Growing up

Saturday, 23 May, 2009

As you probably know if you've been reading this blog for a while, I did my Honours thesis on postmodern fairy tales. I've always loved fairy tales. Certainly much of my library is comprised of them, or books related to them (and often fairy tales these days are not in the form you'd expect). But it's only recently that I've been able to articulate why I love them so much. Oh sure, if you'd asked me nine years ago when I was writing my Honours thesis, I would have talked about the fantastic, the marvellous and the unconscious, and maybe a little bit about growing up. I wrote this back in 2004:

One of the major things that appeals to me about fairy tales is that they are about growing up—the transition from childhood to adulthood, passing through the rites of initiation, overcoming trials, finding “home” in the “happily ever after”. As G.K. Chesterton writes,

Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.

And it's still true. But now I've come to realise why it's true—why fairy tales hold so much meaning for me, as opposed to anyone else. It's because they've been telling me the things I've known all along. They've been telling me how to grow up.

The standard fairy tale begins with the protagonist as a young man or woman on the brink of adulthood. There's usually some problem that means that he or she must leave home (or symbolically leave home without actually leaving home) and undertake some sort of quest or achieve some sort of task—slay the dragon, find the golden apple, rescue the princess, or whatever—and through these trials or “rites of initiation” (as one critic called it—was it Max Lüthi or J.C. Cooper?)—through these “rites of initiation”, they learn to understand themselves and what they are capable of. Their actions may not be particularly heroic (though I reckon Coraline's actions are particularly heroic!), but through their trials, they emerge the other side as fully formed human beings. Sometimes this is represented symbolically in the finding of the Other—the prince or the princess—the yin to your yang (as J.C. Cooper would say ... perhaps she did ... I've lent Fairy Tales: Allegories of Inner Life to someone so I can't double-check). Sometimes there's just this sense of satisfaction of having overcome—achieved—accomplished.

You don't just see this in fairy tales, of course; you see it in other forms of literature and art as well. For example, recently George lent me How to Be Popular by Meg Cabot. (I'm not a huge Meg Cabot reader; the only other book of hers I've read is Boy Meets Girl, which was pleasant enough in its chick lit sort of way; I picked it up at a discount book sale at Darling Harbour, and subsequently gave it to George because she loved it so much and I, not so much. Oh yes, Kathleen gave me the entire Princess Diaries series but I haven't touched them yet.) Yes, so How to Be Popular: it's about a 17-year-old girl named Steph Landry who made a mistake when she was 12: she spilt a cup of soft drink all over Lauren Moffatt's white Dolce & Gabbana white skirt, and Lauren hasn't let her forget it since. Furthermore, Lauren has seen to it that nobody has let Steph forget it since because her name has now become synonymous with stuffing up: “Way to pull a Steph Landry!” Coming back from summer holidays, Steph decides that this is the year that things are going to turn around. So, armed with a plan, she decides to take things into her own hands and squash the Steph Landry thing (and, of course, the Lauren Moffatt thing) once and for all. And she does! I won't tell you how because George hasn't read the book yet, but it struck me while reading how much aspects of the plot dovetailed with the concerns of fairy tales, even if the book had none of the marvellous and fantastical elements that make fairy tales what they are. It's the plot structure that resembled fairy tales, even if the content and genre did not.

See, I've been thinking for a while about Judith Wallerstein's nine tasks that need to be fulfilled for couples to have successful marriages, and wondered if it was possible to put together something similar for growing up. What tasks need to be fulfilled for children to successfully make the transition to adulthood? Here are my thoughts:

  1. To forge an identity separate from your parents' so that you are your own person: Children need to separate from adults. That's what adolescence is about: it's that period in your life when you test the boundaries and rebel and try to figure out what sort of person you're going to be. (That's what makes it so trying for the parents of teenagers!) But it's a necessary developmental period of childhood.

