Thursday, 28 June 2012

Porn and Sexy Ladies

Strangely, over the last week, the subject of porn seems to have risen its head a number of times. (Ooops – that sounds like some dreadful pun. But maybe I’m just being smutty!)

It started last weekend, with a small group of friends, after a couple of drinks. I have no recollection of how the conversation started, but I do remember that it ended up with two friends, one male, one female, insisting that all men look at porn.

For reasons I don’t want to get into here and now, I got upset about it. I don’t mind admitting that it is something I am very uncomfortable with. I can intellectualise it, and reason that if it’s not harming anyone involved in its production, and is only exposed to consenting adults, it should not be a problem.

But as a woman, I have to say it makes me feel cheapened. I guess it doesn’t really matter if Joe Blogs wants to look at porn, but I would be upset if a man I was involved with was looking at it. I also worry about how children view it, how it affects their attitudes to women and most of all, how scarily easy it is to access on the Internet.

Given my feelings on the subject, you can imagine my surprise when I got a phone call from my youngest child’s teacher.

Having reassured me that my child was not in any trouble or at risk of life or limb, she went on to explain that there had been a little ‘incident’ at school.

It transpires that two of the children in the class had noticed the cards in phone boxes, advertising the services of… well… prostitutes. One of the children (both are boys) had decided that some internet research was required.

And so, when his mother left him for five minutes to print out information for his Olympics project, he decided to do a search for “sexy ladies”. What he discovered, was undoubtedly more than any child of his age (7 yrs old) could have predicted. I did not see them myself, but I understand that they were graphic images. Nice.

The following day, having stashed his print outs into his school bag, he decided to show a couple of his class mates – with my child being one of them.

Clearly, the two children that were shown the images were shocked.

“They were totally inappropriate, Mum.” I was confidently told (by my 8 yr old). And I don’t doubt it.

They told the teacher that the child had inappropriate pictures in his bag and all hell broke loose. The child was dragged off to see the deputy head, his parents were called in and the child was left in no doubt about the seriousness of his actions.

And that’s where I started to get concerned.

Had the child done this before, and been told it was inappropriate behaviour, I would have supported the school’s actions. But as it is, he had never done this before and could not possibly have known what he was going to encounter.

So do I blame the parents? Knowing them as I do, no, I don’t. I cannot believe there is a single parent out there that hasn’t, at least once, taken their eye off the ball for just a moment. And that’s all that had happened.

When I caught up with the father of the other child that was shown the print offs, I was interested to hear him also voice his concern that the child should not be made to feel shamed. In fact, there was a part of me that could see a little glimmer of entrepreneurial spirit in his actions – although I suspect his parents have greater hopes for him than his becoming the next Hugh Heffner!

Without in any way wishing to diminish my child’s concern at what he had seen, I did find myself smiling on the way home in the car.

As I said at the outset, I do have a bit of an issue with porn. Sorry, but as a woman, I just don’t like it. But any worries I may have had, about teaching my children to be respectful of women and their bodies, seem (for the time being at least) not to be an issue.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Dating Coach or Emotionally incontinent F*ck Wit…? You decide…

We live in a mad and crazy world…

I met up with my great friend @AHLondon_Tex today.  She had cunningly arranged for the kids (hers, mine, and an assortment of others) to be ‘entertained’ elsewhere, so that we could have a good catch-up.  

Her Russian friend, Anechka, was also there.  

For background reference, Anechka is a very attractive young mother, whose husband has decided to ‘absent’ himself from her life, without giving her the courtesy of a divorce.

As a result of his two year absence, A has decided that, should a romantic opportunity present itself, she should not turn it down.

And so, a couple of weeks ago, she took herself off to the cinema alone.  On her return, she bumped into a tall, handsome English man… 

Having made eye contact, he approached her and struck up a conversation.  He explained that he lived round the corner, thought she was very attractive and asked if he could take her for a drink sometime.

