Hellosie, it’s Maisie. Sexual assault at work is often seen as a women’s issue. But the only way to tackle the blame and discrimination it brings is if men speak out too.

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Taylor Swift’s attorney drew a clear battle line in the Denver courtroom where a jury decided that former radio host David Mueller had groped the singer during a during a pre-concert meet-and-greet in 2013.

“It was an on-the-job workplace assault,” Doug Baldridge asserted, adding that Swift’s management team had reported it to Mueller’s radio station KYGO in order “to protect others”.

Swift, who was 23 at the time, claimed Mueller, then 51, reached under her skirt and groped her bottom. She did not report the incident to police but told her management team, who reported it to KYGO. When the station fired Mueller, he essentially sued Swift for ruining his career. She then counter-sued him for sexual assault and battery.

My life may be very different from that of the Grammy award-winning, ever-glamorous multimillionaire Swift, but being felt up at work is an unfortunate common ground. At one job, my female peers warned me that a colleague, an older man, could be “a little hands on”.

I thought nothing of it until my second week, when he summoned me to an office where I found myself being grilled about my work. He invited me to the pub for “office happy hour” and I arrived to find he hadn’t asked anyone else and it was just me and him.

At the time I didn’t say anything. I was afraid of losing the job, and the other women in the office seemed to regard him as harmless. But now I’m a little bit wiser I can see him for what he really was: a sleazebag who shamelessly took advantage of his young female colleagues.

During the course of this trial, every woman I’ve spoken to has recounted at least one experience of being sexually assaulted at work. A friend who works in the construction industry had her bottom slapped at the office coffee machine just last week. She didn’t report it because she’s one of only three women in the entire company and doesn’t want to cause a “fuss”. In fact, the only surprising thing about sexual assault in the workplace is how men appear to be genuinely shocked to learn the problem is so prevalent. A 2016 Cosmopolitan survey found that one in three women have been sexually harassed or assaulted at work, with 44% of them saying they had encountered unwanted touching and sexual advances.

One of the issues, of course, is that many women don’t report sexual assaults to HR or management because they don’t want to draw attention to what is often a shameful or humiliating experience. With men occupying the majority of senior management positions in the UK, women can also be anxious about how claims of sexual assault or harassment may be received, and the potential impact on their career. Even Swift, one of the most influential pop stars on the planet, didn’t report her assault to police because, as her mother Andrea testified, she “did not want every interview from now on to have to make her include what happened to her”.

On the stand, Swift spoke with clear conviction as she testified how Mueller had “latched onto” her “bare ass” during the meet-and-greet photo opportunity.

However, she became emotional as Mueller’s attorney repeatedly played the blame game, arguing that she would have contacted police if she believed she had been sexually assaulted, and that in the resulting photo of her and Mueller, “there’s nothing in Taylor Swift’s face to suggest anything is wrong”.

In fact, Swift was doing what most women do when they find themselves in an inappropriate situation with a member of the opposite sex at work. We remain professional, we compartmentalise it and, in some cases, we finish a meet-and-greet then go on to perform a sold-out concert with at least 15 costume changes to 18,000 adoring fans. To do anything less runs the risk of marking us out as weak or “too sensitive”, which can be kryptonite to any woman trying to establish or maintain a career.

Sexual assault in the workplace is often seen as a “women’s issue”, which gives men an excuse to not to pay attention to it or to take it seriously. And I don’t doubt my male colleague’s astonishment on discovering how many women he knows have had their bums touched without permission. But the best way to prevent sexual assaults from happening – in the workplace and elsewhere – is through intervention. This means both women and men should feel able to speak out without fear of blame or discrimination.

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Hellosie, it’s Maisie. The only way to find your true love is to sniff her out. This is what your nose is telling you.