    Part of the problem is that many adults are stuck in it. They're still in the woods and have no idea how to get out. They've failed to wed the Prince, get the money, save the house, kill the wolf, find the father, conquer the kingdom (and so on as per Sondheim's Bettelheim-inspired Into the Woods). Some haven't even (symbolically) left home—separated from their parents enough so that they are defined apart from them. The classic example is The Simpson's Seymour Skinner who still lives at home with his mother (though she's not technically his mother ... anyway, you get the point). This example from Wallerstein's The Good Marriage is also relevant here:

    One of the most poignant stories in my divorce work was that of a young Russian couple in Fresno whose marriage broke even though they were very fond of each other. At issue was his inability to separate from his family. Both husband and wife told me that he and his brothers worked at their father's restaurant every day and every night without pay on the promise of someday inheriting the business. Though the husband worked hard, he never brought home a paycheck. And each night, when the restaurant closed, he and his brothers played cards and had dinner together. He came home late every night.

    The woman, who married him at eighteen, worked outside the home to support the family and raised their two girls almost single-handed. She begged her husband to get another job, move to another town—anything that would give her a sense of having a real marriage. He was kind to her, he expressed his love for her, but he consistently refused her request. Finally, when the girls reached adolescence, in an act of desperation she took them and drove to another city and a new job. She hoped he would follow her, but the attempt failed. The man became acutely depressed and cried for two weeks, then hired an attorney and sued for divorce and custody of his daughters, which he won.

    When I saw them together, he said of her, “She is the most beautiful woman I have ever known.” She said of him, “He's a kind and decent man. But I can't play house any longer.” The marriage dissolved. One child did very well; the other suffered for many years. The man married a woman who was willing to live within the extended family. The woman also remarried. She later said of her second husband, “He loves me, and it's very important to him that I do the things that make both of us happy, but I lost my children.”

    The man's failure to separate led to a serious tragedy for this family.

    (Judith S. Wallerstein and Sandra Blakeslee, The Good Marriage, Warner, New York, 1995, pp. 58-59)

    (As you can see, this point is quite similar to Wallerstein's tasks for married couples!)

  2. To learn to take responsibility for things that are yours (and, conversely, to let things outside your responsibility remain so): When you are a child, no one expects you to be responsible for anything. The younger you are, the less responsibility you have. The older you get, the more responsibility you gain. My parents taught me to be responsible by giving me regular chores to do around the house, and by apportioning me an allowance (I think it was $2.50 a week all the way through primary school, though it might have increased to $3.50 in Year 6. I hardly ever spent it.) School also taught me to be responsible by giving me regular homework, one-off assignments and exams I needed to study for. And new realms of responsibility opened up for me once I began tertiary education, entered the workforce, got married, and so on. I've learned how to look after the things under my care, to pay what is owed, to be faithful in my duties so that I carry out the tasks I'm required to do and complete them in a timely fashion, and so on. To me, it's strange that many people don't know how to do this. But I acknowledge I've had good training, and maybe they have not.

    The converse part of this point is somewhat harder, however. It is very tempting to me to pick up someone else's slack—especially when their slacking off affects something in my life. But if you went around doing that all the time, you'd just end up stressed out and resentful. You can't. I suppose this is what Cloud and Townsend would call “boundaries” stuff (I started reading that book but got bored so never finished it.)

    A related point is similar to the Sabbath: if you don't leave the things outside your control alone, it shows you don't trust God to run the universe without you.

  3. (Related to the last point) To learn to admit when you're wrong, and to apologise and seek forgiveness if necessary: This is a hard one because it goes against our natural tendency towards pride. We like being right; if we're wrong, it makes us feel vulnerable, unsupported and uncared for. We need to be humble and admit we're not perfect—that we stuff up (and sometimes spectacularly so). The doctrine of total depravity is extremely helpful in this regard because it shows us the true condition of the human race and our place in it. Balanced with the doctrine of God's grace, the Bible helps us see that when we stuff up, it's not the end of the world; to quote Romans 5:6, “while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (the ungodly being us).

