Tag Archives: unwelcome attention

Take a long hard look at your selfie

I have no issue with selfies – those up close and personal, carefully crafted self-portraits that no Instagram account should be without.

If there’s nobody around to take your picture, and you want to savour the moment or are feeling your look, why not snap away? And if you’re with a bunch of mates and want all of you to be in the photo, where’s the harm in bunching in tight, camera in the air and adding it to your portfolio?

They’re a confidence boost, a feelgood. A much easier path to instant gratification than a wank – and much more acceptable to do at a wedding.

But there is one snag with around 75–80% of selfies I see. It’s your face.

No, you’re not ugly. I don’t care about your spots or your HD brows or your contouring to make your nose smaller.

It’s that grimace. That faux-coy, mock-embarrassed selfie pose.

selfie

You know the one. There may be the hint of an eyeroll, or a slight smirk or, in extreme circumstances, a full-on look of disgust at being caught on camera.

hqdefault-2 Continue reading Take a long hard look at your selfie

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Yesbasicgays proves oversharers don’t care who’s watching – even the bullies

We all have that oversharing friend, don’t we? The one who posts millions of selfies or is always checking in on Facebook, drowning under the weight of their own humblebrags or passive-aggressive attention-seeking.

And only the very kindest of us wouldn’t have a quick sneer with other mutual friends – maybe fire off a bitchy text or a moany DM. “They’re at it again!” And that’s OK, that’s human nature. Unless you’re very careless or downright malicious, nobody finds out and nobody gets hurt.

One opportunistic person wanted to take this process one step further. And so, out of nowhere, appeared a brand new Tumblr – many an internet arsehole’s weapon of choice – dedicated to screenshotting these needy McReadys, and adding a pithy (in their head at least) caption under each one.

yesbasicgays, featured pic after pic of gay men – of all ages – posing in a mirror or at the business end of a selfie stick, all with the same twisted mouth expression as if to say “What? Me? Taking a selfie? Nah, mate!”

Perhaps it had seemed like a good idea at the time, but the creator didn’t have the comedy smarts to carry it off. His or her comments were mind-numbingly obvious and fatally witless, playground-quality jibes drafted in seconds just so the blog itself could quickly get enough pictures on there so the second prong of this fatuous attack could begin – a Twitter account!

Continue reading Yesbasicgays proves oversharers don’t care who’s watching – even the bullies

The Steal

In 2001 I was 25, living in Scotland and still ‘finding my way’.

I was painfully inexperienced, restricted to directionless fumbling, falling in lust with the man who washed hair in my barber’s salon or avoiding hopeless one night stands. Saturday nights (and Sunday mornings) were usually spent at parties, having the same dazzling conversations with less than dazzling company.

I had met bubbly Scouser Cally at one of these parties and we had struck up an incredibly superficial friendship that relied on darkness and close proximity to vodka. Despite our repeated assertions that we would meet up for coffee “sooooon”, there was an understanding between us that needed no words. This was just a party thing.

I was at one such party and had a text from Cally that she was on her way with some friends. Her friends weren’t really my kind of people – and I was certainly not top of their “most influential” lists either. These were weathered gay men, slightly older, and suspicious of the English boy who they never seemed to be able to work out or, crucially, fuck.

I was trading jibes good-naturedly with a guy in the kitchen when suddenly a door slammed and there was a whirlwind – Cally and her entourage. I greeted her warmly, but couldn’t help notice she’d brought a bottle of Grant’s vodka with her – I was willing to lay money on the fact she’d not touch a drop of it herself, not when there was so much Smirnoff around.

I greeted her warmly, but couldn’t help notice she’d brought a bottle of Grant’s vodka with her – I was willing to lay money on the fact she wouldn’t touch a drop of it herself.

As I queued for the toilet, one of Cally’s friends, Nick, queued behind me and started to play a one-man good cop, bad cop routine.

First he complimented me on my hair and then slated me for being too big for my boots. He then followed me into the bathroom and looked at me like a bulldog gazing at a link of sausages. Then: a bang on the door. Continue reading The Steal

Manspreading: Why we do it and why we need to stop

I learned quite early on there was a wrong way and a right way for a man to sit. As with most harsh lessons, it came from a bully. The dickhead of the week currently enjoying the school bus’s dazzling spotlight pointed out to everyone how I was sitting.

