The Ridiculous Position
In Notes from a Scandal there is a scene where a fag smoking Judi Dench, half a century of decomposition from her sharply neurotic charms in Talking to a Stranger, reclines in the bath, giving a disquisition on physical degeneration and loneliness so acute that 'the brush of a bus conductor's arm sends a rush of excitement straight to your groin.' Now although I am still very much young and firm (and my e-mail address is in the top right hand corner), a singularly unsavoury condition usually affecting an orifice (not that one, thank the lord) means that I tend to sympathise with this sort of erotics of the physically afflicted; and an inability to really drink, smoke or eat interesting food without soon-arriving painful and potentially messy consequences makes it particuarly lurid, as the brain tries to find some sort of release in some murky places (suddenly I think this post may be a terrible mistake...)
A tremendous piece by Brian Sewell in last Friday's Evening Standard (which I didn't actually buy, don't worry), the sort of article that you could only get away with if at such an advanced age that no-one would dare refuse your copy, captured this perfectly. Ostensibly a discussion of the Hanif Kureishi scripted Venus, it seems really a cover for a lurid lament for a condition in which 'not even sudden death has seemed as wretched a malfunction as a leaking bladder and the abrupt reduction of one's organ of reproduction and pleasure to, as Eric Gill put it, a mere 'organ of drainage''. It goes on, unrelenting, to plead for any sort of contact with the curvature and functionality of young female flesh, pausing only for surreal itemised lists like 'shrunken shanks and shuffling pace, of grasp too feeble on the lid of marmalade, of eyes that do not see so well, of ears that do not hear, of padded underpants (not yet) and of a heart that from time to time palpitates like the single-cylinder diesel engine of a Turkish fishing boat'.
The easy response to this bizarre and brilliant performance - which ends with a description of being asked by 'a boy of my acquaintance (not loutish in the least)' to watch him fuck his girlfriend - is to dismiss and ignore it as the vaguely misogynistic sexual fantasies of the ageing and unpleasant. We're all going in that direction, irrespective of any amount of gym visits or botox. As someone who has experienced the fun of Proctoscopy, it almost gives me a mild sense of schandenfreude that everyone is awaiting what Sewell calls 'the dreaded finger of the urologist probing my prostate gland'. Now, if you'll excuse me...