Bubble burst

Veteran Connor-watchers will have known something was wrong. In the past 24 hours, I’ve tweeted about how much I miss Glee and Facebooked about how much I miss 2012 One Direction. Those are my safe spaces. Why would Connor be sitting at home alone being broodily reminiscent and retreating into a Glee-based funk?

The weightloss company contacted me. I didn’t clear their credit checks. They’re not going to let me get the surgery on a payment plan. I don’t know what to do.

It’s the kind of news that makes you angry at yourself. It’s not because I have big debts. All my big debts are in Ireland. It’s because I simply don’t earn enough.

In the last two weeks, I’ve been at work until after 10:00 pm twice, and after 9:00 another four times. One day last week I arrived at 7:30 am and left at 9:45 pm. I’m working myself to death and I don’t know why. Because I can’t earn enough to get a £10,000 loan, no matter how many hours I spend there.

I love my job and I love the people I work with. I really really do. People have been so nice to me and I’ve made genuine friendships. I’m really surprised at myself for loving the job. I didn’t expect to, but it’s nice to have my own department and I’m given freedom to do more or less what I like and I’ve pushed and pushed and made the department as big as I can and brought in as many students as I can and I’ve half-killed myself in the process. My life is my job these days. And after leaving the office at 10:00, it’s 11:00 by the time I get home and face into my proofreading work, taking my laptop to bed with me.

And yes, I have a nice life because I’m earning a stable salary again. I can afford a lovely flat and I have built up quite a collection of new shirts and ties and I treat myself to new books and to theatre tickets. But I can’t help feeling I’ve done everything wrong.

I put my work before everything. I worked last Saturday. I’m working two of the next three Saturdays. I’m not working next Saturday but I am at a work conference. I had a ticket to see Fun Home in its last week on the West End on Thursday and I didn’t go because I didn’t want to leave work until I’d cleared my inbox at 9:45. I didn’t go to a colleague’s leaving party last week because I worked that day from 8:00 am to 9:30 pm and I felt like throwing up from tiredness and I had to go home and mark assignments before coming into work again the next day, a Saturday.

And I do it all so I get my £1800 into my bank account every month. And yes, I’m proud of what I’ve built at work. But who the hell have I built it for? In my funk today, I decided to find out who I was working for. My school is owned by a larger company, which is owned by an investment group, which is owned by a larger investment group which in turn is owned by four German billionaire siblings. The same investment group has shares in Pret-a-Manger and 7Up and Max Factor and Calvin Klein. That’s who I’ve been working for and so I’m selling my soul not getting the lifestyle I want in return. Capitalism, kids, is a massive con job.

I feel like such an idiot.

I don’t know who I’ve been working myself like that for. And I haven’t been doing the things I came to London to do. I came to London to write and create but I’ve even been too tired for the last while to make my One Direction videos, let alone work on any more books. I came to London to have an actual sex life and a love life and yet I haven’t been with a man for months. I came to London to go to West End shows and yet I’m skipping them to answer work emails. I’ve got everything wrong.

And I was so hopeful that I was going to get the chance to re-write the script of my life. I was going to get the surgery and be thin and find a boy who wants to hold hands with me instead of a fat fetishist who wants to cum on my hairy moobs and I was going to be able to be a new Connor and end this eternal cycle of diets and failure forever and I was going to be able to see my penis before I was forty.

I don’t know what happens next. I think I need to seriously start looking for a job where I’ll earn more. The best bet might be academia. Do I dust off my PhD and see if I can get an article or two out of it and start the life of endless homework that academia involves? I don’t know.

I’ll also see how long the wait will be for the surgery on the NHS – apparently it’s two to three years. I’ll have to lose weight in the meantime. Since I decided to get the surgery six weeks ago, I’ve gained a stone and a half. I’m over 28 stone again for the first time since before the Camino and manoeuvring myself in and out of bed and in and out of the shower and in and out of my socks is harder than it’s ever been before. So I have to do something.

I have three weeks off work in October that I was going to use for the surgery. I can’t afford to go abroad on a holiday. Maybe I’ll try getting my writing started again. Maybe I’ll try getting into drag again. Maybe I’ll find a nice fat fetishist and insist on cuddles and well as whatever weird eating thing/squashing thing/wobbling thing he wants me to do.

I’ll rise again, but right now, I’m in a funk.

