For auld lang syne

So we’re at the first day of the year again already. 2017 was a challenging year, but not without its rewards. I spent far more time in ICU wards than I would have liked and, although one of the OAPs pulled through and is restored to good health, we lost another earlier this month.

Through that turmoil,  some big work changes and the start of a fledgling relationship, I’ve been surprised by the reactions of some. You think when you hit this age that friendships are set but this year proved otherwise. I’ve been humbled by the support and love given by many, and saddened by those who stepped back or away completely for whatever reason. Others have reconnected and new friendships have also been forged. On balance my circle is healthier for it.

All the best for 2018. Grasp it, enjoy it, live it. It’ll be awesome, it’ll hurt, you’ll laugh and you’ll cry. Submerse yourself in it and do the best you can. Life is short; don’t waste it, make it count.

As my favourite group of Swedes would say (and did say, way back in 1979)  Happy New Year.

No more champagne
And the fireworks are through
Here we are, me and you
Feeling lost and feeling blue
It’s the end of the party
And the morning seems so grey
So unlike yesterday
Now’s the time for us to say…
Happy New Year, Happy New Year
May we all have a vision now and then
Of a world where every neighbour is a friend
Happy New Year, Happy New Year
May we all have our hopes, our will to try
If we don’t we might as well lay down and die
You and I

Sometimes I see
How the brave new world arrives
And I see how it thrives
In the ashes of our lives
Oh yes, man is a fool
And he thinks he’ll be okay
Dragging on, feet of clay
Never knowing he’s astray
Keeps on going anyway…

Seems to me now
That the dreams we had before
Are all dead, nothing more
Than confetti on the floor
It’s the end of a decade
In another ten years time
Who can say what we’ll find
What lies waiting down the line
At the end of eighty-nine…

Judgment of Paris?

I like to think that as I get older I get more receptive to other views and other people’s experience-based points of view.  However I’m not sure this is true, either for me or more widely.  This year I’ve found that other people’s choices and behaviours have been scrutinised and found lacking, against an unpublished standard.  I know I have been guilty of it myself and usually in relation to people I’m less keen on and whose actions have been a reversion to type or a confirmation of what I had originally thought.  I think this allows me to justify it to myself, particularly when people I cherish have been hurt or adversely impacted by others.

However when it’s people I hold dear who behave in disappointing or surprising ways, I find it difficult.  I am aware that I haven’t walked the obligatory “mile in their shoes” and am not aware of all the facts or circumstances leading up to their decisions but I still find myself judging.  I was accused this weekend of being in “team x” over a current disagreement which surprised me.  I hadn’t realised teams were necessary, had been decided or even who would be “team y”.

I’ve had conversations about this with two people that I trust implicitly who have very different views of the issue at hand and I’m still no wiser.  Think I may sit this one out until my moral compass is fixed.  Failing that, I may take a leaf out of Zeus’s book and get someone else to deal with it (but hopefully not start another Trojan war….)

[if you don’t know the story of the Judgment of Paris, you can find it here]

Blog life

Went to a wedding celebration this week, which was lovely.  Two people came up to me and mentioned they had read this blog.  Eek.  Considering how few views I get the odds on two of them being in the same room as me at the same time are pretty low.  Perhaps I should play the lottery….

It’s a new dawn, new day

I had a date tonight.  We ate cheese, drank wine, laughed, and talked a lot. Will I see him again? I doubt it.  He’s a lovely guy and on paper he’s pretty much the perfect match. But… Chemistry. That elusive spark. Not there.

Sometimes I think I’m single because my expectations are too high.  Sometimes I think they aren’t high enough. I want a soulmate. Someone who champions me, believes in me, loves me unconditionally and can tell me to rein it in.  I know they exist; several close friends have found theirs. There’s always hope.

What I don’t want is someone with so much emotional baggage that we can’t carry it between us.  Someone so involved in their own drama that they can’t see anything else.

I ran into an ex and his current girlfriend last week at a party. Those who knew we’d dated were being all over-dramatic about it, waiting (hoping?) for fireworks. We disappointed them; had a hug and a quick catch up then moved on.  I thought it was entertaining and was pleased to see him happy.  She seems a challenge, but I liked her.  It reminded me of why we didn’t work out and reaffirmed that not “settling” is the best road for me.

