Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Where's the Love?

Valentine's day is approaching. I'll be spending it with my children and ex husband on one of our polite 'let's play happy families' episodes. Coincidentally, it will also be our wedding anniversary.  Luckily, one of the few things that still connect us is a morbid sense of humour...

Well despite all that... some love tips...

My latest article for Galway Now:

They say that the best place to meet your future partner is at college. Considering that not everybody goes to college, I’m not sure I can agree. Besides, when I think back to my own college days, I was way too romantic and idealistic to even remotely fall in love with anyone who might have had a scrap of sense with regard to the harsh ways of the real world for which we would both be heading. There was romance alright, mostly short lived. There was always someone on the scene. There were even times that I woke up beside my new love, even if I could have sworn I’d gone home from the party on my own.
So it’s true that you meet people at college, but what about ‘the one’, the person who you want to share your life with? It seems that these days the ballroom of romance is no more. Gone are the days of men and women lined up along different walls of the dance floor waiting for the slow set. Nowadays we source our partners the same way we do our shopping – online and with a checklist. There was a time that it was surrounded with all sorts of taboos. Meeting somebody online was compared to the personal ads, and lets face it, even if nobody said it out loud, we all believed that the personals were for people who just couldn’t find a partner no matter how many dances they went to.
But it’s not really like that, is it? It probably never was. From the start, I’ve always found online dating to be a bit similar to shopping online. Not that I planned to buy a catalogue husband or anything. I’d love to have done something like that but I just wouldn’t have had the money to get exactly what I was looking for. No, it was just the idea of more choice, and being able to plan and pick out exactly what I wanted, rather than being faced with a tiny selection from what was on offer locally. So I started doing online dating before it was even en Vogue.  I had recently split up from my first husband (well, ok, my only husband, but first husband sounds a bit sexier than ex-husband). So I wanted an adventure, something to distract me, and I wanted to feel young again. My advert read something like this:
Bitter and twisted, cantankerous, middle-aged obese woman seeks young well hung Adonis of about 20 with plenty of experience please. One night only.
I was, of course, not exactly honest. Although my description of myself was , indeed, fairly apt, what I really wanted was distraction rather than a one night stand. And distraction I got. Within half a day I had received over one hundred offers. By the end of the week my inbox was full. I did have the decency to read them all, but only replied to about three. A few weeks and a bit of banter later I found myself meeting a young fella in a black shirt, not bad looking and a Northern accent to die for. I decided that this was the business. Better to be old and ugly looking at young and sexy than vice versa, but it didn’t seem to bother the young fella so we ended up going for the one night only with breakfast thrown in.
Needless to say there were enough people to tell me how foolish all of this carry on had been and how even serial killers can wear black shirts and speak with Northern accents. I know they had my best intentions in mind, but then again, so did my one night stand and serial killers have been known to lurk around dance halls asking girls out for the slow set. My point, though, is that when you search for love online you are more likely to find a better match, because as I mentioned earlier, you can have a checklist and tick all the boxes in advance.
It’s also true that you can’t believe what you read. Even my own self description was a tad untrue. You see I may be twisted, but I’m not really bitter, and I’m not all that cantankerous either come to think of it.
A few years after my online adventure, my brother met a woman through an online dating agency. The world of online love had become a lot more fashionable and seemed to be the norm at this stage. My brother and I being polar opposites, I can only guess that his online profile went something like this:
Serious academic historian, lots of college degrees and stuff like that. Vegetarian. Into yoga, politics and classical music. Would like to meet an academic woman in sensible shoes. No make up please.
In fairness, she has some great shoes and they were married eleven months after their first date. And come to think of it, he was definitely never going to meet her tripping over her heels while throwing up outside the pub at two o’clock in the morning, nor was either of them ever going to be found on the dance floor. So I’m right: online is the way to go.
Or is it? A few years ago I met my current partner when we were both on a parent’s association committee together. All that fundraising and bag packing and minute taking was enough to awaken passion between two second- time-rounders. It proves my counter argument which is that you will only find love if you are not looking for it. But if it crashes into your life and you can fit it in to a schedule you thought was full it’s even better. There is really nothing sexier than grabbing time out between the school run and peeling the potatoes.
So if you are still wondering where the love of your life might be hanging out, my advice is this: join an online dating forum and write a profile of not who you are, but rather, who you would like to be (this is because if you keep telling yourself that you are who you want to be, you will turn into that person eventually). At the same time, tell yourself that you don’t really have the time or the inclination to be falling in love right now. Then join a committee. You’ll be liaised within weeks.  
The bottom line when it comes to love though is that it doesn’t really matter where or when or how you meet your beloved. It only matters that it works and that you pretend to everyone else that you met in some exotic romantic place where you were swept off your feet. You then go on to live happily ever after.
As my elderly mother, who tends to get her words confused these days, recently commented:
‘I really don’t think it’s a bad thing at all that my son met his wife on the microwave!’

