Saturday, March 31, 2012

I Will Reconsider Parenting When It Gets Less Terrible

As it stands, I don't have any interest in children. Actually, that might be a misrepresentation, because it implies that I haven't made up my mind on the matter. That I see a child, sigh contemplatively, pat my uterus and whisper "One day" to it. Let me rephrase: As it stands, I hate children.

I have a reasonably good idea about how the majority of you will take this information. Some of you will agree with me, and to those people I say: hey, let's get drunk some time. Some you will dismiss me as a complete dickhead, and you're justified in thinking as much. But the vast majority of you will think: "Hey, I'm no big fan either. But some of them are all right."

Which is true. Some of them are all right. Some of them (this has never happened to me, but I'm sure it happens) wrap their tiny, podgy arms around your neck and tell you your their favourite aunt before taking you by the hand and running you down to the bottom of the garden to catch fairies. Some children are so nice that they give you a greater understanding of what it is to be alive.



This does not  make me feel any less uncomfortable around them.

At the end of the day, I feel awkward around kids. It's kind of like having a foreign exchange student stay in your house. I don't know what to talk to them about, and when I do talk to them, I have no clue how much they're even taking in. There's this constant pressure to do something with them. You can't just hang out with children, seemingly. You have to be hanging out with them AS A COWBOY and IN THE AURORA BOREALIS. Children need stimulation(!) or something (?).

As my opening sentence indicates, this is something I'm sure will change. Maybe ten years from now, I'll have come around to the idea of children. But parenting, as it exists right now: that, I am calling bullshit on.

As you might remember, my sister's husband knocked her up a little while back. With the due date imminent, I'm currently in Ireland, spending some much needed quality time with my sister. Mostly, we've been eating ice-cream and criticising the life choices of everyone who appears on 16 and Pregnant. It's hard to forget Jill is pregnant. Her belly is hard as rock, and referred to only as 'Gremlor'.



 Sometimes I catch her giving it light punches as we watch TV.

"What are you doing?"

"Making it move."

"You were giving out about it moving too much a second ago."

"I know. But when it stops moving for a while, I get paranoid that Gremlor's dead."

"God. Imagine, going through all this to give birth to a dead baby."

"I know. Nightmare."

Pregnancy is being treated as something we have to get her through, but it's easy to forget entirely that soon, she will be a mother. I remember this as I pad around her kitchen looking for Haribo, and find boxes upon boxes of Pampers. I guess this is normal, but what I'm surprised by is the variation of Pampers there actually is: dry, superdry, night-time dry, easydry. The word 'dry' has never been more prevalent in one kitchen in so many different forms. I'm amazed.

"What the..?" I begin, in awe. "How on earth are there so many different kinds? Don't they all do the same thing?"

"Ugh, I know." Jill has clearly been unsettled by the cacophony of choice also.

"It's kind of like condoms, isn't it? Like how there's 'regular' and then there's 'ultra safe'? It's like, shouldn't they both be equally as safe?"

"Al reckons that one sort is just for when Gremlor does a piss, and the other when it takes a dump. And then maybe a third when it needs a piss and a dump."

Take a guess.


Pissing and dumping of my future niece aside, the Pampers problem is somewhat representative of how strategic and boring parenting is, or has become. Parents seem to have forgotten how to improvise, and instead are just constantly having panic attacks in supermarkets. As far as I can tell, the major worries of the modern parent are:

 #1. Their child is under stimulated
 #2. Their child is over stimulated
 #3. As a result of their failure to over or under stimulate their child, their child now has Asperger's.

Sometimes I think that if I were an eight year old today, that some local governing body would have rubber stamped my forward with AUTISTIC, PROBABLY and stuck me into some after-school social skills building class four days a week. I probably met the profile: I was solitary, I said weird shit, and I couldn't tie my shoes until I was about eleven.

I'm not being flippant here: I realise that autism is a very real, and very serious problem. But I also think that a lot of kids are just weird. Why are they weird? Because people are, inherently, weird. But because "parenting" is no longer just a thing people muddle through and hope for the best with. "Parenting" is now a pseudo-science, an endurance test, and the yardstick by which you are judged as a human. People are so terrified that they're doing parenting wrong, that they forget that there is no way to do it right. To compensate for this crippling insecurity, people need their kids to have schedules, and classes, and second languages. They need to be watched, and their friend choices - hell, their everything choices - need to be monitored with clipboardish tenacity. And it seems like ass. 

The only real comparison I can draw is by remembering my own childhood. I feel lucky to have grown up in my family, and being home for a few days reminds me of this. My parents were good parents because they were never afraid to be bad ones.

