Anna's Odyssey



        Meeting Assumpta after such a long interlude was nerve-racking to say the least. Thankfully there was no tense frosty atmosphere, no past recriminations. But we both remained somewhat guarded and polite. While we caught up on old but safe gossip, and had a few laughs, we never touched upon what had happened all those years ago. Consequently a part of me shut down that night, preventing the true rekindling of our friendship. Our past had created a wedge between us, and even though we were to be friends, things were never going to be the same again. Deep down we both knew it but we made the effort to slot into our new roles enabling us to redefine our friendship and move on. Hail to the mercy of time that allows things to pass and remain buried.

        Maybe it's age or wisdom or in part due to my sublimated sexual desires but I have become a lot more discerning and philosophical about life and people in general. My senses overall have become more acute and I seem to observe more of what I see.

        Take Assumpta for instance. Her house is nothing like I had imagined. It is pristine, ordered, and so utterly magnolia. There is nothing risque, no evidence of earthy sensual undertones; in fact there is almost a deliberate absence of passion. This is the proverbial dentist's surgery: bland, antiseptic and utterly nondescript. There is nothing here that expresses Assumpta's vibrant and free-spirited character. The house is pathologically conventional, so forgive me for being somewhat confused.

        The furniture, true to her Nordic background, comes from IKEA which creates a functional and sparse atmosphere. A few cushions strategically placed here and there are more for their angular appeal than for comfort. Low level black bookcases placed on either side of the television unit boast a variety of titles that can best be described as a blast to the past. Does Assumpta secretly aspire to the good old fashioned heroines like Jane Austenís Emma or Catherine In Emily Bronteís Wuthering Heights? Somehow I doubt it very much. There is a virginal look about them which proves that they were not bought to be read but to be on show.

        So all this is what Assumpta chose, yet to me the observer it is diametrically opposed to who she is. So what creates such a schizoid faÁade, this distortion in the psyche, this split between who we are inside and who we present to the outside world. Sometimes it is hard to know where we begin and the image ends. We play the games and sell our soul and all for social acceptance? Bit sad really when you think about it. Does anyone know and love us warts and all? Just about nobody in my case.

        Getting back to Assumpta and the face she presents to the world. Well maybe the fact that Assumpta is such a dynamic woman could be in part due to the conflicting opposites that make up her character. She is liberal and free thinking in her views but in other areas, such as the organisation of her home she is incredibly ordered. Everything and I mean everything has its place.

        I mean I donít know how she does it. Its as though objects are velcroed to the spot because they stay there. Whereas with me objects seem to sit on the sidelines and mock my attempts to control them. Assumpta walks into a room and order manifests itself automatically. I walk into a room and the opposite happens. Like for instance when I make a sandwich there is an instant mayonnaise bath on the counter top with shreds of lettuce go walk about else where other than into the slices of bread. Iím beginning to think there is some conspiracy theory involved here. Assumpta says that it is all a matter of re-programming, that I must learn to put things back before I eat. Although this does not come naturally to me I have tried but by the time I get to eat the joy and flavour of the food is gone. I must say meal times here are too stifling for my messy personality.

        Looking at Assumpta and her amazing ability to magnolify her outside world reminds me of a series I once saw on I.T.V. It made me realise that nothing is as it seems and when we have so little control in our world we often try to create an un- natural sense of order and hygiene in our home. The prostitute in the series, a black girl so obviously vilified by her male clients reacted by becoming almost a manic cleaner in the house. Her home was spotless yet she was nothing more than a whore. So we really need to look beyond the surface because sometimes it is little more than a reaction to what lays dormant inside.

        I suppose you are thinking its little more than the kettle calling the pot black. I may have lived a double life for many years but believe me I had my reasons. It was my protection against the family firing squad. Our home is like the Gaza strip where the only way you can survive is to defend and to go into hiding. Now for the first time in my life Iíll have nothing to hide from my mother. OK She wins but only until I get what I want. I mean if Mr Right turns out to be Mr Wrong I can always take a lover canít I.? At least then I can hide behind the respectability of marriage. Ha ha thatís got to be the greatest faÁade of all.

