25 February 2009

Shoes and Toes

So here is a mildly interesting fact about me:  I don't have bones in three of the toes on my left foot.  It used to be four, but when I hit puberty and things started to grow, one toe grew a bone. In the others I just have a kind of soft cartilage, and in two of them it doesn't even reach the top of my toes - the tops curl over.

Now here is another mildly interesting fact about me:  if you know me, chances are you'll know about my toes or I'll tell you pretty soon, because I don't have a problem telling people about it. But writing that three-sentence paragraph up there embarrassed me to such an extent that I seriously thought about erasing this post.

When I was little, I wouldn't wear sandals at all.  Then I wore them, but I hated it.  When I got finished growing as an adolescent (finishing finished pretty fast, in my case), though, my mother offered to pay for me to have constructive surgery so my two feet would match.  I said no, because in order to do such surgery they have to take skin from somewhere else on your body, and I didn't want the scars.  So in some way, clearly, I'd come to terms with the toe thing. I've never stopped looking down at my right foot, which I feel is pretty elegant, and thinking how much better it would be if it had a matching partner, but that's wistful reflection rather than active emotion.

But today I was down in Cambridge attempting to buy some new fancy shoes, and after I'd 
requested to try on a beautiful pair of discreetly glitzy sandals (which are over there on the left.  Aren't they luscious?), while I was waiting for the saleswoman to bring them up, I found myself thinking, I wish there were a version with a covered toe.  Is there anything here as nice with a covered toe? And then I realised that I think that all the time when I buy fancy shoes.  With summer sandals, I guess, I've learned to ignore the toe thing, or accept it, but with shoes that are meant to be part of an outfit that makes you look beautiful, I'd rather have shoes that cover my toes.  I wouldn't say I know (in that adolescent way of knowing) that people are looking at my toes, but I would certainly say that I fear they will be, and since, to me, it's obvious that one foot is considerably shorter than the other, I feel that it must be as obvious to others.  (What makes this whole ramble even stranger is that the correct way to deal with this is not to tell me that it's scarcely noticeable:  I've had a boyfriend do that, and it made me very angry. Apparently the correct way to deal with this is to agree that they look weird, but in a level tone of voice, and then do something that somehow indicates that you know it must have been tough to grow up with weird toes.) 

After I came back from trying on the glitzy sandals (which didn't fit, so I didn't buy them - wouldn't my mother be proud!), I went online to try to find some ballroom shoes (which is what the glitzy sandals were for).  I've been a on quest to find the Platonic ballroom shoe for quite some time.  When I had a bit of a search around this time, though, I was mindful enough to realise and accept that I would need a shoe with a closed toe, or as close to it as possible.
So, seeking the perfect balance of elegance, comfort, utilitarianism, and psychological protection, I finally arrived at the shoe here on the right.  I'm not entirely satisfied with it (I think the front toe bit looks slightly odd), but I wear a size 4, and it's a 2.2 inch heel, which is about as high as you can go without incurring some serious heel pain if you wear a size 4, and about as high as you can go if you want to be able to move smoothly.  Plus it cunningly appears to reveal the toe whilst in fact revealing no toe at all.  Sophistication and mendacity in the same footwear package!

Read more »

24 February 2009

Corporeal Musings

People are funny about their bodies, no doubt about it.  I don't mean funny about them in terms of liking or disliking bits of them - I get that.  I mean funny in terms of moving them about and doing things with them.

A number of years ago I went to visit my best friend in Toronto, and one night we got into a strange discussion in an Indian restaurant.  I can't remember anything else about this conversation except that I said to her at one point, "I love my body," and she said, "HA!  You're always telling me stuff about your body that you wish you could make smaller, or bigger, or could change."  I said to her at the time, and I still say, that, yes, that's true (a smaller butt would be a sublime gift, for example).  But I love my body as a moving object, as a container and a machine.  Your body can hear all sorts of things that your mind can't, and can understand and embody all sorts of things that your words can't.  As you will know if you've read previous posts, I have a very intense relationship to music, and to dancing.  And that is, in part, because my body responds to music on a much deeper level than my mind does - so at moments when I'm dancing to pop music it's as if my body is in the driver's seat.  But even when I do ballet, for example, I'm aware of a kind of mind/body dualism, not in the philosophical sense but in the sense that my mind can feel my body doing things as if the body were separate from the mind. In a way, if it makes sense, my mind observes my body objectively.  