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Two Nurofen and That'll be 50 Quid Please...

A few weeks ago my daughter had a bit of a dose on her. She decided she needed to see the doctor so I was left in an awkward situation. You see if I didn't bring her, I'd be a bad mother neglecting my daughter and in twenty years from now it would probably come up for her in therapy. So down we headed and let the doctor tell her what I could have told her myself 'Take two Nurofen and that'll be 50 quid please'. Well of course I never get to say the 'that'll be 50 quid please' piece, but then again, my daughter wouldn't see any of my advice as being worth tuppence. In a way, in this case, it did save me money though, because she was happy to take the tablets and head into school due to some pressing social engagements, as one does have at 13. But it wasn't all a waste, you see if she didn't go to the doctor I would have had to suggest she stay at home, and then I would have to stay at home to mind her, and that would mean taking an unpaid day from work. Well that's how I wrote off the 50 in my head to help me get over the pain of handing it across the reception desk.

There's something not very fair about doctors fees. Not long before that visit I'd been there with my son and his consultation was a long and difficult one. We were over an hour with the doctor, but it still cost the very same price. I was embarrassed leaving as I could see that the waiting room was now full of people whose appointments had all been delayed because of us, and possibly to recover that lost time the doc might now rush through people showing signs of heart attacks and just say 'two nurofen and that'll be 50 quid please'. There should be different rates, depending upon how long it takes, but this is Ireland, where our pride in not being bureaucratic leads to a system that is run on the basis of 'ah, whatever you can get away with'.

So here I am writing this blog in bed, down with a throat virus similar to the daughter's one and I have a dilemma. You see I've had this dose now for a whole week and it's just not going away. I suppose I have to hand it to the doctors really, I thought I knew the cure but I was wrong. You see I believed that if I just ignored it and kept going all week it would just go away, but now the cruel mirror on the wall and a little torch tell me that I'm doomed, white spots have found a home in my throat, I need an antibiotic. But maybe it will just go away on it's own, so I tried to cure it with whiskey and a day in bed, but it's stubborn. Unlike my daughter I don't have any pressing social engagements, but I do have a week at work coming up that I can't miss, and don't give me all that 'oh, we're all replaceable shit', because there really is stuff on, especially tomorrow, that I can't miss.Believe me, if I don't show up for work tomorrow, the whole corporation will collapse, it will have  a domino effect on world recession and the Dow Jones index will turn into the abominable snowman. So even though it's easier to spend 60 quid (weekend rate) on 'take two Nurofen & an antibiotic', it annoys me that I have to be told by some doctor what I need when it's pretty obvious that I know. The chemist are happy to sell me medication that contains codeine over the counter but I have to pay 60 quid to get a note from someone to say its ok to give me an antibiotic.
The other problem is this, I can't afford the doctor to say that I can't go to work, because then you're getting into a legal thing. If you have a sick-note, you are obliged to stay at home. Whereas if I don't have a sick note, I can come in sick, do the important stuff and then go home sick. I've just had an idea though, I'll ring around a few friends and see if they have any old anti-biotics lying around that they never finished. That'll sort it.

Anyway, I need to save that 60 to make up for parking tickets and other unfair bills from our corrupt system. Last week this c*** of a traffic warden put a ticket on my car even though I didn't even park in the loading zone. I dropped off the kids and pulled in at it. Then jumped out of the car to give a kid money he forgot. The whole thing happened in about 3 minutes flat, and there was yer man putting the ticket on my wiper as I pulled out. But similarly to the guy who clamped me down at the long walk a few weeks ago, I managed to get through the whole ordeal biting my tongue and not calling either of them any of the names that I felt they were, nor did I shout 'I bet you're hung like a prawn', even if I did mumble it within earshot. The thing is, the punishment does not fit the crime, and it is only when I go to the doctor or get clamped or see them charge a fiver for a bunch of rosemary in tesco that's imported from Israel when most people don't realise they have a whopping big rosemary bush in their garden, only then do I miss the German bureaucracy, or let's say, only then do I understand it as being the price you have to pay if you want to do things right.
Even if it means that people become crashing bores, at least everything works properly. I suppose that's another dilemma though: go live with crashing bores and everything works, or stay in the land of the parochial hall where it's all great craic and sure don't I know your cousin Jane's husband so I'll look after you, so I will.
Oh God, I just feel another blog coming on about cronyism. Being bedridden is not good for the bitter and twisted mind.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Lesbian Thang...

