If we’ve all been taught one thing about relationships and affection, it’s that although it might be fine to snuggle your favourite person behind closed doors, doing it in front of others is as rude as blowing your nose at the dinner table. And yet they’re everywhere – these happy, affectionate couples – snogging and touching and holding hands and occasionally forgetting they’re in public and referring to the other one as ‘babycakes.’ Public displays of affection are enough to make you either vomit or masturbate.
I’ve been called some crappy things in my time, and I’ve hurled a good few insults myself. But there’s one word that, when I hear it, makes me boil with rage.
That word is ‘psycho.’
“When I dumped her, I realised she was a proper psycho.”
“He’s got a psycho ex girlfriend.”
“She’s been stalking him on facebook like a psycho.”
Why you’re not a ‘psycho’
Let’s begin by stating that applying the word ‘psycho’ to anyone is pretty offensive. Remember Hitchcock’s classic shower scene? That’s what you’re alluding to when you use this word. Whether you’re using it to belittle your ex or to try and humiliate people with mental health problems, it’s a nasty word to use in anger.
What’s more, it’s frequently used as a weapon to make women (and ex-girlfriends in particular) feel small. Not when they’ve done things that are dangerous or troubling – I’ve seen the word ‘psycho’ applied to people because they’ve done something as innocuous as:
- asking an ex to talk to them about the reasons for a break up
- crying in a public place because they were upset about a break up
- texting someone when drunk to tell them they love them
- looking at someone’s profile on Twitter or facebook
Compare these to the ‘shower scene’ – are they really ‘psychotic’ actions? Or are they, more realistically, natural things to do if you’re in a state of emotional turmoil?
I’m not talking about genuine stalker behaviour here – none of us want our bunnies boiled. None of us want ex-partners turning up at our workplace and screaming wildly on the street “why don’t you love me?! What did I do?!” I think we can all agree that actually being stalked by an ex is a terrible, frightening thing.
But labelling someone a ‘psycho’ because they’re visibly upset about the breakup of a relationship, serves to trivialise the idea of ‘stalking’ by lumping all of this behaviour in together. If your ex is sending you threatening messages, harassing you, and making you uncomfortable, that’s a very serious thing. If they’re looking at your publicly-available information and shedding a few tears over the good times you had when you were going out, that’s quite another.
I’ve rarely heard the word ‘psycho’ applied to men who do similar things. That’s not because they don’t do them – men can be just as emotional about breakups as women, it’s just that their emotions are less frequently used as a weapon with which to humiliate them. Ex-boyfriends of mine who have cried over our lost (or, more realistically, mutually abandoned) love affairs have never been skewered by my friends saying ‘oh, I knew he was a psycho’ or ‘he texted you again? What a mental.’
Guys are shamed in other ways for emotional behaviour – being expected to keep a stiff-upper-lip when they’re being torn apart inside, for one. Being told that ‘boys don’t cry’ and invited to shake off their upset by rebound-fucking their way around town, as if their emotions and their erections are just two sides of the same coin. But that’s a discussion for another day.
There’s an entire minefield of shit surrounding the way we discuss people’s more extreme emotions surrounding break ups – sobbing gentlemen are obnoxiously induced to ‘man up’, and female despair is painted as something oddly sinister. Her justifiable sense of grief is framed as dangerous instability. Guys might shed a few tears or get drunk to dull the pain, but you’d better watch out for these ker-ay-zee women – with their wailing and their texting and their unreasonable sense of sadness.
The worst thing you could do
There are those who handle breakups badly – the ones who cut up their ex’s clothes, send increasingly alarming and desperate emails, show up at their house at 2 in the morning and wake the neighbours by banging on the door and demanding to be let in. I’ll stress again for those who might have missed it – these things are unacceptable, and often downright scary.
But most of the time when the ‘p’ word is applied, it’s to behaviour that is perfectly understandable and normal: crying or mooning over your ex, or wanting some form of closure at the end of a relationship. These aren’t ‘psychotic’ things to do, in fact if you’ve broken up with someone you love, even if the break up was mutual, it would be abnormal not to be emotional about it.