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The Surgeon

Since the decision to have surgery, I haven’t known what to eat. I mean, I guess I shouldn’t try to diet? But all I know how to do is how to diet and how to break diets. I don’t know what I eat when I’m not dieting, even though I know exactly what to eat when I’m cheating on a diet. And the rare periods of my life when I’ve actively decided not to diet have always been a strain.

If I try to figure out what to eat when I’m not on a diet, the act of figuring out what to eat feels too much like a diet. I bought a box of chocolate pop tarts last week telling myself I’d have them for breakfast every day. I mean, surely that wouldn’t feel diet-y. But it did. It felt pre-planned and I rebelled and didn’t eat my delicious chocolatey pop tarts for breakfast because it felt like forcing porridge on myself and instead I went to a bakery for breakfast every morning last week. I wish my relationship with food made sense. In 2007, the magical year I lost six and a half stone at WeightWatchers, I was able to count the WW points in literally everything I ate for a whole year. And dieting makes me happy. I like counting calories and planning meals. But not dieting sets of all kinds of irrationalities in my brain and I start to malfunction. I prefer cheating on a diet to not dieting, even though I know that probably doesn’t make sense to a lot of people. I’m glad this surgery will make being on a diet into my default setting.

My appointment with the surgeon was yesterday. I woke up early, full of nervous excitement. I was going to meet the man of my dreams. The man who would make me thin. The Dumbledore to my Harry. The Michelangelo to my David. The flames to my phoenix.

I agonised over what to wear like I was going on a date. Eventually, I chose my loudest Hawaiian shirt. I wanted my surgeon to remember me.

I posted on Facebook about where I was going. I started getting messages wishing me luck and I burst into tears on the bus. Yay! Connor is as stable as ever! It was a number of things that made me cry. Although my initial reveal of my plans to have the surgery went well, and people were very supportive, I started getting negative reactions as more and more people found out and I had begun to dread a lifetime of being judged for this and just getting this support buoyed me again. Also, the fact that men were saying nice things also set me off, as a part of my brain still believes I don’t deserve to be liked by men because I’m a gross fat gay and while a woman might like me as a non-sexually-threatening comedy prop, I see myself as having no value for men and so when they’re nice to me, especially in the context of anything related to my body, I tend to fall apart emotionally. Also, I was just keyed up with excitement at meeting the man who was going to change my life. For all of these reasons, I was crying on the 118 bus on a Saturday morning, covering my face with both hands so the teenage girl across from me couldn’t see my face convulsing with sobs. It didn’t work and she totally could see.

I got to the Harley Street office with time to spare. It was swanky. I was sent up to meet the doctor.

I love him. He started by complimenting my shirt.

He’s from Northern Ireland, so we pretended to be interested in where each other is from as all Irish people in England are compelled to do when they first meet.

Then he started asking me about my history of my weight, of my weight gains and weight losses. After I’d spoken for a few minutes he stopped me and said “You have to have the surgery.”

Phew!

He talked me through the different options available. The mildest is a gastric balloon, which is a no-risk operation whereby a balloon is inserted into your stomach and then inflated so you feel full quicker. People tend to only lose a stone or two using it and once the balloon is taken out, the weight usually goes straight back on. He said that he occasionally uses it for patients who are so fat that he wouldn’t be able to safely perform one of the better operations so he needs them to lose a few stone first. He says he also uses them for women who want pre-wedding weightloss surgery and aren’t particularly overweight but need to lose a little before their weddings.

After discussing the options, he agreed with my initial decision that a vertical sleeve gastrectomy would be best. He felt my belly and was relieved that it was soft fat and not the hard fat of an enlarged liver, which would make the operation harder. Apparently, I have male pattern obesity, which didn’t surprise me. This means that I hold most of my weight in my belly and that will be where I first lose weight too. He told me that women hold more weight in their hips and ass and so the first place a woman loses weight is her ass. He then did an impression of the black women he used to operate on in New York, some of whom would just walk out of his office when he told them that the first place they’d lose their weight would be their bottoms. How could they keep a man without a big booty? (I can attest to this. The first message I almost always get from black and middle eastern men on Grindr, Scruff, Growlr etc is pretty much always a request to see a picture of my ass.) And yes, a Northern Irish white man doing an impression of a New York black woman talking about her ass is questionable at best, but there is something hopelessly funny about someone attempting an accent that is completely beyond them. This guy could barely do a Derry accent and certainly not a Dublin accent, so the fact that he attempted a Harlem one was hilarious.

