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October 24, 2011 / Me

On Prejudice

There’s very little that makes me really angry but this is something that does.

I have permission by the person in question to include recent correspondence in this post.

An acquaintance of mine (to define, a friend via Facebook but not someone I’ve spent any real time speaking with) recently contacted me to ask my advice. This isn’t that unusual. I can be quite open and outspoken about things via Facebook and well, objective advice from someone not so close to you can be easier to seek and she thought I’d be an okay person to speak with. Anyway, this person has a young baby and has just found herself pregnant again, early at five weeks. She is worried, both about money and her ability to cope mentally with two small children which she would be raising, more than likely by herself and was considering whether it would be best for her to terminate this pregnancy.

If you utter a shocked and sharp intake of breath at this point, you should read the rest of this post very carefully.

After listening to what she had to say to me… about why she’d approached me, a little of the background and many expressions of confusion and upset, I did the following things:

  • I assured her I wasn’t going to judge (and, frankly, wasn’t in a position to judge).
  • I listened carefully to what was being said to me.
  • I expressed regret at her distress in this situation.
  • I went around the internet and found appropriate sites that would provide the information she would need and sources of objective support.
  • I answered the questions she had for me as best I could (having admitted to her that I’d experienced this dilemma myself) and generally sought to reassure and inform as objectively as I could.

For these actions I was thanked and she’s now free to contact those organisations and her doctor in order to obtain the information that should (I hope) help her to make a very difficult decision. She’s also free to speak with me again, or not, if she wishes. That’s entirely up to her.

Now, I did not get very angry at her asking my advice. What I got angry with was something she told me. She’d been, since the birth of her first baby, a regular participant on an online message board… which had become a support network for not only the trials of motherhood but also the problems she was having with her partner. They were her friends, she considered… so it was to them she turned with the dilemma she now faced and, having been shown the thread that ensued, I got really quite angry.

Each of the responses to her request for advice followed this format almost to the letter:

‘Aww, I’m sorry to hear that <insert affectionate nickname here>, <optional hugs>. <optional>I hope you can make the decision that’s right for you.</optional> I couldn’t ever have an abortion <because life’s too precious/because I love my baby and could never consider killing one/because I don’t believe in it>, but I don’t judge other people who have them.’

Right. You really don’t judge but go out of your way to express your personal distaste and think a false disclaimer of ‘I don’t judge’ salves that? This is the kind of self-righteous, un-thinking, moral high-ground nonsense that is exactly what the person in this position needed like a hole in the head. This isn’t support and they’re kidding themselves in thinking it is (successfully too, it seems).

Why was this the majority (well, exclusive) reaction? Abortion is a legal medical procedure, and the weight that a good portion of society gives it… or the distaste of it rather, is decidedly unhelpful for those who may need it for whatever reason. You ‘don’t believe in it’. What does that mean exactly? Have you ever given it any thought? Really? Ever read any of the literature? The studies? Or have you just gone along with what ‘the flock’ thinks without question and consider yourself morally superior to anybody with a differing view (interestingly, this groundless view smacks somewhat of fervent religious belief… ).

Young girls who find themselves with an unplanned pregnancy are very often (as I’ve observed in a straw pole of my own experiences of popular news and culture) the ones who are quick to say that they ‘don’t believe in abortion’… and it’s nearly always said in *that* tone… You know, that ‘how dare you ever suggest I do such a thing’ tone. This reaction is not the considered response of an adult who has been given all the appropriate information and come to a conclusion based on that, without prejudice, is it? It’s what they’ve picked up from the society that surrounds them.

Now, what I’m not saying is that it’s a harmless procedure that can be undertaken lightly. I’ve been there myself and it is so, so difficult. I was bombarded with mixed feelings, with fear… of the procedure, the intrusion into your body, the mental aftermath, the anguish of the decision and the wildly changing hormones. I’m not saying it’s not a serious decision. What I am saying is that it could be much less harmful to the woman in question were it not so stigmatised. If the woman were allowed to concentrate on her own feelings without society sitting on her shoulder, glaring at her and occasionally prodding her with the black and white Stick of Shame… to not have to fear judgement by those to have no right to judge… to not have to hear the people who proclaim that they ‘don’t judge’ but in their next breath make it absolutely crystal clear that they’d never ever do it.

This post isn’t really about abortion, not really which is why I haven’t expanded on reasons for getting to the decision point as I feel the ‘why’ would deflect from the point I’m trying to make. This post is actually about prejudice, self-righteousness and an inability to put a sock in it and just listen when someone’s talking to you about something you may have a strong opinion on. An opinion is not something that HAS to be voiced, it’s not something that makes you better than someone who may hold a contradictory belief and it certainly isn’t a bar to empathy and objective advice… an opinion is not ‘right’.

