How to build a reasonably OK daughter

Pride. A feeling I tend to view with some suspicion. “I’m very proud of you”, quarter-blubbed her Da to me after our daughter was born. You didn’t. Seriously. You didn’t just contaminate the moment with a half-assed attempt to reduce it to a cliché. The ignominy.

I did what any self-respecting post-labour woman in that situation would do. I obeyed one of the master cheese-makers, and left the tender moment alone before demanding the legendary tea and toast I’d heard so much about. Thanks, Billy. I’d have had you for the requisite background music if we had been filming it for a dodgy rom-com. Set in the 80s. Before those slasher movies came along. Like Baby Led Weaning Part II, and When Gina Forde Attacks.

“You should be so proud of her”. I got that a lot over the days that followed. Proud of her for what? Winning a beauty contest with one contestant? Our unconditional love on the spot? Arriving on Women’s Christmas so my Mother could win a bet with herself to brag about?

Now she’s two, she’s notching up small but significant victories of her own that appear to fill her with immense pride. “Look at me!!” Taking her shoes off and getting into her Dad’s boots, unaided. Polishing off her dinner to get holding her plate aloft like a trophy. Hopping on one foot for five seconds (before falling on her arse). “Look at you”, I respond in a voice so saturated with exclamation marks it sounds unfamiliarly squeaky. Hark the sound of early parental pride.

Whatever kink of nature was to blame (paranoia/control freakery/pregnancy related cheese deprivation), I spent the first month of her life pre-occupied with those victories for which she will inevitably have to fight hard. Keeping her in milk and zeds will be the least of our worries. What about the battles we’ll be prevented from muscling in on to pin whatever fucker up against the wall of reason in all The Great Wars. Lasting self-confidence. Sufficient self-esteem. Getting out of hen parties. Independence. Immunity from protracted heartbreak. Body confidence. Healthy ideas on sex. Some fucker somewhere telling her she can’t do something. Her talents threatening to become her enemies. A decent taste in music. Resistance to snobbery, elitism and looking down on others. Except those with a shit taste in music. The Biggies.

I was reminded of those bizarre weeks during Caitlin Moran’s show last night at Vicar St.. A pick ‘n’ mix of readings and rants that addressed an array of trademark Moran topics. The absence of menstrual blood in popular culture. The crushing impact of the media’s obsession with bodily perfection on female self-worth. The lady boners from men who call themselves feminists. The dangers of Tweeting sexual conquest plans for Benedict Cumberbatch whilst drunk (“I’d let my face be a painter and decorator’s radio for him”). And plenty of fun-loving filth in-between.

caitlin

A rallying call for to arms around each other to call time on some bad shit. And get some other good shit started. Her typical good-humour the vehicle for driving home the basic tenets of contemporary feminism as the world should see them. 1. Women are equal to men; 2. Don’t be a dick; 3. Er, that’s it. A one-woman show reinforcing the right of feminism to belong to women in common, not the mortar-boarded few for relentless tug o’ warring. Get with it, girls. Feminism is a moving patchwork of issues that confer on women the right to move freely around it to take on their particular fight of choice.

Stand-out moments came courtesy of the feelings she had on the responses to her self-disclosure on having an abortion in How to Be A Woman. A poignant reading followed tracing the historical roots and rationale for the procedure from Greek times to the present day. Half the world’s women who have abortions will have them safely; the other half will have them anyway. All facts delivered matter-of-factly.

But it is her comedy-free commitment to laying bare the unvarnished realities of class and welfare where Moran truly comes into her own. Abortion is, and always will be, available to Irish women; provided they have the means to travel to the UK to buy one. Lamenting the robbing of middle-class treats by austerity cuts will always be worlds removed from the effort it takes to claw out of pre-determined debt, poverty, and a dodgy postcode onto a rung more comfortable. Wipe hope from the lives of the poor and those smokes and fat foods so frowned upon become their only treats.

Scanning the audience, I spot a few other favourite women. There’s Roisin Ingle laughing her heart out. That’s my best mate over there with one of the Twitter famous “36 men” in the room. Here’s my Ma. Clapping and laughing wildly through it all. Like a woman who finally got out on her hen night 52 years after her wedding day. Her daughter to the right of her, grown-up granddaughters to the left. A woman who lived through the marriage bar, ‘churching’, and a thermometer for contraception. A woman who wasn’t able to open a Credit Union account, whose children received a state allowance that could only be paid into her husband’s account. A woman who couldn’t complete her secondary education because her family didn’t have the money and she was needed for “women’s work”. And then it clicks.

Pride: Sitting next your Ma at a Caitlin Moran show being reminded that the phrases you use to build your case for equality passed down from her lips originally. If I do half as good a job with my own daughter, I’ll have done OK. She’ll have her own ideas on what pieces of the patchwork she’s up for tackling and tickling.

Run with them, child.

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6 thoughts on “How to build a reasonably OK daughter

  1. As a mom to three daughters I am aware of my influence on them, in all that I say, but also in all I do not say.
    Who knows how they will turn out. All I really want for them is that they be very comfortable with who they are, not what they are. Male/female who cares.
    Sounds like your mom did a great job. How lovely to enjoy a night like this together.

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