    Even if your sin was unintentional, it's right in God's eyes to apologise for the offense you might have caused another. Growing up entails recognising that certain facts are simultaneously true: you meant no harm, but the other person was hurt anyway, and their feelings are real, even if the action itself was morally neutral. This is hard because, once again, it means sacrificing your pride for the sake of another person.

  4. (Related to the last point) To learn to prioritise other people's needs above your own: Growing up entails recognising that you are not the most important person in the world: the universe does not revolve around you (it revolves around Jesus Christ—Ephesians 1:7-10). Children are naturally self-centered, and much of parents' time is spent trying to get them to do decidedly unnatural things—like share what they have with others, keep quiet and not interrupt when other people are talking, say “please” and “thank you” when asking for things, be considerate of other people's feelings in what you say, and so on. Other-person-centeredness then manifests itself as politeness, being considerate, being kind, learning how to listen, learning how to care for others—in short, “love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev 19:18, Matt 19:19, Mark 12:31, Luke 10:27, Rom 13:9, Gal 5:14, Jas 2:8).

    Now, if you don't learn this lesson in childhood, chances are you start learning it when you start dating, when you get married and when you have children. If you don't, those relationships are likely to go south for you, and they have more a chance of succeeding if you do. It's interesting that a lot of people are like Bella in the Twilight saga—completely preoccupied with that which is their own (and only that which is their own); it's interesting to see her world slowly expand throughout the four books of the series—much in the same way that her shield expands in Breaking Dawn ... but I digress.

    The having children thing is interesting, however—learning to look after someone else who is completely dependent on you. From what little I've read about motherhood (for example, this excerpt from The Second Nine Months: One Woman Tells the Real Truth About Becoming a Mom. Finally. by Vicki Glembocki), it's quite a tough adjustment: here is another little person who is different from you and yet completely dependent on you and can't do anything apart from you. And your responsibility as a mother is not only to feed and care for the child's physical needs, but raise that child to be a fully functioning member of society. It's a tough gig. And it forces you, to some extent, to be more unselfish.

  5. To learn to form appropriate relationships with other people: As the Apostle Paul instructed Timothy, “Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity” (1 Tim 5:1-2). There is an appropriate way to relate to the people around you, and there is an inappropriate way. One of the big problems that children of divorce face is that their parents tend to lean on them rather heavily. Many even start to treat them as substitute spouses—not in the sexual aspect, but certainly in the emotional aspect—mothers confiding in their eldest sons or daughters, relying on them to do “adult” things around the house (e.g. housework, looking after younger siblings, helping out with the accounts or even contributing to the household finances), cultivating codependent relationships with them, and so on. It makes it very hard for children of divorce to separate from their parent because they feel intense guilt—guilt because it feels like they are abandoning their mother the way that their father abandoned them (apologies for the gender stereotyping, but that's often the case) and because they doubt their mother's ability to stand on her own two feet and cope without them.

    Another problem that children of divorce—especially female children of divorce—face is creating father figures out of other older men. In Christian social circles, it's very tempting to do this because a lot of Christian men are good (comparatively speaking—compared to non-Christian men) at being men: they're good at being responsible, exercising leadership, looking after those under their care, and so on. This is a very attractive thing to girls who have never had fathers who looked after them and treasured them as daughters. Last year at Engage, Mark Driscoll told this beautiful story about his daughter who, one night before bed, said to him (something like), “Daddy, will you marry me?” and he laughed and said to her that he loved her and that one day he would help her pick out a lovely young man to marry who would love her 'til death do them part. The way he told that story did not leave anyone in doubt how much Mark loved his daughter and how much he meant what he said to her. Of the friends I was there with who did not grow up with fathers like Mark, not one of them was left dry-eyed.

    This is why peers are important. This is why friendship is such an important thing. Friends don't just prolong your life, they support you emotionally (and practically too), they provide a sounding board for you to bounce off ideas, they walk alongside you through the good times and the bad, and so on. You can confide friends as your equals in a way that cannot be replicated with parents, children, bosses, workmates and even spouses.

