On Marriage, a Rant

A sad realisation this morning. Even if I were to somehow get a proposal before my 30th birthday (we’ve been together since I was 18; I’m 25 now), I’d probably still say no. You don’t take 12 years to decide to keep someone; a year of living together is plenty.

I know I have an attachment to the concept of marriage. We’re raised with it, with this ideal of sharing your life completely with someone else. What used to be an exchange of paternity and security has become an expression of shared commitment. What used to be the thing everyone aimed for has become optional, at least as far as men are concerned.*

This has a downside. No longer is the assumed future of a relationship a piece of paper stating union; it’s a mortgage and kids without that binding that cements the partnership. I, like many others, have had to resign myself to this. What do you do? For me, it was finding an acceptable alternative. Something that would make me feel as though I had grown up for real, instead of pretending like I do now.

My solution: a name change. When I reach the determined age, I will change my name. I will own a new self, complete with new middle name spelling.** My surname will no longer be my father’s; it will be mine. I’ll always regret not having my son’s name, but I’ve come to terms with never giving him a sibling as much as I have never sharing a name. He’s named for my maternal uncles and grandfather (they had the same name, not three different ones), and that’s good enough.

It makes me wonder, this dream we keep instilling in our children, whether we should. I’m not saying we should teach little girls (and boys; my own is a wee fairy princess) that no-one will choose them for life like in the stories. I’m saying we should maybe change the rules. Rules like ‘you have to have a diamond engagement ring’. Rules like ‘it’s the most important day of your life’. Rules like ‘you can’t call yourself ‘Mrs’ until you’re married’.

That last one is a particular bugbear of mine. I will forever be ‘Miss’ – no ambiguous ‘Ms’ for me – and it irks me that women can’t be addressed as women as a matter of age like we do men. We aren’t in the olden days, when women belonged to their fathers and then their husbands; we’re in an age where women can earn ‘Dr’, ‘Maj’, or ‘Cllr’ just as easily as men. Why, then, do we not start addressing grown women as such as soon as they attain adulthood? My other half (we need a new word that isn’t ‘boyfriend’ or ‘partner’) has been known as ‘Mr’ since he hit 18. My son will do the same (though when post arrives addressed to ‘Master’ it’s pretty fun). Why am I stuck with ‘Miss’? If I started calling myself ‘Mrs’, everyone (no, really) would assume I was married.*** We should really remove marriage as a rite of passage if it’s not going to be done by everyone.

Because a woman is just a girl until she gets a man. That’s what I really object to. Doesn’t stop me craving that piece of paper though.

*as men are concerned and told to perpetuate. It’s not ‘manly’ to want to get married.
** ‘Voira’ is not how my mother spelt it.
*** a lot of people already assume that. It’s really awkward telling people I’m his girlfriend and not his wife, especially sweet older relatives of his uni friends. Especially especially when our son is standing there. Some cultural norms die hard, especially especially especially in my romance-novel-loving head.
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Whoops

I’ve somehow fallen into the position of being tired all the time and extremely busy when I do have the energy to deal with things. I haven’t properly written anything since Christmas, and I feel terrible about that. I seem to be emerging from the other side of a minor episode of SAD, so now is the time to take my life back in my own hands.

All my typical excuses (bar the fatigue, that probably won’t go until I’m drinking again) are now exhausted, so I need to get off my backside, sit down at my laptop, and get to typing. Irony fully intended.

The loose plan for what to write is one of my fantasy projects – not the NaNoWriMo one and not the one earmarked for Camp NaNoWriMo – then in February (of course) knock out some steamy romance, which is always a good fallback when I’m in a low mood.

Reminiscing

I stumbled onto my Tumblr blog recently, and was pleased to discover that I was just as coherent when writing about a finicky toddler who wouldn’t sleep in his own bed as I am now writing about him reading and asking intelligent questions. Not that I’ve done much of that in the last month, what with my obsession with novelling.

Another¬†cause for reminiscence, though with less impact, was the discovery that I could now get an app for my [Android] phone which I haven’t used since my six-month foray into iOS back when I had the aforementioned toddler. It’s Path, by the way. I’m poking around what I posted, marvelling at the short hair and how little I did back then. There is an excellent picture of me though:

wpid-wp-1448377864139.jpg[It’s a witch!]

There’s also the looming spectre of my previous company – we’re just tying up the final loose ends of our corporate divorce. It’s depressing how adversarial we are now…

Why I need more writing time

Everyone starts out writing while doing something else with at least some of their time – we have to eat even before we’re published. I have never been especially strong on what I wanted to do for a living, but I was always certain I wanted it to meet certain conditions.

