With the hardback edition of the book newly released (you should find it in the self-help section of your local book shop, unless I’ve paid a prior call and cheekily repositioned it more prominently), plans are afoot to test some of the lessons I’ve learnt.
We’re calling it the ‘Chaste Challenge’, and later on in the year I’ll be asking for volunteers to swear off sex. Not for a full 12 months like I did, but for three, maybe four – no more than six.
Though the details are still being fine-tuned, I thought I’d float the idea with a scientist friend over the weekend.
I’d barely finished explaining when Heather, let’s call her, had a question to ask.
Could a person volunteer if they had nothing to give up? In other words, could they join the ‘Chaste Challenge’ midway through an involuntary dry spell?
My answer is yes, because it’s making the decision that counts. However long you’ve gone, by taking charge and making that dry spell your own, you fundamentally alter its dynamic. Everything becomes different.
What’s more, as Heather the scientist suggested, as soon as you rule sex out, mischievous cupid will no doubt dispatch a fairy tale’s worth of suitors. That’s certainly how it felt to me.
This seems the perfect moment to share a hilarious and sweet story told to me recently by the excellent critic HB.
Years ago, sat in an A’level history revision class, she happened to glance at what the boy beside her had written in response to a question about why Elizabeth I had never married.
It was, he declared, because ‘she wanted to preserve a chased image.’ He’d misunderstood the term ‘chaste’ for two whole years. Or perhaps he hadn’t. Perhaps he knew exactly what the delicious but inconvenient perk of a chaste image could be.
What is it they say? Men love a challenge. Those 16th-century princes and dukes were presumably no different beneath their tights and codpieces.