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A Brief Return to Craigslist

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I have a love/hate relationship with Craigslist, the American noticeboard with sections devoted to job, property, services and dating. I love, well, its randomness, the way it always manages to turn up someone somewhere who can quash a bug on my website or make my PowerPoint presentations shine. I hate how finding those people often means having to wade through the dozens of imposters, con artists and fantasists who use the site. Still I am loyal; at least from time to time.

Recently I did use it for something mutually beneficial. While searching for an interior designer who wouldn’t cost me an arm and a leg, I discovered one who refused to charge me on the understanding she could showcase the work as a way of achieving her British Institute of Interior Design qualification.

And then there’s the sex stuff – mutually beneficial but for different reasons altogether.

Eight years ago, before Tinder arrived on the scene and stole some of Craigslist’s thunder, Craigslist was an easy way to find local travel guides with special ‘perks’. I was in my mid-forties at the time, visiting Rome. I encountered one very nice young man who travelled all the way from Naples to Rome to meet me and show me around the city. He arrived, took me for a walk around the Coliseum and then, in my 5-star hotel room, he performed his final generoso—making me squirt all over the 400-thread count Egyptian cotton sheets. Craigslist had its purpose back then, it made business trips more fun.

Given my happy history with Craigslist, on the first day of spring, when the sun was shining brightly, the daffodils were in bloom and even complete strangers smiled at me while shopping on Kilburn High Road, I decided to throw the dice and post a personal on Craigslist. I was horny and was hoping to find, if not a partner, at the very least a shag.

Having just attended a workshop at the UK Dating Fair the weekend previously, entitled “Who Am I Compatible With?” a class that encouraged us to seek partners with shared values (apparently, it’s a myth that opposites attract), I was inspired to make my desire clear from the start:

Dominant, tall, slim man (45+) sought by confident, attractive woman.

 I listed the attributes I was seeking: someone older, wiser, perhaps semi-retired, a lover of good food and wine and travel. I mentioned that I generally identified as submissive but leaned towards being a take-charge person in my day-to-day life. I specified no toy boys or married men, knowing from past experience, on Craigslist at least, that many men tended to skip the ad’s text and go straight to the image. I’d posted “no one under 40” and within five minutes received dozens of messages from Millennials telling me I was the perfect vehicle for their MILF fantasy.

In my ad, I requested that the man have all his own teeth and was able to write in full sentences, and I made a point of noting that I preferred men who looked after their bodies. “Most importantly,” I added, “you do not take yourself too seriously, are naturally curious about the world and interested in what others have to say.”

I pressed submit and, as has been my experience in the past on this site, within a few minutes the replies came flooding in.

There were the usual rejectees: men who couldn’t spell or who used text speak, recent college grads my own sons’ ages, and guys who provided a cock shot, a phone number, and nothing else. However, there were also half a dozen that stood out. They included a 45-year-old firefighter who claimed to be in ‘good shape.’ I was suspicious, given my CL experience with men and knowing that “good shape” was a subjective term. Another was a 39-year-old banker based in Canary Wharf with a penchant for poker and a ‘mature city professional,’ who apparently thought that information alone was enough to entice me. And there was a man named Bryan, a 47-year-old Canadian based in London, who sent me lots of pictures of his erect penis. It was of a pleasing size and shape, although I’ve always preferred a man who keeps it in his pants until after a face-to-face meeting, after which making a penile appearance is the logical next step.

After skimming through another ten or twenty messages, one arrived that contained the four magic words guaranteed to make me wet. Semi-Retired. Investment. Banker. That is – a man with money and time on his hands. I’m not a gold digger but I’ve funded most of my relationships and no longer have an interest in doing so.

The banker’s name was John and he had a double-barrelled surname which indicated Eastern European origins. A quick Google search revealed a slightly dodgy past. He’d had some kind of run-in with the FCA over an investment scheme that hadn’t gone well, and been suspended by his employer, one of the larger banks. But then, is that really unusual in that business? Over the years, I’d read numerous stories in the broadsheets about bankers cooking the books or setting up dubious trust funds or Ponzi schemes. At least John hadn’t gone to prison. He seemed interesting, at least, and probably had a story to tell. I got in touch.

John told me he spent most of his time managing a block of studio apartments he owned in West London and one he had just purchased in Leipzig, his hometown. He had a nice voice, sounded friendly and relatively interesting.

We met on a Sunday afternoon, at a Hilton Hotel bar, at John’s suggestion.

I got there early and took a seat at the back of the room, away from the handful of other customers scattered around the cavernous space. Dissonant jazz music was playing through the speakers. The décor looked like it had been lifted from a Bond movie —dark brown wallpaper, long mirrors, large high-backed 60s-style chairs. The bar was twenty feet long and its stools were deserted. I ordered a glass of Malbec, handed my card to the waitress, and hoped I wouldn’t be drinking alone. Having been stood up on dates with Craigslist prospects before, I’ve learned that one man’s “I’ll be there” is another’s “Sure, unless a better opportunity arises.”

John arrived 10 minutes later, in a mix of brown tweed jacket, purple flowery shirt, a pair of jeans and a grey flat cap—country gentlemen, by way of Bayswater. His skin was almost transparent and so white it made him appear otherworldly. Slim and about six feet tall, he took off his hat to reveal a shiny, bald pate. He had small blue eyes and slightly lopsided lips that I felt drawn to because their asymmetry was surprisingly fetching.

I was in no position to judge him, as I was wearing jeans, tan suede cowboy boots and a multicoloured trilby, which covered my long hair, recently tinted fuchsia, my nod to difference.

I stood up to kiss him on both cheeks. “You made it,” I said, the surprise barely hidden in my voice.

“Well, of course,” he replied, sincerely.