The first of these is that I would work from home. I get the odd opportunity to do that now, but it’s frustratingly slow trying to access systems via VPN which weren’t exactly speedy in the office. I dream of a day when I can have an office space at home, and work to my heart’s content without interruptions from people demanding my time – or information I’ve already given them twice. It’s not about workwear, I can deal with that, it’s about freedom.

Which leads me to the second thing. I want to work for myself. My sister already does that, moving between freelancing her horsecare skills and subcontracting as an HGV driver. It makes her more money than my 8-30-to-5-30 office hell, with a lot more flexibility. I’m still unsure of whether I would want to run a company or just work for myself, but I have a feeling I’ll be trying both before I choose a side of that fence.

The third thing is that I want to feel excited about my work. I’ve never wanted to be so into my job I have no room for hobbies, but I would love to be in the kind of thing that kept me interested rather than searching for ways around my workload. Admittedly, if I’d pursued accountancy qualification I might have that by now, but the fact of the matter is that I fell into that as a way to earn better money in a better job than I had after going back to work following maternity.

You look at the snippets about ‘mumpreneurs’, and I have to say I’m envious. I’m not crafty or professionally qualified, so I’ve no idea what I would have done, but the prospect of working around childcare is a very inviting one. When I started work after having my son, I made about ¬£10 a month after paying for nursery – and he was only there three days a week. I was so frustrated with looking after a baby all day with no adult conversation, that I leapt into work without thinking it through. My next job, which was considerably nicer, made me much happier – but then I moved. I moved from the Isle of Man to Derby, following my other half (I really wish there was a better way to refer to him, but ‘boyfriend’ sounds like we’ve just got together and ‘partner’ sounds like a business agreement). The resulting job change was again the first job I could get after three months of solid childcare. While it was interesting at points, I found it highly frustrating most of the time. When that job changed when the company split into two, I found my role much the same. And I’m still waiting for something to really get my teeth into.

Which brings me back to writing. I want to write when I’m best at it. I know I’m a grown-up, at least in part, but the prospect of writing rather than relaxing after a day of battling idiots and mind-numbing meetings is just beyond me. I get my very best work done during working hours, as you’d expect, and writing is therefore off the menu except at weekends. The issue with this is that the weekend is the only real time I get to spend with my son. I’m lucky in that my mother heroically takes him for the summer holidays – I get a weekly phone call and lots of photos – but the impetus to use my weekends to write isn’t there, especially when we want to do child-free things.

So what can I do? Short of making a drastic change like going part-time (if only I’d be allowed to do it) or changing jobs altogether, I’m stuck for now. I will continue to write in the bursts of time between work and home life, using my lunch breaks and the odd day off. Fingers crossed I can make enough progress in that time to justify the effort. My big goal is to earn a living from writing, enough to give up the stress of an office and do what I’m good at. For that, I will need to practise my writing (the million-word rule proving more than a little intimidating for someone who favours brevity over description) and suffer the indignities of being a regular human being trying to get by.

Toddlers in Fantasy

Correct me if I’m wrong, but there’s not a lot of new parenthood in epic fantasy. It could be that I’m reading the wrong stuff (possible but unlikely), or that the genre as a whole has a problem with the idea. Plenty of characters seem to have children, but you never see the formative years or the whole my-ambitions-are-inconvenienced-by-a-walking-shitstorm stage. Why not?

In honesty, only one of my stories features a new parent with prominence, and I don’t really understand why. Having a five-year-old myself, I am well-placed to be writing about it, so why haven’t I?

Perhaps it’s the traditional view we take of pseudomedieval stories – small children were generally considered to be a hindrance, if a necessity for shoring up a dynasty. Perhaps it’s the broadly male-dominated pool of protagonists. Perhaps it’s the knowledge that having grand adventures is much more difficult when toting a child around. It’s kind of hard to battle dragons and use magic when a little person is tugging your hand because they need to go to the toilet.

Whatever the reason, I think it should change. Parenthood is something most of us eventually take on, and as a natural and essential part of society, shouldn’t we take a look at it? Too often, we focus on our own upbringings, our own parents’ failings, when the way we choose to raise our children, while less lofty than most ambitions, makes a large difference to those children.

Why not write the story that spans raising a baby to a child? Why not factor in toilet training and table manners while plotting coups and crushing rebellions? Why does parenthood tend to be brushed aside? Any life choice which results in the ability to face the disgusting without balking, which uncovers a massive capacity for endurance (especially without sleep), which illustrates just how much conditioning we do ourselves, should surely be examined in greater depth.