Eyes Wide Open

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I felt like I spent the middle week of January in a drunken stupor. This was particularly surprising given I had a grand and (unusual) total of 2 wines across seven days.

While I somehow managed to wobble to and from work in my car (the one breathalyser I blew into didn’t give any hints as to my state), maintaining the appearance of sanity in the workplace was a different type of challenge.

Kelsey are you ok?

Yeah. Why?

Well, you sent this email to the whole office.

Oh. Shit. Which one?!

<Hey Katie, do you have a tampon?> 

Crap.

That afternoon I received 26 non-helpful replies to that email:

<No, but I have a highlighter>

<What size?>

<No but this explains your behaviour today #shrek>

<I hope you found one>

<Leave no stains>

<HA HA  HA HA>

<Nosebleed?>

…and so on.

The last time I was properly drunk for a full week, I was about 22 and on holiday with Tia. We were expending our saved-up Studylink weekly payments on RTDs and McDonalds and playing fast and loose with some Belgian travellers we had met.

This time, though (for those of you who don’t follow me on Twitter), as it turned out, I was sleep-drunk, not drunk-drunk, from being chronically sleep-deprived for one whole week.

Sleeplessness crept up on me so slowly that I didn’t realise what was happening at first. It had been about two months since my breakup from the Dashing Man (the finer details of which we will go into later in what I hope is an hilarious post titled 10 Reasons to Reinvent Yourself as a Lesbian or Eunuch in 2017), and to be honest, I was feeling fine.

Fine didn’t necessarily mean 100%, but life was moving on pretty well. The new year had begun. Rebounds were abounding. I was finding new hobbies and it had been weeks since I had felt anything beyond distant nostalgia for the Dashing Man.

The first night it happened, I blamed it on the man sleeping in bed next to me (more on this in a future post titled Why God Invented the Rebound ), and ended up manufacturing a reason for him to leave.

Tim, wakeup.

Huh? What? 

Listen, I don’t mean to be rude but I have an early morning so I need to be able to sleep.

Ok… 

Uh, you are kind of keeping me awake.

Huh? How?

Your snoring… 

I don’t snore!

Yes you do. 

No I don’t. I know for a fact that I don’t. I’ve asked every woman I’ve ever slept with.

(Ok, so that’s a weird thing to do)

Right well… 

Listen, Kelsey, have I done something to offend you?

Yes. You snored!

It was only about three sleepless nights later (without Tim in my bed) that it dawned on me: this was insomnia.

If you’ve never suffered from it before, I can tell you now: it’s fucking terrifying to know that your body will not go to sleep no matter how tired you are. On days one and two, I sort of fell in and out of sleep and woke up exhausted.

By day three though, my eyes just refused to close, and continued this way from days four through to seven. I would shower, have a herbal tea and slip into my bed, only to find sleep would never come no matter how tired my body and brain were feeling.

I tried to distract myself by reading accounts of people who have died from insomnia (FYI: it takes 60 days of sleeplessness).

Worse still: I couldn’t yawn. My eyes would water and my mouth would open and then my brain would block the yawn. It was torture worthy of several Bush Administrations.

Aside from the obvious, one of the worst things about being an insomniac is the inability to silence your mind. My internal monologue went something like this:

Go to sleep. Go to sleep. GO TO SLEEP. Meeting tomorrow morning. Need to sleep. I just need to relax. Relaxing is nice. Think about nice things. What are nice things? Shoes? Nah. I’m not a shoe kind of a girl. Tia is though. Maybe I should get her shoes for her birthday. Oh shoot, I haven’t thought about what to get her for her birthday. What did I get her last year? Oh, that’s when she was crazy about her flatmate Mark. We haven’t talked about Mark in such a long time. I wonder if she’s over him? How does one get over someone? How did I get over the Dashing Man? I am over him right? Surely? I don’t think about him or crave him anymore. Well, I’m thinking about him right now. Yeah, but that’s ok because it’s like matter-of-fact thinking about him. What other ways are there of thinking about him? Well, for example, if I think of the sex…does that have an effect on me? Yes… the sex was pretty good. He had a magnificent cock mostly.  Mmmmmmmmmmm. Hey, remember how he used to enjoy giving swinging me on top of his body and controlling me til I couldn’t help but have an orgasm? That takes skill. I wonder if skills can be learned/taught? Imagine if there were workshops for this kind of thing. Who would take them? Is it inappropriate to go into business with your ex? How soon is too soon? He could teach and I could …source clientele? Who would sign up though? Hamilton is such a small place. What if it’s like…my aunt and uncle in Fairfield or something. Oh god. I hope they don’t still have sex. But actually it’s better if they do because then they won’t sign up. I wonder if they’re still in love with each other? Is love even real? Like, for example, how do you know if you’re actually in love with someone versus if you just think you’re in love with them but it’s not for real? I’ve been in love a few times and I’ve never been unsure. Did I love the Dashing Man? Unequivocally, yes. Did he love me? Yes, but I don’t think he’d ever say it out loud. Why not? He tends to communicate through action. Think about all the things he’s done for me over the last year. But that was just to get sex right? No way. He could have gotten sex for far less, and from a lot of other women. Well then, why won’t he say it? I don’t think he says it to anyone. If he loves me why was he so ok to let me go? Because he never really loved me in the first place? What??! Kidding. He loved me, but just not in the way I wanted him to love me. And sometimes love doesn’t mean you last together forever. Sometimes your forever is with someone who is easier to be with because you love them less. That’s bleak. Maybe, but can I really sustain that level of passion for a lifetime? I’d love to. Maybe he wants other women. Maybe. But can I really control that? Of course not. I have no control over anyone else but myself. If what he felt wasn’t genuine, there isn’t much I can do other than to be happy that I can still feel things for people. What do I do next time I run into him? I guess be normal. What is normal? Being nice. Being genuine. Being generous. But what if he decides to be hurtful or dismissive? Go home and cry, but don’t let him know he’s got to you. But what if… wait. Oh my god, have I just been thinking about the Dashing Man for the last few hours? I thought I’d moved on from that. Stupid insomnia. Go to sleep. Go to sleep. Go. To. SLEEP.

