Follow Your Dreams/Fail at 30

So I read somewhere recently that the trajectory of most people’s occupational lives can be gleaned by the time they are 30. That whatever they are going to be or do (I’m going to play fast and loose on the philosophy of person-hood here) will already be in sight. That if they are to carve out any kind of success along the flanks of an employment grindstone, they will have already gotten out the chisel. If they are to climb the ladder of proverbial prosperity they will have already have sliced their feet into the bottom rungs. Do you need any more bad metaphors? No? Good.

Of course, I have no way of checking the voracity of such a claim. Well, that is not true, I could probably do something like, I dunno, research, but I’m not going to. I’m going to fly out on a bendy extremity and decide to run with it. In any case it sounds feasibly likely to be at least common. If we are to have success in life, the signs will be there before we check in to our fourth decade (indeed, before we are even born).

I am  lazily defining ‘success’ here in two ways, first in the straight forward Capitalist sense. You’re 30 and you have a job that pays OK and that stands a chance of being paid better than OK, one day. Added, you feel fairly comfortable if you tell people what your Day Job is at  beer and crisps or pre-drink-before-gay-club parties. You know, like, you’re in Marketing or Human Resources or Procurement or Recruitment or something along the blurred lines of Chandler Bing. When you tell people of course, they might feel bored for you, indifferent, but at least not embarrassed or sad or awkward. And all things considered, that is something.

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Banksy

In the second sense, you have a job that is actually kinda interesting, that maybe you always wanted to do since you were a bern, and/or has some level of creativity or specificity or social currency. The kinda job that if you tell people about it they’ll actually look kinda pleased for you, or interested or engaged. They may even, vaguely, want to ask you questions about it or try and friendly up to you so they can add you to their Rolodex of ‘good so-and-sos-to know.’

But if you start surfing towards 30 and you still haven’t figured your shit out yet, such social occasions, such questions, become instigators of minor distress. Perhaps you just don’t know – or never have known – what you want?You’ve done a few odd jobs, here and there but nothing really stuck or settled, and none of them were interesting or punched much of the minimum wage in any case. Perhaps you’re still kicking it at the Tiki Post, the after school job you got when you were 17 and have never had the subsequent energy to leave, or luck to have been offered anything better (application after application after application).

Maybe you had high minded aspirations, and tried to be a writer or painter or musician and just never got off the work-for-free circuit, or away from the open mike night at your local sticky floored bar. Perhaps you’ve even been telling people that it is what ‘you do’… only to have been besmirched one too many times by a forensic bastard asking you, “how much money do you actually make doing that?”

Perhaps you got hooked in to someone young and decided you were going to live  some exalted salt of the earth existence together? On a house boat with a cat called Bettina, going from town to town. Or in a Yurt with a small garden comprised of your crop of organic swiss chard and beets and your selection of hand sprung garden ornaments, also available to purchase on eBay.  You know, to make money for those little extras. Like goat cheese or a mandolin.

But then they left you for one of those magnolia be-flatted marketing types and, you think, you probably could never really have afforded it all anyway. However long you squirreled away your  barista pay packet. If indeed it was anything other than a predictable bucolic fantasy. A crust made to hold in the entrails of your loveless, penniless, sexless union. The product of a drunken night you never bothered to end.

Yea I’m that woman. I’ve done those things. I’m the one with the tumbleweed CV, which I am under orders from the good folks at DWP to try and stitch together in to something that looks, sounds and smells like respectability. I’m that woman who has tried to not have an epic tear fit when my lovelyjubblyscrubbly work coach has spittled out, “Well, you’re very difficult Ms ******, because you’re almost 30 and you have no real job experience and you have never really done anything meaningful.”

Yea its tough being nearly 30 and having to field questions such as “What is it that you do?” with, “I don’t do anything.” Worse, “What is it you used to do?” with “I’ve never really done that either. You know. Doing stuff.”

And having one of those University Education things doesn’t help much. It only adds to the sting when someone tells you that joke, “What to you say to a University graduate? I’ll have fries with those chicken nuggets!!”

Oh how we laughed! We… the worst excesses of our under-employed, over-educated generation. We the working class kids who grew up under Blair style faux optimism, who hit the books with vigour, but did not have the connections or confidence or basic money to see it through to the middle class dream. Yes those of us who were 10 when New Labour  came into the ascendancy, will be turning 30 now, and though we got the promised Education, Education, Education  many of us did not get  the Career, Career, Career.

“Well!”, they say, “that is your problem for studying dome namby pamby Minnie Mouse medja/art nonsense!” But is not a society that snubs those who have undertaken cultural  academic exercise – for no profit can be unfurled from their fingers – an impoverished one? Apparently not.