My mother would pull us out of school on the sole principal that she'd have thought of something far more fun to do that day. My father created epic bedtime stories based around the comedic value of snot. We had picnics on the living room floor, and our house had ants for two months every year.

I once secretly kept a cat in the garage for two weeks, before it escaped into the house on Christmas Day. It was discovered in the kitchen, where it had eaten the unattended turkey, which it then shit on. We ate beans on toast. I don't remember being punished. We gave our parents a lot of grief over the years, but there was always an unspoken rule that if our misdemeanours were genuinely funny, we were basically off the hook.

Our parents made it up as they went along, and I'm sure at certain points during the kerfuffle, four kids under the age of eleven must have seemed like the dumbest idea ever. I asked my mum about this today.

"Well, it was hard. Of course it was hard," she sighs. "But it was so much fun."




Tuesday, March 20, 2012

If Your CV Were Awesome


Like Facebook, grammar and the exact definition of what irony is, CVs are a good idea gone horribly wrong because society gives far too much attention to them. Your CV should tell your employer what it would actually be like to work with you. I mean, obviously, brag about yourself. But your 'keen' interest in swimming? Keen? KEEN? You sound like Marty McFly's mum when she was being a skank in the first movie.


As someone who is currently temping as an administrative IT person, let me tell you this: it's absolutely fine. The atmosphere is pleasant, the work is easy and at least once every hour, someone in the office says "Y'wan anything from the shop?" to which you are at liberty to respond: Yes. I would like a Flake. But do I have a passion for administrative IT skills? Of course not. Because only a sociopath possibly could.

However, because of the pantomime involved in CV creation, you have no other option but to craft a version of yourself that does have a passion for administrative IT skills. You are also equally as capable working independently, or as part of a large team. Oh, and you're also a self-starting individual. An energetic go-getter. And did you mention how much you love meeting new people? Jesus Christ. New people. New people are your crack.

Not as much as you love challenges though! Preferably NEW challenges.

And targets! God, don't get you started on targets. You smash those targets, and you get an almost sexual joy from doing it.

If this person really existed, no one would hire him. And if that person does exist, then he is that guy in your office that smells like gravy and collects human hair.




In a perfect world, this is how every graduate CV would look.

PERSONAL PROFILE:

Hard working and eager young graduate, desperate to claw up the ladder of success without being a dick about it. Makes a decent tea. Open to sleeping around, but for lolz rather than any professional outcome. Will admit to own farts.

EDUCATION:


2002 - 2008: Some Bullshit Secondary School Somewhere

I know what you're thinking. No, I wasn't really 'involved'. I didn't participate in a single sporting event, I never debated, and I never set up a model UN in my school. This one time I sold bracelets for Amnesty International, but I haven't included that here, because I only did it to get the afternoon off class.

I was basically the Matthew Broderick of my school. Everyone loved me, which I was unaware of, but still appreciated. This one time I hi-jacked a float and lip-synced to Twist and Shout. Bitches loved it.


2008 - 2011: Some Bullshit University Somewhere

I did a three year degree in a non-specific course, that wasn't medicine, finance, law or some sort of useful language. I did this because, at 18, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, and wanted to keep my options open. I'm aware that, to most companies, this will make me ever-so-slightly less appealing than the dude with the international finance thing going on. But hey, I'm about growth, and assessing options, and keeping an open mind. Which is probably what your company is about, too. If it's not, your company  sucks.

EMPLOYMENT HISTORY:


2004 - 2006: Some place. I don't really remember. 


My uncle had this friend who had this company and I went there for a couple of weeks every summer, because everyone said it would be 'good experience'. It wasn't, really. I didn't really benefit from it in any tangible way. But I still did it, because I liked money and I was good at being told what to do. Which is, in my opinion, the most important cornerstones of being a good employee.


2008 - 2011: Miscellaneous Retail and/or Fast Food Chain

In university I took a series of low-commitment jobs because I really wanted to move out of my parents house, and I liked getting drunk three times a week. Here, I learned the value of working through, nay, celebrating a hangover. I also learned to put up with the unbearable amount of bullshit both the public and my sycophantic assistant manager was willing to throw at me. I have not, as of yet, received a medal.


