Not updated as regularly or as thoroughly as it should be
About a year ago, and after almost forgetting the term entirely, I started hearing the term “chick-lit” a lot. I had just written my first novel, Promising Young Women, and people seemed to be taking their time deciding whether or not the term suited it. The book starred some young women (some of whom could arguably be described as “sassy”), had an urban setting and had a romance as its central plot point.
“It’s not… it’s not chick-lit though, is it?”
They said it as though it were an outdated slur that they would rather not use. And for a while, I played along. I spent a lot of time hyping up what I thought to be the more “literary” aspects of the novel – the magical realism, the body horror, the downbeat ending – as a way of communicating that my book was not like those books. Eventually, I got really, really tired of doing this. That happens when you’re promoting a book. People ask you what it’s about and you eventually pare down your explanation to its finest point, its neatest soundbite. That’s when you find out what kind of book it really is. “It’s about a girl who fucks her boss,” I started saying. And then, a few months after that, I shortened it to three words: “Girl fucks boss.”
This week I had a doctor’s appointment to remove the contraceptive implant in my arm. Despite knowing that this had been on the horizon for years, I was still quaking with dread at the thought of it.
About three years after I left Ireland, I came to a stunning realisation about my new-found London friend group, and it was this: they were all Protestants. It was the kind of stunning revelation that turned out to be fairly obvious all along — like Soylent Green being people, or mayonnaise being the best pizza condiment, but it was thrilling to me nonetheless.
When we tell women that they are pulling a Marie Antoinette, we phrase it like a caution, but we mean it as a threat. We are not talking about the joys of her life, or the struggles of her existence – we are talking about how spending too much and living too much as a woman are transgressions that are punishable by death. It’s a rap on the knuckles, a Grimm’s fairytale we tell to girls and then keep telling to grown women. And that, perhaps, is why Marie Antoinette works so well. Her powdered hair, her opulent gowns, her excessively cartoon-able image, make it seem that she was born a cautionary tale and was never really a human at all.
INTERVIEW WITH CAROLINE FLACK AND TOM CHAMBERS
“Hey, that’s a backstage secret,” says Tom. Now they’re both making pig snorts.
“It’s one of my favourite parts of the show.”
Musical theatre is not for the glory-hunter: the schedule is gruelling, the workload is intense, and you need to take your little pig-faced joys where you can get them. Especially with this type of musical theatre.
Seven doors down from me, opposite the Chinese supermarket, live two very old and somewhat-famous gangsters. I won’t name them now, because they are very easily Google-able, and having been in and out of prison for so much of their 80-odd years (“I’ve had more porridge than the three bears, luv”), I think they have probably earned a bit of peace and quiet now.
I am sitting opposite Karl Ove Knausgaard, the best-selling Norwegian novelist, and he has just told me that toast – as in, lightly grilled breakfast bread – reminds him of Jesus. Then he’s talking about a brain surgery he once witnessed (an experience he describes as “absolutely fantastic”) and then we’re back on toast.
I am alone on a country road, and I am trying to free a sheep.
(A ram, I should say. Maybe if I specify “ram” rather than sheep, you’ll be more understanding about how I merely tried to free him, rather than successfully completing the act.)
I am alone on a country road, and I am trying to free a ram.
David Sedaris writing your name into his notebook isn’t just seeing how the sausage gets made: you’re left with the curious sensation that you are the sausage.
How hashtags are changing the world
“The internet isn’t some shallow bird bath,” says Sarah Maria Griffin (@sarahgriffski), author and online activist involved in Ireland’s #RepealThe8th campaign to abolish the abortion-banning Eighth Amendment. “It runs deeper every year. It allows breathing room for pieces of art, writing and media that couldn’t make it through ‘traditional’ mediums because they’re too radical. Or, in Ireland’s case, because it rubs against the church in a way they don’t like.”
Why Don't We Hear More About Women's Sport?
The Women’s Cricket World Cup started on Saturday, but you knew that already, didn’t you? You were watching on a big screen, through your fingers, as England lost by a whopping 35 runs to India in Derby. You looked up the match calendar on BBC Sports, you read up about your favourite players, yeah?