He spent a long time talking about the health benefits of weightloss surgery. Apparently, as a new baby doctor, he’d been sent to work on weightloss surgeries and he didn’t really believe in them. He thought they were a waste of time. But then he was converted when he saw someone being cured of diabetes literally hours after their surgery and being able to dispose of all the drugs they’d been dependent on for years. He thinks that this kind of surgery is miraculous.

The gastric sleeve that I’ll get doesn’t just reduce the size of your stomach so you can’t fit as much food or drink in. It also eliminates the part of your stomach that produces ghrelin and other hormones that promote hunger. And it works. It’s been proven to eliminate conditions like sleep apnoea (which I almost certainly have) and diabetes, to reduce cancer risk, to lower blood pressure, to reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes, to reduce the risk and scale of joint issues, to extend life span and to promote testosterone production in men (what if it turns me straight?) It’s been proven that people don’t just lose the weight, but they keep it off. It really is a miracle.

He would have been happy to do the operation in two weeks’ time. I asked for the first week in October. He’s also fine with that. I have to spend two weeks before the operation on a crazy 800-calorie-a-day diet to shrink my liver so it doesn’t get in the way during the operation. So now I just have to find the money.

As we were chatting about dates for the operation, he asked if I had someone to go home to. I informed him that I’m single and that I live alone. He told me that most people go home after one night, but the hospital would let me stay a second night after the operation as I had no one. He said it with love and I nearly cried again.

I’m excited. I’m going to make this happen. Be ready for Connor, the Skinny Legend.

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Connor: Mouseketeer

I work in a beautiful old Georgian building. Key word: old. Old buildings are full of secret nooks and crannies and hiding spaces for little mice.

I’m OK with mice. If I see a cockroach or a rat in a house I’m in, I want to move country (there’s a reason I left Vietnam), but if there’s a mouse, I just shudder briefly as it scurries by and then gets on with my life. Mice are OK by me. Or at least they were OK by me.

Mice usually avoid people and light. But not mice that have been driven crazy by poison. The pest exterminator had been on Friday, so on Monday, the building’s mice had supped the poison and had clearly lost their minds, and were not behaving as they’re expected to, much like me backstage at a One Direction concert.

It started early on Monday. A mouse scurried across the floor in the middle of the office where I work at about ten o’clock. But then it stopped scurrying. It had a little break and just sat in the middle of the floor, sunning itself. Then it scurried on.

It ran under a sofa. Ten minutes later, it came out again, ran under a shelf, ran back again and ran out into the corridor.

I was a little jumpy at this stage. The way a mouse scurries is deeply creepy and to have a mouse unafraid to keep on scurrying and to appear completely at ease with just hanging out in the middle of a bright floor in a noisy office was terrifying. It was like the scene in the science fiction film when they discover that the robots have been programmed to no longer obey the instructions of humans. What was the strange new world? Were the mice in charge now? Was humanity done for? Would we just have to serve the mice, like the Apes in Planet of the Apes?

The mice didn’t stop. For the next hour or so, a mouse interrupted our work every ten minutes or so. There were at least two different mice, one was quite fat, with longer legs and another was tiny, a baby mouse.

The teachers came out on their morning breaks, reporting drama. Students had screamed. Students had fled to the back yard. A teacher, who is a former sexual health nurse and is just as no nonsense and unafraid of mice as you’d imagine, chased a mouse from her classroom into the hallway closet and barricaded it in there, stuffing all the gaps with bin bags.

My shoes were in that cupboard. Just like Melanie Griffith in Working Girl, I wear trainers to work and change into sensible shoes when I arrive. Oh no! Now my shoes were stuck in a mouse cemetery.

I dispatched emails to my various bosses and to the janitorial team in the main branch of the school down the road. Mice on the loose! Connor couldn’t cope! My first few messages didn’t get much of a response. Later, as different staff members visited our branch they almost all encountered a mouse.

Eventually, the janitorial team arrived. They couldn’t really do much more than we could. One of the brightest moments of my bleak mouse-ridden day was watching our stocky Polish janitor run down the hallway after a mouse, carrying a mop, while being followed by his short Colombian colleague. I have no idea what they were going to do with the mop if they did catch the mouse.

They didn’t catch the mouse.

I’m always tired on a Monday. I never sleep more than two or three hours on a Sunday night. So my nerves are quite raw on a Monday no matter what. And being interrupted by a creepy scurrying mouse every ten minutes started to send me literally crazy. A colleague of mine thought it would be funny to surprise me a regular intervals by putting her hand on my leg and pretending to be a mouse. It was not funny.