To get back to the point, what it observes the body doing is immensely pleasurable:  moving itself, controlling itself, but also abandoning itself in certain ways (not so much in ballet, but in other forms of dance, and in some casual everyday movements, certainly).  The sense of a rhythm coming through the body is immensely enjoyable, for example:  not the sense of the body identifying the rhythm and moving to it, but the sense of the rhythm affecting the body. 

Because I find this experience of abandonment, of total bodilyness, so intensely pleasurable, I always find people who do not like to dance, or who cannot take pleasure in their bodies, immensely odd.  Of course, as one alas must admit, these people are mostly men.  And to move out of realm of high intellect, I never get that.  Your body is like the best gadget ever.  The stuff you can do with it dwarves any mobile phone.  Revel in it.  Jesus, it's fabulous.

Read more »

And That's Okay

For a long time now, I guess maybe a little over a year, one of my most-used expressions has been, "And that's okay."  I never noticed that until I said it to myself this morning, and then I realised that I've used it a lot.  What it really means is, "That's how it is, and I don't have any choice but to pick up and move on from this."  I got let go by Mr. Fallen, and that was the most awful thing that ever happened to me emotionally, EVER , but it happens to people all the time; it just happened to me that time. And that's okay.  See how it works?

There's an okay group from the early 80s called ABC:  they had several outstanding songs and many only okay ones.  One of their only okay songs, though, ends with their lead singer, Martin Fry, singing, 

If you gave me a pound for the moments I've missed
And I got dancing lessons for all the lips I should have kissed,
I'd be a millionaire;
I'd be a Fred Astaire.

Man, I love those lines.  I knew what they meant when I was 13, and I've known what they mean ever since, too.  He doesn't sound angry when he sings them, or regretful - just resigned.  I think those lines are Martin Fry's "And that's okay."

And that's okay.

Read more »

23 February 2009


I love mist.  It's probably my favourite weather, or weather condition, or whatever it is. Anyway, I love it, and the thicker the better.  The day after I got home, so my first morning waking up after my return from America, there was mist over the landscape outside my window.  It wasn't the thickest of mists, and the photo I took is not the best photo of mist ever, but I'm putting it up, because it is my own photo of my favourite weather.

Read more »

22 February 2009


At some point in the last few years, I became someone who really values her privacy.  I don't know when this happened, but I suspect it was when I first got my job.  If you're an untenured member of an academic department, there is a way in which you have to be careful around everyone:  all these people will be voting on you eventually, so if you dislike someone, or disapprove of some departmental behaviour, it's in your best interest not to say anything. I think, too, that when I get the job I had exaggerated notions of how someone in that position ought to behave and appear to behave. I frequently have strict and exaggerated notions about behaviour, because that's the best way to cause myself anxiety and to view myself critically, two of my subconsciously favourite things to do. In this case, I think I decided that an Assistant Professor would be above reproach, and since in many ways I (like anyone) was not above reproach, I'd better keep those ways to myself.  

I find that this has continued now, but perhaps in a slightly different way. I can't bear to have people learn things about my emotional life; I can't bear the idea that they're making guesses or assumptions about my feelings or interactions with others. I think this is partially because I can't stand the idea that I'm being judged, which for me always means judged negatively, but it's also because if people make speculations about my private life and those speculations turn out to be wrong, or turn out to go wrong, it's doubly humiliating: I have to learn that people were thinking about me, and I have to make revelations about what was actually true. And that really bothers me. 