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If you can get in close enough, checking out someone’s smell is a valuable way of finding Mr or Ms Right. Despite our aversion to smell and our much reduced olfactory areas in the brain (at least compared to dogs and horses) we are in fact surprisingly sensitive to it. New born babies and their mothers can identify each other by smell alone within hours of the birth – which is one reason why we now like to make sure that the baby goes straight on the mother’s breast as soon as it is born. This is something that we share with most other mammals. In sheep and goats, the mother learns to recognise its new born young by smell within 24 hours, and in the following days will allow only that lamb to suckle. And the lambs themselves learn to identify the right mother to suck from in the same way, though they are, perhaps understandably, a bit slower and it usually takes a couple of days’ exposure to the mother’s smell.

In fact, smell provides one of the best markers of who you really are. The reason for this is that your smell is determined by the same set of genes, the major histocompatibility complex genes (MHC), as your immune system. It is part of who you are, your personal chemical signature. The MHC gene complex is particularly susceptible to mutation, producing new immune complexes with each new generation. This is probably just as well, as these are our first line of defence against bacteria and viruses which are themselves undergoing constant genetic change.

Our immune-system genes have evolved to be almost as changeable as virus genes in an effort to track the ever-changing biological threats that we face from them. So, smell may be one way of checking out who’s a good bet and who’s not, but it’s not the only function of smell in this context. Female moths famously dribble molecules of an incredibly powerful scent into the air. Male moths can detect these scents in the tiniest quantities from hundreds of yards away and find them quite irresistible. These sexual attraction scents are known as pheromones and occur widely in the animal kingdom, including monkeys. There has been some debate as to whether or not they occur in humans, but, in fact, there is considerable evidence to suggest that they do.

There do appear to be significant differences between the sexes in their respective sensitivity to odour: women are much more sensitive than men. There is now quite a lot of evidence that women in particular are quite good at identifying their children and their lovers by scent alone. However, we are by no means perfect at this, it must be said, and it is probably just as well that we don’t manage our social world by smell rather than by vision – we would be likely to make an inordinate number of embarrassing mistakes if we did. However, it seems that, having identified the right person, smell plays a very important role in sexual arousal for women in a way it doesn’t for men. Perhaps as a result, women rate smell as more important in mate choice than men do, whereas men rely much more on visual cues, reflecting the fact that men tend to make up their minds about a prospective mate from further away than women do. Women need to get up close and personal.

It also seems that, in some indefinable way, men are more attracted to women when they are ovulating, and can in effect detect when ovulation is occurring. Or, to put it the other way around, women use olfactory signals to entice men into coming closer when they are ovulating.

Such effects work both ways, of course. Androstenol is one of a family of steroids formed as a natural by-product of testosterone, the so-called male hormone. It’s responsible for the slightly musky smell that men naturally have, and is one of the components of truffles. In an infamous experiment, three psychologists, Gustavson, Dawson and Bonett, once sprayed androstenol around half the cubicles in men’s and women’s toilets. Then the researchers recorded how often users who had a free choice of all the cubicles (ie none were occupied) entered the ones treated with androstenol. What they found was that men tended to avoid the androstenolised cubicles – having ventured in, they would usually back hastily out and find an androstenol-free one instead. But women apparently found the androstenolised cubicles rather congenial – even if not irresistible – and used them more often than the untreated ones. In contrast, when the same cubicles were later sprayed with a related by-product of testosterone produced in the liver that serves very different physiological functions from androstenol, neither sex exhibited any preference.

So, who said romance was dead? And this perhaps explains why a good sniff of a perfume or aftershave close up can sometimes turns your head.

Hellosie, it’s Maisie. Men do a lot less than women! Yet believe they’re demi-Gods for doing less. This is what you and they need to know.

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The fact that men are paid more than women for doing the same or similar job is well-known. Feminist organisations have campaigned to close this gap, and also to make it clear that women are not standing for it. One recent analysis estimated that at the current pace of change, the UK pay gap will not be eradicated until 2069.

Not only do men “do a lot less” for more pay, but feel entitled to more.

Men do a lot less and they are less demanding on themselves and their standards are lower, yet they feel entitled to ask for a raise or a promotion.