Late that afternoon I was phoning someone about their application for a course. Let’s say his name was John. He didn’t answer his phone so I left a message on his voicemail. I meant to say “Hello John. This is Connor calling about your CELTA course.” Instead I said “Hello John. This (I suddenly gasped and screeched the next two words) is Connor (I paused and my voice returned to a normal volume) calling about your CELTA course. (I paused again. Should I explain the screech?) I’m sorry. I had a little fright. Anyway, please get in touch and let me know if…”

An hour later I got an email from John. He had decided not to do a CELTA course after all.

There have been no mouse sightings for a week now.

I’ve more or less recovered.

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Relief

It’s a weird feeling now I’ve made the decision to have the surgery. It’s like my brain is at a loss for something to worry about.

I’m not saying I floated around in a cloud of bliss today. I certainly didn’t. It was a Monday. It was too hot. I didn’t get to work at the time I’d planned. Lunch was not nice at the canteen today. My office is basically a sauna in this weather. I didn’t get enough sleep last night.

But I felt a new calm inside. I’m going to succeed this time. This isn’t one of those “Maybe This Time” moments. It’s a “Definitely This Time” moment. I remember a long time ago, a friend sent me a cryptic message asking “What if you knew you couldn’t fail?” I thought maybe she’d got into witchcraft or found Jesus or something because that’s not something that people usually say. It turned out later that she was talking about weightloss surgery, but in my arrogance, I dismissed that.

It is an incredible feeling though. Knowing that you’re not going to fail. For every diet I’ve been on and nearly been on, I genuinely believed I would follow it and succeed and be thin, but now, I don’t even have the niggling doubt I used to have. I’m actually going to succeed. I’m actually going to be thin. It’s real.

This is big. This means I get to draw a line under something. I actually get to move on. For 25 years I’ve been planning what kind of Connor I’d be once I lost weight. Now I can be that Connor.

It feels like someone I’ve been friends with for years has asked me to marry him and I’ve just realised that I’m in love with him too. A rest-of-my-life solution was just sitting there beside me all these years and I’ve only just seen it now.

I’m not waiting for the NHS. I can’t wait two or three years. Not now that I know this is the man I’m going to marry. I need to make him my own. I’ve already made an appointment with a private consultant. I’m going to be thin before I’m 40. Not maybe. Really.

The surgery will cost about ten thousand pounds. There’s an extra £500 for those with a BMI over 50, which is kind of mean and seems to go against the whole spirit of the thing. It’ll be a down payment of about £1000 and then payments of about £240 a month for four years, so it’s basically like buying a car. But better. It’ll be a struggle to put together the down payment, but I’ll manage.

I’ve spent an hour or two today googling my surgeon and reading the last three years of his Twitter. He has kind eyes. He’s from Northern Ireland. He likes gays and hates the DUP. He gets loads of good reviews online and lots of his former patients comment on how funny he is. (That could just be because he’s Irish. Sometimes I think I could say anything to a Londoner and they’d laugh because I said it in an Irish accent.)

My appointment with him is on August 25th. I could have the operation done by the end of September. Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep! Brand New Connor on the way!

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Pretty hurts

I’ve made a decision. And it’s time to make an ANNOUNCEMENT. It’s one that I’m expecting people to be divided on and it’s certainly not something I ever really thought I’d do, but it’s time.

I’m going to have weightloss surgery. I haven’t spoken to a doctor. I haven’t booked anything. But I’ve made a decision. I need this.

I’ve been fighting a long time. Since my first diet when I was 10 or 11 years old, I have:

  • Joined WeightWatchers 9 times, twice for over a year
  • Done the NuTron diet
  • Spent a fortune joining Motivation Weight Control Clinics three times
  • Been hypnotised twice
  • Been treated by an Eating Disorder specialist in a psychiatric hospital
  • Had hours of counselling from a variety of therapists
  • Meditated on verses of the Bible relevant to weightloss and prayed to be thin
  • Counted calories with and without the MyFitnessPal app
  • Done various versions of “just trying to eat more healthily”
  • Spent months with a personal trainer
  • Taken up running and run an 8K race
  • Signed up for, and paid for, four different marathons and walked halfway through one of them
  • Done one of those silly allergy test diets
  • Done the Cambridge Medical Cabbage Soup diet at least twice
  • Done a juicing diet, twice
  • Joined OverEaters Anonymous twice
  • Walked the Camino de Santiago
  • Had cold showers for a month (it was meant to stimulate the body to use calories to heat me up and thus burn fat)
  • Done the slow-carb diet, also known as the Four Hour Body diet
  • Recorded everything I was eating publicly on a Tumblr account
  • Photographed all my food
  • Recorded my weightloss journey on an Instagram account
  • Written this blog, which is mainly about weightloss (though of course it’s also about everything else) for eight years
  • Tried not worrying about my weight and just accepting the body I have
  • Done SlimFast
  • Done the Tony Ferguson diet
  • Read books about weightloss, about sugar addiction, about binge eating and food addiction, about diet, about exercise, about fat acceptance
  • Watched hours (days?) of YouTube videos about people who have lost weight
  • Spent hours on the weightloss pages of StumbleUpon (RIP StumbleUpon) and Reddit
  • Tried Paul McKenna’s hypnotic gastric band book/CDs
  • Taken up walking, gone to swimming lessons, joined a boxing club, joined a hot yoga studio
  • Gone to bed night after night promising myself that next time would be different and hoping against hope that maybe tomorrow I wouldn’t overeat
  • Done the Scarsdale Medical Diet, or a version of it
  • Done low fat, done high protein, done low carb
  • Eaten a weird weightloss yoghurt culture every day that I had to keep alive by complex means that I don’t remember
  • Bought exercise bands and a kettlebell
  • Started but never finished the 200 sit-ups challenge, the 100 push-ups challenge and the 200 squats challenge
  • Taken fat-binding tablets
  • Lost three and half stone slowly and sensibly over the course of a year and then gained it back and gained another four stone
  • Lost six and a half stone slowly and sensibly over the course of a year and then gained it back and then gained another six stone
  • Bought a specialist weighing scales to measure my BMI and the fat percentage in my body
  • Bought a heart rate monitor
  • Tried making myself vomit and forcing myself to be bulimic but never feeling strong enough to do so for any significant period of time
  • Tried living on one meal a day
  • Considered veganism, considered trying to live on nothing but juice, considered trying to live on nothing but protein shakes and vitamin tablets.
  • Asked doctors for help and being told to “cut back on food and walk more”
  • Asked psychologists for help and being told I should just be happy with my body

It’s not working and I need something new. Statistically speaking, attempts at weightloss are likely to fail. The best way to gain weight is to go on a diet. That’s right. Statistically speaking, most people who start a diet end up heavier. Weightloss attempts have a terrible success rate. Even the massive weightloss you see on a show like the Biggest Loser is fake. If you read about the participants now, so many of them have gained their weight back. And a study of these former participants showed that their bodies literally fought to gain the weight back. I have read a variety of statistics, which state that anywhere between 70 and 95% of people who try to lose weight fail.

And I have always foolishly believed that I was special. That I would be in the magical 10% of people who succeed in losing weight naturally, because I believe I’m extraordinary. But 25 years of trying and I can’t keep trying the same things. I’ve driven myself crazy.

Weightloss surgery was never an idea I seriously considered. An old friend once recommended it to me. My sister once mentioned the idea. I kind of dismissed both, thinking that I was “too good for surgery”. I’m not one of those people who has no willpower! I gave up my 30-a-day cigarette habit and haven’t had a single puff in over seven years! Against all the odds, I walked all 708 kilometres of the Camino! I got a PhD! I was a CELTA trainer when I was just 27! People like me didn’t need the lazy route of weightloss surgery. I’m strong and intelligent and proactive and I can lose weight by healthy eating and exercise!

Except I can’t.

And it’s killing me. Literally. My dad was overweight too, at his heaviest in his forties. He got arthritis in his 40s and diabetes in his 50s and they wrecked his body, as he developed more and more health problems, almost all related to the diabetes, until he died from pancreatic cancer. My mother has had bowel cancer. My granny died very young from obesity-related issues. I’m killing myself with food and my own genes are threatening me. I’m only two and a half years from forty. Every time I visit a doctor, they’re surprised I don’t have diabetes. Yet.