2010 - 2012:  A Bunch of Crap I Did For Free, and Will Now Try to Pass Off as Gainful Employment


Nobody paid me to show up, every single day for six weeks, to that PR firm, or that Advertising Agency, or that Web Design place. No one asked me if I wanted a tea, even though I always made sure to make tea for everyone else. No one thanked me when I finished. When you call this place looking for a reference, it will take three transfers and fifteen minutes to find anyone who even remembers who I am. But I did it anyway, because somebody conned me into thinking it would look good on my CV, and if it doesn't, then I'm about to go Columbine on your ass.

ACHIEVEMENTS:

  • I once won a really, really long game of Jenga. (nerves of steel)
  • I can eat a really, really impressive amount of McNuggets. (determination)
  • Dogs like me on sight. (character)


PERSONAL INTERESTS:

I don't have any hobbies, because I think they're a little gay. There is no sober recreational activity I do with any real regularity. That doesn't mean I don't do stuff though! I do stuff all the time. This one time, me and my friends went camping, just for the hell of it. It was a lot of effort. Something something, leadership skills.

Did I mention the nuggets?


Saturday, March 10, 2012

10 Things That Make You An Insatiable Badass

Let's play a game. Think about how much you earn in a single week. Write that figure down on a piece of paper. Half that number. Now imagine that this is how much you earn. Now imagine, for just a moment, that you have four children, two of whom have expensive disabilities. Now imagine how much money you would be financially comfortable giving any one of those children as pocket money. Because you're a kind parent, and what is a child that isn't given the opportunity to realize the value of money? Exactly.

That value. That number. That is the amount of money I live on.

This is fine, for the most part. My needs are few: my loved ones are charitable. But every now and then, when the elderly man behind me in the Lidl queue has to give me 10p so I can eat that day, or when the bus driver lets me on for free because my Oyster card has made that horrible "THERE'S NO MONEY ON THIS" sound, I feel something akin to... well, not shame. But something a bit like shame. It's more like an exhausted sense of awkwardness, something that goes off in my brain that says "Oh, that's just me again. Being shit."

This occasional ego tumble: you get it too, don't you? You get it when you notice some upper arm fat that had previously escaped your notice, or when your ex-boyfriend announces his engagement, or when your four year old looks you dead in the eye and says "I hate your fat arms." But it's ok, because there are actually tons of things in life that will make you feel like a total badass again.


10. Standing un-aided on public transport

Look at you. You're standing upright on a moving object. Handrail? What do you need a handrail for? What are you, some kind of woman? Your grace is so refined that you can last this whole journey by planting your feet slightly apart and glaring at fellow passengers.

9. Long coats

An incomplete list of people who wear long coats: Doctors, Benedict Cumberbatch in Sherlock, every spy ever, Silent Bob, Angel, Rick Astley in the Never Gonna Give You Up Video.



Badasses, each and every single one.


8. Downing the rest of your drink, then slamming it on the table

Since I gave up smoking (an act so dull, romantic and miserable that it didn't even warrant a blog post) I've been struggling for ways to exert my badassery while partaking in night-time social activities. There is a thousand ways you can be a badass while smoking. You can stub out your cigarette emphatically when someone pisses you off, you can inhale deeply when you're thinking, you can exhale exhaustedly when someone is being dumb. Ahh, smoking. 


Smoking: you will always have my heart. Just maybe not my lung capacity?




The best alternative I can offer is the art of finishing your drink. When you have half a whiskey left, and someone looks at their watch and says "Shit, we've gotta go." There is nothing for you to do but knock back your glass, slam it on the table and then put on your long coat. This may, some will argue, make you look masculine. I maintain it makes you look like a lady Clint Eastwood. (awesome)

7. Rap music

I exist outside the traditional demographic of rap music, in that I am a woman, and also white. It doesn't matter though, because when I'm listening to Childish Gambino (Donald Glover, of Community, and sexiness fame) say: Whiskey-sippin’, wanna drink the whole bottle / But these smart middle-class black kids need a role model in Not Going Back I might as well be a role model for smart middle-class black kids, because that is what cultural voyeurism is. When he says "I am running this bitch, you are just a dog-walker" on Freaks and Geeks I am endowed with an enormous sense of well-being. Like I can turn around to everyone I've ever met and say "Hey guys? I've got this."


I recommend listening to rap music while partaking in activities 4, 6 and10 for an optimal experience of each.


(This was kind of an excuse to talk about Donald Glover, but it still applies)






6. Running across a really busy road

Because saying "Screw you, cars." is effectively like saying to the world: "Get bent, death. Fuck off, sense of mortality. I DO WHAT I WANT."

5. Having your controversial opinion re-tweeted


Being re-tweeted is like the small, bite-size daily version of winning a Pulitzer. Aim for one a week.

