So I’m Not a Mom

Being a childless woman in your thirties isn’t always easy. I mean sure, I can sleep through the night, drink tequila on a Thursday and decide without any planning to go line dancing or ice-skating, if those were things I wanted to do. But there are downsides to my childlessness: namely, the presumptuous comments of some (of course, not all) mothers I speak to. Because I’m not one of them, I must have a wonderful life. I have such freedom, after all. I must have boundless energy. If I say I went out to the pub for a drink with friends, I’m met with ‘imagine being able to do that’. If I say that I feel a little tired because I’ve had so much overtime, I get ‘just wait till you have kids.’

Shockingly, there are women who are my age who simply don’t want to have children. That’s totally fucking fine. Not every woman has to be a mother. Not ever woman wants to be a mother. That doesn’t make her selfish or vain or proud. And what about the women who can’t have children? I can’t imagine how much senseless comments like the ones I hear on at least a weekly basis must hurt them.

Women who don’t have children are still loving, caring and compassionate. We’re not any more or any less selfish than anyone else. We have as much empathy as the next person. I remember telling someone once that I was anti-capital punishment and their response was ‘you’d think differently if you had kids’ as if I’m somehow incapable at arriving at a reasonable conclusion on the matter because I’m lacking some kind of empathy or sense of outrage that is unique to parents. Lately, I told some colleagues that I was re-reading the novel Room by Emma Donoghue. The plot is admittedly disturbing and the subject matter is dark and distressing. But it is also a well-written novel, about issues (kidnapping, rape) that occur whether we want to think about them or not. My colleagues (whom I really like, respect and get along well with) told me that they couldn’t even bring themselves to read the book. Fair enough, I thought. It is a tough read and not for everyone. But then the conversation turned into six mothers versus me. They told me that because they’re mothers, the thought of reading such a novel is particularly disturbing. I agree; it would be very difficult and you would naturally think of your own children in such a situation and that would be enough to cause you to avoid such narratives. But they didn’t stop there. I was met with comments like ‘you’ll understand when you have kids’ (which I probably just should get tattooed on my forehead) and ‘ god imagine being able to read books like that!’ I was made to feel as if I was some sadistic, voyeuristic sociopath who thrives on the suffering of fictional children. I just choose not to shield myself from difficult realities in life. Paintings by renaissance or impressionist artists can be disturbing and convey great suffering but they can still be beautiful. The same goes for literature and for movies. Appreciating them doesn’t make me some kind of psychopath.

And just because I don’t have children does not make me immune to outrage, shock, pain, compassion or disgust.

I don’t want anyone to think that I’m having a go at mothers or motherhood. Most mothers I know (my friends and my sister and sister-in-law, for example) serve as great inspirations to me. They’re exactly what I aspire to be if and when I decide to have kids. Even the mothers that do pass thoughtless comments don’t do it out of malice or spite, I know that. Mothers can be wonderful, resilient, kind, beautiful, brave people. Non-mothers can be just as wonderful, just as resilient, just as kind, beautiful and brave.

We are all women, different and the same, and we need to support each other and each other’s choices.

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It’s a YES!

The year I was born, homosexuality was a crime in Ireland. Look how far we have come. 

   
  

A sign in Dublin this morning…

  

   

  

  

I’m Just Not That Into This Film

So, I’m sitting watching He’s Just Not That Into You and my blood is probably approaching a temperature that would melt titanium. The thing about me is I don’t really get offended by things easily. This, however (insert manic laugh) this film is a whole clusterf**k of offensive. Unless of course, you agree that virtually ALL women are insanely insecure, desperate, obsessed with marriage and commitment or they are trashy home wrecking slappers and deluded when it comes to reading “the signs”.

Take the character played by Ginnifer Goodwin. She’s the hopelessly pathetic and desperate first dater, oblivious to the signs that a never ending stream of guys are just not that into her. And why wouldn’t they be? It’s not like the stench of stalker and dead rabbit from all the bunnies she has boiled is off-putting.

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Babe, I just saw a girl’s name in your phone. Tell me this, who’s “Mom”?

I’m sure this character is supposed to be likeable but her constant cluelessness and delusional behaviour is just plain irritating. I don’t mean to cause offence to anyone here (because, let’s face it, we’ve all been the more heavily invested one in a relationship/fling) but it’s very hard to have sympathy for someone who just keeps making the same mistake. I know that the filmmakers were attempting to convey a “relatable” problem here. But instead, they have thrown together a lazy and stereotypical representation of women that is offensive and inaccurate. Of course, there are women like this but by making this character the primary focus of the film, you are suggesting that this is advice that most single women need or at least, can relate to. Why, oh why, do these ridiculous “chick flicks” always feature these needy and emotionally fragile women? Women, whose sole focus in life is to find a man and pin him down or use trickery to trap him into marriage.

