Posts Tagged ‘things I know nothing about’

Maybe Baby

February 4, 2011

Being a girl isn’t so bad.  Or at least, that’s what you think until you’re about seven and someone sits a bunch of you down in a room and tells you you’re going to bleed out of an orifice you didn’t even know you had for a week every month for the next 50 years.

You will eventually come to terms with this news – although probably only because a pair of boobs seem to be included in the deal and suddenly nobody wants to talk to you unless you’re at least a B-cup – and everything goes back to being pretty rosy until they sit you all down again to show you a video of someone giving birth, at which point you generally start to think something along the lines of ‘sod this for a game of bloody soldiers’.  (Years later it will occur to you that while your teacher was carefully laying out the lifetime of gynecological torture which awaited you, the boys were off being given condoms and told it was ok to masturbate.)

In hindsight, though, I think the birth video should be a bit more graphic.  A bit of sweating and groaning and a glimpse of afterbirth?  Your average teenage female product of Broken Britain would happily endure that in her bid to rise triumphantly to the top of the council housing list.  Maybe if they knew a little more about what birth is really like, they would think twice.

For the record: I have not given birth, nor have I actually witnessed someone else doing so in person.  But being at a certain stage in my life – i.e. 7 months away from being a married woman – I am starting to seriously consider the idea that at some point it is probably going to happen to me.

Thanks to a family full of children you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy, I grew up with a fierce conviction that I would never breed.  I clung to this conviction well into early adulthood, but unfortunately what my mum told me once turns out to be true: one day you just wake up and want a baby.  I mean this literally.  For a week I had nightmares about babies every night – forgetting a baby on a bus, leaving a baby on a sofa and accidentally sitting on it, dropping a baby in a pool.  I woke up from these dreams relieved that in real life I wanted nothing to do with babies.  And then I had a different dream – a dream where once the baby was handed to me it was the one thing I wanted in the entire world, a dream where I carried it around in one of those sling things and swelled with pride as everyone cooed over it, a dream where I loved the baby so much that I would rip the throat out of anyone who ever dared hurt it.  I woke up and was actually nearly in tears when I realised that this baby did not exist.  And just like that, I felt the first tick – my biological clock was off and running.

I should clarify for any gossip-mongering friends (hi James) or horror-striken relatives (hi Mum) who may be reading: I AM NOT TRYING TO GET PREGNANT YET.  I have a wedding dress to fit into in seven months, after all.  Please remain calm.)

So, to hop back on my original train of thought – I have never given birth, or seen anyone else do so in person.  What I have done, however, is watched too many episodes of One Born Every Minute and spent far too long on pregnancy forums trying to pretend that my morbid fascination was borne out of a genuine interest in the process I was going to have to go through if I was ever going to get that baby.  In the course of this research I have learned the following things:

1:  I want the drugs.  I have no intention of being one of these “oh, I want a peaceful natural birth” women.  No.  I want the drugs.  All of the drugs.  I know I am not even pregnant but if someone could just start getting the drugs ready right now so I know they will be there when I need them, that would be great, thank you.  And don’t talk to me about the drugs not being a good idea because it has been twenty years since my mother last gave birth and she is STILL going on about how much she loves gas and air.

2:  I do not want to give birth in Southampton General Hospital’s maternity ward. This is unfortunate as I live in Southampton and am too poor for private pregnancy healthcare.

3:  If I do have to give birth in Southampton General, I REALLY don’t want to do it with the help of the sweet, charming and actually-sort-of-cute male midwife.  I’m sure he’s great at his job but I even lock the door to keep my own fiance out of the bathroom while I’m using the toilet.  What I am getting at is that if it really is absolutely necessary for me to do an accidental poo in front of another human being I would much prefer it to be a woman because chances are it has happened to them too, so I will not be obliged to die of embarrassment. 

4:  Chris will be staying next to my head and will at no point be allowed to look at any part of my body below my waist.  Without wishing to be too forward (hello again, Mum) I don’t want him to be having mental images of the bloody horror every time I take my pants off for the rest of my life.  I can accept that things are going to be messy down there but there is no reason for him to have to see it.  Also I know he would take great delight in describing it to me afterwards and frankly I don’t want to hear it.

5:  I am a vain and horrible person.  The pregnancy-related potential life changes which apparently concern me the most are stretch marks, saggy boobs, c-section scars, and a messed-up ‘downstairs’ area (I have been having nightmares about episiotomies ever since someone on a forum described the ‘gunshot’ sound they make).  I should probably be more concerned about the fact that childbirth has been killing women off since the dawn of time, but in this era of emergency caesareans and life-support systems I just can’t muster up any real worry about it.  The idea of a tummy covered in red zebra print patterns, however, makes me genuinely sad.  (It should be noted here that I am duly disgusted with myself, so please spare me the hate mail.)