“You sit like a girl. Poof. Is it because you’ve got a small dick?”

I looked down at my knees and immediately felt even more prim and proper than usual. My default sitting position was with my legs crossed at the knee or bolt-up straight with my legs pushed together, usually a book balanced upon them so I could have free hands while I ate toast or a Pot Noodle or whatever I was pretending to be into at the time. I had assumed it was perfectly normal.

I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that the people pointing out to me that I sat like a woman – like that’s a bad thing – weren’t the kind of people who would ever need to balance a book on their knees.

But of course I didn’t wear a skirt and wouldn’t have to endure boys trying to catch sight of my knickers or put their hand up there, so why would I close my legs? Bonjour patriarchy.

Obviously, I fell into line and did an admirable impression of having rickets just so I could fit in. But I never felt right.

As soon as I left my pea-brained hometown, I gave up sitting like I had a gross-weight of aubergines down my Y-fronts, but the manspreading phenomenon seems to be getting worse. We are almost at the stage where a man needs to have his thighs winched apart just to he can have the optimum angle for taking up more than one bus or Tube seat.

Forever reluctant to come into contact with a manspreader, I have come to dread boarding a bus and seeing no single seats available. I quickly scan my fellow passengers and make a beeline for a woman, knowing it’s unlikely I’ll have to perch on the edge of the seat while her legs point to opposite sides of the bus. As I do this, I can sometimes sense the woman cringe, no doubt mistaking me for a man who sits like a dick-scratching gorilla and worrying her entire journey will be spent pressed up against the bus window thanks to a pair of cantilever thighs.

I suspect the reason men do this is very simple: we think we should. Sitting with knees together and legs in tight is a sign of weakness or homosexuality – both social death, of course. So with this overbearing sense of self-consciousness, we have somehow decided that ‘legs akimbo’ is the norm.

We live in a confusing world, a world of Dapper Laughs and Julien Blanc, who I bet sit with their legs ten miles apart at all times. A man should slouch on a bus, like the world is his E-Z chair. He got to the seat first, and he’s sitting the way that makes him feel comfy – if you don’t like it, you should either stand or just perch in the room available to you, right? Wrong.

There isn’t enough time in my life – and probably the world – to run through these incredibly stupid rules we set for ourselves, that we should do something just because it’s what our peers tell us or that we should have these deranged ideas of masculinity and femininity. I can’t even go into the other reason why I try to sit next to women on the bus – that I’m frightened a man will sense my homosexuality and think I have selected his seat because I fancy him, that he will see the way I am sitting and think I am a great big gaylord.

Every bus is the school bus. Even now.

What you are doing when you spread your legs on the bus seat is asserting your dominance, taking your throne. Sadly, for you, your subjects don’t appreciate or respect you. So snap ‘em shut, bae. You’re making people feel uncomfortable, and unsafe. And nobody should aspire to that.

But we can change. You can change. People can help us change. Sitting down is a bit like listening – but rather than put your lips together an blow, you put your legs together and breathe in. Your cock and balls aren’t fascinating and nobody is going to hand you a bottle of poppers just because you sit with your knees knocking. (Don’t cross your legs though – according to my best friend’s formidable Russian mum, it gives you varicose veins.)

Women, and non-manspreading men, don’t stand while King Splay airs his nutsack to the entire train. Say “excuse me” and sit in the seat, and spread your very own legs as far as you can within the confines of the seat. Like invading ivy spreading too fast it needs a prune, and it needs it regularly.

As most things in life, the rules are simple: don’t be a dick, don’t let others think you’re a dick. You’re not the most important person on the bus. Your legs are not weapons and don’t impress anybody the wider apart they are.

Exert your power elsewhere, in areas you can change, but keep your thighs together, for all our sakes. Be a man – just don’t sit like one.

Where not to meet your next boyfriend: The supermarket

The supermarket can be a boring and depressing place at the best of times, let alone if you’re single.

Couples snogging in front of the very shelf you’re trying to reach – lasagne for ONE – or, much more likely, arguing about being organic in front of the tenderstem broccoli. It’s a nonstop misery-fest, from the very moment you pick up your basket – complete with someone else’s scrunched up receipts in the bottom of it, the bastard – to the awkward hunt for your loyalty card as your cans of beer clang in straining carrier bags.

