Exposing40

Friends. Photography. Adventure.

Category: Writing (page 1 of 7)

If you’ve got it, flaunt it

I haven’t done a massive amount of flaunting over the last year or so. I’ve been here, of course, but if you look closely there’s been a lot of subtly lit photos like Swishy and Out of the Darkness, silly photos like It’s a Piece of Pisa and many many photos of friends. But until the photo outing with Missy where I started to feel a bit more like flinging my arms up in the air like I just didn’t care and letting it all hang out I hadn’t really put all of me out here for a while.

I could make a big deal of this but I genuinely don’t think there’s any point. Life is about seasons and for every season where we feel on fire there’s one where we feel a little bit like the flame isn’t catching. There’s literally no point in overanalysing it. For me, a knee injury in 2018 knocked running on the head and that was followed last year by five months of severe vertigo which made even walking or focussing on my computer screen problematic. Through that run of bad luck I got a bit fatter, I got a bit less confident in my body.

While I genuinely believe that losing your mojo every so often is just part of life, it doesn’t make it any easier to rationalise when it happens. I’d settled into a place where I’d started to measure my own attractiveness by my physical achievements so finding myself forced into a slightly more sedentary zone was tough. While I welcomed the emergence of Lingerie is for Everyone I didn’t feel very able to engage in it because I didn’t like that my own lingerie wasn’t fitting anymore!

So what happened? I don’t know! The tide turned and (inexplicably) the current dragged my mojo back into shore. Suddenly, rather than feeling sad that my lingerie doesn’t fit, I just bought the next size up and realised that I still look amazing. I’ve bought new running shoes and I’m raring to go. I have two 10ks and two halves booked. I’m only in the first week of training but the energy and enthusiasm I feel for the plan that’s taped up in my office is making me so happy and I already feel sexier and more confident in my body. This may be not be a commonly held opinion, but I genuinely believe that a good pair of running shoes are hotter than heels. And look how flexible I am? Why did I think this body was inferior?

Lingerie is for everyone. Sport can be for many. Bodies are remarkable. I’ve got it so I’m flaunting it.

Wicked Wednesday... a place to be wickedly sexy or sexily wicked

New Year, Evolving Me

“New Year, New You.” What a load of bollocks that is. I threw that notion in the bin many years ago. And I haven’t made a New Year resolution for as long as I can remember. If I were to make one related to this space it would probably be to stop writing Wicked Wednesday posts on a Thursday one hour before the deadline. But I also know myself well enough to know that Marie will get at least five messages from me this year saying “oops, I missed the Linky tool by 10 minutes.”

One thing I have done every year since 2011 is spend the time between the family Christmas commitments and back to work on the first Monday in January reflecting on the year gone by, what went well and what didn’t and how I want to evolve myself. This habit was born out of my switch from employment to self-employment and the fact that I was missing the structure of the annual appraisal process. I know – weird! You’re meant to hate appraisals and 365 feedback but I bloody love it. I was missing the opportunity for structured reflection when I came across an article from a self-employed man who every winter took himself off for a week of solitude, self-appraisal and personal goal setting.

Now, every year during this period I reflect on the whole year and the whole me – both personally and professionally. When you’re self-employed boundaries between the parts of your life blur even more significantly than they do for anyone in our ‘always switched on’ culture. Also – to state the blindingly obviously – when you are your own boss you literally have nobody else to blame for your professional frustrations. Yes, of course there are influencing factors like clients being dickheads or moving budgets or natural disasters that change a whole schedule, but essentially you control your own direction and change what you want and need to.

This annual process of review has helped me spot trends in my work patterns and make peace with them and I have adjusted my personal life accordingly. Sure, I’d rather not have to work 12 hour days for most of the winter but now, rather than see that as a burden I see it as banking time. So when summer rolls around and work goes quiet it would literally not occur to me to sit at my desk trying to create or chase work. I down tools and head off for photo adventures, lazy lunches and gallery outings. I feel absolutely no guilt for this and I shrug off the ‘lucky you’ comments because I can’t be arsed to waste time explaining why I deserve this. And when it’s 11pm in January and I am still at my desk I remind myself that summer is coming.

