Sunday, 24 February 2008

Not For Recycling

Sometimes it seems like the world is trying to tell you something - the same message gets played over and over in a 24-hour period until it finally clicks. And then it's up to you to do with that message what you will.

It started yesterday. We were enjoying a typical evening at home (typical when you have two young children and require a month's planning to do anything but stay in watching telly), catered for adequately by Lloyd Grossman and Uncle Ben, followed by a parting of ways to Do Our Own Thing. I sat in front of the telly, half doing my rewrite and half watching Pride and Prejudice, followed by a documentary on why Pride and Prejudice is so utterly brilliant. It was heaven. There's the moment in the Jennifer Ehle / Colin Firth version when she tells him her feelings for him have changed and she doesn't think he's a complete arse any more - real chest-tightening, heart soaring stuff; the kind of scene that makes you want to swap your jeans for an empire line dress.

At around midnight a friend cycled over for a cup of tea. He'd been boozing with other friends since lunchtime, so he was feeling fun and spontaneous (and he won't be able to drop in on us for much longer . . . *sniff*). I noticed he was wearing slippers.
'They're nice, are they new?" I said. He nodded, grinning, the way people who've been drinking for 10 hours do. 
"They're Ted Baker," he said. And then he lifted one foot and then the other to show me the soles, which had messages on them intended for The Wife: the right foot said "Tea, Please", and the left said "I'm busy". His wife had bought them for him for Christmas, completely unaware of the "hilarious" messages, and I could well imagine how many times an evening he lifts one or both feet. Jokingly, of course - he's a lovely man. But it's the kind of funny that I find incredibly sad and wearing, like babygros with "I'm A Complete Pain-In-The-Arse" written on them, or t-shirts for pre-pubescent girls that say "Total Slut". Jokingly, of course . . . 

This morning we met for breakfast with Slipper Man and his wife and another couple, and while I divided my English breakfast into thirds to share with the children I was vaguely aware that The Australian (munching his undivided English breakfast) was telling the others what a completely hopeless map-reader I am, hahaha, and how many times I've got us lost, hahaha, what a silly woman, hahaha. He too is a lovely man, and yes I think I may  have got us lost once or twice, but it all felt a bit disappointing, somehow. 

But the icing on the cake came this afternoon in WHSmith, when I spotted a retro Ladybird collection "For Girls" in the children's book section. The titles were: Helping At Home, A Book About Knitting, In A Big Store, The Nurse, Shopping With Mother, and Understanding Maps. I'm pretty sure that this collection is intended by the publishers as a nostalgic purchase for adults, but that's not how it will be interpreted, is it? Well, not by WHSmiths, who have it alongside Charlie and Lola and other titles for tweenie girls.

So, the world has been trying to give me a message and the message is: Emancipation my arse. As to what I'll do with it: I've got a scene in the novel I'm rewriting between a teenage girl and a boy who has treated her very badly, and I think she's just about to have her say . . .

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Mary Witzl said...

I can't read maps worth a damn, and I often feel like a walking cliche. But the truth is, I inherited this awful inability from my father. It drives me wild when people assume it's gender related. My mother could have navigated for NASA.

Anonymous said...

What a fantastic post!

My girl told me yesterday that 'boys are tough and girls are sweet'. Those messages are out there and coming thick and fast. Sigh.


Eve said...

Fabulous post!

I think that has to be at the top of my "why I love writing" lists. You can make your characters do whatever you please and they don't fall out with you!

I remember those Ladybird books well and I had one about housework and helping Mummy - knew it was fiction even then :):):)

Eve xxx

duckling said...

Aargh totally with you here Em. Tis frustrating.

I also cannot read maps. But I bet this has bugger all to do with the fact I'm female. Nope, far more likely to be a consequence of being blonde methinks ;-)

Humph to stereotyping.

Mum'sTheWord said...

Mary - great comment, thanks! I have been replaced by a Sat Nav, which has got us lost on more than one occasion.

Luisa - yikes! Well, our girls may like a bit of pink but I think they can both hold their own and I'm sure they'll work it out soon enough :)

Eve - I have already trained The Boy to use the hoover :)

Ducky - blonde jokes are but a distant memory for me :)

Sasch said...

How apt that i just read this blog ... this morning on the tube I finally snapped over the stupid poster in my face seemingly every morning and evening on the platforms and on the tube.

It has been slowly simmering my blood for weeks now. I stare and stare at it unable to comprehend that an advertising team in 2008 could come up with it such a sexist piece of wank and worse that presumably they know what they are doing and therefore the men reading it are actually going to enjoy it so much that they buy a car from the company being advertised.

It goes like this (verbatim):

Chris has a long face. The wife wanted a new family car and that was going to blow a hole in his finances not to mention all the other plans he had for his money. (then blurb about someone telling him about how great CarGiant are) then...
So Chris bought a quality used car that kept his wife more than happy and saved himself a tidy sum in the process. Enough for a weekend in Paris....with the girlfriend.


What a fabulous message to be sending: Reminding people of that awful drain on a man's finances "the wife". How outrageous of her to want a family car. Presumably she has children (otherwise pretty sure family car wouldn't be top of her list) and therefore that makes the purchase really for their children. Poor Chris having to factor his wife and children into HIS finances when there was that Xbox and jewelry to keep his girlfriend putting out that he needed to buy this month.

Fucking advertising people.

Sarah said...

I can read maps. But it's dreadful, dreadful boring.