One way to brighten up your journey to the supermarket is, of course, to have a crush on almost everybody in there. You tell yourself you’ll never do it again, after that guy with the rippling muscles and the faux-geeky specs caught you salivating over him by the cottage cheese, but you can’t help yourself. Supermarkets are boring and hate you – you need something to look at.

And, oh look, there’s one now. His hair is just the right side of imperfect, his skin shines beautifully under the stark “prisoner loose at Alcatraz” supermarket lighting and he is sashaying down the aisles with a heady mixture of grace and vigour. He is Gigi and these tin-stacked corridors are his Champs-Elysées.

Let’s get one thing clear: following people around supermarkets checking out their arse is a bad idea, and you know this. But just this once won’t hurt, you tell yourself. I’ll keep a safe distance this time, you reason. It’s only really stalking if they see you, you decide. You are wrong on all counts, but there’s no stopping you now is there?

You do a quick glance up and down the aisle to see a) whether anybody has noticed your eyes are glued to the nape of this poor unsuspecting gentleman’s delicious neck and b) whether there’s a better option. There’s nothing. On you go.

What’s in his basket?
You sidle up to near where the object of your affection is standing. In your head, you do this nonchalantly, almost on casters. In reality, you loiter far too near to where he is, breathing heavily, and demonstrate the worst subtle side-eye since Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Aniston last shared the red carpet.

You peer into the basket to see what he’s got. Hmmm, plenty of vegetables. Kale, even. How modern. Broccoli. OK. Mange tout. Right. Spinach. OK, that’s a lot of greenery. You picture, in the future when you live together, wandering into the bathroom after him – then backing away with your man-bag over your nose.

What else has he got? Fresh fish and chicken. No beef. You worry. Can you really feel a deep, sexual connection for a man who doesn’t chow down on burgers? Oh well, you shrug, you can always go to Byron on date night.

Who’s he with?
Hot people rarely go anywhere alone, because other people tend to want to be around hot people. You check for any flatmates, boyfriends, girlfriends, mothers – anybody who might spoil your dark, twisted fantasy by the deep freeze.

That he’s got no trolley is a good sign he’s flying solo – unless he’s a tight-arse who shops with his other half/flatmate but doesn’t split the bill.

Is he checking out anything other than his own basket?
Oh my God, you think, did he just look at me? The answer: yes, he did. The reason: he thinks it’s weird how you have been on every aisle he’s been on.

In your fantasy, he comes up to you and asks for your advice on the product he has in his hands (just pray it isn’t tripe). In the real world, however, he frowns at you quizzically before scratching his head and scurrying off to the checkouts. You follow, even though your basket contains only a tin of chickpeas, an iceberg lettuce and, inexplicably, some haemorrhoid cream.

Will you be the unexpected item in his bagging area?
He has gone to the self-checkout. This can be a dealbreaker  – so many fall at this final hurdle. You should never date a man who can’t hold his own at a self-checkout.

If he gets more than one shrill “Please remove last item, unexplained item in bagging area”, you should probably run for the hills. If he’s that useless at a self-checkout when all you have to do is scan, imagine him fumbling his way round your very own bag for life.

You scan your items, trying to catch his eye. Now is the wrong time to be flirting, you need to concentrate on what you’re doing. Uh-oh, those dreaded words. “Please place the item in the bag.” While you’re sorting out with the assistant why your haemorrhoid cream isn’t going through properly, your crush shoots you a swift glance and sails on through, sauntering out to the car park. You shoo away the checkout guy and race after him, frantically searching the horizon before he disappears over it.

You can’t see him anywhere. Dolefully you turn back into the store, only to find your crush there, his shopping bags in his hand and a smile on his face.

“How about a drink?” he asks, a glint in his sexy eyes.

You gulp. “Sure… I’d love to!”

“Great, come on then,” he says, putting his arm round you. “Oh, and by the way,” he whispers, “can we have medical assistance on aisle 3, please?”

You look at him, puzzled. “Sorry, what?”

“Medical assistance on aisle 3,” he barks in startling monotone. “We have a customer emergency.”

And suddenly your head hurts and the arm round your shoulder is an in-store cleaner asking you if you’re OK – and all around you are tins of chickpeas. Further up the aisle, your crush peeks at the carnage before him, before he’s joined by a hotter, taller, blonder guy who playfully squeezes his arse and pecks him on the cheek.