        Telling Assumpta about my resolutions to remain celibate until I met Mr Right was met with a mixture of shock and revulsion. She thought Iíd lost the plot entirely and accused me of wanting to live out my motherís dream. I told her that I wanted a regular family with a husband, children, the house, the garden, the swingÖ.

        "I want security and stabilityÖ"

        "Next thing youíll want is a pension plan. This is not the sixties when women had no choice other than find a man or join the nunnery in order to avoid the stigma of being the poor old spinster aunt. The world is our oyster today and we no longer need man as the revered appendage to be complete. Honestly Anna, I expected more from you of all people."

        She went on and on but her diatribe fell on deaf ears. Assumpta doesnít believe in Mr Right. "Thatís an illusion we dream up because we are genetically programmed for sex and with women unfortunately itís all tied up with the nesting instinct. We meet someone half - decent and out of biological desperation we convince ourselves that heís the one. Bingo next thing we know we find ourselves down the aisle offering to love honour someone who is little more than a willing sperm donor"

        "Assumpta how on earth did you get to be so cynical? Donít you want children and someone to love and to love you?"

        "Absolutely not. Do I want dissolution of the self and subjugation to another being. Not me matey. I saw what happened to my mother and father and I want none of it. Couples can be besotted with each other and then the children come. Thatís when the woman sees the wood from the trees, the red ladybird from the stalk. The man or the so called husband reverts back to the infantile state and the woman become Mum to the entire household. We divide into the you Tarzan and me Jane camps and slot into our prospective roles. "Whereís my tie?Ö"Whereís my shirt?." "Fuck off and get it yourself." Marriage for me would be this constant battle- ground of trying to score points. Iíd be driven to the edge or Iíd murder him""

        I try to convince her that it is not the same today as both women and men work outside the home so that couples now share more of the household tasks. Edwina and Cuan seem to share everything. In fact in my eyes he actually does more as sheís so pathologically lazy.

        "Anna, wake up and smell the coffee beans. Most women who work outside the home end up doing 80% of the household duties while Mr right does 20%. And that my dear girl is why women instigate most of the divorces because they are tired and stressed and totally fed up and unhappy. Where did the dream of happy ever after go. It was a myth Anna perpetuated by foolish hope. The reality is that it is men who thrive in marriage and unless you are lucky itís usually the reverse for women. I mean who wouldnít thrive if there was someone else doing the cooking and washing and the intolerable paperwork that goes with any house. Think of all that energy left over that can be used to play that extra round of golf."

        "So children are definitely out?

        "If I ever get the urge in a few years Iíll have a child on my own without the hassle of living with the father. I plan on going to the Artificial Insemination clinic where I get to choose a suitable donor from a catalogue. Think of the convenience. You actually get what you want. My friend Margo had it done last year in London. She choose a blond Caucasian with blue eyes who had a science background. Now she has the most beautiful daughter who is already showing signs of being rather advanced. There is no wondering if the man feels left out as the woman is free to devote herself to her child. Forget about the vote. Womenís true liberation starts at the. A.I clinic. Sex is then regarded as purely for pleasure and not for mating. There is a vast difference between the two I can assure you."

        I was too tired to argue so I asked her if she was seeing anyone at the moment.

        "I havenít t changed if thatís what you mean. Iím seeing Mickey at the moment. Heís married with two children, a boy of eight and a girl of six."

        "But Assumpta, heís married with children. How could you? There are surely plenty of available single blokes. Donít you ever stop and think about his family?"

        "Anna believe me married men are the best. There is no angst about commitment or responsibility.. I mean they are so grateful for just about everything. Theyíre happy to be a part time fixture in my life which suits me just fine. I usually run if they say they are leaving the wife. I pity for the poor sod who has to put up with them all the time. The sex is exciting because an affair is the enactment of sheer fantasy. You are everything the wife is not. She is the saint and for a short time in Mickeyís eyes I am the whore. It is hard to mix the two so men have affairs to have a happy medium. I do things that he wouldnít dream of asking his prissy wife. I act out his fantasies and in doing so I feel I connect with my own sexual power. I have never felt more sexually liberated in my life.