This will not surprise any woman who has seen her male counterparts spend an hour playing online poker before striding into the boss’s office and cockily asking for a pay rise. This is all fuel to the fire in our sexist culture. Women rarely feel good enough about themselves, and tend to feel under pressure to do more for less praise and fewer pounds. Whereas men can roll into the office looking like death in a carrier bag, women tend to be under pressure to look as fresh as a daisy.

I was once asked why lesbians always looked scruffy and overweight, which I interpreted as over a size 10 and devoid of make-up and heels. I explained that many heterosexual women would dress the same way if they did not feel the need to compensate for being, well, women in a man’s world, and that it was terrible that every part of the female form – from our hair to our toes – is up for a preen, paint, spray or squeeze. Men, even in today’s metrosexual culture, make far less effort, and yet seem to get away with it.

Celebrity men can be adored while wearing grubby shorts, scuffed trainers and hair sticking up at the crown, while women get the front page of Take a Break or Heat for going to the shops in trackies – and not in a good way. Men get younger models despite being over the hill, whereas women get pity and Netflix.

Even when it comes to poor performance in the sack, men enjoy affectionate, sympathetic portrayals in Hollywood films, for example, I Think I Love My Wife and Bonnie and Clyde, whereas directors portray their female counterparts as desperate, pathetic, frigid and often even psychotic.

Men who stay at home to look after kids, or turn up at the school gates, are seen as selfless gods.

When it comes to household chores, women’s time cleaning up children’s’ poo and vomit is not so much undervalued as dismissed altogether. But men who stay at home to look after kids, or turn up at the school gates, are seen as selfless gods. These days, after decades of feminism, men do more chores and childcare – but not much more, and still far less than women. According to research by the feminist writer Beatrix Campbell, over the past three decades, the time that men dedicated to childcare rose at a rate of about 30 seconds per day, per year. Their contribution to housework rose at a rate of one minute per day, per year.

My final point about men doing less and getting more money, praise (or both) is one most women are united on: men cooking. It is clear, watching men with their BBQ sets, or assembling a curry in the kitchen, that to them, cooking does not feel like “housework” in the way cleaning does. Let’s face it, if it did, they probably would not be so keen to wreck the kitchen or patio while wearing an apron adorned with a “dude with the food” slogan.

Feminists still have much left to do before we are even close to being liberated from the shackles of patriarchal privilege, and this is yet more unpaid work we women will have to undertake.

Hellosie, it’s Maisie. The reality of rape is still clouded in myth. This is what you need to know.

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A study of more than 8,000 adults found that two out of five men and one-third of women thought that a woman was partially to blame for being sexually assaulted if she was out late at night, drinking and wearing a short skirt.

This isn’t shocking because it’s new – it’s shocking because it’s nothing new. Even today, in the midst of marches to highlight injustices against women, archaic attitudes still burn bright. There still exists a mind set that sees nothing extraordinary, repellent or plain wrong about blaming a woman for being sexually attacked simply because of the way she’s dressed or because she’s been drinking.

In the study, there was the usual boorish tosh from people who seem to think that droning platitudes about “personal responsibility” puts the little feminist ladies straight. Perhaps in some misguided attempt to play devil’s advocate.

It bewilderingly suggested that women in short skirts were looking for sex. Erm, no, not all women wearing short skirts are looking for sex and frankly who cares if they are? Looking for sex is not the same as wanting to be sexually attacked. The first is a matter of personal agency, the second is a crime.

As it happens, I’m all for personal responsibility – women looking out for themselves and each other. I remain a huge fan of the “girl pack”, which certainly helped keep me safe on many a wild night out, even when I was wearing one of my special “fuck me” mini-skirts.

However, I’ve come to realise that this angle is a tedious red herring – no one concerned about rape has ever argued in favour of people taking less personal responsibility. No one has ever said: “Women should definitely not look after themselves – they should place themselves in harm’s way at every conceivable opportunity.”

