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The Frenchman: Dinner and Dungeon


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The next time I saw the Frenchman he was holed up in luxury at Blakes. He’d thoughtfully and firmly requested I join him for two days. The morning of his arrival from Paris I was standing at my lingerie drawer, wondering what vibe I wanted to convey. Pink would be wrong. He had already found my inner slut. I couldn’t go backwards so I opted for expensive whore. It wouldn’t last anyway. He liked naked. A lot of naked.

He sent a text from the hotel.

“I may have a surprise for you.”

At that point my imagination boarded a fighter jet and did a 360-degree roll. Off I went into erotic meltdown for a couple of hours, distracted and dreamy to the point where lifting silk lingerie from a drawer felt ponderous. When I re-entered the world, I thought he’d organised a threesome. I hoped he wasn’t going to surprise me with a woman though. I have no idea what the point of an extra woman is in sexual liaisons. I find an additional man far more beneficial to my needs. Anyway, I turned up and the room was empty except for him.

“You missed the surprise,” he said. “There was a man here I wanted you to meet.”

Damn.Had I been too tardy for my threesome? Did our third have another more pressing engagement?

He led me over to the Zen seating area. On the table was an assortment of leather floggers, whips and various instruments of discipline, all just waiting for the perfect collective noun.

His eyes shone with the expected delight of a man who had just purchased new tools.

“The guy who makes these just delivered them to me. You could have met him.” He sounded extremely disappointed that I hadn’t sighted the craftsman of pain.

He picked up something that looked like a whip but was much shorter and came to a thick, short point at the end.

“Zis one is very arrsh.”

“Harsh?”

‘Yes.But it is not for you. Too arrsh.” That one was for his Japanese slave. She was a pain slut. “Slaves are such hard work, ” he remarked. They’re so needy and selfish.” I made a note never to have one. From lunchtime into the evening, at least I think it was evening, it became a hazy, erotic blur. We had sex: well actually we didn’t have sex, he fucked me. We didn’t leave the room. I couldn’t anyway since I was tied up. At some point, mid-evening we napped. Then we fucked again. He finally let me have an orgasm which was good of him and in my Zen surroundings, suitably transcendent. Room service arrived and he kept me tied up, naked. They were young waiters, two guys, who were very happy to see me and when he said “Thank you,” they quickly shot back with “No, thank YOU sir.”

“You bastard.”

“Most ungrateful. You should thank me like they did.”

He had a meeting off-site the next morning so I was allowed to leave the lust nest. Just as I was on the verge of remembering who I was in real life, he called. “Where are you?”

“South Ken. Down the road. Aren’t you at lunch?”

“I came back to have lunch with you. See you in a minute. I am in the restaurant. Hurry.”

I didn’t want to miss the school bell. The Frenchman is strict about that stuff.

We sat in the restaurant at Blakes where he managed to casually eat noodles, while putting his other hand up my skirt. “Tonight I have a surprise for you. Something you have not done.” Only the week before I’d ticked off another must-do when I went to Legoland with my godchildren. Anyway, it was just your average date. We went to Honey & Co where we ate wonderful food, debated falafel recipes and he bought me the restaurant’s cookery book. After that he took me to a dungeon owned by a former pro-domme, told me to remove my clothes, put a dog collar and leash around my neck and tied me up. I looked rather good. Then he led me to a cage, indicating that I should get in. Unsure what the modus operandi was, I assumed a suitably feral pose while he gave me a highly informative running commentary about the dungeon, in the friendly manner of a tourist guide. Then he let me out, tied me face down on a bench, blindfolded me and spent the next couple of hours doing beautiful and terrible things that made me shiver. He scooped up my ravished body, dressed me and said, “Let’s go back to the hotel. I have not finished with you yet.” Indeed he had not. Five denials of orgasm later and I was almost in tears until he finally let me have it. Then he invited me to Paris. Because of course I wanted more.

Through the Looking Glass…


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My friend Svend once described me as “the most boringly heterosexual man I’ve ever met.” Which is fair enough, because although I’ve always been open in principle to the idea of sex with another man I’ve never felt the slightest interest or desire actually to do so.

Which meant that Josh was out of luck when we met up for coffee.

I’d thought I would be having coffee with a divorced mother-of-two called Jane. But Jane turned out to be Josh. Evidently my first foray into the world of dating after a fifteen-year hiatus wasn’t going to be quite as smooth as I’d envisaged.

