Excerpt from My First Book: Straight Talking

I was never supposed to be single at thirty years old. I was supposed to be like my mother, wasn't I? Married, a couple of kids, a nice home with Colefax and Fowler wallpaper and a husband with a sports car and a mistress of two.

Well, to be honest I would mind about he mistresses, but not as much as I mind being single. What I'd really, really love is a chance to walk down that aisle dressed in a cloud of white, and let's face it, I'm up there at the top, gathering dust.

It can't be that unusual, surely, to be thirty years old and to spend most of your spare time dreaming about the most important day of your life? I don't know, perhaps it's just me, perhaps other women redirect their energies into their careers. Perhaps I'm just a desperately sad example of womanhood. Oh God, I hope not.

It's not as if I haven't had relationships, although, admittedly, none of them have come close to proposing. I've come close to thinking they were my potential husband. A bit too close. Every time. But hey, if you're going to go into it you may as well go into it thinking this time he might be Mr. Right, as opposed to Mr. Right -for-three-weeks-before-he-does-his-usual-disappearing-act.

Sometimes I think it's me. I think I must be doing something wrong, giving out subliminal messages so hey can smell the desperation, read the neon lights on my forehead..."KEEP AWAY FROM THIS WOMAN - SHE IS LOOKING FOR COMMITMENT," but most of the time I think it's them. Bastards. All of them.

But I never quite lose hope that my perfect man, my soulmate, is out there waiting for me, and every time my heart gets broken I think that next time it's going to be different.

And I'm a sucker for big, strong, handsome men. Exactly the type my mother always told me to avoid. "Go for the ugly ones," she always used to say, "then they'll be grateful." But she landed up with my handsome father, so she's never had the pleasure of that particular experience.

And the problem with small men is they make you feel like and Amazonian giant. At least they do if you're five feet, eight and a half inches, and a size twelve, or thereabouts, the product of constant dieting in public, and constant bingeing in private.

Big men are far better. They put their arms around you, their head resting on yours and you feel like a little girl; safe from the big bad world; as if nothing could ever go wrong again.

So here I am, and or your information I am neither fat, ugly, nor socially dysfunctional. Most people think I'm twenty-six, which secretly annoys the hell out of me, because I like to think of myself as mature and sophisticated, and I'm generally thought of as strikingly attractive.

I know this because the men-when they're still in the stages of being kind to me- say this, but unfortunately I've always longed to be strikingly pretty, painting on on big eyes and looking coyly out from under my fringe, but pretty can't be attained. Pretty, you either are or you aren't.

I'm successful, in a fashion. I earn enough money to go on shopping binges at Joseph every three months or so, and I own my own flat. OK, it's not in the smartest part of London, but if you closed your eyes between the car and front door, you might - only might, mind - just think you were in Belgravia. Apart from the lingering smell of cat pee that is.

Of course I have cats. What self-respecting single career woman of thirty who's secretly desperately longing to give it all up for the tall, rich stranger of her dreams doesn't have cats? They're my babies. Harvey and Stanley.

They might be stupid names, but I quite like the idea of cats having human names, particularly ones you don't expect. The greatest name I ever heard was Dave the cat. A cat called Dave - brilliant, isn't it? I can't stand Fluffys, or Squeaks, or Snowys. And the people wonder why their cats are arrogant. I'd be supercilious, too, if my mother had called me fluffy.

Luckily she didn't. She called me Anastasia, Nasty to my enemies, Tasia, Tasha to my friends, of which I have many.

Because just in case you're reading this and you happen to be happily married with other couples as friends, doing cozy couply things together, let me tell you that when you're a single girl, friends are vital.

I always thought the women's magazines were talking a load of crap when they told you to forget about men, crack open a bottle of wine, and sit around with your girlfriends cackling about sex, but it's true.

I still can't quite believe it's true because it's only recently-well, within the last three years-that I've discovered this group of female friends, but that's exactly what we do, once a week, and just in case you're thinking it's sad and lonely, its not. It's great.

There's me naturally; Andrea, commonly known as "Andy"; Mel and Emma.

