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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How will British science survive Brexit?

What the future of science and tech looks like in the UK, without the European Union.

Science and tech are two industries most likely to be affected by Brexit. British science and tech companies were overwhelmingly in favour of remaining. A Brexit survey run in March by Nature found that of the 907 UK researchers who were polled, around 83 per cent believed the UK should remain in the EU.

UK scientists receive close to £1bn annually for research from the EU – a testament to the quality and influence of the work done on British soil. Between 2007 and 2013, the UK sector supported EU projects by spending €5.4bn, and was rewarded in return with funds of around €8.8bn; it’s a give and take relationship that has seen growth for both.

The combined science and tech sector has laid down the framework and investment for some of the most important research projects in the world. To date, the brightest minds in the UK and Europe have combined to work on highly influential projects: the Large Hadron Collider headed by CERN discovered the Higgs Boson particle, the Human Brain Project set itself the gargantuan goal of unravelling the mysteries of the human brain, and the European Space Agency has helped expand space exploration as European and British astronauts have headed into the ether.

In May 2016, chairman of the Science and Technology Facilities Council Sir Michael Sterling announced that UK scientist Professor John Womersley will lead Europe's next major science project – the European Spallation Source  which is a "multi-disciplinary research centre based on the world's most powerful neutron source." It's the type of project that creates openings and opportunities for researchers, in all fields of science, to really materialise their most ingenious ideas.

The organisation techUK, which according to their website represents more than 900 companies, said in a statement that the result has created many uncertainties but has attempted to appease concerns by declaring that the UK tech sector “will play its part in helping the UK to prepare, adapt and thrive in a future outside the European Union.”

BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT, has reinforced techUK’s concerns surrounding uncertainty, highlighting areas which need to be addressed as soon as possible. The institute believes that discussions with the EU should focus on ensuring access to digital markets, freedom to innovate and growth of “our academic research base and industrial collaborations in computing . . . to shore up and build on a major driver of UK economic success and international influence in the digital sphere”.

Confusion over the UK’s position in the EU single market has prompted questions about the freedom of movement of labour, raising concerns among researchers from Europe about their future role in UK-based projects. The naturally collaborative nature of STEM research, the cross-breeding of ideas which foster scientific and technological advancement, could be severely hampered if limitations are imposed as a result the UK’s separation from the single market.

Speaking to the BBC, Sir Paul Nurse, Nobel Prize winner and director of The Francis Crick Institute said: “Being in the EU gives us access to ideas, people and to investment in science." The Royal Society reports that researchers at UK universities house more than 31,000 researchers of EU origin. The danger of losing much of that support is now imminent.

Many other leading voices in the community chimed in too. Paul Drayson, former Minister of Science in the Department for Business, told Scientific American: “The very idea that a country would voluntarily withdraw from Europe seems anathema to scientists.” Remain advocate Jo Johnson, the Minister of State for universities and science (and brother to the leave campaign’s front man, Boris Johnson), stated his concerns to a House of Lords committee of there being very little means to make up for severed EU finances. The referendum result means that a solution to replace that money from a different source must now be sought. He also tweeted:

Despite the science and tech sector favouring a Remain vote, there were some who were leaning towards Brexit pre-referendum. Scientists for Britain, a group of UK scientists who, according to their website were “concerned that pro-EU campaigners are misusing science for political gain”, issued a statement after the referendum. They thanked leave voters for sharing their vision of the UK “outside the political structures of the European Union.”

Though there are many new policies which will need to be drawn up, it is evident that the UK’s requirement to prop itself up once outside the EU will only serve to hinder science and tech growth. The industries best served through European and global outreach are now at risk of being marginalised.

Currently in place is “Horizon 2020” – an enterprise touted as “the biggest EU Research and Innovation programme ever” as almost €80 million is available to researchers seeking to take their ideas “from the lab to the market”. Once Article 50 is invoked, it is crucial that any negotiations that take place ensure the UK’s spot within the programme is maintained.

There are options to maintain some European integration; gaining an “associated country” status like Switzerland could continue to strengthen the STEM sector, for example. But prioritisation of science and tech seems bleaker by the day. As a new landscape takes shape post-Brexit, we must work tirelessly to prevent our most progressive and forward-thinking frontiers caving in.