And even when my life is good, it’s ruined by my weight. I’ve written about all of this before, but here we go again:

  • I have constant joint pain, especially in my ankles, but my knees, hips, elbows, shoulders and even wrists are in constant nagging pain
  • I have horrendous digestive problems that you don’t need to know about
  • I can’t really touch my feet or the floor. Picking things up off the floor is awful. Sweeping, mopping and hoovering are all massively challenging. I nearly cry every morning while putting on my socks because it is so hard. Cutting my toe nails is sometimes impossible and I never manage all ten of them in one sitting. I have to tie my shoelaces before I put my shoes on because I can’t reach them when they’re on my feet
  • Going to the toilet takes acrobatics. Wiping is a challenge. Even pissing is difficult because I can’t see down there and most of my penis is buried in a fat pad and aiming has become very difficult. I’ve wet my clothes quite a few times as a result and try my best to avoid going to the toilet that is anywhere but home. I work hard on hygiene and I do keep clean but it’s a challenge and if I gain any more weight, I would need help.
  • I don’t fit anywhere. I have to hold my hands over my head to get through the ticket turnstiles at the Tube. I can’t fit on a seat on the Tube if it has armrests. I need a seatbelt extension when I’m on a plane and I’m not allowed on the seats near an exit as it’s presumed I’ll impede thin people’s exit in an emergency. I’m not making that up. Fat people are not allowed near exits on planes. It’s only a matter of time before I have to book two seats if I want to travel. Seats terrify me in general. I’ve broken quite a few chairs in my time and chairs with arms are my enemy.
  • I’m constantly exhausted. I snore loudly and presume I have sleep apnea though I’ve never had it diagnosed. I need to spend at least one day a week lying down in order to function on the other six.
  • Children and drunks call me names on the street and I’ve gone through phases of not wanting to leave my house or wanting to be seen.
  • I’m always sweaty. Always. Even when I’m shivering with cold there will always be at least one fold of flesh that’s trapped some moisture. I dream of being 100% dry.

Life has been good for the last few weeks. I’ve not been working crazy hours, I’ve been feeling happy, I’ve been exercising again. But I can’t stick to a diet.

Since I moved to London, I have allowed myself to take part in the fat gay world here of “Chubs and Chasers”. And it is very empowering to have a man, a chaser, look at my naked body and drool. And I have begun to see some beauty in my body. But these men disgust me. I can’t stop thinking about what made them this way. How did they become so aroused by fat? And so when I meet these men, I pretend not to drink Diet Coke and order real Coke instead (gross) and I pretend to love being fat because they want me to. And it’s nice for a while. But the idea of being fat as a condition of being with them is just so depressing to me. I feel romantic feelings in the same way I always did. And they’re always directed at men who are not interested in me. Men who like thin men. I never feel romantically attracted to the men who want to have sex with me. Wanting to have sex with me means that I can’t possibly fall in love with them. And I’ve tried. I wanted to fall in love with French Train Station Platform Boy. But I couldn’t. And we both knew we had no future together, even if we did plan holidays and hold hands on the street. I want to be with someone who likes me, and yes finds me physically attractive, but who likes me for my Connor-ness and not for my rolls of flab.

However, the world of Chubs and Chasers has made the idea of weightloss surgery much more real for me. The Geordie kinky bearded man who took me for a date in a park near Victoria Station told me about the man who he’d dated but was no longer attractive because he’d had a gastric bypass and now he couldn’t even eat a whole burrito. Imagine. Not being able to eat a whole burrito! I’ve dreamed of such things but never thought of them as real.

And then there was the Polish ex-priest whose house I stayed over in. He lived there with his ex-boyfriend and his ex’s new boyfriend. Why was he his ex? Well, he’d had weightloss surgery and was now thin and they were no longer compatible. It was my first time meeting someone who’d had weightloss surgery. He looked great. So thin. He moved like a thin person. I was intrigued.

And so, I’ve made my decision. In comparison to diets, and their 90% fail rate, weightloss surgery has a success rate of about 90%. Depressingly, there are people who have weightloss surgery and don’t successfully lose weight, but they’re in the minority.

I’ve spent the weekend watching videos on YouTube by people who’ve had the surgery. And it’s been enlightening. There’s a lot of work and pain involved. But it’s worth it.

I’m happy with my decision so now I have to make it happen. Privately, it would cost around £9000 to get a gastric sleeve operation. I might try getting a loan. I meet the NHS criteria to get it done for free. You have to have a BMI of 40 or more to qualify. My BMI is 58. I’d be happy to get it on the NHS, but I’ve heard horror stories of people trying to be blocked from getting it on the NHS as they’re seen as undeserving and being made spend up to 3 years working with dieticians before being allowed have the surgery. Regardless, I’m going to make an appointment and see a GP this week and take it from there.

This won’t be a short or an easy journey, but I feel very peaceful about it. And excited. I feel excited. Wish me luck.

