A Fine Life

I have just read an article in Psychologies magazine that has inspired me to write this. I love it when that happens – when I read something and feel I have something to add. The article was about being ‘fine’. They always say that if a woman ever says she is ‘fine’ then the husband or partner is in trouble – as ‘fine’ can be a mask to hide true, inner feelings.

The article suggested that it is better to be honest when people ask if you are okay  – tell them you are feeling rubbish/down/depressed etc. I guess it depends on the person that has asked you and the situation. I studied spoken communication at university for my dissertation – and it does seem that certain phrases are asked out of politeness or to invite a deeper, more meaningful conversation. Women are always said to be a more ‘polite’ conversationalist and I found that from my research. That is politeness translates as being cooperative, formal and inviting. Women like to include others into conversations and a simple,

‘How are you?’

‘I’m fine thanks, how are you?’

can do this. It did always amuse when I studied gender differences because a male conversation of:

‘Pint?’

‘Sure!’

can so exactly the same thing! So if this ‘politeness’ is more about being honest and straight to the point, then males may have it down to a tea (or a beer!) But let’s stick with this idea of being ‘fine’ – and within both genders. The article suggested ‘fine’ to be an acronym, which I thought was quite clever. Because even if we say are fine, we are really feeling a mash-up of feelings – and you could argue that we all are, all the time.

 

F *cked up

Insecure

Neurotic

Emotional

 

Is it better to be honest and say ‘Actually, I’m feeling kind of emotional’? Like I said above, it does depend on who it is and where you are. I would want a friend or family member to tell me what they were really feeling – even if it wasn’t a convenient time or location in fact. Sometimes, though, you just want small-talk though and keeps people at that ‘acquaintance’ level – and we all need those.

Lately, I’ve had a couple of neighbours confide truths to me. I didn’t ask for it or particularly invite it  – well I didn’t think I did anyway! One neighbour on Monday, confided that she had cancer and her latest check-up was yesterday. I only went outside to get my sunglasses from my car so that I could read in the sun. Irony alert – that by the time we had finished talking, the sun had gone in! I liked the fact that she spoke to me about it though, really. I feel I know her better. If she had said she was ‘fine’ and then I heard her health news from someone else, I would have felt that I wasn’t a person she could tell. The downside is, it has now gone a few notches up from general neighbour chat and I must remember to ask her how her check-up went. The pressure is on to not feel like a bad neighbour.

Another neighbour, a few weeks previous, confided in me about his wife leaving him for another man. Again, I was just  getting out of my car  – I think I had just come from work. We had the small talk about ‘glad the day was over and I could relax now’ etc. It somehow got onto the fact that he now lived alone and his wife had left him. This may have been a time when I wished he had just said he was ‘fine’ – as I didn’t really  know what to say! I mean what do you say? ‘There are plenty more fish in the sea!’  or ‘Maybe she will come back’? Awkward. But, maybe it made him feel better to tell someone and he was sick of saying that he was just ‘fine’.

It’s okay to not be fine. I always say that talking about things is human nature and we need to do it. We are social creatures and sometimes a chat – whether it be to a close friend or stranger – is all we need.

XSXS

 

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Miserable Cinderellas

‘There is a castle on a cloud,
I like to go there in my sleep,
Aren’t any floors for me to sweep,
Not in my castle on a cloud.’

I saw two productions over half term. The Burton Operatic Society did a production of Cinderella at a local school. (I have discussed a production in a previous blog: https://samanthagray9.wordpress.com/2012/10/31/good-vs-evil/) I also saw Les Miserables (finally!) at  the cinema. Both productions were fantastic but naturally they are every different in terms of context and plot. But in this case, they are both musicals and me being me, I wanted to draw some comparisons from the characters. (Call me lazy if you like for not writing two separate reviews!)

I must confess that I didn’t really know the story of Les Mis. before I went. I know, I know, English graduate who has not read it or seen a version of it. Reasons, or excuses being, well for starters the book is reallllly long! I have since downloaded it to my Nook and it is a worryingly long 4000 pages! (You may not see so many blogs lately 😉 ) Also, I just never saw a production through reasons such as money, opportunity and I never particularly studied it. It was worth the wait though!

