THE FAKE LOVE

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He was really funny.

Like, ‘my cheeks hurt’, ‘I almost just pissed my pants’, funny.

He smoked. He drank gin. He sat at the desk next to me at work.

I loved him. The only problem was, somebody else loved him too. That person was his girlfriend.

For us, there were no meeting of eyes across a packed room and it certainly wasn’t love at first sight. He was in a new city and I was a bit… lost. We got on. A few messages and intense after work drinks later, we kissed.

And that was sort of that.

By ‘that’ I, of course, mean full-blown affair.

But did I care that I was doing the dirty? Not really. I was going at 100mph and enjoying myself too much to notice his relationship falling apart, to care that the guy I was seeing was getting hurt too, to think about the innocent woman who was driving herself mad with suspicion or to realise that what I was doing was wrong. We spent all our time together at work. We spent all our time together outside work (that we could manage). We stayed late almost every evening. We drank together every night. We met up on lazy afternoons in galleries and on park benches. I would do all I could to see him: cancelling plans, avoiding dinner dates. I even called things off with the perfect guy for him.

It was safe to say I was addicted.

But, as with most addictions, they always leave you wanting more.

So, after months of empty promises, disappointment and getting in too deep, I decided to cut and run. There was no future for us. There never really was. And the stronger fix I was chasing was never going to be found. He loved his girlfriend – despite what he did – and I knew that we would never work. As soon as I realised that I was chasing an unachievable dream with a heart that I was sharing with somebody else, it was clear what I had to do. And so I did.

I’ll admit it, I did cry when it was over. In fact, it pretty much ruined Christmas for me. But the fact that I had dusted myself off by New Year and work resumed as normal – sans romance with him – come January 5th? It meant that I never really loved him in the first place.

In retrospect, I can now see that the all too familiar butterflies and beating in my chest that I mistook for symptoms of love, were actually just a byproduct of my anxieties surrounding getting caught. I realise now that it was the adrenalin – not him – that had made me fall in love with the ‘relationship’ we had.

So, to those of you enveloped in the heart racing, blood pumping momentum of an extra marital? Take this as a slap to the face and a shocking realisation that, actually, it probably won’t work out. And even if it does, do you really want to pursue a relationship with one who is so capable of deceiving someone they share a bed with? The beauty of an affair is that you get to realise what you don’t want in a partner and who you don’t want to become. You berate yourself for being so blind and stupid, but it also makes you realise just how powerful desire can be sometimes, how often it can be mistaken for the real deal and how careful you should be in the future.

The biggest lesson I learnt from falling for someone who was in a relationship with someone else? Don’t do it. Real love isn’t a half hearted, part time, sharing platter. It is a full time, kick you in the balls, can’t be without each other attraction that is both one hundred percent uncontrollable and easy at the same time. It is comfort, understanding and support. It is not holding hands under tables and hiding your phone from your partner. With real love, both parties will fight to the death for it. Not make excuses about rent prices and comfort zones.

Take it from me, never give your everything to someone who is giving theirs to someone else.

Two’s company and three’s (nearly always) a crowd.

THE INFIDELITY

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Apologies for the dismal subject matter, but I wanted to write to you, quite frankly, about cheating.

I have talked in the past about lying and how we, as humans, deceive each other on a daily basis. I have commented on how commonplace adultery is. I have described it as ordinary. Normal. Almost to be expected. Although I still stand by these accusations, I can’t help but feel that my seemingly flippant attitude to the act of cheating has done those who have fallen victim to it a disservice. By brandishing it as the norm, it might seem as though I’m asking you to accept infidelity as a fact of life and move on.

Au contraire.

The fact is, if you haven’t been cheated on yourself, then you’re likely to know someone who has. I am using this commonality to question why we aren’t doing anything to stop it?

Tolerating it as normal – and jesus! I’ve even heard people say understandable! – is what scares me. It’s the ‘they all do it’ acceptance and the number of anecdotes I hear at the pub or at work that disappoint me daily because, despite humanity’s deep-rooted history with extra-marital affairs, cheating shouldn’t be the norm. It is not acceptable and it is certainly not understandable. In fact, it’s one of the most damaging things that can happen to a person or a relationship. And no, I’m not being dramatic. When it happened to me for the first time (that I know of) I felt like someone had punched me really hard in the stomach. And then some. As someone who likes to be in control, I was completely powerless to the act itself, and the fact that it couldn’t be undone. The idea that it would never go away was the worst part about it. And that’s the thing that I think people forget. Once you’ve cheated, you’ve cheated. There’s no going back.