4. Hurling yourself through a train door, moments before it closes


You're like the other story line in Sliding Doors. Y'know, the one where Gwyneth Paltrow gets home, discovers her boyfriend has been cheating on her, reinvents her life and goes out wiith John Hannah. And gets some wonderful new hair. Hurtling yourself through a train door is the secret to perfect hair.

Paltrow outside train:


Drab. Lifeless. Without edge. This is the person equivalent of a day-old M&S salad.

Paltrow post-train dive:



Savvy post-feminist woman of the world! Owner of black v-neck! Rester of head on hand! Serious woman, to be taken seriously.


3. Looking good in men's clothes


As I've said time and time again here, shopping for clothes bums me out. This isn't because I don't like looking good, but because I feel like the vast majority of clothing retailers have no interest in making me look good. In fact, the vast majority of clothing retailers feel that in order for the clothing industry to exist at all, 'fashion' has to be 'a thing'. This means that every three months, Topshop comes up with an arbitrary idea of what I'm supposed to want to look like. This will be based on some kind of cross-breed person they have invented, loosely based on Una Healy, Florence Welch and Fearne Cotton.

What the high street is failing to notice though is that I (and, I'm assuming, thousands of other women like me) don't want to look like any of these people. I just want to look like a cooler version of myself. And I want to be comfortable. And I don't want to worry about my floral print clashing with my zebra print, because I have real, less boring problems to worry about.

It turns out that men have been onto this FOR YEARS. These beliefs are essentially the cornerstones of male fashion. This is why, when I throw on a dude's pair of skinny jeans and a vest, I am almost outraged to discover that I look better in this then I do in my own clothes. I know that I will get more shit done today than I will any other day this week. I know that in Costa coffee I will be able to say, stridently and confidently "Actually, I asked for no foam." and maybe even add "Foam makes me gassy."

Because I look good in men's clothes, and you probably do too.


2. Shark t-shirts


If you do not own a shark t-shirt, I highly recommend picking one up. This one I got up for a pound.






Wear this during any of the listed activities, for an optimal experience of each.


1. Realizing, for any length of time, that you actually don't give a shit. 


On Sunday morning of last week, I sat back from the hangover I was eating my way through and realized something, and it was that I was happy. I realized that even though I am a full stone above my 'dream' weight, and even though I have a soft little belly where, ideally, thinness should be and even though my fringe is still doing that thing and even though my skin has re-erupted from falling asleep in my make-up again - I realized that I'm actually happy with how I look. I rubbed my belly with the fondness one would offer a teacup pig: oh you sweet, hideous little thing. You are the physical manifestation of eating too much, drinking too much, and generally having fun. And that's actually fine.

I don't know who this woman is.

I resolved that today, I would not lie to myself and say "tomorrow, I'm going to go for a run." I would not attempt to forget to eat dinner, because I had a big lunch. Because, well, fuck that.

This lasted until the next day, where I promptly hated myself and my body again. Because nothing very good, or very bad, lasts very long.



Monday, March 5, 2012

'Why Am I Still Sitting Down Eating Cheese?' and Other Quandries

Recently, while watching Simon Amstell's stand-up show 'Do Nothing', I began subscribing to Simon's quasi-Buddhist explanation of the world: that imagining things makes them so. If you can convincingly imagine your dream situation, the universe will indeed provide it. Because the universe is effectively Amazon, where things can be arbitrarily added to your 'wishlist' without there ever being the pressure to Proceed to Checkout. Because it couldn't possibly hurt, I cautiously wrote down a list of my hopes and dreams lately. I got the big ones out of the way early.

Caroline's List of Hopes and Dreams

Become the editor of a national magazine

Write a critically acclaimed but commercially failed sit-com

Write a commercially successful yet critically unpopular chick lit novel

I stepped back from the list. God, check me out. I have goals. And ambitions! I'm Rory Gilmore, Lisa Simpson and Clarissa Explains it All. Acknowledging a game plan felt spectacular. I picked up the pen again, and tentatively added one more thing to the list. 

Own an iPhone. 

I closed my notebook. Three days later, Chris decided he wanted a new iPhone and gave me his old one. A week later, I had an interview with one of my favourite magazines. I couldn't believe it. The dream list was coming true! Now the sitcom thing should be easy. 

