I was brushing my teeth when I saw it — a white hair. Films and television have taught me that when confronted with incontrovertible evidence of her advancing age, a woman is supposed to have an emotional meltdown. Unfortunately my bathroom is too small for a proper hysterical hoopla.
I suppose I could have made more of an effort — thrown some bottles of unguent around, perhaps sunk to the floor in tears, or run off to Italy to eat pasta and flirt with younger men — but I had stuff to do and places to be, so I plucked it out, had a shower and forgot about it. Well, mostly I forgot about it.
A few weeks later I was putting on make-up when I realised the white hair hadn’t been an aberration. There was another one, small and fine but unmistakeable. And another, and another — seven in total, and each one of them a betrayal. I had been robbed! Not of my youth — nope — of my birthright! Gingers don’t go grey. Instead our hair fades to strawberry blonde, then pale blonde and then white. But that’s not supposed to happen until our mid-fifties or so, and that’s still a long, long way off. After all the taunting about fiery tempers and fire crotches, being teased about my freckles and my lack of a soul, this was to have been my payback.
Both my sisters have been going grey since their early twenties, as have many of my friends. My partner’s glorious beard is shot through with tiny grey hairs and he is sexy as fuck. Grey or white hair may be associated with age, but it is not necessarily indicative of it. However, I will admit that I was worried about more than just a few pale hairs. It probably didn’t help that I had been reading Miranda Sawyer’s Out of Time — you’ll find my review in the book pages — which is all about getting older. So yup, I was feeling perturbed.
The obvious thing to have done was dye my hair and buy myself a new frock. After all, that’s what women are supposed to do — constantly reinvent ourselves — to appeal to the male gaze.
On the one hand, yes, of course I want my partner to find me sexually attractive; but on the other, paying too much attention to the clamouring cultural noise that tells women that they have no value if they are not young and beautiful — or at least fuckable – is a loser’s game.
A woman’s temporal crisis point is, depending on who you ask, thirty, thirty-five or forty. Certain strands of “male rights activists” reckon women should be finding husbands in their teens because our feminine allure falls off a cliff after the grand old age of twenty-one.
Society values youth and beauty in women, far more so than in men. After a certain age, a woman is supposed to make an effort. If you don’t, you’re castigated for “letting yourself go” as if ageing was a personal failing. Alternatively, if you have plastic surgery or use too many fillers, people will ridicule you and call you shallow and vain.
A great deal of the media directed at women is underpinned by the idea of makeovers and transformation. In order to remain fuckable, a woman is supposed to relentlessly self-monitor for flaws and keep time at bay through diet, exercise and luxury consumption.
Makeovers can be found in magazines, in films and television shows. Some, like Operation Transformation, have a health and fitness message (alleged). Others, such as The Swan, How To Look Good Naked, Extreme Makeover, and 10 Years Younger may adopt a “you go girl” message, but they are really about re-modelling a woman in line with heteronormative standards of sexual appeal. 10 Years Younger is the worst of these. Woe betide you for looking your age! Call in the experts! We have Revenge Body with Khloé Kardashian to look forward to later this year, where the reality star will help the broken-hearted get vengeance on their former partners by shedding pounds — as if the only thing that could have caused your relationship to fail was your flabby tummy.
Makeovers are sold as empowerment to women, whatever their age. Twenty-something party girls are remade as classy ladies; women in their thirties are told that, with enough effort and money, they can look like twenty-something party girls; women in their forties have to stave off the ravages of time; in their fifties and sixties, they have to do their damnedest to reverse the clock. A truly empowering message would be that you are fine as you are, but that probably wouldn’t make for compelling television.
In makeover television, participants are described, by themselves or others, as having failed in some way — by choosing the wrong clothes, picking up weight or getting old. The participant is humiliated and her (or occasionally his) failings displayed for the audience. Physical transformation is seen as the first and most necessary step in self-improvement. The costs associated with, and consumerist logic of, transformation is suppressed as high-end grooming is seen as a basic necessity.
The makeover is an update on the Cinderella tale. An essential femininity is said to have been revealed, which is responsive to men’s desires, but also psychologically healthy — the old “the better you look, the better you feel” argument. Whether she is twenty-five or fifty, this new-and-improved woman has got to be the best version of herself possible, which is always the most physically and sexually attractive version — not the smartest, kindest or most professionally successfully one.
Women’s magazines and beauty blogs are notorious for urging readers to spend hundreds of euro on luxury self-care items. And although savvy readers may be well aware that positive reviews of eye-wateringly expensive cream, make-up and clothes are merely adverts in disguise, the relentless drip, drip, drip of the sales pitch can be hard to resist. Will my skin look ten times better if I buy a face cream ten times the price of my usual cheapo brand? Unlikely, but the hope is always there, even though there isn’t a single cream as effective as a good camera filter.
