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Monday, April 2, 2012

The man-child

Ms R has never been one to cling. Ok there might be an exception if she were say scaling a cliff and not clinging would result in certain death. But in matters of relationships, when someone calls it a day they have usually been thinking about it for longer than a day. If he/she says they want to go then the advice from Ms R Towers is that life is too short to mess about: simply point out that once they leave to 'find themselves' they are not coming back. For a start do you want to spend the rest of your life with someone who has suddenly decided they are not who they are supposed to be but have no idea who that is? Ms R had to deal with a similar thing when she split from her husband. He didn't know who he was. He was lost. Ms R had spent enough years watching him looking for himself. Now she had to look out for herself.

Laura Munson didn't quite see it that way. When her husband told her he didn't love her anymore she didn't believe him. According to her, "Those are just words." This was a writer who'd had 14 novels rejected. Clearly she figured, "Ok I'm going to get a book out of this one."

Her solution was to give him 'time out' reasoning that it was what you did with toddlers when they were out of sorts. The idea was that if he went and did what he wanted he would return more fulfilled. So that summer he just came and went as he pleased. She didn't ask. He just came and went for days at a time. Therapy was of course involved.

Now it takes a certain kind of woman to have "I don't love you" thrown in her face and to turn that into a totally different proposition, one that goes, "You are tired poor thing. You need a rest."

Some readers may think this admirable yet you have to question what the marriage was like up until that moment: the woman is clearly a control freak and it doesn't take much to see that she is one of those women who think infantilising a man is the way to keep him. There are women everywhere who are happy to excuse the behaviour of a grown-up adult with "He just doesn't know how to handle it." And so by putting themselves in the role of responsible adult and taking responsibility away from their partner, they hold it all together and play happy families.

On one hand you have to admire their ability to cut emotion out of the deal and take the high ground. But where does that get you? Into the role of mummy or teacher who will tolerate everything. He knows he has permission to do whatever he wishes and the only consequence will be a toddler type telling off. Hell, most blokes can live with that. It's a license to trash the nursery and still get cake.

Anyway Munson got interviews. She got publicity. She finally got the book deal she wanted. She got a picture of her with her husband looking happy and fulfilled. She is being hailed as some sort of guru.

Maybe. But Ms R can't help thinking she's backed herself into a corner where he'll do it all again. Still she'll always have the book deal.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Death of a truly great man

He passed away this morning. He is the father of my best friend. I don't want it to be 'was' because he is. He is the man I wished could have been my own father. The man, who with his lovely wife, looked after me when I got desperately ill in 2005. He told me where he hid the chocolate and we chatted. He is one of the most thoughtful and intelligent people I have ever met. A great cook. And he could put me in my place with the most delightful droll comments.

I just got the phone call now. I am crying. He had been ill for a long time. Myasthenia I think they call it. It would nearly destroy him at times and then trick his body and he would suddenly feel ok and make jokes. His body was ravaged by steroids my friend told me. He knew, because he was a doctor. His wife is a scientist. His son is a doctor. No bliss in ignorance there.

Half the time he wasn't well enough to be seen. I just kept thinking of him and maybe I was pretending he would come back and I would go up on the weekend and talk to him while he stirred a pot of something.

"Can he come home and die?"

No he needed to be in hospital stuffed with tubes.

"What they have all these drugs and they can't just give them to him and make him comfortable?"

It had to happen. Of course. It will happen to all of us. I think I have been secretly dreading it. It is the first death of someone I have loved. It won't be the last. I am trying to think of the words about him I will write to his wife: they will not be enough to pay tribute. I wrote a letter to him when he went into hospital five months ago. They said he was touched by it.

He won't see the words I write to his family about him now. I have decided they have to be the words I was born to write. Because his death deserves that.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

No Stephen Fry, it's you who needs the love

Ms R is starting to think Stephen Fry has some sort of Tourette's. Now, most of the time Ms R tolerates the loquacious, look-at-me by ignoring him. Admittedly since the big dough boy has ingratiated himself on to every piece of bandwidth this is getting difficult, however the will at Ms R Towers is strong.