etc etc etc.

Why did it happen? I legitimately have no idea, but it quite conveniently disappeared just as I was going to book myself in to be institutionalised (kidding, it was just the GP).

Did I scare it away with threat of medical treatment? Was it a one-week anomaly in an otherwise normal life? Is it some kind of residual PTSD from my determination to move on from the breakup?

If anyone else has ever experienced this, I’d love to know.

xoxo Kelsey

Would You Leave Town to Get Away From a Man?

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Tia broke the news to us last week over a weekend brunch at the Sugar Bowl.

I’m leaving Hamilton

This was not what Jess and I were expecting to hear when Tia asked to meet to chat about some big news in her life.

You don’t think she’s pregnant? Jess mused as we drove across the bridge to meet Tia.

No way. I don’t think she’s even seeing anyone at the moment.

Ugh, it could be a Tinder Baby.

Dear God let’s hope not. Tia’s not that silly.

Maybe a new man then?

Maybe, but why wouldn’t she just Snap us photos of him sleeping like she normally does? 

‘Normally’ wasn’t really fair. It was only once, and it was because the guy was (in Tia’s words):

<SFHOT but I don’t think it’s going to last because he’s not very bright so here’s a photo before we have to end things>

As usual, she was correct on all counts.

We ran through all the probable possibilities. Maybe she bought a house? Maybe she has cancer?

She likes flatting and she’s too tough for cancer Kels.

But neither Jess nor I foresaw the possibility of Tia leaving town.

Where are you going? Why? Has something happened? Are you ok? Is it your job? 

I couldn’t see any legitimate reason for Tia to want to leave. She was brilliant at her work, had a full social life and friends and family who love her. Her whole life is in Hamilton and there had been no hints that anything was wrong. I would know. I’m her best friend.

Tia just shrugged.

I just need a change. Something new. 

And with no further explanation, she changed the topic of conversation and we carried on with our meals.

A few nights later, Tia came over to my place for an after-work drink, which I won’t deny was also kind of a ploy on my part to lubricate, inebriate and invite a confession. I still wasn’t buying her (non) reason for leaving Hamilton.

It didn’t take long.

It’s Mark.

Mark? Like your ex-flatmate Mark?

The same one.

I thought everything was fine with you two?

Two or three years ago, both Tia and Mark had separately confessed to me that they had feelings for each other (see here and here), despite Mark being with a serious girlfriend. That was a long time ago, though, and nothing had happened between Mark and Tia (as far as I knew).

Last year, Mark married said serious girlfriend, Megan, and Tia happily (it seemed) attended the wedding.

In fact, I hadn’t heard a single word about Tia’s feelings for Mark in a very long time.

I’m drowning in fine-ness.

I don’t even know what that means.

It means that I’m really sick of everything being fine. I feel like I’ve been holding my breath for a very, very long time.

Do you mean to say you have feelings for Mark again?

I never stopped. 

Does Mark know how you feel? 

Yes. Well he did last year. I don’t know about now.

What did he say when you told him?

That he felt the same.

And?

And he chose Megan. He feels the same about me, but it was too far gone with Megan to change course.

Did you ask him to choose between the two of you?

No -but he married her knowing. 

What do you want from him?

I don’t know. Well I do know. In a perfect world, I’d want to be with him. In the real world? Just for him to be happy. That’s why I’ve tried so hard to just be fine. I thought to myself -how does someone treat the person they love?

Kindly. 

Exactly. With kindness and understanding, and just letting them be them, and not asking more of them than they can give. That’s what I’ve been trying to do.

And how is that working out for you? 

He’s happy Kels. He’s very, very happy. He’s got Megan, his honeymoon, his new house, his life. I’m really happy for him.