Lindsay Lohan and Ellen de Generes, yes, we all know they're gay, but had I known that Cynthia Nixon from 'Sex and the City' was gay, I probably would have watched the show just to see a woman who I might have had a chance with if I were a celebrity lesbian and not a going-to-seed suburban lesbian.
You see when I was growing up, I lived in a lesbian free world, well at least that's the colour it was painted. At best, being gay was a deviation, one  that meant your parents could have checked you into the asylum for, and mine would have been quite likely to do that.
So last night when I got asked the question that I always get asked, the one that is always preceded by 'would you mind if I ask you a personal question, and don't answer this if you don't want to... but what made you change from being married to being gay?'
Well, repetitive as it is, I'm always glad when people do actually ask me about it. Living in the west of Ireland isn't exactly San Francisco, and despite the fact that we are slowly coming out of the caves, it seems to me that rather than embrace diversity, we silence it. Despite all of our new laws and regulations and the whole gay marriage thing (I still don't know why gay people want to live like heterosexuals, but anyway), a lot of the people who I meet, have never met a gay woman before, so the reaction can be anything from ostracizing me, running a mile from me, considering me to be very strange indeed, and a host of other things that silences any mention of my gayness. And the silence hurts.
Cynthia Nixon &Rojo Caliente  with their son Max
The answer, by the way, is that because of the lack of role models and all that, I wanted to be a heterosexual lady. I wanted to be 'like everyone else'. I waited until my early twenties before I ever ventured into a gay bar, and somewhere between then and now, I met a nice respectable man who I thought it was a great idea to get married to and be 'normal'. Well that was all twenty something years ago. Of course it didn't take long for the truth to come and hunt me out. Since then things have happened in the world that I never could have imagined: people are not allowed to smoke in pubs or hit kids anymore, and lesbians are all over the telly; attractive ones even.
But still, last night in a Galway club, that ingrained Irish guilt complex couldn't stop me from feeling so wrong for admiring the great legs and the flesh coloured tights of the three singers. There's just something very sexy about flesh coloured tights - I believe they are now called 'nude' rather than flesh coloured, but that doesn't make any difference. For me, flesh coloured tights are a mix between 1950's cocktail parties and school teachers. They scream for hands on them. They're like ice cream wrappers to a child, they make silk purses out of sow's ears. But still, I suppose clubs that are frequented by twenty-something year olds in search of a standard heterosexual adventure don't expect women pushing 50 to lust after the sheer satin flesh coloured tights of the singers. Not that I would have made a move on any of them or anything like that, I just felt wrong, guilty, almost a pervert. I felt lonely.
But then I thought: a guy wouldn't feel bad about it, and isn't that why they have dancers in the club in the first place, so I let myself off and spent the rest of this morning's hangover feeling bad about other painful banalities and also wondering why the hell I live in the west of Ireland where I'll always be something of an outcast. Well there is a reason, and that is because someone has to do it. I guess there needs to be a lesbian visibility, one that stretches from the Galway suburbs all the way up the N17 as far as Tuam. Not that I go around waving the rainbow flag or anything, I'm just here.
There are three things that really drive me mental though.

  1. The assumption that because I'm a lesbian I fancy every woman on the planet
  2. The assumption by straight women that if they decide they want to try it out with another woman, they only need to come to me and I'll take them on for a night 
  3. And this is my pet hate - the assumption that because I'm a lesbian, all I ever think about is sex with women (and true, there are times I can't deny that), and that the only thing I ever do with my partner is have sex.  Believe me, there's a huge difference between wanting sex with a woman and falling in love with a woman or living with a woman.  
So for that reason, now that I know Cynthia Nixon is gay, I've decided she's hot, because that means she's 'in the club'. Women who have sex with other women are ten a penny these days, but ones who actually have the balls, pardon the pun, to commit to another woman in a relationship, well they're in a league of their own, and more importantly, they make me feel like I'm not from Mars, just from the west of Ireland. When I see photos of Cynthia with her wife it looks like it might even be normal, and then I actually feel that maybe it's ok to be gay after all.
Guess I'll just have to wait another 40 years for it to come to Galway, by which time I'll be decrepit and disapproving of all that sort of carry on. Sigh...

Thursday, January 19, 2012

How to Seriously Annoy People

I just couldn’t help myself at work today. It all started out very serious. It was the kind of busy that you get lost in your head and forget there are other people in the room, so by about lunchtime everybody hates you already because they think you’re ignoring them when you don’t respond to any stimulation that doesn’t take place between your head and the screen.

Then, of course, when you get lost in what you’re doing, you also don’t notice that you probably have a number of irritating habits that are unbeknownst to yourself but very obvious to others. Given that I live with knuckle clickers and gum chewers I do try to monitor whatever it is I might be doing to tick people off, but I can never quite figure it. Today though, I managed to chew through the top of a pen, and without thinking about it, I then put the top of the pen in my mouth and started to blow through it (You do that kind of thing when you’re losing a battle with an excel spreadsheet). It was only after a few minutes that I realised I had unwittingly made myself a little whistle and that I was now whistling a non-tune around the office.