Having said all this, though, I find it almost impossible now to remember why I used to be so adamant that I never wanted to have a baby.  I guess this change of perspective is actually fairly common in women my age, but it’s still very strange to feel your own opinions and priorities shift so dramatically in a relatively short period of time.  After all, it was only two years ago that I was babysitting my cousins and begging the youngest, Tommy, not to do a poo on the leather sofa, swearing blind that I would never ever put myself or my soft furnishings in this perilous situation.  Now, only a couple of short years later, I wander through the baby sections in clothes shops and find myself wondering whether it would be creepy to start buying baby things now to save myself having to spend a massive amount of money in the space of 9 months when I actually get pregnant.  (The answer to this question, incidentally, is “Yes, but if I keep them stashed in a box in the loft, nobody has to know.”)  

Whilst watching One Born Every Minute never fails to make me cringe and grit my teeth, it has also considerably eased my panic about hypothetically giving birth one day, which is a fairly surprising side effect for a program which has shown me – among other things – a woman crawling around on her bed unable to stop pooping because she ate after they told her not to, a woman who literally did not stop screaming throughout her entire labour, an army of gormless insensitive birth partners and more ugly red goblin-like babies than you can shake a stick at.  I think there’s something reassuring about the dowdy midwives who have seen it all before and rarely bat an eyelid at anything, the cheerful soundtrack they put over even the most gruesome scenes, and the cut-in post-birth interviews with the women (which serve to prove that they survived the experience and are even, in some cases, able to look back and laugh about it).

Once you get over your squeamishness about birth (if, that is, you actually manage to) you are left with a surprisingly clear idea of what the whole thing is all about.  Despite all the horror stories about morning sickness, sciatica, weird cravings, stretch marks, and getting stuck in the bath and having to wait for your partner to come home and heave you out (I’m not joking – there are some hilarious stories on those forums), you will eventually realise that for all your secret, desperate c-section hopes, for all your fretting about stretch marks and your boobs migrating towards your feet, all that really matters is that at the end of all of it, you hear that first scream, and the woman who has seen you through your ordeal hands you a healthy baby.  And when you think about how cool a moment it must be to meet your own child for the first time, all the stuff that comes before suddenly doesn’t seem so daunting.  Although, having said that, I’ve always been secretly convinced that my first words to my first child will be along the lines of “DON’T YOU EVER. DO THAT. AGAIN.”

Aww, will you look at that.  I wanted to come up with a funny ending but I just ended up getting all soppy.  I really must be getting broody.  When is my implant good ’til again?

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Nothing says ‘faith in God’ like four inches of bulletproof glass

September 21, 2010

There are two surefire ways to make a Catholic priest sweat.  The first is pretty obvious, but if you don’t have any small choirboys to hand you could always try the second.  (Zing!)  This involves putting a priest in a classroom with two dementedly zealous teenage atheists for a ‘question and answer’ session.  This hilarious method of priest torture was devised by my high school RE teacher in an effort to get out of actually doing any teaching himself.  Most of my classmates were wholly uninterested, but my friend Linnhe and I put on our most innocent faces and bombarded him with such questions as “if my dad is a good man but an atheist, will he go to hell”, “do you actually have any good reason to believe the Bible is any more valid than the Quran”, “how come all the weird rules about not wearing two types of fabric together and not planting two crops in the same field are now irrelevant but being gay is still wrong” and “what about the dinosaurs”.  Eventually he went red in the face, started stammering and ended up leaving fifteen minutes early.  It was brilliant.  (I am also of the opinion that if your faith can’t stand up to forty five minutes of interrogation by two sixteen year olds, you’re a pretty shit priest.)

I am reminded of this, of course, by the Pope’s visit.  I am not going to bitch about it being taxpayer funded, because after all, I’d rather my taxes paid for an old man to have a nice holiday and meet the Queen than for free heroin for the drug addicts who burgled my house, benefits for Keith McDonald’s 10 children by 10 mothers, etc etc.  I am not the biggest pope fan but clearly a lot of people think he is the dude, so whatever.

I will say that considering the current gigantic hoo-hah over the Catholic church covering up child abuse cases, I thought the Pope should maybe have toned down the baby-kissing.  You know?  Just sayin’.  Probably not the best strategy right now.  “You all think I lead a church full of child rapists so I’m going to come to your country and kiss all your babies to persuade you otherwise.”  Didn’t think that one through.

