Tuesday, 24 February 2015

It's not easy being me, but it's fairly easy being Lena Dunham

My book group have just read 'Not That Kind of Girl' by Lena Dunham, which most of them hated.. I actually think they saw more of themselves in it than they cared to admit. I wondered how easy it was to try and emulate Lena.. Here's an excerpt from my as yet unrealised novel "The Gay Man's Guide to Married Men.."

99% of this is true because I wrote it out of my brain...


When I was 20 years old I worked in the only gay pub in Cambridge - a seedy, dishevelled venue which suited the clandestine nature that meeting men in the 1980s dictated; a dark, sweaty mess of a place with an alcoholic landlord - a vile queen, with a viscous temper which he took out on his adoring, self-loathing business partner, a woman of loose confidence who should have known better. 

I was young and aloof and, in the midst of the political maelstrom of that particular Tory government, at twenty I was also 'jailbait'. The bar only attracted those on the fringes, those further discriminated against even by their own minority and was ultimately a miasma of snarling and bitching such that cohesion failed in a place that should have brought these socially unacceptable outsiders together. 

As someone never convinced by my own allure I pulled pints and changed barrels and accepted generous tips very naively. I was the ultimate ditzy barmaid - I wore leather pants and tight designer tops. I had a 28 inch waist. A lesbian once told me that if she were a man she would want my body. She would drunkenly tweak my nipples and loom over me with whiskey breath hoping for our lips to meet, hoping for some, any, connection.

Every night was crazy. Every night started as if it were 2.00am on New Year's Day. The first punters at 6.00pm would already be drunk, seemingly needing Dutch courage just to come in. And one night in the middle of all the madness, one night - cutting through the sea of undesirables like a beacon of truth and beauty, there was Charlie. 

I've always been attracted to the exotic. I nurture a primal, intuitive need to be visually enticed. My favourite bird is the peacock. Charlie dominated two stools in the centre of the bar. As I started my shift and walked behind him it took more than two seconds to traverse the width of his back. Even sitting I could tell he was approaching seven feet tall. He was a mountain of a man. He nursed a tonic water. 

I was overtly and obviously casual all night. I barely audibly engaged except to ask if he needed refreshing, but he communicated with his eyes, with his big smile as I blushed by the slop trays at the end of the bar trying to look my most Lauren Bacall smooth, sucking clumsily on a pretentious Gauloise with liquorice paper. When he spoke it was with a deep, coppery American accent. He called the landlady 'Ma'am' and, though not imbibing, fuelled us with alcohol throughout the night. He wore a plaid shirt, the front dangerously unbuttoned and the sleeves seductively rolled almost to the shoulder exposing thick, solid arms, a warm and sensuous mocha and scarred with bold, tribal tattoos that exposed his indigenous heritage.

The crowd thinned, last orders were called. Charlie was over by the jukebox trying to get to grips with this ridiculous foreign currency that afforded one last choice. I swept about the room, collecting glasses and urging the fragile, drunk and lonely back into an unforgiving world. The landlady went to bed. We were alone.

"Thank you for your hospitality" he proffered, sinking his flat drink in one gulp. "Would you like another?" I asked, bravely, suddenly aware that I was in charge, of the bar at least if not my senses. "Will you join me?" He answered?

For the next three hours we sat there, illuminated by the gaudy rope of lights that snaked haphazardly around the bar, the air stale with smoke and spilled beer. He was Navajo, a pilot in the American Air Force based at Alconbury and married. He spoke softly and generously about his life, his wife, his adoration for his two children. I listened attentively and reciprocated empathetically. The propriety of it all, the politeness, made my heart fluster like an Austen heroine. He was a southern gentleman. I wanted him to rip me apart.

He strode to the jukebox and I sidled up to him. I pressed us together on the pretence of assisting in the choice. The coin credited, the song was chosen, the vinyl dropped.

A moment of quiet. I put my hand on his massive shoulder, traced his bicep, felt the raised mound of the inked skin, put my fingers in his fingers. I turned to him. "I want to", he said. "You don't know how much I want to. I just don't know how..."

I faked control - a position I'd never enjoyed, knowledge I had never gained..

"Well.. It isn't difficult... we just make it up..."