This period of reflection has also helped me spot the trends in what causes me stress and what creates joy. The process of observing myself means I know myself so much better than I ever did. I absolutely know there are some things I have to have to be my best me. To be me at all, actually.

I can’t not travel. I have always loved travel but actually I now know it is more than something I love to do, it is my red thread. Without a trip planned in and something to research, work towards and save for, all the hours and the work stress can seem without purpose. For me, there is no energy like the energy I feel when I step off a plane and smell a new country.

I have to cook. In cooking I relax, I daydream, I nourish myself and it feels good. I am not a ready meal snob (you do you!) but for me personally I find the idea of shoving something in a microwave like my meal doesn’t matter because I am only cooking for one genuinely soul-destroying. And cooking for and with people and sharing meals and many bottles of wine around my dining table is pretty much the clearest way I have to express love.

I have to take photos. That used to just be travel photos and photos around London but clearly in the last five years that has evolved into this project, which is now such a big part of who I am and the friendships I have.

Finally, I have to have time alone. If someone had told me a few years ago how much I would grow into myself through the simple process of living alone and wallowing in peace and solitude I would not have waited until I was 40 to live alone.

When I started this annual process of reflection I started setting goals alongside it. Not resolutions, goals. They were fun things to work towards – volunteer at the Olympics, have more sex, travel to all the EU countries. But in recent years they started to get more specific – read 30 books, run 500 miles, walk 500 miles and walk five hundred more, visit 24 exhibitions, write two posts a month and take a photo every week, two new recipes a month. At first this was fun but every year I was upping numbers and creating more targets. I am a completer finisher so saying I will do something and then not doing it causes me huge stress but the targets I was setting myself were not being mindful of my work patterns. The process had started to eat itself and I had started to put myself under constant pressure to ‘do’ all the time. I was forgetting how to just be.

So this year I will be more light touch. I will travel, I will photograph people and places, I will cook for me and those I love, I will read, I will write, I will wander round galleries, I will train for a 10k and a half marathon (both booked), I will continue to nurture and be committed to my most important partnership, I will explore the opportunities for kinky fun with friends I trust, I will do some new dating because I feel like soaking up the rush of NRE. But this year there will be no numbers because numbers stress me out.

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Observations

“Photography is an art of observation. It has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.” Elliot Erwitt

Usually when I pop up on Wicked Wednesday it’s to respond to the prompt with some big thinky piece about relationships or bodies or something I need to get off my chest. Not so this week! But the prompt is ‘observe’ and as I’m halfway through a six week course at the Photographer’s Gallery that a few of you have I asked about I thought I would do a bit of a diary entry…

The Possibilities of the Photographic Body is a six week course led by Tom Lovelace. In case that link gets killed at some point in the future the blurb reads: “This workshop series examines contemporary approaches to the compelling and ever-present subject of the human body and how it is represented in photography. Using the body as a starting point, participants will explore contemporary photographic practice through a range of themed sessions including the digital body, performance, architecture and gendered forms.” Reading the programme there wasn’t a single week of the schedule that left me feeling ‘meh’ so without much more than a minute’s thought I’d signed up.

Anyone who follows me on Twitter will know that the cycle of my professional life is working like a dog for nine months of the year and flitting around during the summer enjoying photo adventures, gallery outings and lazy lunches. The summer months offer a welcome opportunity to recharge and I could never go back to 9-5 life but that doesn’t make the winter months, and in particular the slog up to Christmas when we’re churning out fundraising appeal films at a ludicrous rate, easy to cope with. As much as I hate to admit that age becomes a factor in our physical and mental resilience, I have noticed over the last couple of winters that 12 or even 15 hour days are not quite as easy to tolerate or bounce back from as they were even five years ago. Last winter I got sick and the viruses I picked up had me rundown until well into July.

This winter I resolved to take more care of myself. And taking care of myself means carving out time where I am not working. Working at home is great in numerous ways, but when you register no more than 100 or so steps in a day going bed to desk to sofa for a late night bowl of pasta and back to bed, via the kettle and bathroom a few times, it’s not so healthy. Fern’s fitness challenge where I’ve pledged to five bouts of exercise a week is one thing that’s making me break from work. This course is another. The very simple act of turning off my computer bang on 17.00 so I can be out of the house and in town by 18.30 makes me feel more in control of my ‘downing tools’ time than I have in years; it’s amazing how not needing to catch a train can make the end of the work day slide.

