Writes of passage

March 15, 2017 § 3 Comments

On a whim I took down the polka-dotted box labelled “Memories”. I knew there were some photos of Gavin Andrews and Mark Irvine, blonde, blue-eyed boys I loved with innocent passion at nine and eleven respectively. I remembered the adolescent love letters, folded in complicated shapes, from a boy I kissed on a long train trip, probably for no reason other than it was something to do.

At the bottom of the box I found a number of magazines dedicated to Princess Diana at the time of her death, and oddly, my French notes from university. But the rest was mostly letters and cards.

As much as I spend my days tapping at a keyboard, I love a handwritten note. The noticeboard above my desk has cards and letters pinned to it – words of love, thanks and appreciation that warm me when I’m feeling low. In my bedside table there’s a letter that makes me smile, and two that make me cry. Letters fall out of books sometimes, bookmarking my memories in their papery folds.

In the box there were letters from my mom, my dad, my grandmother, the handwriting firm and sure. They took me by surprise. Remembrance caught at my throat, pricked in the corners of my eys. Five or six birthday cards reminded me of the short poems my dad wrote each year for our birthday – some wise, some witty, some downright silly. Postcards and telegrams carried birthday greetings and congratulations. Bundles of cards, in groups, marked achievement or occasion: deputy head girl, happy 21st, deepest sympathy. Not all occasions are happy.

But I love that each of those notes has something of the person left behind on the paper, in blue and black ink, the whorls and turns of looping letters as individual as the writer. I love that I can tell by the handwriting – and sometimes the misspelling – who the letter is from.

I still write letters from time to time, by hand, frustrated at my scrawl wrought by too many years of frantic note-taking and at the ease with which my hand tires. I have no idea if the recipients – my children, my friends, the people I love fiercely – will read and reread as I do, carefully folding those notes back along their original creases, or if they’ll simply read the words and discard the letter.

But I hope that we never forget how to write each other notes – for important occasions, or for no reason at all, other than to connect in a very personal way. A handwritten note doesn’t have to be fancy, or well-structured or eloquent. There’s no right or wrong way to write one.

In my box there’s a letter from my dad, in pencil, pleading with teenage me over the space of four pages, to pull myself together and be more organised at school. And there’s an unsigned scrap of foolscap, torn from an exercise book, in childish blue ink, consisting of  just four words. 

But really, they both say the same thing: I love you.


We need to talk about men

March 8, 2017 § 8 Comments

It might seem strange that I’m writing about men on International Women’s Day, but I just saw another of those ‘men are trash’ tweets, and I wanted to weigh in.

There’s a prevailing ideology on social media in particular, that men are appalling human beings. Look, I concede it’s still very much a man’s world, and they haven’t done a stellar job of running it on the whole, but this sweeping generalisation that men are trash and women, somehow, are superior to them in every way, is starting to get up my nose.

At this point, some of you will be poised to call me a men’s rights advocate, or wait for me to hashtag the post #notallmen. Go right ahead. I’m saying this anyway. It isn’t all men. You’re just hanging around some crappy ones.

I’ve spent two or three years going through a very difficult time, and my girlfriends have been supportive and kind and helpful. And guess what? So have my male friends. They’ve looked out for me in a myriad different ways, helped with this or that, and sometimes just dropped me a line to see how I’m doing.

They are good men, all of them. They’re great husbands, boyfriends, brothers, uncles, fathers and friends – and it’s just who they are.

By the same token, all of those things women accuse men of on social media, are also perpetrated by women. We are no better than men. It’s true we don’t sexually assault men they way they rape women. And I’m not trying to minimise that in anyway – let me be very clear here. But again, it’s not all men. And I’ve know women who are hugely abusive, who cheat, who lie and steal and treat the men in their lives like shit. We are far from being paragons of virtue, if you’re going to start generalising honestly.

Because the bottom line is this – we’re all just human beings. And some of us are good people, on balance, and some of us aren’t. So if you’re constantly being disappointed or mistreated by men, I’d suggest that, perhaps, you just need to leave those humans behind and find some better humans to hang out with, regardless of gender.

And a final point – when you’re spouting your ‘All men are trash’ nonsense, it’s as sexist as ‘all women are stupid’. That’s not feminism, it’s misandry.

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