        I did not want to ask her about the role she played as a whorish mistress. Spare me the details. Assumpta always had a way with words and meaning that could convince me of the logicality of it all. I did not want to get drawn back into her world of sexual intrigue and innuendoes. She claimed that it was affairs that kept marriages together. According to her a man is only truly happy when he has his cake and can eat it. A happy man makes a happy husband.

        " Itís the nature of the beast Anna. How can you work against three million year old genes purely based on morality. It is not possible however evolved we might aspire to be. Iím happy with my life which is more than I can say for you. Getting all high and mighty and wearing a halo canít be good for you. Itís just not natural. Besides you could fall in love with a married man and you would then discover that nothing is absolute, absolutely nothing."

        We were so far apart in our beliefs and expectations that we would have to agree to disagree. Assumpta may have influenced my teenage formative years yet the time we spent apart divided us inexorably. She wanted to remain as a solitary, predatory female. She wanted sex without complications, warmth without commitment. I wanted marriage and babies. Call me Victorian if you like but the word spinster is enough to strike dread into my soul. Assumpta said I was suffering from a classic case of the Cinderella Complex but I didnít care what it was. I wanted to find true love, passion and commitment all rolled into one. I did not have enough inner resources to be a lone traveller going through life. She said that I shouldnít need a man in order to define myself but I tend to get too insular and melancholic on my own. I donít want to end up alone because I get too bloody morose and introverted. Assumpta also doesnít believe in faith and destiny. She thinks that if she had to wait for faith and destiny to provide a man for her sheíd still be waiting. She places herself in the driving seat, choosing and selecting men along the way. I am still opting to hover between both camps to increase my possibility of success.

        My resolution to remain chaste and pure was to be a means to an end to ensure that I got exactly what I wanted. In spite of or maybe because of Assumpta I was more resolute and determined than ever to follow my dream and catch it. I would show her that that it was not only possible but highly probable that I would get what I wanted which was marriage to a suitable man, a nice home and a few kids, surely not a lot to aspire to.

        That night I was so exhausted and emotionally drained that even my futon seemed inviting. Yes I have a futon. I was culture shocked enough coming to live in Dublin without having to contend with a futon. Assumpta claims they are space friendly. For the eyes maybe. The only possible advantage is I no longer fall out of the bed. The best I can manage is to roll onto the floor which I tend to avoid as the floors are Canadian hardwood.

        There is a very small wooden wardrobe in one corner and a minuscule wooden locker by the window. How on earth was this to house my expansive personality. Wait for it. There was also a wooden cross over my futon. Now religious icons really freak me out. Itís the accusatory way that they look at you. Eyes that I swear see right through you and pick out the guilty bits. Gran aunt Molly has a Jesus picture with huge hands and beady eyes that seem to chart your every move and gesture. Move to the right and he follows you. Move to the left and he follows you. Is it little wonder I have become ultra paranoid.? She also has a beheaded child of Prague but thatís not as threatening. You know Jesus may have been crucified but at this stage Iím sure heíd want us to get over it. He knew it was part of the job description so it wasnít as if he didnít expect it. Why not remember the good times like the wedding feast of Cana when Mary Madeline met her Mr Right. Now if she had been in the driving seat she could have nabbed Jesus but no she left it all up to destiny and see what happened.

        I hurriedly replaced the cross with a full moon landscape painted by Edwina. Itís supposed to bring love into your life if you have either pictures or symbols of the moon in the bedroom. This is according to the Feng Shui book of love that I bought in Easons the other day. It had better work. Otherwise its £20 down the drain. It also says to have posters of men on the walls so goodbye magnolia and hello all those gorgeous bodies I will worship from my futon. Matt Dillon, Mike Baldwinís son Ėwhatís his name? Mark Badwin. I can look canít I? I never resolved not to fantasise. Ah yes all I have to do is close my eyes and astrally project whoever I want to my bed- excuse me my futon. Its not the same is it. Would you like to come to bed? would you like to come to futon? Voulez-vous couchez avec moi? Nah!

