Tracey Emin: My Life in a Column

There are people out there who would sell their their baby's soul for a break
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The Independent Online

It's amazing what we can live without. I used to be able to go three or four days without food, no trouble, one or two nights without sleep, one or two years without sex. But as you get older it seems to become more difficult. To quote Nietzsche again, "Oh how the mighty fall." I always thought The Will To Power makes an amazing present for a newborn baby - just as it's having its head splashed, our ears are filled with the words, "when the hammer strikes". (I can't remember if that is from The Will To Power, but it sounds good.)

In the film It's Alive, the baby comes screeching out of the vagina with a giant head and claws. It attacks the doctor and the midwife, leaving the mother dead and finally taking over the world. Another good reason for not having sex! Someone suggested today that I should get a vibrator - never used one, never had one. Someone did put one inside me once, but I laughed so much it shot across the room.

Back to scary babies. A few years ago I was invited to a neighbour's house for a Christmas party. It was an early party and the average age was around 60, but it was all really sweet and festive. And everyone was being very kind, as my boyfriend had just left me. I hadn't told anybody, but it was common knowledge. The party host always carried out a Scandinavian ritual: a giant rice pudding would be cooked and in it placed a white almond. And the rule was that whoever got the white almond would be married within the year.

The host force-fed me rice pudding for 45 minutes - um, um, lovely, lovely. No one dared mention the break-up, for fear of me bursting into tears. People seemed genuinely pleased that I was eating. After my third plate, the host cried, "There it is! Tracey has it, Tracey has the white almond!" There was a small eruption of cheers - "Hoorah, Tracey has the almond. Good girl, congratulations, wonderful!" Then I had a tap on my shoulder, and a slightly angry, somewhat peeved middle-aged woman pointed dramatically to her plate with her spoon, saying, "It's me, it's me, I have the almond."

My host and everyone else surrounded me, pointing down to my plate and saying to the woman, "Don't be ridiculous, what's that?"

From where I was sitting I could only describe what I saw in front of me to be a raisin, but it was at that moment I realised I was starring in the reality remake of Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby. I removed the Tannis balm from around my neck and ran to the nearest phone box.

Indecent proposal

But seriously, there are people out there who would do anything for a break. They would sell their soul, they would sell their wife and baby's souls. I am always swapping imaginary scenarios: a few months ago I was in Liverpool having lunch with a group of really good people - by that I mean that their souls were good - and as I got on to my second bottle of wine I decided to liven up the conversation. It went something like this: "Who would you have sex with at this table for £1m?" No one actually spat their drink out, but a few Adam's apples moved.

Someone should have thrown the question back at me, but I forced out answers from people. Only one person didn't have to play, on the grounds that she actually had £1m, in fact many millions, so she didn't need to sleep with anyone at the table. Everyone looked pretty relieved with their answers: my mate Dean Sullivan just pointed, saying, "You, you, you and you". Why he didn't choose the whole table, God only knows. The question was too easy. It should have been: how much would you sell your kidney for?

Who'd you save?

There is another game F taught me how to play, and it's really mean. In the raft game, three people are on a raft going down the rapids and you're one of them. The other two people are falling off, and you can only save one. Who do you save? It can be famous people or just close friends. When you get on to close friends things really heat up, and this game has to be played fast so you don't have time to think. It's how I worked out I had a crush on someone - I blushed every time I saved them.

But in life, there are people who never stop playing games. It's a way of retaining power, without feeling, without emotion. They want to win - always at the cost of dignity to others. We all know how easy it is to make someone cry, so why bother? So who would I save, a literary critic or his editor? You know what? I'd let them both drown. Don't forget, chaps, it's just a game.

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