Tales of a Sweaty Temp

It’s the summer of 2017. The weather is that rancid mix of hot and wet which means my eczema is bad, I smell weird no matter what I do and I’m in a permanently terrible mood.

Things aren’t going well for me, career-wise. Work is quiet and money is low. I don’t currently have a temp job because I quit working as a waiter when I got my last script commission, convinced I had graduated from the ranks of the minimum-waged. Y’know, like a stupid bitch.

My boyfriend, however, is raking it in, tutoring upper-middle-class children whom I’m certain are all called Guiglielmo, so I’m skint but adjacent to financial security in a way that makes me feel like Annie in the musical Annie. As school holidays approach he is offered a six-week job travelling with a rich Italian family while they summer in the Caribbean. It’s very lucrative but means I will be alone for a month and a half, which, second only to big frogs, is my worst nightmare.

In an unparalleled act of selfishness, he takes the job.

Suddenly I am staring down the barrel of six weeks with no money, no boyfriend, and a heat rash on the back of my knees so severe that I’m earnestly considering rolling a glass over it so I can rule out meningitis.

The first week passes in a blur. I spend most of my evenings drinking cheap red wine and developing a chillingly intense relationship with the TV show Unreal. One night I watch consecutive episodes until 3am, fall asleep, wake up at 6 and continue where I left off with the feverish commitment of a substance addict.

It’s then that I realise: this is unsustainable. There’s no writing work coming in and the end of the month is approaching fast.

I need to find another bastard temp job.

I dust off my regular-job CV. It reads something like this:


2016-2017: Waiter, technically.

I never learned how to hold more than two plates at a time and I can’t open champagne. I think the chefs were on coke? Like all of the time? Anyway I was very bad at this job and my manager was openly racist but I kept up team morale by always being on my phone.

2015-2016: Copywriter

Feel quite smug about this one. Full time writer, queen!!! This was well paid and I wrote a lot of online content for FitBit which is very funny if you’ve met me. Then one time I had to write an advert for cat soup and I was like hmm my brain is bleeding.

2014-2015: Drama teacher

I taught at a Saturday drama club that was owned by a woman who ran pyramid schemes and is now facing legal action for tax evasion or something. One time she just didn’t turn up and I was left in charge of sixty children, two of whom approached me in the morning and wordlessly handed me their EpiPens which I, to this day, have no idea how to administer.

2014-2014: Call centre worker

I did this for three months and it was such a cruel and specific brand of hell that I genuinely go a bit misty-eyed like a war veteran when I talk about it.

Special skills:

    • Microsoft Word
    • Fun to be around
    • Gay

My eyes linger on that last job. Call centre worker. A shiver runs through my body.

In 2014 I worked in a call centre that was exclusively staffed by actors and what I believe were undocumented immigrants. The office was a place of such unbridled horror and misery that I would sit at my pod and solemnly pray for a nuclear holocaust. Every day for three months I phoned confused pensioners and convinced them to buy magazine subscriptions that they absolutely did not want or need, and at a certain point I realised I was quite good at it which is when I knew I had to either quit or end my own life.

Never again, I had vowed to myself as I left my final shift. Never a-fucking-gain.

But with rent and bills looming over me like a bad diagnosis, the synapses in my brain begin to fire. From what I remember, the office had a staff turnover rate that was bordering on deranged. Every single week a brand-new fleet of hopefuls would pile off the DLR, ready and willing to auction off bits of their souls for £8 an hour. An employee could have died at their desk and, without a moment’s hesitation, a sallow-skinned grey-eyed supervisor would forklift their warm farting corpse into an incinerator and wheel in the next perky musical theatre grad to take their place.

Plus…they paid weekly.

I heave a sigh. Jesus Christ.

One google search. One email. One eight minute “interview” during which I could’ve openly dribbled into the manager’s mouth and still been hired.  Within 48 hours I’m alighting the DLR, ready for my first day of training. My second first day of training. Nice one, fat lad.

I round the corner and there it is. The building. Big and bleak and weird, exactly as I remember it. Just a few weeks, I think as I make my approach. A few weeks and I’ll have enough to pay rent. Then I can resume enjoying my life.

