Friday, August 19, 2011


Adrian Howells’ "The Pleasure of Being"...

This is absolutely not a show you just go and see.

Adrian Howells promises to bathe you, just you, naked or in a swimming costume as you wish, in a scented bath with rose petals, wash you and dry you and wrap you in a fluffy bath robe and feed you chocolate and fruit.

As soon as i read about this, somehow, my heart leapt, and I knew I had to do this.

Tomorrow (Sat 20th I am due to be chairing a Playwrights’ Studio discussion on “Intimate Theatre”. So there’s an obvious connection. But I think i would have done it anyway.

I wanted to affirm myself, somehow. I wanted to be witnessed. And I want to be healed.

You make your appointment, and you have to go to a hotel room.

When I told someone I wanted to do it naked, they said “You’re very brave”. And i started to feel nervous.

I wanted to wear a dress. A nice black number I bought in New York in 2008 and have never quite had the nerve to wear. So I put it on. Saw my armpits needed shaving. Took it off. Shaved them. Put it on again. Didn’t like myself. Almost took it off again.

Did hair, make-up, ran to bus stop. Waiting for the bus, remembered my toe nails needed re-painting. Told myself not to be silly.

Got to the hotel room, everything was a bit delayed. The lovely front of room person told me people kept turning up and then discovered they needed the toilet. Fight or flight. Obviously I am not the only one to feel nervous.

The room is dimly lit, with candles, and very warm. There’s a place where you can get changed and put on your bath robe. When you’re ready, you knock on the bathroom door.

Adrian greets you, and you go in.

The water is lovely. As he starts to wash me, I start to cry.

It’s my mum. It’s losing my childhood, losing my mum, losing my partner. My children all growing up and leaving home. It’s that profound need to be touched.

I remind myself the point of this experience is pleasure, and try to focus on it. The lovely drops of warm water on my face. The tickly bits on the soles of my feet. Tense muscles slowly softening in the warm water.

Adrian is someone with a miraculous kind of safety to him. He has one of the safest presences I know. It’s that, and the huge intelligence and skill he has put into the structure of the experience that makes it possible just to be there. And also, in spite of the amazing difficulties I suddenly become aware of, and all the obstacles to living in the present moment, to actually take the intensest pleasure.

Afterwards he dries me. He leaves me for a moment to finish off, and then I go through to the bedroom. The invitation is to sit with him at the foot of the bed, and allow myself to be cradled.
I find it impossible. Impossible just to receive. I discover if I put my arm around him and give him a hug, then I can receive one from him too.

And I find myself wanting to explain: how much I hated my body in the past because it didn’t conform to who I knew myself to be. How I had to struggle with the surgeon’s assumption that I wanted him to completely remove my genitalia and construct me a vagina in a massively invasive way.

How angry the surgeon became when I told him I just wanted my testicles removed. “You’ll be back in a year” he said crossly.

Adrian said: "How wrong he was".

I started to tell Adrian about how a non-erect penis offers such amazing opportunities for giving and receiving pleasure; of how my scrotum and anus had become new areas of erotic delight; and how my focus for orgasm was shifting from the penis into the prostate and what a miracle this all was...

He said: “You have the form of a hermaphrodite” in a way that totally affirmed me.

Of course everyone who comes to him has massive issues with their body; we all do; everyone probably opens up to him at exactly that moment; and I am sure he manages to find exactly the right thing to say to us all.

There's something sacramental about all this. Something of the confessional. There's something about him of the celebrant.

Something very human about it all. In the simplest and profoundest way. He says: "When you allow me to nourish you, you also nourish me. It's win win".

Then I close my eyes again while he fed me bits of white chocolate and slices of tangerine.

Never tasted, never tasted anything half so good.

Going back out to the world I am intensely aware of its beauty. And in me I have the profoundest sense of well-being and of peace.

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