This is a man of many contradictions, most of which he fails to understand himself. A man who loves to be loved. A man who needs to be loved by people he has never met. Witness his foot stamping on his beloved Twitter when someone disagrees with him. The pattern is always the same. Fry declares that the world is 'unkind' and threatens to leave Twitter whereupon thousands of people he's never met beg him to stay and he sniffs, gets his nose wiped and he returns, safe in the knowledge that he truly exists. Fry would never cut himself off from Twitter; it would be like checking himself off the machines in intensive care.

Anyway, poor Stephen who is ever so easily offended gave an interview recently where he opined that 'straight women don't like sex.' He went on to back up this insight, gained from being a gay man, by saying that they use it to secure love. There are number of questions here:

The question of whether women enjoy sex
The question of why people have sex which is a huge complex one that has spawned essays
The question of Mr Fry's desperate need to be loved, as demonstrated by him once again threatening to leave Twitter after the newspapers reported his comment.

It was, said big soft Stephen, only a 'joke'. So who was supposed to get the laughs Stephen? Can't see the target market for that one but hey you're above all that aren't you? You don't even have to explain and frankly it's just NOT FAIR that this time you had to.

What is especially wonderful about Fry's delightfully, naive generalisation is his attempt to support it by suggesting that if straight women did enjoy sex then they'd go out cruising on Hampstead Heath and look for it.

But Stephen we don't need to. The way the universe works and always has done is that if a woman wants sex she only has to sit in a cafe or bar with a certain look in her eyes. Five minutes or so later she will have an offer of sex. She can make that a certainty by employing particular body language if she wishes. There is often no need to even dress like a slut. Because that is how straight men are programmed. If there's a chance they're in.

There was a subtext in there too: Fry appeared to think that women don't do really 'dirty' sex, you know the kind of stuff he and his mates call 'naughty'. What did he mean? Anal? (Ms R stifles yawn).

Perhaps Mr Fry only socialises with the kind of Arabellas and Mimis who regard sex as a chore to be undertaken as a duty to their husbands? Or, more accurately, he knows SFA about the subject. Which brings us on to the next point: why people have sex. Well sometimes they do it because they want a handbag. They need a place to sleep after the party. They want to feel good, however misjudged that might be.

Each encounter, even within a long partnership, has its own story. We don't always know our reasons for sex, especially when we're younger - we think it will make us feel better or give us confidence but it has the opposite effect. As for enjoying sex I can assure Mr Fry as I'm sure my readers will that straight women love to get down and dirty just like animals, for no reason at all. I'm sure that not all the 'naughty' gay sex that Mr Fry has is enjoyable. I suspect that it is done for all sorts of reasons too, self-esteem being high on the list.

But it is Mr Fry's own need to be loved that he seems blissfully unaware of. This is a man with an insatiable, and fragile, ego. The combination of the two is deadly. Simply put it means he can dish it out but the poor bloke can't take it. Hence, every time someone vaguely questions him he spits the dummy and threatens to deny the world of his utterings.

This might be a good time to carry out that threat. It seems that Mr Fry is in danger of believing the publicity and while we can ultimately laugh it off, one daren't think what the backlash would do this man who so desperately craves love and attention.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Down, deeper and down

Would you go down the chimney for a lover?

This is not Ms R's sad attempt at innuendo but a real question. Californian GP Jacqueline Kotarac decided she had to confront her on again/off again lover. He didn't answer the door, having apparently slipped out the back way to take a trip. Determined, and blind in the way that scorned lovers are, she climbed down the chimney where she got stuck and died a horrible, slow death worthy of Balzac's pen.

