Biological Duty

Having a womb isn’t a good enough reason to have kids

I once dated a guy who informed me it was my biological duty to have children.

Yes. He said that.

Think of my uterus, if you would, as a bread maker that came with my ‘kitchen’.

The kitchen is great, but wouldn’t it be more of a kitchen if there was a rising heap of dough in that breadmaker? Wouldn’t that bread make me happier in the long run?

I mean you can’t have a breadmaker and not use it.

How am I still meeting people in this century who have this take on females and procreation?

I was never someone whose womb wrenched when she held a child, nor have I longed to feel life grow inside me. I’ve always been happy to hand a baby back, and get a burrito.

I’ve had the occasional flash panic, and stood in front of the freezer section in Sainsbury’s, frantically texting friends about embryo storage, whilst cooling my ovaries. But it was no bigger a panic than the undercut/no undercut dilemma of 2014.

I love the little humans.

Not because I have a uterus, but because I find them amazing. The incessant questioning, stubbornness, creativity and boundless energy is something I’m on board with.

We get on well.

As a result, I’m often told to have some of my own. Funny, because I’m also told I’m great with pets, but that ‘A puppy is for life, not just for Christmas’ campaign really did a job on folks. That’s something I should consider carefully.

I’m at that age where all my friends have had, or are having children. Some as I type. I am often told there is nothing like the joy of motherhood. That it’s the best thing I’ll ever do.

I think a more realistic description is that motherhood is a completely different kind of experience from those I have had to date. No one is making it look like ‘the best thing’ when they are wrestling a pound of ‘pick n mix’ out of a screaming child’s hand, handling a flooded bathroom, or being bitten.

My trip to Vegas measures up better.

That being said, the love my friends have for their children is contagious. Their relationships are rewarding. The way their children love them is moving. Good people are being raised in the world and it’s a beautiful thing to see.

But from a distance.

For me.

For now.

 

Know your role

As I stood there watching the young man writhing on the floor, lip locked with a rubber IKEA oven mitt, I wondered what the hell I was doing here.

My friend Abner has been encouraging me to go to auditions, to network, make contacts with script writers. “You’ve got to get out there and follow your dream!” He was right.

Consequently, I’ve been signing up for auditions and taster classes. It’s been something to get me out of the house at weekends. Plus it’s free, which sums up my criteria for entertainment these days.

It’s definitely been entertaining.

At the writer’s workshop, I felt like a moody teenager. I was sat at the back, all dressed in black, screwing up my face every time someone bleated at the opportunity to read their work out.

I was grateful for the pair work. At least then the other person could strain their arm enthusiastically in the air, while I continued to slouch apathetically in my chair and text.

The activity was a silent dialogue, set at a party. Pradeep and I commenced our silent conversation. Needless to say, in real life Pradeep and I would a) Never be found at the same party b) Would never have commenced to converse because I would have been able to see his conversation coming a mile off and hot-tailed it to the bathroom.

Writing classes and workshops are a great place to meet a writing partner; your lobster.

Pradeep was not my lobster.

There weren’t any lobsters. Just people trying to figure out what their ‘love’ was. But maybe loving something wasn’t enough. Nor was Marcela. She gleefully shared her comedy creation, Paul: an extremely fat man good at his job. “Fat isn’t a character flaw. What’s his flaw?”

“He works too hard? But sometimes it’s difficult because… he’s fat!”

“So it’s funny because he’s fat?”

“Yes!”

This went on for a while before we all just gave up.

This would never happen at TGS

The following weekend I was amidst a group of actors. Some of whom found it hard to mask their disdain at the fact I was a tourist. ‘It seemed like fun’ is not what the competition want to hear at an audition.

They want the part.

They will even use a five minute break to try and get it, as I found when I was faced with the ridiculously energetic Eva. Her heart-rendering performance of the day she fell over in the rain went sadly unnoticed by the director. I think I’d asked her if there was a Tesco nearby.

I couldn’t bring myself to participate in the improv. The group of people on the floor fighting over a toilet brush, while one waggled his tongue in and out his heat protected hand, left me speechless.

I have no problems looking like a fool. I just won’t fight other fools to do it.

They really wanted this. I needed to have that ‘willing to pretend to make it with a glove’ type of desperation. But I couldn’t even make eye contact with anyone. Every line I delivered was aimed at someone’s crotch or my own cleavage.

