“But when we talk about “what women want”, we tend to assume that the stereotypes are universal – and usually based on upper-middle class WASPs. Even when breaking it down tends to aggregate all women into the broad stereotypes of their segment; all white women are X, all black women are Y, all Asian women are Z, all lesbians and queer women are W, all trans women are J, etc. The assumptions about any one group whether in the macro (all women) or the micro (bisexual Five Nations women) erase the existence of an individual who doesn’t conform to that strict definition of womanhood; at best she becomes “the exception that proves the rule”” The Myth of What Women Want – Dr NerdLove
“One of the most vital components to creating a happy, healthy, and fulfilling relationship is to become a master at setting boundaries in relationships. In simple terms, boundaries are the thing that keeps us separate from the other person. The boundaries are what set the place between where you end and the other person begins.” 6 Steps to Setting Boundaries in Relationships – Jennifer Twardowski
“We often say that “intent is not magic,” but in some cases intent is actually important, and this is one of them. What Lambie, Cruikshank, and Stilwel did would be a crime regardless of their intent, but the fact that all three individuals were part of the Scottish Defense League, an offshoot of the English Defense League, and that one had previous arrests for religiously-motivated verbal abuse of a Pakistani shopkeeper suggests that the sentences they received were not in any sense an overreaction. This is not about some sort of silly prank—this is about calculated attempts to intimidate, harass, and terrorize Muslims, motivated by xenophobia and racism.” Can We Please Not Defend White Supremacists? – Love, Joy, Feminism
“I’ve watched evangelical friends and relatives travel around the world to help out at orphanages or build houses. Over time, I’ve begun to doubt the productivity of these sorts of trips and of short-term missions trips in general. Does it really do children in an orphanage any good to have foreigners from wealthy nations in and out of their facility? A week or two isn’t long enough for them to bond with a caregiver, but then I suppose that’s a good thing because if it was they’d be continually bonding to a caregiver only to have that caregiver ripped away. And as for building houses, wouldn’t that money be better spent paying local individuals to do the work? It would cost far less and would be a boon to the local economy.” Missionary Tourism – Love, Joy, Feminism
“Feminism is inherently good. It’s not even close to perfect and still needs lots of work and sometimes it gets all fucked up and backward and awful but that doesn’t mean it’s not still worth fighting for. Now go back and replace “Feminism” with “The human race”. It works, right?. That’s because feminists are made of human. Men and women. ” Women Who are Ambivalent about Women Against Women Against Feminism – The Bloggess
“After all, what Dawkins said isn’t just wrong, it’s also harmful. How do you think my friend would experience Dawkins’ comment—my friend who was so traumatized by her rape by a friend that she has PTSD and is afraid to sleep for the nightmares? Creating a hierarchy of rape—categorizing it by harm—is not helpful for survivors. The harm caused by rape is so variable that telling victims that what they experienced was “worse” or “better” than what other victims experienced cannot help but complicate the healing process. It suggests that some suffering is more legitimate than other suffering.” Richard Dawkins and Rape Rape – Love, Joy, Feminism
“A gay friend saw me with the kids at Jazz at LACMA on Friday night, and apropos of nothing said, “Just so you know I didn’t wear any dresses when I was younger,” which is essentially saying, “Don’t worry. Your kid’s not gay like me.” This openly gay, married man was trying to make me feel better about a problem that didn’t exist. If my son is gay, so be it. Maybe he is. Maybe he’s not. Maybe he’ll be a cross-dresser. Maybe not. I have no control over any of it. All I can do is be supportive. ” My Son Wears Dresses and That’s Okay With Me – xoJane
“Of course, some rapes are more traumatic than others. However, what makes a rape very bad or even worse could include a thousand different factors. It is possible for judges to take some of these factors into account when sentencing convicted rapists; factors which demonstrate greater levels of violence or a very vulnerable victim, for example. Yet none of these factors include whether or not the victim happened to be on a date with their rapist.” Richard Dawkins and the logic of “date rape” – The F-Word
“Whenever we don’t make time to celebrate our achievements and honour what is meaningful to us, we’re not taking ourselves seriously
Whenever we shoo away positive feedback, mentally or literally, we’re not taking ourselves seriously.
Whenever we tell ourselves that our dreams are nice and all, but they’re unrealistic, we’re not taking ourselves seriously.
Whenever we don’t make time for self-care, we’re not taking ourselves seriously.” Why the World Needs You to Take Yourself Seriously – Becoming Who You Are
““I didn’t feel brave”
I’m not sure you ever do.