What a joy it is to sit and listen to an engaging and down to earth (no old school or patronising arty snootiness here!) course leader who really knows his shit talking enthusiastically about fascinating photographers. I have so many new names scribbled in my notebook that I just know that I am going to go down a rabbit hole of research during that twilight period between Christmas and New Year. In week one we visited and discussed Shot in Soho, in week two we took our own shots in the streets of Soho and this week we used the gallery as our playground.

Our group is made up of professional photographers, Masters students, a curator, a gallery agent, an academic and a drag queen from Brazil. We have an opportunity to share our work with the group and this week we saw a work in progress that is about the expression of chronic pain, a stunning series that explores a genetic flaw and political commentary through cabaret. It’s so fascinating! I can’t wait to see more of the work next week. I also talked about Exposing40 and shared some of my favourite photos from the last five years. It was particularly fun sharing this image; this friend and I have visited the Photographer’s Gallery more times than I can remember over the quarter of a century since we met at Uni and I honestly never thought I would be stood up there talking about a photo I had taken of her.

What I am loving most about this mini adventure is that it is completely without agenda or expectation. There is no set homework, there’s no exam at the end, no investment beyond the time and initial fee. I am not planning a career change. I have no intention of making Exposing40 anything more than the fun hobby project it currently is. I don’t want do anything more technical than use my iPhone or my small camera on auto setting. I am not doing it for any reason other than it’s interesting. It is just time spent with talented people and learning for the pure pleasure of it and that feels like a real luxury at this time of year.

Me in front of Heather Dewey-Hagborg’s How Do You See Me? a digital installation showing on the media wall at The Photographer’s Gallery until 30/11/19

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Always in Character

“I am not an angel,” I asserted; “and I will not be one till I die: I will be myself.” Jane Eyre

I am many good things: I am fun and funny, I am generous and kind, I am thoughtful and loyal. I can also be mean and spiteful, needy and angry, I lash out at myself and others. All of these things are entirely in character.

When someone is described as behaving ‘out of character’, unless it’s a portent to a medical calamity it is usually used to describe the less pleasant aspects of their personality. I wrote at length earlier this year about a period of my own poor behaviour. Until this morning I hadn’t revisited it since writing it. It was hard to write, hard to post and while still experiencing the aftershocks of that chapter I had no desire to reread my analysis of it. I only read it again just now because I thought to myself “I wonder if I used the words out of character in that post?”

The result of that ‘get it off your chest then put it on a high shelf’ purge means I had blanked out much of what I written. Until now I hadn’t appreciated how tangibly I’d described my behaviour, the examples I had given or how much thought I had put into articulating why it happened and how we can stop it happening again. I am belatedly very proud of how well I wrote in the face of adversity!

And I was pleased to see that I hadn’t used the words ‘out of character’. Because I don’t think we behave out of character. We can’t behave out of character because our character is hardwired into us. I learnt this week that the word comes from the Greek work kharakter, an engraved mark, symbol or imprint indelibly stamped on coins. Our character is indelible.

The sides of our character we typically celebrate are the attractive aspects that make our loved ones relish our company. But the other bits are equally valid and rather than brush them off as ‘out of character’ I think our job is to understand what triggers them. In the same way we understand what brings out the best in us we must understand what brings out the worst.

I watched a talk the other evening where the speaker said: “We assume that if we have characterised someone as good they can’t be bad and vice versa but if we see character as behaviour on a continuum then when people act in ways that surprise us maybe it is not that surprising.”

For the sake of our own mental health and the health of all our relationships – familial, professional and personal – we need to understand our own continuum and take responsibility for it. That responsibility is to help others to understand how their behaviours create an emotional response and activates the different facets of our personality.

In affairs of the heart, if I feel threatened or usurped I will lash out and speak cruelly about the person who I believe to be a threat. But I shouldn’t just lash out, I should explain why I am feeling vulnerable and help my partners to understand that I need complete honesty and I need reassurance. They may not like that part of me as much as the part that’s independent and ballsy and generous, but there you go!