The irony here is that if I like someone - even just simply like them - I'm hopeless at hiding that. When I like people I like to make much of them, and I'm always incredibly happy to see them. I love liking people, and I'm totally transparent about it (as I always fear I am about disliking people). This is not a good attribute for someone who also prizes discretion.

What makes this all even odder is that in person I would appear to have absolutely no problem revealing everything to people. Everybody thinks I'm enormously frank and honest.  But of course I'm only frank about the stuff I'm frank about. Honesty is a bit like cooking a wonderful dinner (another Buddhist koan!): if you cook a dinner that is wonderful to someone, they never taste the parts that you think didn't work, or stop to think that perhaps you made three other dinners that didn't work out before you got this one right; if you tell people lots of stuff, it never occurs to them that you might be hiding all sorts of stuff, too. I think there's a moral there, but I'm not sure what it is.

Read more »

20 February 2009

Let It Be Known Throughout the Land

For the first time in 13 months...I am happy.  Yes, right now, since 5:20 this afternoon, I can't find anything to be unhappy about.  The reasons for this are clear to me:

  • I had a supervision about a student's writing, and I love supervisions about writing.  Plus, it was my first supervision, and it went well.
  • I am back from the States.  There was nothing awful about my trip there, but I'm just incredibly glad not to be there anymore.
  • I have been long-listed for a job here, as in, here at Cambridge!  Long-listed really just means they want to see a writing sample, but, still, it's the first time I've made it past the initial application stage for an English job, so it's a huge step.  Plus, I figure that long-listed at Cambridge might mean short-listed at other places...
  • I'm wearing a cute dress, in which I look good, and I have received a number of compliments on it.  AND I look slim.
  • My lip gloss looks good.
I have not achieved perfect happiness - I think I'd need one or two more ingredients for that - but perfect happiness is also rather much to ask for.  After 13 months, I'll take just plain old happy.  Yes, I will!  

I'm actually happy enough that I'd like to kiss someone.  Maybe even everybody. 

Read more »

17 February 2009


Why is America so big? Does it have to be? I mean, do you really need all that space?

Read more »

16 February 2009

One More Thing

Is there an unwritten rule of blogging that you're not supposed to post twice on the same day?  I feel like there is, but just this once I'm going to break it.

It's been a long time since I've had a female friend to be foolish with.  I've had friends to worry over stuff with, or friends to discuss my job and life decisions with, or friends to go out to the cinema with or pub with, or friends to make jokes with, but for, oh, a long time I haven't had a friend to be a girl with:  to pore over events hopefully with, to giggle with, to cross my fingers and imagine everything will be fine with (as opposed to a friend to think with about how I'll cope if things aren't fine), to tell secrets to and be happy about those secrets. But now I do.  And it's a little bit scary, because I'm so used to worrying with people, or joining them in reminding myself to be realistic, but it's also very, very nice.  Silly, and lovely, and warm.

Read more »

15 February 2009


Tomorrow I leave for a job interview in the States, which means that tonight I packed for my job interview in the States.  All along I've been feeling a little odd about this trip, no doubt in part because it's only two days long (how flash am I?), but also for a reason I couldn't put my finger on. As I was packing tonight I caught sight of my Marks and Spencer tights in my case, and I understood (ah, the humble instruments of revelation!  Okay, it isn't exactly still small voice, but still...).  You see, eight months ago a pair of M&S tights in my case would have been English tights amongst my stuff, but tonight they're just my tights.  Which is to say, this is my home now.  I live here, and my life is here.  I'm just going to the US for a visit.  The first of these isn't surprising to me - I've always been very good at erasing my past life very quickly and accepting the new one as if it were the only one I've ever had  - but last time I went home to the US in the capacity of a visitor I'd been living in England for a good deal longer than this.  So there's something odd about seeing that I've done this so soon, about having the experience brought home to me at such an early stage.

Humph, as Byron would say.