There are numerous other characters in this ensemble cast led piece of crap. There’s Jennifer Anniston’s character who is pressuring her long-term partner to marry her. There’s Scarlett Johannson, who is having an affair with a married man. There’s Jennifer Connolly (wife of said married man), who, get this, blames herself for her husband’s affair and even though I’m pretty sure we’re also meant to like her, she comes across as very highly strung and intense, because we all know that women just can’t be cool.

Of course, men don’t come across as wholly angelic in this film either but at least they are portrayed as having a semblance of rationality. I’m also aware that this film is not exactly going to be studied in any university sociology courses any time soon. Perhaps I’m getting a little bit uptight (hey, maybe they could give me a part in a sequel) about what’s basically the film equivalent of candy floss. I just take issue with these stereotypes being promulgated, especially since this was also a book. A BOOK.

I would by no means refer to myself as a feminist, but this film just got my back up from start to finish. And yes, I watched it the whole way through because I was silently wishing Danny Trejo would burst in, wielding his machete and taking names in some sort of bizarre yet hilarious Hollywood crossover. It didn’t happen.

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I’m sure there are plenty of women out there who loved this film. And I’m not suggesting these women are crazy, but these women are crazy.

I’ve just realised that I have ranted about women in film before, but am I alone in thinking that women are horrendously misrepresented in mainstream media? Our fictional counterparts have so much more to give than being relegated to portraying simpering and insecure damsels in distress.

It’s okay to have man problems, it’s not okay to being solely defined by these problems.

Picture credits:
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Why Valentine’s Day isn’t Romantic

I know, I know. Writing an anti-Valentines Day post is about as original as telling a knock-knock joke in a pair of Uggs. I also realise that my blog title has the word ‘Cupid’ in it and that I often enthusiastically write about my relationship. You’d think I would be out on the street ringing a bell with an “I LOVE VALENTINE’S DAY” sandwich board.

But alas, Valentine’s Day is not for me. Besides the fact that it is a cynical corporate ploy, I find it wholly unnecessary. For me, it’s just another way for society to try and convince us how inadequate we are. It’s like there’s someone shouting “ROMANCE? YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG!” into our ears. We are constantly surrounded with propaganda that attempts to convince us we’re not sexy enough, romantic enough, wild enough or fun enough. Valentine’s is just another way for us to feel that we need to spend a certain amount of money on grand romantic gestures to somehow quantify our relationships.

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http://leftsrightswrongs.blogspot.com

It was a few days before Valentine’s last year when an excitable colleague of mine asked me, with all the enthusiasm of a girl in the early stages of a relationship, what I was getting my boyfriend of ten years for a gift.

“A giant teddy bear, but instead of a bear’s head, I’m going to put a model of my face,” I answered her, expecting her to deduce that I was joking. She stared blankly at me. “Alice, I’m kidding. I’m not getting him anything.”

This shocked her even more than my psychotic present idea.

“You can’t get him nothing,” she complained, “it’s VALENTINE’S DAY!”

Even though I knew Alice was just a hopeless romantic and there was no malicious intent in her questioning, I felt slightly irritated.

“Alice, we’ve been together for ten years. We love each other but we don’t need to buy each other gifts to show that.” I could tell by her face that she didn’t agree with me. So I told her about our first Valentine’s Day together.

I had been just sixteen years old. Jack and I had been together for about six months. I was young and naive and I genuinely believed that if I didn’t buy Jack the most amazing gift and have the most romantic day then it would spell disaster for the future of our relationship. Jack told me that he had gotten me “something special”. You might assume that this would have delighted me, but instead it added to my apprehension. If he had gotten me something so wonderful, then how could I possibly measure up? Men are almost impossible to shop for. I traipsed around shop after shop, with several friends in tow. “How about a teddy?” they would recommend, “or a watch? Book? Jersey? Cologne?”

“No, no, no, no, NO!” I would screech manically, “it has to be PERFECT!” The problem was, I didn’t realise that last minute gifts and nails bitten to the quick hardly constitute perfect.

I can’t say I enjoyed that Valentine’s Day. I spent most of it imagining various reactions to my terrible present (I think I went with aftershave):

“Are you implying that I SMELL?!”

“This aftershave smells like the inside of a Hippo’s colon!”

Etc, etc.

My point is that that day was ruined because of the pressure I put myself under. I confessed this to Jack a few weeks later. He was surprised.

