Tag Archives: parents

“Are You Going To Do It Like That?”

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My favourite moment in Shakespeare In Love is when the players are rehearsing Romeo and Juliet, and one of them says a line in a silly, melodramatic voice.  Ben Affleck’s character Ned stops acting, turns to his colleague and asks “Are you going to do it like that?” in a voice dripping with disbelief and disdain.  Thinking about that moment always makes me laugh, except when it occurs to me just before I’m about to do something stupid.  At that point it makes me laugh, but also rethink my actions.

It would be wonderful to go through life doing everything graciously and well, but unfortunately we are humans and therefore unlikely to be able to maintain that sort of thing indefinitely.  The best we can aim for is being gracious and grown-up when it matters most, and even though I’m not sure how many of these I manage to do myself, here are a few key moments when I think Ben Affleck’s disdain might come in handy to prevent disaster.

  • Breaking up with someone: hard to do, but important to get right.  Breaking up with someone is about being respectful and considerate, not patronising or vindictive.
  • Being broken up with: equally difficult, and still about respect.  In this case, self-respect.  Your job as the broken-up-with party in a relationship is to occupy yourself with being a brilliant human being, not reducing yourself to a rejected mess.
  • Pursuing your passion: go for what you want in life, but do it well.  Work hard, don’t be bitter about other people’s success, and accept that you probably won’t be an overnight success story.
  • Losing: don’t be grumpy.
  • Winning: don’t be smug.
  • Talking about your parents: in most cases, our parents did the best job they knew how to do.  Even if they didn’t quite succeed, there’s no point dwelling on it.  You’re a grown-up now, and you can make yourself happy.
  • Watching television: don’t talk over the dialogue, don’t commandeer the remote and for heaven’s sake don’t force anyone to watch a reality television show.

Like I said, I’m not sure how many of these I actually manage to do myself.  The other thing about being gracious is that it’s a habit we have to learn over time, and hopefully knowing where to start – with life’s key moments – will help us to get there.  In the meantime, I’m going to put the kettle on.  Does anyone want a tea or coffee?

Peter Pan Possibilities

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Hello, lovely reader.  Are you having a nice day so far?

I’m very lucky that I came home from Edinburgh and got to see lots of my favourite people straight away.  It was an excellent way to stave off the post-Fringe blues.  As I type this I am sitting in my living room with two of my closest friends, talking about wedding shoes and boys and cheese (obviously).  We have a Sex and the City DVD on in the background and a lot of food on the table.  We are also all creative types doing bits and pieces of work on our laptops, so it’s a productive day as well as a very enjoyable one.  I am very happy right now.

Yesterday was not quite so good – I got a bit mopey about having to deal with real-life responsibilities again, and told my friend Laura that I didn’t want to be a grown up.  Her response was “Being a grown up is great.  It’s exactly the same as being a child, but you don’t have to answer to your parents.”

I decided to look on the bright side (as per the recommendation of those charming Monty Python chaps), and have a think about what some of the small but significant benefits of being a grown up actually are, particularly those that would have massively appealed to us as children.  Here are a few of my favourites:

1) You can stay up until 4am watching The Vicar of Dibley drinking Cava if you want to (which may or may not be what we did last night).  Bedtimes are a thing of the past.

2) You can do a massive jigsaw puzzle whenever you feel like it, and you don’t have to put it away until you want to.

3) You can have serious, adult conversations about life, love etc. AND you can have the same silly conversations as you did when you were a kid.  Example: “I don’t understand why anyone would bring up politics on a first date.”  “No, me neither.  Who do you think invented cheesecake?  I mean, it was a great idea, but it’s a bit of a random thing to make.”

4) Your household organisation system is entirely your own.  (There is a bizarre satisfaction to be had from deciding where to keep your mugs.)

5) You go on trips to museums, take long walks and read books because you actually want to, not because your parents or teachers are forcing you to.

6) You don’t have to do exams.  That’s a big one.

7) It doesn’t matter what kind of state you come home in, because no one is going to ground you.

