As a mother to two daughters, I’m extremely conscious of the way women and young girls are portrayed in the media and how this influences how they feel about their own bodies. There has been a lot in the press lately about the use of airbrushing and younger and younger girls wanting to wear make-up, but what can we do about it? How can we make our daughters feel good about themselves without closing them off from the real world?
Wednesday is my day for volunteering at Belle’s school. I sit on a coach with 50 small children and we all get taken to the nearest swimming pool. My job is to look after the girls in the changing rooms, supervise the switchover between the year threes and the year fours, and make sure everyone goes home with the right pants on. It is an intense couple of hours.
This weekend I was tagged in a meme by Hari at Thank You For The Days, asking me to write a letter of complaint. How it works is this – I have to write a letter, complaining about something (natch), and then I tag some other people, thus triggering a ripple of whingeing across the blogosphere.
Sounds easy doesn’t it? A nice simple meme for a sleepy Sunday evening. The twist is that it has to be about something true. Now I’m not saying my posts are normally outrageous lies – I’m not really a single fifty-year-old northern man or anything. Nor am I claiming that ‘I’m just not the moaning type’ – cue regular readers snorting with disbelief. Now that really would be an outrageous lie.
This afternoon Belle and I went to see Streetdance, the British dance movie featuring Diversity, Flawless and George Sampson – basically it was a warm up for watching Britain’s Got Talent this evening…
One of the main attractions of course is all the flesh on display – taut, sweaty, topless young men, leaping and bounding, lifting the girls above their heads and making it look easy.
Then there is the opportunity to indulge my fantasy of being an equally taut, gorgeous young street dancer, spending my days passionately throwing myself around London and my nights holding dance offs in painfully trendy clubs.
About a week ago I had a dream. Now I know listening to other people’s dreams is terribly dull, almost as boring as listening to children read, but bear with me and I will do my best to inject enough smut to make it bearable.
In my dream, Nick Clegg was secretly in love with me. Regular readers will know I’ve always had a soft spot for Clegg, even before the TV debates propelled him into a lot of women’s ‘top ten politicians I’d have a go on’ list. I don’t know if I am attracted to his liberal principles or if it’s just the fact that I always seem to be drawn to losers, but whatever the reason, I quite fancy him.
I know we’re all getting a little bored of the election now, but I felt I needed one final post to wind up my recent splurge of thoughtful political comment. Don’t you just love this photo? This is clearly Dave’s ‘let’s try to look like I care what this black man in Plymouth is saying’ face.
So, it has just been announced that Gordon Brown has officially offered his resignation to the Queen, she has accepted, and Brown has gone through the motions of recommending Cameron to form the new government. (Get me with my finger on the pulse). A formal coalition between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats now looks almost certain, especially as Cameron seems keen to compromise on pretty much anything to get into power – electoral reform, inheritance tax, income tax reform – apparently no policy is too significant for the Tories to dump/amend as required.
I say dump all three and let Caroline Lucas move in – hoorah!
Seriously though, I know what you’re thinking – ‘stop blathering on about the election and get back to your usual witty and intelligent take on the highs and lows of single parenting.’ Or something along those lines I’m sure… Well, I’m not about to apologise for another election post, even if it is a little off topic, because this stuff matters.
Sure it may be a bit dull, seeing the same recording of Clegg getting out of a car repeated over and over, but the decisions being made at the moment are crucial. If Clegg can stick to his guns and hold tight to his dream of proportional representation, they could even change the face of politics for ever.
If I were a cartoonist, which unfortunately I’m not, I’d sketch something here showing Nick Clegg stretched out on a chaise longue with Gordon Brown at one end peeling him a grape and David Cameron at the other, administering a foot rub.
Now clearly Clegg hasn’t had a good night. Polls over the last few weeks, since Clegg wowed us all with his TV talk of electoral reform, smaller class sizes and a fairer tax system, have predicted this election to be the most excited ever for the Lib Dems. The reality however was far from the liberal utopia many imagined. In fact, the yellow team managed to secure even fewer seats than in 2005. A bit of a shocker really – what happened there? Was the Lib Dem surge merely bravado? Did everyone chicken out when they actually got to the polling station and had the pencil in hand?
God only knows.
Although they have made some of the right noises – signing up for Gingerbread’s ‘Let’s Lose the Labels’ campaign for instance – I’m not convinced. The married couples’ tax allowance for example – I know, I know, it’s about ‘the message not the money’, but seriously, that’s WORSE. What kind of message are they trying to give exactly? Basically ‘we like married people more, so there.’
As the votes roll in I can’t help but feel a growing sense of dread. I have spent pretty much all of my adult life under a Labour government and quite frankly I’m scared. I’m all for ‘change’ – only last week I rearranged all the furniture in my kitchen – I’m just not mad keen on the kind of change that disempowers women and discriminates against the already marginalised sections of society. Call me old-fashioned, but there you go.
Yesterday was my nephew’s first birthday.
I only have one nephew – my sister’s son – and no nieces. I never expected I would be an auntie by now, and I often wonder whether I am doing it right.
I imagined that when the time came I would somehow be further on with my life. I pictured myself much as I remember my Auntie Jill, my Dad’s sister, when I was young – a fleeting, exotic figure, always seeming to be doing something terribly exciting like riding a motorbike around Brighton or playing the tambourine in a Cajun band.
Either that or I would be a traveller, stopping in once or twice a year on my way to or from an airport, a string of rhino teeth round my neck, pulling bizarre and unique baby gifts from around the world out of a large patchwork bag.
Thank you very much to everyone who replied to my post yesterday about talking to children about death.
I’m sure you all hardly slept last night, anxious to know whether someone would have moved the bunny, or whether we would be forced to confront the realities of death on our way to school. Really? You slept fine you say? Oh.
This morning we set of to school, late as usual, as Belle had been watching a recording of the election debate while she ate her rice crispies. At her request may I add. She is, she tells me, ‘really very interested Mummy’. To be honest, I wasn’t sure how much of it she was going to be able to understand, but she seemed to get to grips with it very well and appeared genuinely interested.
“Mummy,” she asked as they discussed inheritance tax, “David Cameron’s got it wrong. He wants to give the rich people even more money…”
Our walk to school every morning takes us alongside a small cricket pitch. Yesterday morning there was a rabbit stretched out on the grass, clearly dead, but nevertheless looking decidedly relaxed.
Belle, who at seven years old is highly sensitive and often slightly melodramatic, spotted the bunny straightaway. “What’s that rabbit doing there Mummy?” she asked, looking concerned.
I then had exactly two seconds to make a decision. Do I tell her it is dead, which will result inevitably in her crying and clinging to me at the school gates telling me she never wants me to die ever ever, or do I lie?
Continuing in a positive spirit, today I have been thinking about the simple things in life that give me pleasure.
If you don’t take time out to focus on what makes you happy, it is all too easy to get caught up in the day-to-day tedium of parenting alone. Washing, cleaning, cooking – admittedly I don’t do a huge amount of any of those things, but the responsibility is still mine, should I choose to accept it.
Sometimes I worry that the things I enjoy are rather dull. I don’t do any kind of extreme sports, or have a secret part-time job as a lion tamer. I don’t drive fast cars or jet off every weekend on exotic city mini-breaks – my life is much more acoustic folk than rock and roll. I did once jump out of a plane, but to be honest I found the whole free-falling thing quite boring – you just hang there after all, and not much else happens.