And I suppose, much as I hate the term ladettes, that's exactly what we are, except we all despise football. Actually Andy loves football, and she claims to support Liverpool, but she only says it for two reasons: She fancies Stan Collymore, and she thinks it impresses men.

They are impressed, but they don't fancy her because Andrea is everything I dread. She is more"blokeish" than most blokes I know. If a guy's drinking beer, Andrea will instantly challenge him to a drinking competition, and usually wins. Attractive? I don't think so. They all think she's a great laugh but they wouldn't want to wake up next to her.

You think I'm better? If you'd been dumped from a great height by what feels like practically every single man in London, you'd be slightly bitter. But bear with me and you'll discover I'm not quite as bitter as I sound.

In case you're wondering how I earn my money, I'm a television producer. A bit of a joke, isn't it? I who lead such an exciting and glamorous life, producing a daytime television show, I who rubs shoulders with the starts every day of her life, I who can't find a bloody man.

But I've had some fun on the show, I grant you. I remember one time an actor came on as a guest- cant tell you who he is, much as I'd like to. Because he's very famous, and very famously married to an equally famous wife. The night before the show I had to go to his hotel to brief him, you know, just to check my researcher had got the right stuff, and there we were, drinking gin and tonics in the hotel bar, with him rubbing my leg under the table.

I can't deny I fancied him rotten and I followed him upstairs to make sure we "hadn't left anything out." Gave him the blow jobs to end all blow jobs. I'll admit it didn't do a lot for me, but then again, I've dined out on the story for nearly four years. I would tell you too, you understand, but we're not exactly close friends, and I haven't decided whether or not I can trust you.

But what I have decided is to tell you about my life, and for all this hard, career-type stuff, I'm a real softie inside. The classic scratch-the-surface-and-you'll-find-marshmallow stuff. You've got to be hard on television-I didn't make it this far just by dishing out the odd blow job-but put me in a room with a man I love, a man who could take care of me, and I'm jelly, bloody jelly.

That's my problem, you see. They meet me and think I spell danger, glamour, excitement, and then two weeks down the line, right about the time I'm trying to move my toothbrush into their bathroom cabinet and my silk nightdress under their pillow, they realize I'm not so different after all.

And after I've cooked them gourmet meals, because I'm an excellent cook, and added a few flowers and feminine touches to their bachelor pads, they know I could make a good wife. Actually I'd make a bloody superb wife; and they're off, like shit from a shovel.

I'd love to take you back over my whole life, but you probably wouldn't be interested. Two parents, middle-class, comfortable, even wealthy I suppose, and not very interested in me.

I was the classic wild child, except I think I probably could have been a bit more wild, a bit more crazy, but underneath the good girl was always fighting to get out. Maybe that's why people think I'm a bitch now. I'd spent so many years trying to be good, being walked over by everyone, when I decided to stand up for my rights, and people started getting scared; and what do people do when they're scared of you? Exactly. They call you a bitch. But my close friends know that's not true, and I suppose they're the only ones that really matter.

Hang on, the doorbell's ringing. God, I hate people dropping in unexpectedly. This guy I used to fancy, Anthony, once came over when I was in a grubby old bathrobe with legs that were booked in for a leg wax the following week. I looked a state, and I had to sit there and talk to him, trying to hide my gorilla legs. We never got it together, unsurprisingly.

It's OK though, it's Andy. She probably wants to hear about the last one, the three-monther, bit of a record for me. For all her faults, Andy's great, always makes you feel better. Every time I get dumped I turn first to Mel to ease the pain, and the n to Andy to cheer me up, and inevitably I leave feeling the world's a better place. Good job she joined us now, before I get seriously depressed.

You may as well join us, sit down, kick your shoes off and don't worry, it's a smoker's flat. Beers or Chardonnay, which would you prefer?


The hosts of my show are the biggest pair of assholes I ever came across. I used to fancy him before I worked here, but as soon as I met him I realized he fancied himself more than anyone else ever could, and that was that, turned my stomach.

Whether it's fortunate or unfortunate, he likes blondes. Being blonde, albeit a Daniel Galvin special that costs me a small fortune and has to be redone every six weeks, he likes me. He doesn't actually flirt overtly, doesn't David, just gives me the odd wink when he thinks no one's looking.

