Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Crushed

In my first term at university, I worked with, became friends with, was attracted to, and finally realised I had a crush on a girl of my age who was doing the same subject as me. We became fast friends, actually; working together made us closer, and although there's a picture of us together at graduation somewhere, I haven't seen her since. I'd like to know where she is now.

I hasten to mention that I genuinely disliked my first term at university. I didn't like the whole experience, really; I went through it and got my (first) degree, but it wasn't until the third year that I started to do things I really enjoyed. The first two years had their moments, but nothing stood out as much as the things I did in between terms. I went clubbing, although it wasn't quite my scene; I had people living in my corridor, but couldn't really call them friends; I would have enjoyed my course more if it had been better organised, but at least some of it was fun.

I didn't, however, have the whole "coming alive" experience that people told me I was absolutely 100% guaranteed to have once I got there. In fact, rarely in my life had I ever felt less alive, and the Christmas that followed it was probably one of the worst days of my life, ending as it did with me in A&E on a mental health emergency, having spent most of the evening on the floor in tears.

The girl I had a crush on was my spark of light, and as much as I liked the other people on my course, it was her to whom I gravitated the most.

The problem was that, for the first couple of months of that time, I was in a relationship with someone else. That I was even entertaining the idea that I could even find anyone else even the remotest bit attractive I found nothing short of heretical. I knew, incidentally, that my girlfriend at the time was cheating on me - I'd worked it out - but since that had happened before, I just kind of assumed it woud resolve itself. I wasn't too focused on her indiscretions at this point - it was mine that took prescedence.

Silly, really, because I hadn't actually done anything.

Eventually, I told a couple of people: a friend on my course, who was older and therefore presumably wiser, an internet friend who I was close to at the time, and I think probably TMF, another internet friend who I also told about Loll. Their advice, as far as I'm aware, was variable, but they all did have the same basic opinion: this was nothing to beat myself up about. I had a slight crush, I wasn't cheating, we had never shared anything more than a hug, and it's not like I had any plans to do anything. I didn't even know if she was in the remotest way attracted to me, either. Common sense (and innumerable past experiences) told me that this wouldn't be the case.

Weeks passed and I felt worse and worse about myself every single day, until after a night at the student union bar watching her dance with her housemate, I cracked. Went back to the hall I was staying in, opened the door, burst into hysterical tears and fell forwards into the arms of my housemate doing Business and Sports (a burly guy; he was more than capable of holding me up). I had to tell him, so I did; the girls in our corridor came out to see what the commotion was, and in the end, I was sitting in the kitchen having a cup of tea (which my very kind female housemate had made me), trying to decide what to do.

Although there wasn't a decision to be made, of course: I was in a relationship, I was going to remain in said relationship. Not really a decision.

While queuing to get money out one evening, she told me that she had a boyfriend (just mentioned it - him - in passing, but it was the first I'd heard of it). She also asked me if I wanted to go clubbing with her that evening, and I said that I did, but that I may have something else to do, so I'd let her know. This was, of course, a lie: I wanted to go clubbing with her and I had nothing else to do, but now that I knew she had a boyfriend, I was going to spend the evening in my room alone with my very confused thoughts.

I don't know exactly how to describe the emotion I was feeling, or even if there is an appropriate adjective. The guilt I'd been struggling with was still there, but now mixed with yearning for something I couldn't have, nostalgia for the something I could, and incredible relief. This was, since there was a boyfriend in the way, a pointless crush. I'd had so many of those and they'd all hurt like hell, but this one didn't need to be there at all because I had a girlfriend, so there!.

For the rest of the first year, and through the next two, we stayed friends; I even met her boyfriend, and invited him to my twentieth birthday party (he ate a whole large pizza, I seem to remember), and was pleased to see that he was really nice, and neither the chiselled Adonis or huge muscleman that I'd been imagining. I got dumped, of course, and spent weeks in abject misery, consoled by her and the people on my corridor and my friends on my course and my 60-year-old anthology tutor, but at the very least being dumped made me lose my interest in romantic relationships for quite a while.

What I wanted, when I got back for the Spring Term, was sex, but of course I wasn't going to be having any of that either, and indeed didn't do so for three and a half years. I resigned myself to my fate, reconnected with people, joined a band, visited 47 a few times, and held myself up throughout the rest of the first year.

I don't know, to this day, exactly how I felt throughout those few fractious months. Whether or not she was at all aware of my interest I also didn't know - although she was a smart cookie, so probably worked it out; a few people on my course did - but I didn't actually want to know. In these situations, I reasoned, I was more content with the uncertainty.