Needless to say, sparks didn’t fly over cappuccino and double-decaf-macchiato with vanilla. After a few minutes of small talk, we parted ways. I’m still curious about who was really sending me those witty and amusing texts.

But at least we had met in real life. This business of face-to-face has, evidently, fallen out of fashion since the last time I was single and looking to mingle. Nowadays it’s all online flirting and swiping and tiny frequent jolts of dopamine which have replaced the magnificent avalanche of well-deserved mutual orgasms.

Melanie on Tinder did her undergraduate degree at Harvard which complemented mine from Oxford and she had nearly as many Masters degrees as I do and she was sane and lovely and funny and sexy and… after three days of increasingly steamy messaging back-and-forth revealed that she actually lives 1,892 miles from me. Her Tinder location being, sadly, untrue.

Then there were the several women on OKCupid who likewise seemed clever and funny and interesting and according to the OKC questions were very sexually compatible with my own predilections and preferences. I ended up sexting several and having phone sex with five of them, though the orgasms were all on their side. Of the three women who agreed to meet up with me in real life, however, all turned out to be very anxious about sexually transmitted diseases. Which enabled me to discover that talking about sex and having virtual sex have become substitutes for actually having sex. The fact that (a) as a middle-class person over the age of 22 your lifetime risk of getting an incurable STD is actually three times less than being struck by lightning, and (b) I can furnish a very recent full-spectrum blood panel showing that I’ve never had anything more serious than malaria, made no difference. Fear is the currency of the USA. So these clever and sexy and interesting women have become prisoners of a mass-manufactured fear that bears as much relationship to reality as any random statement by Donald Trump.

Years ago I read a story by the science fiction writer Isaac Asimov, the theme of which was a future in which people were so accustomed to living alone and interacting only via hologram that they could no longer tolerate the stress of being in the proximity of another human being. Apparently we’re nearly there.

After several more experiences I realized I had a taxonomy of Modern Modes of Dating:

  • com is for when you want dinner but no talk about sex
  • OK Cupid is for when you want dinner and some talk about sex
  • Tinder is for when you don’t want dinner but do want to talk about sex

Now at this point you’re probably thinking, “just another tedious piece of self-pity by yet another boring middle-aged man who can’t get laid.”

Yet nothing could be further from the truth, except the part about not getting laid. I’ve been delighted to discover that the world is full of interesting and funny and clever women, even if one or two of them may turn out to be overly-optimistic gay men. I’ve been pleasantly surprised to discover that my online profiles receive far more interest that I’d ever have expected – men, after all, being ten a penny online. I’ve had many interesting virtual conversations with women who, despite the blanket of fear that covers the USA, have found they can channel their sexual energies through the virtual worlds of texts, instant messages, and voice communication. The virtual has replaced the real because it seems safer. As one woman told me without a hint of irony or sarcasm, “If you wanna touch a pussy, get a cat.”

Years ago I took my first multi-day hike into the wilderness with a couple of acquaintances. Our plan was to cover at least 20 miles per day which, given the huge elevation gains and descents, the rough terrain, and the unforgiving ground, was ambitious. My two friends found plenty to complain about: tired legs, sunburned skin, rubbing from the pack straps and hip-belt, blisters on the feet… But I hadn’t expected to be spared these inconveniences. In fact I’d expected rather worse. And that freed me up to enjoy the magnificence of the wilderness, the extraordinary silence, the vastness of the views from the top of 3,200 meter peaks. Since that first exploration I’ve gone solo into the wilderness many times and no matter how many mosquito bites or cuts and scrapes I’ve suffered, I’ve always felt the same sense of sheer delight at the unexpected pleasures nature offers if only you’re open to perceiving them.

I feel the same way about dating in 2016. Provided you don’t have any expectations, there are treasures to be found. I’m amazed by how many bright and funny and interesting women I’ve been interacting with. At work we’re all wearing masks but online we’re free to reveal to virtual lovers our truest selves and thus experience a strange kind of Great War trench camaraderie, something along the lines of: “Yes, this is bloody awful, but thank god we can share a mug of tea.”

And while it’s true that I’m probably not going to get laid, which in the old days was more or less the point of dating, it’s also true that there’s a different sort of pleasure in reaching out and encountering new minds.