I know what I don’t want. I sometimes think I know who I want, but then talk myself out of it.  What I do know is hope springs eternal. And, to quote Nina Simone, this old world is a new world and a bold world; I’m feeling good.

Me too

Understandably there’s been a lot of coverage of sexual assault, rape, harassment and sexual violence in the press after the Weinstein revelations and allegations.  The #MeToo tag on social media has exploded, and with it some interesting and alarming responses and reactions.  The primary focus – understandably really – has been on male perpetrators and female victims.  A lot of the commentary has also been from women, but I have been surprised from the number of women who have reacted negatively and with considerable vitriol to other women for supporting the #MeToo campaign.

Jackson Katz has been cited a lot on social media during this debate.  He’s an American educator and film maker, who has spoken widely about violence against women being a men’s issue.  I have linked his Ted talk from 2012 at the bottom of this post.  If you get a chance please listen to it.  One thing of his being quoted is a talk where he firstly asks the men in the audience to tell him what actions they take to prevent being sexually assaulted each day, and then asks the women the same question.  The men say they don’t think about it.  The women take many steps each and every day.  The difference is stark, but probably not all that surprising, sadly and brings the need for #MeToo into sharp relief.   [You can find the whole piece here]

Another Katz piece that really interests me focuses on the language used to report violence and assaults against women.   Katz notes that generally reporting uses a passive voice, shifting the focus from the male perpetrator to the female victim.

“We talk about how many women were raped last year, not about how many men raped women. We talk about how many girls in a school district were harassed last year, not about how many boys harassed girls, we talk about how many teenage girls… got pregnant last year, rather than how many men and boys impregnated teenage girls.”  he says.

“The use of the passive voice has a political effect. [It] shifts the focus off of men and boys and onto women,” Katz continues.   “It’s a bad thing that happens to women, but when you look at that term ‘violence against women,’ nobody is doing it to them. It just happens to them… Men aren’t even a part of it.

This passive language, and the lack of accountability put at the feet of the perpetrator leads, I believe, to the victim-blaming culture we currently have.  Should a rape or sexual assault case get to court, the focus seems to be on attacking the victim’s life-style or wardrobe choices.  This just perpetuates the belief that somehow this is the woman’s fault “what did she think would happen being dressed like that, being drunk, she was asking for it etc” rather than turning the spotlight on the attacker’s actions and behaviours and why he felt it was acceptable to carry out a rape or assault.

It’s as though women have to behave and dress in a subdued, subservient way as men have absolutely no control over their actions and if an assault takes place it is due to the victim’s poor judgement rather than the man’s monstrous behaviour.  It also leads to the mindset that all men are potential rapists.  This clearly isn’t true but is the flip-side of victim-blaming.  I’m sure we’ve all heard women say if only they hadn’t said what they said, or dressed the way they did, then an attack or assault wouldn’t have happened.  This is wrong on every level, and as a society we have a responsibility to eradicate this belief.  We will be failing if another generation of girls and boys become adults believing that it is a woman’s responsibility to prevent herself  from being assaulted.  The focus and conversation needs to change to why so many men think it is acceptable to use non-consensual sexual contact to assert their power. Believe me, it’s all about power, control and humiliation.

The number of reports made about sexual assaults, sexual violence and rapes are shockingly low.  The number that make it court even less and the resultant convictions almost negligible.  The #MeToo campaign is highlighting how common this is, and I do thinks some sections of society are genuinely shocked by it.  The campaign is highlighting (again) how many assaults are carried out by family, friends or partners, rather than the feared stranger lurking in a dark alley.

I know very few female friends or colleagues who haven’t been subject to cat-calling or wolf-whistling; a stray hand “accidentally” brushing a breast or bottom; a stranger rubbing up against you on public transport or a man deliberately masturbating in their eye-line.  That’s before you get on to the casting couch, naked line-ups, grooming, sexual assault, attempted rape and rape itself.  As a society I think we’ve become so desensitised to this that the groping hand and transport-rubber are just seen as something that happens in day-to-day life and not even registered as an assault.

On top of the type of incidents above, I have been subject to sexual assault twice; once in my late teens/early twenties when the father of a friend tried to get me to sleep with him, and the second twenty years or so later after a night out.  I didn’t report either incident, mainly for the reasons mentioned above.   Would I report a similar incident now?  I honestly don’t know.