    That said, you need appropriate friendships. Some things you can confide in a girlfriend, but other things you would not confide to a guy who is your friend because it would be inappropriate. (However, that said, it may be entirely appropriate to confide such things to your husband, who is your best guy friend.) I'm not of the When Harry Met Sally school that says that “men and women can't be friends because the sex part always gets in the way”; I think it's very important for a girl to have friends who are guys, and for guys to have friends who are girls. We don't live on a single-sex planet (like Ursula Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness, which is a very interesting science fiction novel about gender). That just might be the North American-ness in me speaking; it frustrates me that Australia is so segregated. However, I do acknowledge that there have to be boundaries, and that the way I relate to the guys who are my friends is markedly different to the way I relate to the girls who are my friends, and that is a good thing.

  6. (Related to the last point) To acquire wisdom in choosing a romantic partner: “What would Jane [Austen] do?”, and so on. Some people argue that Austen is all about judging the opposite sex on superficialities: Darcy has money, and therefore he is desirable. This is so not true (and it certainly seems like critics who have this view have only read Pride and Prejudice; they should expand their reading habits to encompass Sense and Sensibility, Northanger Abbey and Mansfield Park because Eleanor Dashwood ends up with a clergyman who is disowned by his wealthy family, Isabella Thorpe makes some extremely bad decisions that end up damaging her reputation and social standing, and it is a good thing that Fanny Price avoids marrying the disaster that is Henry Crawford). Much of Austen is about character and the way character shows itself through action. The heroines are usually faced with a range of choices, and their happy endings can only come about if they, unlike their literary foils (Lydia Bennett, Isabella Thorpe, Maria Bertram, and so on), choose wisely.

    Back to Wallerstein:

    The entry into young adulthood occurs roughly between the ages of eighteen and twenty-three, and it is a difficult time for all young people, divorce or no divorce. To become an adult, one must have established in adolescence the sense of a separate identity. One must have the courage to try new ventures, to take chances. One must be able to seek out and establish an intimate and committed relationship. It helps enormously to have imprinted on one's emotional circuitry the patterning of a successful enduring relationship between a man and a woman. Since the family provides such relationships sui generis, it is parents who carve the deepest impressions on children. (Judith Wallerstein, Second Chances, Ticknor & Fields, New York, 1989, p. 55)

    It is interesting the number of children of divorce who follow the patterns laid down by the parents and find themselves disappointed in love. A girl who had a violent and abusive father can find herself attracted to violent and abusive men, even though she knows that they're no good for her. A boy had an emotionally dependent mother may grow up to marry an emotionally needy woman because that's the only sort of woman he's ever known. A girl who sacrificed her childhood because the situation demanded it of her—who grew up too fast because she simply had to—may be attracted to needy men because neediness and how to fill it feels like home to her. It's incredibly hard to break out of these patterns, but following them can often spell disaster for children of divorce. This is why children of divorce are more likely to divorce in their own marriages.

    Of course, I should say that the wisdom needed in choosing a romantic partner also extends over into wisdom in how to conduct the relationship. If you're a child of divorce and you operate in marriage the way your parents did, don't be surprised when the relationship blows up in your face.

  7. To understand how the world works, and to take the initiative in making discoveries for oneself: The latter part of this task may be a product of my personality because I'm bull-headed and a self-starter. But I do think it's a useful skill (?) to have. I used to think that adults knew it all. Now that I am one, I've realised that there's too much about the world for anyone one adult to know about. But the wonderful thing the internet has taught me (and remember I've lived with the internet ever since I was 18, which is almost half my life) is that whatever you want to know, you can find out. (Come to think of it, school probably taught me that too—research skills, how to use databases, etc.)