Read more »

13 February 2009

The Nearly Valentine's Day Post

Tonight I went to a formal dinner with my friend B. and her husband K.  I like both of them very much, so it was very pleasant to go with them.  They're good company, and they're a good couple. And like all couples who've been together a certain amount of time, they have shared memories, or simply stories they can back each other up on, or one can expand on for the other. I envy that part of being together:  the part where, as I've described it before, you have a "we." I never had that with my last boyfriend, and the last time I had it was really only for a brief second with the person whom I was involved with after him who, when we were staying in a hotel together for the first time, said something about "our room."  He said it so naturally that, I remember, I was a little taken aback.  But it was a nice taken aback, and a nice moment - lovely enough for me to remember happily more than a year later, in any case.

It must be nice, coupledom, in that way.  Of course the parts where you disagree, or where the person doesn't notice what you're wearing, or does irritating things, are not so nice.  But the soft stuff round the back, the things we did, or simply the things that happened to happen while we've been together, and the accrual of that, that must be lovely.

What a romantic I am!  But in the wrong way.  Not a romantic for the parts where someone sweeps you up and kisses you for the first time, or buys you flowers -- although of course I'm a sucker for those parts, too.  But a romantic for the parts where the two of you have accreted a past, a life:  where you've just done stuff together, or told each other stories, or made statements about yourselves.  The quiet stuff again, you see.  Maybe, for me, love is being known, or trusting someone enough to let them know me, to unfold my carefully hidden self in front of them.

In other news, it seems there's a blog here on blogspot called something like, "Amateur Home Videos."  I don't feel that title bodes well.

Read more »

09 February 2009

Prudery and Secrets

When I was 15 or 16, someone said to me as part of a conversation, "I think you're a bit of a prude."  I have never, ever forgotten this, and obviously I've never forgotten it, at least in part, because I'm afraid it might be true.  I think about it now because a number of the people I sit with at lunch and dinner talk about sex a lot, and I really wish they wouldn't (although I have been told that I talk about it rather a lot, too).  I don't think it's a subject to be discussed for long periods at the table.  Also, I've never felt comfortable discussing my own sex life with my female friends; I believe this is a canonical thing for women to do, but I don't do it.  If my friends want to tell me about their sex lives as a means of asking for advice, I'm happy to listen, but I just don't want to talk about mine.

And here, people who have never met me and thus are not judging me, I want to defend myself. Because I really don't think I'm a prude - I'm not even remotely prudish in my own private life, which is what I think should count.  What I am, not a prude, is a believer in privacy, and also a believer in specialness.  

First of all, I think some things should be private.  The main reason why I don't like to talk about my sex life with my friends is because I feel it's a betrayal of my partner (& can I just say here that I'm not Fort Knox:  if friends want a general verdict, I'll give one.  But I'm not one for sharing the particulars); my sex life is also my partner's, and I don't think my partner would like having his sex life shared with my friends.  I think a couple's sex life is sort of like a secret shared between the couple.  And to keep such a thing private makes a bond; it contributes in part to making a "we."

But even when I don't have a partner, I don't like to discuss sex repeatedly or at great length (tee hee) over the dinner table because I think some things ought to be special.  Not talking about sex is like wearing a tie to the ballet. (I think that might be a Buddhist koan.)  You wear a tie to the ballet because everything isn't like everything else:  some things are special, and you acknowledge that they're special by dressing up,  by marking them out.  Sex is special, too. You don't talk about it the way you'd talk about baseball, or what you did at work today: you acknowledge that it's special by marking it out in that way.  So, in fact, sex is like wearing a tie to the ballet.

So there.