And I play up to him, as long as she's not around; his onscreen partner, the woman who plays his wife, mother, sister, daughter to the macho inanity he spouts every morning from 10:20 to twelve noon.

She's not crazy about me, but Annalise Richie, the female star of Breakfast Break, knows I'm good and she knows David likes me, not to mention the editor of the program, who, for what it's worth, I slept with on and off for about two years.

Oh, and by the way, don't get these two confused with the other hosts. They're not the sickly sweet pair on the BBC, who paw each other all morning like a pair of rampant love-birds, nor are they the married couple on the other side who, granted, are as slick as they come.

David and Annalise, you know the ones. He's the one with the perfect looks, if you're into Ken dolls, and she's the dyed blonde who looks like she needs a bloody good scrub with carbolic soap.

Off camera of course; because on camera she's poured into a chic little number from wardrobe, and Jesus, wouldn't I love to tell her adoring public that underneath the silk Equipment shirt is a Marks & Spencer bra that's gone gray. Horrible.

All this morning I need her whining voice like a hole in my head, sitting in the gallery above the studio, trying to turn down the earpiece so her nasal tones sound halfway bearable.

"Tasha, I'm not sure I like these questions, I don't understand what point we're trying to make here."

"Annie," I say, gritting my teeth until I practically grind them down in one easy movement, and calling her by the nickname she prefers because it makes her feel like a friend to the crew, "Annie, we're back on air in three minutes, the woman's an expert on relationships, she's a good talker, just press Play and she's off."

From the monitors, above me I see Annalise visibly relax. Stupid cow. Every time a guest comes on who's a pseudo-intellectual, Annalise gets in a panic, quite rightly, because she hasn't got the brains to cope.

The guest is Ruby Everest, larger-than-life stand-up comedienne who specializes in degrading men. My kind of gal. She also happens to have a degree from Cambridge in psychology, and dealing with hecklers is her forte. I met her earlier in the Green Room, and immediately warmed to her.

"Vain bastard, isn't he?" are her first words to me, gesturing at David, preening himself in a pane of glass that happened to have a shadow behind it at the time.'

"Isn't that the bloody truth," I respond, suddenly blushing as I remember my vow not to swear in front of guests, or people I don't know well, which I suppose includes you so I'll try to mind my p's and q's. But Ruby just grins, so I grin back.

You can always recognize a fellow member of the sisterhood. Not all women belong, only those who have been prone to a little rough-and-tumble-they've been treated roughly, and then they tumble. Once upon a time, in their twenties, the sisterhood were men's women. All their friends were men, they'd go out, get drunk, shag some bloke, and kick him out in the morning. It was fun in your twenties, you knew you'd settle down eventually, and you just wanted to do as much as possible while you still could.

But now in your thirties you've changed. You've become women's women. There's a weary air about you, you're resigned to the fact that the knights in shining armor disappeared with the round table, and if married men are as good as you're going to get, then that's as good as you're going to get.

Ruby's like me, I can see it immediately. She's a woman who's had enough, a woman who's forced herself to be happy with her cats and her girlfriends, with the odd one-night stand, with the men who treat her like shit and don't come back for more.

But you see the problem with the sisterhood, with women like Ruby and me, is that we still have hope. We can't help it. We pretend we're happy with our lives, and when we see couples kissing in public places we mock vomiting expressions, but we long for love. We believe in love. We sit in darkened cinemas and watch Sleepless in Seattle and While You Were Sleeping with tears streaming down our faces. Even when we know They're all fuckers, we still hope for the one fucker who will rescue us from single life.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I'm assuming you're a member of the sisterhood, otherwise we wouldn't be talking, but then again, we're still in the getting-to-know-you phase. Stick around, you might learn something.

Sitting in the gallery I see Ruby being led into the studio and placed on the sofa facing Annalise and David. Annalise smiles her sickly smile, and they both shake hands with her, making the facile small talk they usually make. This time it's about the weather, how hot it is, and I smile broadly as I hear Ruby say, "I can't cope with this heat at all, I had to take my knickers off in the Green Room."