Probably created a prescedent. I got my next longstanding "official crush" in the year following university, and I went years basking in the uncertainty, because in this case, at least, I wasn't in a relationship, so I was free to crush without guilt. And it wasn't a 'no', either.

Friday, 23 November 2018

ILB's Fantasies - Part Three

As soon as I see him, I know it's him. He's on his own, standing on the stone wall, looking out to sea. He doesn't seem to be looking at anything in particular, but then, who is to know?

And as I said, I know it's him. Silly assumption to make, perhaps. I've never seen a picture, and although there are vague descriptions here and there, there's not too much to go on. I didn't even know he was going to be here - and he doesn't know me. But I can feel it's him. And, right now, that's all that matters.

Very few sounds are present as I walk, a little unsteadily, towards him. Boats, by the swell of the waves, bump against the jetty. Seagulls cry out in the distance. I can hear some cars from the town, but mostly, it's quiet. He still hasn't moved an inch, although the wind is whipping his hair around. I almost laugh, but that might startle him.

I'm going to have to get his attention, though.

He turns around as I clear my throat. He's got very blue eyes. It's the first thing I notice. I open my mouth to ask the question. I'm amazed by my boldness - I'm expecting a squeak. Instead, my voice comes out as clear as glass.

"Excuse me," I ask, "are you Innocent Loverboy?"

He blinks a couple of times. It's a good sign that he didn't pitch himself backwards into the sea.

"Oh..." he starts, before resetting. "That is to say... yes. Him. Yes, I am. That's me. Hello." And he assumes a bit of a nervous smile. It's cute that he tries.

"I wanted to say," I continue, rushing a bit before I lose my nerve, "that I read your blog. I read everything you post. And I wanted to know if..."
"If...?"
"...can I have a kiss?"

"A kiss?"
"Yes. Please. Just one kiss."
"Uhm..."

And he does, in fairness, give me a kiss. Just a small one - a peck on the cheek, really. There's an involuntary hug, as well. I suppose that's just innate. A hug and a kiss. They go together.

"Thank you," I whisper into his ear. "I'll be reading your stuff again."

He raises his hand in a half-friendly, half-embarrassed wave as I walk, a little too briskly, back towards town. In the quiet around me, I can practically hear his heartbeat, fluttering like a bird, as the sun peeks out from behind a cloud, bathing me in warmth and light.

Monday, 19 November 2018

Shut Up

One of the answers that comes along every now and again (whether or not the question has actually been asked) does actually make a salient point. In effect, it's something I agree with, but its execution is more difficult to effect than it might initially seem. On IMD, it seems like the right time to analyse this.

The question is something like this:

I am, in effect, a 'good' man. I'm not abusive, controlling, or offensive. I treat everyone with respect, including women. I'm not a threat. What am I doing wrong?

Essentially, an expansion of #NotAllMen, although more accurately, #NotMe. (If #NotAllMen hadn't be hijacked by the genuinely offensive MRAs and incels, then it might be of more use. Nevertheless, there we go.) Additionally, it's a sad fact that that isn't a given. I try to think the best of everyone unless proven otherwise, but my outwardly male appearance has made other people wary - even if I'm lying bleeding on the street or offering someone clearly in stomach pain a cool glass of water. Maybe it's wise to exercise caution in these situations, but I'm not a threat, so it often wrong-foots me!

Anyway, that's a massive tangent. The answer is something like:

Then you need to call out other men who are demonstrating those behaviours. If you let them do it, then you're not helping.

Which is the salient point to which I was referring. And, before you start yelling, yes, I do agree with it. It's slightly problematic insofar as it implies male privilege (ie. 'men will listen to you, because you are a man'), and it excludes all other genders (but so many things do these days)... but it's a good idea. It's ruthlessly difficult to actually do, however. It's difficult to explain why in a tweet, so here's a blog post. 

[Author's Note: I'm using "I" and "me" here, but not exclusively referring to ILB. It's a shorthand.]

The main reason I don't go around calling out 'bad' men is because I'm genuinely not in contact with many of them in regular day-to-day life. I don't have immediate access to everyone of my gender, and in any case, most of my friends, work colleagues, clients and immediate family are female! Of the male friends I do have, I can't think of a single one who has ever demonstrated any negative behaviours towards women; the one male colleague I have is largely the same.

If I knew people like this, they wouldn't be my friends!

The second reason is that, despite what people keep telling me, I genuinely don't see a lot of this behaviour around. I don't see a lot of it on social media, which is where it happens, purely because I don't follow the right (wrong?) people. I also don't go around looking for somebody to call out, because that's an exceptionally damaging thing to do - to yourself (as a result of what you see) and the person you are calling out (as they may actually be innocent, and you have jerked your knee too fast) or their victims (if there are any).