And then, in a moment that still makes my vision cloud with rage, something yanks me backwards. I pray it might be the hands of Death, mercifully tugging me into His clutches before I have to face a month of timed bathroom breaks. But no such joy. My headphones have caught on the wing mirror of a van, ripping my phone out of my hand and smashing it on the pavement.

If I was Anna Kendrick in an Anna Kendrick film this is the point where I would tilt my head skyward and shout “Really?…REALLY?!” and everyone would be like “Christ she’s dry but likeable!” But I’m not Anna Kendrick. I’m just a cloddish twat.

A cold wave of genuinely quite frightening anger washes over me. It’s the sort of irrational involuntary bile that I experience when motorcyclists startle me with the sound of their revving engines and before I know it I’ve thought I hope you get sucked under a lorry.

Staring at my fucked phone lying in the baking sun, I start to wonder…what happens if I just…stop paying for things? How long could I realistically sustain a money-free lifestyle? I reckon I could keep my landlord at bay for at least 5 weeks because he has a soft-spoken asexual Ainsley Harriet vibe of which I will happily take advantage. If I start keeping milk in the sink and preserving meat in salt barrels like an 18th century sailor I can forgo electricity. And listen I’m not saying I am entitled to steal food but the CEO of Sainsbury’s earns 875k before bonuses so it’s safe to say baby can skim some Doritos off the top. Everything’s looking up!

But predictably I come crashing back down to reality when I realise that training starts in 4 minutes and if I’m late they won’t pay me and if they don’t pay me I might die.

I scoop up the phone, swallow the poison that has gathered in my throat and head inside.

An unfriendly receptionist ticks off my name and leads me to the training room. Eight cheerful 22-year-olds greet me with a smile. First timers, I think, with the hardened world-weariness of a repeat offender returning to prison.

My cohort are friendly. I am not. I am grumpy and sweaty and desperate for this to be over.

A heterosexual man in a backwards baseball cap and low-rise jeans enters the room, puts his feet on a desk and explains that he will be training us today despite his fuck-off hangover. I consider placing a pencil in each of my nostrils and slamming my head against the table.

This time around we’re drumming up donations for a wildlife charity, which is at least less morally bankrupt than tricking mentally ill strangers into buying a years’ supply of Your Horse magazine. We’re taken through a nauseatingly earnest presentation about the environment and insecticide and why hedgehogs shouldn’t be eating pen lids or whatever.

And suddenly we’re on the phones. I listen to old men quack on about their allotments and guilt trip them into setting up direct debits. I’m sure if I was in a more positive headspace all of this would seem quite quaint, but given the fact that I keep slicing my hand on broken glass every time I check my phone, I silently vow to spray deodorant into the next birds nest I see.

Our calls are constantly monitored and critiqued by supervisors. An out-of-work actress named Sophie tells me I’m “a bit too silly” and honestly I would have rather she called me a faggot.

Three weeks pass unremarkably. My boyfriend messages me from Turks & Caicos; he’s working two hours a day and staying in six star accommodation. I consider breaking up with him over Snapchat.

Once again I discover with self-disgust that I am genuinely quite good at the job. Old people trust me. I remind them of their most sexually-ambiguous grandchild. I rack up more donations than anyone in my team and I’m rewarded with an invitation to something called ‘Pizza Friday’, a weekly event wherein top sellers from the myriad teams are permitted to leave their pods for fifteen minutes, gather in an unused meeting room and eat two slices of lukewarm Texas BBQ in complete silence.

My younger co-workers try to be nice. They invite me for drinks which I do not attend in a haughty performance of disinterest. I am aware of how uncharacteristically spiteful I’m being, but quite frankly no one is paying me enough to sit through an Arts Ed grad talking about intermittent fasting.

And just like that, it’s over. The charity campaign is finished and I assume we saved the bees.

At the end of my final shift a supervisor asks me if I’d be interested in staying on; they need people to man the phones for the Argos customer support line. The pay is better and the hours are more social. With a completely empty diary and rent covered, I tell him that unfortunately I have a massive fucking television job on the horizon and come next month I’m going to be breast stroking through piles of gold coins like Scrooge McDuck, so thanks but no thanks, “Mark”.

I dance my way out of that cursed office block. I’ve just been paid, my boyfriend comes home tomorrow and I CAN AFFORD MY RENT.