How often do you hear something like that? You’ll tell someone that they’ve done something brave- conquered something that scared them- and the first thing they do is deny that it felt the slightest bit brave to them. They were terrified the entire time.” About Bravery – Consider the Tea Cosy
“We put a great deal of attention on avoiding unhealthy romantic relationships, but platonic friendships can be just as damaging, just as toxic, even as abusive. Toxic friends can actually be harder to recognize. We tend to be axiomatic – we’d never be friends with abusers, therefore our friends aren’t abusive. We may excuse their behavior as “that’s just how Adam/Marie/Dan/Steve/Andrea is…”. We may choose to overlook the fact that our friends are toxic because of the sunk cost fallacy – we’ve known them for so long that we can’t really let them go.
But those toxic friends are destroying your self-esteem, ruining your happiness and in many cases actively holding you back. If you’re miserable, it may be time to look around and make sure you haven’t surrounded yourself with toxic friends.” Dump Your Toxic Friends – Dr NerdLove
Welcome to Twitterature for August, been reading a lot of Irish literature and really enjoying it. As always linking up with the wonderful Moderns Mrs. Darcy.
Angela’s Ashes: A Memoir by Frank McCourt: Powerful, sad yet humorous memoir of growing up in poverty with an alcoholic father in Catholic Ireland in the 1930’s and 40’s. Highly #recommended. (Full review here).
Tis: A Memoir by Frank McCourt: The sequel covering McCourt’s youthful years and how he eventually becomes a teacher.
Teacher Man: A Memoir by Frank McCourt: The last of McCourt’s memoirs, shorter and less to do with his life, but instead covering his teaching years and his approach to teaching.
The Gift of Fear by Gavin De Becker: Covering how to use your intuition + subconscious knowledge to the full extend to protect yourself, as well as those around you. #Recommended
How to Fall in Love by Cecelia Ahern: How to fall in love (with life) is beautiful + sweet, with more meaning than you’d usually find in chick lit. #Recommended if you enjoy #ChickLit.
Birth Control Unlocked by Stefani Ruper: Excellent overview of the different birth control options and their effect on your body.
What have you been reading lately? As always I invite you to find me and connect with me on Goodreads.
“Gideon Levy is the most hated man in Israel – and perhaps the most heroic. This “good Tel Aviv boy” – a sober, serious child of the Jewish state – has been shot at repeatedly by the Israeli Defence Force, been threatened with being “beaten to a pulp” on the country’s streets, and faced demands from government ministers that he be tightly monitored as “a security risk.” This is because he has done something very simple, and something that almost no other Israeli has done. Nearly every week for three decades, he has travelled to the Occupied Territories and described what he sees, plainly and without propaganda. “My modest mission,” he says, “is to prevent a situation in which many Israelis will be able to say, ‘We didn’t know.’” And for that, many people want him silenced.” Is Gideon Levy the most hated man in Israel or just the most heroic? – The Independent
“My parents taught us to be respectful, but they didn’t teach us to treat others with respect. The way my mother talked about prostitutes, women who live with their boyfriends, mothers who have careers and put their children in daycare—it was crystal clear that she had very little respect for any of these individuals. When she talked about gay people her tone was one of disgust. We were not in fact taught to respect others or their choices, different as they might be. Rather, we were taught both implicitly and explicitly not to respect them.” Just Who Is Teaching Respect? – Love, Joy, Feminism
“Plant-animal integration is, I realised, the norm in nature. It is how prairies and savannahs and all manner of ecosystems have been sustained for countless millennia. It is the most natural, ancient, and sustainable of systems — flora and fauna feeding one another in endless cycles. But our participation blurred boundaries I had taken for granted. If the squash and beans we grew were fed by local dairy farms, were we really eating just plants?” Tovar Cerulli: The hidden cost of vegetarianism – Aeon Magazine
“Evangelicals often claim that teenage girls who dress “immodestly” have low self esteem or lack confidence. This is bullshit. Yes, sure, some of them may indeed have body image issues or low self esteem—but the same is true for many girls who dress “modestly” (my teenage self included). In other words, there isn’t a correlation, and dressing “modestly” is not a solution. Some teenage girls who dress “immodestly” have low self esteem; some teenage girls who dress “modestly” have low self esteem. In other words, “modesty” is not actually a solution to teenage girls’ self esteem problems or body image issues. What are some solutions? Encouraging them, listening to them, valuing their thoughts, trusting them, and giving them space to find themselves, to name a few.” “Modest Is Hottest” and Girls’ Self-Confidence – Love, Joy, Feminism
“Given the subject at hand, the irony of pointing out how this makes me feel is something I am aware of, so I won’t dwell on it too much, except to say that understanding you are sexist is actually really quite difficult just on a practical level. When I look around, I see the same things I’ve been doing and saying without thinking about them reflected back at me from every angle, and the fact casual sexism is so prevalent is an amazingly effective masking agent for the concept itself, especially among men. (I’m talking to men, of course. I know that our female readers – by virtue of being women – do not need me to point out that the average male is sexist.)” I am sexist – Eurogamer
