Why are lesbian dates so much like therapy sessions?

There’s something about drinking coffee with a woman I’m trying to have sex with that urges me to talk about That Thing from my childhood where I accidentally swallowed a piece of Lego and wet myself, and how it moulded me into a stumpy, neurotic, hirsute

‘‘Are you going to sleep with that?” My mum is looming over my bed, looking both troubled and tickled. I am clutching a bag of pasta.

“Leave me,” I say.

I’ve been watching back-to-back episodes of The Borgias for three days and am finding it difficult not to speak like an emotionally diarrhoeal Renaissance lady who has taken to her bedchamber because her lover was run through with a pike. Maybe that’s where I went wrong on my date. That said, my suitor did show up late, looking decidedly less like Botticelli’s Venus than she did in her OkCupid picture.

I’m not sure why lesbian dates are so . . . feelings. And, yes, as a lesbian I have a licence not only to wear knitted jumpers with cats on them non-ironically, but to use “feelings” as an adjective. There’s something about drinking coffee with a woman I’m trying to have sex with that urges me to talk about That Thing from my childhood where I accidentally swallowed a piece of Lego and wet myself, and how it moulded me into a stumpy, neurotic, hirsute dyke of a 24-year-old. I tend to mistake potential girlfriends for therapists. My actual therapist has told me to stop doing this.

“How was the date, Knaidel?” the looming woman asks. For those unfamiliar with Yiddish, my nickname means “matzo ball”, a type of dumpling that you eat in soup. Every time my mum uses it, I feel like I’ve been floating around in chickeny water for my entire life. And although she named me after one with the cocoonish affection of a thousand Jewish mothers, I can’t help wondering if in fact it’s Yiddish for “adult who lives with her parents in a dire state of prolonged adolescence”.

“Leave me,” I repeat.

I turn over and lovingly spoon the bag of pasta. After the feelings-fest date, I got a serious carb craving and came home with fusilli and a frown. I decided, almost angrily, that I’d spend the rest of the day eating and masturbating.

While unpacking my shopping, which also included a pound of carrots, which I’ll probably never eat, I realised I was knackered and got into bed with the pasta. And here I am now, clutching food and wondering if I even have the energy for a wank.

“Come on,” I say to myself, “I bet Lucrezia Borgia always had time to pleasure herself, even in between bouts of being a badass femme fatale.”

It would be a lot easier with a vibrator, though – the slob’s aid to onanism. Mine recently died on me and I’ve been waiting for a new one to arrive via Her Majesty’s Royal Mail. I like to think it will be presented to me on a red velvet cushion, amid a trumpet fanfare, by the Queen herself. Maybe she’ll even knight me with the Lovebuzz 2000, or whatever it’s called.

While I’m fantasising about royalty and sex toys, something lands in my lap.

“I think that might be for you,” my mum says. She’s standing in the doorway with a cup of Lady Grey in her hand.

“FYI,” she continues, “it doesn’t ’alf look cheap. How much did you give for it?”

I shake the open jiffy bag over my lap, and out drops some vaguely cock-shaped silicone. The package is addressed to the ambiguous “Ms Margolis”.

Damn my feminist principles. Mum clearly thought it was for her. And what does she know about vibrators all of a sudden? I start to panic at the thought that she might be an expert. I bury my face in my pillow.

“Leave me,” I say.

A mass giveaway of vibrators in New York's Meatpacking District. Sometimes it's altogether more satisfying to stay at home with a sex toy and a bag of pasta. Image: Getty

Eleanor Margolis is a freelance journalist, whose "Lez Miserable" column appears weekly on the New Statesman website.

This article first appeared in the 30 October 2013 issue of the New Statesman, Should you bother to vote?

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Ariana and the Arianators: "We really are like a family"

The pop star provides her fans with a chance to express themselves joyfully - their targeting was grimly predictable.

Ariana Grande’s concert at Manchester Arena on 22 May began like any other. Children and teenagers streamed through the doors wearing pink T-shirts, rubber wristbands and animal ears (one of Grande’s signature looks). They screamed when she came on stage and they sang along with every song. It was only once the music had ended, and the 20,000-strong audience began to leave the venue, that the horror began – with a bomb detonated at the main entrance.