        I've had no sex now for over three weeks. My world record. Itís so addictive hence I had to go through some pretty rough cold turkey. In the beginning it was hell, absolute torture. I thought about sex all the time and I mean all the time. I seriously thought I was going mad and loosing touch with reality. My waking hours were punctuated with memories of what I did and who I did it with. I was forced to recall the most inconsequential details like the texture of Paulís hairy chest or the touch of his hand as he explored my body. That is the disadvantage of having an imagination that can summon up the past instantly and can paint and create scenarios that are not even real.

        For instance my trips to the supermarket proved to be too much for my desirous longings. I had become a living breathing walking hormone. I even developed palpitations as I felt obsessed with everything male Ė the little hairs on the back of their hands and the size of their hands and what they could do to me with their hands. And their buttsóhow I stared and longed to touch. I really had to stop myself from salivating. This was hell and those beautiful beings my tormentors. As I meandered down the aisles I could even smell their bodies, their after-shave and their sweat Lethal combination. The natural smell of fresh sweat turns me on. Itís so male and macho andÖ

        Someone somewhere told me that there are two types of hell. Christian hell is where you suffer an afterlife of eternal torment, something like Danteís inferno. Zen hell on the other hand is found in this world where you can see life around you but you cannot participate in it. Tesco supermarket is Zen hell where I can look but I cannot touch. Zen hell is much worse. How do I rise beyond these thoughts cos I have to if Iím going to survive this sexual famine. I wonder if I should take up Yoga and learn to focus the mind a bit better?

        I had to try to concentrate on the vegetables, rows and rows of cellophane cucumbers and carrots. I was even being taunted by symbolic vegetables. I had to avert my gaze to the more sober and sensible turnips or cabbage--- seemingly the monks used to eat a lot of these vegetables as they have a substance that tends to lower oneís libido. Iíd have to try that for myself. Bacon and cabbage, Steak and turnip. Lamb and cabbage, salmon and turnip. I felt sick as I donít particularly like cabbage. Or turnip for that matter. I hate the smell of it cooking, it reminds me of Judasís socks.

        For now my sexuality is only in relation to myself. I am on a veritable voyage of self- discovery that could take me just about anywhere. My entire attitude to sexuality has undergone an amazing metamorphous. For the first time in my life I have become aware of myself as a sexual feeling being. I seem to be developing an awareness of myself in relation to nobody other than me.

        Take masturbation for instance. I used to think it was this quick release clitoral stimulation- rub the magical orifice and release the genie in the bottle. It lasts five minutes or so and provided instant gratification and relief from stress. Pleasure was always an after thought. It had become a habit which decreased rather than heightened sensitivity so thatís when I knew it would have to go. Until of course I felt ready to let it evolve into an art form of self pleasuring. I was going to rewrite the manual. The Gentle art of Masturbation By Anna Moran.

                Rule 1) There has to be total concentration on the self. Focus on your breathing. Inhale. Exhale. Listen to your heart beat as you lay in stillness and silence. Inhale and exhale. Close your eyes and relax totally.

                Rule 2) Forget about a second party at the moment. This is you in relation to you. A second party even if he is only imaginary is an intrusion and you know you are cheating if penile images come your way. This is strictly vaginal territory.

                Rule 3) Listen to the sounds around you. The curtains fluttering gently in the breeze or the muffled cry of the cuckoo as he struggles to herald the arrival of spring. Let it all fade into the background as you retreat within going deeper and deeper.

                Rule 4) Try to build up a sense of anticipation Focus on the pleasure that lays ahead.. Anticipation. Itís all about anticipation. No touching at this stage. You need to go back to basics. You are going to feel what itís really like to be you and to feel you.

        Otherwise you could turn out to be like me. Feeling everyone else but oneself..

        The more I think about it the more I realise that for the most part I have been the object of menís desires, rather than them being the subject of mine. My entire sexuality has been in relation to the men in my life.

        "Fancy a drink? A shift? A shift come possible shag? A definite shag?"

