I seem to have skipped out on one of the more exciting rites of passage that was promised to me. My mid-life crisis. Instead of rushing out and buying myself a Harley Davidson and some leather pants, I’ve apparently decided to make an early start on becoming an old curmudgeon. This is not necessarily a bad thing, since I am prone to chafing, but has meant that I now become arbitrarily annoyed by things that I never even noticed in my youth.
Things like queues. I am reduced to seething, impotent rage by having to stand in a line in the supermarket while a row of unmanned tills silently mock me on either side. I grit my teeth and dig my nails into my palms when the sweet old lady in front of me drums up a friendly conversation with the bank teller, cheerfully sorting out how everyone’s day is going before even starting the glacial search through her handbag for her bank card.
Happily, being an early-onset old curmudgeon means that my response to these provocations is quiet “harrumphing” rather than violence, but one of these days I will be pushed too far and will have no choice but to write a strongly worded letter.
One of my newly found pet hates (us old curmudgeons love pet hates) is sex columnists. I can’t even really tell you why. I’m not a prude or anything; nudity doesn’t faze me, and the fact that other people are having sweaty, noisy, squelchy fun just makes me happy for them.
I think it might have something to do with the fact that I have never read a sex column that hasn’t come across as being maddeningly smug and self-satisfied about being super good at something that gerbils can do with very little training. “Look at me!” they say, “I’m going to be all frank and grown–up about the fifteen strangers I had oral sex with last week so that I can teach you poor, repressed vanillas how to do it properly. Who rules at sex? Me. Not you.”
I suspect that I’m not being entirely fair. We are not gerbils. Sex is complicated. It is shot through with taboos and misinformation and self-consciousness. It can be a great deal of fun. It can also be embarrassing, frightening and isolating. So maybe talking about it frankly is a good thing.
I just wish those sex columnists weren’t talking to us like we were twelve. And they need to stop reviewing sex toys. They’re bits of plastic that go “Brrrrrrrrrrr”, not sweeping dramas about soldiers returning from the front to find themselves alienated and misunderstood by the people they once loved.
So what am I going to do about this? I’m going to give it a whirl myself. Welcome, good people, to the first, and very possibly last, 23thorns sex advice column. Since I don’t want to frighten anybody, and I didn’t have oral sex with fifteen strangers last week (I was too busy sorting out the garden shed), we’ll start off slowly.
With setting the scene. Sex, for humans if not gerbils, is a mind game. It’s all about getting into the mood. Lighting. Music (“Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick”, by Ian Drury and the Blockheads, for example, is best avoided). Location. It all needs to be perfect.
I’m not going to tell you how to set the scene. I’m going to tell you what to avoid. So here we go; four things to avoid in the bedroom.
You don’t even need to close your eyes to picture the scene. It’s a classic. There you are, you and your lover sprawled like cats on a bearskin rug as the crackling log fire in front of you warms your naked skin, contrasting rather delightfully with the ice-cold champagne you sip languidly as you stare into one-another’s eyes, anticipation and need burning ever hotter, echoing the flames in front of you.
Pardon my French, but bullshit! I’ve given it a try and it’s not like that at all. I couldn’t even get Mrs 23thorns into the room before it all went to hell. I’d set the scene perfectly; the champagne was on ice, the room flickered romantically by the light of a pair of candles, a soft, down duvet was spread on the floor in front of the fire I’d built (there aren’t many bears round here).
I lit the fire and set off to entice the delectable Mrs 23thorns into my cosy little love nest. I didn’t even get as far as the door before the wooden floorboards caught fire. Bugger. Quick as a cat, I leapt over and grabbed the champagne. Pausing only for the tiniest of sips, I sprayed it at the flames like a home-made fire extinguisher. Mistake. Instead of dousing the fire, the champagne merely caused the flames to take refuge in the curtains. I suspect that using petrol to start the fire was a bit of a mistake.
It was all downhill from there, although it was quite exciting when the fire department arrived in not one but two shiny fire engines. I took a small amount of comfort in the knowledge that Mrs 23thorns would at least get a minor erotic fix when the firemen reached the point where they whipped off their shirts and stared manfully off into the distance while flexing their abs.