But this secret that we all share needs to stop being the thing that we have in common. Being cheated on is awful. Cheating on somebody else is weak, selfish and disrespectful. And sadly, the majority of us have felt the effects of both. But even worse than that, we are the only ones who can put a stop to it, simply by not doing it. So why don’t we then?

Firstly, we need to start talking about it. Focus on why we do it. Why we shouldn’t do it. How we stop doing it. These discussions need to first take place in PSHE lessons in schools, then during awkward teenage chats with your parents and they need to carry on into conversations around dinner tables with friends and over breakfast with your boyfriend, husband, or future wife. We’re so ready to discuss the importance of good manners or instructing kids to never talk to strangers. When did the subject of lying fall off the agenda? And when did will power cease to exist as a noble quality?

We need to stop ignoring the elephant in the room and instead tackle it head on. We are not blind to what’s happening, we are simply choosing not to see it.

People say that you should never regret something that made you happy at that moment in time. Bollocks. If we all took a few minutes longer to make better decisions and be cautious with people’s feelings, then we could nip this vice in the bud and prevent a lot of heartache for a lot of people. Being broken up with is far easier to get over than being cheated on. Fact.

A friend said to me recently that hearts are like vases, you can put them back together but the cracks still show.

Don’t be the reason someone needs to buy more superglue.

Be the beautiful flower growing inside them instead.

THE TRUTH

sssh_by_publiccenzor-d4aziuaI’ve travelled the world. I worship Madonna. I hate you.

There you go, I lied three times and I’ve written three sentences.

There are jobs out there that are designed to figure out the truth: doctors, judges and scientists, to name a few. But outside of the work place, how much truth can we really handle? And given the choice, do we want to know the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, all of the time?

Our biggest secret as human beings is that we even have secrets. We like to pretend that we are honest, up front about everything and have never told a lie. We aspire to be deemed, “really genuine” by everyone we meet and it’s our own job to persuade the world that we’re legitimate – a bit like a second hand car dealer selling a motor he knows is flawed – because if we don’t sell ourselves as the real deal, then who will want us? Trying to be the perfect human being is impossible, because we’re impossibly flawed. But we’re triers, us humans. And that is why we lie.

We try to fool our friends into thinking we’ve ditched the guy that’s bad for us, we hide things from our lovers for fear of losing them and we persuade children that there’s a tiny person who trades their molars for hard-earned fairy cash. But who do we think we’re actually kidding? As humans, we know a lie when we hear one, but we choose to ignore it most of the time because it’s easier, because it’s not worth the hassle, or because we knew it was a lie all along (and being British, we’ll do anything to avoid an awkward exchange).

So, armed with the knowledge that everybody does it, why does it hurt so bad when we find out that we have been deceived by someone we love? Before thinking about their good intentions and whether you really wanted to know or not, you feel disappointed, hurt and then a little bit silly. Then, if it’s really bad, you feel like you’ve acquired a brutal stab wound, a gun shot and a slap to the face all at the same time.

It’s not until you take a step back and think about similar lies that you have told that you realise that they might actually have been trying to protect you from pain as opposed to inflicting it. But the cliches we so often use – Ignorance is bliss. Curiosity killed the cat. Things better left unsaid –  all tell us to stop searching for truth, because knowing it all might actually lead to our downfall. I am in no way condoning the actions of a liar but am merely drawing attention to the fact that it’s as common as a roast on a Sunday.

Do I believe that it’s right to be honest? Of course I do. Have I shared all of my secrets? Hell no. There are some things that I’ll take to my grave. So how many cats should we let out of the bag? The truth is, I don’t know.

All you ever hear when talking about the perfect relationship is trust, trust and more trust. But can we actually really rely on anyone?

A friend of mine said you could only really count on your mum.

And even she told me Father Christmas was real…

Just use your instincts as best as possible I guess. Good luck!

The Betrayal

large (7)We’ve all done it.

Whether it’s about how much we weigh, how many drinks we’ve had or how old we are, lying is, unfortunately, a fact of life.