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Something fishy

It started out as an orchid. In my favourite Australian TV show, ‘Please Like Me’, Hannah Gadsby’s character, who suffers from depression, is given an orchid by her doctor. The idea is that if she can keep the orchid alive, she can learn to trust herself. I liked that idea and I considered getting an orchid.

My train of thought went like this. If I can learn to commit to an orchid and care for it and keep it alive, then maybe I can commit to a man and care for a boyfriend and let another human into my house and my life.

As this idea sat with me, the orchid didn’t seem like a big enough commitment. I needed to prove to myself that I was open to another living creature.

Should Connor get a pet? If only I didn’t find animals both terrifying and revolting. I know rabbits are cute but they want to bite me and they shit everywhere. Multiply those sentiments for cats and multiply them even more for dogs. I do not want to be responsible for picking up another being’s poop. I’m putting it out there now. When I’m eventually ready for a boyfriend, he has to (at least at first) be able to take care of his own poo without my assistance.

No. I would not get a dog. I would get some fish.

I must have mentioned this fish plan jokingly about a hundred times since the idea first came to me when I was living in my cottage in Longford. And one day, about three weeks ago in the canteen at work, I said it again. I would get some goldfish.

And London Connor, though he still has all pre-London-Connor’s faults, is more likely to actually do what he says rather than idly dreaming of it.

Before I knew it, I was researching fish. To be honest, I was over-researching fish. I must have watched over 100 hours of youtube videos about fish care. I hadn’t even bought any fish and I had nightmares on three successive nights about dead fish. Ammonia will kill your fish! The wrong temperature in the water will kill your fish! The wrong pH in the water will kill your fish! Overfeeding will kill your fish! Your fish will kill your fish! Putting your hand in the water while you have moisturiser on your skin will kill your fish! Nitrates will kill your fish! Your fish’s urine will kill your fish! You might never know what killed your fish!

First, I bought a fish tank in an amazing fish shop that just happens to be in my neighbourhood. The fates must truly have wanted this. The biggest fish shop in London is on my doorstep! I was advised by a nerdy shop assistant who couldn’t make eye contact, and who didn’t know how to talk to humans, but he had a lot of fish-related facts and I trusted him.

I went on Amazon and bought: neon gravel for the bottom of the tank, neon fake plants for my fish to hide in, a princess castle for the centre piece of the tank, an air pump/bubble maker, water conditioner, live underwater moss balls, a gravel vacuum/water siphon, bacteria to quick start a tank’s nitrogen cycle, a gravel rake, a net, a water quality test kit.

I had spent almost £250 and still not bought any fish.

Eventually, the day came. It was time. England were playing Croatia in the World Cup and the streets were deserted as I made my way to the Aquatic Design Centre to but three platies, a species recommended for beginners and, hopefully, hard to kill.

It’s only a half hour walk home from the fish shop, but I got an Uber, nervous I would accidentally drop/puncture/kill my fish.

My fish are beautiful and are still alive and active 5 days later.

The largest, most active fish is bright orange and is called Niall Horanfish. While Niall Horan may not be my favourite member of One Direction, he is certainly the most comforting, dependable member. He’s the one who will populate your twitter feed with dull tweets about how much he loves golf or how well he slept last night. Niall will always be there.

The next most active one has tiger stripes and I’ve named her Joslyn Foxfish. Joslyn Fox probably isn’t even in my top 5 favourite drag queens from RuPaul’s Drag Race, but I think she might be the kindest, sweetest queen ever to have been on the show. And that’s what I want from my fish.

The shyest, most reclusive fish is blue with an orange tail. I’ve named her Jessica Fletcherfish. There are some voices I love and Jessica Fletcher has the kind of voice you want reading a bedtime story to you. She’s also lively and solves murders but in a comforting way that suggests she likes a nice cup of tea.

I love my fish. I had started talking to my tank before I put any fish there at all. But now I find myself sitting and chatting with them whenever I have a spare moment. I worry about them too. When I come home late at night and turn on the lights and they sluggishly hide in a dark area of the tank, I suddenly worry that they’re drowning in their own pee. And I think Niall Horanfish is a pregnant female and Joslyn Foxfish is a randy male who won’t leave her alone. (I think Jessica Fletcherfish is a male too, but he’s kind of aloof and not into girl fish.) And apparently female platies can be sexually harassed to death and apparently newborn platies are almost always eaten by adult platies and the circle of life is cruel.

And I know I’m worrying far too much about them but I do love them. I’m already planning my next fish purchase and I’m vaguely hoping my next house will be big enough for a fish room with multiple large tanks.