Sitcoms are important to me, and of all forms of entertainment, they're probably my favourite. This was an accepted preference in the nineties when the best things on TV was Just Shoot Me! and Veronica's Closet. Since the rise of the 40-minute HBO drama, TV has become less simple. The Wire happened. Mad Men happened. The friggin' Borgias happened. TV became less about mindlessly absorbing entertainment and more about being invested and being involved and plot twists and clever storylines and THINKING, THINKING, SO MUCH RUDDY THINKING. TV shows are now as exhausting as trying to escape an Escher painting, and the chances of me watching TV has become about likely as being trapped in an Escher painting. In fact, I would not be surprised if HBO were currently green-lighting a series that involved six characters running up and down infinite stairs while questioning the morality of their crack habits.

Let's call it "Crazy Stairs"!


I love 30-minute sitcoms, because they're just like real life, only more attractive, funnier, and most importantly: everything always works out. In a sitcom, the worst thing that's going to happen is that a character is going to get off with another character, slightly perturbing a third character. In a proper, modern shiny TV show, the worst thing that's going to happen is that every character dies, the world's economy collapses and Journey will have another comeback. As a partially employed urchin currently wearing men's clothing and blue nail varnish, I just cannot take this kind of stress.

As with many people in their early twenties (we'll let the "in this economy" part go unsaid) my life is a series of loose ends. Or, to add more severity and drama to the situation, my life is in a position where it feels as if it could go either way. Either I will be a roaring success or I will stumble, fail to live on a freelancers salary, have an emotional breakdown, move back to Ireland, buy a guniea pig and spend the rest of my days as a children's entertainer who dresses like Gadget from The Rescue Rangers.


Or, to summarize it more neatly: I will be either a Rachel, or a Daisy.

The Dream


THE FEAR


We all know who the woman in the first photo is. That's Rachel. We love Rachel. Rachel moved to New York because she didn't want to marry her orthodontist fiancé, Barry. Or, to tweak it slightly so it fits my exact set of circumstances, she saw her life fast becoming a dull and formulaic one, that she fell into, rather then really asked for. She knew that she needed to change, but she didn't really have an inkling as to how, or why. She stayed with Monica. She got a job as a waitress. She gradually got to know herself. She got a terrible job sorting hangers, but hey, at least it's in 'fashion', right? She got a better job as a buyer for Bloomingdales, she eventually got an even better job at Ralph Lauren. She worked hard. She went on dates. Her parents divorced. She worked hard. She wore great clothes. She had great hair. Ross cheated on her. She survived, because she's a survivor. She had a baby, but no big deal. Everything worked out.

Women have been obsessed with Rachel for over a decade, and we've palmed off all our hopes and beliefs in Rachel on to poor Jennifer Aniston. This is why every magazine in the world gets irritated when her life isn't going to plan, i.e, she hasn't gotten re-married OR stabbed Angelina Jolie through the heart with her shoe. Because Rachel Green wouldn't have let that happen. We need Rachel Green. Rachel Green is what we whisper through gritted teeth while we're serving coffee but thinking about our thesis, scanning barcodes while thinking, godamnit knowing, that we're better than this.



The woman in the second photo is Daisy Steiner from the cult British sitcom Spaced. Daisy lives with Tim. Daisy wants to be a journalist? Sort of? She isn't that sure. She plods along. She writes an article on winter skin care. She plods some more. She gets stoned before going to a magazine interview. She says 'girl power'. She never, ever has sex. She has crap clothes. Things work out for her, presumably, but not in the shiny aspirational way it can work out for Rachel. We can assume it involves eating cheese and sitting down. 

Daisy is a great sitcom character, but you don't want to be her, do you? Rachel and Daisy are the classic angel-and-devil on your shoulder, except instead of representing good and evil, they represent what you could be and how you will end up if you don't get it together. 

In sitcom world, 'getting it together' is just a matter of staging the right montage, and 2012 has been a focused attempt on my part to achieve a perfect sit-com reality. I cut my hair! I stopped smoking, almost! I got an English boyfriend! I got some freelance work! Why am I still sitting down eating cheese?  

Because, as I'm learning perilously slowly, life is nothing but a constant battle to not sit down, forever, and eat cheese. When you get fired from the job you hate and immediately get so drunk you fall asleep on your friend's floor in Kentish Town, that's when it's ok to be a Daisy. When you get up the next morning and interview two aspiring rock stars for money, that is when you absolutely have to be a Rachel. And when your new shiny English boyfriend leaves for work at 8am, it is your goddamned job to get out of bed, eat his cereal and write something. Even if you have nothing to write about. Even if you end up googling pictures of Jennifer Aniston for an hour. Even if the whole blog post is utter gash. Because you wrote a list, and then you got an iPhone, and that means anything is possible.