        I rarely refused so caught up was I in the melodrama of desire. It was enough that I was fancied, even if momentarily. Looking back I was so sad and pathetic. I had entered the sexual arena at too early an age to really discover who I was and what I wanted from a relationship. In a way they mirrored my expectations and behaved accordingly. I felt sexually jaded and emotionally retarded. Great. May as well top myself.

        But no. There was to be an alternative route to my salvation- celibacy. From henceforth this was to be the guardian of my womanhood. I would retreat into the underworld for major restructuring and education. I would change so that the mirror would throw back exactly what I wanted.

        Which brings me to the next rule that I am only writing because of societyís abhorrence of the M word. Yes while it is mentioned in the magazines our educational establishments refuse to acknowledge its importance in our lives. We jokingly refer to the M word in words like wanker or phrases like spanking the monkey or choking the chicken. This of course refers to men and not to women as we have no chicken to choke or no monkey to spank. Our orifices are either hidden and forgotten or crudely referred to.

        The Chinese who practice martial arts like Tai Chi are one of the few groups of people interested in female sexuality. These experts teach you how to respect and love your own body. They recommend you get a mirror to look at what they call the flower. Their terms for the female body are beautiful like petal and flower unlike our grosser western terminology. So where did we go wrong? How did we get so disconnected from the magic and splendour of the female form. Of course it is referred to today. Everything is so out in the open but it is no longer revered. Patriarchal intervention is to blame. It has to be.

        Whizz back to ancient Babylonia and Mesopotamia and take a look at the women who served as rulers. These women were active participants in the sexual rituals of that time. Lucky them. Their partners were chosen by them and for the rest of their lives remained their good and faithful servant. Proper order. The man only became a God in relation to the female. Imagine that. With the passage of time however the sexual act which had been the an act of worship of the goddesses became denigrated into purely a physical act Power and authority passed thus from the priestesses to the priest. The system became more patriarchal with power being vested in the priests and gods. The rituals were lost and the female form lost its reverence.

                Ok so rule 4 ) Put the F back into female. Bring back reverence to the female form. This has to start with oneself. Learn to love every little part of your body especially your flower. Just look but still do not touch at this stage.

                Rule 5) Become aware of the intense power of your sexuality. This is apparent after a month or so of no sex. Feelings become more sharper, more acute and more real somehow. Let the touching begin.

        Take a long luxurious bubble bath and imagine you are drifting off to the land of your dreams. Afterwards go to bed fully relaxed. Just lay back and think about your entire being on the verge of a pleasure trip. Allow the tips of your fingers to follow the dictates of your desires. Touch your forearms and then your breasts. Encircle each nipple and stay there until you feel anticipation. No cheating mind you. Do exactly as I say. Descend to your solar plexus, The Hara, centre of your personal power. Imagine the colour yellow gaining in intensity pulsating and inviting. You can choose to stop here if you want to but I think its best to continue. Masturbation in instalments is not good for the mind.

        Gently massage your inner thighs and allow whatever images you want to flood your brain. This is you in relation to you. Spread your legs and allow yourself to explore the part of you that wants to cherished and worshipped. Take this slowly, you are in no rush. The aim is intense pleasure and not a quickie release. Tease and stroke and stroke and tease until you can longer bear it. Stop. Listen to your breathing. Take deep breathes and feel your power. This is yours. All yours. Close your eyes and once more take yourself to the brink and draw back.

        At this moment in time you are so alive and so intensely aware. You are the most important person alive and breathing at this point in time. There is nobody but you who can deliver you from your desires and take you to the heights of pleasure. Only you. Stroke your breasts and inner thighs and fasten your seat belt for ascent.. Go to where you have explored and to the point that is the gateway to explosion. Stay there until you feel you are entering a higher and greater reality. At this stage your heart is beating wildly and you begin to pant. Allow yourself to ride on waves of anticipation until they gain in intensity. As you reach the crest you are lost as you connect with a power that surges through you and is you.

        You are blessed with gentle sweet release. Bliss. This is Bliss.