It is a truism that you should never draw people’s attention to your flaws because most of the time they are worrying about their own failings and unlikely to notice yours. Instead I told everybody about my white hairs. Hell, I am telling you. I cannot help myself!
“You’ve had them for ages,” my boyfriend said with a shrug. He’d found a gnarly white hair in his beard the week before and so he was not impressed by my teeny tiny smooth colourless strands. I was glad to realise that the Australian’s awareness of my crop of pale hairs hadn’t dampened his desire in any way; but if they had been there for a while and I hadn’t noticed them, I may be going blind too!
Later that day we went to the cinema. As we passed the Star Wars Battle Pod in the foyer, the Australian noticed it was empty.
“I kinda want to have a go,” he admitted shamefacedly.
“Me too,” I said. “Let’s do it!”
Yup, me and my grown-ass male companion — old enough to get white hairs, but not mature enough to resist the lure of shiny games. But there was no point in pretending we were — we had tickets for Captain America: Civil War.
It's one of the commonest insults in the English language- and it's usually directed at women. The truth, of course, is that there is nothing wrong with earning money for providing sexual services...Read More
…Or puncture it? They are out there, you know: men and women who are hell bent on hoodwinking others into unprotected sex. Their aims may be different – but it is rape either way…Read More
Or should that be cums? Well, either way, it is a fascinating question – all the more so given that without it, well you, for one, wouldn’t be here. So get ready to take notes, girls and boys…Read More
Ciarán McMenamin’s debut novel Skintown is a hypnotic, alcohol soaked, adrenaline-fuelled rush of a bookRead More
Would you put up with a racist or a xenophobe if he – or she – happened to be good in the sack? And how important is it to love that we share the same ideological inclinations?Read More
For example, there’s a theory that the way to a woman’s heart is through straightforward kissing, cunnilingus and fingering. Well, what do you think, eh?Read More
For a long time, our correspondent has been seeing things when she has an orgasm. When she investigated what was going on, she was in for a surprise…Read More
It may seem perverse, but people often bond over how much they dislike something – or someone. In fact, if you play your cards well enough, hating the same things may be the best way of ending up in bed with someone you fancy.Read More
In a nice way, that is! A UK research project found that both men and women are suspicious of sexually successful (some might say promiscuous) people. So, with it being Valentine’s Day, we have to ask: how come they keep getting laid?Read More
She is a US citizen. But, if Donald Trump has his way, her name will go into a new kind of black book: the so-called Muslim Register. Hend Amry has been commenting on the shift to right-wing populism in the US and elsewhere via Twitter, under the @libyaliberty handle, earning an impressively large following in the process…Read More
A musician by trade, Quentin Sheridan was homeless – and so he put out a call on Facebook. The occupation of Apollo House by Home Sweet Home is the result. But it is only the start of a battle, in which Ireland can provide the leadRead More
The singer has issued an invitation to the Minister for Housing to visit Apollo House, in Dublin, which has been occupied by campaigners who aim to bring an end to homelessness.Read More
With the exception of condoms, the responsibility for avoiding pregnancy has generally fallen on women. But men are entitled to control their own fertility too. The question is: how?Read More
Helena Mulkerns’ new short story collection draws on her extraordinary experiences as an aid worker, which brought her to the heart of conflict zones in Eritrea and Afghanistan.Read More
It might sound complicated – but I was very impressed indeed with Laura when she gave such a wonderfully precise definition of her sexual identity. Which got me thinking: what about all of those other interesting shades of sexual orientation? Well, it turns out that there is a word for most all of them!Read More
Cannabis lube, that is. And, based on our sex columnist's personal experiments, it heightens sexual pleasure only for women. Sadly, you won’t get it over the counter in Ireland – though that might change in the future. We hope…Read More
In terms of our understanding of the human mind, it is important to remember that we are only ever getting there. Not so long ago, after all, a woman who enjoyed sex was likely to be branded as a nymphomaniac.Read More
Irish author Conor O’Callaghan’s debut novel, the gothic mystery story Nothing On Earth, is one of the most gripping books of the year.Read More
Since the introduction of the 8th Amendment to the Constitution in 1983, women in Ireland have had to live with a shockingly restrictive regime on abortion, which has resulted in numerous deaths and untold trauma. Now, the Irish public is saying: no more…Read More
The myth that only men treat the opposite sex as objects, is just that - a myth. The sooner women are more honest about their lustful feelings, and the sooner society stops treating sexually open women as sluts the better it will be for all of us.Read More
Laura Kasischke, the critically acclaimed and nationally bestselling poet and author returns with a tense psychological thrillerRead More
Journalist Miranda Sawyer’s compelling and humorous new book, Out Of Time, explores the challenges of turning forty and maintaining a rock and roll edge.Read More
Liz Nugent’s Lying in Wait comes with praise from Sebastian Barry and Marian Keyes, among others.Read More
