in my ears.

I thought we had done this. I thought it was over. Using “gay” as a pejorative term to mean something was inferior or unattractive, I had previously thought, was dying out. It enjoyed a brief power surge a few years ago but thanks to a largely appalled reaction, it had faded into obscurity. What a naive moron I felt. Continue reading Gay’s the word

The first crush is the deepest

Recently I read a brilliant interview with the ever-awkward Simon Amstell, which included him talking about his first celebrity crush.

It is rare for gay celebrities to talk about their crushes. Usually we don’t really like to imagine anyone knocking one out thinking about another, let alone gay men.

Also because for a gay man to admit he may at one time have dreamed of kissing a straight man would mean he were in some way determined to make it happen, right?

As we all know, a straight man left alone in a room with a gay man is bound to feel under threat and oppressed – we can’t keep our hands to ourselves, we love to intimidate.

Sigh.

And then I got to thinking about my first crush and surmised there must have been many, even before I realised what sex actually was and what went where and even dreamed of putting anything anywhere. But the first one that stuck in my mind was Harry.

Harry. I remember thinking about Harry.

Even before I knew I was gay, I knew I wanted to see Harry with no shirt on. And thankfully, once a week I did – every single Monday for three years in PE.

Holding in sobs on the rugby pitch, getting my knees battered in hockey, being too short for basketball, watching 130mph serves whistle by me in tennis, trudging dejectedly across the field after one run in cricket, and the endless, infernal hell of football for the remaining millennia – all worth it, in their perverse way, for the 10 minutes either side that I got to furtively look at Harry’s skin in the changing rooms.

With my 20/20 hindsight I can now see that there was nothing special about Harry, but when you are a barely cognisant little gay, matinee idols belong in magazines, not real life.

Jordan Knight doesn’t sit three seats down in chemistry on a rainy Friday, but Harry does, and nothing elevates a boy to the sex god pedestal quicker than the lack of anything else in your eyeline.

I was 13 when I first saw Harry. I was a pocket-sized, spiky-haired, dustball of shyness who was anxious not to be noticed and just get through grammar school without getting my head kicked in. Harry was in my tutor group, as they insisted on calling registration classes or forms in the nineties, and sat at the “cool table”.

I say “cool table”. I wouldn’t cross the aisle in a Tesco Express to talk to them now, but back then, knowing no better, the four guys at the table in front of our teacher were so effortlessly switched-on and unattainable the table wouldn’t dare call itself anything else.

Harry and I barely spoke, so I had to content myself with the PE lessons and not being caught eyeing him up. Difficult.

His underwear, I noted, always sparkled, and it was depressingly laddish. Boxers. Ugh. The best I could hope for was that he’d struggle a bit getting his trousers off and I’d see the shadow of a knacker, but usually I went hungry.

There was no internet, then, of course. I feel for the Harrys of 2015 – nobody bothering to moon over their mum-bought trunks because they can go online and, in a click or two, see 100 dicks on the same screen.

That first summer, after months of wondering, something weird happened. I was sitting in my back garden having an argument with the next door neighbour when Harry came round the corner of my house with another boy, Chris, the “bad lad” of the school. They were “in the area” and thought they’d call in. I still, 25 years later, don’t know how or why they knew my address but there they were, and so began three weeks of being wild about Harry in the closest proximity ever.

Harry’s mum was newly divorced and at work a lot, I lived in a council house and my mum was not interested in having two extra teenage boys cluttering up the place, so we would hang out at Chris’s house – he was extremely rich and had lax parents. We made prank phone calls and snuck into the cinema and raided his parents’ booze cabinet and smoked cigarettes and even though Chris was super-creepy and possibly a serial killer, it was worth the risk to get to know Harry.

It was both exciting and disappointing to find out Harry wasn’t as clever as me, and only slightly more confident. He had his looks and what I would now recognise as straight white male privilege but back then was just “normal”, but beyond that, not a lot going on apart from his beautiful skin.

Girls at school wanted to fuck him – or thought they did – because he was as near to a man as they were going to get in Year 9, but Harry was just a boy with burgeoning curtains making his own way in the world and really not sure about any of it.

One day he let us watch through a hole in the door as he wanked in Chris’s bathroom – he had a really weird way of doing it, I remember – but I was anxious that it was a trap, set for me to see whether I was gay and then have me beaten up, so I stood aside and made mock horror faces while Chris eyeballed away. I still think it was a trap, actually – I’m glad my curiosity didn’t get the better of me.

One day we all pulled some girls from our school. I say ‘all’ – obviously they all wanted Harry. We hung out of his kitchen window agape, watching him snog one of them with electric teenage ferocity. I look back now and realise I probably wasn’t the only one wishing I were her.

Eventually Chris got a little too weird and Harry’s opportunities to get some serious fingering were hampered by his hangers-on, so I made the decision to start staying at home more and away from them.

Harry and I would still nod in class or in the corridor, and I would watch with increased excitement at the hairs springing up on his surprisingly broad chest over the years, but eventually he faded from my dreams to be replaced by other ridiculous notions, fantasies and, mainly, worries about exams.

Chris ended up a convicted rapist and dead, but I don’t know what happened to Harry. We did A-levels and I think he fared  worse than expected. A friend said they bumped into him years later and he looked really different, in a bad way, but I couldn’t imagine it. Wouldn’t. Didn’t want to. Facebook searches proved fruitless, and I’m glad.

For me, Harry is forever in the changing rooms at school, tangled up in his shirt trying not to let everyone see his torso, reaching for his Lynx, and never quite getting in the right position for me to see everything before I turn my gaze away, back to my own shirt, my school bag, myself, my thoughts. Not even understanding what they were.