So there we are. Or, at least, there am I. Jobless, aimless and happy to oscillate between cursing the neo-liberal inequalities of the day, and my own rudderless whimsy. The whimsy we shall call having the sheer temerity to want to shake a little aspiration in to my forward motions.   This being the psychological forever destiny of those of us who followed our dreams, and  failed at 30.

 

 

 

 

Female’s Leading Doesn’t Make Up For Feminism Losing

 

So we, the British, such as we are, are to have our second female Prime Minister. As a woman who will, for the sake of brevity, refer to herself as a ‘person of the left’, the second inauguration of a female premier being a Conservative (by all accounts, with a capital C) leaves one, at best, rather ambivalent.

The most coherent form of political feminism has it that, it is not so much the cause of feminism to provide a shinning walk way for a female leader, so much as it is to arrive at a governance that takes issues that affect women seriously, point one. Point two, is that the most sensible way of doing this is to enable a critical mass of women to work in government, that at the very least equals, or slightly surpasses, the presence of men. One could argue, for the sake here of simplicity, that the Nordic countries do so comparatively well for women because they have such decent levels of representation, in the European context in any case. Indeed the Nordic countries have an average of 41% representation, compared with the rest of Europe’s measly average of 24%.

Britain doesn’t do well out of that. It seems to me rather suspect to be throwing garlands up in the air on account of the new leader’s vagina, when overall political power is but sand in women’s hands. Of course, just as those far right men with stubbly shaved heads and beady, forensic eyes (here’s looking at you Paul Nuttall) will become Dworkins when it comes to the malfunctioning of women’s liberty in the hands of their Muslim enemies, so too will conservatives dance on the podium of feminism when its stripped vernacular serves their cause. Here comes Theresa, girls, our work here is done!

But I have nothing, really, against Theresa May, especially when considered next to the rag bag bunch of Tory Etonian toffs that have being whipping the reins of power for the last ten years. Indeed, Andrea Leadsom aside, women conservatives seem to be the Tories best bet, if only because they are overall, slightly less annoying then their tripod counterparts.

Nonetheless, Theresa May’s appointment to power is no great success for feminism, but how much of an affront it will be will rather depend on what she does next to support women. And therein lies the kernel of my ambivalence: probably not a great deal.

If we shoot over to the Labour Party, in all its glistening disarray, it is equally hard to feel enthused by the potential for Angela Eagle to become leader of the opposition. Yes Labour has never had a female leader (other than the interim Harriet Harman) and yes there is a real conversation to be had about why a left wing (well, you know) party has been so inept in this regard . The Conservatives, of course, bought in the euphemistically termed Welfare Reforms which disproportionately affected women and now, despite our conviviality about having two women top dogs, Britain finds itself far down the list of the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Index, at number 26, lower than most other European countries despite us being one of the richest. I’ve never been much of a patriot, but what little patriotism I do have is looking more and more like a sweaty ball of old socks.

Those feminist Labour supporters who want to run head first into Angela Eagle’s pink suits and willingness to play the political game, need to remind themselves that she abstained on voting for the aforementioned Welfare Reform Act. I never quite understood why so many Labour MPs did; did they imagine that if they simply voted it down Tories, Middle England and The Daily Mail would creep into their second expense homes at night and apply cling film to their toilet seats, shave their dogs and put several dozen mackerels down the sides of their sofas? Is Labour so fearful of having political clout, decisiveness or initiative? These Blairites tell us they want power, but one gets the distinct impression that if they ever got it, they’d not have a bloody clue what to do with it, so wholesome and distended is their political, existential crisis.

Added to which, Eagle also voted for the Iraq war, Syrian airstrikes and the hike in University fees. Given that the latter happening, more or less obliterated the Liberal Democrats, it seems quite a stretch to imagine that her leadership would galvanize and unify the party in the way that is being proposed.

Look, I don’t have any real ‘loyalty’ to Jeremy Corbyn, but one feels that the perpetuating failure of the Labour Party has little to nothing to do with him, and indeed, will not be solved by her. Labour lost a massive chunk of its historical support when Scotland went for the more politically cohesive and very ably led SNP, and there is more hemorrhaging of support to the far right party, UKIP. The fact is that, those areas that have voted enthusiastically for Brexit in England and Wales, are just more socially conservative than what any side of the Labour movement can speak too, Eagle or Corbyn.

The only glimmer of hope would arrive if they stopped peeing their pants over being showered with denigrating generalities such You Urban Metropolitan Elites! you Rabid Multiculturalists!, you Bull Dyke Feminists and Haters of the Queen!, and actually curated some willing compromises and tried to colonize us namby pamby liberals, socialists and jaded centrists as best possible. Corbyn has tried to reach a compromise, but the compromise on the other side is predicated on him leaving and taking his bloody mandate with him. Which, for those taking a nap at the back, isn’t really a compromise at all.

