Midweek on Fleek: Things I like that you might too #10
Going outside in summer is over-rated. Who wants sandal blisters and sunburn patches shaped like the Go Compare man when you could be curled up in a lovely dark corner drinking endless cups of tea by the light of your glowing smartphone?
Here are some nice things to read, download and do this Wednesday, most of which could be done at the beach if you insist...
1) Read Slutever: Dispatches from a Sexually Autonomous Woman in a Post-Shame World
First of all, it seems (unfortunately) we're not quite 'post-shame' yet, because when I asked my dad to enquire about this paperback he returned empty handed claiming he was reluctant to say the word 'slut' out loud at Waterstone's.
Perhaps if enough of us read this semi-autobiographical compendium of sex anecdotes, one day we'll live in a world where a bearded 72-year-old in a lightweight anorak can be free to buy his daughter (or indeed himself) a book with a chesty blonde and a euphemism for 'whore' on the cover in giant letters, judgement free.
Turns out Waterstone's don't stock it anyway so you'll have to get it shipped in from 'Murica, (or borrow my copy.) But to sum up: this book is good.
I started reading Karley Sciortino's blog Slutever.com, about ten years ago and remember it vividly because it inspired me to put an advert on Gumtree requesting a relationship with an allergy-ridden asthmatic (a dream I finally achieved in 2016. Living.) It was also around that time I developed a burning desire to live in a squat.
The first bit of the book documents Karley's escape from North American Catholic suburbia and her move to an abandoned London lift factory where she apparently did a lot of shop-lifting and blow-jobs.
The opening chapters are a slutty trip down memory lane if you've followed her work from the start. If not, they're just slutty. You're gonna love it.
Contrary to what Karley suggests in the book, I have never had a rape fantasy, and quite genuinely could come thinking about what an excellent listener my boyfriend is... But no matter your position in (or distance from) the 'whorearchy' as she calls it, it makes for excellent reading, as you'll reconsider your own attitudes to sex and the promiscuous exploits of others.
Karley's eloquent self-mockery gets us questioning why we assume women who have loads of sex must be filling some tragic emotional void (a term I may coin for future descriptions of my vaj) and why we're mortally afraid that women in relationships who have group sex will be psychologically scarred for eternity.
She asks why we're insistent that only P-in-va-G counts as actual sex, why bisexuals in films are usually murderers and whether an open relationship can ever end in anything but a house fire.
Karley Sciortino claims for her, being sincere is 'off-brand'. But although she follows every thoughtful insight with a joke about British teeth, facts are facts, the woman's pearls of wisdom could form a necklace and matching tiara (the sexy kind.)
2) App: Couch to 5k
An excellent woman called Juliet recommended me this app, though I have no idea why I took her up on it, honestly..
I had recently seen her navigate an hour-long cross-country Spanish gallop, but inspiring as it was to watch (slash imagine whilst having a slice of cake at the finish line) it sounded like my living, uphill, multi-terrain nightmare. I'm also a dedicated avoider of willful exercise. Or at least I used to be.
If you - like most of me - are the type of person who believes carrying a Bag for Life full of Lidl prosecco up a hill is an acceptable replacement for the gym, you won't need this app.
But if - like the rest of me - you are into the idea of nineties gold-medal-winning sprinter Michael Johnson chanting vaguely listless words of encouragement directly against your eardrums as you lumber around a deserted sports field, you should download it immediately.
Now I've reached my target of a half-hour run (something I literally thought impossible and which still leaves me quite a worrying shade of Asda Shiraz) Michael keeps insisting after every clammy circuit that I tell my friends about his post-retirement foray into voiceovers.
So I am. Because I love him.
3) Exhibition: On the Wall at the National Portrait Gallery
Dearest, darlingest Michael Jackson. This exhibition is not (as I had imagined, having not read the description and just vacantly shelled out seventeen quid on seeing MJ's name in capitals) a biography of the King of Pop told through the lens of various fancy photographers.
Instead, it's a collection of (mostly pretty weird) art inspired by the (mostly pretty weird) Moonwalker himself.
Mixed in with insane portraits by Andy Warhol and David LaChapelle are wobbly teen fan art, a depressing pair of black patent loafers lifted onto tip-toe by a cluster of rainbow balloons and a video of someone's tits jiggling to 'Wanna Be Starting Something'. So far so Bad. (Though that's actually a good thing, remember.)
Among the touched-up portraits with E.T. and vintage record sleeves patterned with swirls of handwritten Jackson Five lyrics were some really lovely, sad reflections on Michael's life.
One such moment was a moving clip of the singer's eyes floating against a white backdrop. The big brown irises had been pulled from a video dear Michael released denying child sex abuse charges in 1993. Staring at these hovering eyeballs (wincing and cringing, then wide with innocence) you get a heartbreaking feel for the savage exploitation the world's hip-thrust idol suffered across the years at the hands of various media and music industry bastards.
The highlight of this collection is how it showcases a softly-spoken Speed Demon's astonishing effect on his fans.
Many of the black artists featured here name the Jackson Five (dressed in matching flares and bringing new jubilation to the art of the finger-click) as the first black family they'd seen on TV who were wholesome and radiant with life. Finally, middle class black kids saw themselves represented. Queer white teens also felt connected to this gentle, crotch-clutching genius.
One of the best bits was walking into a darkened nook of the museum, where all you saw at first were the beaming faces of your fellow gallery-goers, aglow with a quivering silver light and the sound of a screaming audience shaking the pristine walls.
Once you're inside, there's Michael on stage. Motionless, frozen, but with every muscle in his body tensed and ready to dance. The crowd is practically frothing with euphoria. Red-cheeked teens are collapsing, bodies are dragged from the crowd, grappling arms worthy of the Thriller video strain towards the stage attached to no apparent bodies. Literally everyone is least crying. And still Michael stands. The tidal wave of screaming rages on.
I'll let you enjoy the rest once you've bought your ticket, but suffice to say when he actually started to dance the whole crowd just died right then and there. Mild spoiler.
The true highlight of all this is a long, thin, blacked-out room with a line of about 16 (presumably diehard) Jackson fans from around the world projected onto the wall. They are singing along Silent-Disco-style to MJ's entire back catalogue. Some wear a single diamond glove, others are in jeans and break eye contact with the camera as they forget the words.
The best was a young woman in a full-on belly dance costume who'd provided her own fedora. Who knew an aggressive body ripple would partner so harmoniously with the middle eight of 'Human Nature'?
There was such a brilliant karaoke-meets-X-Factor-auditions magic to it all that I sat there in the darkness for half an hour wiggling in my seat, mouthing the words and cackling to myself at the fact one man (whose soul was a drumbeat) could capture the hearts and infect the dance routines of so many boys and girls next door, including mine. Pure joy.