I guess because nobody was talking to me anymore, there was nobody to tell me, but I didn’t really care, after all, they were all sitting around clicking pens and making tapping noises and talking way too loudly on the phone, so I just stopped and silently felt a bit smug that I had inadvertently invented a utensil to get on peoples nerves. It reminded me of a list I once read on how to people off. For those of you interested in doing so, here’s my edited version of it:


1. Leave the copy machine set to reduce 200%, extra dark, 17 inch paper, 99 copies.

2. Specify that your drive-through order is "TO-GO."

3. If you have a glass eye, tap on it occasionally with your pen while talking to others.

4. Stomp on little plastic ketchup packets.

5.Insist on keeping your car windshield wipers running in all weather conditions "to keep them tuned up."

6. Reply to everything someone says with "that's what you think."

7. Practice making fax and modem noises.

8. Finish all your sentences with the words "in accordance with prophesy."

9. Signal that a conversation is over by clamping your hands over your ears and grimacing.

10. Adjust the tint on your TV so that all the people are green, and insist to others that you "like it that way."

11. Staple pages in the middle of the page.

12. Publicly investigate just how slowly you can make a croaking noise.

13. dont use any punctuation

14. Buy a large quantity of orange traffic cones and reroute whole streets.

15. Repeat the following conversation a dozen times.



"Never mind, it's gone now."

16. Try playing the William Tell Overture by tapping on the bottom of your chin. When nearly done, announce "No, wait, I messed it up," and repeat.

17. Ask people what gender they are.

18. While making presentations, occasionally bob your head like a parakeet.

19. Sit in your front yard pointing a hair dryer at passing cars to see if they slow down.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

On This Famous Day

Years ago, and I’d be talking donkeys years ago, on one of those horribly dark January mornings that everyone dreads; up in the maternity ward of St. Michael’s hospital, a shrill piercing scream competed with the fog horn on the Dun-Laoghaire pier. It was the 11th morning of January, a Monday, and out I screamed, disappointing the world with my gender, my jaundice and a strong pair of lungs. The mother couldn’t handle any of this, so I was dispatched to the granny who looked after me until I could scowl properly, whence I was returned to the mother.
So every year, on the 11th of January, I mark that day by eating cake and generally celebrating the fact that I was born on my birthday.
So this year I looked up Wikipedia to see what sort of famous things happened on my birthday other than me being born. Turns out, all they can come up with for my actual day and year of birth is some damn Dutch darts player who shares my birthday. How the hell could a Dutch darts player be more important than I am, so much more important that he’s up there in Wikipedia and I aint?
Roland Scholten, who the hell has ever heard of Roland Scholten? And to make it worse, the famous person a year before that on my birthday is some snooker player, Dean Reynolds. It’s not fair. Whenever I see those postcards in shops with famous things and people from the 11th of January, they are always vague and boring.
Why didn’t my mother have me on the due date of 8th of January, then I could have shared a birthday with David Bowie and Elvis Presley, and that would have inspired me so much that I’d now be a famous singer.
Etna Erupts - Nothing Spectacular?
Well at least something important did happen on the 11th.  In the year 630, Mohammad led an army of 10,000 to conquer Mecca. I suppose that’s more important than  David Bowie being born in Brixton to an Irish mother called Peggy Burns, but not in my world of whose brilliant it’s not. And even though Bowie is 18 years older than me, given that I was christened Margaret, and am Irish, I sometimes wish that the mother hadn’t decided to take me back after the initial shock, because than I could fantasize that I’m actually Bowie’s half sister or even his daughter, and that they came over to Ireland to have the baby and then went back to Brixton to forget about the whole thing. So instead, I just imagine that famous adopted people are actually my other siblings who the mother couldn’t handle, like Steve Jobs and Debbie Harry. But what my mother was doing having babies in America from the age of 15 is beyond me. But you just never know…
Well there were other things going on on the 11th of January. Mount Etna erupted in 1693 ( I vaguely remember that one) and more importantly, just a few hundred years later, Romania reincorporated Transylvania in 1919 and in 1935, Amelia Earhart became the first person to fly solo from Hawaii to California (women drivers and all that , she couldn’t get anyone to go with her, I suppose).
So the bottom line is this: I was born on a day that nothing amazing ever happened, so for that reason I need to become really famous and successful and well known so that the birthday card people will have something to write on their cards and key rings and other yokes that they sell in those gimmicky card shops.
I think I might take up darts, or snooker or go on a mission to Mecca on my own in an airplane…