8) Dinner can be whatever you fancy.  If you are anything like me and Ash, that means that a “sensible” dinner can be as simple as mozzarella dippers and Diet Coke.

9) If you decide that you want to wear a party dress on a Monday afternoon or pyjamas on a Saturday night, you are no longer restricted by school uniforms and parental advice.

10) You don’t have to worry about how bad your acne is going to be when you hit puberty, or whether or not sex is fun, or who you’re going to be when you grow up, because you’re already there and most of the scary, new things have already happened.

The thing about being a grown up is that it is difficult, but it’s also a lot of fun.  I think we should all try to enjoy the good stuff and be proud of ourselves for handling the tricky bits.  We might not get to be Peter Pan in terms of ageing, but we can certainly aim for his attitude.

Have a beautiful Thursday.

Are You What You Want to Be?

Hello!  How are you this morning?  Yeah, me too.  Nearly the weekend, though.

Today I would like to ask you a question: are you what you want to be?  There are three possible ways to think about this question.

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Firstly, in physical terms: are you fit and healthy?  Do you like your hair colour?  Are you happy with your height and weight?  If you can honestly say that you are what you want to be in terms of your physical appearance, then good for you.  I think your pants might be on fire, though.
No one is ever totally happy with how they look, which is a massive shame (and almost entirely a result of the Western media), but I have good news regarding this.  Firstly, there are things we can change if we really want to: we can dye our hair, we can take up exercise and we can drink more water.  The second piece of good news is that how you look does not make you who you are, so let’s not worry about that.

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The next way to think about my question is in terms of achievement: are you in the right job for you?  Is your career progressing the way you hoped it would?  Do you feel that you’ve achieved significant things?
This one is tricky because it’s something that we decide by comparing ourselves to our peers, and that only ever ends in smugness or despair.  Once we leave school, the structure that kept us all on the same trajectory as our class mates is non-existent, and what happens to one of you no longer necessarily happens to everyone else.  Don’t waste time being jealous of other people’s success, or feeling superior about your own: just get on with what you want to be achieving.
This one is slightly more important than the physical one, but it’s still not the key way to answer my question.

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So, the third and most important way to answer my question: are you what you want to be in terms of personal attributes?  Are you kind, are you patient, are you polite?  Would your mother be proud of you?  What do your friends say about you?
I am not suggesting that the way other people see us is more important than how we see ourselves, but after all, the people who love us aren’t sticking around because of how we look or what our job is, are they?  (They’d better not be, anyway.)
This one is the hardest of all to change if we don’t like what we’ve got, but it can be done.  If you want to be less prone to losing your temper you have to practise staying calm under pressure; if you want to be more assertive then you have to speak up when you’re intimidated.  The best thing about this one is that it tends to be the one that your friends and loved ones are most willing to help you with, so you’re not alone with it.

Have a truly cracking Friday.  Definitely treat yourself to a muffin today.

P.S. The title of this blog is a reference to this song by Foster the People.  Good, ain’t it?

Judgement Call

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Good morning and happy Saturday to you!  D’you know, I only discovered yesterday that this is another bank holiday weekend.  Thank goodness those poor, tired bankers are having a well-earned rest from the arduous task of stealing our money.

As you can see, I’ve just made a mass-judgement about bankers based on the global financial crisis, and although that’s not exactly a controversial opinion, I’m sure that there are nice, compassionate people among the financiers of Canary Wharf.  (Don’t look at me like that.  It could happen.)

What makes you judge someone?  Do you assume that someone is trendy (and therefore a bad person) because they’re sporting a beard and skinny jeans?  Do you dub someone a saint in your mind because you witness them buying a Big Issue?  Do you lose respect for a friend when you discover that they enjoy the musical stylings of Justin Bieber?