Pretending you’re ten years younger than you really are or being in denial about the effects of the latest fad diet on your thighs however, is not quite the same as lying about having slept with someone you shouldn’t have or kissing someone when you should be kissing someone else.

It seems to me as though most people wait until they’ve got a white dress, a three-tiered cake and a pair of neat brogues to even begin thinking about remaining faithful to each other. Surely this should come a little earlier and a little more naturally, being one of the fundamentals of a relationship?

I’m under no illusions that there are people who can’t even control themselves within the realms of matrimony. Married men cheat on their wives, women date ten guys at a time and friends have been known to sleep with their best mate’s other half. And I, although it’s probably hard to imagine, am not a saint either.

Relationships are hard, there’s no denying, but the question I’m asking is: when the fuck did morals go out of fashion?

At school we’re taught not to hit each other in the playground and to be nice to our friends. We’re told not to lie to the teacher and to choose our words wisely. Why then, isn’t there a time, perhaps in the latter half of one’s education, when teachers (or parents) get real and explain that cheating is inherently wrong? We’re getting pretty good at progressing from condoms, bananas and films from the 70’s to explain how our genitals work during intercourse, but we fail to explain to kids about when best to use them, perhaps because we’re still grappling with these issues as adults.

I understand very well that children learn best from making their own mistakes, but with some things, it causes more harm than good to let people figure it out for themselves. We don’t wait around for a child to kill someone before using it as an example to explain that it’s inherently wrong, so why don’t we do the same with cheating? Both cause pain and are irreversible, and both can be avoided.

If you think I’m being dramatic by comparing the two then it clearly hasn’t happened to you… yet.

Some people say I’ve had a ‘good run’, considering how common cheating actually is. 25 years it has taken me to join the Cuckold Club and only now that it has happened to me, do I feel like I can comment with conviction.

If you haven’t had the pleasure of finding messages on your partner’s phone, or even better, catching them in the act, then you should know that it’s probably one of the worst things to happen to a person. And the bigger the love, the worse it is. I could sit here and try and explain the feeling but I can’t; it’s indescribable how much it hurts. Forget a kick in the balls or an elbow to the boob the week before your period; this stuff hurts. A lot.

Excuses are void and can range from the desperate to the ludicrous. They’ll explain that they don’t know why they did it and, particularly the male variety, will tell you that they can have sex without it meaning a thing. (It’s at this stage that I’d like to point out that so can women and that doesn’t make it okay.) Another favourite of mine is the, ‘It wasn’t very good’ or ‘I didn’t even fancy him (or her)’. My response? Thank you so much for ensuring that you didn’t take pleasure from putting your penis into someone else’s vagina, maybe next time you’ll get lucky?

Cheaters of the world: whether you did it and enjoyed  it, knew him or just met him, whether she has crap hair and looks like a gnome or has the body of a Victoria’s Secrets model, we don’t care. You did it, it’s disgusting and we’re hurt, so let us move on, be it with you or without you.

In my younger, feistier and perhaps more naive years, I was so sure I would dump a cheater without a second thought. Watching my friends being cheated on by their boyfriends and seeing marriages fall apart, I thought it impossible to even contemplate going back there. But when you’ve actually invested in a future with someone yourself, it gets a little more complicated than the standard duvet day and Beyonce session to help you move on (although both are still completely valid and do still sort of help the situation).

It’s a fact that humans can revert to sex to try and make themselves feel better. We’re suckers for a coping mechanism, hence why we have alcoholics, sex addicts and all the rest and I have seen lots of couples make it through to the other side, changing them for the better. But why let it get to that point? I’m really not sure how many times I have to say this until people get the picture but if you treat people the way that you would like someone to treat your brother, sister or best friend, then the world would be a happier place. I genuinely believe that we have a social responsibility when it comes to people’s hearts and if we each did our own little bit then it could have a huge impact on people’s lives.

Whether you’re the person who is attached or the one who wants that guy with the girlfriend, take responsibility for your actions – gin sodden or sober – and be the better person and prove how strong you are by saying no. Cheating is always a choice, never an accident.