Now if only I wasn’t allergic to cats…

Swipe for sex


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It was Suzanne, she of this site who told me to go Tinder. Basically I hadn’t been writing nor had I been fucking and was missing both. “You go on Tinder then you can write about it. Win-win.”

Having done reasonably well out of the analogue world: trains, planes, beaches, restaurants and the London Underground have all produced encounters, some of which became more, I generally consider the online dating scene as a cut-price marketplace for people who can’t get laid. These sites parade an endless stream of dull and wounded men. You know what I mean. Men who say they want ‘an honest and loving woman,’ a phrase which says very clearly they’d been chucked for their best friend. At the other end of the scale, were men who thoughtfully introduced themselves with a picture of their cock, forgetting this was an expectation, not an added feature on which to sell yourself.

But we live in tough times and sometimes an older babe has to get with the programme.  I got on Tinder at 9pm wondering how anyone could spend hours on what is a pretty crappy computer game and was still there at midnight.  Then  he turned up. French. Intellectual. He was early forties, traded something that made him lots of money and well read.  We chatted, well, we messaged with little effort. I was sure he would just wait until his moment and then send me the message that seems to be the calling card for a lot of men on dating sites: “I want to cum on ur face.” Since he was French and well educated it might be more like, “My body and soul, not just my cock, dreams of coming all over your beautiful face.”

It didn’t happen.

At some point he asked me if I’d read Hadrien’s Wall by Marguerite Youcenar.

“No it has been suggested but I haven’t read it.”

“Bad girl. You should be punished.”

Now every so often I come across a dominant type and I rather enjoy it. I recalled that I thought he looked a bit strict in his photos. It made sense. I knew how to pick them. At that point the discussion moved up fifty levels, to the joys of BDSM. He wasn’t into the whole Master/Sir nonsense which just turns me off but he had a way about him. He knew his stuff.

“I like whips,” he tapped.

“Why do you like whips?” I said it in the same way I might ask someone about their gluten-free food choices.

“They make a good sound and leave nice marks.”

“Yes I can see how that would work for you.”

If this was a bar, the conversation would have reached the dry throat, wet everything else mode. The only difference was that we couldn’t see each other.

“But I do prefer to use a flogger generally. Or my hand. I would like to to flog you but first I would like to kiss you.”

I gulped and took a deep breath.

He lived between Paris and London, mostly the former but he would be in London after the weekend. It was Thursday. He said he had Monday and Wednesday free and we should go to dinner. I didn’t want to seem too eager, even though I was on heat pretty much, so I said, “What about Wednesday?”

He said Monday would be so much better as he couldn’t wait to see me.

I reiterated that Wednesday was better (subtext: I don’t want to be that easy)  but he said no, he needed to see me on Monday.

“I want to do beautiful, terrible and passionate things to you.”

So, because I am led by my sexual desires and have no shame, I immediately said yes to Monday.

“We need to get out of here now.”

“Where shall we go? “ I asked. I mean we were on Tinder’s messaging app. Was there a chill out room I didn’t know about? A secret place for Tinderati?

“What’s App. I’ll see you there.”  Digital intimacy is a strange concept.

We retired to Whats App and the conversation continued intermittently through the weekend. On Monday he sent me a message from Eurostar. My first thought was he was going to cancel, as my few attempts at digital dating ended up in cancellations. I put this down to something I call the Power of Fresh Pussy.  Fundamentally what you have is a state of Perfect Potential. The illusion of the internet is that there is an endless, nay infinite, candy store to choose from and for men this is particularly compelling and fits nicely with their attention spans. The result is that they might make a date with you but in the meantime they discover there is another and another. Instead of having the date they  are blinded by Pussy Potential and they can’t choose.  Of course the fact that not everyone is there for them has not penetrated their brain.

“I have booked L’Atelier Robuchon and will be in the bar from 7pm. Take your time.”

Of course I would take my time. I would just go about my day as if it were completely normal. In fact I’d forget totally that we had even spoken and that he’d already worked me up into a state where I was unable to think about anything else.  That evening at half six I’d remember I had a date with a man with a filthy mind and a strict manner and I would just throw on something I found  in the bottom of the wardrobe and say to anyone who asked, “Yeah, I’ve got this like date. Drag huh?”