October 8, 2011 / Me

Two Songs

The Candle:

The Artist:

These articulate exquisitely an utterly tragic and damaging (to all parties) conflict in my life. Resolution is a struggle, an unknown in part, and still I fight what my head is screaming I should do to save myself because of love (a most changeable and interpretable word) and feelings of responsibility. The battle goes on.

Thanks to The Miracle for the extended hand of support right now as I write.

I can be no more than I am, I am enough.

October 6, 2011 / Me

Sorrow Visits

Sometimes, as now, I feel I am so full of sorrow I may burst… and sometimes do. I write this as many years sadness pours down my cheeks. It was not a constant blight on my life during that time, but the unpleasant experiences there were have become beacons blinding me from seeing all else.

I feel I am trapped inside my own head with a million demons or screaming for help inside of a sealed glass ball that nothing and no-one can penetrate.

Experience tells me it will pass. I hope soon.

September 30, 2011 / Me

Inky Inky Inky P’TANG

I am going to get a tattoo.

Stop laughing.

For those who may not know me so well, I appear exceedingly straight-laced and I was brought up by parents who implicitly expressed the view that anyone who deviated from the accepted norm was a thug/criminal/punk/not-to-be-trusted (The same went for smokers, homosexuals although they’ve relaxed that one and those who wore their cap backwards). It wasn’t foisted on us children, merely implied, but I, being the good girl that I was, listened to my very sensible English parents and didn’t even really develop an interest in any of these things… besides a childish want for bright purple hair when I was about sixteen and, well, I guess that still stands now to an extent in my playful side, but it’s something I’ve accepted I just can’t do now (white-collar job and all that) and I’m okay with that, really; not least in part because I love my job (EEEE!).

For a good while at least, tattoos were definitely not for me; I had a thought about randomly putting a feather on my foot when I was about fourteen (If I remember correctly I’d seen it in a magazine and thought it looked cute) but that lasted all of a week, and outside of my teenage years they have been very much OFF the cards. Tattoos were all worn by thugs and punks (and limited to skulls and ‘Mummy’ and so on) so I was never going to get one; I think at one point I even felt a tad superior for being ‘unsullied’ of sorts which is just ridiculous.

Now my feelings are very different. I’m more mature, more aware and more open to consider things I may have harboured prejudice towards before. I’m more open to consider people’s motivations for doing, well, anything and, regarding this particular topic, that motivations and actions don’t reflect badly on a person’s character (i.e. if you get a tattoo, it doesn’t immediately make you a thug). These are not necessarily things I believed before, but things I perhaps hadn’t thought about explicitly at the time and now wish to express perhaps in part so that others might.

My motivation behind getting a tattoo is this: I feel that I want to be indelibly marked with a representation of something that has really touched my life and made me Me. I don’t know why I feel this way, why marking my skin is going to make me feel happier (which is essentially what I’m saying, I guess) but I’m happy enough with the decision that I don’t feel the need to try and explore this desire further. It just is.

I have mentioned in passing to people around me that I have been considering this, some I can admit to just dipping my toe in the water to see what reaction I would get. The majority response was as expected: concern, for my profession (I’d considered this and limited size and position accordingly so as to be discreet), reputation (the people’s whose opinions I really care about are the people who will not judge me for doing so) and future, which is always the fall-back argument; the  ‘What if you don’t like it in three years? Once it’s there, it’s there.’ line, which is perfectly valid but is also a point I have considered thoroughly and my response to this always consists of these three points:

a: I want this right now and don’t see my mind being changed because of the significance of what it is intended to represent.

b: If by some fluke I do suddenly decide I dislike it, then it will scar my body, as I carry other scars from accidents or mistakes in my life. I doubt very much it would upset me to the extent that I want to undergo a procedure to remove it. It will be just another marker from a previous me, who thought a different way about the world, and that I’m sure I will be content to live with.

c: If I really decide in ten-years-time that it was the worst idea in the world and that I must get rid of it at all cost then I will have it removed and absorb the cost and inconvenience and put it down as being another life lesson learned. This small, outside chance of inconvenience is not enough to make me balk from having one in the first place.

There is why. As for what, that is very much for me to know (for now, at least). I’m going to say only that it will represent things that have shaped me into the being I am now, flawed, but me and that I wish to retain as a part of me (there are many that I do not).

I don’t promise to post a picture when I have it, but know that it shall be meaningful, considered and without regret.

September 30, 2011 / Me

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