    You need to understand the way the world works in order to navigate your way through it and survive. It's a bit like the education Harry Potter got at Hogwarts: most of it taught him about the magical world he inhabited, and gave him the skills to cope with the various challenges he faced at the hands of Lord Voldemort. Consider the various pieces of knowledge he, Ron and Hermione put into practice in the closing pages of each book—knowledge gleaned from their lessons in Defence Against the Dark Arts, Herbology, History of Magic, Care of Magic Creatures and Potions. Sometimes I wish that my education about the world had been a bit more like that—that school had taught me about finance (I simply do not get things like stock markets, shares, superannuation and budgets, and yet finance is an area that affects me every day), the environment (I did learn about the water cycle; now that was fascinating!), how to fix things (like cars and plumbing) and how to make things (I can knit, bind books and build websites, but I don't have a clue about how to sew my own clothes, how to grow things without killing them, or how to cut hair. My cooking skills are also fairly rudimentary; I cannot make a roast dinner to save my life. Believe me, I've tried.)

    That's one of the reasons why I love The New York Times. It reports the news, but unlike The Sydney Morning Herald, it takes a longer view: it reflects on the state of the world and gives me insights into why things are happening. Recently I read about witch hunts in Gambia (because His Excellency President Professor Dr. Al-Haji Yahya Jammeh is paranoid about sorcerors), how the recession is affecting professional artists and how hospital policies are not being consider of gay and lesbian couples. I don't know what I'm going to do with that information (other than finding it interesting), but I love how it has expanded my view of the world and deepened my understanding of humanity, and that in turn will serve me as I operate on this earth.

    (Incidentally, George just lent me Alain de Botton's The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work—a sort of a What Do People Do All Day?, but for adults, as de Botton has taken to describing it. It's also teaching me a lot about the way the modern world works, and it's absolutely fascinating. But I digress ... maybe I should blog about that another time.)

  8. To learn how to express oneself and communicate with the world: Unfortunately because our communication is just as affected by Original Sin as everything else, what we think or feel in our heads translates imperfectly outside our heads. (Believe me, this blog post is not as brilliant as the way I originally conceived it! Just kidding ...) Communication is imperfect, however it is the chief means by which we relate to one another. And just because it's imperfect does not mean you cannot improve.

    It seems to me that so much self-help is about this sort of thing. It brings to mind The Simpsons (“Bart's Inner Child”—Season 5):

    Marge: That video really opened my eyes. I can see that I'm just a passive-aggressive co-culprit. By nagging you when you do foolish things, I just enable your life script.

    Homer: And that sends me into a shame spiral.

    Marge: Exactly!

    We feel one thing, but instead of being able to articulate it to someone else in a way that they can understand, it causes us to act out in a particular way. Back to Wallerstein, this time interviewing Denise Moore (not her real name) whose parents got divorced when she was 11:

    “There's another chapter in this that I might as well tell you. I stopped eating and my weight dropped to ninety-seven pounds. Then, one day in the dorm, a friend made me look in the mirror and I got real scared. I realized how depressed I was and what I was doing to myself. I began to get angry. I'm still very angry. I'm angry at my parents for not facing up to the emotions, to the feelings in their lives, and for not helping me face up tot eh feelings in mine. They never asked about or acknowledged my pain.” Denise looks ready to cry. “I try, Judy. I really try. But I have a hard time forgiving them.”

    “I'm sorry to hear how much you've been suffering. When did you discover you were angry?”

    “You'll laugh,” she says. “It was in my karate class. I loved it. I loved hitting. I found I couldn't stop hitting. Then I realized I was angry and had been for a very long time.”

    “Denise, when I first met you, you admitted to so little feeling. You've shown little feeling over the years. Should I have pushed you then or later? Would that have helped?”

    She smiles patiently and says, “I don't think so. That was exactly the point. All those years I denied feelings. I wasn't consciously lying, but I always had the sense I was passing time, passing through, never thinking about what was happening. I lived with the absolute thought that I could live without love, without sorrow, without anger, without pain That's how I coped with the unhappiness in my parents' marriage. And that's why I didn't get upset at the divorce. That's why I looked so good to you when I was little. Only that year, when I met Frank [a young man in college], did I become aware of how much feeling i was sitting on all those years. I was afraid to love him because I was afraid I'd love him, afraid he wouldn't stay mine. Before I met Frank I always said to myself that I would never let anyone or anything hurt me. But it didn't work when I fell in love.”