But no. They don’t do that, apparently, no matter what you’ve seen on the covers of those romance novels. They were actually quite rude when I asked them if they would give it a whirl. I would never have expected a professional life-saver to use the phrase “arse monkey”. I don’t even know what that is.
So there you have it. Rule number 1. No fires. Unless you happen to have a fireplace in your bedroom. Then it might actually be quite nice.
2. Erotic Dance.
We all know the story of how Salome inflamed Herod with incestuous lust by dancing the dance of the seven veils. So that he would bring her some guy’s severed head. As one does.
It’s a powerfully erotic image (except for the severed head part). The voluptuous veiled temptress gyrates in the flickering light of the oil lamps, naked belly drawing the intoxicated king’s gaze down to her full, womanly hips, dark eyes flashing with promise.
Not any more. Erotic dance is not what it used to be. Mercifully, Mrs 23thorns has never tried to seduce me through the medium of erotic dance. Should I ever walk into a room and be confronted by my spouse doing the modern equivalent of the dance of the seven veils, I must confess that I would be a little intimidated.
And that’s just if she was doing it properly. If there were to be some sort of accident, I might spoil the mood completely by laughing. For years.
But this not an advice column for women. It’s for men. And once again, you can learn from my mistakes. When it comes to erotic dancing, men’s options are sadly limited. But I did my best.
Due to my chafing issues, those Velcro rip-off pants were not an option, and g-strings make me feel a little exposed. So I did a little research. And struck gold. Or so I thought. Morris dancing.
Oh yes. We might look at those bearded English country fair types prancing around with bells on their legs and have a bit of a snigger, but it turns out that Morris dancing is nothing short of an ancient mating dance. It’s all to do with those hankies.
It’s easy to forget, in this age of soap and deodorant, quite how much we are ruled by our sense of smell. But those Morris dancers have not forgotten. They are masters of seduction. To get things started, they leap around like lunatics, pretending to hit each other with sticks. And then, once they’ve worked up a bit of a sweat, they deploy their secret weapon; the sex hanky.
If you watch them carefully, you’ll see how it’s done. They whip out their hankies and tuck them firmly into their armpits as they prance around, leaving them there long enough to absorb a full dose of their sexy, sexy, sex pheromones. And then they whip them out and waft them seductively at any nubile young women who might be watching. It’s nothing less than an open invitation to the horizontal mambo.
Easy, I thought. Mrs 23thorns would be powerless to resist. I set the scene while she was out shopping, closing the curtains and dimming the lights so as not to ruin the surprise.
“Darling?” I shouted as she came into the front door. “Could you come into the bedroom for a second? There’s something I’d like to show you.” I smiled in anticipation. It was the last time I smiled for a while.
All hell broke loose. As Mrs 23thorns opened the bedroom door and the dance of seduction began, instead of swooning, she screamed like an angry badger before leaping across the room. The last thing I remember was her grabbing my special Morris dancing stick and laying about me like I was a piñata at an anger management class Christmas party.
When I woke up in the casualty room a few hours later, her nostrils were still flared and she was breathing like a cat with bronchitis. Apparently finding five strange, bearded men armed with large sticks, covered with tiny bells and wearing novelty hats prancing around your husband in your darkened bedroom is not quite as erotic as one might think.
I never even got to waft my hanky.
Most of the time, I’m fairly mild mannered. Calm. Law-abiding. But not always. There have been times when I’ve been a bad, bad boy. I’ve needed taking in hand. If you know what I mean.
Fantasies are healthy. Normal. Fun. They make the inside of your head a nicer place to be. But sex, done properly, is a game for two players. Which means that those fantasies are going to have to come out of your head and into the bedroom. Excellent.
I suggested to Mrs 23thorns that she had let things become a little dull, and needed to try harder. It was, perhaps, time for her to spice things up a little. What was she going to do about her husband being a bad, bad boy? You guessed it.
Mrs 23thorns apparently didn’t. She got a peculiar sort of glint in her eye, stood up and walked out without a word. I was a little worried; perhaps it was a little too soon after the Morris dancing incident. I feared she just wouldn’t be into it. Wrong. So very, very wrong.