“Professionalism is a funny term, because it masquerades as neutral despite being loaded with immense oppression. As a concept, professionalism is racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, classist, imperialist and so much more — and yet people act like professionalism is non-political. Bosses across the country constantly tell their employees to ‘act professionally’ without a second thought. Wear a garment that represents your non-Western culture to work? Your boss may tell you it’s unprofessional. Wear your hair in braids or dreadlocks instead of straightened? That’s probably unprofessional too. Wear shoes that are slightly scuffed because you can’t yet afford new ones? People may not think you’re being professional either.” Why I’m Genderqueer, Professional and Unafraid – Jacob Tobia – Huffington Post
“But the fact remains that as a woman, you can put something together from most men’s closets that is okay to walk down the street in. You can walk into a man’s clothing store and buy something for yourself. I work in a menswear store, and it happens all the time. No-one blinks an eye, we just find the last size small for the good lady, compliment her choice of colour and send her on her way. As a woman, wearing something that is made for a guy is considered cool, edgy, interesting. If a man walked into a womans store and asked for some help finding a womans dress for himself, the reaction would probably be very different. If he put together an outfit from a womans closet, he’d be unlikely to make it down the street without some backlash. Men wearing something intended for women is most often seen as being ridiculous and demeaning.” Whether Guys Can Wear Dresses is a Litmus Test for Feminism – This Kind Choice
“I inevitably have to clarify that in this context, positivity and enthusiasm are not the same thing. The term is an attempt to address the individual and social place of sex and sexual identity. Sex-positivity boils down to a view that sex is a healthy and necessary part of human existence. It’s about acceptance and inclusion of the ways individuals choose to express themselves sexually.” Identifying As Sex Positive – Literally, Darling – Huffington Post
“Frankly? Provided the kids’ clothing is clean and activity-appropriate, I don’t care what gender my children’s clothing says. At the same time, I’m not going to use my children to make some sort of a political statement. I don’t put Bobby in dresses to make some sort of point, and when I visit the grandparents I leave his dresses at home. I would like to leave my children’s clothing choices up to them. Sally wears mostly dresses because that is what she prefers. That’s fine by me. Bobby has expressed no preference yet, and wears whatever we put on him. As that changes, I will respect his preferences. It’s not about using my children to satisfy some sort of agenda. It’s about removing the walls and letting them make their own choices.” Why I Put My Son in Dresses – Love, Joy, Feminism
“The truth is: You may never feel fully ready. You may not ever be entirely resolved about quitting your job or going back to school or leaving your relationship. You might not be entirely comfortable with your yearning, even when you cannot deny it’s existence. And, in thoughtfully probing your discomfort, it is possible – likely even – that you are making your indecision mean that there are holes in your desire or that you should wait until you feel absolutely certain before moving onto the next step.” What To Do When You Don’t Know What To Do – Mara Glatzel
“And if you repeatedly tell yourself you’re not loveable, you’ll start to believe it. You’ll retreat and prevent yourself from being open or accepting love and intimacy, making your negative script a self-fulfilling prophecy. But lucky for us – it’s totally, 100% possible to stop that internal litany.” How to Stop Negative Thought-Patterns – Danielle Dowling
“When you practice an attitude of gratitude, you appreciate what you have, not envy what you lack. It means you’re a good steward. You nourish and exercise your body and mind, cherish and respect your spouse, love your dog, keep your home clean and orderly, encourage your children. If you water your garden, you’ll watch it grow.” Reframing Your Definition of Affluence – Mark’s Daily Apple
“It argues: if you reveal that you don’t know something, then you’re really revealing that you know NOTHING. (This, by the way, is a heady blend of a couple of the 12 Lies of the Impostor Complex.) So, we keep the shame hidden and we stay down. We stay quiet. And we stay a little less informed. A LOT less informed.” Raise Your Hand – Tanya Geisler
You probably already know that meditation & mindfulness training is good for you. It helps you deal with stress, anxiety, teaches you how to stay present and focused and can even help you use your brain more effectively! If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably already tried to establish a meditation practice – maybe even more than once. But it can be difficult to teach yourself, or stay focused on your own. Classes are fantastic and I greatly recommend them, but they can also be pricey, time-consuming and impractical to get to.
The solution for me has been a meditation & mindfulness app with short meditations (from just a few minutes and up to 20 minutes) for a variety of situations; falling asleep, waking up, working on the Internet, sitting in nature etc. My go to app is Buddhify, currently only on iOS ($3), but will be released on Android as well this autumn – as well as an update with 41 new meditation tracks. One thing I love about Buddhify is their willingness to listen to feedback – the new tracks are based on what people already love and use the most, as well as suggestions from the users. Some of the new tracks are focused on dealing with difficult emotions, coping with pain and illness and meditation tracks for working around the house.