John called the waitress over and asked her whether she had any non-alcoholic cocktails. Red Flag number #1. It was late afternoon and I knew John had taken public transport. A drink or two usually takes the edge off first meetings. It looked like I’d be drinking alone. By the time, his non-alcoholic mojito appeared, I had almost finished with my wine and ordered another, not caring whether that might bother a non-drinker.

We discovered a shared interest in property, as I’d recently renovated my home. He told me about his property portfolio and a renovation project he had been working on in a remote Eastern European city, now almost complete. After an hour we were still talking about it. He took out his phone and we went through the slide show of images on it: the newly tiled bathroom, the dining table shipped from Italy, the balcony and roof terrace. Like so many other men I’d met online, the focus of the conversation was him. What he was doing, his own achievements, what he enjoyed. And I put up with it because I was ambivalent. And horny. And he was sufficiently intriguing.

“Maybe you can help me christen the bed,” he said, confidently. I laughed nervously, despite myself and despite my experience with Craigslist men. I hadn’t even had a sip of my second drink and he was already steering the conversation towards sex. “And you can give me some decorating advice too,” he added.

I wasn’t sure I wanted to fuck him or be his interior designer. Still, he ticked many of the qualities I was looking for in a potential partner. He was a semi-retired. As a former investment banker, he was solvent. We shared many interests. While he wasn’t traditionally good looking, he could hold a conversation, although laughter was in short supply. He confessed to voting for Nigel Farage and I wondered if I could overlook that. I wasn’t sure I could. That would be hard to explain to my friends, who were rooting for Jeremy Corbyn at the time. I was horny, so I tried to remain open-minded. We had met on Craigslist, after all, not Guardian Soulmates or one of the staid sites targeting those seeking long-term relationships.

We ended up taking the Jubilee Line together. As we entered London Bridge station, John turned around on the escalator, pulled me towards him and pressed his lips against mine. His tongue probed my mouth. I was a little merry with the drink so I let him for a few seconds. Then I pulled away.

“Come back with me,” he said. I told him I had to work the next day and get up early, which was half true. By this point, I just wanted him to go.

We got into the carriage, while I counted the stops until he got off at Baker Street. I didn’t want to go home with him. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to see him again. I was desperate for him to say something funny, to break the awkward silences, the uncomfortable conversations about sex and the misplaced intimacy.

When I got home, I went to my computer and saw another 40 emails in my inbox, all of them responses to my original Craigslist post. I deleted them all. And then I pulled up the ad and pressed delete. Craigslist had once been a reliable site for connecting with men, back when I thought of men as items on a takeaway menu: to be selected, delivered, nibbled on, then tossed aside. Craigslist still worked that way: it brought me a wide selection of prospects and then face-to-face with John, a man who found me attractive and wanted a shag. Just hours earlier, I’d thought I’d wanted the same, and when given the opportunity, I’d opted out.

Special thanks to Mark Rathmell for creating the illustrations.

AoA interview. Suzanne Portnoy meets Monique Roffey, Author of The Tryst

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Suzanne Portnoy wrote The Butcher, the Baker and the Candlestick-maker about her outrageous sexual explorations in her 40s after a couple of serious longterm relationships broke up. And they include many visits to Rio’s in Camden. While Monique Roffey has written both novels – White Woman on a Green Bicycle was short-listed for the Orange Prize, her last novel House of Ashes was short-listed for the Costa Prize – a memoir With the Kisses of His Mouth which charts her journey into both Craigs List and tantra as a six year relationship broke up and she is about to publish The Tryst which is an erotic novel that looks at a sexless marriage and sees what happens when a seductive, other-worldly Lilah comes along and intoxicates them both. Here they tangle and joust over the depths and morals of sexuality and writing.

SUZANNE: I know, to some extent, that The Tryst was actually based on a real-life relationship that you had. Bearing in mind that you have already written a memoir, so you were not afraid to be upfront about your own personal life, why did you choose to make this fictitious?

MONIQUE: Well, actually this book was started long before the memoir; this is a prequel to the memoir, which I started seventeen years ago. So my first attempt to write about my situation was fictional. The Tryst came before the memoir and it’s a story that was very similar to the situation I was in with Jane and Bill: we were a loving couple in a stable relationship. There was a lot of love in the relationship; it was a really well-matched relationship in many ways, but if I had to look back and say what was wrong, it is because I was such a young woman. I was a sort of innocent, and unrealised. I was a very, very, very under-resourced woman; that was one of the reasons why my relationship was so celibate; because I was like ‘where do I go to be me, to be the bigger me sexually?’.

SUZANNE: Do you think that is kind of a generational thing, because certainly when I look back on my 20s either we didn’t know to ask or we didn’t think it was okay to ask for what we wanted sexually.

MONIQUE: Is it marriage? Or sometimes the sex we get within marriage; it’s very much a lucky dip, some people luck out, some people don’t. One of the direst outcomes of a life would be marrying somebody, agreeing to be with that person for the rest of your life, and quite soon into it, you realise that the sex has died or it’s dead, or it wasn’t strong enough. The sex could die for a number of reasons and our mothers’ generation would often stay in a celibate marriage for years, decades; a lifetime in a celibate marriage! So, we are just a generation after that. I think women like you and I have the desire to be out there in the world, to have adventures. My sex drive and my creative drive are very much linked.

SUZANNE: I think probably there is something to be said for very creative people being highly sexed people because sexuality is an expression of creativity and that you can be creative within a sexual relationship. I started reading a little bit about the Lilith character and about her being the first wife of Adam. Originally she was a Jewish woman but you cast her as a Southern Belle, which seemed an odd choice. What was that about?

MONIQUE: Good question. It comes from having met an American woman years ago; someone not too different from you, actually. I met this woman years ago that did come from the Deep South. She was really small and she was just on fire. She was on fire sexually. She talked like a policeman, she would laugh her head off; she sat with her legs open and you could tell you couldn’t leave men alone with her, for a moment. She would eat them alive. She was also very talented. That’s where Lilah’s ‘play persona’ came from, the one she uses on Jane and Bill: in the book, she adopts different personas to entrap innocent couples, and she has this Miss Alabama act going on for Jane and Bill.