I do, and if you’re honest I think you do, too.  Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be a preachy post about how we need to be less judgemental (although I think we should probably give it a go, shouldn’t we?  Yeah, alright.  I will if you will).  Instead, I would like to identify a few things that we absolutely should judge people based on:

1) How they talk about their elders
Even if someone doesn’t have the best relationship in the world with their biological parents, everyone has parental figures in their lives from whom they have learned a great deal.  The way that someone talks about their mum, older sibling, grandparent, favourite teacher etc. tells you a lot about what made them who they are, and how big a part of their personality is informed by a sense of respect.

2) Sense of humour
Don’t be misled here: I don’t mean that you should judge people based on which sitcoms they like, or whether they’re fans of the Cornetto Trilogy.  By “sense of humour” I mean how they respond to day-to-day life: do they laugh when they fall over in public, or throw a hissy fit?  Do they snigger at others’ misfortune, or are they sympathetic?  A person’s sense of humour demonstrates very clearly what their priorities are and how much perspective they have.

3) Social standing
Again, don’t get the wrong idea: I’m not suggesting that we split the world into Breakfast Club characters.  What I mean is, you can tell a lot about someone by how their friends behave around them.  For example, my brother is the dad figure in his friendship group at uni.  This amuses me because I know him well enough (obviously) to know that how his friends see him accurately reflects his personality.

4) How (much) they feel about stuff
Obviously we can’t have an opinion about everything, but you can make fairly accurate assumptions about someone based on how much they care about their interests, ambitions and morals.  It doesn’t really matter what the interests are (within the limits of morality and the law, of course) as long as the person cares about them.  Apathy is the enemy of romance, art, the progress of science and half-decent conversation.

5) How they feel about you
For your own sake, you should definitely make judgements based on how someone treats you, and how they feel about you.  Someone who loves you (and acts like it) is clearly an excellent human being, and someone who does not is not worth your time.  Also, who wouldn’t love you?  You’re adorable!

Have a lovely, relaxing Saturday.  Maybe go for a long walk.

Looming/Loving Deadlines

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Good morning, dear reader!  If you are struggling with the whole “oh God where did that entire weekend just go?” feeling, remember that you are at the start of a mere four-day week.  You can absolutely handle that.  I have utter faith in you.

Like most people, I have a very love-hate relationship with deadlines.  On the one hand, it’s nice to be given a sense of structure that will lead me to plan my time effectively, and discipline myself accordingly to ensure that my work is finished in time.  On the other hand, deadlines also bring out the adolescent, “you can’t tell me what to do!  I hate you!!”, stomping-off-to-my-room-and-slamming-the-door side of me.  We may not like to admit it, but I think that that’s the case for a lot of us.

When we are teeny tiny, the deadlines are our parents’ to worry about: “shouldn’t he be walking by now?”  “Was your daughter talking at this age?”  “How long has he been stuck in that dustbin?”  And so on.  As we get older we take some responsibility for ourselves, most notably for the interminable GCSE coursework deadlines.  (I’ve just remembered: I never handed in my Physics coursework.  I just didn’t do it, on the grounds that I freaking hated Physics.  How did that work?  Why do I have a GCSE in a subject I didn’t do the coursework for?  Worrying.)

By the time we reach the grown-up world of work, university and real life, we have supposedly learned to work to any deadline that gets thrown at us.  Having said that, I would like to take this opportunity on behalf of uni students everywhere to say that module conveners really, really need to communicate better: having all of our essay deadlines within two days of each other is just not cool (although the managing directors of Red Bull and Nescafe must be very pleased with this state of affairs).

By now we have also reached the stage where we give ourselves deadlines in our personal lives: I want to be married by this age, I want to have been travelling by this time, and I want to have saved x amount of money before y happens.  This is all very well and good, since it shows that we have learned that structure can be good for us and we have taught ourselves a sense of purpose and direction, but it’s also pretty scary.

Last night my friend Harry and I were having dinner in a Wetherspoons (obviously) and I made a sweeping declaration, ala Marshall Eriksen in How I Met Your Mother.  

Me: I swear by THIS pepper pot…
Harry: Why the pepper pot?
Me: I dunno.  Anyway, I swear by this pepper pot that if x has not happened by the time y occurs, I will no longer do z!
Harry: Good.  Put the pepper pot down.