I hope the #MeToo campaign raises awareness throughout society of just how widespread this issue is, and leads to reports of assaults being taken seriously and investigated properly.  A male friend of mine commented that he thought it was a watershed moment; “like Saville”.  A spotlight has been turned on, a lid has been lifted and now there’s no going back.   I hope he’s right.   I hope this makes everyone think about their behaviour and whether or not they use their power and influence to coerce or force someone else to do something that’s against their wishes.

I am fully aware that the victims of sexual assault and rape are not exclusively women.  Many men are also now speaking out about their experiences and they deserve as much support and commendation for this as their female counterparts.

And to those who don’t feel able to speak out yet about their experiences, it’s okay.  We stand with you and for you.   You aren’t alone.

 

Que?

I got a bit philosophical on Facebook this week, after some fairly childlike shenanigans in my main social group leading to most of us being blocked and unfriended after someone was challenged over some fairly inappropriate behaviour.  It’s the second time this year a couple have chosen to extract themselves from the group with no explanation and it’s sad, in most senses of the word.

I always assumed that when I was a “grown-up” that kind of behaviour would be left behind in the playground, but it seems to just as prevalent. Maybe social media brings it to the fore, and maybe also brings out the worst in some people.  Gives them a platform with the shield of not being face to face or having to own their behaviours or choices. Who really knows, but it’s caused some turmoil and really revealed that you don’t always know people as well as you think.

I’ve always been lucky to have a fairly large social circle. About three main groups with very slight areas of crossover if mapped on a Venn diagram.  One is my “home” group and comprises those I met at infant, junior and secondary school and am still in contact with, plus people I worked with while a student. It’s a fairly static group these days; the new additions mainly being babies. The second is my “uni girls” group. Again, fairly static, I’m the only single one and the majority have children and/or work in education. The third and biggest group is the “woo folk”; people I met through a male friend at uni and have known since my late teens and early twenties. The core is fairly constant but there have been some departures and arrivals over the years, but this year has seen real change.

As well as the “it’s my ball and I’m taking it home” nonsense, others have also been dealing with serious health issues and family problems. However we have also had great times away together as well as celebrating birthdays, an engagement and a wedding.  And we’ve also had some new people join our group and it’s been fabulous.  I said on Facebook that they’d arrived “crashing in with glasses in hand and it feels they’ve always been there. And they’ll stay”. It’s true. Although I only met them a relatively short while ago, we are connected.  I feel know them better than the ones who chose to leave, one of whom I’d known over twenty years.  

I was in a virtual chat with two of them after midnight yesterday discussing dating, kissing critique, enormous cheeses and flavoured tequila. It involved Fawlty Towers impressions, hobbit references, train journeys and tears of laughter. It was wonderful, refreshing and ridiculous. Perfect.

 I call these combined groups my tribe. It may sound corny or trite, but I don’t care. We are all connected through mutual friends, shared values, similar interests and experiences, some losses and ridiculous senses of humour.  But at the middle is mutual respect and love. They both shine through.

This year has been a bit of an odd one in terms of friendships particularly, but I do think it’s been a leveller as well as an eye-opener.  People’s reactions to change, and to you making life-changing choices, can be very interesting.  Particularly when it throws their balance off when you refuse to engage with their power games and instead challenge their belief that everything revolves around them.  For me it’s helped to reveal what and who are truly important. I feel I’ve found my space and it’s a good place. Life is short. Grab it, use it, love it, don’t waste it.

You little thief 

I knew this day would come. CSG has swiped my beloved bleistiftspitzmaschine, the swine.  That’s a pencil sharpener in case you’re new to the blog [follow the link if you want to see a picture].  It’s a particularly lovely 1970s mechanical one that I rescued.  It sits on my desk and makes me smile when it catches my eye. 

He appeared this morning and I knew he’d been up to something. He commented on how tidy my desk was and then walked off smirking. I then realised it had been nabbed. I shall have to come up with something to get him back.  Suggestions gratefully received!

I’m not in the office now for a week [I’m off to the seaside for a spot of camping] so will have to ponder on it. Mind you, they do say revenge is a dish best served cold!