    (Second Chances, p. 59.)

    If you're lucky, you have people around you who understand without you having to say anything. One of my favourite scenes in the Harry Potter comes at the end of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (*ahem, spoiler here ... is there anyone left who hasn't read these books who wanted to? Anyway, be warned) when Harry learns that Sirius Black is dead. He goes crazy—he smashes absolutely everything on Dumbledore's desk—all the delicate glass expensive-looking instruments. He yells. He screams. He cries. And Dumbledore just watches him and lets him get it out of his system. Dumbledore knows that Harry isn't mad at him (even though he blames himself somewhat for Sirius's death). He's not angry that Harry is causing a lot of damage (though I guess it helps when you live in a world where the Reparo spell exists). He doesn't even come down on the side of censorship and tell Harry bluntly to get it together; these things happen. No, he watches, and then when Harry has calmed down, he starts putting everything—including Harry—back together. The scene has always stuck in my mind because what Dumbledore did for Harry is what I've always wished someone would do for me—understand and care for me in my anger and my grief.

    But the world isn't like that. The world can only know about you depending on the amount of information you reveal about yourself. You can stay in the ivory tower of your head and remain unknowable, but that won't help you to relate to the rest of the world. In the end, you'll just be left in there. Alone.

  9. (Related to the last point) To never be too proud to ask for help when you need it: As George Bernard Shaw once said, “Independence? That's middle class blasphemy. We are all dependent on one another, every soul of us on earth.” He's right. We might not like this notion (we may tend more towards the “every man is an island” mentality, thumbing our noses at John Donne), but it's true, whether we like it or not. God set it up that way. And although contemporary society would have us be independent and self-sufficient (taking 2 Thessalonians 3:6-12 a little too far; remember, Paul was writing to men in a culture where they sat around all day doing nothing, and women did all the work), the truth is, we aren't independent. We need other people. We don't grow our own food or build our own houses. Our water is pumped into our bathrooms because of the work of plumbers and engineers. Our household appliances are the fruit of other people's labours. The fact that I have dinner to eat tonight is because of the farmer who raised that chicken from an egg, and then killed it and passed it on to my butcher, and that other farmer who grew onions, chili, sugar and basil, and that other farmer who harvested coconuts to make coconut cream. I may have cooked it (oh yeah, I forgot the fish sauce!), but they gave me the produce to do it.

    So it's ridiculous to think that we can exist without other people. To turn the thought on its head, it's ridiculous to think that other people can exist without other people. It's totally okay to ask for help. Indeed, that's one of the lovely things about human society: chances are, if you ask for help, someone will reach out and lend you their hands (or hammers or whatever it is you need). (NB: I do subscribe to the doctrine of human depravity, and yet I've observed surprising incidence of altruism, even among complete strangers.) I guess the trick is knowing how (and who) to ask.

  10. To know and understand yourself: This is, perhaps, the toughest task of all because it is so nebulous. What do I mean by it? I'm not quite sure. Part of it understanding what makes you tick—what pushes your buttons, what brings you joy, what brings you sorrow, and why. Part of it involves having a realistic view of your skills and capabilities (and therefore knowing how far you can push yourself before you start to break). Part of it involves recognising your needs and how to fulfill them in an appropriate manner. (We all have needs—chief among them being to be loved—and some are appropriate and God-given, and some are inappropriate and a product of sin.)

    Here I venture in territory that is a little hard to define. Michael would say (and has said in You) that your true identity is bound up with the person of Jesus Christ, and he is right. But you are also an individual, not a Christ clone. I guess a lot of what I want to say ties in with task 1 (“To forge an identity separate from your parents' so that you are your own person”): you are not a clone of your mother or father, sister or brother, or even your friends. But you are not defined by what you are not either. You are not a product of what you consume. You are not the result of your upbringing. You were created in God's image, chosen before the creation of the world and known even when you were in your mother's womb (Gen 1:26-27, Eph 1:4, Psa 139:13-16). You are continually being shaped—you are not a static person, and who you are in 10 years' time will not be exactly the same as you are now, even though it will be.