I loved the film of Les Mis. and recommend anyone who has not seen it, to go. Or wait for the DVD 😉 It was a brilliant portrayal of Paris after the French Revolution. It focuses on the poor – or asles miserables’ can be translated as ‘the poor ones,’ ‘the miserables,’ or ‘the victims.’ Then there is the juicy part of the plot of the June Rebellion also known as The Paris Uprising of 1832. This was good viewing and really gave a depiction of this battle between the rich and the poor man. I don’t want to go too much into the story because that isn’t the purpose of this blog. But just a few more thoughts of mine about the latest film version: the singing was good overall. I was well aware it was a musical and was fine with the characters singing when there was a vital part to the plot, when they had to sing their own thoughts or sing as a group  – fine. I wasn’t so sure about them ‘singing’ conversations to each other. That was a bit odd! I know that that is the case with all productions of Les Miserables but it just seemed a little odd to me. Russel Crowe singing seriously was even odder – he was the only one that I cringed in my seat a little when he let the notes escape his mouth. My other main point that comes to mind, is the children. They were fantastic little actors and really did the characters justice. Brilliant.

Cinderella I would think we all know a little about. It was a great production by Burton Operatics and an old story with a new twist, yet it still kept the original magic. I laughed out loud when the mice came out though – as they were played by children, they were nearly as big as Cinders herself! The actress playing Cinderella was amazing and had that inner happiness to her that only resurfaced when she was with the mice, or day dreaming or when she meets the prince. She played the miserable and slave side to the character equally as well. (The other actors and everyone involved did a fantastic job too – to risk a shout out!)

I started to see the old fairy tale in a new light though last week. Possible because it was the first time I had seen it as an adult. It really is about a poor orphan girl, treated badly because of the times and bad luck of being left with an awful family. We are talking 17th century when this first was written, reflecting the role of women at the time. If women had no family or husband then they were worth nothing really. It isn’t until she meets her Prince Charming that her life becomes livable. The feminist in me, sobs at this.

This is what got me thinking when I saw Les Mis. Cosette is a lot like Cinderella. Think about it. They are both;

  • orphans and are left in terrible circumstances because of this.
  • slave like characters who like to dream and hope. The song at the top is from Les Mis. and sung by Cosette but it also reminded me of Cinderella.
  • young and beautiful
  • women in society who are not able to help themselves
  • (in the end) married to their heart’s desire who happen to rescue them from their misfortune. (I will admit Cosette was already saved early on by Jean Valjean – but again saved by a man)

So whether fairy tales or historical dramas, women were still depicted and were indeed treated in the same, awful way years ago. In terms of fairy tales, I do sometimes think why didn’t Cinderella (or Snow White, or any other) put the broom down, go out get a job, fend for herself and forget about men? But as Les Mis. shows, it wasn’t as simple as that indeed in France or England or anywhere. I was horrified by Cosette’s Mum in the film (played by Ann Hathaway) and how she had to have her head shaved to sell her hair and have her teeth pulled out for money. Definitely showing the hardships of the time. Poor women then had to resort to prostitution if they weren’t lucky to get rescued by the Jean Valjeans or the Prince Charmings of the world.

I suppose, though, the Valjean character does show us just how hard it was for men too. He wouldn’t have been able to turn his life around (well firstly if he didn’t steal a lot of silver!) if he hadn’t the run and under cover, carving and scraping a life for himself along the way. But being a hero of a story, he still managed to save Cosette on the way also. Like fairy tales, there is some sort of happy ending.

So how many Miserable Cinderellas are out there today? Women that have nowhere to turn or are so desperate that they turn to a horrible way of life. Because, unlike fairy takes, there isn’t always a happy ending in life. 😦

XSXS

A Gay Affair….

…… but  gay people won’t be able to have gay affairs if they aren’t allowed to wed in the first place!