I arrive at the DLR platform and tap my Oyster. Please top up.

With a shit-eating grin on my face, I approach the ticket machine and select the minimum ten pound top up. I consult my banking app in case I need to move money around.

I see my balance. I do the maths. And it hits me…

Over the past month of training and telemarketing and small talk and meal deals and lying and crying and scrimping and scraping…I have earned such a pitiful sum of money that putting ten pounds on my Oyster Card will mean I do not technically have enough to cover my rent.

My ears ring like I’ve been shot at. The world zooms out and I swear I can taste blood in my mouth.

And…I start to laugh. I laugh and I laugh and I laugh some more. I top up my Oyster and I shuffle my way onto the DLR, crying silent tears of manic, hysterical laughter.

It was all for nothing. All of it was for nothing.

I arrive home and cackle in my kitchen like a Disney witch. IT WAS ALL FOR NOTHING.

The next day my boyfriend returns, golden brown and pockets lined with Italian blood money. He finds me curled up in bed, teeth stained from red wine, an episode of Unreal playing on a laptop two inches away from my cornea.

Nice time? I ask, bitterly.

Amazing! he answers, enthusiastically.

Been payed yet? I ask, sinisterly.

Um…yep? he answers, nervously.

Can I borrow some money? I ask, unbuckling his belt.

And it worked! There is literally zero moral to this story. Sorry if you were searching for one.

Under The Apple Tree

As his hot seed crept into the split leather of the coffee shop sofa, as I uselessly dabbed at the rapidly cooling pool with a wad of crispy paper napkins, we locked eyes; his a luxurious hazel, mine surrounded by eczema. The electricity of our connection, our sameness and our shame, crackled like a pint of Sprite. It was in that moment – that secret stolen moment – that I knew…

I had figured out sex.

And I was amazing at it.

We met doing extra-curricular youth theatre – a dizzy blur of tonsillitis kisses and dance belt erections. Every Sunday I would sulk in the corner of a rehearsal room, furious with my three lines, while he enjoyed roaring success. Attractive, talented; he sung like an angel, if angels came from Lincoln; a rich bass with a vibrato that made the three hairs on my upper lip tingle. He was well-liked and possessed a premature sexual confidence that drove me wild because I had never touched another person in an intimate way, ignoring some weird stuff with a second cousin that I’m still lying to myself about.

Completely besotted, I agonised over how best to capture his attention.

One evening an opportunity presented itself. I was relaxing after school in the best way I knew how – arguing with strangers on That’s So Raven fan forums – when an alert popped up in the right hand corner of my computer screen. MSN Messenger. He was live.

Ah, MSN. The breeding ground for sexually frustrated and inexperience teenagers; a safe space in which young people could use the word ‘smexii’ and ask each other about their underwear without fear of actually having to make eye contact. Sweet bliss.

I clicked his name and we began chatting. A flurry of ‘wuu2’s and ‘lol’s, back and forth like heartsick lovers separated by land and sea and the A46. Keen to turn up the heat I steered the conversation topic towards our sexualities, my pulse quickening in my fat little neck.

me: laura sed u came out as bi

him: yeh

me: cool. i’m full gay. i nearly fingered sophie mulpatrick over her tights after choir once but we both cried so…

him: lol

The tension was unbearable. Drunk on transgression, I went in for the kill.

me: tbh i’d luv a boyfriend cuz cuddles r wikked lol( i assume!!!) also my mum knows the polish lad who runs the aftershave stall on newark market nd he sometimes givs us the testers or the broken bottles that he uses to smash rats so thats birthday presents sorted… BUT WHYYY WOULD ANNYOONNEEEE WAAANT TO BEEE MYYY BOYFRIENDDDD?!?!?!?!?!?!

Old faithful. And it worked.  My boldness, my animal magnetism, landed me my very first date. Our date. Pity date.

We arranged it for a Saturday. Lincoln City Centre. It quickly transpired that ‘date’ was a cryptic code-word for ‘walking up and down the high street in silence, praying someone gets stabbed outside HMV so you’ll have something to talk about.’ I’m probably making him nervous, I assured myself. He might have a symmetrical face but I’m VERY good at funny accents so we both have a lot to offer!

