Archives for the month of: December, 2014

I touched on relationships in the previous post, but I’m going to go into more detail here, mainly because of this….

It is so tiring sometimes, and yet it’s also exhilarating, which is where the problem arises. I am used to it, but I also sort of like it. I want to stay somewhere for longer than six, ten, twelve months, but I’m afraid if I do I’ll just get restless, and want to move on, see what else is out there, keep the movement going, not stagnate.

As I was writing that it really struck me that I was also writing about my relationship issues.

(I say issues, but if I’m honest I don’t like that word. It’s used a lot, in relation to mental health, relationships and sexuality amongst other things, and the negative and often dismissive associations aren’t always a good thing. It doesn’t allow for any understanding, it’s always just ‘issues’, unexplained, but easily used so we don’t have to look any further.)

When I get into relationships I tend to throw myself at them, it’s all intense and full on, mainly because I’m trying to fight against the restless urge.
My slightly haphazard thinking being what it is, I’m all like if I get involved hard at the start it will make it harder for me to disentangle myself, and thus less likely that I’ll want to as well.
I’m sure you’ll all agree this is the best plan ever.

I’ve done this quite a bit. I did it this year, along with the classic

this is my last chance at a relationship so I must throw myself into it at all costs

and that golden oldie

You’re looking like I’m being too intense so I’m going to play it cool and then be even more intense every time I do see you, to make up for all the times I’ve not seen you.

Yeah, I’m a real keeper, I know.
Thing is, I know I do this. Like I’ve said before, you do something enough, it becomes a pattern, a pathway. Your brain knows it, and will happily retread that route every single time, even when you know it’s not helping.
So, what can you do?
If I was all down with my inner wise guru I’d probably say something about change being hard but worth it, and how through self retrospection we can discover hitherto untold truths about how our minds work. This would all be true I guess, along with obvious, and a little patronising.
Instead, I think I’m just going to be a little more aware. More aware of how I come across and more aware of what I do.
Maybe I’ll stop every now and again, and just enjoy the moment.
I’m guessing my inner guru would be saying something about little steps making big changes. There’d probably be something about butterflies making hurricanes as well, because that’s solid gold happening right here when it comes to wise words.
Of course, despite being obvious, and meaninglessly profound, there is a truth in this all. Small changes do often start something.
Sometimes that’s all it takes.

As the year ends I often get kind of retrospective. I know I’m not the only one, and that this isn’t uncommon.
It’s one of those things we do when faced with a perceived ending I guess.

As years go it’s been a funny one, I’ve moved home quite a lot, three times to be precise, which is quite a lot, even by my standards. That’s four different places this year, and another one to come early next year.
I’ve moved home quite a few times. In fact I’ve sort of lost count. I know it’s in the thirties, but after the thirtieth time I just stopped counting, and accepted that from now on the number was just going to be known as “a lot”.
I’ve got a feeling that all this moving about isn’t great for my sense of stability and security, which can on occasion, be a little rocky.
Also though, there’s a bit of me that’s just thinking I’m getting too old for all this now. Increasingly there’s an inner voice that’s saying “Kid, you need to take it easy more, you need a place to live that’s more permanent than six months, you need to sort your shit out.”
This is the same voice that also, from time to time will be like “You definitely need to drink more of that wine and stay out all night because what if something happens and you’re not there and it’s awesome!” but every now and then it does talk sense.
I’m talking about the place to live thing here, just in case that’s not clear.

I don’t know, trouble is, after a while of doing something, it almost becomes part of life. I accept that I have to move all the time because that’s what I do. People are like “moving again eh? Bet you’re used to it now eh?” and that’s it exactly.
I am used to it. I’m a pro at loading and driving a van, I can pack like a boss, and when I’m between houses, I can live out of a suitcase for as long as it takes, even if we’re talking months.
When I go away I can fit everything I need into a tote bag, and this comes from all times I’ve had to move. My life is transitory, every moment is temporary, and I am always on the move.

It is so tiring sometimes, and yet it’s also exhilarating, which is where the problem arises. I am used to it, but I also sort of like it. I want to stay somewhere for longer than six, ten, twelve months, but I’m afraid if I do I’ll just get restless, and want to move on, see what else is out there, keep the movement going, not stagnate.

And yes, I think I’m talking about relationships there as well.

Like I said at the beginning, endings make me retrospective. Every now and then though, an ending can give you clarity on a way you do things, and enable you to start something new.

I’ve got to say, right now, I’m not feeling it.
Maybe it’s the winter. I don’t especially like this season, it’s cold and damp and dark. It makes me cough a lot. I’m not even kidding, in the winter I have a cough for about 4 months. It gets tiresome pretty quick.