“Come on, babe,” he says. “Let’s leave them to it. I can sure they can help the poor old bugger.”

Oh well, at least the haemorrhoid cream was a dream, eh?

Oh. Oh.

Image:  Flickr

National Coming Out Day: Is today the day for you?

It is National Coming Out Day*, the day when the collective force of a zillion closet doors being thrust open is enough to knock you off your feet. If someone stares intently at you and clears their throat, or puts their latte to one side with the biggest case of ‘serious-face’ you’ve ever seen, there’s a good chance they’re about to tell you they’re gay – or they have a peanut stuck in their throat and are unable to speak, silently willing you to decode their desperate stare. Before you put on your best understanding face, check their airways just in case.

Coming out is that milestone that every gay person feels obliged to pass – it’s the ritual that all of us have to go through on the ridiculously long path to being ‘the real you’.

The main issue I had with it as I languished in my walk-in wardrobe of denial is that I was convinced my sexuality wasn’t anyone’s business but my own. I was a late starter, notching up 24 years on Earth before I was ready to admit to myself that I was actually gay, and so to announce my sexuality felt unnatural and odd. It was such a small part of who I was, I told myself. It didn’t define me at all; it was no more relevant to my life than the colour of my hair or my eyes, right? These are the things you say in your head when you’re on the cusp of changing everything for ever.

Coming out to friends was interesting. Some had badgered me about it for years, only to be met by strenuous denials. I almost didn’t want to give them the satisfaction of being right all along, and dreaded the conspiratorial “I knew it!” I didn’t want to be a bright, shiny gay bauble for people to marvel over. I found horrifying the idea that my newfound self-acceptance could become the most interesting and important thing about me. For a while I played down my homosexuality, not allowing myself to celebrate it. It was no big deal. Next question. I realise now that coming out doesn’t mean an end to the awkwardness.

Once I was out to friends, the inevitable next step was to tell my parents. They’re divorced, so I did this separately – in very different ways. I told my father when I was drunk and in a terrible mood, my secret bursting out of me during a heated debate. I spat it out angrily, but his reaction was far from furious. After momentary shock, he was understanding, gracious and happy I had confided in him. Despite this, I continued to do it all wrong, saying once again it was no big deal and that I didn’t want to talk about it. Coming out can be an utterly selfish act – as you deal with your own emotions, you forget that the people you tell have feelings too and may want to talk through them with you. Learn from me: don’t come out in anger.

I told my mother soon after, one breakfast just after Christmas, blurting out “What would you do if I were gay, Mum?”
My mother did not look up from the pan of boiling eggs she was hovering over.
“Why? Are you?”
“Um, yes.”
There followed a brief discussion about the gay men Mum had known when she was younger – sadly, all drug addicts and emotional wrecks, so not the best poster boys for my cause – and once she’d had a think about it, she too was supportive, just like my dad.

My mother admitted she’d idly wondered if I was gay, so wasn’t entirely shocked, but as I hadn’t said anything, she didn’t want to risk upsetting me by asking outright. Coming out can help set others’ minds at rest too, clearly. My parents were, of course, concerned, but it was my responsibility to show them they had nothing to worry about. Now my sexuality is the thing I wanted it to be all along, just another part of my life. I was lucky. Not everyone is.

Did I need to come out to finally be at peace with myself? I think so. Coming out is difficult for many reasons; the fear of people’s reactions; the conflict with religious beliefs; the knowledge that there is still a huge amount of intolerance and hate out there, to name just a few. My blog, by the way, isn’t anonymous because I’m uncomfortable with being gay – far from it. I only remain incognito so that any guy I have dated, and subsequently written about, will remain unaware he has been the subject of any of my posts.

What coming out does for you as a gay person is allow you to be comfortable in your own skin. The internal struggles you’ve had for as long as you can remember can suddenly become less painful. Your friends’ and family’s reaction may surprise you – in a good way.

I’d encourage anybody who finds themselves as a coming-out confidante to react calmly, positively and maybe save the celebratory air punches and that you “knew it all along” for later, once the dust has settled. It’s great that you’re there for them, but this isn’t really about you. Not today. Be prepared to fight your gay friend’s corner, because not everyone is going to react as well as you. Make sure the voice of acceptance shouts the loudest.