Unless of course you're the one who always does the dumping first - probably with a curt text these days - this is an issue you've had to deal with. Wanting to make a point when you've been unceremoniously thrown off the loved up bus is pretty standard behaviour. Climbing on to someone's roof and going down the chimney is not. It is simply Victorian in today's uber connected society.

What couldn't she have said via those fifty texts an hour favoured by the modern, dispossessed young lover? Technology means we don't need to get covered in soot to make them sorry.

Thing is, when have those attempts to get the last word in ever really yielded anything except more heartache for the person trying to do it? Ms R will honestly raise her hand here and say that in terms of any relationship of significance (so we are excluding one night stands, people you only dated a few times or met on holiday etc etc here), no attempt to tell him that he was heartless/wrong/lower than a people trafficker have made her feel better. It never does, does it?

Readers have probably discovered that the range of communication possibilities provided by our digital world have prolonged the suffering. Instead of the landline call which is met with an answering machine when you try to reciprocate, or the public goodbye, we now feel compelled to try all the possibilities before concluding that this chapter is now closed. As long as we can find a way of reaching them, the logic is that there is life in it yet despite the fact he or she has told you there isn't. So you do what precisely you can't do with emotions - you rationalise them.

He/she has not been themselves lately. They did this in a moment of impulse. Did they not see how rosy life was together? Gosh the sex was amazing, what else did they need? You never ran out of things to talk about. And so on. You decide they need to be reminded of this and what follows is the kind of stuff you would kick a friend for but which you are now doing.

"I miss you."

"Want to have lunch and talk about it?"

"I think we have a lot to share and I know you do too."

"You know we still love each other."

There is no reply. But that doesn't stop you. You start to get angry. You accuse them of leading you on, lying, cheating, everything including being a serial killer. Not surprisingly this does not promote further conversation. Most people usually give up at this point and seek solace in drink or ill-advised one night stands 'to get him/her back.'

But some just go off the deep-end like our Californian doctor. Obsession and love are frequently too close to call, so that is no surprise. But what, really what could she have needed to say that she couldn't do on Facebook?

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Lightheaded but not woolly

I was going to do a quantum physics piece on how couples expand to fit the available footpath space. Then I thought someone might decide I wrote it not because it amuses Ms R that a+b is not ab but 4ab, but for some Other Reason.

Since I am lightheaded I decided to stop thinking about it. It could be the effect of one or two or even three men but if any of them are reading it isn't you. I have an iron deficiency and am therefore temporarily operating at something like high altitude. Meanwhile I have been doing my website.

The fact that the UK is closed for business is irrelevant as it's nice to think "Oh yeah, that's what I do." I will be blogging about writing on there if that interests you. Since I've done it for 25 years I have things I feel strongly about. As you'll see it's me so if you've ever wondered if there is a disconnect between the blog persona and the real one you'll see there's very little.
Except obviously I wouldn't appear in my underwear on my website, though if business gets tough I'll use every advantage I have.

Friday, January 6, 2012

300 words. 500 signatures. No point.

Ms R is currently bemused by what passes for summer clothing in London, the number of people who acquire Brazilian citizenship during the World Cup and letters in the newspaper signed by people who are Well Known and who Normally Act or Sing or Do Something Artistic But Who Feel They Must Be Political.

You can practically guarantee the appearance of a multi-signatory letter when the G20 summit rolls around. So it did. Yesterday. It doesn't matter which paper or what it said. What matters is that it was there, an earnest 300 or so words about fairness and poor people signed by the likes of Scarlet Johanssen and Colin Firth. I don't know about you but hell I'm convinced. These people all signed it ergo they must care. If we apportion the words between the signatories that gives them an investment of about 0.0075 in each letter. But now we're being churlish. They just don't have the time to instruct their personal PA to write their own letter.

What intrigues and amuses Ms R is how these letters come about and how they are passed around. How do they start? How do they decide what goes in? Does each celebrity sit there agonising over the words and pass back their comments.