If a member of my family shares different political beliefs then I need to be explicit that teasing me needlessly and endlessly about Brexit is deeply upsetting. I didn’t help my Dad understand that and the pressure built and built until the valve exploded. I was angry and I said terrible things that hurt him. He called my response immature. He was right. The damage has been fixed now (although I need to work on his declaration last summer that “if this is what politics does I am never voting again”) but had I just had the difficult conversation to start with, months of family distress could have been averted.

Like everyone, I evolve with every experience and I am a work in progress but I like learning about myself and I like to understand my emotional responses and what triggers them. I like learning how to manage myself so I am as best as I can be. I enjoy enhancing the bits of me that make me fun to be around and quelling as best I can the parts of myself that can make me difficult.

IMG_0355 (2)

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Hundreds and Thousands

“The green autumnal parks conducting
All the city streets a wondrous chorus singing
All these poses oh how can you blame me
Life is a game and true love is a trophy.”

Poses, Rufus Wainwright

I’ve had the above lyrics on my ‘to write’ list for getting on for a year now. Last December there was a lyrics prompt on Wicked Wednesday and not knowing what to choose (I love too many songs for that to be an easy choice!) I asked Exhibit A to suggest some. He offered three and these were the lines that spoke to me. I didn’t make that prompt deadline and at points over the year I’ve returned to the lyrics but never found a good enough reason to get my words down. But this week’s relationship prompt ties in so closely to what I wanted to say that I find myself making time – after midnight and with a (disgusting marmalade flavoured) gin and tonic by my side.

The point I had wanted to make about the words above is that for me true love is not a trophy. At least not in the way that ‘true love’ is sold to us as the ultimate goal. I don’t want a big love, a trophy love (in the most positive meaning of the word trophy!) and I don’t feel like my life is less for not having it or wanting it. Yet, also, love is a trophy and it’s one I hold up and am very proud of. Love is so very important to me and my life is full of it. I give it freely and I take it with delight. I love my family (most of the time!), I love my friends and I love (some of) my partners. Some of them I just like but that’s ok too. For me, love is not the cherry on the cake, love is hundreds and thousands; smaller and singularly less spectacular than a big glossy fruit, but collectively so much prettier. To me.

And this is where my thoughts on love dovetail with my thoughts on relationships. The word relationship is often default taken as being a reference to the ‘one you love’, your intimate and sexual partner. But to me all my significant relationships make me who I am and I invest in them equally. If my oldest friends and I didn’t all show up for our annual gathering I’d be concerned that our cadence was out of step. If any one of Jedi Hamster, Charlotte Brown or me ceased to appear regularly in our WhatsApp chat or were unenthusiastic about our quarterly cards and Camembert meet-ups I’d worry about what was awry. If somehow mine and my business partner’s shared view that the business is both the most important thing (it funds life!) and the least important thing (it’s only work!) became unbalanced then that would be a problem. If my most important partner and I fell out of our monthly routine of good food, wine, sex, chat and music then we’d be cutting our red thread. If @19syllables and I didn’t seamlessly segue between winter coffee and summer naked adventures and back then that would be perturbing…

I could go on – there are many more to mention but I need my sleep and I’ve made the point. In short, I don’t need a big love because all my little loves colour in the lines of my life. And all the different relationships fit together like a jigsaw puzzle that has all of its pieces.

Wicked Wednesday... a place to be wickedly sexy or sexily wicked

The night I got locked in a nightclub!

This short and ridiculous story has been prompted by The Other Livvy’s other blog, @sexlovevideo. If you’re not following it already then you really should: every Sunday evening she posts an in-depth analysis of a movie, rating it on how sex positive it is, whether she’d want to watch it again, the fuckability of the cast, whether it inspires fantasies and whether it passes the Bechdel Test. This week it’s the turn of clanger What Women Want, a truly dreadful film – do go and read Liv’s take down of it.