But you aren’t happy.

I’m happy for him. 

But you aren’t happy.

No. It hurts.

I leaned over to give Tia a hug.

The other thing is that Megan doesn’t like me. She’ll never say it, but I can tell. She never actively includes me in anything even though I am one of Mark’s best friends.

Would you want to be included?

Yes. It hurts doubly that I’m not treated like a legitimate friend. I wish I didn’t feel this way.

Hey, well you’ve dated plenty of guys in the past couple of years. 

Yeah well think about why they didn’t last.

Would you want Mark to break up with Megan and be with you? 

It’s never, ever, ever going to happen. That’s something I understand beyond all reasonable doubt. 

How can you say that?

Think about it. When was the last time you heard about a girl getting a guy who explicitly said didn’t want to be with her? 

I couldn’t think of a single example.

I’m moving away because I need to live in a world where Mark doesn’t exist. I want to forget Hamilton, because everything about Hamilton feels too much like him.

When are you moving?

In two weeks.

Oh dear.

xoxo Kelsey

The Modern Kiwi Gentleman’s Guide to Lingerie

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I like lingerie.

I’m not sure if that’s the same for most women -I haven’t done a survey, and it’s not a topic that often comes up in conversation with the Modern Kiwi Woman.

I don’t know whether that is a result of the paradoxical Kiwi prudishness (we’ll have sex with anybody but God forbid we’d talk about the details with anyone), or because Tinder is cheaper than Bendon and most women have very little incentive to bother with expensive shreds of lace.

I also have a feeling that the Modern Kiwi Man isn’t all that bothered either. An ex of mine used to say:

Lingerie isn’t in our DNA. 

His argument was that after a day on the timber yard or wading through accounts for Mitre 10 Mega, the Modern Kiwi Man finds it too much of a challenge to unfasten and unclasp tiny hooks and buttons, and all that wiring only makes him want to call an electrician for backup.

There has been enthusiasm to varying degrees amongst my exes, when it comes to lingerie.

Aaron was probably the most enthusiastic, and also the reason why I now have a strict Don’t Buy Me Lingerie Without My Knowledge policy.

I dated him briefly -and tumultuously -in my early twenties. He was a conservative Catholic boy with all of the paternalism and clumsiness that that entails.

For our first (and only) Christmas, he decided to ‘surprise’ me with ‘sexy’ underwear.

I woke up on Christmas morning to find a hastily-masking-taped package stuffed into my mail box. It was immediately evident to me that the cheapest underwear mail-order company on the internet spent more money on its packaging than on its garments.

After several rounds of playing pass-the-parcel with myself, I finally tore through the tissue to find an eye-cancerous lime green, totally transparent slip and matching g-string …four sizes too big.

Given it was Christmas, the store had thrown in a studded leather choker -free of charge.

Aaron and I broke up shortly after for reasons other than his ability to procure lingerie, but it served as an important lesson for me.

I think there is a difference between underwear and lingerie. Underwear is what you wear on a daily basis, and I prefer simple, sweet and cheerful for the day-to-day. Comfort is also pretty important.

Lingerie is a treat, and not only because it makes it more special but also because they are a nightmare to wash and maintain. Also, I’m not one of those women who likes to put effort into ‘being sexy for myself’ so that I can secretly beam to myself every time I go to pee, with the knowledge that I’m wearing undergarments with a price tag that could buy a suburb in Calcutta.

(Sidebar: being sexy for myself usually means a long, hot bath followed by dancing naked to Europop, but I’m not sure that’s something that I’d openly admit to my female friends).

So, in short: I don’t trust men to buy lingerie for me but I don’t mind if you pay (after I’ve tried on) and I certainly don’t mind you being there while I try on. Your enjoyment is important to me so I will always choose something that pleases you.

On that point, I have another quirk about men and lingerie: I have an inability to recycle lingerie between men. When a man leaves my life, the lingerie acquired while with him also gets dumped. I keep the jewellery (in most cases), and any other gifts, but the lingerie -no matter how sexy or expensive -has to go, and I begin investing in new items.

In any case, I think it’s a nice state of affairs to have a reason to buy new lingerie.

xoxo Kelsey

p.s. I believe there’s a half-price on lingerie sale on at Farmers tomorrow, so I’ll be stocking up (pun intended) on the nice stuff.

p.p.s. Farmers didn’t pay me anything to say this, because that would mean admitting that they read my stuff

Her Arousal

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It’s a little-spoken-about fact that women with low self-esteem are hard to arouse.

Most men will equate women who are down on themselves as being easy or slutty, and while this may well be the case, the reality is that promiscuity doesn’t always equate arousal.

My friend Hannah is newly-single and is compensating by sleeping (or attempting to sleep) with any man that moves. When she isn’t, she’s at home crying because she thinks no one loves her.

The reality is that the most powerful sex organ is the brain, and the greatest sex starts in the brain and finishes with hair-pulling orgasms in bed.