UnderCurrent are a group unlike any other in Ireland. A mix of cabaret, musical theatre, burlesque, physical comedy, banter and dance, they are also the only performance troupe in the country composed entirely of LGBTQ members.Read More
The progenitors of Britpop came to Marlay Park in Dublin yesterday – and the crowd lapped it up. Report: Anne SextonRead More
Anne Sexton gives her take on Conor O'Callaghan's debut novel.Read More
This four-piece cut their teeth busking in Temple Bar, but their journey is just beginning.Read More
With women being given jail sentences for using the abortion pill in Northern Ireland, three activists decided that it was time to act – and made a startling confession to the PSNI.Read More
First Dates offered a glimpse into the way people behave when they are looking for a romantic liaison - and maybe some sex into the bargain. But how different was the TV version from people's pursuit of a good time - and what does the history of dating tell us about how we view this ritual?Read More
Teenager David Beattie has written a powerful and insightful account of growing up trans in Ireland.Read More
The ‘dating’ app makes great claims in relation to the numbers using it. But are people hooking up and having sex successfully through it? Now, that is a very good question…Read More
Make no mistake, casual sex can be brilliant, wonderful, even life-affirming. But in the fuckzone, things are different. Because this is where a woman is just a piece of pussy or a man is no better than a dick or an asshole on legs...Read More
Since the release of his acclaimed first novel, The Spinning Heart, Ryan has established himself as one of Ireland’s most talented writers.Read More
Eighties Ireland: in a country where divorce was impossible, unmarried mothers were treated like pariahs, gay sex was illegal and condoms could only be bought on prescription, finding the joy in sex was not easy. But the excitement of it was no less real.Read More
Glenn Patterson’s latest novel tells the extraordinary story of John DeLorean’s time in Belfast – a saga of federal agents, undercover sting operations and alleged cocaine trafficking.Read More
The introduction of the 8th Amendment to the Constitution in 1983 was one of the most regressive pieces of manipulative political chicanery in the history of the Irish state. Repealing it is essential to establishing a regime in Ireland, which respects the reproductive rights of women. Let’s end the evasiveness by making it an election issue…Read More
It may be highly illegal, but Irish women - including TD Ruth Coppinger - are willing to risk jail by taking the abortion pill all over Ireland. Anne Sexton and Julia Schimkus travelled to Galway with the pro-choice activists...Read More
Life is a drag for Miss Panti - but wonderfully so!Read More
Anne Sexton chats to Hanya Yanagihara, whose second￼ novel A Little Life has been the subject of truly rapturous reviews...Read More
Men have been lectured for a long time about how ladies need a bit of foreplay before getting it on. But that is an axiom that rubs both ways – because men tend to like a long, slow build-up too...Read More
Men have been lectured for a long time about how ladies need a bit of foreplay before getting it on. But that is an axiom that rubs both ways – because men tend to like a long, slow build-up too...Read More
...Or, in a different situation, you might ask, why didn’t he leave her? Abusive relationships are unfortunately common – and both sexes are victims. But perhaps you have to have lived through one to really understand the cruel dynamics at work...Read More
Acclaimed author Glenn Patterson continues his exploration of the Northern Irish psyche in his latest book, which cherry-picks his finest non-fiction pieces from the last decade.Read More
The crass outlook of pick-up artists is insulting and fails to recognise each individual's unique attractivenessRead More
There are no rules as to how much you reveal to prospective sexual partners. But it is probably true that – most of the time anyway – honesty is the best policy...Read More
Before the gay marriage ‘Yes’ vote had people dancing in the streets, before civil partnerships, before gay people could publicly identify as such, Senator David Norris was waging a brave and often thankless fight on behalf of minorities in Ireland. In his first major interview since the referendum he recounts his long struggle with prejudice in Ireland...Read More
With her second novel Tender dealing with homosexuality, emotional abuse and mental illness, Belinda McKeon reflects on the repressive, oppressive culture of mid '90s Ireland and the perverse pleasure she takes in pushing readers' buttons.Read More
It may be the name of a cocktail, but it is also a reasonably popular pastime. So is public sex a good idea? And how are you best to go about it?Read More
Every now and then, they come out of the woodwork: people who believe that thinking, talking and writing about sex in a positive way is a sin and should be punished. It is a bit scary when someone like this tracks down your email address just to tell you...Read More
As the results came in, crowds gathered in Dublin Castle to hear them. It became on of he biggest and best parties Ireland has ever seen...Read More
The novel is about an Irish family and all their problems in life from 1980 on and written in episodic style.Read More
It is vital to gay couples that the upcoming referendum on same sex marriage should be passed. But an even bigger prize is the feeling that we are living in an open, inclusive society that a resounding victory would inspire. So, make sure to get out and vote ‘Yes’...Read More
When it comes to sex, men have it far easier and far better than women. In fact, there are ten good reasons why a sex change might just be the best option...Read More