People who are concerned about rape issues want it to be acknowledged that the only person to blame for a sexual attack is… the sexual attacker. Not only because the person being raped has suffered enough without being somehow blamed, but also because the very notion of someone provoking their own sexual attack, with their choice of dress or behaviour, is offensive and ridiculous. Rape isn’t fundamentally about sex or attraction, it’s about violence, abuse, power and opportunity.

If it’s astonishing that two out of five men still require this basic education in who’s to blame for sexual assault, then it’s downright depressing that one-third of women are just as ill-informed. It suggests an attitude among some women that dressing and acting in a certain way deserves a certain vile outcome. A woman-on-woman psychological distancing, a treacherous sense of them and us, that is truly disturbing. Though is it really so surprising or just a reminder that there’s no convenient gender barricade for the kind of social conditioning that produces rape misinformation?

In truth, these prejudices swirl around us all the time, a poison gas to be breathed in by men and women alike. Thus, while it’s supposed to be men who succumb to Madonna-whore syndrome, women are not, it seems, immune. All of us are susceptible to this brutal compartmentalisation, dividing women into the pure and good (who don’t deserve to be raped) and drunken sluts who do.

If people want to talk about personal responsibility, then here’s an opportunity to demonstrate some – by fighting these prejudices all the way.

Devastating news: Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg isn’t your friend. Zuckerberg, who’s promised to combat fake news, may be a bit fake himself, at least where his chummy, spontaneous Facebook posts are concerned, including ones on jogging, reading with his daughter and some excruciating “joshing” with A-listers such as Morgan Freeman.

Apparently, Facebook staff produce their boss’s charming posts. Which sounds almost as though Zuckerberg were a billionaire CEO, heavily invested in personal “brand management”, who’s been putting emphasis on a more presidential, down-with-the-people image. Oh, hang on…

If we’re all feeling a little unfriended right now, it’s small comfort that Zuckerberg appears to be even less friendly towards his Hawaiian neighbours, some of whom are being strongly encouraged (involving legal action) to sell him land for his beachfront estate. Though it’s shocking to find that Zuckerberg isn’t our buddy, it’s even more upsetting to discover some people are so thick they believed the social media mogul was “liking” their cat photos. These people need to stop being so gullible – President Zuckerberg wouldn’t like that.

Scots may be gratified to learn that Mel Gibson was (sort of) responsible for sparking an interest in Scottish independence. Talking about his 1995 film, Braveheart, in which he played William Wallace, Gibson observed: “It certainly woke something up there in Scotland. I know they achieved partial autonomy and I think it is a good thing.” (It’s believed that Gibson was referring to the creation of the Scottish parliament, which followed the 1997 devolution referendum.)

All of which sounds wholly correct. It’s a historical fact that BB (“Before Braveheart”), people in Scotland didn’t realise that they were Scottish – they just thought that they were English with sexier accents or Irish with less sexy accents. Back then, in the dark days of BB, the Scots didn’t even know that Scotland was part of Great Britain. It was only when Gibson appeared as Wallace, shouting “Freedom!” while sporting tartan and wild unbrushed hair that Scottish people finally realised what had been going on with this “United Kingdom” malarkey and, boy, were some of them mad!

After his Braveheart observations, Gibson modestly said: “I like to stay out of the politics of other people’s nations so I won’t go any further.” Such a display of reticence was noticeably absent from his “Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world!” drunken outburst when stopped by Malibu police in 2006.

Sadly, it was also a lost opportunity for film buffs everywhere. I, for one, would love to get the inside track on how other of Gibson’s films shaped world events. Say, how What Women Want paved the way for modern feminism. Or how Mad Max made it all kick off in the Middle East This has film school module written all over it.

Hellosie, it’s Maisie. Super Woman. A single girl. Bat Woman. A single girl. Wonder Woman. A single girl. I get it now. I’m single cause I’m a super woman.

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My first huge film crush was on Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2. Boy, the dreams I had about that woman. How enthralled I was by the classic tale of a wrongly sectioned woman leading her estranged son and a benign cyborg to hunt down an evil cyborg and avert the apocalypse. Terminator 2 remains radical: it has no romance subplot and an unmaternal mother at its heart. I was so mad for it.

