Thursday, 5 July 2007


I’ve just rung my mother to tell her about The TV Appearance. She’s going into hospital later today to have her second hernia operation in 8 months and is understandably nervous about it, so I thought hearing about her daughter’s forthcoming Fame might cheer her up. It did. She laughed and said, ‘I’ve been fiddling around the house, I’ve tidied my jumpers, written letters - it’s just like waiting to have a baby.’

I thought then how much she’ll enjoy the wonders of the World Wide Web. (We’re getting her a computer, but it’s taking a while to get it and the money together.)
Mum would love some of our blogs, and having just read Mother at Large’s post about acronyms made me think further about titles, and how ridiculous it is that we define people in such a way.

Himself has, like me, had a variety of careers. He was an Oil Rag, the only time he ever worked for anyone else (Castrol Oil, back in 1956) and since then has been self employed. His jobs have included Runner of Violet Farm, Landscaper, Builder (of houses), Yachtsman (sailed to West Indies in 1976, in a working boat, without engine*), Engineer, Yacht Deliverer, Boat Designer and Builder, Health Farm worker in Germany (which he suspected was run by the Mafia**), Jeweller/Tin Caster. Now he is Property Administrator (Odd Job Man) and Jeweller of Pewter.

*this expedition has been written about by Flowerpot and has been accepted by Classic Boat – will be featured when the editor decides when to run a piece on eccentric sailors.

** I would write about this but it’s so extraordinary I don’t know that anyone would publish it. It could also get him knocked off, if the Mafia were involved.

All the years I worked in London I was, variously, Receptionist, Secretary, Account Executive, Personal Assistant, Editorial Assistant. I have also been Waitress, Bar Maid (though that would be Bar Person now) and Temp. After redundancy, when I moved back to Cornwall I was Bar Person, Shop Assistant and Unemployed. Then I was Team clerk, Youth Justice Team (Young Offenders). Then Accommodation Administrator. Now I’m Landlady, Writer, Cleaner and Port Representative, though not all at the same time. Like Cherie Blair, I’m not Superwoman (she says, modestly).

You will see from the above lists that Himself and I have one major thing in common. A low boredom threshold. Neither of us have stuck at anything for long. This is a common trait among writers, I’m pleased to notice (the exception being writing which is the one thing we do tend to stick at) though I’m not sure what that says about us.
We have gained a lot of different experiences over the years.
We are unemployable.
We are mostly mad – who else would want to sit in front of a computer typing words all day?

Given all this, when my mother put us onto her car insurance last year, she put Himself down as Retired, and me down as Housewife. You can probably guess what my reaction was, and I expect my mother’s ears are still ringing from my shrieks of outrage.

Why was I so insulted? I know what we both do – why should it matter what other people think? Ah, but it does. Our lives are validated by our occupations. Why shouldn’t I be a housewife, or mother, and be happy with that? Because being labelled a Mother or Housewife insults our intelligence. It implies that we aren’t capable of doing anything else. We are simply an appendage to our spouses, or if we are single, we’re kicking around Wasting Our Lives.

I haven’t got children so I can’t be a mother, and I wouldn’t be fulfilled by being a housewife. I loathe housework (it’s different if someone’s paying you to do it), I dislike shopping and I’d be bored rigid. My brain needs a good workout which it wouldn’t get unless I had a constant challenge, which writing gives me. So I’m deeply hurt if my writing is dismissed, which doubtless makes me Shallow and Insecure.
But why should our achievements, whether they are raising children (which must be the most difficult job on earth), being a cleaner or writing an article, be knocked down? Our achievements are part of us. We should be proud of them.

Let’s hear it for the girls. Whatever we do.


Akelamalu said...

I agree, it doesn't matter what we do as long as we do something that pays our way! I was taught that by my parents and have passed the philosophy onto my sons. Be proud that you pay your way.

Cornish Dreamer said...

I don't think it's necessarily the titles that change how we feel about ourselves, but what we think inside, or whether or not we listen to what society tells us. If we believe that we are doing our best, no matter what it is, surely we can be proud of whatever it is we do?

Elaine Denning said...

The phrase "just a housewife" never bothered me, until I was one!

I remember waiting tables at our local university, and the students always looked at me/treated me like I was dumb and not at all capable of anything else. It drove me mad.
Ooh..I feel a blog entry coming....

Flowerpot said...

It's quite a sensitive point this, isn't it? In theory it doesn't matter what we do as long as we're proud of what we do - but a lot of people aren't happy in what they do. How can you be proud of waiting tables knowing that you're brighter than most students there?

Cornish Dreamer said...

I think there's a big thing that you have to be an achiever. Like a social burden. But saying that, it's hard doing a job when you know you could be doing so much more.