The mending memoirs: part 2

A fisherman in heels

As with most breakup stories, this tale begins long before that one frosty evening in February when, under a breath-misted pub window, pint of cider in hand, I realised for the first time that it was over. In fact, it begins long before I even knew my ex existed. The reason my breakup side-swiped me so hard I felt I had to write about it has less to do with my ex, and more to do with yours truly.

You see, for as long as I can remember, I've been boy crazy. A self-confessed man junkie hooked on the sickly-sweet nectar of opposite sex attention. When I first discovered guys, I believed they were put on this earth simply for my pleasure. While my friends were downing fizzy bottles of WKD and frothy pints of Fosters, my drink of choice was a slippery, mouth-watering cocktail of two parts desire to one part excitement with a dash of danger for good measure. Back then, no feeling in the world compared to the delightfully dizzying throes of lust. But what started out as innocent infatuation eventually mutated into something more sinister, something beyond the realms of adolescent anarchy or hot-blooded horniness. Something that would become the leading plot-line in the narrative of over a decade of my life. 

To me, early experiences like the feverish fumbling of hands in the downstairs loo at a house party or the clumsy collision of lips on the village hall dance-floor were more than just your average teenage kick. And as I got older, nights out became less about partying with my friends and more about feeding my hunger for male attention. Pubs, bars, and clubs were like lakes, and I a fisherman in heels. I would cast my line, baited with my sexiest outfit, and wait impatiently for something to bite. A wart-ridden toad or a shimmering salmon - I didn't care which class of creature I'd reeled in by the end of the night. All that mattered was that I didn't leave without dinner.

At 15, I was sneaking out in the early hours for tipsy trysts in the woods, the telltale frills of Ann Summers poking out from under my parka. At 16, I was playing games of 'how many boys can I kiss in one night?' and high-fiving my friends as we compared scores. At 17, I was pitting three guys against each other, terrified of what it would mean for my attention-fix if I were to commit to one over the others. At 18, I was making the weekly pilgrimage to a Travelodge in Harlow where I was cheating calculatedly on my first boyfriend. And at 19, I was stumbling blindly into what would turn out to be a toxic and mutually abusive relationship that would cost me four years of my life, some of my friends, and most of my sanity. There was no fee too high, no price I wasn't willing to pay if it meant I could eat. 

A menu of man

After university, I was working a job I hated so I could afford a lifestyle that helped me forget how much I hated it. My weeks were an anxiety-ridden and loneliness-laced blur of work, Netflix, and sleep, and my weekends even blurrier because of booze. It didn't matter that I didn't even like drinking that much, or being at the pub, or most of the people I went to the pub with -  it was all just emotional anaesthesia. The drinking numbed the tug of anxiety. The pub numbed the throb of unhappiness. The filler friends numbed the ache of isolation. And even when my loneliness took on a tangible quality, one with a shape and a weight and a physical presence, I chose not to call my real friends. They seemed painfully ordinary and brutally content, and that scared me in a way I couldn't articulate. I knew only that it felt like a recurring dream I had, one where I was trying to get to the place everyone else was, but my feet were stuck.

But whenever I staggered into the night propped on the arm of my latest catch, I knew that for a few sweaty, groping minutes, I'd be able to forget. If drinking was an over-the-counter painkiller, then sex was a surgical-strength sedative. And when I awoke with last night's liquor and lust leftover in my mouth, my stomach twisting with sickness and regret, and my head pounding with a hangover and hazy memories, I'd tell myself that it had been worth it. The meal might've been lacking nutrients, but at least it had filled me up. For then. That's the problem with binge-eating: no matter how many times I attempted to fill the void in my belly with man-flavoured tidbits, I was always left wanting more. Then I met my ex. Let's call him Jack.

Finally, a diet that promised to curb my cravings for good! Jack was like a menu of man. A gourmet feast. A 24-hour all-you-can-eat buffet of my favourite foods (if my favourite foods included tattoos, freckles, beards, and infectiously cheeky smiles). But when you've been starving for so long, too much food can be dangerous. Salivating and stomach-gurgling, it's all too tempting to order everything on the menu, to greedily stuff your face, to make yourself ill. And let's face it - no one wants to feel like they're someone's dinner. Dessert, maybe. But when I found Jack, I wanted to eat him for every meal of the day, for the rest of my life. A total turn-on, right?


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