I arrived home the next night to find that she had taken our little chat to heart. “Darling?” She shouted as I came into the front door. “Could you come into the bedroom for a second? There’s something I’d like to show you.”
I stepped into the darkened room. “You,” came a husky, seductive voice from a pool of shadow next to the cupboard, “have been a bad, bad boy.”
I flipped on the lights. The last thing I saw was Mrs 23thorns, dressed in full riot gear, eyes blazing like an angry stoat.
And then she tased me.
At least this time when I came round in the emergency room she was happy. Ecstatic.
I do not, I must confess, get the whole fetish thing. I am turned on by attractive and naked members of the opposite sex, not watermelons or wearing nappies.
But one must suffer for one’s art. When I decided to write this post, I realised that I would have give the fetish scene a try.
I popped into a specialist shop around the corner and came out with an electric bicycle pump, a large bag of talcum powder, and what looked like a shiny black wetsuit.
I had learned my lesson. No more surprises for Mrs 23thorns. I sat her down and explained, slowly and carefully, that I had not suddenly come over all peculiar. She snorted like a walrus. Hayfever. I was doing research for a post, I continued. Would she mind terribly if we tested out my inflatable rubber gimp suit that evening? I wasn’t even sure if she had heard me, because the hayfever caused her to snort so loudly that coffee shot out of her nose. And she hadn’t had a cup for hours.
But yes, despite her hayfever, she had heard. And no. She would not mind. She could not, she said, wait. I suggested that perhaps we should wait, since the hayfever was now so bad that the whole side of her mouth was twitching, and she appeared to be having some sort of painful chest spasm. No. No waiting.
And so, that very evening, as she went for an early bath, I covered myself in talcum powder and tugged on my inflatable rubber gimp suit. Was I driven to distraction by lust? I was not. But then I hadn’t inflated it yet. I plugged in the pump and sat back to wait for the sexy, sexy times that were sure to follow. It was, I must confess, a little odd. The suit began to press in on me, like a full body python. My arms began to spread out like some sort of bizarrely obese starfish.
I began to feel something, but when I paused to analyse it, it turned out not to be arousal. It was alarm. And it was getting worse. And then, thank god, I heard Mrs 23thorns emerging from the bathroom. Excellent. Sexy time! I posed myself carefully on the edge of the bed, and, as she rounded the corner, said, in my huskiest, most seductive voice, “So, darling? Does this do anything for you?”
It most certainly did. It gave her some sort of convulsion. She fell to the floor, shrieking and gibbering and pointing like a crazy person. Which was all well and good. No fetish stuff then. But she was still going a minute later. And so was I. “Um, darling,” I said, a little less huskily, “I don’t seem to be able to move my arms. Do you think you might be able to switch off the pump for me?” Apparently this was one of the funniest things I’ve ever said. As she shrieked and gibbered, I grew. And grew.
“Um, I really, really need you to switch this off now. I can’t breathe.” I said, in a voice that was more squeaky and hysterical than husky and seductive. She stopped. She stood. She shrieked again. And then dashed out of the room.
“Where the @#$! are you going?” I cried, starting to feel just a little hysterical myself. I tried to leap to my feet, but instead rolled over and bounced gently into the corner. And then Mrs 23thorns reappeared. Thank God!
The last thing I saw was her holding up her camera phone. And then I exploded.
This time, when I came around in the emergency room, she was as happy as I had ever seen her. She had made friends with all of the nurses and some of the other patients, and they were all standing round laughing at something on her phone. They must have found something funny on YouTube.
And that, good people, is that as far as my career as a sex columnist is concerned. It’s not that I haven’t enjoyed writing it, it’s just that I’ve decided to embark on a period of abstinence. It’s not something that people acknowledge readily, but sex is actually bloody dangerous, and I can’t risk it anymore. I received an email from the emergency room yesterday. Apparently I am no longer welcome there. It’s not that they don’t take my injuries seriously, it’s just that my presence there is some sort of distraction for the nurses. They come over all peculiar when I’m there, and cannot focus on the other patients. It must be my pheromones. My sexy, sexy pheromones.