She was flattered by his attention, gave him her number and suggested he give her a call.  Over the next couple of days they texted each other and arranged a ‘date’.

So far, so good…

They met in a friendly local pub and the conversation seemed to flow well.  It was at that point that she asked him what he did for a living.  To begin with, he avoided her question, which struck her as ‘odd’ and made her more curious.  She asked him again, and somewhat reluctantly, he explained that he was a ‘Dating Coach’.

I’ve heard of dating coaches before, but never actually met one.  Neither had A, who was a little surprised by this revelation.

Naturally curious, she asked him what type of people he ‘helps’.  He responded by telling her about his most recent client.  An unhappy, overweight, 22 year old ‘virgin’, with a whole ton of problems.  Apparently, he takes his ‘clients’ out on the street to help them ‘chat up’ women and get their phone numbers. 

It immediately struck me that his ‘training’ might help a 22 year old virgin get a date, but then what?  It’s not going to make him any slimmer, more attractive, help him address his personality issues, secure a second date or finally address his virginity!

But I digress…

Having been slightly stumped by the revelation that he was a Dating Coach, Anechka was more than a little alarmed when he started getting a little ‘fresh’ with her.  And when I say ‘fresh’ I really mean ‘outrageous’!  Call me quirky, but I find it a little odd that a Dating Coach would think it appropriate to stick his hand up someone’s dress on a first date.  Had he introduced himself as a ‘Get Laid Quick’ coach, I might have been less surprised.

Feeling more than a little uncomfortable and realising that the guy was actually quite dull, not to mention a pervert, A decided to make her excuses and go home. 

Over the next couple of days, there was an exchange of texts.  I have to confess, I thought it was rather forgiving of A to even speak to him again.  Then finally, the fourth day after the ‘date’, A decided to ask how the 22 year old virgin was getting on.

The reply was extraordinary.

It read:  “You said how is “your” Virgin.  This implies that said Virgin is someone important to me.  This client is not important to me and we don’t have ongoing contact.  Meeting him was not a significant event in my life.  Anechka, I did not understand your reference.  Perhaps you should consider that the fault lies with your poor use of English rather than criticising my mental faculties or integrity.”

To be brutally honest, I’ve always suspected that ‘Life Coaches’ and ‘Dating Coaches’ are not much more than pub psychologists, acting pompous and charging a fortune.  But this one seems more like a sociopath.  I’m just glad A got out of it in one piece and not after having her drink laced with Rohypnol.

It just makes me more convinced than ever that the best way to meet someone is through friends.  And if you do go on a blind date, for goodness sake go somewhere public and make sure they know exactly where you are going.

And as for ‘Dating Coaches’, the more I think about it, the more I think it’s not so much the ‘blind leading the blind’ but more ‘the emotionally incontinent guiding the f*ck wits…’  

And to think the f*ckwits have to pay for this service!

What a load of bollocks!

I’m sorry – but there really is no other word for it.  It’s bollocks!  

We live in a mad and crazy world! 

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

The object of hatred…

This morning, my lovely postman delivered me a very interesting letter.

When I picked up the envelope, I instantly recognised the handwriting as that of my ex-mother-in-law.  My heart sank.  The last few unsolicited letters from her have been unexpected, unprovoked, unwanted and deeply unpleasant.  Actually that’s not strictly true.  Her letters have been deeply offensive and threatening.

I had a dreadful ‘sinking’ feeling as I opened the envelope.  It seemed to contain reams of paper.  She has a bizarre habit of sending me printed copies of the e-mails that she has sent to my ex-husband, accompanied by offensive letters addressed to me.

I am fully aware that my ex-husband has all but moved his new girlfriend into his flat.  By all accounts, she is nice to my children and my ex’s behaviour is much better towards the kids when she’s around.  I have no desire to meet her, but I have positive feelings about her.  But more significantly (given their behaviour) I am aware that she has been introduced to my ex-parents in law. 