A few awkward hours passed when eventually we took respite in The Apple Tree: a now defunct café along the infamous Steep Hill; a trendy independent spot with a secluded downstairs seating area, unmonitored by staff – total privacy. This was our chance. We ordered juices and descended into the seating cave. Lamps, exposed brick, sofas. It was completely empty. We were alone.

More silence, this time fraught. Tense. I picked at the peeling leather, avoiding his gaze.

At this point in my 16 years of living I had never placed my hand on a penis that wasn’t my own. Even when I masturbated I was definitely doing it wrong, gripping and tugging like I was saving myself from falling off a cliff. But in that moment, in that lighting, something in me began to shift. As I perched on the edge of that battered two-seater in the bowels of that café, the waistline of my bootcut jeans slicing grooves into my pubic mound, I made a decision.

“I like your belt!” I blurted, interrupting a particularly charged period of non-conversation. He eyed me with something between suspicion and amusement. He knew what was about to happen. Sweat started to poke through the solid inch of grease that permanently decorated my forehead. Be cool, I told myself, be cool and demure and sexy. And thinner, try to be thinner.

“Thanks.” he replied, leaning back on the sofa with a wry smile. I could hear the faint hiss of the coffee machine upstairs. Dooo iittt, lard arssssse, it whispered. Dooo sssome sssex ssstuff! It was very much a Harry Potter / Basilisk type situation.

I leaned forward and began fingering the metal buckle. “How do you…undo it?” I asked. Incredibly he took my cue.

“Like this.”

And just like that he undid his belt, the buckle landing with a gentle click against the buttons of his blue and white checked shirt. The gall of it all. The world stood still. Stars were bursting in the corner of my vision and I could hear my own breath rattling around in my chest like that Toy Story penguin. We were so close I could smell the salt on his skin and he was inviting me to touch him. It was more than I deserved.

Now what?!

We were in public. In a café. The idle chit chat of the Apple Tree baristas carried down the stairs, clear as a bell. The whole arrangement flew in the face of everything I knew to be true: sex is frightening, bodies are embarrassing and HIV is literally everywhere. Abort!

He raised his eyebrows expectantly.

Suddenly I became possessed by an overwhelming sense of duty. I had to do it. If not for me then for every other overweight working class gay boy with dirty fingernails and mayonnaise on all his tshirts. We had been invited to the party. Our time had come. I was the chosen one.

So reader, with all the grace and deftness of a pot of Playdough I plunged myself hand-first into his doughnut patterned Topman boxers and went to town on his 16-year-old pole like my life depended on it. I was positively feral. Yanking, grunting, performing the steps to a dance I didn’t know. Granted it wasn’t as difficult as the Cha Cha Slide, but then nothing is. I didn’t care that we were in public. This was me now. I went on dates. I gave hand jobs. I was a dirty little café whore.

His breathing grew heavier, his cheeks flushing a deep scarlet: a good sign. I smirked, quietly luxuriating in my own sexual prowess.

“Do you wanna suck me off?” he asked. A gentleman!

No no no, not today, big boy. If the sex columns in my Mum’s Chat Magazines had taught me anything, it’s that you can’t give everything away on the first date. Toss him off in a public eatery, by all means. But don’t be a slut.

“I’m…I’m not like that” I said with a coy bite of my lip, making sure to use the left side of my mouth where my teeth were less crooked. It was the perfect response; establishing boundaries but making it clear that I would, without a shadow of a doubt, gratefully nosh him off the next time I saw him. I made a mental note to google ‘blow jobs HIV statistics’ when I got home. I was really scared of HIV.

In the palm of my hand I could feel the finale approaching. This was it. The crowning glory. If I could pull this off then I would officially join the coveted ranks of the sexually active. One orgasm, provided by yours truly, and I was in.

One last push, a muted groan and bingo.

He painted an impressive two thirds of the sofa. I was gobsmacked; I’d never seen so much of it before. It just kept coming like a self-serve ice cream machine at a Chinese buffet. My prize.

“Was that good?” I asked when eventually his ecstasy subsided.

“Yeah. Thanks.”

Oh blessed day. As I strutted upstairs to collect a suspiciously large stack of brown paper napkins, that “yeah, thanks” rang in my ears like sweet music. I had done it! I HAD DONE IT! The baristas barely paid attention to me as I passed. “Don’t go down there.” I wanted to say. “I’ve just blown that boy’s mind and it looks like a fucking crime scene. But hey, thems the risks, am I right haha?! So do you guys know if you can get HIV from hand jobs?”

