Sex, cake and the (vicious) circle of life.
[CONTENT WARNING: Light-hearted discussion of a mild eating disorder.]
I’ve never really been one for saying no to things. Food. Booze. Sex. Anything, really. I’m like that little boy with his face smushed against the window of the sweet shop, drooling at everything inside. Although that doesn’t work very well as a Grindr photo. Took me a while to figure that one out.
I don’t know what it is, but whenever there’s something in front of me that I want to put it my mouth, I struggle to stop myself just jamming it straight in there. As you can imagine, this makes me a lot of fun at parties, but not so much at funerals.
Actually, speaking of parties, I was at a party a few years ago when I realised all of this. It was when I became aware of the fact that I’ve subconsciously developed the best possible strategy for socialising. I arrive at a party, do a lap of the room or the flat or the facility, say hello, show my face, etc. and then automatically go and stand near the table with the food and the booze. It’s quite handy because then I can talk to people as they come over to refill a glass, or politely nibble on something.
Well, I say I ‘talk to’. Other people tend to do the talking. What I do is closer to ‘stop eating long enough to ask a question, then see how much I can cram in my mouth before it’s my turn to talk again’. It works well, because after a couple of minutes of being sprayed by bits of crisps and sausage roll, they tend to move on. This is the best possible outcome, as it frees up more time for me to eat. Of course, another party guest will eventually kind of orbit over and fill the space, and then the whole beautiful process starts again. Circle of life, really.
I used to be the same with sex, I guess. Well, no. Not exactly. I don’t get invited to THAT kind of party very often. Which is a shame. I’d probably eat fewer calories over the course of the evening if my mouth were constantly full of dick. For one thing, it’d be quite difficult to get any crisps in there as well. And, y’know, I’ve cut my gums on a particularly sharp bit of crisp before now; I don’t want to think about having to pick shards of salt and vinegar out of some poor sod’s bellend.
No, what I mean by it being the same with sex is that, for a long time, if it was available, I would indulge whether I really wanted to or not. I was eating and shagging because I could. Which takes the fun out of both activities, to be honest. And neither is particularly healthy.
Thinking about it, a lot of my teenage years were spent looking for anyone willing to let me have a go, because that’s how teenage minds think. Any chance to get squirty with someone and I’d be all over it, with quite a frightening degree of enthusiasm.
Of course, even a teenage metabolism struggles with large amounts of food and cake. Not all of it’s my fault. The corner shop next to my halls of residence used to do two tubs of Ben and Jerry’s for a fiver and I honestly don’t think there was a week in my first year where I didn’t take advantage of that offer. Part of me is still weirdly impressed by the amount of crap food I ate as soon as I was away from home. If it wasn’t beige and pre-frozen oven food, then it was crisps or sweets or ice cream. Although I tried to stay healthy; I’d have a bowl of smash, you know, the instant mashed potato, with some gravy and a multivitamin tablet crumbled on top. That was ‘eating healthily’ as far as I was concerned.
After a while, that sort of lifestyle took its toll, and I did start to pile on the weight. Then, funnily enough, when I was in my early twenties, no-one really wanted to shag the angry, overweight guy with the beard and the weird hair. It didn’t help that I was angry because no-one wanted to shag me because I was so overweight, which was an issue I often tried to bury under a couple more pots of Ben & Jerry’s. Circle of life, really.
Because no-one wanted to shag that guy, and my self-esteem was pretty fucking low, I’d happily take anything I could get. As the years went by, I got a bit of a handle on things, learned how to flirt and moved to London, where you’re pretty much elbow-deep in gays all the time anyway. So sex became a lot more available, and like I thirsty man coming out of the desert, I pretty much tried to drown myself in cock. Also, food in London is EXPENSIVE, so I lost a little weight just because I couldn’t afford to eat lots. None of that Carrie Bradshaw “I couldn’t afford food, but I still read Vogue. I just felt it fed me more” bollocks. Shut up and have a sandwich, ya skinny tart.
As anyone who’s worked in a bakery will tell you, eventually you get used to being around all those lovely cakes and things and your appetite for them dies down. But the same isn’t exactly true of sex. Mentally and emotionally you might not be interested in anything like that, but physically you’re ready to go, and I think that that’s the reason I’ve had quite so much boring sex in my life. It’s not that it wouldn’t have been fun by itself, but even the most pert, firm and perfectly-shaped cake loses its appeal if you’re eating it for every meal.
What was I talking about? Oh, yeah, moving to London and being surrounded by lovely men. Having had to make do for so long, and with some pretty solid self-esteem issues, I found myself shagging lots of guys I wasn’t really that attracted to but felt like I should. Or did just because I could.
It’s a bit like biscuits, I suppose. Or cake. I drink a lot of tea, and don’t need a biscuit with each cup, but if there’s a packet of them in the house, I’ll damn well eat the whole lot. Not because I was hungry or I even necessarily wanted them, but just because they were there.
In fact, there was a time where I’d buy a ‘celebration cake’ which had pink icing and a high heel on it, and eat the whole thing by myself. I’d make a cup of tea, and have ‘a slice of cake’, except that I’d have eaten the slice before the kettle boiled, so then I’d cut another, but I’d have eaten that before getting back to my room, so I’d have to cut two slices, one to eat on the way, and one to have with my cup of tea...
But with sex it’s a bit different. It’s much less awkward to stop eating biscuits and put them away for later. Guys get weird about that sort of thing. There would be times when we’d be shagging away happily, and I’d realise, often quite suddenly, that I didn’t really fancy the person I was boning. Like, literally. He’d be there, I’d be there, and I’d just not be into it at all. That’s about the time I started to learn how to fake orgasms, just to get it over with.
And then there’s afterwards, when you’ve eaten a whole cake by yourself, and you feel a bit gross and regretful… But at least then the cake isn’t trying to cuddle with you, or make smalltalk, or doing something really irritating, like breathing... And you’d don’t have to find less-than-subtle ways of hinting to a cake that it’s getting late and maybe the cake should leave. Now.
And it’s not just fatties like me that do this. One of the most attractive guys I know recently realised he was measuring his self-esteem through sex; because what better way to compare yourself, than against the kind of person that’s willing to shag you? And if they’re all super hot, then that must mean you’re doing something right, right?
It took me a long time to realise that you don’t measure love in calories or orgasms; certainly not self love. A long time to realise that ‘treating myself’ wasn’t actually treating myself if I did it all the time. Especially if I was doing it to fill some deeper hole inside myself. Make your own “filling holes” joke here. The key is to recognise the things that you’re shoving into those holes, whether it’s food, sex, booze, drugs, TV, drama in the office, or whatever, and then stop for a moment, and try to see what it is that you’re really trying to replace.
A good rule of thumb before ordering a massive dessert, or opening Grindr, or taking home a random tart from a bar is to stop for a second and ask yourself “Why do I want this? Do I, in fact, want this at all?” and ignore your salivating mouth and throbbing genitals, or your throbbing mouth and salivating genitals. Think about the answer. Do I want this? Why? Not what’s expected of you, not what you think you should do because it’s better than going home alone or just having a wank, but actually what it is you want to do in that moment. Unless what you actually want involves cutting someone up and keeping them in a freezer. Best not to act on that one. Although if the urge to kill is irresistible, let me know – I’ve got a list you can work your way down.