The simple fact of having female leaders of either the right or the left won’t be enough to bring feminism and socialism back from the brink of their swansongs. Women have received dramatic cuts to their social security,  women’s refuges are closing, and a government panel seems long term hellbent on enacting policies to enable the industrialization of prostitution.

We are in a crisis, one from which no politician alone, male or female, can currently save us, irrespective of the colour of their jackets or the strength of their steel.


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Germaine Greer:Old Women & Young Feminism

It is difficult to know how to be a feminist. Just saying you believe in equality for women is all well and good, but it doesn’t really help you or anyone when you have to get down to the details of what that means. When it comes to deciding on what kinds of actions and discourses will contribute most fully  to the betterment of womanity. And that is even before you…get to more tricky, philosophical concepts such as liberation and emancipation.

Germaine Greer is a perfect example of why we need to move with the times as feminists and keep on learning. Embarrassing and dangerous.

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One thing you can do to implement your feminist credentials successfully, however, is to not be an Old Woman. You can be any number of things as a feminist, woman, man or mineral, but if you are going to be an Old Woman feminist, you’d better do it in a chronically kowtowing, know your place, kind of way. Despite your years on this cragged sphere, your many books penned, your many battles fought, and your countless death threats received, your feminism is now a draughty hump of nothing and the best you can do to remain of use is to quietly avoid impeding upon the current agenda. And if you are asked a direct question about something inflammatory or controversial, rather than take the feather-ruffling bate, it is probably best to just have a play at tweaking your invisible hearing aid, theatrically squinting your eyes before going off on one about how ‘meekly people speak these days’.

Germaine Greer is entitled to her opinion. Just like I’m entitled to my opinion, that she’s a heartless old bat.

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Ageism is a curious form inferiority enforcement, because it is the one condition that most of us will one day share. The young women who have grasped the feminist mantle and have re-imagined it into something that Old Women like Fay Weldon and Germaine Greer do not recognise, seem to be lacking in a basic form of humility. Even apart from the bile inducing idea that political and philosophical ideas should come in nifty trends and fashions, there seems to be a wilful ignorance about the fact that the very same fate awaits them. That one day they too, will be considered irrelevant. In fact, with the garrulous and thrifty pace of social media discourse these days, it might happen quicker than they think.
Now, clearly, younger feminists feel a sense of baggage about the second wave; they feel that these earlier feminists had a narrow agenda that didn’t account for the various different experiences of womanhood available. Now without doing a Feminist History 101 here, one wonders to what extent this is actually a fair representation of the many voices speaking and books penned during that 1960s and 70s period. One wonders if some contemporary feminism has actually took its history lessons from oversimplified media parodies. Take Greer, for example; as her unauthorized biography demonstrates – what these younger feminists fail to understand – is that Greer was often out of step with other,  what we could call, more ‘to the agenda’ feminists. She has always feather ruffled. What adds extra hump to the butt of the joke, is the fact that is she not saying anything vastly different to anything she has said before. It shouldn’t really come as much of a surprise. Similarly is the case for author Fay Weldon, who has been of the habit of telling porkie pies about her feminist views to credulous journalists for most of her career.

At this point we just have to assume everything Germaine Greer says is for attention. Sit down and shut up, dear.

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Gloria Steinem once made the case that women actually become more radical as they age. Her argument was partly rested on the fact that patriarchal society offers young women shallow and fickle forms of power. By lionizing the particular kind of scopophilic sexuality that young women are capable of pursuing, they are given respite from feminine irrelevance. As they age, however, this mirage of empowerment begins to dissolve. The feeling of validation they might receive from being perceived of as beautiful does not result in a long term structural acquisition of personal power. It saddens me to see Old Women, who have given their lives more often that not in the service of others, to be made to feel like they should shrink themselves down to accommodate further still in their dotage. The way a grandmother will offer to sit in the most uncomfortable seat in the room, will defer to almost all of the voices in the room and will literally find herself apologising for her very ‘inconvenient’ existence.

In fact, when Old Women don’t do this – be kindly martyred grannies – they are seen of as repulsive bringers of discomfort. The Hags, the Witches, The Mother in Laws. The Germaine Greers.
Look, making a case for bigotry can in no way be sensibly coloured by other forms of bigotry. You don’t get to ‘call out’ Greer’s views on transgendered culture  by telling her she is an Old Woman who should sit down and shut the fuck up. You don’t get to tell someone to ‘check their privilege’ by expostulating on their ‘baggy old fanny’ or their ‘wrinkly old chops’. Especially if you are a feminist. And especially if you would hope that when the day comes for your own views to become unfashionable, that you airing them would not be considered equivalent to flapping about a set of crusty old underpants. It would be the very least our grandchildren could do.

