Monday, 20 August 2012

Sexually enlightened by 'Cosmopolitan'...

A little late to the party (no time to blog -August is usually my quietest time of year, professionally, but this is the busiest I've ever been; all those months of rain seem to have had direct bearing on melancholia levels in this corner of the UK; I'm relying on the Olympic Effect to put me out of business, however), I noticed that Helen Gurley-Brown turned up her toes and her breast implants last week.

Only a few days previously, I'd hooked up with my old BF from primary school and she'd reminded me about one of the chief bonuses to be gained from spending an afternoon Chez Kibber in the school holidays of the mid1970s. "Your sisters had copies of Cosmopolitan", she said wistfully, presumably drawing a retrospective contrast between the reading material at my house, and the crinkly copies of the Catholic Messenger, Hotspur, and the Irish Post that graced her own (devout parents and younger brothers; both quite useless as sources of the titillating read.).

My four grown-up sisters and their host of glamorous friends were a handy conduit into the mysteries of Adult Female Life for an insatiably curious pubescent with sebaceously-overactive chums such as me and my little gang. By listening at doors we could hear snatches of gossip that we could only guess the true meaning of ("a BLOW job? You mean you're supposed to BLOW down it??"), and which could be used by me in blackmail attempts later on ("let me try a Silk Cut or I'll tell Mum where you REALLY were last weekend"). And then my sisters would pass on their copies of Cosmo, after this Holy Grail of sophisticated naughtiness had been thoroughly plundered by them for ways to look more like Jerry Hall and tips on how to get any man to fall in love with you without compromising in the least or sacrificing your career.

We would snatch them and scamper off to my room, to pore over articles on how to arrive from your holiday flight looking cool as a breeze in a crisp white linen trouser suit (travel First Class, sip mineral water throughout the fight and spritz your face with same regularly, eat only a little fresh pineapple, elevate your fabulously long and coltish legs for the duration, and basically be Britt Ekland if at all possible.).  Oh, and why not join the Mile High club, if the co-pilot's handsome enough? But you must demand at least one massive and unforgettable orgasm from him, and for that matter from any man who is fortunate enough to arouse your incredible female desire. Orgasms - shuddering, screaming, writhing, bucking, clawing, gasping, grinding orgasms - were Cosmo's raison d'etre, and we were all ENTITLED to as many as we wanted, whenever we wanted them. We would avidly answer quizzes like "Have You Unleashed Your Inner Sexual Goddess", ticking off options like "on top of the Arc de Triomphe", "In a gondola" or "On a moving rollercoaster" despite being a pair of spotty twelve-year old virgins. We could always store these ideas up for later, and then DEMAND them. Oh yes.

It was all so wonderfully at odds with the life that was actually going on around us, where "holidays" meant a week in an asbestos chalet in a Minehead holiday camp if you were 'normal', or a passage to third-degree sunburn and food that would be "swimming in grease" via a package to Lloret de Mar if your parents had ideas above their station (usually identifiable by one of those Spanish spouted wine flasks proudly on display on top of the new 26" colour TV.). And where sexual experimentation was the domain of certain few sluttish girls a few years above us, who would deliberately let us overhear their talk of carpet burns and 'fingering', while cracking gum on their back teeth and liberally spraying their 70s flicks with Harmony Hairspray (Firm Hold.). Some of them were so worldly they even knew all the words to 'Radar Love'.

We much preferred the world version presented to us by Cosmo, where we could be successful and smart and sexy, and go small-breastedly braless under our fabulous watered-silk wing-collared blouses in the knowledge that we'd still be taken seriously by the yearning, respectful admiring males around us. We learned to be cool with  concepts like 'bisexuality' (I still remember being fascinated by an interview with Gore Vidal from about 1978), got to know names like Erin Pizzey and Sheila Kitzinger, and, finding a long piece about a disease called 'Anorexia Nervosa', wondered if we should tell someone about our friend Theresa who had spent the last month living on apples and frozen black coffee. For all the flash and trash, we did learn a bit.