Guided meditations work really well for me, and I love that I can choose different kinds to suit my mood or the situation I’m in. Of course there are other excellent apps out there as well, Calm is free and great when you’re on your computer, and has an iOS app as well. Simply Being Guided Meditation (iOS & Android), Headspace (online) and Walking Meditations (iOS & Android) are other options.
How do you incorporate meditation & mindfulness training into your daily life? Do you have a favourite app that you use?
“There is a relationship between background knowledge and reading comprehension. The more you understand about a particular subject, the more “hooks” keep the facts in there. So if you are going to read a book on a subject you don’t know much about, check out the Wikipedia article on it first to prep your brain to retain more.” How to Become a Faster Reader – Ryan Battles
“Two of the primary predictors of success for educational attainment and occupational earnings are, quite simply, your parent’s education and level of wealth.
If your parents went to college, you are more likely to go to college. So what does that say for communities who, until the 1960s, were denied access to all but a few colleges and universities?
If your grandparents didn’t even have the option of going to college, and your parents’ success in education was most easily predicted by your grandparents’ success, did your parents go to college? And if your parents didn’t go to college, are you as likely to go?
This is one of the many ways that the system of racial oppression continues to be reinvented.” Stop Saying Affirmative Action Disadvantages White Students – Everyday Feminism
Aged 17, I am something of an anomaly when I arrive on an eating disorders ward. Close-cropped hair, black clothes, soaked in hair dye and riot grrrl rock, dressed as a boy, obviously queer. It is only later that I will learn that between a quarter and a half of young people hospitalised with eating disorders are gay, trans or genderqueer. That’s one of the things they don’t tell you about how and why young girls fall apart.
The young women already there look like broken dress-up dolls, all of us poured from the same weird, emaciated mould, barely able to stand upright, the same cut marks scored like barcodes in the secret places on our skin. Clearly, the other girls have starved themselves to the point of collapse simply because they want to look pretty; I, meanwhile, have perfectly rational, intellectual reasons for doing exactly the same. We will never be friends. We have nothing in common. ‘Being a perfect girl can kill you’ extract from The Unspeakable Things by Laurie Penny – The Guardian
“You see, when it comes to anything related to male desire trumping your personhood, men do this thing, where they think they’re really subtle. A strange man will walk up to a woman, start a seemingly innocuous conversation, and even though the woman knowswhat he wants, she has to tolerate this until he has revealed his intentions. She can’t ask him to leave her alone immediately, because then he can dismissively assert that she is presumptuous of his actions and thinks too highly of herself. If she rejects his advances too quickly, before they are obvious, he will pretend he never made them and insist that she’s so stuck up that she’s delusional. So she has to put up with this entire mind-numbingly inane conversation, until he finally asks for her number or whether she’d go out with him, and that’s when she’s “allowed” to turn him down. She may not be straight with him and turn him down before, or else she’s conceited (because he was never going to ask, supposedly.) Even though she’s right. Every time.” Men Need to Learn to Read Nonverbal Cues – the fatal feminist
“It is my firm and loving opinion that it is unrealistic to demand of ourselves that we always feel positively about our bodies. My solution is to stop doing that.
I don’t put any pressure on. I do my best. Life is hard. Health is hard. I no longer need to be perfect, in this as much as in other things. I simply cannot do it. As much as I do genuinely love and appreciate my body, I am a human being who struggles. I have good days and bad days. On bad days, I am so unhappy with my body it physically aches.
And to be honest, since I have accepted the pain and frustrations and patience required for living in my body…
it has all gotten easier. Permitting my negativite feelings space has allowed me to heal. I’ve got at least three degrees of acceptance here working in my favor. I enjoy thinking of myself as intelligent, so let’s call it Meta-Acceptance. It’s 1) okay that my body is so delicate, 2) also okay that I don’t like that my body is so delicate, amd 3) also also okay that I don’t like that I don’t like that my body is so delicate.” Sometimes I don’t love my body – Paleo for Women
The ‘beauty’ industry has a vested interest in women feeling unattractive with a deep fear of aging. It also smells like something concocted to be a grand distraction for women. Keep women focused on attaining impossible standards of beauty and womanhood instead of using their whole heart and mind and considerable financial power to create wealth or have epic life experiences or pool resources to elect elect politicians that actually have women’s equality as a meaningful part of their agenda. The $25,000 Hole in My Budget – Nona Jordan
“The simplest meditation I know is one that Lauren and I share in Beyond Compare (coming oh so soon I can taste it.)
Count “one” on the inhale, “two” on the exhale, “three” on the next inhale, and so on until you get to ten. Repeat this until you feel yourself back in the present moment.