The Dyspraxic & the Grammar Bullies.

 

They are the type of people with whom I have butted, uncomfortably, up against for most of my life, as I have Dyspraxia. No, it is not some new-fangled way of describing fundamental weakness, it is not caused by sugar intolerance or a way of glamourizing laziness or self absorption. It is simply a way of labelling a certain kind of brain functioning (which I call my brain ’tilt’) which is unusual and which often manifests itself in behaviours which are inconvenient to a society that likes people to fit in. It is annoying, particularly, to those arseholes with a stronger-sense-of-loyalty-to-conventional-standards-of-behaviour we were just talking about.

When I was at University, the disability centre conducted some IQ tests on me, as although I was doing well with the content of my course, I was struggling with the organisation and management. The tests revealed in me an odd ‘intelligence’ distribution. My mathematical skills, spatial awareness and short term memory tests showed an IQ of 92, but my linguistic tests showed an IQ of 136. The educational psychologist, who was poking her metaphorical fingers around inside of my brain, told me, that even though a degree of difference between the two ‘aspects’ was common, that such a marked difference was not. It is sort of like having one part of your brain running a marathon, whilst the other sits around chain smoking, in her underpants, and stares blankly out of the window.

She went on to explain, that this odd distribution of intelligence in my mother board resulted in my having to cope with a magic show of awkward physical and behavioural patterns.  Can’t ride a bike, can’t drive a car, often can’t distinguish between left and right (hence, read a map), persistently forget where I am going, what I am doing, what happened five minutes ago, oh, yes and bad handwriting with poor levels of basic organisation. Hence, often, bad grammar. Oh, but on the upside, I am a natural speed reader, if I can concentrate for long enough to bother.

It is like being Dory. I can’t remember who I am half the time or what is going on (for short periods), but I can read well and I do speak Whale. And jobs for which those specifications fit, as you can imagine, are constantly dropping out of the fucking sky. It enables me to focus heavily on the ‘big’ things in life like love, art, ideas… whilst all the necessities of day to day living are constantly flapping wildly behind me in the wind.

During my salad years, as a ‘starting out person’, things were not too bad; being somewhat disorganised, uncouth, and ‘irresponsible’ was par for the course, but as I kamikazed   towards adolescence the rules changed. Particularly for girls.  The expectations that one should be tidy and organised in handwriting, dress and demeanour were reinforced by both our teachers and our peers. This insidious belief, that women should be more conformist, undoubtedly is given birth to by a cultural history that views women as spare ribs, followers, secretaries, needle workers, blanket folders, and such. I imagine it was difficult for most girls, but if you were Dyspraxic, it was impossible.

I was persistently being told off by teachers for my poor levels of organisation and regularly laughed at and mocked by my classmates for being perceived of as unattractive and ‘weird’. Finding out I was Dyspraxic – and that all it did was make me different, not deficient – was indeed some remedy for the low self esteem I had accrued as a result.

It initially smarts when some Twitter Twat has a pop at my bad grammar or typos. But I have rationalised something: people who point out errors like this are like the people who mock others for being fat. They not only mean spirited, but wily competitors carrying around fragile egos. It is hard to define, due to subjectivity, whether or not someone is interesting, intelligent, attractive or charismatic (let alone of good, moral character), but knowing if someone is thin or spells good, is objective. Easy to define. Easy to point out. The Katie Hopkinses of this world, or the middle aged men who regularly grace the comment sections of national newspapers, are paragons of this. Paragons of people who wish to assert their belief in their own betterness through the simplest, most ungracious of means. They are the people who posture about with their ‘basic good sense’ but snub poetry, ostensibly because it is ‘fluffy nonsense’ but really, because they just don’t understand it. And due to their arrogance, they cannot accept any of their ignorance.

It is easier to find simple methodologies for assigning lowness of character or poor social worth as a way of easily distinguishing themselves as inherently ‘better’. And this competitive, and  often asinine commercial culture, validates them in their pettiness and vulnerability.

One wishes they could go find a large island somewhere, and fight it out amongst themselves, and leave the rest of us – with our incompleteness, our wonkiness, our chubbiness – to our own world of flexibility, compassion and understanding.


If you have, or think you may have Dyspraxia and you live in the UK, The Dyspraxia Foundation may be able to help. You can find their website here.


Written by Rae Story. If you’d like to help her keep her sorry backend in clean socks and sandwiches please consider making a donation from this page.