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Observing Rituals

Ritual

(ceremony, observance, ritualistic)

Noun: a religious or solemn ceremony consisting of a service of actions, performed according to a prescribed order.

Adjective: of, relating to, or done as a religious or solemn rite.

Sat cosily in my favourite place, in Manchester’s Northern Quarter on a chilly Autumn morning, hugging a hot drink…my mind wanders to Autumn/Winter. To cold walks wrapped up in heavy coats, boots, hats and scarves. To frosty mornings, getting caught in the rain, coming in after work to a warm house and preparing a hearty meal. To the festivities around Hallowe’en, Bonfire Night and Xmas. I have always been in love with this time of year. Spring and Summer don’t hold a candle to the memories, promise and comfort I find in our colder seasons.

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While some view the loss of summer as a ‘death’ and mourn the long, balmy days, cool linens, sun drenched skin…I see beautiful colours, harvests, plants conserving their energy and changing their form during winter. Their showy green leaves gone, and their delicate, dark limbs saturated in rain, sparkling in frost or heavily laden with snow. I prefer my wardrobe at this time of year, layers and textures which speak to me. Drapes of velvet, silk, heavy wools, leather, suede. Embroidery, brocade, layered lace, rows of decorative buttons, heavy metallic zips.

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There are several rituals I choose to observe this time of the year, some consciously, others by habit.

Autumn is a time for planning, for reviewing your year and whether it has delivered everything you wanted. I feel a surge of inspiration, which is great for starting projects, or revisiting neglected ones. I want to ‘do’, to create, to make, to write, cook, read… There are traditions, some are long-standing with my family, others are newer. I believe there’s room for creating new ‘traditions’, as a desire to recreate that same event/activity in the future.

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As I look around me, I see tables full of people. A couple who look like Mother and Daughter, sat quietly sipping tea, people watching. A couple of tourists, absorbing the detail around them, excited when their order arrives and chatting quickly to one another. On another two tables, men sitting alone, enveloped in their books, tearing themselves away only for a flat white and eggs royale.

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The decor is familiar, with it’s mismatching furniture, tables wearing floral skirts, with jars of pretty flowers atop. Corners with armchairs, sofas and floor standing lamps wearing their hats. Glass domes cover an array of cakes lined up across the bar, some from your childhood and some new, incredibly beautiful creations. I notice no one is on their phone, no one is using any technology, instead we are all mindful in our experiences.

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For me, this is key to a ritual. A sense of immersing yourself in it and taking time to savour. I think about the people I’ve brought here. Loved ones, family and friends. People I care about and want to share it with, and just as many times on my own. Bustling tables of shared conversation, forks in other peoples food versus a more reflective, self indulgent time.

Food has a nostalgic power unlike anything else.

The scent of something freshly baked, cooking in the oven or feel of it under our fork can be very powerful.

SJ3The foods I long for are those that filled Autumn days and nights as a child. All homemade. Soups, pasta bakes, cottage pie, really good beans on toast, eggs….any eggs to be honest, whether it’s an omelette, boiled egg and soldiers or poached eggs, custard tarts, sponge sandwiches, fruit cake, scones and biscuits. There is a ritual around sitting and sharing food you have poured love into with others. Taking time away from your busy days and just doing that.

Making plans for the rest of the year is made all the easier, by my senses being happy. This regular ritual of time alone to think and plan, literally feeds a broader ritual of stimulating my creative brain through nostalgia. One many would be wise to indulge….

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All photos taken by me at Tatton Park and the glorious Sugar Junction http://www.sugarjunction.co.uk @sugarjunction

 

http://www.bettyherbert.com/autumn-brain-detox/


Sexual Desire

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Female sexual desire has been discussed a fair amount recently, with the press drive on Female Viagra (http://www.femaleviagrapills.com/) and the ongoing tiresome discussions on work/children/modern life affecting levels of desire.

Long have people perpetuated conversations around women’s sex drive waning as they become ‘settled’ in relationships, and men’s remaining the same. Some theorise that male desire remains high in evolutionary terms, in order for them to produce many offspring. While female desire is believed to decrease as their attention turns, stereotypically, toward children and families.

This makes a little bit of sick appear at the back of my throat. Yes,male/female biology will have some affect on natural instincts, for example, pre-pubescent boys start to feel and commence sexual interest before girls. However, given that stimulation and desire is as much about the neural…desire is not just a biological response. Focusing purely on M/F  biological factors is insulting to everything that makes us human. Whether we’re in a safe, loving, supportive relationship, or stimulated by the excitement of a casual fuck will create different neural links and responses as a result.

It’s complex. For some it is the sight of a foot encased in hosiery, others an armpit with it’s delicious day long smell and combination of smooth skin and hair, or the vibration of someones voice that you can feel through the back of the sofa you share…. The triggers are many, varied and utterly unique in their combinations and strength, to each person experiencing them.

It’s no surprise women will be subject to desire fluctuations through the biological changes such as menstrual cyclepregnancylactationmenopause, and fatigue….so far, so predictable. We know this, we understand that biologically, as women age and testosterone decreases, desire goes the same way. Studies of women given low level does of testosterone have been found to have improved sexual desire. I found personally, that when taking certain forms of the contraceptive pill my own desire changed and became more ‘predictable’ depending on where I was during my cycle.

So what about those who don’t feel any sexual desire, and are ok with that? As someone rightly stated on Twitter yesterday ‘I always find myself wondering why not wanting, what I don’t want, is a problem!’

There are a couple of areas of study I’d like to mention here,  Sexual Desire/Interest Disorder (SDID) which is defined by low sexual desire, absent sexual fantasies, and a lack of responsive desire; and  is Sexual Aversion Disorder (SAD). SAD is defined as “persistent or recurrent extreme aversion to, and avoidance of, all or almost all, genital sexual contact with a sexual partner. What I find interesting, is that looking online, these are referred to as ‘disorders’. I don’t think everyone who has low/no sexual desire will identify with this. Asexuality (or nonsexuality) is the lack of sexual attraction to anyone or low or absent interest in sexual activity. So is there anything ‘wrong’ with that?! Why are we so focused on sexual desire and ‘normal/healthy’ levels?

Various asexual communities have been founded in recent years, the most popular and well-known of these is the Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN), which was founded in 2001 by David Jay.

Does having a full, engaging, salivate-at-the-thought-of sex life make us feel that socially we are successful? The fantasy of the perfect wife/partner who is happy, well groomed, successful professionally, great social circle, ambitious, supportive to her partner, child-rearing, cake-baking, who is happy to drop to her knees as he walks through the door; is ever present. In literature, cinema and the media generally, the propaganda used to reinforce social ‘norms’ around womens sexual desire is prevalent. Honestly, there’s nothing wrong with that. Equally, having little/no sexual desire is no ones business either. It’s not my experience, I don’t relate to it, but it’s nothing to do with me.

I’m so tired of the perpetual images of the sex-enjoying whore, or dutiful, reluctant good-girl. Sexual desire is no ones business. There’s nothing wrong with your own, unless you hold the obvious anti-social and illegal preferences. Whether you fap away at yourself multiple times a day, have several partners, one monogamous one with once-a-week sex, or no sex life at all. Truly, it’s fine. So long as you and those you are/aren’t doing it with are consensual and content, who is anyone else to judge?


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