The napkins were ineffectual. They crumbled like dry cake, scraping and dragging the slop across the leather until it was well and truly embedded in the DNA of the sofa. I did the best I could.

As we left The Apple Tree, sweaty faced and sticky fingered, the Saturday evening sun was descending over Lincoln High Street. I trotted down the cobbles, my beau silently by my side. What now? I ruminated, feeling brand new. What curious and forbidden areas of my sexuality will I explore next? Who will I pleasure? What will they look like?

We reached the traffic lights. “I’ve gotta meet my mum.” he mumbled. “See you at rehearsals.”

See you at rehearsals.

I smiled sadly as he disappeared into the sunset. Poor boy, I thought in a very mature adult way. He’s obsessed. Hook line and sinker. The power of my own sexuality coursed through my veins. But I can’t be tied down! There are plenty more guys and plenty more cafés where that came from.

I walked into the train station to catch the 17:42 to Newark Northgate, spotting my reflection in a glossy poster for 16-25 railcards. Where once was a boy, a man stared back. A sensual experienced man with stories to tell and hand jobs to give.

A stain on the front of my t shirt caught my eye. Mayonnaise again?!

Then it hit me.

No. I chuckled with a knowing roll of my eyes. It’s sperm.

Nay Nay’s only just getting started.

Curvy Boys

When I was 15, on the restless sticky cusp of coming out as a Gorgeous Gay Twink, I’m fairly certain I was groomed online.

Most days after school I would MSN chat with an older man from my local Amateur Operatics Society. For the purposes of this story, I’ll call him Martin, because a) ‘Martin’ is appropriately creepy sounding and b) that was his actual name.

(Nathan, you used to do Amateur Operatics?! You were a triple threat; actor, singer AND dancer, despite the hefty set of male breasts you developed during puberty?!)

(Yes, stop bringing it up.)

Martin was in his 30’s and renowned for his taste in much younger men. He wasn’t unattractive, but to be perfectly candid, I was at the stage in my sexual development where I got erections over the crease in my arm because it looks a bit like an arse, so.

We would talk a lot. About school. About home. About boys. He clearly knew I was gay, despite my insistence to the contrary. He played to my vulnerable nature, claiming to care about the obvious internal struggle I was going through. He would offer “hugs” and “a shoulder to cry on”.

Y’know, like a paedophile.

As early as I can remember I’ve thought about the way I look from the moment I wake up in the morning ‘til the moment I go to sleep at night.

Growing up I was perpetually overweight and acneic. My teeth looked like broken biscuits. I kept my hair long on the sides because I thought that was more “slimming”, but it just made me look like a chubby Paul McCartney tribute act.

I’ve never carried my weight well. It’s all awkward lumps and bumps: thick pooling thighs, fatty breast tissue and weirdly skinny wrists that stop me from wearing watches; muscular calves and comically large cheeks. I went on my first diet when I was 9 and I stopped eating for a while when I was 20.

To be honest, I thought I hid my crippling insecurities well. I was loud, sharp-tongued, gobby; I combatted my anxieties with an aggressive insistence that I WAS FUNNY. I WAS THE FUNNY ONE. And, let’s face it, children are tiny idiots and will literally laugh at anything, so my peers did find me funny, and I quickly became known as the comedy fat kid who would do and say anything for the laugh.

(N.B. Very little has changed)

But Martin knew what he was doing; he could see that I hated myself. He could practically smell it on me. All I wanted, more than anything in the world, was to feel attractive. So he did that for me. He would flirt with me and talk to me about sex, which was essentially an abstract concept at that point.

Sometimes he would send me pictures of himself. Naked pictures of his naked adult body. I’m fairly sure he once sent me a snap he took mid-fuck with his ex-boyfriend, but I might have imagined that. (I haven’t, I’m just being demure.)

In retrospect the photos were absolutely grotesque, but at the time they left me bent over double with sexual frustration.

Side note: please don’t think for a second I wasn’t lapping up the attention. Martin made me feel fucking fantastic; he made me feel desire and desired.

I loved it. Or at least I thought I did.