I was their Pradeep. Their Marcela.

My friend got a part in the play, without having to romance homeware. I signed up for the comedy writing class.

I think my first piece will be a drama about a woman trying to write a play about an overweight man trying to make it as an actor.

Maybe IKEA guy could play him. He seems like he would commit to putting on 20 kilos.

 

 

The Line

“Do you know Colonel Gadaffi ma’am?”

I was sure this wasn’t a general question. It wasn’t your typical segue to an insult though. I was mildly impressed the kid knew the name. From what I’d seen in class, he didn’t know much.

It took a bit of willpower not to come back at him with an “I don’t know him, but I hear your mum does…” style comment. I hate low level disruption.

Being a teacher invariably means taking the high road, being reasoned, patient and understanding. Basically, keeping your comebacks and insults to the English office, or pub on Fridays.

Kids will say anything, do anything, push boundaries, take liberties. You teach them what’s acceptable. In my case, you also have to fight the inner child in you that wants verbally decimate them.

You learn to be a patient and controlled person.

The school I am covering for is quite small. An intimate setting compared to the sprawling, two site, jungle of hormones of previous inner city schools I’d worked at. It’s been a tame experience in comparison.

No shits in corridors.

No chairs being thrown.

I had been in two minds over returning to a classroom. Would it be one of those short term stop gaps that evolved into long term giving up on writing?

Would I be able to cope with the indiscriminate arseholery of teenagers? I hadn’t fared that well with adults…

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If you can’t beat them and don’t really care, join them approach. Bad Education

 

School was my social experiment, where I got to test drive the happier, more self assured version of myself. A version that stopped taking shitty behaviour so personally, left people to be responsible for their actions, and was honest about where my line was drawn. It would be the ultimate test.

When a student coughed Curry at an Indian TA the other day, I calmly handed out a detention.

The following class, Gandhi, Dhal, and other innocuous words were woven into responses to questions on Sherlock Holmes, in a show of camaraderie .

It was a banal attack of racially motivated tourettes.

It may seem funny in retrospect. Could even be brushed off. I mean what were they doing wrong? Being silly? Saying random famous figures and names of food? How was that harmful?

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The Snape approach to teaching was still met with subversion.

I’ve been told that as an intelligent adult I have to make concessions for idiotic behaviour, ignorance and those who weren’t raised better.  I was expected to take the high road. To be the better, more understanding person.

I remember discussing my ‘take the high road approach to life’ with an AirBnB roomie.

Why? Was his response.

“Why do you always have to be the adult one when someone else is acting like a complete child?  That guy’s allowed to be a dick right? He’s never called on his bullshit behaviour. But you are because you’re the smarter person. Fuck that.” And with that he disappeared into his room.

It was true. Not everyone is called on their bullshit. If you’re smart you make concessions and cut poisonous people out of your life. When you can’t cut someone out, you have to make a stand.

THE-LINE-MUSTAfter the third random mention of Gandhi  I decided to shine bright like a diamond, and rage on four boys in my class. Anyone ever seen me angry knows this wasn’t pleasant.

The arsehole who maliciously started it, blamed someone else for his behaviour and stormed off bitching with his mate, who had wisely chosen to stay out of it.

The students with a sense of right and wrong tried to apologise for offending me.

The rest watched and learned.

Then a kid who looks about 30 years old decided to hit another student in the face with a balled up pair of PE socks.

I handled it.

I think the experiment is over. Bring me the grown ups.

 

The choice is yours

The other day I was watching Master of None when Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar came up. It has been years since I read the book. It sticks in my mind because I started it on comedy improv night. Unsurprisingly, all the suggestions I yelled out were pretty bleak as a result. They had to work for the laughs.

The fig tree has been playing on my mind a lot. Esther’s life is compared to a fig tree, and each fig is a choice she could make. She envisions herself sitting below it, unable to make a choice and watching each fig drop. Black and dead. No longer an option. Hardly the stuff of which improv is made of. A good metaphor nevertheless.

I was 21 or 22 when I first read the Bell Jar. My attitude to life was to just let it carry me where it may. I made my choices on a whim. I would take a bite of the closest fig. There was no painstaking decision. My life was a series of happy coincidences. Until things started to go wrong.

