I will now share with you a genuine conversation that took place between me and my (now ex-)boss:*
Boss: I saw an interesting programme about sex last night.
Me: Oh, I think I saw that too. You mean that Channel 5 anal sex workshop in which the couples had to –
Boss [quickly]: No, it wasn’t that. It was a BBC 4 social documentary called Britain under the covers.
<very long silence>
Me: I wasn’t really watching that workshop. Just flicking through.
Now obviously I wish I could erase all memory of that little exchange but I can’t. Etched on my brain forever more, it’s yet another incidence of me revealing something I really shouldn’t have in an entirely inappropriate setting. I open my mouth and it’s all blah blah blah. If there’s any vague and ill-advised connection to make with what another person’s saying, I’ll make it. I think it’s nerves. But there are also incidences of me revealing things that I apparently “shouldn’t” on purpose. Sometimes I really set out to do it. So does that make me a bit of a prick?
There are various things that I go on about to the extent of making some people uncomfortable: anorexia; my sex life; issues with mental health. At times I believe there is a real value in it. I like people who use their experiences and are willing to lay themselves on the line. I’m uncomfortable with people who show too little of themselves and won’t take the risks that they expect of others (“the people who’d allow the Holocaust to happen again” is what a friend of mine calls them. I think that’s extreme, though. If there’s mass genocide on the horizon, I don’t think me gabbing on about how many shags I’ve had really makes me the better person). Anyhow, it’s got more extreme as I’ve got older, so I’ve started thinking about what the real roots for this need to reveal might be. Or to put it a different way, I’ve begun preparing a long-winded psychological back-story to use the next time my big mouth gets me into trouble.
When I was at university in the 1990s, irony-that-wasn’t-remotely-ironic seemed to infiltrate every aspect of student culture. Loaded and FHM ruled and we were told that all the sexist dirge was fine because none of it meant a thing, and anyone who thought otherwise simply wasn’t clever enough to “get” it. And in a way this was true; none of it was real. The fake magazine lifestyle only reinforced a sexism that was far more deep-rooted and traditional. I slept around a lot, for no particular reason (insecurity, kebabs), and came to identify a disapproving conservatism fermenting beneath the casual innuendo of the Loaded lads. None of them could have a conversation without mentioning blow jobs and anal, but deep down they were missionary position through and through. And what’s more, they didn’t like it if you weren’t too. When I got called a slag to my face, I knew they meant it in the worst possible way (in essence, the kind of woman who deserves to be raped).** And yet I couldn’t react because that would mean I didn’t get the “irony”, didn’t see the joke. So I became a bit more pushy about revealing myself. Fuck them, I thought (or not them, precisely. I think, to be honest, no one wanted to fuck the Loaded lads, which was part of the problem).
In reaction to this, I became more attracted to laying myself bare. I think if you don’t, everyone ends up drifting towards a world of casual, monocultural bullying. But sometimes I worry that actually that’s one massive excuse for attention seeking. Ha! Look at me! Aren’t I real? Aren’t I fucking edgy? And in all this you can cut too close to the bone and hurt other people. I don’t want to wake up one morning and find I’ve turned into Frankie Boyle. I probably swear as much as him already, but hey, I’m trying to keep on top of that.***
So anyhow, back to the anal sex thing. I really, truly, honestly was just flicking through the channels and I DIDN’T WATCH IT, at least not beyond the douching bit, which I really didn’t like. Although that’s not meant as a judgement on anal sex, which I’m sure is very nice. I just haven’t tried it yet, although one thing I have tried is <snip>
* The fact that she’s my ex-boss is entirely unrelated to that conversation. Or so I tell myself.
** I know, that’s most women in Daily Mail Land. But not amongst 1990s students, whose misogyny was strictly PC.
*** It would be appropriate here to add a sweary footnote, along the lines of “like *** I am”. But I’m not going to do that. Fuck no.