You may have gathered that I am straight. I am a female and I have spoken about my boyfriend on many occasion – who is male. So I am not a gay man or a lesbian woman using my blog to try and get my views across. No. I am a straight woman, using my blog to give my views on the matter. Giving the homosexuals an extra voice if you will.

It seemed a good time to write this today. The political debate has been going on for a while now, plus I went out for my GBF’s (Gay Best Friend – referred to in prrevious posts) birthday on Friday. Also, last night, I showed the said GBF an essay I wrote at Uni about the origin of the word ‘gay’. So I am going to combine all thoughts of these subjects into today’s post.

I’ll start with our Friday night out. It was a real ‘gay affair,’ I have to say. We had Tepanyaki at a Japanese restaurant, which was served to us, funnily enough, by a very camp Japanese chef. Me and a few mates spent the night guessing if he was gay or not. He put cups under his top at one point and blew kisses at the males and femles, yet wouldn’t come and feel my boyfriend up – I’m not sure who this says the most about 😉

The night was fun, followed by Karaoke. I took the piss a little out of my friend for this saying it was all a very themed night 😉 He likes various langauges and cultures, so the night wasn’t a surprise, I just loved how it was all inkeeping with the Japanese idea – but that was partly the restaurant I guess 🙂 The first song to be sung was Papa don’t Preach by one of my GBF’s lesbian friends. She homosexualised the lyrics with, ‘Papa don’t preach, I’m a lesbian.’  – you’re all singing that to yourself now, aren’t you?!  I felt it was a bit ‘much’ for the first song of the night as some of the lyrics were very female love explicit 😉  – maybe I just hadn’t drank enough! But the homosexual supporter side of me was filled with admiration for this girl. She was singing in a public place about her homosexuality with pride, confidence and joy. Why shouldn’t this girl marry who she wants to one day?  Across the room there could have been a very unhappy, hetreosexual couple – stuck in a marriage they are unhappy with. Who is the happiest?

That’s what I think it all comes down to. Happiness. To quote the picture at the top, ‘Why can’t people marry who they want to?’ There have been subjects arising such as religion, kids, society – blah blah blah. People should have the free will to love who they want and celebrate it how they choose. To touch on the ‘kid’s’ subject, I also think that a child in today’s society is  likely to be just as happy with two loving dads or two loving mums than they are with a mum and a dad who are fighting, or with a single mum or dad or even with the whole ‘conventional’ family. Let’s face it, the idea of ‘family’ has changed over the last fifty years anyway, so why shouldn’t the marriage rules?

Someone said to me that ‘marriage is between men and women.’ I replied with, ‘it has been up to now, yes. But why can’t that be changed?’ Men were only allowed to vote until the suffragettes came along and until then ‘voting was just for men.’ That changed, so why can’t this? My friend’s reply was that gay people can have a civil ceremony and they should be happy with that. Well, why can’t they have the same as anyone else? If marriage is just a piece of paper then it is down to the inidividual to decide if they want that piece of paper. It shouldn’t be a case of ‘marriage is just a document and won’t affect their lives anyway so there is no point in fighting for it.’ If that’s the case then just aboloish marriage altogether then.

This is where the church comes in. Religion has also changed over the years and less people are involved in organised religion. There are many religions and beliefs and people are more confident to explore and believe in what they choose. The Christian (and other) church need to stay with the times, or they will lose even more ‘custom’ so to speak. They believe that God treats us all equally  – well then let them marry equally. MPs are saying ‘we can’t redefine marriage.’ Why not? It is only a case of gender. Man loves woman. Woman loves man. Man loves man. Woman loves woman. All the same service give or take a prefix.

To finish I’ll share with you a little about the history of the word ‘gay,’ which my GBF was very interested to read last night. In 1310 the definition of ‘gay’ was:

‘Of persons, their atributes and actions: Full of disposed to joy and mirth manifesting or characterised by joyous mirth; light hearted exuberantly cheerful, sportive.’