Throughout the time I spent with my ex-husband, I was subjected to some exceptionally bad behaviour by my in-laws.  Being objective about it, it seemed clear to me that the abuse was not personal to me (they barely know me, as we have spent so little time together).  Their problem was that they saw me as the woman who had ‘stolen’ their son - as as such, I was the object of their hatred!

So when I heard that the ex had introduced his new girlfriend, I did wonder how long it would be before she become the new focus for their dreadful behaviour.  And I wondered whether they would then leave me alone and focus their venom on the new incumbent.

And so, back to the letter…

Just as predicted, they have decided that they don’t like the new girlfriend.  They have sent their son a letter outlining their reasons for disliking her and told him that she is not welcome in their home. 

He has replied in defence of her and told them that conversely, she thinks highly of them (that bit made me laugh out loud!).  He has also told them that he will not tell his girlfriend what they have said, as he does not want to tarnish her view of them (he doesn’t need to, they do that very well by themselves!).

All of this private correspondence has been printed out by my ex-mother-in-law and posted to me with a covering letter, apologising for anything she has ever done to hurt me.  Absolutely bizarre!

Having expected to get one of her abusive letters, I had a real mixture of feelings about what I had read.

Part of me felt great pity for my ex-husband.  He did not choose his parents.  He can do nothing about their behaviour – and they are unbearable.  I also feel great sympathy for his girlfriend.  Whilst the ex-MIL did outline some rather odd behaviour on her part, there was nothing that she did that warranted them barring her from their home and making unpleasant personal remarks about her. 

I also felt a huge relief that, as predicted, the burden of their dreadful behaviour has been lifted from my shoulders.

But this was all tinged with a bit of sadness too.  To read my ex-husband’s defence of the woman he has known for such a short while, whilst knowing that he did not do the same for me, is undeniably hurtful and distressing.

I was then stumped about what to do.  In the past, I have always told the ex when I have received unpleasant letters from his parents.   But I don’t know what good would come of telling him about this latest letter.  How would it make him feel to know that I had read such personal correspondence.  No one expects a private letter, written to their parents, to be sent to probably the one person above all others that they would hate it to be sent to (in this case ME!).  What would it achieve?  Absolutely nothing but his distress. 

And so, I have decided that I should allow myself a smile and a chuckle.  I think I deserve that, having been the object of their venom for so long. 

I now feel officially ‘divorced’ from the in-laws… and let off the hook.  I feel sorry for the ex – but I feel great for me.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Being a single parent is tough…

Being a single parent is tough.  Isn’t that what they always say?  You read about it in the newspapers and in magazine articles, see it enacted in TV soaps and hear interviews on the radio discussing it.  It always seems to be accompanied by a weary sigh and a sense of hopeless resignation.

To be really honest with you, in practical terms, I can’t actually say that it’s tougher than when I was married.  My ex-husband did none of the domestic chores or kid related stuff anyway.  So on some levels, life is actually easier.  After all, there is less laundry and fewer people to feed.

That said, I do have days when things really get me down.  And the last 24 hours has been one of them. 

Over the last week, the three of us have all had a terrible stomach bug.  A really aggressive bug, which left me (somewhat embarrassingly) crashing into the wall of a friend’s house, whilst struggling to make it to her sofa to lie down.  It was only 8pm, but I was worried that they would think I was already drunk!

My friend subsequently dragged me home and put me to bed and had to come back the following morning to walk the dogs for me, as I just couldn’t get up. 

This was followed by a couple more days of feeling like death warmed up, whilst simultaneously trying to get my eldest to study for his school exams.  Not an easy feat, when you’re doing it by yourself.

But finally, I was on the mend, and the kids went back to school. 

Then yesterday, my little one came home from school with his exam results.  He is still very young and it’s a huge pressure for these children to be doing them.  As he announced his results, I could tell that he was disappointed with the Maths result.  He got a really good mark, but he was upset that he had done less well than in his previous exams. That said, his English had improved significantly and overall, he did really well.

Unfortunately, however, this wasn’t enough for his father. 