It’s the meditation that brings me back into my body. The body that knows the ground will support me. That my lungs will breathe for me. That my heart will beat for me. That the work is unfolding for me. That I am in the right place. That my intentions are good. That I am surrounded and guided by love.
You are too.” Monday Morning Tenders – Tanya Geisler
I just need to get this out of the way: self-love doesn’t mean that everything is going to be pretty and pulled together all the time. It doesn’t mean that you wake up in the magical land of luxuriating in your own perfection 24/7.
It can be messy. It can be ugly. There will be tears.
Too many of us are walking around the world thinking that we aren’t “doing it right” when we get angry and frustrated with ourselves or speak to ourselves cruelly.
You will have hard days. You might even have hard months or years. Things happen.
Self-love is the practice of sticking with yourself – no matter what – even when (and especially when) things aren’t working out as you’d like them to.
Are you brave enough to hold both love and disappointment in your heart at the same time? Can you dig deep and say to yourself, “Yep, we might want to do that differently next time” without making that mean that you are bad or there is something wrong with you?
You deserve that kind of unconditional love from yourself.
Check out Mara’s blog and sign up for her newsletter to get her love notes. You won’t regret it.
“Second, participants didn’t notice their own performance declines. When participants graded themselves, they believed that their performance declined for a few days and then tapered off. In reality, they were continuing to get worse with each day. In other words, we are poor judges of our own performance decreases even as we are going through them. In the real world, well-lit office spaces, social conversations, caffeine, and a variety of other factors can make you feel fully awake even though your actual performance is sub-optimal. You might think that your performance is staying the same even on low amounts of sleep, but it’s not. And even if you are happy with your sleep-deprived performance levels, you’re not performing optimally.” The Science of Sleep: How to Sleep Better – James Clear
“I once asked a young earth creationist brother what he would do if there were a scientific discovery that squarely and obviously contradicted young earth creationism. He told me he would assume that a future scientific discovery would invalidate that discovery. In other words, there was utterly no way scientific evidence could change his mind. Why? Because his belief about the origins of the earth was religious rather than scientific.” Young Earth Creationism Isn’t Science – Love, Joy, Feminism
“So… some of those aren’t completely unreasonable grievances. In fact, some of them are really serious issues that need to be addressed (I do wonder which men they’re talking about with regards to high unemployment, because something tells me it isn’t about black men). There also isn’t an issue among this bunch that wouldn’t be solved by undoing patriarchy/misogyny/sexism and redefining masculinity/manhood.” The one where I need help understanding why MRAs don’t become feminists – Feministing
“Perhaps the big lesson here, the silver lining, is this: you don’t have to choose between power and love. Because I think what holds us back, in so many subtle and not-so-subtle ways (and this is true for both genders) is the fear of not being loved – even, or especially, if we can barely recognize the love in our lives in the first place. Men learn that they won’t be loved if they’re not powerful. Women learn that they won’t be loved if they are powerful.” 10 quick thoughts regarding love + power + badass women – Justine Musk
“However, I believe that there is a disservice being done towards the fathers and potential fathers in a family. Perpetuating the stereotype of the mother that does all of the work and the father that “doesn’t know any better” about raising children is harmful, especially in a nuclear family where the parents are still together.
It gives the impression that it’s normal for fathers to be invisible when it comes to the hard part – raising the kids.” Mother, May I…. Change Archaic Parenting Roles? – Everyday Feminism
“It’s comforting: the thought that people are either entirely good or entirely evil; that if someone has achieved something great, they surely cannot also have committed something as vile as sexual assault; that if someone is convicted – or even so much as accused of rape or sexual assault – somehow any good they may have done in their life is erased. It makes us feel safe in the knowledge that if we ourselves have done good things we cannot possibly have done bad things or be bad people. Labelling someone as “evil” is shorthand for “not like us” – it creates a cognitive barrier between violent, abusive acts and ourselves. The problem is, of course, that this kind of comfort is not only false but dangerous.” Rape and reputation – The F Word
“Because what the ‘friendzone’ teaches us is that you don’t see the people you’re attracted to as fully human. You can’t see that they have motivations that have absolutely nothing to do with yours. That your attraction to them- that stomach-churning, gut-wrenching feeling you can’t but have around them- doesn’t oblige others to feel a particular way, or to act in the way that you’d like them. And someday I hope you understand that, right in your guts. I really, really do.” To The Guy Who OKC Who Messaged Me About The Friend Zone – Consider the Tea Cosy
“There’s a habit of mind that the masters have,” Gottman explained in an interview, “which is this: they are scanning social environment for things they can appreciate and say thank you for. They are building this culture of respect and appreciation very purposefully. Disasters are scanning the social environment for partners’ mistakes.”
“It’s not just scanning environment,” chimed in Julie Gottman. “It’s scanning the partner for what the partner is doing right or scanning him for what he’s doing wrong and criticizing versus respecting him and expressing appreciation.” Masters of Love – The Atlantic
“When we’re in love, our most precious commodity is trust.