The show was just one date on Grande’s Dangerous Woman tour, which began in Phoenix, Arizona in February, moved across the United States and Europe, and had stops scheduled for South America, Japan, Australia and Hong Kong. (Since the Manchester attack, Grande has suspended the tour indefinitely.)

Since releasing her debut album in 2013, Grande has successfully transitioned from teen idol to fully fledged pop star (all three of her studio albums have sold over a million each) with a combination of baby-faced beauty and Mariah Carey-style, breathy vocals. Her most popular records are bubblegum pop with a Nineties R’n’B influence, a combination also expressed in her fashion choices: Nineties grunge meets pastel pinks.

She entered the limelight at 16 on the children’s TV programme Victorious, which ran on the Nickelodeon channel, pursuing her musical ambitions by performing the show’s soundtracks. Many of the young people who grew up watching her as the red-haired arts student Cat Valentine on Victorious would become fans of her pop career – or, as they call themselves, the Arianators.

As she outgrew her child-star status, Grande’s lyrics became more sexually suggestive. Recent songs such as “Side to Side” and “Everyday” are more explicit than any of her previous hits. She has repeatedly insisted that young women should be able to speak openly about sex and feel empowered, not objectified.

“Expressing sexuality in art is not an invitation for disrespect,” she tweeted in December. “We are not objects or prizes. We are QUEENS.”

Grande also has a reputation as something of a gay icon. She has advertised her records on the gay dating app Grindr, headlined shows at Pride Week in New York, and released a single and a lipstick to raise money for LGBTQ charities.

Cassy, a 19-year-old film student and fan, told me the fanbase is “made mostly of young women from 14-23, but I run into guys and non-binary fans all the time.”

“It’s pretty well known that Ariana has got a LGBTQ+ fan base. She’s so outspoken about it and that’s what draws us to her. Because she’s accepting of everyone, no matter who you are.”

Like many child actresses-turned-pop star, Grande has a fan base skewed towards the young and female: teenage and pre-teen girls are by far the majority of her most dedicated supporters. A writer on the Phoenix New Times described the typical Ariana Grande crowd as “pre-tween, tweens, teens, young gay (and fabulous) men, moms with cat ears, and multiple candidates for father of the year”. The Arianators form tight-knit groups on social media. I spoke to several over Twitter after the attack.

Arena concerts, which often have more relaxed age restrictions than nightlife venues, have long been a safe space for children, young people and teenage girls. They provide a secure place for concert-goers to dress up, experiment, play with burgeoning sexualities, dance, scream and cry: to flirt with an adult life still slightly out of reach. Glitter-streaked tears stream down the unapologetic faces of fans touched by an emotion bigger than themselves. It is appalling, if grimly predictable, to see children, teenage girls and young gay men targeted by agents of regressive ideologies for expressing themselves so joyfully. On 23 May, Isis claimed the attack.

Andréa, a 17-year-old fan from France, told me about her first experience of a Grande concert. “It was incredible,” she said. “Everyone was so kind, excited and happy. We really are like a family.”

The fans are devastated by Monday’s bombing. Thousands of messages appeared on social media to commemorate those who lost their lives. “As an Arianator,” Alexandre, aged 16, told me, “I’m really sad and I’m scared.”

“We’re all taking it really hard,” Cassy said. “We’re a family and we lost 22 members of that family last night.”

Ariana began her gig in Manchester with the song that has opened every night of her current tour: “Be Alright”. In it, she repeatedly reassures the crowd, “We’re gonna be all right.” It’s a phrase that her fans are clinging to after the attack. So, too, are the lyrics of “Better Days”, by Grande and her support act Victoria Monét, which was also performed the night of the explosion. “There’s a war right outside our window,” the words go. “I can hear the sirens . . ./I can hear the children crying . . ./I’m hoping for better days . . .”

“It’s hit us all very hard because we’ve lost some of our own,” said one Arianator who runs a popular Twitter account about the tour. “People we interacted with on a daily basis. People that just wanted to have a night of fun. These are dark times, but we are looking forward to better days.”

Anna Leszkiewicz is a pop culture writer at the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 25 May 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Why Islamic State targets Britain

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