No, me neither.
Girl on The Train’s Paula Hawkins: ‘People think terrible things’
“And older women who don’t keep up with appearances are laughed at or pointed at. Isn’t that ridiculous? And that’s just one example. There are all these different ways that we tell women to be quiet, or to sit down, or to not take up so much space.”
They say that horror movies are always popular in times of upheaval because it gives people a safe space to work out their most private fears. During the Cold War the “Red scare” was replicated by a stream of “strangers from another planet” movies. During the 1960s, zombie movies reflected a generation of men who feared becoming mindless killing machines in the Vietnam war.
Romy, Michele and why women should be allowed to be mediocre, too
It’s easy to write a hard-as-nails female detective or a brilliant woman surgeon into your story, but the mark of true equality isn’t about celebrating female exceptionalism – it’s the acceptance of female mediocrity. Feminism is supposed to mean equality for everyone – and that “everyone” applies across boundaries of race, class, age and wits. I’m glad we have Sheryl Sandbergs, Michelle Obamas and Emma Watsons to inspire us, but I think we need Romys and Micheles to keep us sane.
I learnt how to deal with life by learning how to deal with Scrabble
I have a friend who recently found out she was dyspraxic.
As she listed the many symptoms – bad balance, poor hand-eye coordination, difficulty in telling left from right – I found myself becoming uncomfortable.
“But, surely,” I said, with my cynical gosh-they-have-a-word-for-everything-now-don’t-they hat on.
“That’s not a disorder. That’s just being a bit…”
I thought back to my childhood of finding everything physical so horribly difficult.
“That’s just being a bit useless.”
She shook her head. “The thing is, it’s massively under-diagnosed in women, because girls find coping mechanisms so early on. Girls learn to find ways to blend in.”
I went home and read about it. Is there a reason I found so many things difficult in childhood? Is there a reason why, when I turned about eight, my speech became mumbled and slurred out of nowhere? Why I was the last one to learn to tie my shoes? Why I couldn’t knit a snowman, or memorise my times tables, like every single other girl in my class could? Suddenly, the questions I had been asking my whole life – why can everyone else do this, and why can’t you? – made brutal sense to me. Because maybe, Caroline, maybe your brain legitimately is a little different to other people's.
I don’t know whether or not I have dyspraxia, but I do know that I struggled. I don't know if my parents ever worried about me. It was the 90s, it was Ireland and my parents didn't necessarily have the tools to deal with a kid who may have been just a little more awkward than was strictly normal. They didn’t have the language. They didn’t have the resources. But what they did have was Scrabble.
I Am Not Your Negro, a film that shows history repeats itself
Raoul Peck knows that you’re uncomfortable with the name of his film. In fact, he’s not always comfortable about it himself.
“When I went through the immigration borders, the guy is like “what are you here for?” says Peck, incredibly perky for someone who has been promoting his film – scripted entirely from the work of writer James Baldwin – for three months. “I said “I’m promoting my film.” And he asked me – big smile on his face – “what’s the name of your film?”
Raoul Peck puts his hands to his face at the memory. “I Am Not Your Negro. And he gives me this big double take.”
We laugh. Not least because, as a white journalist, I found it uncomfortable to even ask where the screening room for his film was, a fact which he finds hilarious.
“I know that journalists have a problem even saying the word. But let’s have a true, true conversation. Why are we afraid of words? Because they’re loaded. But why are they loaded? Because there’s so much misunderstanding between everybody. It’s like being in a family: there are certain things you won’t say, because if you do, everything will come crashing down. But at what point do you have that necessary conversation?”
The problem with being a secret Richard Curtis fan
As published on The Pool 22/03/2017
If you want to start a fist fight at The Pool, all you need to do is bring up Richard Curtis.
Every time, it splits the room. There have been raised voices over About Time (“He TRICKS his wife into fancying him!”), The Boat That Rocked (“They TRICK a woman into sleeping with someone she doesn’t want to sleep with!”) and, unfailingly, about Love Actually. “Every storyline basically ends up with man-wins-nice-woman-as-a-prize!” the Curtis haters will say. “And can we talk about how creepy the placards scene is?”