I don't see a lot of 'bad men' behaviour in public, and if the media is to be believed, a lot of it happens behind closed doors, upsetting as that is. I'm a nervous guy, but I'd like to think that if I saw something going on in a public place, I'd want to do something about it - even fetching somebody else if I realised that, going in, I'd be in danger. In one situation, I actually did do this (but it was to help a boy, so does it count?). But it's not something that presents itself to me. I know unacceptable behaviour when I see it, but I hardly ever see it. Who am I meant to be calling out?

The only time I really get to do some action is when 'bad men' behaviour is highlighted by somebody I know. Here, I actually do do things, especially if they hurt someone I like - report a tweet, post a comment, pass the message on. I've unfollowed some people and won't promote some people's work. I once told someone in a chatroom to "shut up" as he was being sexist about a woman presenting the Nintendo games for the following season. It's these little micro-actions that I can take, and I do. Often, I'm genuinely unable to do any more. 

And there's the rub. It's not that I don't want to do anything. It's more that I can't, and in most cases, because there isn't anything obvious for me to do! 

When I do try, on the very few occasions that I can, it goes wrong. I asked a woman not to smack her child once and she shouted so loud that my ears rang. I told someone once that there was nothing wrong with being gay, and he hit me around the face for being gay (even though I'm not gay!). I heard a young boy saying "all girls are twats" once, and I took him aside for a word, although he didn't listen to a thing I said and, after I let him go, he ran away laughing. An old gammon once told me that I shouldn't help him (this was at work) if I was "ginger beer" (I had to look that one up), and I told him that it didn't matter what I was; he unleashed a tirade so fierce that I had to swap with someone else and have a sit down in the break room.

The worst thing is that I know how it feels to be abused. I've been backed into a corner, yelled at for over a minute, by someone who didn't like the fact that I was wearing a white poppy. I've had people around me doing the whole "but bacon, though" thing because I ordered a vegetarian pizza. I've been punched, kicked, and slapped by people who knew that I wouldn't respond. I was once grabbed, roughed up and thrown headlong through a door because someone in a crowded corridor thought I kicked him (I didn't. I was 12.). I've been called all sorts of things, often because of the way I talk, the way I look, or the values I hold (and even the way I walk!).

As a victim of abuse, I know had bad it feels. The physical scars heal, but the mental and emotional ones don't go away. They're most often present when I'm lying awake at night.

If I can do anything to stop anyone from suffering the results of abuse, then I want to be able to do so. And yet, for the reasons above, I can't. I'd like to think that I would, should the situation present itself. But, unless I'm missing something major happening in my general surroundings, it usually doesn't. And often that makes me feel like I'm not doing enough... but what more am I meant to do?

I'm a 'good' man, I think. I always try to be. Sometimes people say that I should be doing more. But, unless I start willingly surrounding myself with abusive men, there's often a yawning crevasse between myself and the ultimate goal.

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

ILB's Fantasies - Part Two

"Give me my coloured coat! My amazing coloured coat!"

Over the last few months, I've gotten to know the guy playing Joseph, and I like him, too. In fact, I like all the cast. I like everything about this, really. I'm still trying to get my head around it, but even if I can't, that's okay. Don't bring me out of this daze - I don't want to be too grounded. I'm best when I'm loose, and that's what I want to stay.

They've put me behind a lectern. It's got the script on it, but I most certainly don't need it. I've known all the words since I was 15. Every single lyric to every single version. I don't need the script. I don't need to stay behind my lectern... but I know enough not to roam the stage too much. I don't want to put anyone off.

Tonight is a special performance. I can see them in the audience. Joseph is singing away lustily, but there are a few people there whose eyes are trained on me. I know them all by sight, even if - for the first few years - they were just names on a screen. Now they're more than blog readers. They've seen me at my most vulnerable, and that makes me feel powerful.

Maybe I should wave, but that might be a little too cheesy. Joseph is riding up on his podium. Time for the big finish. I chance a quick wink at my little blogging collective, just to let them know I see them. A few of them wink back.

The cast all join in. In unison we sing, and I'm giving it all, every breath I take working to wring all the notes out. I close my eyes, and feel it. I feel everything. And I am in my element.

"Give me my coloured coat!" I sing along with everyone. "My amazing coloured coat!"

I don't need the applause, or the ovation that lasts for longer than I would care to time. But I appreciate it all the same. Carry me off on a wave of sound, by all means. I'm doing it all again tomorrow night.

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

ILB's Fantasies - Part One

This... is ILB's fantasy.