In all seriousness though, about the whole Catholic child abuse thing, I don’t honestly think the Pope can be blamed for it.  Maybe the way he’s handling it isn’t totally right, but at the end of the day, the Pope is just a very very old, fairly frail and possibly quite ill man who believes that he speaks directly to God and that everything he says is therefore infallible.  Can you honestly tell me that if any other 83 year old man started saying he was speaking to God, he wouldn’t just be diagnosed with dementia and sent off to a home?  What I am getting at here is, the Pope is maybe, JUST MAYBE, a bit too old for everyone to expect him to single handedly end child abuse by priests, so let’s ease up on him a bit, eh? 

Which leads me on to the conversation I had with Chris when our channel-surfing landed us on some Pope-related coverage.  Watching him bless something or other, Chris commented that he didn’t seem to have any inflated sense of himself or look like he thought he was particularly important.  He then used the phrase, “I mean obviously he knows he’s the Pope, but…” which I thought was hilarious.  What if he actually doesn’t know he’s the Pope?  Maybe he’s just some really confused old gent from some Polish old people’s home who they brought in to do the job when they couldn’t agree on an actual priest.  I think that might not actually be a bad gig for some confused old guy; getting all dressed up, living in a big fancy house, millions of people all over the world thinking you are The Man.  And you’re allowed to believe whatever crazy shit you like and they won’t strap you down and give you the pills.  Brilliant.

(I suppose I should end this by addressing the Catholics, before the emails start pouring in: I apologise.  But I’m not sorry.)

Dear Sisterhood: I apologise but I am not sorry.

September 13, 2010

People expect me to be a feminist.  I’ve always found this a little disconcerting.  As far as I can see, the expectation is based on other aspects of my personality – my slight tendency towards tomboyishness (much less pronounced now than it was when I was 18), my reputation for occasionally-too-brutal honesty, and my almost total lack of traditionally ladylike qualities.

I can see why people might think i’m the kind of girl who’s likely to harbour odious feminist ideals, but as my use of the adjective ‘odious’ clearly implies, I don’t.  In fact, I find stereotypical feminist views and ideas embarrasing, and to be honest, a little silly and outdated.

Now I’m not totally ignorant, and I acknowledge that once upon a time there was a definite perception of women as lesser beings and that feminism, as it arose then, was necessary and revolutionary and wonderful, and it worked.  We got the vote, we’re allowed to have careers, and speaking as a fairly average 22 year old woman, I don’t remember even one single incident in my life where I’ve felt that I was at a disadvantage because of my gender.  If anything, my gender has actually demonstrated a good few advantages, even if only of the free drinks variety.  Hey, it saves me money, so I’m not complaining.

If you read the news a lot – or even if you just spend some time talking to young women of around my age – you’ll probably find that I’m not the only one who feels this way.  We don’t feel the need to fight to be equal to men, because most of us have never been made to feel that we’re not already equal to men.  And with, effectively, nothing left to prove, we feel free to make the choices we actually want to make, instead of feeling that by making those choices we are ‘betraying’ some kind of ‘sacred sisterhood’.

Yes, I could have gone to university – I did well in school, and am ‘above average’ in the IQ department – and got degrees, had a high-flying well-paid career and owned my own house by the time I’m thirty and blah blah blah.  But those things are just accomplishments, and I’m not wired to look for accomplishment – I’m wired to look for happiness.  I know myself well enough to know that a high-pressure career and lots of money wouldn’t make me happy at all, so I chose to drop out of college and start working in easy jobs with average paychecks, so I’d have the chance to meet lots of people and enjoy being young.  I can already do the one thing I considered studying at uni (creative writing) and had no specific career aspirations or requirements.  So I lived in delapidated shared houses with friends, and I worked whatever temp jobs the agency sent my way, and I went out four nights a week and had the time of my life.  Financially I wasn’t well-off at all, but for the most part I was at least happy.  Then I got lucky and met the love of my life and got engaged when I was 20, we found a nice little flat we could afford, and we’ll be married when we’re both 23.  I’d like to have children when I’m around 25 or 26, the age my mum was when she had me.  I have a reasonably well-paid job which I’m not horrifically bad at, I get on with most of my colleagues and get good benefits from my employers – private healthcare and a casual dress code which allows me to wear jeans and a hoodie to work.  But I’d be lying through my teeth if I said I don’t sometimes look forward to leaving full-time work to be a housewife and mother, and I’m going to stick my neck out a bit here and say that those are totally natural desires for a woman to experience.