As I got older and the decisions carried more consequences, and it just became increasingly harder. Poor decisions can age you. I repeatedly made the same poor decision with an abusive ex. When I finally made the right choice I felt a hundred years older, and had no faith in my own choices.

From then on my go to move for any choice which carried a real consequence was to survey all my friends, until someone offered up an option that seemed manageable. I then decided to defer all my future life choices to that person, hoping they would just live my life for me because I was so terrible at it.

This was not a plan.

My  decision making is non-existent in relationships. The people pleaser in me comes out then all of a sudden every decision I make revolves around making someone else happy. I’m always looking after someone else’s tree, or eating the fruit they hand to me. When you are offering that much power over your life to the wrong person it has disastrous results.

Over the years, I have met so many people that would happily micromanage my life for me, and a few that returned the decision to me. Thank you to the latter for withholding judgement, and forcing me to adult. I feel like I am doing it more now than ever.

After my last break up I was bothered that no one had warned me about the immaturity and drama that came with him, as if I could have been better informed in my decision making. Transparency wouldn’t have changed anything. I would have given him the same chance. It had been my choice to make.

It had made me laugh when he informed me that I had no right break up with him without consulting him. He didn’t seem to grasp that I was allowed to make my own decisions. Maybe because I had spent a year letting him sway all my mine.

I still hadn’t understood there was so much power in a choice.

I empathise with Esther’s anxiety about making the wrong choice. I have to remind myself it’s equally bad to randomly choose anything, or to make do with the options people give you. It’s such a fine balance. So dependent on luck.

At 35 trying to get into a writing position is hard. I get told I am brave a lot, which makes me feel like I have some kind of terminal illness. Stupidity perhaps. I am sometimes overwhelmed with panic and shake that tree hard, scrambling to see what options I have managed to shake down. But that isn’t the way I want to live life, and I calm down soon enough.

My choices are simpler these days. I am learning to have more faith in myself.

I have to just trust my tree still has a few good figs left.

Image from Zen Pencils.com Check the site for the full illustrated extract from The Bell Jar.

 

 

 

Tea and no sympathy

So it’s coming up to two weeks since I upped sticks and made a definitive move back to the UK. Tears were shed, a fond farewell said to Mexico, my second home,  and I promised myself to remain positive and not have a panic attack at the impending prospect of unemployment, a full on relationship and living in my mum and dad’s spare room: a tribute to all the free crap you can get with a weekly supplement, or if you actually sent away the 100 coupons you’d collected. It’s now 5.30am and I can’t sleep. I can never sleep. Not unless I have exhausted my body to the point where I can’t walk anymore and have no other option other than to lie down and pass out. I got a gym membership because I read online that if your brain doesn’t get enough sleep it basically dies and it’s a sad time in a woman’s life when she has to rely on her brain to get her out of the idealistic hole she has dug for herself. But now I worry. I catch myself thinking, “It’s all up to you now brain, don’t fail me now,” only to be swiftly distracted by a 9GAG article, or some philosophical reflection Tyrese has posted. After an hour has passed and I realise I’ve done nothing but catch up on the world’s Facebook, that’s normally when I realise I’m screwed. My dad must see it on my face. It’s normally when he offers me a cuppa. He doesn’t have to say it, I can see it on his face, “Well, this was what you wanted…”

See I couldn’t just be a teacher. No, no, no. It’s not that I thought I was too good for it, or not good enough at it, nor was it so much to do with my whining about today’s kids, although it was a lot more to do with how the government determined what made a decent education and how to measure it. If I were to be honest, it was mainly because I hate being scared of things. I don’t like to be ruled by fear, and throughout my life I have always taken massive leaps towards the things that scare me with the intention of overcoming that fear. Not necessarily becoming successful or dominating the thing I fear (I still jump when I see a massive spider) but able to move past that initial reaction. With what end in mind? Well, I don’t really know. The spiders was an innocent thing, I had read Charlotte’s Web and it had touched me how Charlotte had been so caring and giving. I thought spiders can’t be that bad, and forced myself to see beyond a prejudice. Thinking about it now, the personification of animals may have educated me incorrectly and could lead to my untimely death at the hands of a lion who just can’t wait to be king. My point being that I don’t like to be held back by my fears. One thing I have always wanted to try to do more of has been to write. I wanted to try and focus and write a book, but on the way towards doing that writing anything, blogging, also seemed to be a good idea.  When the move back home seemed certain, I thought, why not change it all up? Forget another year of teaching and incessant complaining. What’s the worst that could happen? No one reads it, or reads it and thinks it’s shit, or trolls me to the point of stalker like obsession leading me to file a report with the police in fear of my life. Ok, I read something about that in the Standard the other day and it struck a nerve and added to my Reasons Not to Write Today list. There has been a lot of reading taking place, also a lot of reposting and liking, not as much writing seems to be happening, but I seem to effectively justify that through mumbled excuses about jet lag, depression and not being able to sleep for fear that the Britain’s Animals posters may spring to life and I may all at once be surrounded by Britain’s loveable ,yet ugly small mammals, birds and reptiles. So here I am at 6 am, wondering what the hell I was thinking.

