Tuesday 29 November 2016

Drained and skint

Another mother has taken the bold step of declaring that bringing up children is hard work and she can't wait for her youngest child to be an independ-ent adult.

"Raising a child is 1% happiness and 99% worry. Raising children not only left me exhausted but it left me bankrupt" says French author Corinne Maier. But she feels obliged to say she loves being a parent, even if it isn't true. "It's time to stop marketing the babies-mean-happiness idea,"

She thinks improving this rotten world "with its exhausted assets and polluted natural resources" is a higher priority than raising children. As child-rearing takes so much energy, it's hard to do both.

Naturally other mothers will disagree. If there are fewer children, who will look after the elderly or keep the economy going, or for that matter who will fight to improve the rotten world?

But certainly while there's no shortage of would-be parents to maintain the population, there's a drastic shortage of would-be environmental campaigners to tackle the worrying state of the planet. If things go on as they are, there'll no longer be a functional world for our children to inherit. So maybe Corinne has a valid point.

I do think many parents rush into child-rearing without properly considering if they're up to the job. The number of children one way or another psychologically damaged by inadequate parents is alarming. But every parent thinks they'll get on just fine, or at any rate they'll muddle through and their kids won't come to any serious harm. If only that were true.

As you know I have no children. For all sorts of reasons, but mainly because having children meant nothing to me. I agree with Corinne - saving the planet is a hundred times more important.

Pic: is not Corinne Maier!

Friday 25 November 2016

Playing the field

I can't imagine what it's like to live with a man who's a compulsive flirt and womaniser. Whenever he's out of your sight, you must be wondering what he's up to and fearing the worst.

Your suspicions of womanising must intensify if he's a prominent public figure mixing with glamorous women who admire powerful men. Can he resist the endless temptation?

I guess you have several choices. Either you watch him like a hawk and try to prevent any shenanigans, or you accept that's the way he is and adapt to it, or you kiss him goodbye and get him out of your life.

I have no such worries about Jenny, and vice versa. Neither of us have ever been promiscuous and we know there are no shameful confessions in the offing. Old-fashioned maybe but that's how we like it.

It must be almost as bad to live with a man who's insanely jealous and convinced you're having affairs when you're not. My father was always sure my mother was up to something behind his back - not only with men but with women. He simply couldn't believe she was 100 per cent loyal to him and was never enticed by anyone else. He thought she was so attractive that other men must be making advances all the time. She would be hurt and offended by his outrageous accusations, but her angry denials never entirely persuaded him.

It doesn't help that affairs are now considered normal by many people. If you've lived with someone for many years, isn't it natural that you get bored with each other sexually and need a fresh partner to stir up that sluggish libido?

Well, it depends on the couple and their relationship, I guess. To some, looking elsewhere might seem the obvious thing to do. To others, it's a sign the relationship is failing and needs to be reassessed.

Fortunately, not a dilemma I've had to face.

Monday 21 November 2016

Who me, smart?

It's said that men tend to over-estimate their intelligence while women under-estimate it. Well, personally I'm one of the under-estimators. However often I'm told how intelligent I am, I never really believe it. I'm quite sure it's just a bit of flattery far removed from reality.

I suppose the reason for my self-doubt is that I fasten on every mistake or misunderstanding or moment of confusion as obvious evidence of my limited intelligence. Surely if I was that intelligent these things wouldn't happen?

On the other hand, when I instantly grasp something complicated or have some brilliant insight, instead of seeing it as a sign of intelligence, I see it as a peculiar fluke or stroke of luck that only emphasises how gormless I usually am.

I also assume intelligence means being quick on the uptake. If I'm in a new job or situation, and I'm not picking things up fast enough, I conclude I'm a prize dimwit. Surely other people grasp things much quicker? I forget that maybe the problem is the complexity and unfamiliarity of what I'm being told, not my brain.

I'm fooled too by people who pretend to understand something that's gone way over their heads. They listen to someone yattering away and nod frequently as if they're totally up to speed, while I'm mentally floundering. Obviously they're much brainier! It never occurs to me that they just don't want to admit their ignorance.

If anyone raves over a book or film or artwork I didn't like, again I assume they must be more intelligent, they've caught all sort of nuances and subtleties that mysteriously passed me by. Their attention must be way sharper than mine. But is it? Perhaps those clever nuances they've spotted are more imaginary than real.

So go on, reassure me that I'm highly intelligent. I still won't believe it.

Wednesday 16 November 2016

Questions, questions

All those questions you've been dying to ask, answered at last. More glaring gaps in your nick-knowledge finally filled in. It's your lucky day!

What's your greatest fear?
Being burnt or crushed to death

Which living person do you most admire?
Gareth Peirce, the human rights lawyer

What trait do you most deplore in yourself?
Worrying too much, timidity, brusqueness

What was your most embarrassing moment?
Too many to name - saying something inappropriate, being lost for words, letting someone down

What's the dearest thing you've bought (other than a house)?
Various cars

What's your most treasured possession?
An abstract by an artist I knew in the sixties

What's your favourite smell?
Newly mown grass, coffee, freshly laundered bed linen

What's your favourite word?
Inebriated, impecunious, soporific

Which book changed your life?
Gestalt Therapy Verbatim by Fritz Perls

What in your life would you have done differently?
I would have moved to Australia

What or who is your greatest love?
Jenny, obviously

What do you owe your parents?
Self-discipline, persistence, a crazy sense of humour

What did you want to be when grown-up?
A journalist - which I was for a few years

To whom would you like to say sorry, and why?
Jenny, for careless hurtful remarks

Who would come to your dream dinner party?
Patti Smith, Paris Lees*, Tina Fey

Which word or phrase do you overuse?
Who knows? Why bother? Does it matter?