SUZANNE: I was challenged by the idea of this predatory woman probably because I look at myself and I don’t want to think about myself in this way, but I also think, having been in relationships with people who I knew were either in celibate marriages or just in open marriages I never saw myself as a kind of ‘devil’ character. I always thought the only person that is making the choice here, the moral choice, is the man. It’s not me; I am just going about my business being my usual single self, and you are making a choice to be with me. You’re attached and I am not, but you seem to cast some of that blame on her.

MONIQUE: First of all, I see Lilah as a change agent and a harbinger of chaos; that is her fetish that’s what she likes to do, screw up the lives of these innocent couples. She’s kinky, but she doesn’t want to go and play with some experienced Dom or Sub – she likes these innocent people, the Mr. and Mrs. Everyday.

SUZANNE: But that is a really negative connotation of women.

MONIQUE: Really? I think all three people in this triangle are out of balance. The couple who aren’t having sex are out of balance, sexually. But the predator is out of balance too. In her love thing; she is too sexual. They have no sex, she is too sexy; they love each other, Lilah doesn’t know what love is. However, they all underestimate each other. Lilah thinks she’s just going to have a one night and they are completely out of their depth with her. Lilah is a descendant of the Lilith and she comes from a race of lovers who are much more pragmatic about love. They don’t really have love in this underworld. In a way, Jane is a bit like how I used to be years ago. My erotic life was only alive in my imagination: I dreamt Lilah up, I wrote her and Jane also was dreaming her up. The only part of Jane that is alive was her imagination, and she is dreaming about all these sexy trysts. I was doing this too. She literally dreams this pest up; she manifests this woman who comes in and she is the change agent Jane is looking for, she even invites her home. But Lilah is an evil person, who hasn’t a good bone in her body and she is also kind of human. She is a different kind of being altogether.

SUZANNE: The thing is, as women, we are confronted by this image of the slut, the slag, these women who are just up for sex. Women put other women like this down all the time. I always feel that the slut kind of persona is really difficult to manage, successfully, because there is so much weight attached to our own feelings about that type of woman. Even though you and I both know that we can just ‘do’ casual sex and walk away, that we would be completely comfortable about it.

MONIQUE: I have had lots of no strings attached sex, in the past. I’m not sure about casual sex these days, though. I’ve lost the knack or the appetite, or something has gone, completely.

SUZANNE: I lost some friends during that period of time when I was doing that kind of activity because they just really didn’t like it; it was too much.

MONIQUE: Maybe it was too much, for the average women, yes. Is society ready for somebody like you, like me, like Lilah, who is a bit too much? Lilah comes from the underworld, so she’s kind of a magical character.

SUZANNE: Well that’s how you get away with it.

MONIQUE: It’s not just I get away with it, Lilah isn’t the solution, that’s really what I think. She isn’t the answer. Bill fantasies about keeping her locked in a cage as a kind of sex slave. She is almost all sexuality and they are unsexual; they are locked up in their own stalemate, and this s very common amongst couples and carries lots of shame. I have been writing a blog about ‘There is Always Five Couples in the Bed:’ mommy, daddy on both sides, all the things mommy and daddy said; ‘don’t touch daddy’s penis’, ‘don’t do this, it’s bad’; it’s all in the bed with you. They are dealing with that shit; they are not getting it on because he has married his mother and she has got an alcoholic father and so married ‘nice’ Bill and they are stuck; you see it everywhere. There are intimacy problems, so they are not shagging. In this other very highly sexed, very powerful, very malicious sprite, Lilah, of course, I’m using this malicious sprite archetype; all through literature, all through Shakespeare, we have sprites that are fairies, pixies; they mean no good, they are precocious and they steal babies, lead people astray. It’s their job.

SUZANNE: Just to make mischief essentially. Now that you’re older, did you find writing the sex scenes easier than, say, when you wrote your memoir?

MONIQUE: I still find it as easy to write sex! I have been writing these sexy blogs recently and I have been surprised how I still find it easy to talk about fucking. I have a tantric and poetic feeling for language about sex and sexuality. Sometimes when I write about sex it can also be about fucking; good hard fucking, but more often than not, my opinion and my attitude to sex has been very influenced by tantra. For example, I’ve just written something for The Amorist magazine about a horny thing that happened not that long ago when I invited a man home. We just fooled around and kissed on the sofa, but I could feel the ‘kundalini’ rising in the both of us; that is how I would talk about desire these days, in tantric terms. I still find it easy to write about sex and to talk about sex. I like what you said the other day; that if you’ve been in the ring, in the arena and played a lot and been with people who are sexual, if you are willing to throw yourself out there, if you want to ‘go to the buffet’, taste everything, every dish, then you come back laden with treasure. I’ve got lots to say, and that’s because I’ve got lots of experience to draw on.

SUZANNE: Is it possible to be in love with someone while in a celibate relationship and how important is sex in a relationship. My question is how do you feel about that; is it possible?

MONIQUE: There are big differences between male and female sexuality. For example, we all go to sleep; we all go into REM sleep about six or seven times in the night. That’s when we’re paralysed. Men, they’ll get a boner every time they go into REM; so they get a boner six or seven times a night even when they are paralyzed and this has been proven. Men get turned on in their dreams. Men also usually wake up every morning with a boner; that is only one very common and natural aspect of male sexuality. Anyone sleeping with a man knows you wake up next to a horny man every morning, especially when he’s young. What do we women do about that? We don’t always wake up every morning, ready for action.

SUZANNE: I do, that is my time; I am not an evening person at all!