Read more »

06 February 2009


Today I read a New York Times article about a Nazi doctor called "Dr. Death," actual name Dr. Heim (which is quite ironic, because "heim" means "home").  I read this article as I read all items on the internet, with a kind of absorption that, when I finish, makes me find it odd that I am sitting in my room, not in  the world of the article.  This time, though, that feeling was even more profound, or perhaps evinced a different kind of profundity.  This man did awful things. Of course that's obvious - what Nazi doctor did nice things?  or rather, you don't get called a "Nazi doctor" if you do nice things (if you do nice things you get called "a doctor who worked for the Nazis, but").  But this man did terrible, terrible things, things you couldn't ever in any way justify as medicine, things you'd have trouble even justifying as psychopathy, the kind of things that your mind turns its face against as you read them.  And when I came out of the article I thought to myself, These things happen.  I live my life talking at my lunch table about topics I think are profoundly important, or I think my life troubles are grievous cruelties, but all the while these things are happening, or have happened:  these things are not abstractions but terrible, terrible realities.

I don't mean this thought as the kind of banality it looks like:  "Oh, my sorrows are so small when I compare them with this tragedy!"  I mean that learning of such deeds, and that they were performed by a person, a person who escaped capture and went on to live a life in which he appeared to be a normal man, causes in me a kind of incomprehension of the world's construction.  That I should live my tiny life, with its midget sorrows and its easy assumptions of importance, while these great and horrible vilenesses are occurring, have occurred, are capable of occurring...this seems to me impossible.  The world should be commensurate, and in discovering these acts while living the life I do, I see, profoundly, that it is not.

Read more »

04 February 2009


For the past couple of months I've felt really creaky, and I've also noticed certain of my muscles relaxing that weren't relaxed before - the muscles surrounding my pelvic girdle and my ischium (okay, I just looked that second one up).  

It took me a while to figure it out, but I think now that the reason for this relaxing is that I haven't been taking any ballet.  I never thought ballet would make much difference to these, what I would call, minor muscles, but thinking about it I realise that, since ballet is quite good for the core, it probably makes a huge difference to those minor muscles.  In any case, I decided to combat this development (or retardation) by giving myself a barre three times a week (which is how often I was taking full class shortly before I came here).

Having told that small story, I should now say that I believe it is the lack of ballet that's the problem, because I've given myself two barres this week, and in both of them I could feel in particular how tight my turnout muscles are,

and also the great extent to which my inner thigh muscles had deteriorated.  I find this odd since I never noticed them getting stronger, but it does make sense.

But the point of this is not the anatomical discoveries I made, but rather the emotional one. Because in the course of doing these two really very light barres I found I had entirely forgotten how much I love ballet.  When I take class at home I do it because I really like it, but I never noticed that I loved it:  that when I stop and notice while doing the barre, I feel exhilarated.  I suspect some of this may be due to the fact that I'm reawakening my muscles, which is always a nice experience, but I think it's also just that I'm really happy to be doing this.  This type of dancing (like, I suppose, all types of dancing) makes me really happy.  In this type, you can really feel the work, which I like (who knew I was such a Calvinist?).

When I was in my second year of university, I went out dancing three nights a week.  Every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday I danced from 11pm to 1am.  And that year was the happiest year of my life.  If I could go out dancing three nights a week now, I would do it like a shot.

And, to end, here is a picture of my favourite ballet position:

Read more »

03 February 2009


So, one of the things I've begun to notice about my mother over the last few years is that if you ask her for information about her subject area (Shakespeare, and the Renaissance more generally), she involuntarily falls into a kind of teaching mode.  This means:  she lectures you the way someone would lecture you in a classroom.  This makes it slightly dangerous to ask my mother a question like, "Where did the playgoers SIT?" because you'll get a half-hour lecture (although, oddly, if you ask her a question like, "Who was that guy Ben Jonson shot again?" she will answer you in a perfectly normal tone.   I think this information counts as gossip, which is why it doesn't come as part of a lecture).  Now, to be fair, although I love my mother, she does favour the monologue as a mode of communication generally - my friend J.W. once said her style "kind of takes the con- out of conversation" - but nonetheless my sudden observation of this style of answering on her part has led me to wonder if, after a while, teaching just becomes your habitual mode of communication.  If you normally talk to people about a certain subject in the style of lecture, do you just fall into that style whenever you talk about that subject?