Trust is the foundation of everything in a relationship:
Are you safe to open my heart to?
If you injure my heart, how do you mend it?
If I fall, will you catch me?
Do you take my tenderness and wrap it up with love?” In Love and Orgasm We Trust – Kim Anami
“5.5) Honestly, it all dials back to number 5. When broken down into it’s most raw, unfiltered essence–we’re afraid. Fearful of being alone. Because we think “alone” will leave us vulnerable + potentially deemed unlovable. This is not true, of course. But when comfort, as we know it, is threatened our survival nature can quickly overtake intelligence and irrational behavior reins supreme. And in this case we stall a long overdue separation.” Why We Stay In a Relationship Too Long – Danielle Dowling
“Now I’m telling you, it has honestly taken me decades to finally have the thought I had next, which was this: “You can take the break before you need it.” You can take the break, replenish, stop whatever you are doing – when you still have fuel in the tank.” Take the break before you need it – Tara Sophia Mohr
“Awake is evocative + intense.
It is the subtle internal shift that produces monumental awareness.
Awake is your birthright. Your inheritance.
And it begins with gratitude.
So get gracious.
Start today.” Declaration of Gratitude – Danielle Dowling
Angela’s Ashes: A Memoir by Frank McCourt became an almost instant bestseller when it was first published in 1996, and has won the Pulitzer Price, the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Royal Society of Literature Award (amongst others). I think I watched the movie years ago, but I can’t remember much of it.
Finally picked up the book though, and it is beautifully and lyrically written, funny and heartbreaking at the same time.
When I look back at my childhood I wonder how I survived at all. It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while. Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood.
People everywhere brag and whimper about the woes of their early years, but nothing can compare with the Irish version: the poverty; the shiftless loquacious alcoholic father; the pious defeated mother moaning by the fire; pompous priests; bullying schoolmasters; the English and the terrible things they did to us for eight hundred long years.
Above all – we were wet.
Born in New York in 1930 to a mum from Limerick and a dad from the North, his family was forced to move back to Ireland because of his dad’s alcoholism and the poverty it caused. Things didn’t get better back in Ireland though:
…On our way to school Leamy’s boys laugh at us because the tire pieces are so thick they add a few inches to our height and the boys say, How’s the air up there? There are six or seven barefoot boys in my class and they don’t say anything and I wonder if it’s better to have shoes with rubber tires that make you trip and stumble or to go barefoot. If you have no shoes at all you’ll have all the barefoot boys on your side. If you have rubber tires on your shoes you’re all alone with your brother and you have to fight your own battles…
I think my father is like the Holy Trinity with three people in him, the one in the morning with the paper, the one at night with the stories and the prayers, and the one who does the bad thing and comes home with the smell of whiskey and wants us to die for Ireland.
I feel sad over the bad thing but I can’t back away from him because the one in the morning is my real father and if I were in America I could say, I love you, Dad, the way they do in the films, but you can’t say that in Limerick for fear you might be laughed at . You’re allowed to say you love God and babies and horses that win but anything else is a softness in the head.
We go to school through lanes and back streets so that we won’t meet the respectable boys who go to the Christian Brothers’ School or the rich ones who go to the Jesuit school, Crescent College. The Christian Brothers’ boys wear tweed jackets, warm woolen sweaters, shirts, ties and shiny new boots. We know they’re the ones who will get jobs in the civil service and help the people who run the world. The Crescent College boys wear blazers and school scarves tossed around their necks and over their shoulders to show they’re the cock o’ the walk. They have long hair which falls across their foreheads and over their eyes so that they can toss their quiffs like Englishmen. We know they’re the ones who will go to university, take over the family business, run the government, run the world. We’ll be the messenger boys on bicycles who deliver their groceries or we’ll go to England to work on the building sites. Our sisters will mind their children and scrub their floors unless they go off to England, too. We know that. We’re ashamed of the way we look and if boys from the rich schools pass remarks we’ll get into a fight and wind up with bloody noses or torn clothes. Our masters will have no patience with us and our fights because their sons go to the rich schools and, Ye have no right to raise your hands to a better class of people so ye don’t.
But somehow McCourt manages to mix the tragic with the comedic, so half the time you don’t know whether to laugh or cry:
We ran to the church. My mother panted along behind with Michael in her arms. We arrived at the church just in time to see the last of the boys leaving the altar rail where the priest stood with the chalice and the host, glaring at me. Then he placed on my tongue the wafer, the body and blood of jesus. At last, at last.
It’s on my tongue. I draw it back.
I had God glued to the roof of my mouth. I could hear the master’s voice, Don’t let that host touch your teeth for if you bite God in two you’ll roast in hell for eternity.