What Harry knows (and the poor pepper pot probably knows now, too) is that personal deadlines are all very well and good, but that we have to use them to grow and develop, not to limit ourselves.  If we want to go travelling, we need to set ourselves a deadline for the trip that reflects the reality of our financial situation, visas and so on, not a deadline that will make us feel like a failure in twelve months’ time.

If we don’t manage to meet our personal deadlines, it doesn’t make us failures.  It just means giving ourselves a bit more slack next time.  The countries you want to visit and the things you want to save up for will still be there when you’re ready.

Have the kind of Tuesday that is worthy of folklore.

Happy Egg and Controversial Rabbit Day!

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Hello and a very Happy Easter to you!

When I was a child my parents were extremely strict about observing the Catholic faith.  Nowadays my siblings and I don’t so much observe it as comment absent-mindedly when we catch a glimpse of it, but it hasn’t always been that way.

I am grateful for the thorough religious education my parents gave me, although I must confess that I absolutely hated it at the time, and that a lot of it made no sense to me.  With the exception of a few small things, I think I’ve grown out of my aversion to and confusion over Christianity.

What are these few small things?  Oh, nothing, just, you know…Easter.  I’m sorry, I know lots of people love it, and I don’t hate it or anything; I just don’t understand it.  We have a rabbit delivering eggs – not even real eggs, but eggs made of some fancy Aztec concoction called “chocolate” – to small children.  Let me try to disentangle this ridiculous chain of tradition:

  • Sometime between 33 and 39 AD: Jesus and the disciples are celebrating the Jewish festival Passover when Jesus decides to turn the whole shindig into the Last Supper.  He is crucified, resurrected three days later and has fun for a while reappearing and scaring the crap out of his mournful disciples.  At the same sort of time Pliny, Plutarch and that whole ancient intellectuals gang are going around thinking that hares are hermaphrodites, and can therefore have babies without losing their virginity.
  • Sometime between 100 and 200 AD: Earliest Christians are recorded as celebrating Easter the same way as Jewish holidays are celebrated, i.e. based on a lunisolar calendar.  This makes sense, since a lot of early Christians were converts from Judaism.  Oh, also, Mesopotamians start staining chicken eggs red to symbolise the blood shed by Jesus at the Crucifixion.
  • 325 AD: First Council of Nicaea (i.e. a party of head honcho-type bishops) decide that Easter will always fall on the first Sunday after the full moon following the March Equinox.  Good for them.
  • Sometime between 500 and 1500 AD: Plutarch and his gang’s belief that hares could reproduce without loss of virginity has led to hares being associated with the Virgin Mary, and so images of hares sometimes show up in illuminated manuscripts.  There is also an argument that hares and rabbits are a symbol of fertility pre-dating Christian times, which is why they get a look in on this festival, but I prefer the idea of Plutarch and that lot having their crazy theories accidentally adopted into lore.
  • 1610 AD: Pope Paul V officially adopts the Mesopotamians’ egg-staining thing, making eggs a Christian symbol of the resurrection.  Didn’t he have better (or less weird) things to do in his papal capacity?!
  • Sometime during the 18th century: German immigrants in Dutch Pennsylvania tell their American hosts about the “Osterhase”, a hare which brings those traditional (by now) coloured eggs to good children at Easter.  Some regions of Germany also had an Easter Fox (“Osterfuchs”) for the same job.  The Americans pick it up and run with it.
  • Modern day: Despite the traditional coloured eggs being perfectly edible, we live in a world where things made of chocolate are infinitely superior to all others.  Hence: Easter stuff is made of chocolate.

I hope that you enjoyed your crash course in Easter history, and that you have a brilliant time eating your Osterhase (or Osterfuchs) goodies.

Top Ten Things We Are Officially Too Old For

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Hello, reader! Long time no see!  How was your week?

After a few days’ hiatus while I was running amok in Paris, I am back in Blighty and brimming with blog ideas.  I also appear to be massively over-using the letter “b”, for some reason.