I enjoy rebelling as much as the next person and can completely understand how the temptation of doing something you shouldn’t can be very attractive, but my experience has changed the way I look at things. Will I get over it? I’m not sure yet. But what I am sure of is that relationships aren’t mandatory. There’s no law saying that you must commit and if you do want to go out there and be ‘free’, then do as you please, but simply stay single while you do so. That way, when you jump in a cab back to theirs, nobody gets hurt, except if they’re into S&M, but that’s their prerogative.

All that I’m asking of you is that you take a couple of seconds longer to think about any decisions you might make in the future and to only partake in the gift of giving this season if you’re ‘giving it’ to all the right people.

Just. Be. Good. It’s really not that hard.

The Chase

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Mexico. 2008. Spring Break.

My first encounter with a chaser.

I.e. A soft drink that jocks knocked back after shotting vodka or tequila.

London. 2013. Spring Term.

My second encounter with a chaser.

I.e. A lot of teasing which led to a dumping which burned like a shot of Sambucca but was forgotten as quickly as a hangover.

Ever since Nursery school, chasing has been a major part of our social interaction. The boys would relentlessly follow us girls around the playground in pursuit of an innocent peck until the bell went or the whistle blew. I then went home to sit in front of Tom & Jerry which was essentially twenty-five minutes of the same thing. This frantic cartoon was later exchanged for ten years worth of cat and mouse action between Rachel and Ross. Pretty much the same plot line except for I don’t think Tom was trying to shag Jerry the whole time, unless I missed something really quite pivotal, of course.

I feel like I’m now living out this childhood game, except for now it normally takes place in dark rooms with loud music and vodka and comes to a halt at last orders.

Although undeniably thrilling to watch, I think we have to ask ourselves why we permit ourselves to enter into this exchange later in life? Why do we bother to chase or be chased? I think it’s to fill a gap until something better comes along. That probably explains why, when we finally get what we’ve been pursuing for such a long time, we lose interest. To the chaser, it’s normally just a passing the time supper with a side of ego boost. Think about it. Why did Tom never actually catch Jerry?

We must be careful. Along the road we chase upon, wooing can lead to winning someone’s affection rather than just their attention and it’s at this point you should stop teasing and start walking.

The truth of the matter is, you shouldn’t have to try to win someone over. If they like you, they will be with you. End of story. A chaser might chase you all the way to the top of Primrose Hill, but if it’s for all the wrong reasons, they won’t be waiting for you when you get to the bottom.

Spend your life chasing your dreams rather than people; the rest will fall into place.

The Cheater

It saddens me to admit that many of my beautiful girlfriends (and boyfriends) have been cheated on over the years. But it saddens me even moreso that the same thing happens time and time again. Someone finds out, tells the victim, we all get very angry and upset, humiliate the cheat, tell them how much we didn’t like their partner in the first place and then they’re normally back together a week later. The stress of looking someone in the eye after you’ve stripped them naked on Brighton Pier for sleeping with your best mate’s sister is second to none I tell you.

But with age, I’ve learnt that sometimes it’s best not to get involved. After all, do we even flinch when our bestie confides in us that they’ve cheated on their partner? I’ve even watched it happen and never uttered so much as a peep to their other half. If I’m honest, I didn’t even bat an eyelid. And that’s not because I think cheating is acceptable, I just see it as a warning sign that their relationship is (for want of a better phrase); ‘a little rocky’. Because that, for me, is exactly what cheating is. It’s a cry for help. A normally uncharacteristic act that oozes the sense that someone isn’t truly happy. A precursor to an already doomed relationship, if you will.

It must seem as though I sympathise with the cheaters of the world. In actual fact, I find cheating awful. But rarely do I think it is something executed to hurt your other half, which is why I think its best not to dwell on it if it was a onetime affair. Instead of beating yourself up about it and convincing yourself of being worthless and as unattractive as a splinter; take it on the chin and see it as a sort of indicator that the relationship is going down the road to nowhere. You’ve been given a chance to leave before things get really bad and being angry is not the answer. It’s merely a malfunction in your potentially endless dating life, so learn from it, don’t live with it, remind yourself why you’re so much better than the one that hurt you. And walk away.

And although cheating is inherently wrong, I haven’t quite worked out whether or not I agree that ‘Once a Cheater, Always a Cheater’. But just in case, be on your guard.

Don’t get me wrong, go out and find your wild cat, but never, ever entertain a cheater.