So why the big fuss about National Coming Out Day, when you can make the big announcement any day of the year? At least if you do it today, you know you won’t be doing it alone. Most of us need motivation to do any number of mundane tasks, let alone this ‘life event’. You may tell yourself you’ll do it tomorrow, or the next day, but they’re just like any other day, full of trivial things to help you put it off until later.

But if it’s not the right time for you to take the plunge, don’t. Coming out should be a personal thing; you’re doing it for you, not them.

 

*National Coming Out Day is usually celebrated on October 12 in the UK, and October 11 everywhere else. Just to be different.

The Lollipop

“Go on, just suck it. You might like it.”

I roll my eyes. Yet another date who confuses sleaze and innuendo with flirtation. For an old prude like me, they’re uneasy bedfellows.

I’m sitting in the park on an unseasonably warm day for the time of year. Before me is a mini banquet of all manner of romantic foods: chocolates; adorable cupcakes; dinky little sandwiches with the corners cut off; fizz. And yet there is no spark whatsoever between me and my date, who now sits next to me proffering a red lollipop, eager for me to wrap my lips around it. No doubt he’s anticipating a preview of the ‘technique’ that I am now absolutely certain he is never going to experience in real life.

You should try to avoid going on dates if you’re not that keen on the person. While it can be nice to ‘get out of the house’, toying with someone’s affections merely because you don’t have anything else in the diary is unfair.

My glass house is, of course, filled to the rafters with advice I never take and standards I set but refuse to live by, so, through lack of other options, I’m here with Graham, an accountant from what he calls “the West Country”, getting grass stains on my favourite shorts. I’m a bad person, I know; I don’t need telling twice.

This is our second date – our first was a run-of-the-mill ‘four drinks and home’ on a Thursday night. There was a distinct lack of something on our first meeting, but he has a nice face and has made the fatal mistake of acting as if he is very ‘into me’ – the ultimate aphrodisiac. I am nothing if not vain and stupid, so rather than politely decline his invitation to poke over finger food in the middle of Regents Park, I accept.

For one brief, idiotic moment I imagined an afternoon basking in the undivided attention of a pretty boy would be a good way to spend the weekend and a relatively wholesome one at that. Instead, he’s trying to get me to fellate sugary treats in an effort to move the date on from being two vague acquaintances nodding at each other across a picnic blanket, to a pair of lusty bodies writhing around in the herbaceous borders.

He’s giving up his Saturday for what he thinks is a sure thing, so I do feel a little disingenuous having agreed to meet him. Lewd lollipops aside, he’s gone all out to charm me – and his picnic is impressive – but, like I say, I didn’t have anything better to do anyway. Sometimes that’s the only reason guys say yes to a date – an empty horizon. I have jumped upon the wrong ship out of sheer desperation.

I take the lollipop, despite myself, and wrap my mouth around it. He watches, transfixed, like a businessman watching an exotic dancer take off her sparkly bra. To make up for my guilt at wasting his time, I make more of an effort to be entertaining and chatty. I know this isn’t going anywhere, but I don’t have to act like an arsehole. I at least owe him some conversation.

I ask him lots of questions and he answers them eagerly. I quickly realise my renewed interest in him is making him like me even more. I’m not really sure how to extricate myself from this, so I turn on to my front and prop myself up with my elbows, noseying at everybody else in the park. He reaches out and strokes the back of my knee with his hand.

I turn to look at him; he’s staring straight ahead. His facial expression displays nonchalance, but the tremble of his touch betrays him. Soon, the sun starts to slink off behind the trees. I sit up and nervously fidget with the lolly wrapper. He fixes his doe eyes upon me and asks: “What are you doing tonight?”

I lie back on the grass and close my eyes tightly. I hear the splash of prosecco as he refills my glass. “Nothing,” I say. “I’m free tonight.”

I open my eyes and he is looking back at me. I guess he’s maybe thinking that ‘sure thing’ is going to work out for him after all. He’s pleased, hopeful – whereas I just wish I’d never laid eyes on that bloody lollipop.

Stats: 28, 5’11”, brown/blue, Taunton
Where: Regents Park, London
Pre-date rating: 6/10
Post-date rating: 6/10
Date in one sentence: Don’t suck anything unless you’re prepared to face the consequences.