It's dark. Very dark. ILB can hardly see his hand in front of his face - or, at least, if he could put his hand in front of his face. It's all conjecture. His hands are full. He ruminates, with a small, sad smile, that he is likely to be eaten by a grue.

But he's not lost. He knows the way. Just follow the light.

ILB clears his throat - a deep, rasping sound. He runs his tongue along both his lips. He's still in the dark, but now standing on the periphery of the light. One more step, and he will be illuminated. He's done his so many times before. It never gets any easier... but, every time, it's been the sensation of sweet release. That which gets him through. Realisation, of a sort, of a fantasy.

He takes that step.

Hundreds of faces are just out of sight. He is blinded by the light - shapes dancing in front of his eyes, all indistinct. There is nothing, to begin with, but silence. ILB likes that. He smiles - a genuine smile. Radiant. It's very rare for ILB to smile. He keeps forgetting what it feels like.

ILB looks left, and right, before facing directly forwards. The lights dim a little, and the silence transforms into an indistinct, persistent roar. This is what he fears the most... but, also, what he craves. He steps forwards, trying to decide what to say, if anything at all. Eventually he decides not to make a sound. Not yet. He doesn't need to say a word.

Actions are called for.

So he takes one more step forwards, flexes his fingers... and stands there, alone, the familiar smoothness of his guitar filling his hands. This is what he knows how to do.

He strikes a chord, pauses... and then rocks their world!

Friday, 9 November 2018

Noises Off

I don't often reveal too much about my family here (it's anonymous, after all), but this post needs a bit of context, so here goes:

My dad is a professional actor. It's all he ever wanted to do, and luckily, he got to do it. It's not an easy life - acting, as he says, is mostly not staring out of the window in the morning so you have something to do in the afternoon. But it is an interesting life. You meet all sorts of people, you go to all sorts of places, and you get the thrill and buzz of performing in front of people. I love my dad, and I love what he does. I'd like to be an actor myself, and I would give it a go if I had the patience of a saint (and didn't need to pay £950 a month on rent, plus bills and council tax).

This, of course, has affected my life too. I've done a bit of acting myself, plus comedy, and music. I like to speak in public and I don't think I've ever really suffered from stage fright. I can get up in front of an audience and make an utter fool of myself, and still enjoy it, even if I'm on my own in front of 1,000+ people playing a song I barely know on a guitar I haven't tuned... and singing it, although I can't sing. I've met all sorts of people myself - from Jeremy Paxman and Michael Rosen to Carey Mulligan and Dominic Cooper. And I was, briefly, childhood friends with Keira Knightley. Now how's that for a claim to fame?

However, one of the main upshots of this is that, every couple of months, I go to a fringe venue in London to see my dad in a play. The company he's in is very active, and he's a reliable actor who has a lot of time to commit, so there's usually something to see him in. I've spent a fair amount of time sitting in a theatre bar, sipping a soft drink, waiting for the house to open. Last night, I was doing just that.

On one such occasion, I was talking to H, who had come to see the play with me. At the time, I'd just started a relationship for the first time since H had known me, and I was super, super, super excited about it. In fact, I was kind of nervous. H hadn't met my then-new-girlfriend, and I wasn't sure how she would take the news. But she could sense how joyful I was about it, and she was incredibly supportive. As a friend should be, I guess.

It was her who mentioned sex first, as we descended the spiral staircase into the underground bar (a lot of London fringe theatres have bars underground - I know not why; mostly space, I suppose).

"So... am I to assume you've been having sex, then, for the first time in...?"
"...Years. Yes, I have. I've been doing it a lot. So much se..."

And I cut off immediately, because my mum was sitting in the bar waiting for us. I'd completely forgotten she was going to be there, and actually, she didn't know I had a girlfriend yet, never mind the fact that I'd been having sex. I'm not sure my mum even knows I've ever had sex. (Mum, if you're reading this, everything here is a lie. I skipped out of the year 7 biology classes, and truly believe you found me under a gooseberry bush.) I really, really wanted to continue the conversation - H had, I assumed, had more sex than me and would be willing, at least, to discuss (I have some very blasé friends!).

But we couldn't. Not really with my mother present. Chill though she may be, I'm not sure how far that goes when it comes to the topic of the exchange of bodily fluids through sexual intercourse.

Ever since then, I've always associated theatre bars with sex. It's silly, I know, because there's no real reason to. I've been in enough, and backstage enough, and on stage enough, without any sexual things happening (well... one exception, perhaps). But there's always time to scroll through Twitter. There's always time to sit and dream. If I'm there on my own, I'll inevitably be in a corner, lost in my own thoughts. And, hey, it's me; what do you expect me to be thinking about?