I was on a round the world trip when this film came out and I and the two friends I was travelling with watched it on a flight to Australia. We laughed our way through it in disbelief and horror but the final straw in our incredulous hooting was at the end when Mel Gibson (spoiler!) gets his woman: they kiss in a dramatic lobby and the camera pans out to show her with one foot in the air. We lost it. WHO KISSES WITH ONE FOOT IN THE AIR?!

We were still cackling about it when we bonded with a group of women in a hostel, some of who I’m still friends with now and who’ve taken one or two photos on this blog. We (probably under the influence of too much white wine) decided that our mission was to get a photo of one of us snogging a man with one foot in the air. It was the start of a ridiculous list of photo challenges we set ourselves, including photobombing wedding photos on Sydney harbour and sneaking photos of men on the nude beach (forgive our poor awareness of consent – we were young and stupid and know much better now!).

Anyway, the opportunity for the leg in the air photo came a few weeks later when we went to one of Sydney’s less salubrious night clubs for a school disco. A chap starting making the moves on me on the dance floor and my friends were quickly egging me on to get the photo. When the bloke snogged me I’m not quite sure what he made of all my friends roaring with laughter and snapping away. Anyway, as it happens he was pretty hot and a great snog and it wasn’t long before we were sneaking off to a hidden store room. A store room that was dark and had a mattresses. It was funny and pretty hot and after he nipped out for condoms some more than passable sex ensued. Given we were drunk and in a manky storeroom it’s remarkable there were any orgasms but there was. Then on the ‘comfort’ of the mattress we slipped into a deep slumber. Which is how we found ourselves sneaking out of the fire exit of a closed and quiet nightclub at 6am on a Sunday morning and wandering through the streets of Sydney dressed as a school girl and school boy.

I’m not sure who has those photos these days so I can’t share one, but the leg in the air game continued so please enjoy this photo of me kissing Toadie from Neighbours.

Footnote: the nightclub later featured on an expose of the sex lives of backpackers in Sydney. I did not feature but I now have a good idea of how many other people may have used that mattress!

Wicked Wednesday... a place to be wickedly sexy or sexily wicked

Friendly Concern

Last week I was having dinner with three other women. Not close friends but a group of ex colleagues who I meet up with once every 12 – 18 months. The conversation takes the usual twists and turns of people who’ve known each other for years but see each other rarely. The dynamic of colleague friendships fascinates me; for the period you work together you spend more waking hours with each other than you do your family, friends and partners, you see each other at your best and worst, you spend long evenings in the pub analysing crises and internal politics and then poof! – just like that jobs change and you’re down to a couple of hours every year or so.  Anyway, the conversation went the usual way – asking each other about work, holidays, children, nieces and nephews, common acquaintances.

Then the searching “Sooo, how are the love lives then?” directed at me and one other single woman with the hungry gazes of two women who have been married for years and want you to give them something new and exciting to pore over. As I have written previously, I am increasingly open about my relationships with those closest to me and who I see regularly. Not so much with ex colleagues who I see rarely and whose response I couldn’t necessarily predict. But last week I had one of my ‘fuck it’ moments and I found myself talking more freely and honestly than usual.

The response? Well, one woman exclaimed: “Oh my God, I need another drink!” and promptly ordered a large glass of Rioja. There was surprise, there was fascination, there were some sensible and some annoying questions and there was (happily) very little judgement. But there was also concern. Was I definitely OK with this? Am I being treated OK? Is it what I actually want? Does my partner’s wife know? Is she OK with this? Have I ever met her? Do I like her? Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes and yes! What I realised was that while there was little judgement of me the tone of the concerned questioning was loaded with judgement about my partner.

At the time I calmly answered all their questions, reveling slightly in the fact that I’d sent a little shock wave through our pleasant but pedestrian evening. Yes, it suits me really well. Yes, I get many of the nice bits of a long term relationship but with none of the compromise of family Christmases and blended lives. No, I definitely don’t want to ever live with anyone again. Yes, I know her and I was at their wedding (that tit bit always shocks the listener and delights me). I’m off on a gallery day with her and another friend next week actually. Without the bloke? Yes, he doesn’t need to chaperone us.