Over the years, I’ve known many men who haven’t understood the concept of Sex in the Mind.

Take Devon, an early ex, who thought constantly referring to my ‘pussy’ was enough to get me in the mood.

It really wasn’t.

Or Tia’s ex, Sam, who enjoyed asking her to pretend to be other people they knew:

Once he asked me to pretend I was my sister. That’s where I drew the line.

Personally, I thought Tia should have kicked him out the time he asked her to pretend to be the Easter Bunny.

The reality is that, for most women (ok, all women, if they’ve had the good fortune to meet such men), sex begins when you meet her for the first time, and carries through to the way you speak to her and more importantly -how you make her feel.

Feelings constitute the greatest foreplay and I would be putty in the hands of any man who makes it known how much he craves me.

Here’s the thing though: at any given time, lots of women suffer from low self-esteem. And when a woman feels bad about herself, she likes to try and please you, in the weird, vain hope that it will magically turn her into someone desirable, before eventually descending into madness.

Should you care? Well, most guys don’t, given it doesn’t sound like a bad deal on your end.

If you want to give her the best sex of her life though, then you really should care.

I’ve been through bouts of spectacularly low self-esteem a couple of times in my life. The last time was at a point during the Six Year Relationship, when it finally hit me that I wasn’t his type -and that I was never going to be his type-and that, no matter how hard I tried to ignore it, I had to admit that, when it came to sex, it mattered to me that I wasn’t his type.

Until that point, I’d never dated a man who had made me question whether or not I was his type. I’d always figured: if he’s dating me, he must be attracted to me.

My friend Ellen and her partner Hamish are an interesting case study. Ellen is tall and voluptuous, but Hamish prefers tiny, waif-like creatures and he never loses an opportunity to publicly declare as much whenever a woman of this description walks past.

Hamish would say Ellen is the perfect woman because she lets him be himself.

Ellen mostly looks miserable, and once -drunkenly -confided in me that she often fantasizes about being someone else, while in bed with Hamish.

I like to pretend I’m a tiny girl with a flat chest. Or sometimes, I imagine I’m watching him with one of his fantasy women. It’s painfully voyeuristic, but I don’t feel like I can orgasm, just being me. I don’t feel like I deserve it.

Men like tell women to ‘just be more secure’, as though it’s a choice.

But in my experience, the choice belongs to men:

  1. i) a few words of believable lip service and attention in situations outside bedroom, to make her feel amazing, in exchange for amazing and enthusiastic sex later and always

or

  1. ii) tumbleweed silence IRL, followed by awkward pawing in the bedroom, in exchange for a lifetime of uncertainty and half-assed sex (or worse, none) and lots of crying

Sex begins in the brain, and that’s just the way it is. Women are amazing creatures, but I don’t think we can magic away the things that turn us on.

This is, after all, the reason why the dressing up and wining and dining (and teasing) before the bedroom exists.

Going back to the Six Year Relationship, the sex just didn’t work once I realised it was physically impossible to be his type. I saw what he wanted in his porn searches, and I saw it in the kind of women he ogled on the street, and that was never going to be me.

I realised he’d never looked at me that way, and whether I wanted to or not, I began to resent him -and myself.

Some women can go through life being the consolation prize rather than the prize, and for a while, I gave up and put up with it, until it eroded my self-confidence and rendered me an insomniac with an eating disorder and deep depression.

After the end of the Six Year Relationship, I was pleasantly surprised to find there were men for whom I was the first choice.

So what do you do when you’re a man who is in a relationship with a woman who isn’t your fantasy woman, but still someone you really care about and want to be with?

Keep your mouth shut, according to my friend Sean:

Or rather, treat her like she’s the woman of your dreams and keep the rest for yourself. Sex is sex, really, and why lose out on a good thing just because you want to be open about everything? Nobody likes an over-sharer. 

xoxo Kelsey

How to know if she’s going to be bad in bed

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Dean is a reasonably new friend of mine. We met at a party a few months back, and clicked, given we work in the same field and share a lot of -rather controversial opinions -about our industry.

He is also an older man, sexy, wealthy and influential. Last week, we met for an after-work drink at Gothenburg, and the conversation (somehow) turned to our sexual pasts.

You can tell when a woman would be fun to fuck. The ones that look like stick-thin models -they’re mostly no fun. The ones who read Lord of the Rings, also no.

Lord of the Rings?

It’s utter drivel, and in my experience, there is a direct correlation between women who like reading Tolkien and women who are awful at sex. 

Really.

Yes, it takes a certain kind of selfishness to lose yourself in a book that tedious, and that kind of selfish woman views sex as a perfunctory activity to be suffered in between chapters.

So you don’t like women who read?

No I love women who read. Tolkien isn’t reading, it’s a weird obsession bordering on fetish.

What do you look for, then?

Fire. Laughter. Magic.

I burst out laughing (and not just because that sounded like a trailer voiceover for the Lord of the Rings).