I’d spent a considerable number of hours selecting two dresses that morning. London’s weather, generally on the nasty side of whimsical was being particularly difficult to interpret. The skies looked ominous so perhaps a dress and a pair of reckless heels was not going to work. Plus there was another, far greater factor at play. I had to consider what I could wear home if we ended up in bed. I am not a woman who delays the inevitable. If he pours fuel on the fire, I’m not putting it out.

I called Suzanne. “I am not sure whether to look like I am up for it or I might be up for it.”

“He knows you’re up for it already. Anyway, you’re on Tinder. He’s made a date with you without having to do any more than he’d have to do to call a hooker.”

You couldn’t fault her sense of romance. In the end I wore a leather pencil skirt with a small split in the side and a chambray shirt with the sleeves rolled up in the manner of a Vogue editor. I added Miu Miu high heels.  The look said smart, and a challenge but will fuck in the right circumstances.” Throwing flat shoes into my bag along with some eye-makeup remover (don’t want to wake up with panda eyes) and a small tube of moisturiser I was ready. I didn’t put a toothbrush in my bag as it seemed so premeditated and I didn’t want him to think I had thought that far ahead.

He was sitting in the bar on the top floor when I arrived. I recognised him immediately because joy of joys, he did look like his picture.  A picture on a screen always felt a far riskier thing to pursue, than screwing a guy I’d just met in transit at Singapore airport.  I’m really old fashioned like that.

There was a kiss on both cheeks and then we just melted into conversation.  We were smiling a lot and I think as far the staff were concerned it wasn’t awkward which was good because you really don’t want restaurant staff looking over at you thinking “Met on a site. First date.”

I ordered a Lychee Martini. “Aren’t you drinking,” I asked noting his virginal orange juice.

He smiled. “I haven’t drunk for twenty years since I went overboard.”

We went out on the terrace to smoke and size each other up.

Two Martinis later (me) and we were leaning forward, closing the rest of the world out, only to be interrupted by a waitress who wanted to show us to our table. We’d actually been given a spot that was easily the most  secluded in the restaurant. “Did you ask for this?” He laughed. “No they just gave it to us.” “Are you sure?” He knew what I was thinking and his eyes twinkled. Yep. Lust. It comes along and doesn’t usually bring love or even a deeper connection with it. You make your decision knowing that you are about to ride the wave and when it drops you, you must be be gracious and remember that it was a just a moment. That is lust. Anything else is optional. I however, was in the mood for lust. It had been a while since it had seemed like such a good idea.

Word to the wise: Never, ever underestimate staff at top restaurants: they are very savvy and I think the fact that he had already stroked my face and produced a visible shiver of anticipation had not gone unnoticed so they’d decided would be a good idea to give us a table that suited everyone’s purpose. Thus we were screened off from the rest of the room.

At some point he whispered,“I’d like to take you to a dungeon.”

Theatre, riverside walk, country pub, dungeon. It was all the same to me.

‘Why yes, of course,” I said as nonchalantly as I could with his hands stroking my neck. I would like that very much.”

If there had existed any doubt that we were going to spend some quality time together, he settled it when he leaned over and whispered.

“Remove your panties.”

It had been a few years since I’d engaged in this particular manoeuvre but reader you will be delighted to know I’d lost none of my skill and acquitted myself perfectly, deftly whipping off my Rigby and Pellers and sliding them down my leg while kicking off my shoes.

I reached down and then handed them to him, making a mental note to remember to ask for them back as they were quite expensive and nothing would match the bra otherwise. I did think it was a shame that he wouldn’t see me in the set but hell, sex was generally a messy business.

Now if a waiter can see there is  no white wine in your glass from across the room, they know a man has your panties in his hands and is now putting them to his lips.  Which brings us to the food.

It was most excellent but eating had turned into a sideshow by now. I remember my  sea bass was so delicate but as I ate it, all I could think of was sex which, in retrospect probably had something to do with the bubbles of lemongrass foam that were sitting on it. I think it’s fair to say thing were going very well at this point. By dessert he’d moved next to me, had his fingers tightly around my neck and my head was running through bondage scenarios. The air around us was heavily scented with the right amount of tension and just enough danger to make it interesting.

There was more foam when dessert arrived and he asked me to feed him. He didn’t want the berries underneath the foam as they were too cold. “If you give them to me I will punish you.”

“Yes of course.” I fed him the berries. He squeezed my neck in a way that said, “I totally mean it.”