What's the worst job you've done?
Admin work for a chaotic London council

What was your biggest disappointment?
I'd rather not say

What would improve your quality of life?
More close friends, a better memory

What is your greatest achievement?
Several trips to Australia, going vegetarian

*transgender activist

(questions shamelessly pinched from the Guardian magazine)

Saturday 12 November 2016

A time of trepidation

The media is still wall-to-wall President Pussy-Grabber. Other news has been squeezed out of the headlines. Every available columnist has been told to pen a few words, however trite, on the new Bum-Fancier-in-Chief.

I feel I should do my bit and lob in my ten-cents worth. But what to say that hasn't been said a hundred times already? What to say that isn't apoplectic, hysterical, doom-laden, abusive or childish?

Above all, I feel for all those millions of Americans who are now very scared about the future, and how they might fare under the Trump regime. All those who till recently felt at home in America, and (on the whole) were treated decently by their fellow-citizens. All those who now feel things are changing rapidly and changing for the worse.
  • Homosexuals
  • Transgender men and women
  • The disabled
  • Black people
  • Foreign nationals
  • Migrants
  • Women
They've seen how things declined in the UK after the EU referendum, with a huge upsurge in hate crimes, abuse, death threats, physical attacks, ostracism and ultimatums to leave the country. Some were so nervous about their personal safety, and their families' safety, they have indeed left the country. Many others are thinking of leaving.

Of course those lucky Americans who aren't in one of the threatened groups, those who're well off and doing nicely and largely unaffected by who happens to be President, mostly aren't interested in those less fortunate citizens.

They shrug their shoulders, insist everyone's over-reacting, joke about moving to Canada, say the campaign rhetoric was just hot air, say Trump will be put in his place, and so on.

Such complacent dismissals won't reassure those who know how hard it is to stem the flow of hatred and intolerance once it's become normal and once it's been sanctioned at the highest levels.

I fear Trump's America could turn very ugly.

Sunday 6 November 2016

Not much fun

A study of men who go on stag dos concluded that most of them don't enjoy it and would rather not have taken part. At various times they felt embarr-assed, humiliated, shamed and scared, and only joined in because they felt it was expected it of them.

A groom-to-be was pressured into going to a lap-dancing club and hated every minute of it. One man was subjected to sustained ritual humiliation, given so much to drink he passed out and wet himself, and then tied up with cling-film. And so on.

Thankfully I've never been on a stag do in my life. I've been to very few weddings, but in each case the groom-to-be loathed stag nights and I was never invited to one. The whole idea of relentless debauchery and drunkenness fills me with horror. I can't see the attraction, and I can't see how a hung-over and shattered groom could possibly enjoy his wedding.

People in other countries are reportedly baffled by the frantic over-indulgence of British stag dos, and the mayhem they cause in local communities. They just wish those involved would go back home on the earliest flight.

Perhaps those men who know they won't enjoy themselves should be honest enough to say so and opt out. If that means they're seen as wimps and milksops, so be it.  Better than being ritually humiliated by so-called "friends".

This lingering male tradition of ritual humiliation is pretty sick. Why do some men feel the need to torment other men by getting them to drink too much or harass women or do something disgusting or dangerous? What's wrong with a simple supportive friendship? What's wrong with being nice to each other?

The sooner stag nights go out of fashion, the better.

Wednesday 2 November 2016

Happy as I am

I seldom imagine someone else's life to be better than my own. I'm happy with my life, with all its ups and downs, and I know the seemingly fabulous lives I read about often hide miseries and tragedies I wouldn't want to be burdened with.

In fact it's now routine for celebs to reel off the horrible experiences they've had to deal with, as if to say, don't bother to envy me, I'm no better off than you are - except that I have fame and money. Which is a bit of a cushion, granted, but it's no protection against grief, depression, domestic violence or those everyday problems we all run into.

In fact fame and money often make life harder. Divorces are horrendous, as each spouse tries to claim the maximum share of the marital assets. You can never be quite sure if someone is a genuine friend or a gold-digger. You're forever in the spotlight and being mercilessly criticised and picked to bits.

But even people with more ordinary lives don't make me want to swop. However happy and fulfilled they might seem on the outside, who knows what emotional and mental baggage they're carrying around? Who knows what they're carefully concealing? Better the devil you know than the devil you don't.

The truth is I'm thoroughly familiar with all my personal quirks and oddities and I've learnt how to deal with them. I know how to exploit my strengths and minimise my weaknesses. If I suddenly fell into someone else's life, I'd have to get acquainted with a brand new personality. I'd be floundering around like a dog on an ice rink.

It would be fun to swop with someone for a week, say. Just to see if their life really is better than mine. I suspect I'd soon be tearing my hair out.