I tried to get God down with my tongue but the priest hissed at me, Stop that clucking and get back to your seat.
God was good. He melted and I swallowed Him and now, at last, I was a member of the True Church, an official sinner.
I look out the back window to make sure the evening sun is drying my clothes. Other backyards have lines with clothes that are bright and colorful and dance in the wind. Mine hang from the line like dead dogs.
The sun is bright but it’s cold and damp in the house and I wish I had something to wear in the bed. I have no other clothes and if I touch anything of The Abbot’s he’ll surely run to Aunt Auggie. All I can find in the wardrobe is Grandma’s old black woolen dress. You’re not supposed to wear your Grandmother’s old dress when she’s dead and you’re a boy but what does it matter if it keeps you warm and you’re in bed under the blankets where no one will ever know. The dress has the smell of old dead grandmother and I worry she might rise from the grave and curse me before the whole family and all assembled. I pray to St. Francis, ask him to keep her in the grave where she belongs, promise him a candle when I start my job, remind him the robe he wore himself wasn’t too far from a dress and no one ever tormented him over it and fall asleep with the image of his face in my dream.
The worst thing in the world is to be sleeping in your dead grandmother’s bed wearing her black dress when your uncle The Abbott falls on his arse outside South’s pub after a night of drinking pints and people who can’t mind their own business rush to Aunt Aggie’s house to tell her so that she gets Uncle Pa Keating to help her carry The Abbott home and upstairs to where you’re sleeping and she barks at you, What are you doin’ in this house, in that bed? Get up and put on the kettle for tea for your poor uncle Pat that fell down, and when you don’t move she pulls the blankets and falls backward like one seeing a ghost and yelling Mother o’God what are you doin’ in me dead mother’s dress?
That’s the worst thing of all because it’s hard to explain that you’re getting ready for the big job in your life, that you washed your clothes, they’re drying abroad on the line, and it was so cold you had to wear the only thing you could find in the house, and it’s even harder to talk to Aunt Aggie when The Abbot is groaning in the bed, Me feet is like a fire, put water on me feet, and Uncle Pa Keating is covering his mouth with his hand and collapsing against the wall laughing and telling you that you look gorgeous and black suits you and would you ever straighten your hem. You don’t know what to do when Aunt Aggie tells you, Get out of that bed and put the kettle on downstairs for tea for your poor uncle. Should you take off the dress and put on a blanket or should you go as you are? One minute she’s screaming, What are you doin’ in me poor mother’s dress? the next she’s telling you put on that bloody kettle. I tell her I washed my clothes for the big job.
What big job?
Telegram boy at the post office.
She says if the post office is hiring the likes of you they must be in a desperate way altogether, go down and put on that kettle.
The next worst thing is to be out in the backyard filling the kettle from the tap with the moon beaming away and Kathleen Purcell from next door perched up on the wall looking for her cat. God, Frankie McCourt, what are you doin’ in your grandmother’s dress? and you have to stand there in the dress with the kettle in your hand and explain how you washed your clothes which are hanging there on the line for all to see and you were so cold in the bed you put on your grandmother’s dress and your uncle Pat, The Abbot, fell down and was brought home by Aunt Aggie and her husband, Pa Keating, and she drove you into the backyard to fill this kettle and you’ll take off this dress as soon as ever your clothes are dry because you never had any desire to go through life in your dead grandmother’s dress.
Now Kathleen Purcell lets out a scream, falls of the wall, forgets the cat and you can hear her giggling into her blond mother. Mammy, Mammy, wait till I tell you about Frankie McCourt abroad in the backyard in his dead grandmother’s dress. You know that once Kathleen Purcell gets a bit of scandal the whole lane will know it before morning, and you might as well stick your head out the window and make a general announcement about yourself and the dress problem.
If you haven’t read it, I suggest you put Angela’s Ashes on your list. As for me, I’ll be digging into the sequel ‘Tis next.
Find me and add me on Goodreads, to keep up with everything else I read.
Welcome to Twitterature for July, time off coupled with some illness made for a great reading month in terms of books finished – not so much in terms of the quality of some of the books. As always linking up with the wonderful Moderns Mrs. Darcy.
The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides: 5 beautiful sisters commit suicide one by one over the course of a year. I feel like I should’ve liked it, but I couldn’t care about any of the characters. #SkipIt
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell: My favourite book of the month! Sweet, innocent, heart-breaking, will bring you right back to your #FirstLove. Highly #Recommended (Full review here)
The Books of Rachel (currently $5.22 for the Kindle edition) by Joel Gross: Loved the premise of this book: 500 years of young Jewish women named Rachel, telling the story of the Cuheno family. In reality the book was poorly written & I didn’t care much about any of the characters. #SkipIt
What have you been reading lately? As always I invite you to find me and connect with me on Goodreads.