MONIQUE: Okay, you are very lucky. Also PIV sex, (penis in vagina sex). Loads of women do not orgasm through penetration; eighty percent, a high percentage – so those two things alone bring a lot of incompatibility to the average couple. Then there is childbirth. Throw that in, general fatigue, too; there are many, many reasons why the sex dance just collapses in a relationship. People go through patches of it; that’s kind of normal. Also, many women don’t know themselves. Many women I know have never used a vibrator, don’t masturbate. There are tons of women who’ve never touched themselves. I’ve been in many tantra workshops and seen women sob about their sexual lives or lack of it. There’s an issue around women not talking and not sharing things and not going, “you know what, my husband’s cock was really big and he hurt me; I should have said something and I should have stopped him.” Women keep quiet about their sexual grief.

SUZANNE: Again one of the big things in the book is that Lilith comes in and she forces them to confront the inadequacies in their marriage and she is that disruptive character so she just definitely makes them…it’s a wake-up call for them. And often affairs are a wake-up call for marriages.

MONIQUE: Affairs can save a marriage.

SUZANNE: I think it can go either way, but I think what affairs do, is they open up a conversation that previously wasn’t happening.

MONIQUE: Sometimes it opens up a conversation for a brief time, only, and they go back to how things were before; it depends on how brave the couple is. I think it can be rare for women to take the lead around the sexual relations. Also, I think women are very monogamous in their heart and once they’ve had a child or two, they’re done. In some Latin American couples, you see this working out really well. ‘I’ve had your babies, I was hot and sexy once, I’m married, here is the ring; I have the house, I have the name, I have the car, and now I’m past menopause. You need to go and get fucked somewhere else.’ In the Middle Eastern/Muslim culture, men are allowed four wives; it doesn’t just benefit the man, the wife thinks “Phew”. The new wife can see to his sexual needs now, I’m done.”

SUZANNE: It took you a long time to write, so was it just gestating for fifteen years for a reason?

MONIQUE: It was a combination, I started it when I was an inexperienced writer and also it was so personal. There was a lot of shame and taboo around this big secret when I was in my thirties and I sort of left the novel. I wrote the first draft fifteen years ago. It looked very different; it was one long story, then another long story and then another long story. It wasn’t chopped up like it is now.

SUZANNE: I was going to ask that, when you went back to it because I’ve got loads of writing sitting on hard drives and honestly when I read it back, it’s like I am looking at somebody else’s stuff; it’s like I don’t recognize this person.

MONIQUE: I started it when I was a younger woman, sure, still invested in patriarchy, still a little bit cautious, and still with a great feeling of failure around that relationship and just not as confident a writer. In the last fifteen years, I’ve had about three different computers, so it has gone from a massive desktop to another laptop, to a Mac. I had a floppy disc at one point. I always knew that I wanted to hang on to The Tryst; I always knew I had something. I thought it has got universal appeal; I’ve got to hang on to that story. It had spurts; I started it in 2003, I left it, I think, until maybe in 2006; I had blitz on it then. Then in 2012, I had another blitz on it and then we sold it. We sold it twice; we sold it to Simon & Schuster; they bought it, then they got cold feet and they dumped it. Then we sold it again, to Dodo Ink, my current publisher. The more The Tryst was knocked back, the more I wanted to see it published.

SUZANNE: In fact, I think sometimes these things happen for a reason at a certain time; you think people are ready to have these conversations now.

MONIQUE: People have had ten years of social media.

SUZANNE: That is right, absolutely! I think this kind of book, people are ready for it now and I don’t think people are reading it now and thinking oh my God, how dare she, how dare she; what’s wrong with them or …

MONIQUE: or, she, that Monique Roffey is anti-marriage, she hates us, and she hates me! No, I don’t hate you, I was you; I was just like you. Women like you and I are trailblazers. Let me show you something I received last year; this is about my memoir and this is the best piece of fan mail I’ve ever had, from a man called Michael, who I did meet once on a tantric weekend. This is what he said; “Hey Monique, I just wanted to say I’m getting married to a tantric female in three and a half weeks’ time. It wouldn’t have happened without your book and I think of you with love and gratitude; our lives have been revolutionized, take care.” So, I revolutionized a man’s life with my book, about my sexual journey in my forties! That is why I think you are right; people are ready to read about sex now, and female sexual desire at its meekest and most repressed and at it’s fullest and baddest. Both are here in this novel. The old Monique, and a wicked side. I identify with both Jane and Lilah, for sure, and both live in me.[amazon_link asins=’0993575862′ template=’ProductGrid’ store=’advaofage-21′ marketplace=’UK’ link_id=’c697c1c0-5833-11e7-8d9d-477f06c83fc1′]

I Went Back to Rio’s

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I went back to Rio’s this week, the naturist sauna club, in Northwest London. I’d spent half a decade there, hanging out, getting laid, getting warm and then suddenly stopped five years ago when I met a guy who didn’t like me going there. I’d said, “OK, I won’t go back,” because I loved him and figured I’d had enough of being a swinger; it was time to settle down.

I’d thought about it often over the years, especially on the days when the weather was so cold and miserable, that it felt like my bones were freezing over. On those days, I missed Rio’s steam room and of being able to lie in there, often alone, for hours, until I was so warm, I could walk outside with my jacket half undone on a 5-degree day.

Other times, I thought about going back for the sex and the camaraderie. I wanted to be with other like-minded people, naked and free. Rio’s was a place I could always count on for a chat with a stranger and a fuck on the side… if I wanted it. I could have a steam, a sauna and go home. I always thought of it not so much as a swinging club but an erotic leisure centre. Even standing next to a naked man with a semi-hard on, showering, was a turn-on. How many other places could provide so much for the £8 entrance fee?

