The rudest letter I ever wrote

It was 1997, and I was 16 years old. Despite having an on-off boyfriend, I was very lonely. Then I stumbled across a now-defunct music magazine called Select, which had a contact ads section at the back. The pages weren’t exactly lonely hearts, though I’m sure that was on the minds of numerous advertisers, but they were an opportunity for geeky outcasts to meet other misfits.

In January of that year, a man called Graham placed an ad that said ‘Adventurous and insatiable male hermit, 19, requires intelligent corespondents [sic] to astound, bewilder, tantalise and bore. Self-important wordy sarcastic types encouraged.’ (The spelling mistake was the magazine’s, but I didn’t know that.) Graham seemed smart and interesting, so I wrote him a rather combative letter, trying to be sarcastic while simultaneously taking his ad entirely seriously. The one-page letter was typed on my parents’ word processor.

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I’m cringing just reading it now! Back then, my personality was an odd combination of zero self-esteem, due to being abused physically and emotionally at home and bullied all the way through school; and self-confidence, having recently discovered that a lot of men wanted to have sex with me. At times, when I thought about my life to date, I felt suicidal – and, at that age, I was still self-harming and had only just stopped being anorexic.

Graham wrote a caustic reply in response to my opening gambit:

Graham's intro

Touché! So started a friendship that would last from then until the present day, off and on. Looking back, Graham’s letters were much more readable and mature than mine, but then I guess he was more than three years older.

However, I may have been an embarrassingly gauche and daft correspondent, but I certainly wasn’t boring. I was sure I had nothing to offer in terms of my personality, so tried to convince Graham I was irresistible – as I believed this was the only reason a man could ever be interested in me. In my first letter, I told him ‘I spend my days straddling naked men’. He retorted, ‘You didn’t say whether or not the naked men were conscious.’

In another letter, I naughtily tried to turn him on:

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The rest of the letter is so racy and smutty that Graham asked last night, ‘Are you sure you want it out there if you’re applying for jobs? It’s X-rated!’ So I will save it for the memoir.

Back in 1997, Graham totally refused to take the bait and reciprocate. He said later that he had no idea what to make of me! He was much more withdrawn, reserved and measured than I was (then again so was pretty much everyone, including Julian Clary).

But our friendship progressed. Graham eventually sent me a perfectly attractive if rather sullen photo of himself:

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However, he was extremely self-deprecating about his appearance, and I tried to reassure him:

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Reading back through the letters I sent him, though there were jokes in, I was also incredibly depressed. I was still focused on self-harming:

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And I couldn’t stop feeling sad and angry about my childhood:

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But having a good friend to write to helped ease my pain very slightly, and he’s still there for me 22 years on.

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THE GREAT WEIGHT LOSS CHALLENGE!

Day 29

Me: 12st 5.4lbs (total loss in 29 days: 8.8lbs)

God I can’t wait to be slim again!

John: 14st 3.5lbs (total loss in 29 days: 4lbs)

This post has been made possible by my awesome Patreon supporters Ricky Steer, Marc Alexander, Chris Birkett, John Fleming, Mary Clarke, Matthew Sylvester, Brian Engler, Jack Scanlan, Dave Nattriss, Musical Comedy Guide, Mark White, Lucy Spencer, Shane Jarvis, Graham Nunn, Emily Hill and Marcus P Knight.

They receive a whole host of exciting rewards in addition to this credit, including my secret never-published fiction and top secret photos! If you enjoyed this post, please support me on Patreon. 

Rewards start from just $1 a month, which is 85p in real money and gets you access to my weekly Patreon email. It’s like this blog, but EVEN BETTER!

The affair and the coded diary

When I was 16 years old, I had an affair. That makes it sound torrid and sexy, like Jeremy Irons and Juliet Binoche in Damage, when in fact it was anything but.

I had just been kicked out of school, and had been dating my boyfriend W for a year and a half. He was gentle and funny and kind, a super-smart straight-A student with blond hair, a huge toothy smile and a warm, tanned body. I wrote in my little black pocket diary when we met about how much I looked forward to seeing him and how happy he made me.

We met through another boy at his school. Our first date was on 5th November 1995, when I was 15, and we went to see Clueless at the cinema in Harrow. After that, we sat on a bench in the cold sunlight, and he asked if I had a boyfriend. I didn’t, so he kissed me. To this day, I miss his kisses.

On our second date, I remember straddling him on his bed at his parents’ house. He was shaking with nerves, and said ‘I have to leave soon, as I have a dentist’s appointment.’ I asked if he minded going to the dentist, to which he said no. I deadpanned, ‘Good, because I think you’ve done enough trembling for one day!’

(Very early in my journalistic career, I wrote the story of our relationship for a newspaperThough everything I wrote was true, I left the affair out, because I was too ashamed to include it.)

W was so sweet, but he was only a year older than me, and immature in the way 17-year-old boys can be. I mentioned before that he said that, if a genie were to grant him a wish, he would wish for my tits to be bigger. He also bought every issue of FHM and Loaded to ogle the women, and used to get porn magazines (Playboy and Penthouse) out from under his bed after we made love, and compare me unfavourably to the female porn stars.