Having not seen their Dad for over a week, the little one was clearly looking forward to his mid-week visit.  He wanted to tell his Dad his exam results.  And that’s when it all started going wrong. 

That evening, I had three calls from the kids.  Firstly, the eldest was really upset because his Dad had been really foul and grumpy with him.  Then I had another call from his, just because he was feeling upset and needed to talk to his Mum.  Then I had the little one on the phone, hiding in the bathroom, to say that his Dad had told him that his results were only "acceptable" and that “he should have been getting higher marks” and that “it wasn't really good enough”.

He was so upset - and I was too.  I just wanted to drive over and collect them.... but of course, you can't can you?  

I was at a friend’s house for supper when the phone rang, which was fortunate, because I was so upset, I needed supportive friends around me. 

The situation made me feel helpless and impotent. Unable to protect my two children from someone I shouldn’t have to protect them from anyway.  And whilst trying to keep a practical head on my shoulders, I realized that I had to keep it to myself.  It’s important that the kids can phone me when they feel upset.  Alerting the ‘ex’ to their call would seriously backfire if he took away their phone.

So, sometimes it’s really very tough being a single mother.  And today is definitely one of those days.  Even my friend and Guru @AHLondon was stumped as to how to deal with the situation.  And really, seriously, she knows most things!

But I am a glass half full person and I will plough on…  I may be a single mother, and it may be tough, but I will never be a stereo type!

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Sometimes it’s OK to have an affair….

The last week has been manic.  Having been busy over the four days of the Jubilee (which I thoroughly enjoyed, despite the terrible weather), I then had two sick kids, followed by a sick me!  Not what you need during the half term!

However, in the middle of all this frenetic activity, I was thrilled to see a text message ping through from my great friend @AHLondon_Tex, telling me that she had arrived in the UK for a visit with the kids. 

Having not seen her since Christmas time, we had plenty of catching up to do.  And we were joined by another friend of hers, that I had not met before.  As the conversation progressed, I learnt that this other woman is possibly in the most difficult situation of any woman I know.  And it has called into question the whole case of whether it’s OK to have an affair when you’re married.

In brief, this woman’s husband left her and their children, to live abroad.  He supports her and their children financially, but it is very controlled.  There is no joint bank account.  He has no assets in this country and is living a whole other life abroad.  He visits the children on a regular, but infrequent basis.

This woman came into the country as the spouse of someone who was working here.  She does not work herself and to my knowledge, does not have a work permit – besides which, she is the full time carer for her children. 

Her husband does not want and will not grant her a divorce.  He is effectively keeping her a ‘prisoner’ in her marriage.  If she goes to divorce lawyers, she has no way of paying them.  She is not familiar with English matrimonial law and knows that if she does try and divorce her husband, it will be outright warfare.

She has, on one level, resigned herself to the impossibility of the situation.  But she is a young, beautiful woman.  She has every right to find happiness and another relationship.  Nevertheless, she is also a married woman and she fears that in her circumstances, no one would be interested in her. 

I felt quite flummoxed when she explained her situation.  I do not know anything about international law – so I was completely unable to help on that front.  But I have no doubt in my mind, given her circumstances, that she should be allowed to have another relationship, married or not. 

Clearly, she too feels that having been ‘left’ and knowing her husband has created a whole new life for himself, she should be allowed to ‘find someone’.  But she seemed to feel paralysed by the thought that any ‘decent’ man would not want to get involved.

And on this point, I really sympathise.  Do decent men engage in relationships with married women?  Do they take the circumstances into consideration and treat each case on its merits?

What’s the answer to this conundrum? 

Well, I realise that there will be men out there who just wouldn’t want to get involved in what they might regard as a very complicated situation.  And I believe in honesty being the foundation stone of any relationship - so there has to be full disclosure at some point. 

But maybe that’s just the thing….  It’s all in the timing and being clear in her own head about how she presents her situation to a potential boyfriend. 