I've been busy recently, with all the happenings and goings-on, and even though I've just come off annual leave, I haven't really had the time (or the energy) to feel sexy. But I was turned on this morning for whatever reason, and I was last night, as well. On the way to the performance I walked through north London suburbia... past the late-night corner shops and all-night cafés. I even took a train there, the same train I've been on before when visiting someone with whom I'd had sex. Stamford Hill was nearby, and even that has a connotation in my dickbrain.

My hand wandered to my BlackBerry. Maybe I could have a quick browse through Twitter. There was bound to be something sexy going on. I could have a gleeful few minutes' glance to decompress before watching the Chekhov...

...and then I walked straight into my mum, who was doing front of house.

Exit, stage left.

Friday, 2 November 2018

ILB's Operating Manual

I'm a lazy blogger - so much so that I vicariously live my experiences out through those of other people. Or, if that isn't strictly true, I do at least take direct inspiration from things they say and pass them off as my own. This post is a result of that - particularly, this Tweet by Quinn:

She has a very salient point - apart from the one that orgasms are fun (they are!)... and now I want dinner, too. Anyway, her point stands. Sometimes it's the little things - those nuggets of sensation that you are likely to forget - that make a difference. During my many, many, many self-love sessions I've learned how some of them make or break a good orgasm for me - and yet there are so many I forget.

It's not just remembering, then. It's realisation.

Here are some of them.

01. It's easier for me to get aroused when I'm sleepy.

I don't know what this is, exactly (or if it happens to everyone or if it's psychosomatic or if I'm just weird), but I'm a lot more aroused - especially unintentionally - if I've had a nap and am just waking up, or if I'm just about to drop off to sleep at night. I don't sleep well because insomnia is a bitch and a half, but because of that I do feel tired during the day. If I have a rest at any point, I'll often suddenly realise I'm hard, even without any prior reason for it. If I can manage a sleepy wank at that point, it always leads to a powerful enough orgasm to sent me right back to sleep.

02. I have better orgasms with my socks on.

There was once a picture of me in the Evening Standard Magazine wearing nothing but socks. Although I'm sure this was coincidence at the time, it's not an entirely inaccurate depiction (apart from the matching socks - I am from the Dobby School of Socks and hardly see the point in two the same): when I masturbate, it's easier to finish while my feet are warm.
I know I'm not alone in this; I've heard other people say this as well (and it makes sense - you lose a lot of heat through your feet, and your heartrate increases during arousal, so you're losing more). I do, however, think feet are kind of sexy when positioned correctly (mine notwithstanding), so there's another strand to add to the mass of contradictions that is ILB.

03. I come harder when the base of my balls is touching something.

An odd one, this, as I generally don't like my balls being touched at all - but, if I'm incredibly close to orgasm, if my testicular sack taps against something (whether it's a hand, object, or just the seat of my computer chair) it's almost always a herald of a much larger orgasm than it would otherwise be. Just me?

04. I love having my nipples sucked, but only while I'm masturbating myself.

Let's get this one out of the way first. I love to suck nipples. I love using my tongue overall, really - I'm among my happiest places when giving oral sex, am a very passionate kisser, and I like to give pleasure by sucking nipples (or licking, kissing, biting - whatever they want the most, really).
However, my hypersensitivity makes it very difficult to enjoy having my own nipples sucked - the irony being that having lips wrapped around them is one of the things almost guaranteed to bring me to orgasm in a way so glorious it's more akin to evolution than anything else.
The solution to this is to suck my nipple once I've been masturbating for a while. That way, the most sensitive part of me is my penis, my intuitive reasoning will be down enough to fail to mention anything - and by that point I'll be far too turned on to care.

05. My oral sex fantasies are so realistic that I do the tongue movements during them.

This one comes firmly under the "shock realisation" category, since I genuinely didn't notice this until recently, and it only just occurred to me that I should mention this now.
When I'm very bored at night (which happens a lot because insomnia is a bitch and a half), I occasionally slip into oral sex fantasies - that is, fantasies about giving oral sex. As I've said above, it's one of my favourite things to do, and when I'm sleepy but not asleep (and will probably be hard, sub ref. point 01) I will occasionally go through the motions in my (ahem...) head.
At some point, I will find myself doing whatever my tongue is doing in my imagination. It's never deliberate - I'm not licking out thin air! - but it does happen. My imagination is so vivid that the rest of my body can't help itself!

However...

Having said all of this, and going back to what Quinn said, orgasms are fun. And, though there may be tiny sexual things that bring me a little closer to buddhahood, I generally like all my orgasms...

...and one final small thing about them, too. They're free!