Regularly, at least once a week, he would tell me he fancied other women, despite my explosive anger each time he did. The word ‘jealous’ doesn’t encompass how I felt. It was jealousy bordering on insanity. I remember showing him my school photo from my year group, and him singling a girl out and saying ‘She’s the best-looking girl in your year.’ He really didn’t understand the effect his insensitivity had on me. It was so important to me to be thought of as desirable, as I had been friendless for so many years when I was ugly.

The affair was with T, a man ten years my senior. I was so ridiculously infatuated with him, possibly because he was older, and also because he was a fan of my favourite band, Duran Duran. He knew the band personally, always went backstage at their concerts, and kept £30,000 worth of DD memorabilia in the flat he shared in Ealing.

I knew T wasn’t besotted with me in the way I was with him. But in my stupid muddle-headed teenage way, I figured it was my right to have an affair with him, because my boyfriend kept making me seethe with jealousy.

The affair didn’t last long. On one occasion, I remember T putting U2’s Pop on the stereo before we slept together. The track ‘Do You Feel Loved?’ came on, and T murmured into my mouth, ‘It’s such an important question’ – which is ironic, as he didn’t love me at all, and in retrospect, was just using me for sex.

Ariane at 18
[Me, aged 18, a couple of years after the affair.]

Each time I saw T meant 100 times more to me (at the time, at least) than it did to him. After each tryst, I’d write about it in my tiny diary. But I decided to write in code, in case W read it, though he hadn’t in the past. I was such an idiot that I made the code super-easy to crack: I wrote the first half of the alphabet above the second half, and then swapped in the letters. So the word THE was GUR, and the word AND was NAQ. Not exactly Bletchley Park-standard.

Eventually, T got bored of our affair and started avoiding my phone calls. I was devastated. I still remember the last time I saw him: I turned up at his workplace, and he was horrified. I remember him marching me outside, and telling me, ‘You’re crowding me! Stop crowding me.’ The moment he turned to walk back to work, I burst into huge noisy sobs, my shoulders shaking. Several passersby stopped to see if I was OK, and one gave me a tissue.

That night, I wrote one of my first ever songs, ‘Sweet Revenge’:

One day you’ll see me in a different light
One day when I’m long gone
In your mind but out of your sight
You’ll know that you were wrong

When I asked you to hold me
You didn’t want to know
Took my love and then told me,
‘It’s over, just let go’

And every day, you’ll spend longing
Just to hold me once again
Knowing you did the wrong thing
That’ll be sweet revenge

One day you’ll look at me a different way
One day when it’s too late
Kick yourself for causing me pain
Realise your mistake

When I needed you badly
You tore my heart in two
Cut me out once you’d had me
So now the hurt’s in you

And every night you’ll lie wondering
When the empty feeling will end

Wishing that you had loved me
That’ll be sweet revenge

Never thought that you’d use me
Believed you were for real
You never thought that you’d lose me
Now you’ll taste how I feel

And every day, you’ll spend longing
Just to hold me once again
Knowing you did the wrong thing
That’ll be sweet revenge

And every night you’ll lie wondering
When the empty feeling will end

Wishing that you had loved me
That’ll be sweet revenge

After the affair with T ended, I carried on seeing W. All was fine between us, until I picked up the phone one day and heard him crying. ‘What’s wrong?’ I asked.

‘You had sex with T!’ he sobbed. ‘I’ve read your diary and it says you slept with him several times. You described one of the times as a perfect day!’

I was appalled that I’d hurt him so much. I didn’t know what to say.

‘I can’t tell anyone but you,’ he cried, ‘and you’re the person who did it! I feel so stupid.’

‘I’m so, so sorry,’ I said. ‘It’s over. I’m never going to see him again. I wish I hadn’t done it.’

Hearing W cry was the ultimate punishment. I felt so guilty. We carried on seeing each other, and would date each other on and off until I was 22 – but the trust had gone.

I never think of T these days. I can’t understand what I saw in him.

Conversely, I often have dreams of W and wish I were with him. He’s the only one of my exes that I really miss. He’s married now with two little boys, and I wish I were his wife.

Ironically, the song ‘Sweet Revenge’ could have been written by him, about me.

Age 16 (2)[W and me, aged 17 and 16 respectively.]

THE GREAT WEIGHT LOSS CHALLENGE!

Day 15

Me: 12st 8.2lbs (total loss in 15 days: 6lbs)

It is fair to say I am plateauing.

John: 14st 5.5lbs (total loss in 15 days: 2lbs)

John is plateauing too.

This post has been made possible by my awesome Patreon supporters Ricky Steer, Chris Birkett, John Fleming, Mary Clarke, Matthew Sylvester, Brian Engler, Jack Scanlan, Dave Nattriss, Musical Comedy Guide, Mark White, Lucy Spencer, Shane Jarvis, Graham Nunn, Emily Hill and Marcus P Knight.