I thought it was boobs, butt, leg that men looked for.

No, it’s true. Give me a woman who can challenge me, make me laugh and always surprise me. I can guarantee you she’ll be great in bed.

I’m sure there are lots of those women out there.

Honestly? I found that woman only once, years ago, when I was living overseas. We worked together. She was my equal in every way. I spent a few weeks having the greatest sex -and the greatest time -of my life with her and then the very next month, I came back to New Zealand and proposed to the World’s Dullest Woman.

What. Why?

Well I was immature and I had it in my head that there was a stupid rule that you can’t marry a woman who is good in bed.

Why not?

Because you’re supposed to suffer through bad sex with your spouse. In exchange you get things like laundry and companionship. 

So what was it about her that made the sex so great?

She was just so happy to be there. And not in a subservient sort of way either. She was cheeky and funny and obsessed over every part of my body, and she was so …vocal in her appreciation of it. She didn’t care who heard. Her moans were incredible. I loved knowing that I did that to her. And in all honesty -it wasn’t just the sex. Even when we weren’t having sex, you know -like going for a walk, or out for a meal -it was like we were having sex. She’d touch my hand, or give me a look. I was aroused literally all the time.

I don’t understand -what was the problem? 

Well, she only had eyes for me, so I guess I thought she was too easy.

You’re joking.

No. I guess I thought if I could have this stunning woman that easily, then surely I could do better. Now that I look back on it, back then, every week there would be some new man who was smitten with her, and she only had eyes for me. I’m an idiot.

Did you do better?

No. There was no better. I married someone who would probably prefer to sleep with Peter Jackson over me, and that’s only because Tolkien is dead and Gandalf isn’t real and Peter Jackson’s idea of sex is probably screen testing Hobbits.

So the World’s Dullest Woman is not great in bed then? 

Quiet, unimaginative. It’s ok. It’s sex and at least it happens even if it’s only missionary and only in the bedroom and only with the lights off. It’s not anything special.

What would you do differently with the one you let get away?

It took me years after I lost her to realise she was being utterly genuine. The short while that we were together, she tried to get close to me but I refused to let her resemble anything remotely close to a girlfriend. We split restaurant bills, I went home at the end of the night and I never told anyone about her. Any man would have been proud to call her his girlfriend, but for some reason I didn’t do it.

Dean paused.

The one thing I’d do differently? I’d have grown some balls and asked her to marry me.

I asked where she was now, and Dean had no idea. He isn’t on Facebook.

This was thirty years ago, and I only knew her for a couple of weeks, but she’s right there in the story of my life.

 

xoxo Kelsey

The F-Word

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Every woman has an off word -a single word which, when used by a man, has the power to flick an off-switch in her brain.

Last year, my friend Tia discovered her off-word was lovely. It was the only adjective that her Modern British Man, Martin, would use to describe everything related to her. Eventually, the word -in Tia’s head -became a synonym for apathy.

Needless to say, the relationship did not last.

Three weeks ago, my friends Libby, Jess and I found ourselves examining another word:

Friend. He called me a good friend, Kels. I’m not entirely sure how I should feel about that.

Libby had been DateSleeping with a Alan, a budding copywriter -who was evidently no David Ogilvy outside of the office.

The sex was hot, the chemistry palpable, and they made each other laugh, that is, until Alan had decided to pull the F-word on Libby.

He said it like it was a compliment. 

What exactly did he say?

That he didn’t just like me for my body, and that he liked me for me too.

That doesn’t sound bad at all. That’s quite sweet.

No, then he followed it up with ‘I think you are a really good friend.’

Oh.

Libby was thrown into a spiral of uncertainty.

I don’t get it. I really like him. And when we are together it’s amazing. But when he says I’m a friend, it changes things. 

Jess concurred:

When a man you’re dating calls you a friend, it suddenly makes everything less colourful.

We knew exactly what she meant. The F-word connotes a number of things to women:

  • that he’s not thinking of you when he’s not with you. 
  • that he likes your body, and he likes your mind, but that thing in between (it’s called feelings, Kels) is lacking.
  • that, given one can have many friends, it’s just not as special to him and probably will not be.
  • that you’re part of his social life, not his personal life.
  • that you’re basically a bro. A hot bro, but still a bro.

What this means that while man might tell you you’re a friend with the best of intentions, he might get less than he bargained for.

Yeah, Libby, I basically would feel no urge to sleep with a man who calls me a friend. Some men might see it as spite or being vengeful, but it’s not. It’s totally involuntary. Use the F-word, and an off-switch goes off in my head.

A few days ago, I brought it up the issue with the Dashing Man, for a male perspective:

Darling, would you want to be friends with me if we broke up?

Hell no!

What? Why?

Why would I want to be friends with you?

I don’t know. Maybe because I’m a nice person, and fun to be around? Or at least because you like having me in your life?

Well all of that is true.

Then, what?