        All of the above gets better with practice. I am learning to love myself and you know what, it feels so damn good. I only need me. What a liberating thought. The paradox lies in the fact that I also want a husband but maybe thatís different from wanting a man.

        As for destiny I am forever open and receptive to the powers of the universe. I read this in some magazine belonging to Edwina. The spiritual advice therein was that you need to look out for and spot the signs. You must put yourself out there and mentally affirm that you are available for the perfect relationship. It involves putting in a lot of effort as who knows when Mr right will come along. Take Sandra for instance. Sandra went to school with me, nice girl but a bit scruffy. She met her Mr Right in a local shop. She was en route back to her flat, having walked her dog in her pjs and overcoat. Her hair was totally dishevelled and wild. Her face was ashen with fatigue. Yet as she queued for milk and weetabix she turned around to see this incredibly gorgeous hunk staring at her. A little scattering of cosmic dust and he started talking to her and asked her for a date. The rest is history and they are now happily married. Or my friend Dee who used to be a struggling dancer yet struck lucky when she reversed into a Mercedes. The driver was psychotic until he glanced at her angelic face and cupid speared him right through the heart. The Gods threw her two sixes and she married the driver, a doctor. So it can and does happen. Just be prepared.

        It can be rather stressful as I feel duty bound to smile at every half decent male who happens upon my path. The other day I was grinning maniacally at the refuse collectors when all I got back in return was some lewd suggestions so in future I will remain aloof with such ilk. Anyhow I am looking for a suitable wealthy father for my children. This rules out any of the guys in the house. Its not that I donít like them. I do but they are not the type of men I seek at the moment.

            Cecil is more like a woman than a man and I hate that in a guy. He is so pernickety with his appearance and the house. He thinks the sun and moon shine out of Assumptaís backside. They have cleanliness and a love of order in common. Personally I think he looks like a beaver as he chews each mouthful about twenty times. The thing about living with people is that after a while their personal habits begin to grate on your nerves. They assume mammoth proportions as they become grossly exaggerated in your mind. Cecil ceases to be Cecil and becomes the caricatured version of the same person. He becomes the sum total of his beaver like accountant personality. He is the guy who wears his pyjamas to bed and who has cocoa on retiring regardless of the weather. He is the guy who religiously sterilises the tee towels and dish clothes every night. Grace would appreciate him but I donít. A guy who is a cleaning maniac is totally devoid of sex appeal. In fact I see Cecil as sexless, and sadly colourless.

        Even Harry who is a reincarnation of Grissly Adams is more of a man, albeit of the brutish sort. Iíll say one thing for Harry-heís so obedient for Assumpta. He has that hang dog look that engenders both pity and scorn. I watch him as he awkwardly goes about doing his domestic tasks. His brutish hands seem so out of place as he pulls the clothes from the drier and folds them after a fashion in the utility room. Men such as Harry ensure the survival of female domesticity until eternity. Despite his uncouth and rough manner he oozes a certain rawness that in moments of desperation dare I say could be a turn on. It must be Cecilís presence that does it but comparatively speaking in a world of only two men Harry would unreservedly win my hand

        I like Elliot the best. We seemed to click straight away as if weíd always known each other. Heís so funny. His ability to make people laugh seems to come from his deep seated need to make them happy. When I say he makes me laugh I mean the laughter of the hysterical kind that makes you weak at the knees and weep uncontrollably. Elliotís Dad is Malaysian so he has this slight oriental look to his eyes. He's tall, dark and a bit on the lanky side. He doesnít care much for image as he dresses in over sized sweaters that he acquires from a variety of charity shops around the place. Although he graduated from Trinity with a Masters in psychology he earns his living as a free-lance musician. He had some falling out with his professor as to the suitability of topic for his PHD and so he abruptly changed paths. Elliot does not like to compromise his beliefs so he consequently pays dearly for his independent stance. I find him rather admirable but with his irregular job and income he is certainly not my type. Think big house Anna, one hefty mortgage funded by one nice suitable rich husband. Donít blow it with over rated sentimentality. My mother says that with enough money you can grow to love any man.




Works by Nell Sullivan