They receive a whole host of exciting rewards in addition to this credit, including my secret never-published fiction and top secret photos! If you enjoyed this post, please support me on Patreon.

Rewards start from just $1 a month, which is 85p in real money and gets you access to my weekly Patreon email. It’s like this blog, but EVEN BETTER!

The time I got ‘pregnant’, aged 10

The first boy I ever kissed was Seth*, a boy at my school, when I was ten.

Seth was my mum’s friend’s kid, and I would go over to his house to play after school on a Thursday. Though only three months younger, he was in the year below me, so thankfully didn’t realise how unpopular I was at school.

Seth’s mum had a whopping five children, three of them under six – so fortuitously for us, she couldn’t keep tabs on us easily. One warm evening when I was ten, Seth and I were lying facing each other in a hammock in the garden, our bare legs touching – and I started to feel all tingly and weird. Seth must have felt it too, as he asked, ‘Do you want to go up to my room?’

We went up to his room, and he asked me, ‘Do you want to kiss?’. I hesitated, and nodded. Then he warned, ‘No tongues, though.’

I was confused. How could I take my tongue out of my mouth? Surely I couldn’t. I compromised by pushing it as far back in my mouth as I could before we kissed. I still remember how soapy and clean Seth smelt.

The next week, we kissed again, and he said, ‘Do you want to sex?’

My mum had told me about sex a couple of months previously, looking extremely embarrassed. She’d mumbled, ‘The man puts his penis in the woman’s vagina, and that makes a baby.’

The next day, I’d gone into school and excitedly told a girl in my class, ‘Guess what sex is? The man puts his willy in the woman’s fanny!’

‘You’re lying!’ she accused me. ‘That’s disgusting!’

‘I’m not lying!’ I insisted. ‘My mum told me.’

‘You’re lying!’ she said again.

These days, she’s a doctor and is married, so hopefully she now knows I was telling the truth.

I didn’t know how to have sex in practice though.

‘I don’t really know how,’ I confessed to Seth.

‘It’s okay, I know,’ Seth reassured me. ‘I’ve seen it in films. First, you take all your clothes off except your pants.’

We both stripped down to our pants.

‘Then I lie on top of you,’ Seth instructed.

I obediently lay on the floor, and he lay on top of me.

‘And now I do this,’ he finished.

He began thrusting on top of me, and grunting: ‘Uh! Uh! Uh!’

I could feel something hard pressing into my knickers, between my legs, which wasn’t very comfortable.

After about a minute, Seth stood up and announced, ‘There. I’ve sexed you.’

I was distinctly underwhelmed by the sexing. If that was sex, I decided, I was happy to do without it forever.

The next day, I woke up with a sick, horrendous feeling in my stomach. I remembered what my mum had told me: The man puts his penis in the woman’s vagina, and that makes a baby.

This must mean I was pregnant, which was terrible news. My dad was literally going to kill me!

I didn’t tell anyone, though. I just cried every morning for months, and stared at my belly in the mirror. Was it swelling, or did I imagine it? Was a baby growing inside me?

I hadn’t started my periods yet, but I’d heard that you could get pregnant before starting them if there was an egg there. It was the end of my life, and I was only ten.

To her credit, my mum asked me several times what was wrong, but I couldn’t tell her I’d had sex with Seth. She was embarrassed enough about sex as it was, and would definitely disown me.

Eventually, I was exonerated by my Usborne book How Your Body Works. It said that boys started producing semen aged eleven. Seth was only ten! The wash of relief that coursed through my body was immense.

Of course, Seth hadn’t actually come either, and you can’t get pregnant through your knickers anyway – but How Your Body Works couldn’t tell me that.

*name changed

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THE GREAT WEIGHT LOSS CHALLENGE!

Day 10

Me: 12st 10lbs (total loss in ten days: 4.2lbs)

I’ve been on tour for the last two days, giving talks for Chichester Skeptics and Worthing Skeptics – and my lovely host has been buying me meals. Unfortunately, it turns out that what goes on tour doesn’t stay on tour, as I’ve returned with nearly a 2lb weight gain (since the day I left).

I’m back on plan today though, and am determined to get my 1 stone award from Slimming World next week. (I’ll actually have lost two stone this year if I hit 12st 7.5lbs, but only the most recent of those will have been with Slimming World.)

John: 14st 6.25lbs (total loss in ten days: 1.25lbs)

The worm has turned! John has started dieting properly and has somehow lost a whopping 2.5lbs in a single day. The race is on!

This post has been made possible by my awesome Patreon supporters: Ricky Steer, Chris Birkett, John Fleming, Mary Clarke, Matthew Sylvester, Brian Engler, Jack Scanlan, Dave Nattriss, Musical Comedy Guide, Mark White, Lucy Spencer, Shane Jarvis, Graham Nunn, Emily Hill and Marcus P Knight.

They receive a whole host of exciting rewards in addition to this credit, including my secret never-published fiction and top secret photos! If you enjoyed this post, please support me on Patreon.

Rewards start from just $1 a month for my weekly Patreon email. It’s like this blog, but I’m even more open in it (if you can imagine that!)