Rest assured I never ended up in a room alone with Martin. I never let him put his big weird hands on me and I certainly never showed him my sad little breast buds.

However, one evening, we were chatting and I was feeling a bit sad. I’d probably got 2nd best in a drama assessment or dropped a panini in some dirt or something.

I wanted to feel wanted. SO, I pulled out a classic:

NaThAn 😀 😀 (8)dancing through life!(8) ❤ ❤ love my m8s!!! says:
i don’t even no why you talk to me. Y would ne1 never fancy me???

Ugh, so good.

His response will forever be etched in to the back of my mind. I’ve tried to forget it, but I physically cannot.

Martin (lookin for vulnerable fat drama geeks to prey on, HIT ME UP!) says:
cuz ur cute! Don’t worry, curvy boys are in at the moment!!

Curvy boys. Are in. At the moment.

Allow that to sink in.



Martin, light of my life, fire of my loins, called me a ‘curvy boy’, with no trace of irony.

He dragged his horrible paedophile fingers over his cum-splattered keyboard, bashed out ‘C U R V Y B O Y S A R E I N A T T H E M O M E N T’ and he had the gall to press enter.

Y’know, like a psychopath.

I don’t remember what my reaction was at the time. To be honest I probably said ‘lol thanx’ and went back to google image searching ‘that one Rolling Stone cover of Zac Efron with his hand in his shirt that I always pretend not to look at in HMV but I’m totally looking at in HMV.’

But in that very instance the phrase ‘curvy boy’ wormed its way into the back of my mind and made itself a nest. I’ve never been able to get rid of it.

The offence was two-fold. In one sense ‘curvy’ always seemed like a dirty word. It was padded and cautious, muttered in hushed tones to describe Big Donna from the office or Adele when she was just singin’ ‘bout Chasing Pavements. No one wanted to be curvy. It was like being called ‘cuddly’ –a word that haunts me to this very day. Curvy meant fat and fat meant bad.

And in another sense, ‘curvy’ was a word that I’d heard attributed exclusively to women. It meant tits and hips and tummies and thighs. Not muscles and V-Lines like Zac Efron has on that one Rolling Stone cover that I always pretend not to look at in HMV but I’m totally looking at in HMV.

‘Curvy’ wasn’t a word for young boys. It’s like when people talk about how ‘long’ babies are. Gross.

It stung. It felt shameful and odd. It was fetishising in a way I was too young to understand.

I don’t know what I would I preferred. Would I have preferred the truth? Would have I wanted Martin to call a fat spade a fat spade and for him to say “Nathan, your body is blubbery and large and that turns me on”? Absolutely not. I would have danced down the A1.

I don’t know what I wanted. Not that.

The other part I took massive issue with was the claim that curvy boys were ‘in’. That’s absurd. Curvy boys have never been ‘in’. I have never been ‘in’. Not in the gay community, at least. Big men are in. Husky, hefty, Daddyish men are in. But not ‘curvy boys’. Not young boys with awkward, rippling, jiggling bodies; with lines that don’t run straight.

Those bodies don’t make sense.

My body doesn’t make sense.

It sounds like I’m angry. I don’t think I am.

Anyway, I grew up. I continued to hate my body throughout my teens and in to my 20’s. Even when I was at my very thinnest, I felt odd and shapeless.

I’m 24 now. I don’t have all the answers, by any stretch of the imagination, but I’m slowly unteaching myself some of the more poisonous lessons I’ve learned along the way. I’m trying to refute the idea that my body exists to be catagorised; ‘right’, ‘wrong’, ‘in’, ‘out’.

Those words are meaningless and they just. don’t. matter. Unless my body is stopping your body from, I don’t know, breathing, you don’t need to say a word.

To quote my friend Jules Orcullo, “You are more than your desire & your desirability”.

Being a human is exhausting. Don’t make it harder for yourself.

Bodies are just bodies, and quite frankly I’m nervous enough about being kidnapped or getting stabbed or dying in a plane crash, so I should probably cross ‘worry about my upper arm fat’ off of the list.

I don’t know what I’d say to Martin if I met him now. I’d probably ask him if he’s managed to find a nice man his own age. I’d ask him if he still preys on insecure little boys on the internet.

I’d ask him if he still thinks curvy boys are in at the moment.