“And yes, I know that they need to be taught how to behave appropriately. I just no longer believe that yelling is the way to teach them appropriate behavior. Losing my temper and behaving badly is not the way to teach them how to act when they lose their temper and behave badly.
Because the example we set for them — how to act when things don’t go our way — is much, much more important than the rules we set for them. They learn lessons about behavior by our example, over time.” Parental Zen: How to Keep Your Cool as a Parent – zen habits
“My salvation anxiety goes way back. I remember getting out of my bed in the middle of the night when I was no more than five or six and going to my parents in tears, unsure of whether I was “truly” saved and whether my sinner’s prayer had actually been valid. Within evangelical Christianity, salvation is all in your head. It’s not about your deeds, it’s about your mental processes. But I found my mental processes more confusing than clear. I overanalyzed and often ended up freaking myself out. Hence the tears and the running to my parents. Each time this happened, my mother told me that the fact that I was worried about my salvation was a sure sign that I was indeed saved. This helped, but it didn’t fix everything—after all, where is that teaching in the Bible?” What’s More Terrifying Than Left Behind – Love, Joy, Feminism
“The #BornPerfect campaign will aim to dissuade parents who might be considering reparative therapy by providing them access to psychological experts and those who have been through such treatment, like Brinton. “We have no doubt they love their children,” Kendell says, noting that many parents might believe LGBT people lead more difficult lives and wish to spare their children from hardship. “We want parents to understand there are resources for them to come to terms with embracing their child as they are,” she says, whether those are online or public forums. The campaign will also include ongoing legislative efforts in other states to pass reparative-therapy bans, though Kendell declined to say which will be next at this time for fear it would mobilize the movement’s opponents.” #BornPerfect Campaign Aims to End Gay Conversion Therapy – Times
“First, we don’t know how broadly this opinion reaches, or how slippery the slope downhill could be. The Court repeated several times in the opinion that it was only deciding the particular question here (contraceptive coverage, closely-held corporations, etc.) but there aren’t any principled reasons in the opinion to cabin it to that question. Why wouldn’t the same principles apply to a company that didn’t want to cover, say, blood transfusions (to which Jehovah’s Witnesses object) or psychiatric medication (to which Scientologists object) or even vaccines? And it’s not just insurance coverage at issue – it’s sex discrimination, race discrimination, sexual orientation, and gender identity discrimination, among other issues. What about a company whose owners believe men should be paid more than women because the bible teaches that men are the heads of the household? (True story, those cases have been brought before). Or a company whose owners believe that LGBT individuals shouldn’t marry or reproduce? (We’re all too familiar with that refrain). Or even a company who believes that African-Americans and Jews should not work with Caucasian Christians? (As many companies did in the Jim Crow era). Some of these scenarios may seem far-fetched, but there are no safeguards in the court’s opinion to prevent this expansive reading of RFRA from being used as a backdoor wedge to start undermining a lot of the civil rights protections we now take for granted.” In the wake of the Hobby Lobby ruling, what happens next? – Feministing
“”Orange Is the New Black” enters a landscape that labels non-thin bodies, at best, unattractive and, at worst, diseased, and inverts the resulting stereotypes with a slew of counterexamples: Classically attractive male guard Bennett does not, as he would on a lesser show, pursue a relationship with Maritza (Diane Guerrero), who Gloria jokes “looks like Sofia Vergara,”but rather with Daya (Dasha Polanco), who has a look not readily represented on television. Elsewhere, in a reversal of the oft-repeated trope, “fat woman gets rejected in her quest for the love of a thin person,” we see Tastee (Danielle Brooks) eschew the romantic advances of Poussey (Samira Wiley). Since the show’s first season, Lea Delaria’s character Big Boo has served as a kind of Litchfield prison sexual fiend — and while her aggressive-often-to-the-point of-harassment pursuits are not (and should not be) endorsed by the show, they do tell a very different story of how fat bodies can relate to sex than the one that says they should stringently diet and wait patiently to be skinny before they can even enter the arena.” Why The Body Diversity On ‘Orange Is The New Black’ Is So Important – Huffington Post
“1. You are enough just the way you are.
Forget the headstands, the crazy balancing positions, or being able to get your legs over your head. The same holds true for worldly achievements, too. Savasana reminds us that we are enough as we are.” Ten Beautiful Lessons Learned from Savasana – Thank Your Body
“Throughout our society, we have been taught many stereotypes, myths, and outright lies about women and our appearance.
We tend to think of the body as natural, but it is also social and political. Culture and the institutions of our society (politics, the media, schools, the family, etc.) dictate what body types are perceived as ideal at any given time or whether there is much focus on the body at all. They create gender distinctions that add social definition and meaning to those biological differences in our bodies.” Lies My Society Told Me – Style Cassentials