My favourite bit of the Paris trip was visiting the Eiffel Tower.  It says a lot that this was my favourite part of the weekend, because we had to queue for TWO HOURS to get inside.  Being British we were completely comfortable with the queueing process, but Mario and I were nonetheless obliged to play some fairly silly games while we waited, including the classic Would You Rather.  Here’s an example:

Me: Would you rather live in a cave for the rest of your life, or at the top of the Eiffel Tower?
Mario: Would you be able to leave to go shopping and stuff?
Me: Um…no.
Mario: Top of the Eiffel Tower, obviously.
Me: How would you get your shopping, then?
Mario: I’d get it flown in.
Me: How?  There’s no helipad or anything up there.
Mario: I’d get the people to throw the stuff at me and I’d catch it.
Me: Oh, of course.

In front of us in the queue were two families, both British, with five kids between them of various ages between six and twelve-ish.  Understandably these kids were as bored as we were, so they ran around, played games, annoyed each other and climbed on the railings.  I have two problems with this:

1) There is no way on earth my parents would EVER have let us behave that way when we were kids.  If we so much as raised our voices in public when we were little we didn’t know which way was up, I can tell you.  It’s so unfair that these kids can get away with messing around when I never did.  Mutter, grumble, back in my day etc.

2) Damn it, I’m a grown up now!  I’ll never get to run around and play silly games in public!  I’ve missed my opportunity forever!  More muttering and grumbling.

With this horrific injustice in mind, Mario and I came up with a list of the Top Ten Things We Are Officially Too Old For.  By “we” I mean people in their mid-twenties,  and by “officially” I mean “according to me and Mario, who are not qualified to be authorities on this kind of stuff, but we’re pretty sure we’re right”.  Let me know what you think:

1) Running around and messing about in queues
Even as a drama graduate with a Masters in (essentially) Messing About and Doing Silly Voices, I know that that’s not cool.

2) Ordering kids’ meals in restaurants
I tried this one in a Wetherspoons last week.  I’ve never seen such fear and confusion on another human being’s face before.

3) Drinking Nesquik
Mario argued this one, but would you drink it in public?  No.  Same goes for Panda Pops, sadly.

4) Friendship bracelets
Unless some kind of bizarre retro-kitsch fad comes around (and I’m not ruling it out), these lovely tokens are off-limits to us now, even ironically.  If you want to give your friend something that says “I like you, you’re pretty fun” you have to buy them a pint.  Or a puppy or something.

5) Weird hair ornaments
Scrunchies, Alice bands, smiley-face hair clips, glittery hair bobbles – basically anything from Claire’s Accessories is a no-no.

6) Crying in photos
As a baby or small child, crying or looking grumpy in photos is completely fine, and often makes for ammunition that your parents will use when you bring home your first girl/boyfriend.  I know of several school/family photos that meet the gleeful criteria of parents in those circumstances, but nobody cries in their graduation photo (I hope).

7) Light-up trainers
I waited MONTHS to get a pair of blue light-up trainers when I was a kid, and to this day they are my favourite of every pair of shoes I’ve ever owned.  As a grown up I own lots of shoes that I like, but none of them make me feel like a super hero.

8) Having tantrums in public
Let’s be honest: sometimes lying down on the floor, kicking your heels, pounding your fists and screaming blue murder is incredibly appealing.  But as adults we have learned that that’s not always the best way to get what we want, so we have to do more boring things like compromise and negotiate.

9) Drink Calpol
This one makes me the saddest of all, I think.  If I’m ill I have to wander wistfully past the purple syrup of magical well-being and head to the boring, tasteless Ibuprofen.

10) Ask simple questions
There are lots of questions that are seen as cutesy, typical kid questions: “Why is the sky blue?” “What’s love?” “Why can’t we feel the Earth spinning?” and I STILL don’t know the answers to most of them.  I’m too old pull off the eyelash-batting, adorable curiosity thing, so in my ignorant adulthood I turn to a different long-suffering parent: Wikipedia.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend; I hope your Sunday dinner involves the best roast potatoes in the universe.