Look at the increase in women giving birth later in life, the increase in IVF treatment, and the advent of services like internet dating sites and speed dating.  It’s very, very obvious that women still WANT a husband and babies, but they’re too busy with their careers – and I wonder if that’s because they really want to spend their prime reproductive years slogging away in an office, or if it’s because just as there used to be pressure on women to be homemakers and mothers instead of having a career, there is now a pressure to have a career and be a high-flier, to compete with men and prove that you can bring home the bacon.

I think feminism has actually gone too far the other way now.  I’ve never felt that a man was pressuring me to stay in the kitchen, keep my mouth shut and supply a steady stream of apple pies; but I have frequently felt under pressure from feminists I’ve struck up conversation with to maintain my ‘independence’ on behalf of the (totally mythical) sisterhood, as if my desire to settle down and dedicate my life to having a happy home is indicative of some kind of weakness.

Frankly, these days it seems to take balls to do a woman’s work.

The Dating Game

September 11, 2010

I am hideously under-qualified to write an article with this title, having only been on one real date in my entire life.  It was dinner at an Italian restaurant with a lovely young man whose heart, I am ashamed to admit, I later summarily destroyed like the unfeeling harpy I obviously was at the tender, self-obsessed (and vaguely slutty) age of 19. 

Without wishing to brag, I am (was, anyway) a great date.  I don’t have expensive taste in food, habitually respond to the words “would you like to see the wine list” with “no, just bring me a large glass of your cheapest rosé”, and I won’t be mortally offended if I’m not instantly presented with a bunch of flowers or a Fabergé egg.  I am in fact rather strongly put off by the whiff of romance – which is why I have only ever been on one date.  Previous to this date, all my relationships had generally been of the ‘friends-who-eventually-got-together’ type so I hadn’t actually been required to put on my Sunday best and pretend to be a sophisticated lady – and ultimately if I had done this, nobody would have been fooled anyway.

People don’t seem to go on dates any more, and I think I know why: because dates are creepy.  Even now I’m engaged I don’t like the idea of constant romance; I like small, occasional romantic gestures, like an unexpected dinner at the local steakhouse, or a back rub, or a box of chocolates.  When discussing our wedding, we actively reject ideas we consider ‘too romantic’ because it’s just not who we are.  (To give you some background: we met at a karaoke night.  He sang ‘Gay Bar’.  We pretty much just slept at each others’ houses until we accidentally moved in together, then we deliberately moved somewhere else and he asked me to marry him.  The whole process took a year, during which he bought me two bunches of flowers, and a box of Maltesers when I was sick.  When he proposed I said ‘yes’, so clearly this is more than enough romance for me.)

Considering so much of popular culture is based almost entirely around the concept of dating (by ‘popular culture’ I suppose what I really mean is ‘reruns of Friends’, but still), I actually don’t remember the last time anyone I know went on a real date.  It doesn’t seem to be how things work any more.

In an effort to do some actual research for this article, I asked my lovely friend Amelia the following questions:

  1. Have you ever been on a date?
  2. If not, why not?
  3. If yes, what did you think of the whole experience?

In retrospect Amelia was the wrong person to ask, because she has been with her charming boyfriend Scott since they were 15, and as we all know the proper procedure for obtaining a partner at that age is a note saying “will you be my girlfriend tick Yes or No”.   She has never been on a date because he has never asked and so now thanks to my journalistic integrity, I have had to stem the tears by agreeing to take her on a ‘lady date’ on Thursday.  Needless to say I won’t be consulting anyone else.

This might just be the way my friends do things, but it seems that the accepted protocol now is to fancy someone within a big group, eventually kiss them, and from then on you are an item.  I actually quite like this method: it eradicates the “when should we meet each others’ friends” problem, gives the people who know you best ample opportunity to point out potentially massive character flaws before you get in too deep, and saves you being stuck in the awkward No Man’s Land of having nothing to say to each other on a date – which, having said that, never happened on my one and only date. I was the MASTER of entertaining conversation and feminine charm.  This was actually part of the problem: I was far too good at the whole thing.  It gave him the wrong idea and the aforementioned Amelia, who was my housemate at the time, gave me a good scolding for letting him kiss me as I tried to show him out when he dropped me off later, when all I was actually trying to do was give the evening some closure so he would leave and I could put my pyjamas on and play Xbox in bed for a bit.

As dating has never been part of my life it’s not something I can miss now that I’m engaged, and to be fair I go on more ‘dates’ with Chris than I would ever have wanted to go on with random single guys back the depths of my single days.  I’m actually quite glad I didn’t waste swathes of my time and money sitting in restaurants looking at hopeful, freshly-shaven faces over my pasta, thinking “I should really stop being so charming because I’m not wearing matching underwear and I don’t want to have to explain why I’m not going to put out”.