Maybe it’s Christmas. I haven’t got any presents organised, I just wander aimlessly around the shops surrounded by so many people, all doing the same.

Maybe it’s being single. This time of year is pretty dark, and at the moment, I don’t know, the world seems pretty dark as well. Sometimes you need someone to help with that. Sometimes you need someone’s hand to help, and to hold. That doesn’t happen so much when it’s just you.

I don’t know, I mean I know I’ve got it okay, I have a home, I have people. That’s more than some, and looking at the surface, I’m just moaning because I’m cold, and a bit lonely.
That seems small in comparison to the terrible things that happen daily in the world, it seems inconsequential and trivial. I don’t even know why I’m not feeling it in comparison to everything else.
Thing is though, what I feel is still there. The emptiness, the lack of direction, the loneliness. It is there, and it is real to me.
I know it’ll pass, and I know I’ll feel better, and I know that there will be someone, and I know that it won’t be cold forever. I know this, and tomorrow I’ll feel this and think this, and then it’ll be alright again.
This feeling is only for now, it’s just right now, that feels like a long time.

I know, from gigs to sexual health clinics. It’s quite the jump, yeah?
Never let it be said that I don’t like to keep you on your toes.

So, lets get our cards on the table. I’m going to tell you something, and you’re going to judge me.

I’ve never been tested for any STIs.

As I’m a big fan of context, allow me to explain.
Most of my life I’ve been in long term relationships, and when I’ve not been in said relationships, I don’t tend to sleep with lots of people, despite any impression I give off.
My thinking was that because of these things, the chances of me having anything would be slim to say the least.

I can hear the intakes of breath and the silent shaking of heads. I know, I know. I’m an idiot.

Anyhow, I realised the blindingly obvious fact that even if you’ve only been with a few people, you don’t know their histories, and it only takes one person, with something, to pass it on to you.
And that’s why I decided to get checked out.

Sexual Health Clinics are pretty much like every clinic I’ve ever been to. Looking around there are a few people, mostly looking fairly anxious, sitting on chairs.
I have to fill in a form, and I’m immediately on guard, because forms and trans people often do not mix well. Luckily, it’s relatively trans friendly, in that it has pronoun boxes, and a box to tick if you choose to identify as trans. It does still assume all male identifying people have penises and all female identifying people have vaginas though, which is a problem for me, and a post for another day.

I wait for a bit, looking around, listening to the radio that’s playing in the background. An advert comes on for a car insurance company called Drive Like a Girl. It’s probably the most patronising and offensive thing I’ve heard them play so far, and they’d just played Blurred Lines.

I get called by a nurse to come to a room, and it’s a man. I ticked a box saying I didn’t mind who saw me, but now I feel like I do mind. Suddenly I feel like my identity is under threat, as he’ll ask what bits I’ve got, and I feel uncomfortable about telling him, because he’s a man, and my experiences of men are nearly always negative.
I don’t know what to do, because if I say I’m not comfortable after all I’m going to feel like a jerk, and also, I’ve been waiting for half an hour now, and I can’t stand to wait any longer with that radio station playing its horrible songs and incessant adverts.

In the end I do what everyone would do, I go along with it. The commercial radio was the clincher if I’m honest.
We go to a room, and I start saying how I’m actually kind of nervous, and that I didn’t bring a friend, because I thought it would make for something good to write about if it was just me, but that now I regret that because I didn’t think it through, and how that is pretty standard for me.
He smiles and says it’s alright, everyone is a little nervous sometimes. He is reassuring and kind, and I feel like I let my preconceptions and past experiences get the better of me. Not for the first time I also think I’m an judgemental jerk.

He does ask me what bits I’ve got, but he does it in a way that’s so matter of fact, yet sensitive, that it’s okay.
He then asks me if I’d like to piss in a jar.

I’m very keen on this offer, as I’d been holding it in for about two hours now. He also took some blood, and did a throat swab, because well, y’know, oral?
We chat whilst this is all happening, and he tells me about how Syphilis is one of the biggest STIs affecting the area where we live. I have an overwhelming desire to tell him about how everyone thinks Henry VIII had Syphilis, but that actually there’s little evidence to prove this. I’m about to blurt it out in a oh my god I’m nervous so I’m going to say anything sort of way when he asks if I’d like a leaflet about it, and I forget all about Henry’s sti issues, and instead say it’s okay, I don’t need one, even though I’m interested in reading about it. I do this because I’m trying to be polite, and don’t want to put him out.
He gives me two Syphilis leaflets anyhow. This guy is good.