But the action woman now is granted a little more breathing space to be something else: a lone hunter; an athletic warrior; a tough woman given an irrefutable mission to save society; a traumatised avenger; a secret agent who’s just doing her job; a serious, even brooding presence who doesn’t have to concede any feminine niceties.

There are some films that satisfy these basic criteria, although Angelina Jolie has bagged many of them, like Salt, Mr & Mrs Smith, Wanted, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. There’s Haywire, Milla Jovovich in the Resident Evil films, Jennifer Garner twirling daggers in Elektra, Kate Beckinsale doing vampire-werewolf stuff in the Underworld franchise and Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow in the Avengers films. You even have survivalist Rey in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

On the surface, this all looks great: big films with one woman character at the heart, shouting and fighting, competing, gaining vengeance or justice or completing the mission just like the men. Perhaps there are even one or two women directors. But the underlying, sexist rules are the same: the female action hero is always white, beautiful and sexy. If she is older than 45 she must still look 25; her body is toned to “perfection” and on display at all times. Above all, she is alone. She has no women comrades, no female friends, no sisters or women allies, no crew of homegirls.

A phrase has been coined for these women: “the fighting fucktoy”. A singular presence, charismatic and fast-thinking, but she is there to be looked at, not listened to, and she is not a woman’s woman. Her character doesn’t joke around with other women; she lives in relation to men, opposing them, playing them, hunting them, hating them, using them. Her narrative, her thinking, her dialogue and her impulses are always something to do with a man. Even when you have a woman front and centre, the symbolic importance of what she’s doing is undercut by the exceptionalism: she is presented as the one woman out of all of them who could do the job, the woman who is special, who is not like other women. She can be an alien, an assassin, a superhero; but she can’t be seen developing normal relationships of any kind with other women.

There are some exceptions, like the Alien films, which have female main characters in a mixed-sex crew that gets gored, crunched, beheaded, ruptured and dissolved in alien acid jizz with pleasing gender equality. And Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 gives Gamora a fantastic, angry, traumatised sister who wants to murder her abusive father and an antennaed empath character, aka “bug lady”, who’s played for laughs – but the story is still really about Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord and his Freudian struggles with his father.

An alien arriving at an Earth cineplex would conclude that for every eight men on the planet, there were only one or two women. Both as fictional female characters within the narrative playing out on screen and as women working in the film industry, women are isolated and outnumbered. They are the only women in the fictional cast and the only women on the team clocking in every morning. Hollywood can show one great female action character in one scene in one film at a time, but evidently two is too much to stomach; and women must not be shown enjoying the same easy, numerous occupation of space, speaking time, competence, character, friendliness and agency as men.

Right now, Patty Jenkins’s film Wonder Woman is breaking records all over the world. But for four-fifths of the film, Gal Gadot’s Diana, Queen of the Amazons, is the only woman on screen, alongside a whole bunch of forgettable men including Chris Pine, who literally steps in and hogs their scenes. Wonder Woman is radical in that the sweet and strong character of Diana is openly appalled by and refuses to accept the corruption, hypocrisy and immorality she sees around her. She is disgusted and offended by the unevolved, patronising machismo she is forced to navigate when she arrives in wartime London.

But the truly thrilling, moving and radical section of Wonder Woman happens briefly and right at the beginning, during Diana’s formative years on Themyscira, aka Amazon Island – a glorious haven of dynamic, athletic, strong, active women. I’m crossing my fingers that the Wonder Woman sequel will be set exclusively there. I’ve never seen anything like it on the big screen: women, many women, creating the rules and values of a society together, bonding, arguing, deciding and dynamically occupying space.

Hellosie, it’s Maisie. From her empty bed. Here’s the latest about a single girl from London and her thoughts on her sex life.

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Single girls have never had it so good. The worst thing about being free, is that it generally doesn’t last.