A lot of concern has been expressed in conventional media about ‘hook-up’ culture. Curiously, however, the impact of social media and online mate-seeking sites seems to be that people are having less sex rather than more. Something will have to be done about it, is all we can say...Read More
It is an invitation that most people would find extremely difficult to turn down. But there are those who prefer giving head one at a time to the classic 69. Which side of the great oral sex debate are you on?Read More
When Hot Press ran a competition for a columnist to write about sex, the competition was pretty hot. In the end, we chose a certain feisty, red-headed female, who wrote with wit, verve and style – and whose name just happened to have the word ‘sex’ in it. Clearly it was a role that she had been destined to, um, perform...Read More
And there’s nothing wrong with that! Indeed, while sexual conservatives try to claim otherwise, the reality is that men and women are really very similar in their appetites for sex, porn and all the rest...Read More
That was the implied message in Teleflora’s 2012 Valentine’s Day ad, which featured the model Adriana Lima. Is that really what romance is all about?Read More
That’s bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism to you and me. Oh, and there will also be copious face- sitting; lots of gay sex – some of it within marriage hopefully; and vibrators that know what you like. Bring it on!Read More
During the Graham Dwyer murder trial, members of the Irish BDSM scene were sometimes depicted in unflattering terms. So what is BDSM all about?Read More
Cowboy landlords, substandard living conditions and ever increasing costs are just some of the problems facing people in rented accommodation, and many of those in difficulty are afraid to speak up.Read More
But not always in a good way! Because someone out there apparently thinks that sex toys specially designed and packaged for Christmas are, like, a good idea! Starting with the Barack Obama dildo…Read More
It’s a tough one. The man you want just happens to be hooked up — with your best friend. If you really want him, there’s only one way to go about it. But should you dare?...Read More
As Ireland emerges from a period of economic turbulence, there are now a myriad of ways to get a foothold in the jobs market.Read More
That’s a question that more or less everyone has had to ask themselves at some time in their lives. Because, modern mating methods notwithstanding, getting regular sex is still a minefield for a lot of people to negotiate…Read More
It doesn’t make sense to start blaming social media for what is a horrible crime. Because the truth is that women are entitled to go about their lives free of the fear of rape…Read More
It may be a cliché but there is a lot of truth to the notion of “a healthy body, healthy mind.” As Bressie notes in his emotional fitness tips, the food you eat affects your mood, and physical activity promotes the creation of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that makes you feel good.Read More
Time spent overseas volunteering shouldn’t be treated as a holiday and is only worthwhile if you are prepared to put in some hard graft...Read More
That, as they say, is a bold statement. But new research has indicated that the association that has often been made between casual sex and lower self-esteem is really a product of prevailing religious-based orthodoxies. Having sex will not cure depression. But as an aspect of a holistic approach to our well-being, it can play a vital role…Read More
She has chronicled the seamy side of Dublin in her novels. Now crime writer Tana French turns her attention to the privileged elite of south DublinRead More
Everyone else seems to be! However, the recent celebrity Hackergate scandal throws up a multitude of intriguing questions about the wisdom of recording DIY porn...Read More
We all know how enjoyable a bit of role-playing is – especially when it comes to sexual matters. So get down on your knees: our resident sexpert Anne Sexton is about to give you a lecture…Read More
Is it the Yanks with their enthusiasm; the Aussies with their frankness; or the Germans with their, umm, precision? And how do Irish men compare with their international peers? Anne Sexton road-tested males of eight different nationalities (not in the last fortnight, you understand) and is delighted to offer her educated view on the subject...Read More
It makes a huge difference to your sexual development – and ultimately to your sexual happiness – if you can talk about things openly with your mother...Read More
They have a long and distinguished history, and nowadays come in all shapes, sizes and colours – but the basic latex cock ring beats the rest hands down, where making sex better for women and men alike is concerned.Read More
A debate is currently raging about the idea of ‘Enthusiastic Consent’. That’s when you say ‘yes, please’ to having sex with someone else. But should that be required under the law? It is, as they say, an interesting one...Read More
The beloved drag queen deals with the serious business of "Panti-gate" and more in hilarious fashion in new show High Heels in Low PlacesRead More
Whoever you had sex with, and whatever he or she looked like, there is someone out there in academia who wants to try and explain it. But the fact is that sex is – thankfully! – far more complicated than your average bit of social research allows. The question that really matters is: how can we all have better sex?Read More
There are those who might say that it is an unholy combination. But from the pill through LSD to Viagra, chemical agents have made a huge difference to our ability to enjoy ourselves sexually...Read More
And you know it. So should you tell the wife or girlfriend who is being cheated on? Or would you let a bloke know if his wife was having it off with someone else? It's an interesting conundrum indeed...Read More