Cosmo could be smug, strident and silly, and for me it always lacked a bit of humour (in my heart of hearts I preferred 'Honey', which had a softer edge and most importantly, featured the cartoons of my heroine Claire Bret├ęcher), but like an old friendship I persevered with it for several year, until it began to give itself over to the banal hyper-sexualisation of the contemporary women's magazine market. Now I never read women's magazines at all, and rites of discovery for the average spotty 12-year old virgin seem far more brutal and unrefined than my own. My old friend and I, now heading towards the arse end of our forties, agreed that we definitely had the very best of it where that particular publication was concerned, and for that we will always remember it affectionately. Any men we've been involved with may, of course, beg to differ. Handsome co-pilots excepted, of course.

Monday, 6 August 2012


I've had to take a bit of a break from blogging for a variety of reasons, both good and bad - though not irrelevant among them being the amount of time I've been spending watching the Olympics. Which has been a bit of a surprise, as despite my best efforts I was unable to get any warmer than 'mild to moderate cynicism' in the build-up to the games. When the Olympic torch rolled past the end of my road three weeks ago, I hurried off in the opposite direction, not wanting to be part of a crowd which seemed content to stand and applaud a procession of Coca-Cola trucks and clamour for McDonalds baseball caps. It was hard to see any further than the revolting commercial dominance at that point (and also, it WAS raining really hard that day), so any notions of athletic achievement and mass human bonhomie seemed a watery, distant dream.

 Even on the night of the opening ceremony, I sat down to watch it as did many of my friends, with my face set to 'smirk' and a headful of plans for how I would resume my evening after twenty minutes, having been bored to tears by some terrible hybrid of 'It's a Knockout' and the Last Night of the Proms. And yet there I was at 1am, off to bed with a silly grin on my face and feeling vaguely apologetic for having slagged Danny Boyle's films off in the past (though I maintain that Slumdog Millionaire WAS a pile of emotionally manipulative crap.). Sure, the 'yoof' section was five minutes too long and the multiculturalism was overstated, the bucolic idyll on fields of butcher's grass was kitch beyond the point of decency and Macca's embarrassing rendition of that dreary dirge 'Hey Jude' was just horrible, but in among it all was Isombard Kingdom Brunel (who apparently confused a few Yanks who couldn't understand why 'Abe Lincoln' was being featured), the Brookside lesbian kiss (censor THAT, Saudi!), younger women who impressed without being sexualised, older women who impressed without being ridiculed, the intro to 'Tiger Feet', a collective finger to the Government for their treatment of the NHS, Bowie's 'Heroes' and best of all, Bradley Wiggins as (in his own Tweeted words) "Bell Boy!BELL BOY!" (by the way, this will be my last mention of Bradley as he now belongs to the world, which I think you'll agree is gracious of me. As I said to a chum, it's a bit like when Elbow became huge after I'd been going to see them in tiny venues for years. Not mine any more!).

 There are still cynics remaining, who've maintained their stance and conspicuously refuse to have "anything to do with the Olympics", but they're looking increasingly daft, particularly after this weekend when you would have had to be made of balsa wood not to feel a rush of happiness for Jessica Ennis or  Mo Farah in their respective triumphs. McDonalds, Coca Cola and David Cameron have faded into the background for now and it really does feel like it's all about the sport and all about the occasion, though of course in a week or so life will have returned to normal and we'll have to listen to the politicians all creep forward again, to claim credit for things that were not of their making. But for now I'll stick with the romance, and the experience I had on Friday afternoon of walking through a London West End where people were smiling WAY more than usual, engaging with one another, and sharing the experience through a thousand big screens in parks and pubs all over the city (a special mention at this point to the two women sharing a particular strand of Olympic bonhomie by engaging in vigorous sex in the toilet cubicle next to me in Pimlico. A gold medal for audacity, especially as it was only 6.30 in the evening.).

More follows.