From time to time, I’d find myself in Kentish Town and I’d pass the place and I’d wonder whether it had changed. Would there still be a tin of McVities digestive biscuits at the bar? Could I still order a tuna sweet corn sandwich? I’d wonder they’d tarted it up, got a new steam room, whether there was still fake grass in the garden to lie upon. I’d reminisce in my head about the fun times I’d had, the laughs, the horny sex, and all the people I’d met.

For some long, it was my refuge. I’d pop my clothes and mobile phone in the yellow locker by the entrance and then forget about everything. It was like being dropped onto an alien planet where I could be and do just what I wanted and everyone was accepting. OK, maybe not the woman behind the bar, that always seemed to be wearing Marigolds, but all the rest didn’t seem to mind what did. For the few hours that I was there, I wasn’t anyone’s mother, or boss, or friend; I was just a naked middle-aged woman, usually amongst a sea of men.

Admittedly, the place was not for everyone. I tried to bring a girlfriend once and she wasn’t having any of it. “I get why you like it here,” she said, sitting in the steam room in a bikini while a guy opposite us leered at her. “But it’s not for me.”

In any case, now I’m single again, I figured, why not? I’d know soon enough, once I got inside, whether I really had moved on. I checked the weather report and it looked like being a glorious, hot day. I wanted to lie naked in a garden, soaking up the sun, and I couldn’t think of anywhere else in London where that was possible… besides Rios. Maybe I was looking for an excuse to go back too.

I checked Citymapper and it said I could be there in 40 minutes. A bus was leaving in 5 minutes. That was all the reason I needed. A small part of me was scared so I grabbed a bikini bottom before I left. In the past, I’d always gone completely naked because, after all, it was a naturist club but this time I didn’t feel so bold; I wanted some protection. And I’d taken one further precaution by enlisting someone to come with me, a local guy who was on a swinging site and seemed nice and attractive enough. I knew, if worse came to worse, we could ditch each other.

I went up to the door and paid the entrance fee, grateful that the woman taking my money was not the same one I remembered from my past. That woman always used to give me the up and down with her eyes as if to say, “I know what you get up to here.” Despite being five years since I’d last passed over that threshold, I half expected everything to be just as I’d left it.

I grabbed my towel, was buzzed through the door, noticing the new shiny, black mirrors in the changing area. Then I saw the familiar lockers with their key on a wide elastic strap. There was the same bin in the corner for our wet towels and the one, lone chair in the other. The rest was familiar too, although now in the garden there were rows of green plastic chairs where none had been years earlier, many of them broken. Some building supplies were tucked in a corner too like they always had been. Funny how some things never change.

I met my new friend and it turned out we had a lot in common, both being media folk and from North London. We were grateful when it turned out that our children, around the same ago, did not know each other. Conversation flowed easily. I went out and brought back a couple of beers from the shop across the street. A Hungarian guy came and sat down next to us and told us about the swinging club he used to run near Budapest. A guy opposite heard my American accent and asked my views on Trump, of course. Later, a man came round with some ice cream he had bought nearby and offered us each one. ‘What’s a hot day without ice cream?’ he said. My companion was smiling from ear to ear. “I can’t believe I’ve passed this place every day and never been inside.”

We struck up a conversation with a nice couple and, before too long, we were all playing together in one of the small side rooms. Sweat pouring off our bodies (the room was very small), we kissed and licked and fucked until the heat became unbearable. They were cute and fun. I hadn’t kissed a woman in a while; I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed it. How soft and small a woman’s mouth always felt compared to a man’s. Her boyfriend was well hung, horny and hard.

“I guess you’re back on the horse,” said my new friend. “Yes, I guess I am,” I said.

Something tells me I’ll be going back again soon.

Looking for Love in all the Wrong Places: Episode 5

1 Minute Read

He turned up in a scruffy t-shirt, unshaven, reeking of fags. His hair was well past his ears and looked, frankly, ridiculous. Welcome to the world of Fab Swingers. Last week I decided to go back to my spiritual home and logged into a site I hadn’t used for nearly a decade. Back in 2006-2009 I was a regular there and remembered having some good times with a handful of handsome, kinky men. Having zipped through Craigslist and Plenty of Fish in a couple of weeks, going on ‘Fab’ (as it’s known by its regulars) seemed the logical next step on my journey to find love in all the wrong places.

How wrong could wrong be? I was about to find out. Find love? I’d be surprised if anyone on Fab even gets laid, which surely is the point of a swinging site. Never have I seen so many disembodied penises in one place. I like a nicely shaped penis just as much as any straight woman but I’ve always preferred them attached to a body and a brain. These are penises seemingly without owners. Shaved penises. Circumcised ones. Penises that are curved and others that are long and straight. If you’re ever in a situation where you’re being asked to prove that not all penises have been created equal, you only need search by men on Fab. But where were the faces and bodies to accompany them? And why, for heaven’s sake, were the few profile pics on the site so, damn small? At my age, it’s hard enough to make out the features of a man on a 3”x5” print; never mind one that is just over an inch square.

The eternal optimist, I decided to give the site a go anyway. My heart was not really in it but the guy I arranged to meet lived within walking distance and, if you’ve learned anything about me by now, it’s that I don’t drive. Steve (not his real name) was bisexual, had a stall on Portobello and dabbled in photography. He also held a weekly swinging party at his house and Fab being a sort of Yelp for swingers, had reviews to prove it. ‘His blowjob was a bit lackluster,’ read one. ‘Must try harder next time.’ I’d seen his picture but it was so small and so blurry, he could have been a George Clooney look-a-like and I wouldn’t have been able to tell.

The meet was a disaster. We had very little in common and the tobacco smell wafting around my nose didn’t help either. When he complained about the price of the prosecco, “£7? Now I know why I don’t come here very often,” I knew we were going nowhere fast. Within 30 minutes I was out the door of the pub, having made an emergency call to a girlfriend. Within the hour, I was comfortably settled next to her in a comfy armchair at Picturehouse Central watching the real George Clooney on a big screen where I could make out all his lovely wrinkles and was feeling far better for it. When I got home I quickly deleted my profile off Fab. Enough of that nonsense!