Really, what all this goes to show is the extent to which I have not yet completed these tasks (and I'm sure there's more than what I've listed; feel free to add your own in the comments). I do not regard myself as being a successful adult, but I know I'm on the road there. Maybe this is a process not confined to adolescence—that true maturity can only take place once Jesus returns and we are gathered with him to live in the new creation. Let me finish with Paul writing to the Ephesians:

And he [God] gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Eph 4:11-16)


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Cool post Karen. It did not feel “long”. That’s the secret of good writing I guess! And I feel honoured to be mentioned more than once. And I’ve read the book now, but I’m still glad you didn’t reveal the ending, because I want to lend it to Bec.

Wonderful, wonderful post! Worth the wait. I’d like to make a few comments:

1. I didn’t know Seymour Skinner’s mum is not technically his mum. I’m confused! I must have missed an episode somewhere. Can you briefly explain?

2. I get annoyed when people say Mr Darcy is an unrealistic person. And its not about Pemberley! And I don’t understand why men supposedly dislike him. What appeals to me about Mr Darcy is his character. He uses his power to lessen the shame on Lizzie’s family caused by Lydia and Wickham, all for Lizzie’s sake. And he does it quietly. He does what is honourable. Is that such a bad thing to look for in a man?

3. I also wish school taught us how to iron clothes. And how to be organised! No one teaches you organisational skills and they’re vital in running a calmer and more efficient life (Ok, I think they did do a seminar in Year 11, but its not the same). I don’t think I started to learn how to be organised until I starting working in a day job. at webpages, tv shows and books on the topic.

4. About the roast - I can come over and show you sometime! Once you get the hang of it, its one of the easiest meals to make. I can do chicken roast and vegies. I’m not so experienced with lamb or beef (still happy to give it a go). Jess, my ex-flatmate does a mean lamb roast *drools* My boss says you can do a good turkey roast with the frozen turkey meat portions - moist and tender he says!.

5. The NY Times is great isn’t it! I only read it because of your delicious links. I did a search on the history of teeth and found this article http://www.nytimes.com/2003/08/05/science/roots-and-all-a-history-of-teeth.html

6. Do blog about Alain de Botton! I have to add my name to the waiting list for that book.

7. I’ve always thought the key to being a happy or successful single is to be thoroughly independent so that you don’t have to rely on anyone (except for God!) simply because you don’t have that spouse to lean on. But you’ve reminded me that is a falsehood. Certainly, you do need a degree of independence, but you still need people for relationship at the most basic level. Plus I still need to rely on other people’s help for so many things simply because I lack the skill, confidence or knowledge for it.

(PS Your preview button didn’t work for me. Am using Firefox on Mac OS X)

Excellent post K. May post a more thorough comment when I’ve digested some of this, but just wanted to say thanks for writing it!

I thought you liked fairy tales as it returned your mind to a state of innocence, before growing up, before the adult world. Not growing up is part of fairy tales, i.e. Peter Pan.

@George: It was a great book, wasn’t it! I thought about blogging about it, but, yeah, there’s the spoiler thing. Will wait ‘til Bec is through it.

@Elsie: You need to see ‘The Principal and the Pauper’.

@Philip: No, definitely not.

I think the preview function is working now.


Kinds of Blue: Cover art



A way of funding writing in the future: pitch and idea and get people to support it.

Place where you can hire play equipment for parties, etc.

How to recalibrate the home button on your iPhone.

Unsolicited manuscripts accepted by Pan Macmillan with certain conditions.

Thought Balloon is a group blog in which the writers tackle a new theme every week? month? with one-page scripts. This URL is for their Phonogram ones.


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