No sooner have you dusted yourself down, picked up the pieces and returned to that blissful state of emotional tranquillity and delicious self-indulgence, then along comes somebody to mess it all up again. Within weeks, your social life has been pruned down to the occasional dinner party with other couples, while weekends are spent fighting over the remote control and trying to lure the lumpish body next to you out for a walk. A life that you managed perfectly yourself becomes a minefield of tricky situations brought about by attempting to share responsibilities.

Yet the coveted state of singledom continues to be seen as a compromise. When was the last time you heard somebody say pityingly, ‘Poor thing, she’s still dating, you know?’ – yet that’s exactly the sort of presumptuous insult that’s hurled at the single dweller on a regular basis. This despite the fact that many relationships involve more misery and compromise than most people who choose to go it alone will experience in a lifetime. The accepted wisdom, that from the day we’re born we’re duty bound to seek out a like-minded person who’ll make two become one, defies logic. You only need the most basic grasp of mathematics to know that two is always two.

I had my macro Damascene revelation on the joys of being single about six months ago. It was early morning and the pale light of a wintry sun trickled through my bed-room blinds as I stretched myself diagonally over the expanse of my double bed. Wearing my pyjama bottoms and tee, I shuffled into the kitchen and prepared myself a coffee and a bowl of cereal. Then, picking up the newspaper from my doorstep, I slipped back between the still-warm sheets.

As I lolled around on my bed reading the news and trying to remember my plans for the day ahead, I experienced a quiver of smug contentment. No more breakfast television, no more checking my watch when I was enjoying the company of friends, no more declining of invitations from people who bored her or vice versa, as much theatre as I wanted. The list of my blessings was endless. I was free. I was single again. After years of whining self-pity during my regular phases of being single I’d suddenly realised that, far from a being punishment, it was an idyllic state to be savoured.

Of course, you can write me off as being a smug yuppie with a comfortable lifestyle and a selfish nature. But you’d be wrong. My modicum of financial security is hard earned, and as for being single, I’ve tried as hard as anyone to make terrible relationships work. Yet it never occurred to me to rise to the converse challenge of creating a worthwhile lifestyle alone. Some of my ex-girlfriends remain good friends, but as I watch them fall like skittles into new unions, I find surprisingly that I don’t envy them at all. I’ve no doubt that despite my best efforts I won’t remain in this heavenly state uninterrupted, but the chances are I will return to it again, and again, and again. Marriage has an undeserved reputation as the only way of life worth aspiring to, cohabitation comes a close second, and the popular misconception is that no one would choose to be single. A faintly hypocritical scenario when you look at the state of modern relationships. In the clear light of day, and with the right attitude, going it alone offers many advantages.

Nevertheless, being single, particularly as a woman, continues to get a bad press. Pitied (poor thing can’t get a man), vilified (single-mum syndrome) or condescended to (isn’t it time you grew up) but never celebrated as a chosen way of life. A woman finds no respect forthcoming, and can only pray that the day the label ‘single’ turns to ‘spinster’ is further away than her menopause. For centuries, men have been prolonging their ‘merry bachelor’ days. Is it mere coincidence that women only reach a similar jovial state when they become ‘merry widows’? I suppose it stands to reason. If a woman has never had the ‘official’ stamp of approval from a man, then what on earth has she got to be happy about?

Any declaration on the joys of being single is invariably met with a sympathetic smile and a pat on the head for being brave enough to pretend you’re not suicidal. If you don’t answer questions regarding your love life with a resigned shrug and an ‘I’ll try to do better’ attitude, people think there’s something wrong with you or your gay. No matter how good a time you’re having as a single woman, you are expected to be a bit ashamed. It wouldn’t do to turn up to a party and boast about the incredible sex you had all weekend with a woman you met at a fabulous party two weeks previous.

Sex for the single girl is unquestionably a tricky issue. Even in these supposedly emancipated times, it’s still regarded as an activity that men should take pride in doing a lot of and women should try hard to pretend they never indulge in – unless it’s in a monogamous, long-term relationship. Well, we all make mistakes and the longevity of the relationship is something none of us can guarantee when, overcome by passion, we find ourselves cavorting on the sofa.