I contemplate this tonight because at the dinner table I happened to tell some people the plot of Lamia, a superwonderful poem by John Keats that you can find the text of here.  And as I was telling them the plot I noticed my voice taking on its teacher tone.  Yeep!  Will I start to bore people by giving them long lectures when they just ask a simple question?  I'm definitely going to have to keep an eye on that.

Gosh, I miss teaching, though.  I miss getting to talk about literature I really love with people who've also read it.  

Because I can't do that, and because it's my blog and I can do what I like, and because I figure maybe I can entice people into reading some Keats they wouldn't otherwise read if I quote a good bit of it, I quote below almost my favourite moment of Lamia, the moment when Keats describes what the beautiful Lamia looks like in the eyes of the man she is trying to seduce:

A virgin purest lipp'd, yet in the lore
Of deep love learned to the red heart's core....

Clever man, John Keats, and daring, too, to describe what so many men secretly want in a woman:  someone who knows everything about how to supply sexual pleasure (that "red heart's core" is no accidental choice of words) without ever having been touched by another man.

Lamia was a very popular subject for Pre-Raphaelite painters, and here is a version of it as today's illustration:

The answer to the Jonson question, incidentally, is, "[My name here], he didn't shoot anyone. He killed Gabriel Spenser in a duel, and he beat Marston and took his pistol." If you say this in the weary and exasperated tone of someone answering a person who's asked them this same question ten times before, always getting it wrong, you'll sound exactly like my mother.  A patient woman.

Read more »

02 February 2009

I'm Darren Nichols: Deal with THAT!

I have been watching "Slings and Arrows," one of my favourite TV shows, so I'm pretty cheery. Plus, it's snowed!  And it's snowing!!  It snowed a bit last night (here's a photo of me in the snow with my friend H.  Isn't he handsome?  Well, I guess you can't really tell from the photo: he's handsome)...

...but when I woke up this morning it had snowed even more.  England is, of course, in crisis (I already know how this goes from where I live in the US.  It snows very rarely there, too, so I have plenty of experience now with people who have no idea what real snow is, panicking when they encounter a relatively small amount of snow), but I am in ecstasy.  I got out of bed, put my clothes on, and walked to Granchester, just to see the fields in the snow and to move my body a bit.  Being me, I got confused and lost on the way, but since that involved quite a bit of trudging through snow I was very happy (I've realised over the last couple of months that I r
eally like making my way through difficult landscapes.  A walk in the lovely warm fields is nowhere near as appealing to me as a walk through muddy terrain, and I have always loved walking in snow.  I like the squeaking sound it makes, but I also just like the way you know you're using your body).  And I took some pictures:

That second-to-last one is almost Thomas Kinkade-esque, if you ignore the plastic netting in the foreground.  The last one:  those are my new walking shoes.  I think they make my feet look like little paws.  

Meanwhile, in other news, my friend M. has been telling me all about her adventures in dating. The life she leads:  it's all go in her neck of the woods!  Among other things, she went out with a man who, very wired, spent the whole of their date saying to her, "You can just relax and be yourself!  Just be yourself!" which M. and I agreed was a surefire way to make the other person tense up.  He also said, "Whatever you want to get out of this relationship, you can get!  I'm willing to give whatever you want!" At the time that she told me this I thought two things:  

1. He was very nervous, and
2. He just wants to go to bed with her,

but thinking about it afterward I was also struck by the way those comments, too, seemed to me to bode ill for any relationship - or at least they would with me.  And then I remembered when my friend Jennifer and I once amused ourselves by going through some personals ads together; I remarked to Jennifer that I always thought (and indeed still think) it was creepy when men said they're looking for "a special lady," or just "a lady," because I think the word "lady" in that context reveals a whole mindset about what women should be like, and reveals a good deal about what the advertiser is like (i.e., vaguely prissy) - I would think the person would be a much safer bet if they said, "woman."  Jennifer, for her part, hated the men who said they were looking for "a female," because she thought that revealed that they didn't think of women as human - in Jennifer's words, "They think of them as dogs, or something."  