It was nothing but positive back then. To be gay was to feel joy – no matter what the gender or sexual preference. The word was used frequently to display happiness pf charcters in work’s of literature. For example, Chaucer described someone as ‘gay’ in 1386. By Shakesperian times, the term ‘the gays’ was commonly used to refer to men on stage who played the female parts. My GBF and I talked about the fact that these men may have had to feminise themselves and put on female voices but at same time they were over enthusiastic and joyous. Explaining a little about how the two definitoins have had a crossover. Also in the 19th Century, female and male prostitues were referred to as beinig ‘gaily’ dressed. This again gives the idea of the lable ‘gay’ in our modern society: to be feminine, smart, flamboyant (even if they aren’t actually a homosexual.)

So, if we take the old, postive definiton of ‘gay’ to be happy and joyous – then, in my opinion, if we are going to wed, we all need a very gay marriage 😉

 XSXS

Women rabbit, witter, waffle, chatter…. Men talk.

Well I am resurfacing. I have to confess that Christmas has bitten me, chewed me up and swallowed me whole! I have been engrossed doing the whole preparation lark like putting up the decorations, buying presents, wrapping them and generally thinking what needs to be done. Being a woman and all, I like this and feel I have to do this whole process. Whereas, my boyfriend says he is not involved with anything christmas present related until the week before. He is lucky I buy all our family presents.

I have always been interested in the fascinating differences between the genders, as you can probably tell by previous posts. At university, I did my dissertation on how men and women communicate. I recorded conversations and looked in particular at how women are cooperative in conversation and men and competitive as these are two stereotypes often applied to the genders. This all came screaming back to me today as I recorded some conversations on my phone for some spoken language studies we are doing at school. I had to transcribe them too. Luckily these were short ones but back in the Uni days it could take a good ten minutes to transcribe 10 seconds of speech! I spent many an hour until 1am transcribing all women, all men and mixed gender conversations that I had got from recording my course and house mates.

It was really interesting stuff and I discovered that men tend to swear more. Especially in mixed gender groups. I think I linked this to the fact they could be trying to ‘show off’ in front of the opposite sex. The same went for insults and jokes. Men definitely tell more jokes and to take my feminist hat off a minute, I think men tell jokes better. Sorry to all the female comedians out there! But men are good at being straight to the point and talking little, meaning a good gag with a punch line is usually delivered well. Women are good at telling funny stories because they tend to use more hedges and fillers and ‘pad’ out their speech. Meaning a ‘joke’ becomes a bit long winded!

Naturally, this all comes from the stereotype that women talk more. My title above is actually from a poem called Men Talk  that I used to begin my dissertation. It says how women have all these different ways of communicating: chattering, waffling, nattering, wittering, tittling, rabbiting etc. What do men do? They talk. They do it to communicate for a purpose a lot of the time, whereas women like the process and use it as a past time. I researched this as the time and found it can be said to stem from the cave man days. Men used few, key commands to hunt. Women stayed at home and chatted to each other, supported each other and comforted each other. To some extend, don’t you think these stereotypes still exist today? When I recorded the conversations earlier, I did one with me, my mum and dad and one with me, my sister and her boyfriend. The male/female ratios were in favour of women yes, but boy did they dominate the conversation! Each male had one utterance and that was interrupted by a female each time! So is it just that the men can’t get a word in or do they not want to?

Women use 20,000 words a day on average, compared to a man’s 7000. Are they being sparing and choosing key words?! Apparently, as well, I looked at an article for my dissertation and it said than when a woman communicates, pleasure centres in the brain are activated. Major levels of dopamine and oxytocin are released  – which apparently is the fastest neurological reward you can get apart from an orgasm. Explains those 20,000 words doesn’t it?

Right, I’m off for a chat – even if it is with myself!

XSXS

Adding Fuel to the Feminist Fire

Hiya People…. today I am going to risk alienating half of my audience (or at the least males, however many that is) and I want to talk about Feminism. Wait, wait listen up; there is a reason for this. When me and some friends visited our gay friends last night, this topic came up in conversation. By the way I am going to refer to one of the friends as Gay Best Friend (GBF) as he has particularly asked me to do this… and he is anyway; I’ve been very good friends with him since school and every girls needs a GBF like she does shoes, chocolate and a feminist tattoo… oh wait the tattoo bit is just me. (shhh don’t tell!)