It hasn’t been all bad. I did have a very nice time with a Tinder guy just recently. If I’m honest with myself, while he may not be perfect, he does tick the sexy, smart and fun boxes. Being a woman of discretion (hah!), I am not saying more than that. 😉 Sayonara for now and hope to see some of you at the Advantages of Age Launch party on the 23rd June! Click here for a FREE ticket. It’s going to be a good night.

Looking for love in all the wrong places: Episode 4

4 Minute Read

Week four (or five, I’ve lost count) of my quest to find love in all the wrong places and already I am exhausted, bored and frustrated. Gone are the halcyon days of the Internet, when online dating was self-selective and exciting. Back in the very early 2000’s, when far fewer people owned a computer than they do now, you could almost be guaranteed that anyone you met on an online dating site had a degree, and almost certainly worked in IT, Law or the Media. I have friends that I met over 15 years ago on dating sites that I’m still friendly with today. There was the very sexy war correspondent, the hilarious computer game’s writer, various lawyers and much more. I didn’t actually have sex with all of them but that wasn’t the point. They were interesting, articulate people that I would never have met in real life.

Contrast that to now when every man and his dog are online and the sifting process alone is enough to make me want to crawl under the duvet and never come out. Never mind that text-speak has become so ubiquitous, no matter what the age of the correspondent. Everyone online seems to think that it’s OK to spell “I” as i or “you” as u. It drives me crazy. I can almost forgive my university-educated son when he does it on his CV. It’s much harder to forgive a 50-something man who really should know better.

On the positive side, it’s easy to get a date. Some things never change, no matter what one’s age. Sure, it would help if I shaved 10 years off but I’m not that desperate… yet. Since my last post, I managed to fit in another date with Mr. Tall, Dark and Handsome before he flew off on holiday for a week. Since his return, he’s not been back in touch and the Internet being largely unpredictable, I suspect he has had second thoughts or found a new play pal. I can pretend not to care but I do. He was lovely, local and had potential. Not boyfriend material (too many issues) but in a would-you-like-to-come-over-and-chill-out kind of way. For a moment, I thought I’d found Mr. Right for Now. Now I’m waiting for some kind of closure while appreciating that is asking for the moon, especially from a person whom one has met on Craigslist. The goodbye chat, face to face, was pretty much de rigueur before the Internet came along; now everyone knows that if they don’t text you back, it’s over.

One of my new rules about online dating is to take myself off a new site within a week of going on. I post my profile; gather up all the responses from the men happy to see a newbie and then bugger off after securing a date or two. I don’t want to appear like the house that has been on the market for 3 months and clearly has rising damp or some structural issues. No way. I stayed on Craigslist just long enough to meet someone interesting and then I deleted my post and republished it on Plenty of Fish. Once there, I arranged and had one date with a fun guy working in the Arts and then deleted my profile once again. We spent a lovely, platonic evening together but after he confessed to sharing parenting responsibilities with his ex, I couldn’t see a future for us aside from as friends. I have no desire to spend my precious weekends with someone’s else’s child, having just seen my own off so recently. At 55, I have a pretty good idea of what I do and don’t want and being a stepmum to a toddler isn’t one of them.

Also, I have to ask myself, is blogging about my dating life again the right thing to do? I’m not 40 anymore. What if one of my potential paramours reads about my adventures and is not amused? Back in my swinging days, the boys I slept with used to get a real rise (!) out of reading about my adventures (especially when they were involved). But I’m no longer a swinger and I actually do want to meet a life partner… eventually. What I’m saying is that this may be my last column. Or not. You’ll just have to come back and find out. 😉

Looking for Love in all the Wrong Places: Episode 3

1 Minute Read

Well, what can I say? Just a few weeks ago, I was quite convinced that my sex drive had gone on a Victorian tour of Europe and had settled down somewhere in a bohemian hotel in Marrakech, having decided never to return. Then I went on a date with a handsome, dark stranger that I met off of Craigslist (yes, really!) that turned into a frenzied and passionate few hours in bed, reminding me of what I’d been missing. I’m not sure which Suzanne I prefer – the one with no libido or the one with the ravenous sexual appetite. Life being what it is – busy, unpredictable and full of surprises, we have not seen each other again. I am not tremendously bothered. As Doris Day once sang, ‘Que sera, sera.’

Amongst many of the advantages of age (and don’t let anyone tell you there aren’t any) is that I’m not pining or doing the weird, creepy, stalky stuff I used to do in my twenties. I haven’t just ‘happened’ to have passed by his flat, hoping he might be staring out the window and spot me. I’m perfectly prepared for the fact that our one encounter may have been just that – a very satisfying one night stand that got me back in the saddle.

In the meantime, my enthusiasm for craigslist has waned. I may have lucked out with Mr. Dark and Handsome but my one other date was a non-starter. Despite him revealing his Dom side (never a bad thing) and sending me a pic of his toy collection (a strap on, flogger, paddle and crop), I was not impressed when he then followed it up with the naked picture. I may come off sounding like a prude but gone are the days when I want to see a picture of a middle-aged, naked man, standing in front of his bathroom mirror, before we’ve exchanged bodily fluids.

While my own boys, now both in their twenties, have received their fair share of late night, drunken texts (millennials don’t seem to do the naked pic thing like baby boomers), even they have worked out that retaining an air of mystery is part of the game. It’s undignified and a little desperate when a fifty-something woman feels the need to send a naked pic of her not-quite-so-perky breasts to a fifty-something man, never mind the other way around. I prefer undressing in real rather than virtual life. It’s harder for either party to run away when you’ve both committed to getting naked in front of each other.