But on the way home I started thinking about their line of questioning and how frequently people default assume that non-monogamy is something that is done to women by men and that it is something that women put up with because they have to. I started reflecting on other occasions where I have had this assumption projected on me. My best friend: “But you are so sensitive I just worry that you are going to get hurt.” Me: “But the things that hurt me are things that could happen regardless of whether a relationship is non-monogamous or not.” Exhibit A, The Other Livvy and me at an event in my local bookshop discussing a book called Is Monogamy Dead? and a woman asking EA rather aggressively “But what would you think if they had other partners?” and the surprise in the room when I piped up “I do have another partner.”

That last one always causes surprise. People outside of this community never expect me to have other partners. Even if they can just about get their head round the fact that I have an established and happy relationship that will never be more than it is, with a man who is married to someone else, and that is enough for me and fine with everyone involved, then introducing the notion that I have other people in my life just about makes them fall off their perch. My Mum, who now always asks about Baby M, never asks me if I’ve been on any other dates or after other partners who I may have mentioned. It’s like that is a bridge too far.

The more I thought about it the more I found myself getting annoyed by the narrative that non-monogamy and polyamory are things owned by men and accepted by women and that men will be the ones with multiple partners while the woman stays happy with just the one. Even if my friends or a stranger in a bookshop weren’t explicitly acknowledging that assumption it was there in the way they asked their questions. When I mused this point on Twitter last week @kinkynerdy rightly pointed out that the assumed status quo makes no allowance for poly lesbians, for example.

Interestingly, much of my experience with non-monogamous men suggests something contrary to the assumed norm. When I think about the significant men I have met since I joined OKC in 2013 – not the brief flings or one off sex dates, but the ones that turned into something more – I note that four of them opened up their relationships as a result of their wife or primary partner having an affair. Now, I am not advocating this approach to opening up a relationship – all of them came with a fuckton of baggage – but unless I exist in some microclimate or have unique appeal to men who have been cheated on then this wafer thin data suggests that there are many women open to shirking a one penis policy!

The thing that bothers me most about the common narrative is that it is taking away women’s agency in non-monogamy. It is suggesting that women may be passively accepting something that is somehow second best. Do people really look at me and my life and my business and my travel habits and see a woman who is ‘settling’ for a life because that’s all she can get? Do they think I am lying when I say that I don’t want more than I have? I also hate the way it pitches women against each other. The subtext of people’s questions can be that women who are in a relationship with the same man see each other as enemies or a threat when in reality we are connected through a shared affection. There is deep joy and camaraderie in sharing a small joke or knowing smile about a mutual partner’s habit. I have written a letter to a woman I have never met who lives 4000 miles away, expressing sympathy for a terrible event, not because I had to but because it seemed inconceivable not to extend a kind word to the wife of someone who meant something to me. For me, one of the greatest joys of non-monogamy has been discovering a completely new kind of friendship and respect that can exist between women.

That non-monogamous relationships are becoming more accessible through dating apps and normalised through mainstream media delights me. Six years ago I didn’t even really know what non-monogamy meant; now my mother asks after my partner’s five-month-old. I once worried there was something wrong with me because I didn’t want to settle down, now I have meaningful relationships that nourish me without stifling me. Sex is back in my life. That people might look at everything I have and somehow think I am being short changed distresses me. Did I spend my thirties explaining that ‘no, I don’t want children and I am happy to not be married’ only to have to spend my forties explaining that “yes, non-monogamy really works for me, I am very happy’. Must women always have to justify their choices?

Wicked Wednesday... a place to be wickedly sexy or sexily wicked

Sometimes coming joint second

The last few months haven’t been easy. I have spent it getting over an ex. And it’s not even my own ex, it’s a partner’s ex. In fact, getting over this has proved more problematic than getting over some of my own exes – I have an enviable degree of ease in moving on from my own dead affairs of the heart; I tend to shrug them off with an ‘Ah, that was fun’ and no backwards glance.

To be honest, it wasn’t the break-up that upset me, it was the entire existence of this person in my partner’s life, albeit only for a few months, and so I am not really getting over the break-up, I am getting over the relationship. And with that it has thrown up a whole lot of questions for me about how good a partner I have been. Spoiler: I have been a bit of a shit. Why I am writing this now? As part of my own healing process, really, and to draw a hard red line under a difficult period. And because this week’s WW prompt is tantrums and I have had too many tantrums for any self-respecting 44-year-old in the last six months!