He asks me about the last couple of times I’d been with someone, and I tell him about the French woman I slept with once, and the friend I was with for a bit. For some reason I feel the need to go into detail about both these times. I have no idea why, but he seems to be happy to listen, and offer useful commentary on what I tell him.
It strikes me that I really misjudged him, and I did it entirely based on his gender. When people do that to me it really upsets me, and once again I feel like a jerk.

After all the tests are done we start to wrap things up. He tells me they’ll ring me if anything shows up, and text me if it’s all clear. I get up to go, and I want to give him a hug a say how lovely he’d been. I didn’t because boundaries but I wanted to. In the end he gave me a double hand shake, and I told him he was awesome and that I’d happily come back for more check ups if he did them. Maybe I need to work on verbal boundaries a bit more.
I leave feeling happy, and feeling that I’ve learnt something about my own preconceptions, and also about Syphilis.

A week later, as I was sitting in a cafe, being a writer, my phone buzzed. A text message from the clinic had come through with the all clear. I smile to myself, and think thought as much. Maybe I’ll hang onto those leaflets though, just in case.

So, it’s been a while since I’ve been with someone. It’s been a while since I’ve even been on a date. Thing is, I’m not sure why exactly.
I’m still using dating sites, I’m still going out and meeting people, I’m still not being a dick, and yet, nothing is happening.
I’m being proactive as well, I’m messaging people I get matches with, but nothing, not even a reply. I really don’t get it.

Something else is happening as well. The longer I go without dating, the less important it starts to be. What I mean by that is that it isn’t always on my mind, it isn’t something I immediately think about when I meet new people.
I’m not sure how I feel about that to be honest. On the one hand, it’s nice not to constantly feel the pressure to pair up with someone, but on the other hand, I quite like the feeling you get when you do get with someone. I say quite, but I really mean totally love.
I’m guessing that exposure to a feeling numbs that feeling after a period of time, and in many instances that can be a good thing. it’s just in this case, I’m not sure I want to become numb.
Numb, in my mind means giving up, accepting that this is your lot, that every negative thing you thought, might actually be true.
That’s not what I want, and I don’t want time to do that to me, even though it’s happening right now.

Being single is all well and good, there’s the endless Netflix marathons, the having whole pizzas to yourself, the glory that is not sharing a double bed, but hold on a minute and back that truck up, cause suppose you want to do stuff?
I know what you’re thinking, eating whole pizzas is doing stuff, but what if you want to stuff that’s not in your home? What if you want to go to a gig say, and all your friends are busy being in relationships?

Well friends, fret not, because there is a solution. You just go, ON YOUR OWN.
I know, it’s revolutionary, but it can be done. There are loads of things you can do on your own, that traditionally are group activities, and in this new, semi regular feature I’m only going to go and do them!
Today’s feature presentation is about going to a gig, on your own…..

I’m feeling a little nervous about this, if I’m honest. Gigs are normally filled with groups and couples, so I’m not sure how it’ll be going on my own, especially as I’m normally in a group when I do go to see bands.
Let’s have some details shall we?
I’m going to see Marika Hackman, and it’s the last night of her 2014 tour, so it’s pretty busy when I get there.
As I’m walking up to the door, a small mouse runs straight at me. It’s not even a bit intimidated by the huge size difference between us, and I take this to be a sign that too should be like that mouse. I also make a reasonably loud squealing noise, because well, a mouse ran at me and I wasn’t expecting it.
There’s a lot of people inside, but I manage to negotiate my way to a reasonably good vantage point, and then I wait for the band to come on.
This bit, if I’m honest, isn’t as awkward as I thought it would be. If I was with someone I’d chat with them, but looking around, I can see lots of people, just standing quietly, waiting like me.
Listening to the people around me talking is interesting. Someone is talking about the Belle and Sebastian gig he went to, where everyone looked the same, another is discussing what they had for tea. (Rice Krispies, which was a popular choice, if the reaction was anything to go by)

After about 10 minutes the band come on. They’re really good, and honestly, I get so lost in the music that it doesn’t matter that it’s just me. It would be nice to be able to exchange excited glances at the awesomeness of it all with someone, but it doesn’t matter enough to make a difference.
It is very warm, I’m guessing because there are like 100 people crammed into a little room with no windows, but even that doesn’t dilute the pleasure I’m getting from being here.
The band plays, people clap and whistle for more, and I think to myself that going to gigs on your own is okay.

At the end of the night, as I walk back home, I reflect on how it’s been a good experience, and think about how to summarise it best.
Would I do this alone activity again? Yes, yes I would. It wasn’t that scary, and I had a good time.
Yeah, at times it was a little awkward, squealing at a mouse, then being judged by people in the smoking area for said squealing, stands out as a particular example, but it was nothing I couldn’t handle. It was fun, and now it’s got me thinking about what to do next time………

Freiya Benson

Writer & Photographer.

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