Who knows if any of this is correct, but for what it's worth I have been mulling over a couple of broad policies regarding potential dates.  The first would be, If someone refers to women as "ladies," that person has problems with women (not if they say, "After you, ladies," but if they say, "I'm looking for a special lady."  Bleurgh).  The second would be, If someone keeps telling you you can get whatever you want out of your relationship with them, especially if they do that right at the beginning, that does not bode well.  Don't ask me in what way it doesn't bode well - I think perhaps it puts me off because it suggests they're desperate, or too clingy, or don't have any emotional boundaries - but I think it doesn't bode well.  But the third would be, Making juvenile or what I would call dimwitted sexual innuendo is flesh-crawlingly pitiful (like the guy who said to me, "I don't really like to run or to cycle - mind you, there are other forms of exercise that get your heartrate up").  The thing there is not that it's offensive, but that it's feeble and thus loser-y.  Plus, I think you should save your sexual innuendo until you know the person is interested in you (inneunyou, as it were); I like a good double entendre, but only with people I know have more to offer than just that.  And finally, I'd have to say that if you say in a personals ad or on a first date that you "don't think having things in common is important," you are heading for sorrow.  Having things in common is incredibly important (since it's how you build a relationship), and even though it just means having stuff in common like, "I like to talk," and, "I like art," and "We're both polite," it's still way more important than "having that spark," which a lot of men, in particular, seem to go for (although perhaps that's code for, "I REALLY want to get laid").

How the hell did I get onto this?  Because I'm now reminded of those two scenes in Tootsie, the first where Jessica Lange says to Dustin Hoffman, when he's dressed as a woman, "You know what I would love?  I would love it if a man came up to me and said, 'Look, I could lay a big line on you, and we could do a lot of role-playing, but the truth is, I find you very attractive, and I'd really like to make love to you," and then the second, where he comes up to her at a party, as himself, says precisely that to her, and she throws her drink in his face.  

You know what I think there should be a whole bunch more of in the dating world, though? Asking questions.  I think I'd respond very well to a first dater who asked me a lot of questions. Not non-stop, or intrusive, but just things like, "Do you like the soup?" or, "Why do you think that?" or, "Where did you get that necklace?"  Because questions, particularly those kinds of questions, suggest that the person is actually interested in you, and in paying attention to you. So I think there should be a lot more questions on early dates (if I ever get another date, I must remember to ask some, too).  And you know what else I think there should be a lot more of? Hand-holding.  I really love holding hands, and not just when you're standing up and walking.  What a pity that you can't hold hands with your friends! - Or, I suppose, what a pity it's something I associate with romance, not friendship!  One of my nicest memories is of my friend T.M., when I'd just broken up with my last boyfriend.  I was telling him about it, and I said, "The one thing that really makes me sad is that I might never hold hands with anyone again." And later that night when we went to the movies, he grabbed my hand and held it, just for a minute, when the lights went down.  So I say, more hand-holding, and more questions.  In fact, you could combine the two:  if I went on a first date and liked the person, and he said, "Can I hold your hand?" I'd be so charmed I'd probably just melt (as evidence, the last time someone kissed me, he did in fact say, "Can I kiss you?", and let me answer, before he did so.  And I thought it was adorable).

Of course, I suppose in reality I might just throw a drink in his face.

My goodness, this has been a load of silly rambling.  So to end I'll just say, I got granted approval to use a specific image of Byron for my book!  It's owned by the Byron Trust, in Nottingham, and I was afraid I'd have to pay bucketloads, but as mine is a scholarly project they gave it to me for free!  Huzzah!  And here it is:

Read more »