But really, it was this tweet from Nooky Semper, asking about the difference between jealousy and insecurity that really got me processing my thoughts and crafting sentences in the shower. Was it jealousy that made me so unhappy? No I don’t think so. I don’t ever really experience the debilitating grip of the ‘green-eyed monster’ and I never wonder or worry about what partners are doing when they are not with me. The voyeur in me delights in hearing about their sex adventures and I will happily host posts written by partners and by hot-damn-why-don’t-you-live-closer men about their wives.

What I do have is a sometimes debilitating degree of insecurity that can leave me ludicrously anxious. Without information and reassurance I display many of the erratic (and distasteful!) behaviours associated with jealousy. So maybe Nooky is right – maybe it is a fine line between insecurity and jealousy. On reflection, I think what shook me so much last summer was the surprise of it all. I chatter away to my partner about who I am swiping on and who is sliding into my DMs but he’s not quite so loose-lipped as me so when I realised there was someone more significant in his circle it gave me a profound wobble. He didn’t do anything wrong. He didn’t lie. I just didn’t have the information and reassurance I needed to feel secure and when I worked things out for myself the insecurity was already doing its worst. Last summer was a bit of perfect storm for me anyway – I had a huge ‘don’t come home again’ row with my Dad about Brexit, my business was not in a good place and I was already working through in my head the other changes that would occur in our relationship in a few months’ time. I was low on bandwidth to cope with curveballs.

I am also ‘blessed’ with off the scale status anxiety and while I still have no desire to have a primary partner I have realised that the possibility that I might be joint second does not fit at all well with my vision of myself in a hierarchy. My partner has pointed out that while I relish hierarchy it doesn’t mean he does and of course that is fair but I found myself thinking all the not-good-poly thoughts that I might not be good enough, that he’s gone off me. He reasonably and rightly pointed out that I manage to accommodate two or three ‘partner light’ arrangements without it affecting my feelings for him and of course he is right.

For me the hardest part was that I didn’t like her. I am used to thinking the other women in his life are magnificent, talented, hilarious, sensational women but I didn’t feel that about her. I found her opinions challenging and her comments about weight hugely upsetting and some of her attitudes to relationships jarred with my outlook. And I did not cope or behave well in the face of this adversity! In fact, I became a bit of a monster. In public I wrote thoughtful comment pieces but in private I had spiteful WhatsApp tantrums. I am lucky probably that I have a partner who has both patience and a remarkable ability to just ignore you rather than judge you when you’re being a harridan!

It’s at this point I feel the need to give @19syllables a cameo; last week when I was pondering what you call a partner’s partner if metamour seems highly inappropriate to the situation. “Step Fuck” she quipped. Now, being in possession of a lovely stepmum I don’t go in for the ‘evil step…’ trope but we guffawed so loudly at her joke I think we disturbed the sewer rats under the pavement where we were drinking coffee! I think Step Fuck is a perfectly glorious flipside to metamour!

So, here we are months later. I can’t deny that when it ended I was relieved. I am not a total cow – I was also a little sad for him when that happened because I could see he was sad – but my instinctive response was ‘Oh, thank God, we can get back to normal now’. Although of course, that was easier said than done because his new normal meant there was no time for us to re-establish our balance and contentment levels before an entirely welcome and glorious hiatus was upon us.

But now spring has sprung and we are slipping back into routines of writing geeky lists, long evenings at my dining table and cheeky photo adventures. I can feel my shoulders relaxing and my sense of calm returning. And the best thing to come out of it has been acknowledging my desire to dig in and survive the trouble. My default is usually to up sticks at the first sign of properly hard work but I found that I didn’t want to. There is too much wine to be drunk, recipes to road test, long lunches with mutual friends to enjoy and adventures to have. It’s nice to feel that way. Winter has gone!