“You really thought I would break up with you if you couldn’t find me a gift? Do you really think I’m with you so that once a year I’ll get a bottle of Hugo Boss? Do you think that that’s how I know you love me? From PRESENTS?!”

“Well, when you put it like that….” I admitted, feeling sheepish.

Since that fateful first Valentine’s, we have a rule: no presents. Instead, we cook a meal together. We chat, have fun while cooking and then eat it over candlelight and reminisce on the all the years we’ve been in each other’s lives. We decided that one day in the year shouldn’t be dedicated to making each other happy; that should happen as often as possible. Sure, not everyday can be Valentine’s, but shouldn’t the supposedly selfless and romantic spirit of that day be present in a relationship more than just one day a year?

There are times when Jack and I argue of course (tomatoes ARE fruit, damn it!) but when I look back in years to come at my favourite memories with him, it won’t be those I remember. It also won’t be any grand romantic gestures. It will be the days when I came home from work and Jack had warmed my slippers by the fire and had a cup of tea waiting for me. For me, and I know for many others, it’s the little things that count.

So if you happen to be nervously perusing shops looking for that perfect Valentine’s gift, relax. Take it from me, expensive gifts don’t equal romance. In the long term, this realisation will benefit any relationship. Or destroy it, whatever.

A Beautiful Poem: The Skunk by Seamus Heaney

The Skunk

Up, black, striped and damasked like the chasuble
At a funeral mass, the skunk’s tail
Paraded the skunk. Night after night
I expected her like a visitor.

The refrigerator whinnied into silence.
My desk light softened beyond the verandah.
Small oranges loomed in the orange tree.
I began to be tense as a voyeur.

After eleven years I was composing
Love-letters again, broaching the word ‘wife’
Like a stored cask, as if its slender vowel
Had mutated into the night earth and air

Of California. The beautiful, useless
Tang of eucalyptus spelt your absense.
The aftermath of a mouthful of wine
Was like inhaling you off a cold pillow.

And there she was, the intent and glamorous,
Ordinary, mysterious skunk,
Mythologized, demythologized,
Snuffing the boards five feet beyond me.

It all came back to me last night, stirred
By the sootfall of your things at bedtime,
Your head-down, tail-up hunt in a bottom drawer
For the black plunge-line nightdress.

Today, I read the poem ‘The Skunk’ with my pupils. It is one of my favourite romantic poems and my students loved it. It elicited a great discussion of what constitutes romance and I left class knowing that my students had personally connected with this beautiful poem.

In terms of being “romantic”, it is unconventional to say the least. The poet compares his wife to a skunk, which on the surface, is not the most flattering of comparisons. However, a deeper look at the poem reveals the affection and tenderness that is evident between the poet and his wife. I love it because it is not cliched; it is affectionately teasing and the comparison makes sense to them. His deep love and desire for his wife is obvious.

Heaney died last year at the age of 74. His last words, to his beloved wife, were in beautiful simple Latin: Noli timere, meaning “don’t be afraid”.

15 THINGS I LEARNED FROM LIVING WITH A GUY

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Growing up, many of my closest friends were guys. This led me to erroneously assume that I knew what it would be like to live with one. Oho, was I wrong. Here are fifteen things I’ve learned from cohabiting with a real boy:

1. Men care about their appearance just as much as women. I once told Jack that a coat he had made him look like Paddington Bear. He never wore it again, even though I did mean it as a compliment. Who doesn’t love bears?

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2. Men will never, ever initiate cleaning the house. Yes, even if it resembles a landfill and there are seagulls living in your kitchen.

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3. If there’s left-over pizza crust and beer in the fridge, men do not understand the need to go grocery
shopping.

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4. When their man-cave workspace becomes messy, men will insist that “they have a system” and work best “in chaos”. Riiiight.

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5. When you insist on cleaning up, men will inevitable compare you to your mother.

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6. Watching reruns of ‘Cops’ is a perfectly acceptable way to spend an entire weekend if you’re a guy. Actually, I’m with you guys on this one, it’s amazing.

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7. The Playstation must never be turned off without the express permission of your man friend lest you ruin an important mission in GTA V.

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8. When a man does clean, it involves shoving things under any large pieces of furniture such as the bed/couch/armchairs. It also involves spraying insane and possibly hallucination-inducing amounts of Febreeze.

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9. Dorito sandwiches are a perfectly nutritious meal according to a man.

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10. In the absence of other males, men will tell you about their trips to the bathroom because, well, it’s apparently in our best interests to know these things.