And now I do understand and realise Harry was the question, not the answer.

Know your dating enemies: Science fiction

There are three things you should really avoid talking about on a first date. Food, politics and science fiction.  Star Wars, Star Trek, comic books, Doctor Who, Alien, the lot. Just avoid it if you can until you’re “going steady”, because if the sci-fi chat comes out too early on, the chances are you’ll have an intergalactic battle on your hands before you even get to the bedroom.

So why is sci-fi a no-no? Put simply, it is extremely political, and sci-fi fans get very touchy when you don’t get their hobby.

If you’re not into it and the other half is, you will find yourself competing with Batman and/or Spidey for your lover’s affections. And Batman will always win – he’s Batman.

There’s nothing wrong with liking sci-fi, it’s just if you’re going to do it, you have to do it right . It’s a lifestyle choice, and unless you’re committed, you’ll screw it up. You’ll call someone a “Whovian” and before you know it, you’ll be a permanent resident of social Siberia.

If you’re not a sci-fi or fantasy fan, trips to the cinema will be ruined for you, as every other new release is based on a comic book, and he will want to see them all. You never realised you could become tired so quickly of watching buff blokes suited up in rubber bounce around a giant screen.

There will be conventions too. You will avoid these at first and just leave your man to his hobby, but this is a mistake. Conventions are a hotbed of drunk, awkward regrettable sex. Don’t believe me? A room – nay a hangar – absolutely packed to the rafters with people dressed up as your lover’s favourite characters? Have you seen these outfits? There is an ocean of flesh on display, and some of it is toned and tattooed and on its way to steal your man. Continue reading Know your dating enemies: Science fiction

We are all terrible on social media – we just won’t admit it

We are all very fond of gossiping about what everybody else is up to and how they live their lives. This isn’t new – nosey neighbours have been slagging off the colour of their nearest and not-so-dearest’s net curtains for decades, but now it is so much easier to stick your oar in.

Ever since the very first messageboard opened and newspapers appended that dreadful/amazing “Add comment” feature, we’ve been waxing loud and proud about what everyone else should be doing in a very vague, annoying way. And that’s fine, really.

Social media, however, is different because when it comes to people we know, we don’t really say what we mean. Sure, we will bitch to friends or on Twitter about the stupid stuff people do on social media – photographing lunches, posting endless inspirational quotes, ripping off old memes and passing them off as their own – but rarely do we tackle the offender head on.

Why? Well, it simply wouldn’t do. While commenting on things from a distance is fine, calling somebody out directly for curating their social media in an irritating manner would be bad form. And quite right too.

An anonymous group of mums in Australia have ripped up this unwritten rule book, however, putting poison pen to paper to tell a fellow young parent that her constant baby updates were getting on their nerves. The letter (pictured below) was very direct – they were Australians after all – and extremely unkind and left its recipient reeling. Especially thanks to the lack of signature at the end of this malicious missive.

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Big opinions, but no balls big enough to put their name to it. How would she know which of her friends she’d pushed over the edge? She wouldn’t, of course. The letter was made all the more powerful because Jade would never know who she’d ticked off – thus she would, by her detractor’s reckoning, have to temper her behaviour to everyone, just in case.

Thanks in part to a slew of Big Brother contestants or talk show participants who think arguing is as much a part of daily life as fake-tanning your legs or going to the shop for milk, there’s a whole generation of idiots parroting “If I’ve got something to say, I’ll say it to your face”.

It’s that empty, cheerless promise from somebody who thinks their opinion is too vital, too Earth-shattering to go unheard. They wear this bizarre form of confrontational honesty as a badge of honour. It seems they really do believe going up to somebody and telling them you hate them is a kindness and masquerading under the delusion that people actually like you is a fate worse than eviction in week one.

We are taught that saying exactly what we think is empowering and that we should speak our mind, but this is seriously flawed. It may be empowering and cathartic for the great big windbag who’s spouting forth, but for the person on the receiving end, it is demoralising, belittling.

This is not an exchange of power or a debate – it’s a hairdryer on full speed blasting at a snowflake.

We all joke about how terrible everyone else is on social media, perhaps not realising we are all as bad as each other. One man’s baby pic is another man’s livetweeting of a TV show. Endless shots of cupcakes drive me mad, while incessant plugs for blog posts or features (guilty!) probably make others want to rip the router out of the wall. We are all thirstier than ever.

Friends once joked to me (I hope) that sometimes they’d wonder if something they posted would make me roll my eyes and stopped themselves. Some pseudo-bullies would be proud of that, but I felt ashamed. Am I really stopping them – people I care about – expressing themselves? We think there’s a straightforward hierarchy, a linear scale of what’s bad and good, but we are wrong. Awful is in every corner.

We get to decide what we read, yes, but we don’t get to call the shots on what they post. The etiquette is to have a good old bitch and moan about everyone’s social media disasters, but not right out where they can see. Talking behind people’s backs is an underrated act – it’s the kindest thing to do.

You are not in Room 101, nobody’s making you watch. Hide them from your timeline, mute, defriend, unfollow, disconnect.

And then go take another picture of that latte – I’m sure it’s totally different from yesterday’s, right?

Right.

Image: A pack of bastards/Facebook

More like this:

29 social media truths we’d never say out loud
Social media: Form of self-help or enabler of self-doubt?
12 things you do that scream “thirsty”
Ease up on the Twitter flirting, boys – I’m trying to eat my breakfast

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