I don’t feel as comfortable with the whole idea now as I did when faced with piles of exams to mark and a bunch of belligerent teenagers to reprimand. Then I felt the same as I did when I was gathering up spiders in the garden to let live in the house so we could peacefully coexist: filled with confidence and pride at the fact I was facing my fears and thus becoming a better person. Maybe the subsequent screams of my mother and arachnid massacre that followed them should have resonated louder in my mind. Yeah, they did not come out of that well. But my intentions were good. As are my intentions here. I mean, what is the point of life right? Or at least that has been my response to the concerned faces that kept staring back at me when I told them I was going to try writing stuff, you know I can be funny, maybe I can do that, write funny stuff, because you only get one life and what’s the point of life if you’re not trying new things and pushing yourself right? It’s hard not to come across as a douche when you say anything other than, Yes! What is the point of a safe and comfortable existence that you spent two years and ten grand that you don’t have, trying to secure, when you can do something that has no security and could ruin you financially? Reading that back to myself I can detect the underlying sarcasm that I chose to hear as unwavering support. My friends and family have been generally supportive of the change. I was smart enough to get my teaching qualification- that wasn’t going anywhere and was always something that I could fall back on. Not unsupportive, just realistic. Put yourself on the supply teaching list, maybe tutor. The only constant voice of concern has been my mother’s. As I work my way through an interminable pile of ironing, that is pointless, (I have no where to hang the clothes when I am done and end up heaping them on the suitcases I am living out of and ironing everything again) but a respite from the writing I haven’t been doing, my mother keeps giving me job suggestions. Secretary. Civil Servant. Accountant. Cashier at Sainsbury’s. This is when I get on my high horse and tell her I need to focus on my writing, I do not want to be a bloody teller at the Santander. “But what writing?” She’s right. Cue me storming off and eating four mini rolls while I make another cup of tea and stare at a screen for 10 minutes before clicking on a link to the worlds cutest dachshunds.

I don’t like it when I get angry at my mum and dad. I don’t think anyone likes getting into arguments with their parents, but it’s that teenage mentality that you revert to when forced to move back into your parental home. I think the only way to circumvent it is to either never leave or never move back. Nothing they have said is wrong or out of turn, they’re from a different generation, one where being safe, secure and having a steady income trumped the intrinsic values of a job. You didn’t have to love it as long as it put food on the table, kept you clothed and allowed you to start a family. Bloody GCSE Sociology. I wish I never learned the word intrinsic. Fat lot of good it’s done me. I only got a B on the exam and now I yearn for a job that I can feel good about, one that makes me happy. Teaching used to do that, but two years of teaching in the UK killed it. I’d like to think that leaving teaching to write and work in the production of literature isn’t simply a capricious move. That I am getting out of teaching before I become bitter and start taking it out on the kids, because that’s where I could feel it was heading. This change was meant to make me happier, restore some of the value to my work, the pleasure in what I was doing. Now I’m back at home and as moody as I was when I was doing my GCSEs. Great success.