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11. Men will never allow you to call a repair man because they will claim to be able to fix anything. RIP toaster, hairdryer, oven, cooker, sense of safety in my own home.

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12. Sniffing articles of clothing is a perfectly acceptable way to check if said clothing is good for another few days. According to Jack, it’s always good.

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13. Men need as much hoarded crap as possible to thrive. That collection of lollipop sticks? They’re gonna make a neat pencil holder someday. The broken lamp shade? What if the dog ever needs an improvised head cone? It all makes sense in their heads.

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14. Cooking? Pah, that’s a girl’a job. Barbecuing? Now there’s a man’s speciality. Grr, fire, grr, raw meat, grrrrr.

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15. A man will use your female products (moisturiser, cleansing wipes, body lotion) but you must never admit that you know this nor must you ever, under any circumstances, tell ANYONE. Oh, wait…crap. Sorry Jack, guess the Nivea day cream is out of the makeup bag.

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So there you have it. Any men that have become offended by this, well I’m sorry. Come join our ‘Cops’ marathon.

Mothers Always Know Best

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*For the purposes of this post and your imagination, this is my mother

Most people see me as a paragon of calmness; a level-headed, laid back Zen Master. Except that last week, I had a freak out. Okay, so it wasn’t exactly a freak out of Danny Bonaduce proportions, but compared to how I normally compose myself, I might as well have covered myself in green paint and beat my chest with Black Hawks.

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In a certain light, we’re virtually indistinguishable

It all started when I was waiting in the car for my boyfriend, who was off doing boyfriend things (code for “I can’t remember what he was doing”) and I decided to peruse my Facebook newsfeed. As I scrolled through the mundane ‘1 like=1 prayer’ melodrama, I noticed that one of my friends had gotten engaged. ‘Huh,’ I thought, ‘good for her’ as I dutifully clicked the ‘like’ button.

I continued scrolling. ‘Huh’, I mumbled again, albeit this time in a more high-pitched tone, ‘Katie is engaged too. Oh, and Emma. And Marie just had a baby.’ I sunk back in my seat. I tried very hard to feel happy for these girls I had once attended school with. They’re nice girls and they deserve to be happy. So why was I feeling like someone had punched me square in the uterus?

As my boyfriend nonchalantly sat back into the car, he noticed I was staring into space (at this stage, I was possibly imagining an older version of myself knitting clothing for my sixty cats).

‘What’s up?’ he asked me, possibly expecting me to refer to the fact that he had earlier hidden my Abba Gold collection.
I didn’t want to say anything. Besides the fact that I didn’t exactly know what was indeed wrong with me, I’m not the passive-aggressive, manipulative, reverse psychology type (you know the ones, they’re all over your Facebook) and I really didn’t want Jack thinking that this was all a clever ruse to provoke him into action.

What could I say? ‘Oh all my friends are engaged and having babies and we’re sat here eating drive-thru and debating whether we’ll watch Iron Man or Spider Man when we go home.’

All he would infer from anything I could possible say is that I was pressuring him to propose to me. And that’s not what I want. Don’t say women aren’t complex creatures…wait, who actually says that, ever?

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I’m sayin’ nothin’

We’ve been together for eleven years now. We’re in our mid to late twenties. Marriage just seems like the next step.

Except we can’t afford it. Readers, I’m being so honest with you that you might as well be cradling my head in your lap and singing lullabies to me. We know that we want to marry each other eventually, and we will, but right now, it would seem like a gigantic expense that we couldn’t justify. And marriage seems so grownup and real, sometimes I just don’t feel mature enough for it. I’d be a ‘Mrs’ for the love of Jezabel.

So I have to admit, the marriage thing wasn’t what was bugging me. Nor was the fact that my friends could now probably run a small crèche between them. No. It was the fact that their lives were taking shape; that they had a sense of direction, of purpose. (The following should be accompanied by cheesy dramatic music and narration by Cameron Diaz) I started to feel like I was in a maze and I had no idea which way I was supposed to go.

To my horror, I noticed tears running down my face. Actual real, giant, salty tears. ‘Oh Jesus,’ I muttered, as I used the end of my sleeve to aggressively dab them away. I’m the sort of person who really hates to cry, so when I inevitably end up sobbing I mutter things to myself like ‘Oh stop it, you big baby!’ which actually makes me sob more because I’m being mean to myself. And myself is quite sensitive.