I could tell that if we weren’t careful, we would build up to that level of hysteria that would have me questioning whether he was just in this for the sex.

Kels, are you trying to break up with me?

No, I just want to know why you wouldn’t want to be my friend in a hypothetical breakup situation.

Listen, Kelsey -you’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I don’t want you to be my friend. I want you to be mine. I can’t be your friend, when I know I’m in love with you. I can’t hang around and watch you date other guys, and hold your hand and pat your back while you cry over a breakup with some dude, and I certainly cannot meet you for brunch on Saturday mornings to help you dissect every nuance of his burps and farts and how they might relate to his feelings for you.

Woah.

So what would actually happen if we did break up?

Depends why we broke up. If you screwed me over somehow, then I’d never speak to you again. If it’s just like you’re sick of me or something, I’d probably turn into a desperate mess. I’d be totally pathetic, trying to win you back.

No you wouldn’t!

Yeah I would. And I’d eventually win you back, but don’t make me go through the effort, please. 

How sexy is a man with actual feelings?

xoxo Kelsey

The Best Lovers in New Zealand? Part 1: The Man from Christchurch

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A couple of weeks ago, I caught up with my friends Jess, Tia and Libby for after-work dinner at Mexico on Victoria Street. Not too long after the soft-shell tacos had begun to arrive, Libby made a pronouncement:

Christchurch guys are the worst! 

Recently-single, and in her mid-twenties, Libby was still young enough and energetic enough to pick up strange men while away on work trips.     Her most recent client visit had taken her to the South Island, where she had eagerly anticipated meeting strapping young Cantabrians.

Jess, who hadn’t been with anyone since she getting together with Andrew ten years ago, was intrigued:

Really? I always assumed they’d have that whole dignified Southern Gentleman charm thing going. 

Ha. Don’t confuse boring for dignified.

Why what happened?

As it turned out, a nice looking Southern man named Fraser had caught Libby’s eye, at the end of a week’s stay in Christchurch.

He was pretty dishy, I’ll give you that. All tall and dark-haired and ridiculously handsome. But he was Dull AF. His repertoire was basically rugby, beer, and the earthquakes. 

The earthquakes? Like how he survived them?

No, actually, he was overseas for both of them. So he’s got, like, this deep insecurity that he missed the most exciting thing that could have happened to him in this lifetime. I got the feeling he was trying to make up for what could have been an exciting story. 

So if he wasn’t there for them, then what exactly does he talk about when he mentions the earthquakes?

Well, he kept trying to tell me about their relevance to his PhD in something-something-boring-something… 

Seriously? You didn’t even catch what he does? 

I did. I think it’s like the socio-politics of horticulture in the antipodes, but I prefer my interpretation. Anyway, he kept saying how that is like super-relevant to the earthquakes somehow, and how any day now, the government will be knocking on his door, asking him to help save lives. 

So you got up and left?

No, I slept with him. I told you. Super dishy.

Ok, so it wasn’t all bad then?

No, he was awful at sex. He kept commanding me to make his ‘earth quake’.

What does that even mean?

Not a clue. He came way too fast, and all over the duvet, and then just packed up and left. It was actually really rude.

Having briefly dated a Cantabrian myself, while at university, I didn’t think she was being particularly fair to them. I remember Harry as being a nice, polite boy who introduced me to his parents through a fuzzy Skype connection, even though we’d only been together for three days. This was in stark contrast to many other non-Cantabs who wouldn’t even let me know where they lived for the the first two weeks, for misplaced vanity-fear of stalking or similar.

Anyway, one difference of opinion led to another, and soon we were debating the geo-romantics of New Zealand men.

At some stage in the night, and when we had moved onto Wonderhorse, Tia pulled grabbed five cocktail napkins and borrowed a pen from Alex, the bartender.

Ladies, we’re sharing notes.

Of what, exactly?

How we’ve found men from around the country. I bet, between us, we’ll have most towns and cities covered. 

Ew, speak for yourself Tia!

Actually, I’m speaking for Libby. 

Tia was serious. Libby and I were game. Jess thought we were being rather flippant, but eventually gave in, with her own surprise revelation:

So, did I ever tell you about my brief romance with a man from Vegas?

[To be continued, with Part 2: The Man from Rotorua]

xoxo

Kelsey

Why You Need to Touch Her More

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I’m one of those women who enjoys touching and being touched, and for the most part, men I’ve dated have welcomed this particular personality quirk.

Jeff was the only one out of my coterie of ex-boyfriends who was uncomfortable with this situation, arguing that physical touch belongs firmly and solely in the bedroom, and as a precursor to intercourse.

He never understood why holding hands (or a sneaky spank) while walking around the Hamilton Lake is tantamount to foreplay in my books. So, naturally, he didn’t last long.

There’s something about a man touching –really touching -you that is reinvigorating. It’s more than a peck on the lips, or a perfunctory arm around the shoulder in public. In fact, it doesn’t even really have to be in public. He’s just got to do it like he means it.