And I think we have a new found appreciation of expectations and boundaries. I am certain he is much more aware of what I need to know to stay secure and I most definitely learned how not to react. I trust him to be more open with me next time and I hope he trusts me to be less wedded to a meaningless hierarchy. Because there will be new partners in the future, for both of us, and I must remember what he said: “It was something and now it’s not. It didn’t affect how I felt about you when it was something and it doesn’t now it’s not.”

Wicked Wednesday... a place to be wickedly sexy or sexily wicked

“If in doubt take a photo of your arse”

The Wicked Wednesday mentor prompt feels like as good a reason as any to get my arse into gear to write up my Eroticon talk. I have been (and am) a mentor to many in a professional capacity but I didn’t imagine my little hobby blog would result in me becoming one within this community. But iof Ros’s awesome photo from the closing hours of Eroticon weekend and JenetalTorture’s stunning Sinful Sunday this weekend are anything to go by, maybe I am here too!

The title of my talk was Nude photography and its role in personal power and self-esteem. I split my talk into two sections: the first half was a brief look at some photographers who’ve used nude photography to powerful effect and the second looked at some of my own techniques for helping me and those I photograph feel fabulous. This post was going to be developed into a longer one so it had some of my ‘talking’ bit to bring the slides to life for those who weren’t there but I ran out of time! So here are the slides flying solo…

nude-photography-and-its-role-in-personal-power.pdf

Wicked Wednesday... a place to be wickedly sexy or sexily wicked

Eroticon Meet and Greet

NAME (and Twitter if you have one)

Exposing40 will be on my badge but you can call me Catherine! Find me on Twitter at @Exposing40.

Tell us 3 things you are most looking forward to at Eroticon 2019

1) Having the delightful Tabitha Rayne back in the house. Our after hours PJ parties are often the highlight of Eroticon for me! Especially if we Skype in Maria from the US! But catching up with everyone will be a joy!

2) Being there all weekend. Last year I could only make the Sunday sessions but this year I can make both days and I’m looking forward to the buzz of day one! I am especially looking forward to hearing Franki, Eleanor and Zebra’s sessions on the Saturday and Florence’s on Sunday.

3) Me! I’m running a session on Sunday morning – it’s the first of the day so I promise it won’t be taxing! I’ve plumped for an interesting and inspiring (I hope!) walk through the work of some amazing photographers from within and outside our own community who used/use nude photography to great effect and I’ll include a look at some of my photos that have helped people deal with self-esteem issues.

We are creating a play list of songs for the Friday Night Meet and Greet. Nominate one song that you would like us to add to the play list and tell us why you picked that song.

Continuing on from last year’s Pulp choice, here’s another number from them. Sheffield: Sex City.

What is your favorite item or book you’ve purchased so far this year?

The only tangible thing I’ve purchased for myself other than a couple of pairs of nondescript linen trousers for a work trip is this door stop! I had one before but the moths ate it. The maker names them all and asked me if I wanted to choose the name. I said no and told her to choose the name. She named her Martha, which for obvious reasons amused me a lot when I opened it. But that’s not my favourite thing. My favourite thing to purchase is experiences (so, flights and tickets basically!) and the adventure I’m most looking forward to this year is Tel Aviv and Petra in September.

You can have an unlimited supply of one thing for the rest of your life, what is it? Sushi? Scotch Tape?

Time! Kind of a cheat as the rest of my life is also time…but if I could just have more time in the time I have left it would make life so much easier!

What is your favourite quote from a movie?

What self-respecting person of a certain age would not deal up a Withnail & I quote at this point?! But which to choose…

…but this is probably my worst nightmare…

What is your word suggestion for next year’s Eroticon anthology?

Joy (copied from two other meet and greets but it’s one of my favourite words so happy to back it!)

Complete the sentence:

I feel…

…dizzy! I haven’t been able to stand up properly without holding on to something since Thursday evening’! And related, I feel a bit sorry for myself. I never get sick but I am bonafide properly sick and it’s horrible. I’m not good at slowing down but I’ve had to leave work be, my presentation for Sunday still needs finishing and I’ve cancelled an evening with my bestie who’s in town from Wales today and a date night with EA tomorrow. If I’m not better by the weekend I am going to have a proper cats bottom mouth on me!

Eroticon 2019 Attending
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