Women may be less profligate with their sexual favours, but they get just as bored by regular bad sex, or indeed just the same old sex.

Most of my friends question me relentlessly about whom I’m dating. My independently minded friends aren’t less interested, they’re just way too busy living their own lives – something I’m afraid cohabitees stop doing the minute they start sharing a front door. How else do you explain the wistful look in their eyes when you tell them you’re off to France for a month?

Now, finally, women have the opportunity to enjoy the lifestyle they’ve worked hard to create. Only a lunatic would leap off that bandwagon having only just managed to manoeuvre your way on! The second your deposit account has upwards of a three-figure balance is surely not the time to throw in the towel. The fun is only just beginning. Hooking up with someone involves such a plethora of compromises that just thinking about it makes me nervous. I haven’t slogged my guts out for 20 years or so to spend my much-needed holidays with a woman who wants to play Scrabble on a sun lounger while I trail around the cultural hotspots desperately wishing I had a girlfriend there to keep me company in bed in the afternoons.

I want to see the world, meet Machiavellian people, read more books, sleep in, stay out, spend three weeks in a row without switching the television on, eat toast and Marmite four times a day for a month. I can let weeks go by without venturing anywhere near a supermarket. Contrary to popular perception, when I open the fridge door and discover only a bottle of wine. I’m not depressed for a moment. Instead I’m beside myself with relief that it’s not full of snack-sized Babybels and six-packs of hideous fruit yogurts.

The independence of a career introduces the possibility of choosing to live alone, and it’s an improvement to the status quo that my generation seem all too happy to embrace.

Perhaps my own experiences of ‘happy coupledom’ have something to do with my reticence to share door keys at present. They say that living alone is lonely, but I don’t think I’ve ever felt as alone as in the twilight moments of a relationship when a once-busy double bed has become as wide and desolate as Antarctica. The possibility of reaching out for comfort from the other side is as ridiculous as warming your hands on an ice cube.

I have a suspicion that spending more time on enjoying your life and less time on seeking a partner may ultimately be the secret to both. One thing’s for sure, though. Sitting around moping and waiting for your significant other is a waste of time. And that’s one thing you never have enough of.

 

Hellosie, it’s Maisie. The harsh realities of finding a relationship. This may change your view.

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Can men and women ever be “just friends”? The correct answer is: “Yes, obviously, so why in God’s name do paper editors, authors of dating books and headline-seeking psychologists keep asking?”

My evidence is as follows: one, I’m female; two, a good friend of mine is male; three, the prospect of romantic involvement with him strikes me, as absurd, but friends yes.

What’s striking about the “just friends” debate is how useless it is. If you believe such friendships are common, it’s meaningless to be told you’re deluded. Conversely, if you are a woman tortured by unrequited love for a man friend, it’s little use to learn that some other men and women don’t feel that way: you still have an issue that needs addressing.

The real reason some people continue to deny the possibility of such friendships, I believe, is that they subscribe to what you might call the Harsh Realities of Relationships. Not, let’s be clear, because they’re more in touch with reality, but because they derive such enormous satisfaction from believing they are.

Just as the Harsh Realities position on male-female friendships is that sex always gets in the way, the Harsh Realities take on dating is that it’s a battlefield, where playing mind-games is essential; relationships, meanwhile, are mutually manipulative power struggles.

The problem isn’t that this is always wrong – it isn’t – but that its claim to insight is unearned: if you always pick the most cynical explanation, you’ll sound “brutally honest” every time.

So, might approaching strangers and asking them to sleep with you, as per the old Russian joke. Just because a strategy works as a numbers game doesn’t mean it gets at anything true about human nature. Some cross-sex friendships are more platonic, others less so. Some people are more manipulative, others less so. And so, boringly, on. The real harsh reality is that reality isn’t always harsh.