I’ve now deleted myself off Craigslist and moved onto another, free site to see whether Mr. Right for Now might be lurking there. So far, there seem to be disproportionately more single men that live in Bromley than the rest of the UK. It is not a place to which I would like to visit.

I’ve also decided that there’s no point beating around the bush. If I do want someone with whom to share life’s experiences or even just a glass of wine on a fairly regular basis (which would be good enough for now), I need to let as many people as possible know. And I mean everyone – from my hairdresser to the woman who stamps my post to my friends and casual acquaintances. I’ve seen friends rely on the digital world to deliver a partner and waste hours or even years of their life. Surely amongst my five hundred or so Facebook friends there has to be one who knows someone with whom I might be compatible.

So, there you have it. It has been three weeks since my quest began and I’ve had two dates, one shag and written about 85 emails (most no longer than a sentence or two). It’s still very early days and I’m still hopeful. Stay tuned for the next installment…

Looking for Love in all the Wrong Places: Episode 2

1 Minute Read

Placing a personals ad on Craigslist was always going to be a crapshoot. I knew that. I’d done it before, albeit in my forties, and it had led to some interesting as well as deeply unsatisfying experiences . It had turned up a few guys, for instance, who wanted to take part in a gang-bang in a swanky hotel room. I think they had not expected it to actually happen and I remember one guy, a notch above 30, who got carried away, saying “Suck that, bitch” as if he was the lead in a porn film. I had to tell him, in my very best Mary Poppin’s voice, to “be very quiet.” There was another man who took me to a lovely dinner at the Soho House Hotel and turned out to have a wandering eye, literally. He had one eye that just kept zooming off, in all directions. It was very disconcerting.

The first few emails I received in response to my latest ad were not terribly encouraging. There were two or three from men who had obviously not read my ad asking for someone my own age and were chancing it. One, a mere 27, sent me a picture of his lean, headless torso, just stopping at his unbranded underwear.

Craigslist Boy

There was another who spelled out something completely unintelligible using text message speak, always a worrying sign:

hi i saw ur ad on cl,,,i live in kilburn station jubile line,,183cm tall slim,43 years old. xxxxxxxx u can cal or find me on whatsapp

There was the man who was intrigued by my beauty, having not yet seen my picture and was a strong believer in quantum physics. Quite a few lived very far outside London, even though I had made it clear I was not a woman who wanted to travel far.

Frank (not his real name) was perplexed as to what I meant by ‘having tried swiping right and left.’ When I wrote back and said it referred to Tinder, he replied saying, “… it does frighten me a bit when I hear that a woman has been trawling places like Tinder.…I wouldn’t feel comfortable if I was sleeping with someone who was having multiple sex partners.” This being craigslist, a place frequented by men seeking sex for hire, I think the irony must have been lost on him. I, on the other hand, had not been laid in six months.

And then there was an older man, a philanthropist and former CEO, who invited me to his private member’s club for dinner, only to tell me 30 emails later, that he was married. Why he couldn’t have made that clear to me 29 emails earlier, is anyone’s guess. I had just about forgotten how many time wasters there are in online dating land when he dropped into my life to remind me.

Amongst the debris, however, a few possible gold nuggets have stood out. The banker, for example. At 42 still a bit too young, but within walking distance, handsome and someone with whom I might unwind over a drink nearby. He has potential.

A designer with his own small agency who likes jazz and lives in North London, on a tube line just on the edge of Zones 2/3 , seems interesting too.

A couple of dates have been put in the diary and I’m open to the possibilities. Watch this space.

Looking for Love in all the Wrong Places

1 Minute Read

Since hitting the menopause, my libido may have done a runner but my desire for love and companionship most certainly had not. Finally an empty nester, I decided it was time I looked for someone with whom I could share life’s experiences, knowing that finding such a person could take some time.

A good friend of mine runs a small fashion label selling unusual embroidered skirts that she operates from a market stall in Camden Town. It’s the tatty end of the High Street, just down the road from Camden Town tube where stalls selling knock-off t-shirts with slogans like ‘My Girlfriend Went to London and all I Got was this Shitty T-shirt’ sit side by side next to fake Doc Martens and Goth dresses. My friend’s designer skirts stand out by a mile. It’s no surprise she makes a comfortable living from them. With their distinctive, yet subtle patterns of birds on a telegraph wire or colourful polo mints against a pitch-black background, they’re like orchids in amongst a sea of brambles.

It was with this sentiment in mind that I decided that my search for love should start in the place in which one would least expect to find me, Craigslist. For those unfamiliar with Craigslist, it’s the place to go if you’re hoping to find someone up for a lunchtime, zipless fuck or a ‘sensual’ massage. Not wishing for either, I figured I stood half a chance of bagging Mr. Right or Mr. Just-Right-for-Now if they happened to be browsing, for fun, as I sometimes did. I’d tried Tinder and been disappointed. Sure, I’d had more than a few matches but mostly I could never seem to get past Tinder chat to Whats App and then to Real Life. Guardian Soulmates seemed so, well, expensive and a bit desperate. Friends I knew who had tried it all complained of there being far too many opinionated vegans. I’m a girl who appreciates a good steak. Craigslist had always appealed to me for its randomness. I’d used the site successfully in the past to find web designers, interior designers, white van men and, yes, once upon a time, a few free lunches too (with and without the sex). My philosophy on life being, ‘You don’t know until you’ve tried,’ I submitted my free ad:

“Dynamic, Attractive, 55-year-old seeking Male Romantic Companion”

“Swiping right and left has turned out to be a massive waste of time and, as a woman with not much time to spare, I am hoping this place might prove to be more efficient when it comes to finding a match.”

“I am a busy, happy, healthy woman who has lived a very full life and now finally an empty nester. Hurrah! I have a good sense of humour (even briefly, at one point, attempting to be a stand-up comedian), a positive outlook on life and am seeking a man, my own age, which also enjoys life and would like someone with whom to share it.”