I realise that this situation is more complicated than the norm.  However, for anyone embarking on a relationship, following a marriage breakdown, we all have ‘stuff’ which needs to be disclosed at some time, but maybe not on day one. 

I do have a terrible habit of saying too much.  It stems from a deeply rooted need to be open and honest…  But I have had to learn that sometimes, at the very early stage of a relationship, when you’re just trying to find out whether you like someone, there are things that can wait to be said.

I would never normally encourage someone to get involved in a relationship when they are still married.  But in this case, I really hope she does.  She is a beautiful young woman who has every right to find happiness.  

Friday, 1 June 2012

The Secret Life of a Divorcee – One year on

I can hardly believe that it has now been a year since I was sitting in my kitchen with my laptop, nervously writing my very first post for this blog.

At the time, the ink on my divorce papers was not even dry, I had ended the terrible re-bound relationship I’d been in and I was very scared about what the future had in store.  I felt isolated, very lonely and terrified at the prospect of being alone, for the first time in almost 20 years.

I set up my blog because I wanted other women, who found themselves in the same position as me, to know that they were not alone.  But what I never imagined was that so many MEN would find my blog and get in touch with me, sharing stories of very similar experiences.  That was probably the biggest bonus I could ever have had and I feel very flattered that they have felt able to share their personal stories with me.

And now, here I am.  One year on.  And what has changed?

I’m still single.  But the difference is, I don’t mind it!  I’m not saying I ‘like’ it.  But I’m OK with it.  Society expects us to be part of a ‘couple’.  If we’re single for any length of time, it starts to question what’s ‘wrong’ with us.  Well, here’s the thing…  There’s nothing wrong with me.  I just know what it’s like to be with the ‘wrong’ person.  When Mr Right turns up, it will be a different matter!

Am I still lonely?  I have my moments – but I have become so busy with new friends and a very different social life, that I now have days when I want to turn invitations down, so I can have a quiet evening alone.  A year ago, I was terrified of being alone.

Is it scary to go out on my own?  No, it is no longer daunting to go out socially by myself.  I used to be very nervous of meeting new people and going to parties or events alone.  I just felt conspicuous – and I had to adjust to being ‘the divorcee’, which many married women see as a threat.  And it used to feel really weird going home alone. I was scared that if anything happened to me, no one would find out until the school wondered why the kids hadn’t been collected.  But now it doesn’t bother me – and for someone who is as shy as I am, that’s a big deal.

What impact has writing this blog had on me?  Well, from the e-mails and messages I’ve had through the blog, I have realised just how ‘normal’ I am.  I have always believed that you should be ‘loyal’ to your husband when you are married.  As a result, I never talked to anyone about the issues I had with my ex-husband during our marriage.  The net result was that I felt like I was alone, that my issues were unique.  But they’re not.  My ex-husband belittled me constantly and made me feel useless and unattractive.  I now realise and accept that the problem was with him, not me.

In addition, I have been taken aback by the kindness of strangers and had my eyes opened to the very many shades of grey that there are in life.  I have always been a bit of a cynic with a very black or white view of the world.  I am now slightly less cynical, less judgemental and able to see there are many shades of grey.

For those of you who read my blog on a regular basis, you will have noticed that I have not posted for over a week.  I’ve been thinking long and hard about my blog and the direction in which I want it to go.  I’ve even considered whether it has run its course.  It has certainly been cathartic and helped me air my feelings.  But am I done yet? 

I asked a few people whether I should wind it up – and I was really flattered that they genuinely seemed to think I shouldn’t.

So for the time being, I’m going to continue.  But before I go on, I just want to thank a few people who have made a big difference to my life over the last year.

It’s always hard when you start to thank people who have helped along the way.  There are so many people who have helped me, just by reading my blog and giving positive feedback.  But in particular, I would like to thank (in no particular order!):

AH London
The “Two Robs”!
Pommie Knight
Running Man
& last, but by no means least….

Blind Date Man

Thank you for all your kindness and support!

Lara Lakin

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