Annalise looks shocked, while David visibly perks up. Sad bastard, I noticed his eyes immediately flick to her crotch for a split second. When they return to meet her eyes, she has one eyebrow raised, and he actually manages to look embarrassed.

And then floor manager counts them down to being on air, the cameras zoom in, and here we go in again, another twenty minutes of bullshit.

"Hi and welcome back to Breakfast Break," says Annalise, grinning into the camera.

"For today's phone-in we're looking as Betrayals in Love," says David, trying to look as sincere as he possibly can. "Has your boyfriend ever had an affair with your best friend? Maybe your girlfriend ran off with your brother? Or perhaps you've been the betrayer. Whatever your story, we want to hear it, so call us now on 01393 939393."

I know what you're thinking, Who writes this shit, and you're right, it is shit but show me someone who thinks daytime television is intellectually stimulating and I'll show you a bloody liar.

Of course it's rubbish, but what the public wants, the public gets. So back to David spouting my crappy script.

"Joining us in the studio today is Ruby Everest, the brilliant comedienne who waxes lyrical on men and their foibles. But Ruby," he says, turning to her with a fake smile, "surely women can be as bad."

"Of course," she says, leaning toward him, "but women generally only betray when they've been severely hurt emotionally."

"But your new show," continues Annalise, "Hit Him Where It Hurts, is all about men who treat their women badly. Had that been your experience?"

"Look," says Ruby, "I'm thirty-five, I've been out with more men than you've bought new clothes, and I'm still single. If I found a man who was as good as my women friends, I'd be in there like a shot, but I haven't. All the men I've been out with, without exception, have been screwed up."

David tries to interject, panicking at her swearing, but Ruby's on a roll. "They either don't want sex, or they want it so much they're shagging all your friends as well. They want you to be their mummy, but the minute you try taking care of them they suddenly feel all claustrophobic and can't wait to find the exit route.

"They meet you and tell you you're wonderful, and within three weeks they're telling you that you'd be that bit more wonderful if you lost a few pounds, or wore mini-skirts, or dyed your hair."

She sighs deeply. "I'm fed up with it I'm thinking of turning gay." Yes! This is what I've been waiting for. She's only saying what all my friends have been joking about for years, but they're not famous and they don't say it on live television. This means big headlines tomorrow, I can see then now: RUBY COMES OUT; RUBY RUNS TO WOMEN; LESBIAN LAUGHS FOR RUBY. The tabloids will have a field day.

The first call comes in. Some sad woman from Doncaster whose husband has been having affairs all their married life. But she still loves him and she doesn't want to leave him. Why do so many women put up with this treatment? Why do so many women not think they deserve any better? But Ruby tells her you either put up with it or get out, and, harsh as it sounds, I suppose she has a point.

And then I fall silent as I hear the next call is Simon from London. It couldn't be, I tell myself, he knows I work here, but of course Sod's law is working and it is. It really is.

His well-spoken vowels dipped in a bucket of sarcasm fill my ears through the headphones as he says hello to the hosts, and I can't breathe. I think, in fact, I'm going to throw up.

I haven't spoken to Simon for three years. Not since the bastard dumped me out of the blue after nine months. And I loved him, Jesus hoe I loves him. It wasn't love of course, even I can see now that it was infatuation, but at the time it near enough killed me.

I know exactly what you're thinking, how could she have loved him after nine months, but occasionally if you're me, a nine-year relationship can be condensed into nine months, or even nine weeks, and sometimes nine days.

They're so passionate, so intense, so painful, that even years afterward you still feel the hurt when you hear their name. This is how it was for me and Simon.

I'm so wrapped up in memories I don't even hear what he's saying, and when finally I pull myself together I hear him say, "I didn't mean to have an affair with Tanya, but my girlfriends was so dynamic and exciting when I met her, and then she changed. She was this vital successful career woman, but by the end all she wanted to do was shop for the flat and iron my shirts."

Excuse me for running out of the gallery with my hand clapped over my mouth, but this is all a bit too much for me.

I am going to be sick.

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