My friend Jess agrees. She was recently at a work event, and met a man she said would be good at touching.

Jess! You’re married. 

I’m not saying I’d let him touch me. I just mean, you can just tell he’d be good at touching. It’s something about the way that he holds your eye when he shakes your hand. He doesn’t paw at your hand. He doesn’t sleaze you up, nor does he crush your fingers. It’s just…really nice. I’d totally shake his hand again.

As bizarre as the statement is, I know exactly what she’s talking about. Men who can give good massages rate pretty high in my books, for the same reason. There is something about the amount of care and attention that goes into a good massage, that separates it from a horrific one.

I once asked a boyfriend for a shoulder massage, and he thought three quick pumps on each side sufficed.

He also didn’t last very long.

The Human Touch aspect was the first to grind to a halt when the Six Year Relationship began winding down. In fact, in retrospect, his stopping touching my body was probably the first sign that things weren’t quite right.

The start of his new job at the time meant more responsibility, different hours and a whole new social circle. More importantly, he was happy.

The thing about happiness is that it can quickly escalate. Soon, his newfound zest began to leak into every area of our life. All our conversations became about -or in some way related -to his work. Where previously, we’d stay up late enjoying each other’s company, he was now up all night, researching, connecting with like-minded people in other timezones, and writing pages and pages of script.

Then the fights started. Anything that took him away from work (I’d later find out it wasn’t just work he was doing) caused a drama. He stopped coming to my work events, then to family gatherings, and finally, he checked out of anything to do with our friends.

By the time that we got to the gritted teeth, resenting glares and the late nights spent away from each other, ostensibly for work, but really to avoid being in the same house, there wasn’t a lot of room left for anything in the way of touching.

For two months, I’d become a shell of a person. Then, three weeks before we officially called it quits, an old friend -Erik -got in touch with me.

<Kels!! I’m back!!>

Erik had been overseas for nearly five years, realising his lifelong ambition of living on a boat (and forever earning him the unsavoury nickname Mr Seaman from Tia).

He invited me over to his flat in Glenview, on the promise of grilled snapper and copious bottles of wine. I don’t remember a lot of that night, other than the following:

  • It was the first time in many years that a man had cooked for me. I choked up, watching him -back turned, facing the stove -diligently working away at preparing the meal.
  • I realised I hadn’t laughed as much in months and months and months.
  • At some point, he turned on some incredibly dubious salsa music and attempted to teach me to dance.
  • I absolutely hate salsa music.
  • His hands were on my hips, and I found mine on his back.
  • I was the one who pulled him in close.
  • He was the one that just held me for a long time, while the music blared in the background.
  • His hands worked up my back and through my hair, until my face was pulled back and looking directly in his.
  • My hands slid down, encouragingly, to his hips and back up his back again.
  • He didn’t kiss my lips.
  • He bit my neck.
  • He kneeled down and lifted up my skirt.
  • He kissed my right thigh, until he found the spot, somewhere to the middle of my thigh.
  • Then he bit hard, and sucked.
  • I cried out. There were actual tears. If there is a God, this is the closest I’d ever gotten to Him/Her/It.
  • Then I came to my senses and pushed him away.

The whole experience probably lasted less than one minute, but it revived me in a way that I had not thought possible. To this day, it stands as my favourite example of the ability of a man’s touch to resurrect a defeated libido back to life.

It’s easy to forget that libidos can be defeated sometimes, and, whether you think you’ve found The One or have jumped into a relationship with the next cab off the rank (possibly at the stop outside The Bank), it’s hard -at the start of a new relationship -to imagine that you’ll ever stop feeling the giddiness of first lust.

As of last week, the Honeymoon Period is officially over, and the Dashing Man and I have now found ourselves in the midst of a semi-functional, adult relationship. The first clue that things are settling was that we actually went ten days sans coitus.

Instead of toe-curling SEX, we found ourselves doing things like hang out in our pyjamas, doing Monty Python marathons and falling into Chinese-takeaway-stupors on the couch after long workdays.

I put my foot down on Sunday morning, and decided to spice things up with the following:

First, I woke him up with a happy ending, reaching around from behind him, just as he was waking up.

Then, I let him take me out for brunch. When we sat down, I let him know I wasn’t wearing any underwear under my flimsy skirt.

There was an awkward pause when some friends unwittingly joined us at our table, and he had to take his foot out of my skirt.

Then, I led him home, and laid down the ground rules:

No clothes allowed for the rest of the day.

It was a long, slow, tease. We lounged around in bed, touching, playing, nibbling, giggling. We took breaks to eat cheese sandwiches and drink tea.

Then, somewhere around 6pm, he went down on me.

We’re back in business!!

xoxo

Kelsey

The (Supposed) Secret Life of Married People

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Brenda and Rob have been married for almost 6 years but had known each other for a lot longer, I assume.

My hypothesis is that they were probably in the same group of friends at university, and most likely got together because their other friends paired off with members of their social group, and so they probably felt they had to as well.