Do they make me feel readier for a boyfriend? I’m not sure. I’ll let you know another day.

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I lift, bro

Ugga Rarr Grrh Hnng Ugga Rrrr!

Me Connor. Me man. Me lift like a bro. Rarr.

I must have been in my big, friendly, gay-friendly London gym about 100 times. But I’d never been in the weights room until today. It’s an actual room. Like there’s the gym and then you have to go through a door to the weights room. It’s like they want you to be intimidated by all the sweaty muscly men in sleeveless tops grunting under barbells.

Back in 2008 I had a personal trainer. I paid a fortune to go to a one-to-one gym. And there was a muscular young straight trainer there who used to flirt outrageously with me. Sometimes, I’m not sure if people are flirting; but when a man is standing between your legs, holding your feet down while you do crunches and he looks up your shorts and says “Cool jocks, man” when he sees your colorful underpants, then that is definitively flirting.

I loved the one-to-one gym. Loved it. It wasn’t just having muscular men stand between my legs, helping me stretch my things and squeezing my biceps that I liked. It was partly the luxury. The giant fluffy towels, the expensive shower gels and body lotions, the fact you had a whole gym to yourself. But also, it was that I was good at it.

I was good at weightlifting and strength training. OK. That’s an exaggeration. I wasn’t good. But I wasn’t terrible. They told me I was strong. And maybe they were just telling me that in the interests of good customer relations, in the same way they only complimented my underwear in the interests of customer satisfaction but I chose to believe them. And it was funny seeing myself being good at something so masculine.

I am stupidly emotional about sports. Even now, at the age of almost 37 and a half, I’m still terrified of football. I was walking through a park the other day and the noise of teenage boys kicking a football set my heart racing and I could feel my chest tightening and I had to fight the urge to just leave the park. I have no rational reason to fear boys kicking a football, but I fear it nonetheless. But while I hate sports at a deep and emotional level, I find myself loving exercise at a deep and emotional level too. Long-term readers of this blog will remember various breakthroughs I’ve had while running or swimming or boxing. Weightlifting doesn’t bring me to that place but it brings me somewhere emotional too.

Today, I went to the gym and started out with a twenty-minute warm-up on an elliptical trainer. For all my enthusiasm for running, my joints just can’t face it right now. Then, I went through the intimidating door into the intimidating weights room.

One of the things I like about weightlifting is that there’s lots to learn. And I do like a project. I do like researching something to death. (My next blogpost is likely to be about me buying my first goldfish and no one has ever researched fish as much as I have in the last two weeks.)

Anyway, I love swotting up and learning different lifts and moves and all that. Strength training is kind of like dancing in that respect.

I started with a shoulder press and picked weights that were way too heavy. I managed 12 reps but did nearly topple backwards. I did some back rows. Then I lay on a bench and did some a set of chest reps. The next bit was the most embarrassing bit. I couldn’t stand back up. A weights bench is super narrow and I don’t have the core strength to go from lying on my back to sitting up. I can only get out of bed in the mornings by levering myself up to a sitting position with my hands. I lay stranded on the weights bench. I vaguely considered calling for help but felt too silly. In the end, I rolled off, I deliberately fell on the floor and was then able to lever myself back up to a standing position using the bench.

Did that stop me? No! Rarrr! I did another set of shoulders, backs and chests. But for the second set of chest presses I raised the bench so I wasn’t lying completely flat. It worked out fine. I didn’t have to roll off onto the floor again.

Once I was done with my chest, back and shoulders, I proved that I have an inner Popeye by doing some bicep curls and some tricep exercises that I can’t remember the name of.

Feeling ridiculously proud of myself, I showered and then sat in the shallow end of the swimming pool to bring my temperature back down to normal.

I love new exercise endorphins. That feeling of being surprised by happiness and of just having little thrills and jolts of pleasure shooting through your body. I haven’t felt that in a while.

I was actually stupidly happy. As I walked up the hill home from the bus, I found myself crying. Crying because I felt in control of my life at last. Everything’s been such a fight for the last few months. And suddenly everything felt right and it felt easy and I felt in charge of myself again. And feeling in control of your own life is empowering.

I cry easily. I cry from being happy as much as from being sad, but tonight was my first time happy-crying since my dad died. It’s all been sad-crying for the last eight months. But not tonight. And I know all I did was lift something over my head 36 times. But sometimes that’s all it takes to come back to yourself and to feel right and tonight, I felt right.

Let’s keep this feeling.

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