Me, I tend to be a Richard Curtis apologist. Like a lot of women, I accept that it is my responsibility to fight for female causes during the day, and my right to take off my bra and watch America’s Next Top Model at night. My brain is like an exotic bird that, every now and then, just needs a blanket thrown over its cage so it can get some sleep.
Do our partners need to accept our flaws – or is it up to us to work on them?
As published on The-Pool.com 09/03/2017
I flip-flop on the word “flaws” a lot. On the one hand, they’re something that we have been taught to embrace in ourselves and in others. The internet’s foremost dating service, match.com, hinges their entire advertising campaign on the idea of “loving” your imperfections, and encourages customers that there is someone out their to appreciate your flaws. A fucked-up pot for every fucked-up lid, so to speak. “Someone out there who loves your dad jokes,” promised one poster. “Someone out there who really digs your Running Man,” said another. But what if your dad jokes are awkward and racist? What if your Running Man isn’t necessarily appropriate at a funeral? Do you deserve a lid for your pot if your pot voted UKIP?
When it comes to sex, why do we love being told what we already know?
As published on The-Pool.com on 07/03/2017
Here are some stray observations about sex that I have picked up over the last decade:
Sex feels good with someone you fancy, and best with someone you love.
Occasionally, you will have sex with someone you don’t love or fancy as a way to pass the time. This will feel less good, but might result in a fun anecdote you can tell your friends later.
There are some things that you will enjoy about sex that will confuse you, and will make you wonder whether you’re a bad feminist for enjoying them. Usually, you are not being a bad feminist if you are enjoying yourself.
Men who won’t give oral sex but expect to receive it are usually as selfish in their daily lives as they are in their sexual ones.
There is nothing – nothing – in this world more mood-breaking than the trumpeting sound of air rapidly leaving your vagina.
But you know all this, don’t you? You know all this and much, much more. Because, ultimately, despite how hard sex articles from the 90s worked to make us think that there were 99 ways to please our lovers, for most people there are fairly few. Even if you showed me the kinkiest, most liberal-minded couple in the world, I’m willing to bet that it almost always ends the same way: with two people sweating, their heads on their pillows, exchanging small, tinkling laughs about the thing they just did. Gay sex, straight sex, sexy sex, good sex, bad sex – it’s all coming from the same buffet table of carnal desire. Desire is the same, regardless of who that desire is pointed at. Orgasming is the same, regardless of who you’re orgasming with.
Ed Sheeran's new song "Galway Girl" is unintentionally hilarious
First published on The-Pool.com 03/03/2017
I have, somehow, managed to go my entire life without forming a solid opinion on Ed Sheeran. I have listened to people passionately defend him, and I have listened to people rant about how he’s destroying the music industry as we know it. And to both these arguments, I have nothing to offer but a hard “meh”. Having a strong feeling about Ed Sheeran is like having a strong feeling about Radox body wash.
Today, however, I have broken my “meh” stance on Ed Sheeran, because I’ve decided that Ed Sheeran has written the greatest comedy song of his generation of songwriters. Because today, Ed Sheeran released his latest song “Galway Girl”.
For those of you with Irish friends and/or an Irish pub near your house, you’ll know the original Galway Girl. Steve Earle recorded it with Irish artist Sharon Shannon in 2008, and it quickly became famous in Ireland after it was featured in a Bulmer’s Cider advert. Ed, clearly inspired by this timeless cultural classic from, errr, 2008, decided to release his own version.
It can’t be overstated enough that Ed Sheeran’s description of meeting an Irish woman is a direct window into the soul of every man who has ever tried to chat up an Irish – or indeed, any non-English person with a recognisable heritage – woman at a bar. Despite the fact that, intellectually, they know that Ireland is a modern country with supermarkets and hospitals, there’s some deeply-rooted scrap of social conditioning that tells them otherwise. That meeting you has transformed their quiet Tuesday night at the pub into that massive party scene that all the passengers in steerage have in Titanic. That he is Rose, and you are one of those jig-dancing, whisky-drinking, devil-may-care peasants ready to give him some folksy advice and a quick handy under your prayer shawl.
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