It’s that strange idea that people seemed to have had in the nineties, that you had to settle down with someone within your friend group (if you don’t believe me, watch classic period sitcoms like F.R.I.E.N.D.S. It was legitimately a shocking plot twist that Joey and Phoebe didn’t get together after everyone else had paired off).

I suppose, daters today would argue that things like Tinder which are intended to match you with people outside your social group but still within your geographical boundaries, did not exist in the nineties and that during that time online dating was secretive and the domain of internet weirdos -so there was little in the way of choice but to date who you knew socially.

Dating within your friend group might even seem liberal in some cultures, where dating outside your family group is frowned upon.

So anyway, back to Rob and Brenda who -now in their late 30s or early 40s -like to frequent the same cafe as me for their weekend brunches. Their usual table is right next to my usual table and so, although we haven’t said more than the odd hello to each other, our proximity and frequency means, I’ve unintentionally ended up with a particular set of very grim assumptions about (this particular) marriage. For example:

Rob and Brenda have two young daughters named Hannie and Lottie, which I can only assume are either truncations or mid-life hipster variants on the names Hannah and Charlotte.

Whenever Brenda goes to the bathroom, Rob uses the opportunity to stare at various women at the establishment. His favourite, by far, seems to be the young woman behind the counter. I used to think she was oblivious to his attentions but, given she almost always finds an excuse to come and tend to him during Brenda’s ablutions breaks, I feel she must be a little bit more self-aware than I give her credit for.

One thing I can’t get over is the strangely formal tone with which Brenda and Rob speak to each other. It makes me think that they must be undergoing couples therapy or -otherwise -they are sorely in need of it. It’s not so much the content of their discussions, but the tone: very matter-of-fact, and devoid of the kind of inflection that might betray emotion.

Last week, they had an inane conversation:

What’s on your mind right now, Brenda?

I’m just thinking about Samoa and what a nice time we had.

Yes it was a nice time, wasn’t it.

Yes it was a nice time.

Yes, remember how the children played down on the beach amongst the hermit crabs.

Yes, that was rather nice wasn’t it?

Yes it was.

Yes so that’s what I was thinking about.

That’s right. So I should have taken more leave.

Yes, it took you three days before you could relax properly, didn’t it?

Yes, it did. I need to learn to do nothing, especially given it cost nearly seven grand.

Oh yes, it did, didn’t it?

Yes yes, nearly three thousand just to get us all there.

Yes, but it was so worth it wasn’t it.

Yes but only if we’d had more time

My friend (and often brunch-partner-in-crime), Tia, says no couple that says ‘yes’ so many times in one conversation is normal.

Whenever Rob mentions money (as above), or his workout regimen (as below), his voice becomes oddly louder though the lifeless tone remains the same, giving rise to my suspicion that Rob’s telephone voice must be excellent, and therefore he must work in some kind of radio communication role, like an air traffic controller or a pilot.

Tia says that with that voice. it’s more likely that he works in a call centre (and definitely not a pilot, Kelsey, because pilots earn enough money not to have to count it all in public).

Most Saturdays, Rob will loudly recount his latest adventures involving breaking some kind of personal best in running with dumbbells or something similarly silly.

Last week, they celebrated their 6-year wedding anniversary. I know this because Rob ordered a piece of cake to share with Brenda, to mark the occasion. He didn’t even ask her what type of cake she might like. He just announced:

Right, I guess we better order some cake then. Happy 6-year wedding anniversary darling.

She didn’t seem to be too bothered by this though. We thought maybe he gave her a diamond necklace or something similar the previous night, and her gift to him in return was to be allowed to select cake. Tia says that if she was Brenda, she’d give up her right to choose cake rather than give Rob a celebratory blowjob too:

Kels, It’s not that Rob is bad-looking, but there is something intrinsically pathetic about middle-aged men -particularly those who are dads. 

Tia says that despite their best efforts to look like they are enjoying the public parade of matrimony and happy married life on a Sunday morning, you get the feeling that these men would rather be nursing a hangover and waking up with a woman half their age in a strange bed.

I think Tia has daddy issues, but I’d never say it to her face, so I nod emphatically.

Tia also has thoughts on Brenda, who we both agree, doesn’t look like the kind of woman who would stand to be pushed around. My pick is that she’s a lawyer.

Tia says that she’s probably got a swankier job than Rob:

Notice he pays for brunch every time. He probably wants to look like the provider in public, but I’m willing to bet she pays the mortgage and the private school fees.

And so our observations continue from week to week.

I’ve thought a lot lately about why I find this particular couple both fascinating and incredibly bleak. Is it the compromise that comes with marriage? Is it the feeling that, despite the public charade of coupledom and togetherness, these are two unconnected people living in their own worlds? Is marriage really better than this?

And worst of all, could Tia be correct (about anything)?

Send me your thoughts!

xoxo Kelsey