In conclusion: it might have worked for the cast of Friends, but I’m glad I never had to do it.  And if you think about it, the only couple in Friends who ended up ‘happily ever after’ were Monica and Chandler, who basically accidentally had sex and it escalated from there.  Ultimately, I think that’s the modern way.

How Not To Lose Weight

June 19, 2010

Yes, I have written about weight loss before, blah blah blah.  But it bears repeating I guess, and to be fair I do have a new perpective now as I am actually trying to lose weight, instead of just pontificating about losing weight whilst sitting on my arse eating fish finger sandwiches.

I’ll start off by making my excuses for my own weight, which is currently 12.5 stone.  When a celebrity dares to reach this weight, they are said to have ‘ballooned’, so it is clearly a pretty sad state of affairs to be in.  I’m not the kind of overweight girl who immediately becomes derisive of slim, pretty women and overly defensive of my own right to be ‘curvy’; after all, I was curvy when I weighed 10st.  Curvy is not a weight, it is a shape.  12.5st on the other hand, is a weight, and medically speaking it’s 2st too much of it.

My excuse for this 2st is, I think, a reasonable one (i.e. it has nothing to do with an insatiable desire for pies).  In March last year I did some basic maths and realised that my luck in the lottery known as ‘barrier contraception’ was statistically bound to run out sooner or later.  What with my aim of being married and at least 25 before I even onsider cranking out sprogs, something had to be done.  So off to Wikipedia and WebMD I went, and after many hours of weighing up the cancer risks of various different contraceptives, I decided on the contraceptive implant.  Before you ask, it hurt like a bitch, but I was working on the assumption that compared to childbirth it would be the lesser of two evils.

In much the same way, I was aware that weight gain was a side effect of the implant, but thought I’d rather be alittle bit fat indefinitely than be really fat for 9  months and then give birth to the extra weight.  On reflection, however, being a little bit fat is fucking awful.  You can look at yourself in the mirror and genuinely think you arae actually quite slim, but then someone takes a photo from the wrong angle and you suddenly look like a whale with a bad case of water retention.  (On the other hand my boobs are now a D – occasionally a DD, depending on where I’m shopping – so it’s swings and roundabouts, I guess.)

Anyway, I would estimate – although I can’t know for sure as I’ve never been a fan of weighing myself – that within 2 months I’d put on 2 stone.  Even though in that time I also went from a B/C cup to  DD, I couldn’t really fool myself that the whole 2st was boob weight.

My weight has not increased or fluctuated at all since this one, hormone-induced increase, which does at least reassure me that my lifestyle is healthy enough to maintain a steady weight rather than putting it on – but I can no longer escape the fact that I need to lose 2st before I can feel smug about my weight-maintaining abilities. 

I recently spent a week trialling the Cambridge Weight Plan, against my better judgement, on the recommendation of a friend.  Put simply, it’s a liquid diet with a daily calorie intake of only 400, designed to induce ketosis and therefore cause rapid, dramatic weight loss.  What I liked before starting was the idea of removing food from the equation completely, giving myself some distance from temptation so that essentially when I came back off the diet I would be so grateful just to be allowed to chew things that I would happily settle for a mountain of salads.  Unfortunately, what actually happened was this:  I became a nervy, tearful, neurotic superbitch and my teeth started to feel like they were going to fall out.  I rapidly came to my senses and took Chris out for a pub lunch.

Another feature of the Cambridge Weight Plan is that you have to drink 2 litres of water a day.  Now I drink a lot of water anyway, but 2 litres a day will turn you into a never-ending river of pee, and frankly I was getting bored of making the arduous journey to the toilets every twenty minutes.  When you wake up in the night to pee, having been woken up by dreams about peeing, YOU ARE PEEING TOO MUCH, end of story. 

The thing is, deep down I knew the CWP was an awful idea.  It’s social suicide, it’s boring, the soups taste like gritty sewage, and medically speaking it is questionable at best and downright retarded at worst.  So why did I do it?  Because despite all my sensible blabbering, I too long for instant gratification.  Lose 1st in two weeks?  Yes please!  Alas, it is not that simple, and my natural, boring sensibleness kicked in and ruined all my unrealistic high hopes.  Still, I’m kind of glad I have confirmed to myself once and for all that weight loss needs to be earned, not bought.

So now my foray into dangerously-retarded-land is over, I need to really get down to business and lose some weight.  Do I have a plan?  Yes, and it largely consists of scouring every recipe book Weight Watchers have ever published for stuff I’ll actually eat voluntarily, and stocking my workstation with dried fruit, nuts, and green tea bags.  It’s not the most sophisticated plan, but it’s a start.

Size 10, here I come!