The only reason my mum and dad haven’t kicked me out for being a pain in the arse is the fact I am in what they deem to be, a steady relationship. My moody teenage presence seems to be balanced by the good asian boyfriend I have finally procured after 20 years, a beacon of hope in my parent’s childless vision of my future, where I end up a lesbian, driving them to their graves in shame, or I end up getting fat, acquire a trolly full of cats and living with them forever. There was a point when I was living in Mexico where I did gain some weight and two cats. They had given up all hope of grandchildren, luckily my sister got knocked up and they overlooked the unorthodox method that brought my nephew into their world, and I was able to have another five cat filled years without a concerned phone call. So after steeling themselves for years, imagine their joy when I started dating a lovely man, an Indian man who understands our culture and has been talking about a future together and kids. I thought my dad would pass out. All of a sudden my dad has started ignoring my rants and just smiling at me, as if the only thing he can hear when I open my mouth is Ode to Joy. Any complaint I make is swiftly followed by a question about the well being of my boyfriend, almost as if they are trying to remind themselves of why they are putting up with this. However, the idea that I found someone who would tolerate my big mouth may have been a bit premature. It’s only been two weeks. Give me a proper chance to balls it up. Not to say I haven’t given it the old college try, becoming even more intolerable to my boyfriend now that I have even more time to think about my stupid relationship fears and share them with him drunkenly, than when I was contemplating them over a six hour time difference over Skype. It’s a miracle our relationship survived. I argue that we’re together because of stubbornness. In my opinion, our long distance relationship should have been documented and televised for teens, warning them of the dangers much in the same way we taught them about talking to strangers, unprotected sex and drug use. My boyfriend’s sunny disposition allowed him to forget every little fight we had, much in the way a mother forgets the pain of child birth in order to have more kids. I don’t know how he does it. I get exhausted thinking about the plethora of things we argued about and, to be honest, I find the way with which he can just move on from a fight eerie. Who can just forget it? Are all men like this? It’s been so long since I dated someone I honestly can’t remember. Anyway when things were looking bleak he always found a reason to make it work, to stick it out until the end. The distance was always to blame. The common enemy. Not incompatibility, or differing personalities or irreconcilable differences. Things would be better once we were closer. I made promises to myself. I needed to invest myself more, come back home, try harder and things would be okay. What we weren’t banking on was it being worse, or me being more of a idiot in person. Unemployment, alcohol, the burgeoning weight of my insecurities, over my career, my relationship, moving out and the prospect of moving in with my boyfriend when I’ve maybe got enough money in the bank to maybe last me another month, is terrifying and makes me a complete and utter fucktard. My boyfriend found this out last night when I ruined dinner with my inane list of insecurities and negativity. Well, in all fairness he seems to have been finding this out over the past year, but it culminated at dinner when I decided to keep talking out of my arse, which lead to a very uncomfortable evening at the cinema, where we sat in silence and he fell asleep (he actually has a job and gets a bit tired when I unload all this bullshit on him) before going home without saying goodbye. On the journey back home alone, I did wonder once again, what the hell was I thinking. I seemed to be ruining everything. Nothing was working out the way I wanted it to.  It was so much easier whiling the time away as a teacher abroad. Ignorance was a sun-kissed, beach paradise, where drinks were dirt cheap and renting wasn’t as stupid a long term option as it seemed in the UK. I could have slapped myself when the thought popped into my head. Always running away. Wanting to give up. Expecting too much. Talking myself out of my decisions. Scrutinising them into oblivion. It was clear the fear had not been erased. I had merely spread spiders all over the dining room table again and was looking on in horror, just as I did when my mother annihilated them all with a newspaper. Only it wasn’t her this time, it was me: Fucktard.

There has been a lot of change taking place, maybe I made this more challenging than it needed to be; living with my parents, trying to start a new career at 35, with little to no savings and the prospect of moving in with my relatively new boyfriend, who I spent the last year, and the last two weeks fighting like cat and dog with and expecting myself to be ok with all these changes straight away. Maybe I’ve been expecting too much from it all. I’ve never been patient. I couldn’t gradually get over my fear of spiders, or heights, or water. I had to throw myself into the midst of all of it, gather them up by the bucket full, climb a mountain, throw myself into the ocean. They all worked to give the impression of not being scared, but the fear still resides there. My heartbeat still races when I plunge into the sea, or when I am half way up a mountain face. I still find it hard to breathe every time I becomes us, or we in a conversation, and whenever I think that I have to be able to do this, write, all the time and be interesting, or witty or engaging, my heart stops. So is it really worth it? Taking so many risks, staring into the face of your fears and trying to overcome them? Maybe my parents are right, playing it safe never gave anyone a heart attack, or had you living out of suitcases, or considering sex line work for pub money. I’m too tired right now to know for sure, it’s 9am and the builders have arrived. So I will make another cup of tea and stop feeling sorry for myself. It’s my bed whether I choose to sleep in it or not.