The very nature of love is that it’s a powerful emotion, and when we mess with powerful emotions we do strange things. I’ve done things that would justify a fair few insults – from getting crying-drunk at parties to mentioning a new partner in front of the ex I’m not quite over.
I’m ashamed of and angry at myself for doing these things, and if you were to call me a ‘bitch’ or a ‘hypocrite’ or a ‘cold-hearted bastard’ you’d be bang on the money. But the word ‘psycho’ says so much more than that.
It says ‘you’re not normal’ in a way that is coldly calculating. It says ‘you’re hysterical, you’re overreacting, your pain is not significant as you think it is.’
Above all, the thing that makes me shudder and cringe: it tells someone that their affection is not only unwanted but repulsive. That the most unacceptable, horrific thing this person has done is to love you.
There’s a rather excellent exchange in Queer as Folk that goes something like this:
Alexander: “When you have a wank, do you think about him?”
Vince: “What sort of question’s that?”
Alexander: “Do you think about him?”
Alexander: “Congratulations, he’s your boyfriend.”
By this definition, this boy is definitely not my boyfriend. I’m a bit more than in love with him – I am obsessed by him in a way that cannot be healthy. He takes my waking thoughts and as much of my spare time as I can find between work and writing and drinking and sleep. What’s worse – he takes up the fantasies that were previously reserved for the faceless strangers who’d play out scenes of angry fucking behind my closed eyelids.
In short: when I have a wank, I think about him.
I think about him bracing himself, restraining me, fucking me in the ass. I think about his whispered words and his hard kisses and the far-too-infrequent slaps he sometimes gives me. I think about the quick, sharp, angry strokes with which he fucks me.
Get out of my head
This boy commands my attention in a way that others don’t. I joke with him that it’s because of his dick. His dick which is wonderful, thick, almost permanently solid – straining at his jeans as he grips my arse, or slips an idle hand down my top. And I joke about it because the truth is worse – it’s not just his dick: it’s him.
He’s warm, he’s kind, he’s funny. He’s beautiful. He has big arms and hands that envelop me like I’m tiny. He says utterly ridiculous things in an accent that makes me drool. He wraps me in big sweaters and brings me coffee, like this kind of calm happiness is the most normal thing in the world. He swings quickly from gentle to passionate, and every time he does it takes me by lustful surprise. And when I get angry or unreasonable he nods, and listens, and tells me I’m not mad, then holds my big, mad head in his gentle hands and makes me feel like a normal person again.
It’s a trap
Rather ridiculously, I am more terrified of writing this than I am any of the other stuff. I can talk to you about group-gropes in a sex cinema, my excessive love of spunk, or the fun I’ve had with piss-play. But telling you that despite my lust for any guy with a nerdy charm and a solid dick, right now I’m just not in the mood for group sex and spanking circles, is pretty fucking tricky indeed.
The fact that writing this entry is a bit like pulling teeth lays bare all of my own prejudices about love. That love is a pathetic shadow of the independent lust on which most of my recent relationships have been based. I feel like, having mastered the art of being happy on my own, and withdrawing from boys who have too much emotional control over me, I’ve failed if I ever think too much of them. I’ve failed if I love them, or miss them. Above all, I’ve failed if I can’t put them out of my mind for long enough to have a wank about someone else.
I’m just going to smash everything
It’s not that I haven’t been in love before – I have. But I’ve never loved healthily – I don’t know how to be in love casually. I want to be able to do this to just the right degree.
On a night out drinking there’s that brilliant moment when I’m merrily drunk, having fun dancing and flirting and chatting and smoking endless cigarettes, and I think the night’s perfect. Then one more drink and I’m grumpy and spinning and weak and desperate to go home to bed. Love is the same.
I can like guys, I can lust guys, I can fuck them with a desperate, panting enthusiasm yet still remain healthy and in control. But then just a bit more – a few more nights spent sleeping beside them, a few more hugs that don’t end in a fuck, a few more secrets exposed and intimate discussions and suddenly it’s all too much. I can’t sleep, I can’t think, and worst of all I can’t come without thinking about him fucking me into submission. And I can’t be in love this hard without overdoing it.