I knew I had basically given him my cards and all I wanted him to do was play. He knew he had me (well he probably had me at hello) so did what every smart man in his position does. He leverages it.

“The hotel is not far away,” he whispered. “But first I need an espresso. And you need to wait.”

Somehow we made it to the hotel. Inside the lift, the padded walls had evidently aroused his no so latent dungeon instincts and he pushed me back, just watching me as he lifted my hands above my head. We were not the only ones in the lift. There were three other people trying not to look but look at the same time.  The lift door opened at the next floor and our fellow passengers couldn’t leave fast enough, no doubt headed for the stairwell to continue their journey without having to deal with an elevator now saturated with sex.

He on the other hand was completely unconcerned by them and was undoing my shirt. He seemed quite pleased with himself. I was very pleased with him.By the time we got to his room, he’d obtained my bra so I felt I didn’t have to worry about losing the panties as he’d put them together. Thoughtful.

It was one of those evenings where our bodies burned  faster than a startup shredding money. In the morning he endeared himself to me by ordering cake products for breakfast. Little pistachio cakes that were sugary and sweet and exactly what I would have chosen for myself.  “I will be back soon,” he said. “I really want to see you.” A perfect tonic after months of absolutely no fun. Which is probably what Tinder is for: a  palate cleanser.

Why The Guardian got it wrong with mid-life dating


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We all know a paper has to appeal to its market but when The Guardian commissioned a woman to write about mid-life dating, they’d already decided the narrative. Read the Stella Grey column and you’ll feel like you’ve been dropped into a world where women over 45 sit alone in a musty attic and once a week, they open an old trunk and put on the corset and black stockings that have never been worn for a lover.

The Guardian narrative plays to women who don’t like men as people

The Guardian narrative of mid-life dating was to be an endless cross-country run over barbed wire, where the woman found herself despairing at immature and capricious men who could not understand her glaringly fine qualities and just what a great catch she was. The subtext was clear from the start. “I’m an intelligent Guardian reading woman and you men just want bimbos.” Given that miserable criteria, it was never going to be a good read. Nor is it accurate.

If you’re any kind of self-aware and confident woman you’ll have the filthiest and most intimate encounters starting in your forties. I was never short of male attention, however as well as an endless stream of dates and a few relationships, my forties were like nothing before them. This is the time of your life when your brain and your pussy work together like fucking clockwork and you project it. Not overtly. No need for that. But all the women here at Advantages of Age and many others I know feel the same way. They were there. It happened. It’s still happening. There’s a lot written biologically about this but I just wonder if it’s nature’s way of reminding us that we now have everything we need to enjoy the sexy years we have left.

Newly separated or divorced does not make you single.

Being newly divorced hasn’t helped the Stella Grey column and I don’t think it makes her right for the task. Single is not the same as being divorced: the latter does not make you single and it’s a transitional, highly fluctuating state. It takes time for many people to become properly single. post divorce. Wounded people cannot deal with the chaos and modern dating is very different to when you might have met your partner of the past 25 years.

Single is as much about the correct mindset as your own place. It means you’re aware, ready and emotionally and physically up for the adventure. It means you know who you are, you understand what you’re not but you know how to make it work. Your self-esteem is solid.  It also means you know not to bet the house on a date or indeed on a relationship: you treat it as just another thing that you do. Especially with online dating. There is much to say about this lawless land, however I’ll borrow from my internet savvy niece: “Don’t take it too seriously. It’s just the internet stupid.”

 Stella Grey is a Guardian caricature: the ‘intelligent’ woman who can’t get laid

Men don’t give a fuck how intelligent you are when they meet you.  They look at your smile,  your breasts, your legs. They’ll twinkle at your humour. Or in my case, they want to touch my wild curly hair.  If they can imagine themselves putting their hands under your shirt or kissing you, they’ll probably talk to you. But that’s not just how men operate. Many women do as well, especially in their forties and fifties. If I can’t imagine having sex with him, then I really don’t care how many books he’s read. If the kisses are good, the books start to matter. If the sex is good, the books matter even more.

The point is that you can’t experience something if you are entering it with the aim of confirming your bias. And that’s what this column (indeed much of the Guardian’s supposed real life stories) feels like. This is not a dating column. It’s increasingly about a woman who doesn’t understand or even like men. A woman who doesn’t know how to say ‘Fuck me.’ And really, by this point in life, that’s mandatory.

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