“I enjoy the usual pursuits, eating out, cinema, theatre, museums and galleries and I am particularly fond of jazz.”

“When it comes to my taste in men, all the men with whom I have been close have been slim and dark haired, ranging in height from 5’9” – 6’4”. So I guess you could say this is my ‘type.’ In my ideal world, I imagine being with someone older, wiser and maybe even retired who views my hectic life and entrepreneurial spirit as charming, rather than threatening.”

“Please do not send me pictures of your penis or about how you fantasize about being with an older woman. I have had my share of both and as I’m sure you are writing to me in the hope of a response, you would end up very disappointed.”

“Your photo will receive mine in return. Go on, make my day.”


My mid-life, Craigslist dating adventure has begun. Watch this space for the next episode.

Losing my libido was a blessing in disguise

1 Minute Read

It was 2006 when my first book, ‘The Butcher, the Baker, the Candlestick Maker’ was published to great acclaim. The story of my erotic journey from celibate wife to prolific swinger, within a month it was on the bestseller list and for a brief period I became a minor celebrity. Men I didn’t know emailed begging me for a date, documentary makers wooed me in the hope of filming my life story and lots of journalists (mainly middle-aged men) contacted me hoping for an interview (and sometimes more).

I was forty-five and having the time of my life. I had a stable of highly experienced lovers whom I rotated on a bi-monthly basis. If I was a little bored I would drive to a ‘naturist club’ in Kentish Town during my lunchtime, pick up the guy with the biggest dick, and shag him.

Some friends worried that I was turning into a sex addict but I knew it was a phase. After an unhappy marriage and the death of a partner, I wanted nothing more than to distance myself from my own emotions and immerse myself in the world of erotic pleasure. If you’re going to be a total hedonist, there’s no better time to go for it then in your forties.

Free of the drama that often surrounds relationships in their twenties and thirties, the forties are the perfect time to have no-strings sex and, thanks to the internet, it’s easier than ever to find someone who knows how to fuck. London may not have the romance of Paris or a fetish scene like Berlin but I found no shortage of men in London whose entire aim in life appeared to be to make a woman feel more pleasure than she ever thought possible.

During the ten years I was on the swinging scene I tried most things including BDSM, threesomes, foursomes and a lot more that I’ve long since forgotten. For two years I only had threesomes because, by then, I knew what I liked and it was that. I couldn’t see the point of having 1-on-1 sex when being filled up by two men felt so much better. They were all nice guys too. Not the most handsome to look at but they were fun and funny and when it came to sex they all had put in their 10,000 hours. Sometimes I felt so much pleasure coming from so many different erogenous zones that I didn’t even know who was doing what and where.

It was 2007 and I was 46 when the broadcaster and writer Jenni Murray contacted me to ask if she could pick my brains over lunch for a book she was writing. Of course I agreed (who wouldn’t?) and so we arranged to meet at Delanceys in Camden Town. A good ten years older than me and past the menopausal stage of life, I remember her saying, “I’d be interested to see if you’re still as sexually vociferous during your menopause as you are now. That should be interesting.”

At the time I brushed off her remark. I was at least five years off worrying about the menopause and so caught up in the moment; it never crossed my mind that I wouldn’t always be up for it.

Then I turned 52. I had started dating a younger guy two years earlier after I came to the conclusion that if I didn’t attempt to reengage with intimacy, I’d probably end up as a pro. Others I knew on the swinging scene were making money from sex work and I’d had no shortage of offers to do the same but always declined. Thanks but no thanks. I could never see the point of mixing that kind of business with pleasure. My boyfriend was handsome and funny and so I made the decision to cut my ties with the scene and try monogamy for a change.

At the beginning it was great but then the menopause caught up with me. I no longer could sleep through the night and I was sweating all the time. For the first time, sex wasn’t the first thing on my mind when I woke up in the morning. If my boyfriend was lying next to me, I was horny but if he wasn’t, I never thought about it. That was weird too because throughout my forties I was so horny that I’d sometimes have to escape to the company toilet to get myself off. So it took a while to get used to the new person that I was becoming and it wasn’t all smooth sailing. My sex drive had been such an integral part of my life; I spent a year grieving over its loss.

Over that year I noticed that men stopped looking at me in the streets and I stopped wearing no knickers. The high heels collected dust and I bought brogues and cowboy boots and traded in my tight skirts for jeans. My boyfriend stuck by because he loved me but I felt guilty at denying a young guy sex when I’d spent the previous ten years shagging every man in sight. Eventually we broke up. It hardly seemed fair that he should have to go without just because I couldn’t be bothered.

Menopause isn’t something that comes and then goes; it’s a slow burn and it takes a while to get used to. I now feel, at 55, like I’m coming out the other side and I’ve not only come to terms with the loss of my libido, I’m actually liking the new, not-so-sexual me. I’m calmer than I used to be, more confident in my decision-making and more relaxed. I’m no longer thinking about the next time I’m going to get laid or worried that it might never happen again. I still have a great black book, I just don’t have the urge to open it up as much as I used to.

If my forties were all about ignoring my girlfriends in favour of shagging a stranger, my fifties are about reconnecting and enjoying the time I spend with my female friends.

And I’m loving work in a way that I didn’t during my swinging years when my job always took second place to getting laid. I’m more focused, more determined to succeed and free of constant sexual urges, there’s far less distraction in my life.

Losing one’s libido isn’t the end of the world, especially when one has had the kind of sex life I have had. I certainly don’t regret spending my forties with my skirt up and my knickers off most of the time. It was great fun – a real roller coaster ride of pleasure and pain. I’m looking forward to the next ten years and beyond as a time for travel, for good food and wine, for work and for spending times with friends. Sex will always be in my life just not in the same way it was before and, you know what, I couldn’t be happier.

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