‘Love, what is wrong?’ my boyfriend asked again, this time showing genuine concern. I can imagine a montage of all his misdemeanours playing though his head: toilet seat left up, clothes balled up on bedroom floor, pizza box in living room, expensive conditioner used as body wash, again…

‘I don’t know really. I just… Sometimes I see other the lives of everyone else taking shape at our age and we’re just kinda stuck in this never ending cycle of debt and takeaways. I feel aimless sometimes, I suppose. I know I wouldn’t exactly consider myself a conventional person, but I have to admit Jack, sometimes the conventional looks pretty comfortable.’

I could see Jack’s eyebrows rising and falling, which I know means he as confused as Kim Kardashian in an art gallery.

‘Sooo, I didn’t do anything?’ he asked gingerly. I leaned over and kissed him.

‘No,’ I smiled through my tears ‘you didn’t.’

Great, I noted wryly to myself, now he thinks you’re on your period.

As we continued our journey home silently, Jack dispensed some pretty good advice.

‘You should talk to your mother. I think it would help.’

At the time, I wasn’t sure. At my age, Mam had a house that she fully owned, a child and she was married. I don’t even own a subscription to my local video store. But as I mulled over whether I should ask my mother for advice that night in bed, I resolved to ring her the next morning. I told myself that she’s a pretty good listener and if anything, she would comfort me.

So I called her and told her that I was doing good but that lately I’d felt a little down. As I’ve already mentioned, I’m known for being the one in my family who normally dispenses the advice rather than receives it, so my mother was a tad surprised. I also felt slightly guilty that this didn’t exactly appear as a ‘real’ problem. There are people out there in debt, suffering from depression or ill, and I’m just some middle class white chick with first world problems. Still though, I knew she wouldn’t want me feeling so aimless and underwhelmed with my life.

‘I don’t know how this has really happened’, I began (although I did know, and I silently narrowed my eyes at an invisible Mark Zukerberg) ‘but lately I’ve just been feeling like I’ve, I don’t know…like I’ve wasted my twenties. Like my life hasn’t really even begun yet. I mean, I love Jack and I’m so happy with him, but I feel like a home for us, and children and all that, is so far out of reach. And everyone else seems to be settling down. And when you were my age, you were married, with a house and a kid and you had everything. I just feel like I’m missing out on all that.’

There was a long silence at the other end of the phone. Great, I thought, I have literally bored her to death.

I heard her take a sigh. She began: ‘firstly, when I married your father it was 1980. In Catholic Ireland. I had a job but I felt I had to leave it. Times were very different. I was expected to get married. There was no such thing as living with someone first, and women were expected to have children.
You don’t have those expectations anymore. You get to keep your job, which you love. You don’t have to have children by a certain age to keep your parents happy. And you’re angry because these societal expectations are gone? What is that?!’
She was half laughing, half incredulous.

She continued:
‘You are so lucky. You’re not tied to a property. You’re not expected to play the part of dutiful housewife. Don’t get me wrong, I love the three of you (my siblings and I, I’m guessing) more than anything, but my god how I would have loved some more time. I would have loved to eat pizza on the floor (how does she know?) and come home at eight o’ clock in the morning after a house party, but I couldn’t. I had responsibilities. And I was so young.
And, my dear, you are forgetting the most important fact of all: if my life was so perfect, why did our marriage break down? Hmm?’

She was right. My father and her had separated a few years ago. Was she saying that it was because they married too young? Was it because she didn’t get to experience enough of life in her twenties?

‘Look’, she interrupted my reverie ‘I was happy. I was. I had three beautiful children. And you can have that too. Except you can also go and live some of your life first. Who says marriage and kids qualifies you as an adult, hah? Ok, so yes, you still wear Minnie Mouse onesies, but you’re a grownup with or without marriage and babies. And you’re doing a pretty good job at this adult malarkey. You have a career, a stable relationship with a great man and you seem happy, most of the time. What more could you want? The grass seems perfectly green where you are.’

‘Oh Jesus.’

‘WHAT?’

‘Im crying again,’ I mumbled. And I was. The warmth of her words surrounded me like a blanket. As I say there, ensconced in her rationality, I knew she was right. She’s my mother; she’s always right.

I need to be thankful that I live in a society and in a time where I’m free to do as I like (within reason of course, yes I’m talking to you: the guy removing his clothes and planning to run naked through Walmart). I also realised that I just need to calm the eff down. I’m twenty-six. I still sleep with a nightlight on after watching horror movies. I don’t think I should be thinking about babies juuuust yet. Of course, it’s a personal thing, but I have to admit, I’m pretty content with life at the moment. There’s plenty of time for marriage and children. I don’t need to waste these years by inventing societal pressures.

Until then, I’m going to continue putting dresses on my male Westie because, well, I can.

And also, this is me:

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