"Colin I think you've been a bit passive there. I'd probably use a stronger word," says Scarlett. "I really can't sign if you say that. There's just so much riding on this I can't commit my signature to it if you use that word."

Colin Firth throws up his hands in despair, cancels promo tour, filming and talk show and decides he will concentrate on the letter until he gets it perfectly right. It is difficult getting consensus from all these people with their promotional tours but he is determined that this 300 words will matter and will change the world. A conference call is suggested. All the celebrities drop everything they are doing and sit in, anxious that this should be absolutely spot on. There is lively discussion and like all conference calls it goes on for hours but they don't care: they have to get this right because their names will be on it. Finally after some heated exchanges and overnight phone calls it is ready the next morning. They are excited especially when they are phoned by the editor to say the letter is definitely going to be published. Wow.

Someone says it would be great if they could get Bono to sign. But he can't. He's to busy to allow his name to be used. But he sends his love. And peace of course.

It is perfect: generic, trivial, dull and uncompelling. But oh the signatures are something else. Trailing down the page they cling to the end of the letter for legitimacy. As a symbol of how concern is packaged so that 'we' all take responsibility but very few people take any, it is perfect.

PS: Ms R is of course available to any celebrity who wishes to pay her vast sums to write Letters of Concern about any matter.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Eat, Pray, Laugh All Way to Bank

Elizabeth Gilbert was feeling unfulfilled. Alarm bells, albeit ethnically-sourced ones - probably Peruvian - were going off in her head. She had no passion for anything. Could it be that she was a spoiled, self-obsessed bore who lacked the maturity to understand this was simply life? No, that wasn’t it at all. She deserved better. Predictably, while she was stamping her feet, her husband got fed up with her and decided to go back to school.

“Grr,” said Elizabeth. “I’ll show him that I’m more unfulfilled than he is.” She told him he had contributed to the rut in her life. Ah yes, when in doubt, transfer responsibility. Anyway of course they got divorced and Elizabeth then advertised her insecurity by shacking up with a younger guy, a struggling actor. No clichés there then.

But something was still wrong. Getting laid while eating noodles out of containers wearing the actor’s dirty T shirt, was not as exciting as it had sounded. It wasn’t, you know, alternative enough. Elizabeth immediately rang her publishers and got a $200,000 advance for her daring plan. She would go on a spiritual pilgrimage during which she would visit randomly chosen places like Italy and Bali. What an imagination! Nobody had done this before and written about it. Aided by a heaving bank account, Elizabeth would rediscover herself by renouncing Western values. After she took the money.

And then the clichés started tumbling over each other. She met healers, soothsayers, gourmets (well you can’t starve when you’re searching for spiritual enlightenment) artists (natch) and a ‘loveable’ Texan. She prayed in India because you can’t pray unless you’re actually there. Then she went to Italy to eat pasta. There’s lots of pasta in the US but it’s not the same because in Italy you can eat carbs without the guilt. Plus in Italy they eat with love, allegedly. Then– reader, this is really too delicious – she allowed herself to love again. She gave herself permission. And she did it in Bali. With a Brazilian stud. Now leaving aside the fact that getting laid in Bali proves nothing except that the guy has slept with everyone else except you, does anyone get the feeling that this is all just a tad too convenient?

“But Ms R,” you say, “That sounds like a very valid attempt to fight her own ego.”

I must say at first I thought it was nothing more than a parade of self-absorption. And now I think it is. This is the self-entitlement card, played large, with all the advantages of middle-class wealth. It is the deification of the dangerous notion that there is always something better out there and all we need is $200,000 to find it.

Ms R doesn’t know about you but this sounds far more like selfishness dressed up in a commercial, spiritual coating. The really worrying thing is that women are falling for this thinly disguised call to arms. And the danger is that some, not all, will stop actually living their lives and start spending too much time thinking about what these books tell them they are supposed to have, which may well be an illusion.