Anyway, we were out for dinner and my GBF was telling a story and happened to say ‘He is a Male Whore.’ Now, I can’t reveal who he is on about and the rose wine was flowing so to be honest, I’m not even sure I can remember! But the term ‘Male Whore’ sat wrongly with me immediately anyway. I challenged this and said why did he feel the need to add ‘Male’ onto a word that can mean the same for both genders? This led onto why men get called positive terms such as ‘studs’ and ‘bachelors’ but women get all the negative words.. and this is what I was saying that by adding ‘man’ or ‘male’ onto one of the terms we are saying that the word should normally be associated with women. What do you think of this? I’d love to hear some thoughts…

So me and my GBF began a huuuge debate whilst the other four friends at the table listened (some with interest and I think some were thinking ‘What the hell have you started you whore?!) I revisited my University lectures on Anglo-American and French feminist theories and remembered the argument about the word ‘History’. I am not saying I agree with this bit but I do find it interesting. Some feminists believe that History is like ‘his – story’ and why should it be studied from or be the man’s perspective. I think this is a step too far and my GBF had some interesting insights into this. He knows various languages such as German, French, Swedish and some bits of others. He said that the pronoun ‘he’ or ‘his’ doesn’t always translate into the male gender in all languages and the word ‘history’ comes from latin and the ‘his’ part was actually translated as ‘it’, which in the word ‘history’ gives it no specific gender relation. I think I remembered all this correctly after my few glasses of wine!

We actually stepped outside to continue our conversation after a while… partly to stop the others getting bored and wanting to kill one person off of each gender and also partly because my GBF wanted to smoke and he didn’t want his boyfriend to know… see men can’t even tell other men what to do! 😉 hehe..and sorry GBF for ‘outing’ your smoking habits! We went onto to discuss the word ‘woman’ and is this just the word ‘man’ with the prefix of ‘womb’ on it? My GBF looked from the other side and said that ‘man’ originally meant both genders and that women are lucky to have their own term, whereas men are stuck with the neutral one… well it’s the least we can have after years of not being able to vote!! We also humorously discovered that my name ‘Samantha’ has the word ‘man’ in it and I joked that I couldn’t have that and said my friends should now call me ‘Satha’.

Other topics discussed were when babies are born and they are immediately gendered by being dressed in ‘blue’ or ‘pink’ and this is where my GBF’s boyfriend joined in, who is a psychiatric doctor, and said we wouldn’t believe how much is already biologically determined and even if boys play with Barbie dolls, they may do it in a rough and tumble way and still be determined to be masculine and straight. My point to this was that the individual should be able to choose and parents shouldn’t worry that their girls will be tomboys or their boys dressed in pink with be feminine and gay… because there are a lot of things that determine it anyway. And before you all scream at me, there should’nt be a problem if they were any of those things anyway.

So yes, that was our alcohol fuelled Fancy Friday chatter (my GBF called it Fancy Friday in contrast to our Dirty Thursday due to the contrast that we began the evening by looking round their three storey pad and sipping champagne!) and I realise that this post today has been a lot less light-hearted than the previous ones and to what I have promised, but I’m sorry but sometimes my tattoo burns like Harry Potter’s scar and I have to release all these thoughts. There is no offense meant by any of the above ideas and I don’t completely agree with them all and if anyone has anything to add to the debate then go ahead….

Finally… at the end of the night…… I burnt my bra:

Haha just kidding! This is the remains of the shed that I wanted to share with you! I told you how it got taken to my boyfriend’s brother’s house. Well he didn’t want the roof so we burnt it! and now it has all gone yay!! So no, I didn’t burn my bra, just the remains of the shed….

Now ladies, off you go to wash up 😉

See you tomorrow,

XSXS