So I fuck men and I play with men and I flirt with men and I follow them from pub to bed to pub to strip club to pub to bed and back again. And I hope that they’re just friends, and I tell them that they’re just friends, and I break up with them when they’re more than friends, because I don’t ever want them to become precious.
If I can’t fuck or wank without thinking of a specific someone, then that someone has become precious to me. He’s special enough that most of the time I don’t want to fuck anyone else – I barely even think about anyone else when I’m lying horny on the sofa thinking about what I might wank to. I know what I’m going to wank to – the same fucking guy who’s in my head even after he’s left my bedroom.
I’ve accidentally become monogamous. And worse, I’ve accidentally created a relationship so precious that I’m in danger of smashing it. I’m at the merry stage of drunk and reaching for another pint and smiling because the night can only get better and I’m so happy and I’m dancing and I’m horny and I want more oh please let me have more and just another pint and another dance and I just want to stay here a bit longer and I’m definitely not going to be sick. I promise.
Love is like being tied to a rock that you also sort of want to have sex with.
It’s like being repeatedly punched in the face, but by something quite nice, like a pillow or a bowl of trifle.
Despite all of my best efforts not to fall into this pitiful trap, I am in love with a boy.
Being in love changes people
Love seems to make my friends do odd things, like deliberately go on tedious, all-inclusive holidays. Like buying joint-owned kitchen equipment and cooking things with butternut squash in.
Likewise love makes me do weird things, like spout inexplicable platitudes about his possessions. Like cancel an evening’s drinking so I can stay in on a Saturday night with his big arms wrapped around me. Like writing a blog which – let’s be honest – you couldn’t crack one off to if you tried.
Love makes me think more about a boy than about things that matter – like my career.
It makes me lazy. All I ever want to do is sit with him, on him, by him, until my bills go unpaid and my washing up starts to evolve new breeds of bacteria. Until the sun goes down and the world is destroyed and everything I’ve worked for crumbles to dust.
I love love
Don’t get me wrong – there are up sides. He is, as you’d expect, especially spectacular. Of all the boys who have stamped their footprints into my ice-cold heart, his are some of the very few that I want to put my own feet in and go “Ooh, look, big. GIGGLE.”
He’s beautiful when he lights cigarettes, when he’s biting my nipples or bringing me coffee. He’s funny and fun and good and gentle and filthy and kind and calm. He makes me relax and he makes me laugh and he fucks me like it’s the end of the world.
He’s the one whose friends I’ll meet. Whose house I’ll stay at. All the other boys get fucked and moved on, but he’s the only one who gets to spend the night. He’s the one who can stroke my face without making me hiss, and he gets to call me pretty without me vomiting copiously all over his living-room floor.
I hate love
But ultimately the great stuff is desperately overshadowed by the bad. Love is a fucking bastard. It makes me irrational and needy. It tempts me into shit decisions. Problems I’d previously have stamped on become reasons to run to him for a hug. Challenges stay unchallenged, because he makes them easy to forget.
I don’t want to love him – I love me – normal me. I love the me who can tell boys to fuck off when I’m busy, who has enough motivation to pull myself together when I’m miserable and do good things when I’m not. Love can make me blind to a lot of things, but I’m not yet blind to what I could achieve if I weren’t sitting so comfortably in his arms.
How do you solve a problem like a hormonal imbalance?
For a long time my solution was to break up with guys if I thought things were getting emotional. But things have gone too far this time. I cannot decide to not be in love because I am in love, and so I am irrational.
How can I not see him when I need to see him? How can I not love him when, at just the moment I think I’ve steeled myself to tell him I’m off, he says something that makes me laugh like I’ve had a lobotomy? When just the idea of his shoes lying jumbled by the kitchen door makes me grin with possessive, deranged pride?
I love his shoes.
I am ridiculous and I love his shoes.
If you’re expecting some sort of conclusion or words of wisdom after the above torrent of out-of-character arational loved-up bullshit then you’re probably a fucking idiot. But I’ll forgive you. If you’re powerfully idiotic then you may well be in love yourself. Unfortunately for all of us there’s no known cure, but to relieve the symptoms I can thoroughly recommend wanking and gin.