Monthly Archives: September 2008

A Little Knowledge is, Well, Too Difficult

Most of the focus on the Men Today poll in last week’s Irish Times has been on the big issues and the larger numbers, but some of the smaller issues and numbers made far more entertaining reading.

Much has been said about how happy we are, and how well-adjusted we are, but a tiny yet significant group clearly are so confused by life that they shouldn’t be let cross the street alone, though luckily they would probably not have any desire to do so.

They are not just the Undecided. They are the Undecided-Whether-They-Are-Undecided.

For example, when asked can it ever be justified to drive under the influence of alcohol, 8 percent said ‘sometimes’, 87 percent said ‘never’ and 3 percent had no opinion. Having no opinion at all about drinking and driving is a bit strange in itself, but not as strange as the fact that those three numbers add up to 98. So 2 percent of the respondents didn’t even have an opinion as to whether they had an opinion.

Blissfully bewildered, these people seem to let life pass merrily by. When asked “do you drink any type of alcohol at all nowadays”, 81 percent said yes and 16 percent said no. The other three percent seem to have found the question too taxing. Three percent don’t know whether or not they’ve ever experimented with soft drugs. Three percent couldn’t answer the same question about hard drugs.

Three percent – I’m starting to see a pattern here – didn’t answer yes or no to whether they’d ever been involved in a fight, and, yes, three percent didn’t seem to know if they’ve ever been mugged.

Is it the same men in every case? What must their weekends be like?

If it is the same guys, I hope that at least some them are among the one percent who deliciously answered the question “How frequently do you have a medical check-up” with the reply “Once a week or more often”.

Smack My Bitch Up

The reaction to the Irish Times’ Men Today national poll seems to have been a jokey “aren’t men lovable saps”, focussing on our belief that men can cry, that some of us now use skin products, and that we’re essentially happy. Indeed, many of the results are truly entertaining, being either funny, bizarre or nonsensical, and I might write about them later. But, for now, I’m highlighting one statistic that has not received nearly enough analysis, and which I find very disturbing.

I am old-fashioned enough to believe that hitting a woman is one of the ultimate sins. I would find it unforgiveable if any man hit any of my female family or friends, and would expect no forgiveness if I ever did it.  And, according to the poll, six percent of men in this country have done it.

The Times’ Social Affairs Correspondent remarks merely that it’s “a figure that remains low across all age groups”. This seems to imply that it falls within some acceptable parameters or something. And the figure does sound low.

But there are 1.7 million men in this country, so one hundred and two thousand of them have hit a woman.

And the figure is probably higher. Six percent of the respondents answered Yes, but only 91 percent answered No. Since it’s unlikely that the other three percent don’t know whether or not they’ve hit a woman, I’m taking it that they simply didn’t answer the question. And since I can’t think of any reason why someone who has never hit a woman would decline to say so, I think it’s reasonable to assume that most of the ones who gave no reply were too embarrassed to. This means that the figure could be as high as one hundred and fifty thousand. I’m not even counting the fact that some of the 91 percent might have been lying.

According to the poll, we claim we’re more sensitive, we claim we will turn to our partners for emotional support, we claim that macho men get on our nerves, but a substantial number of us are still neanderthals whose beliefs about the status of women haven’t changed since the days of cavemen.

I can only hope that more attention is paid to this particular part of the survey in the coming days, that women TDs focus on it, that womens’ groups highlight it, and that influential broadcasters like Pat Kenny and Marian Finucane and Ray Darcy pick up on it. And, hopefully, that more support is directed toward organisations like Womens Aid because of it.

Because this says a lot more about what many Irish men are still like than whether we read novels or gamble online.

Buddy, can you spare a dime

The world’s Central Banks are acting to rescue commercial banks from the financial disaster brought about by their own greed and stupidity (‘we’ve lent to absolutely everyone we know can pay us back. How can we make more money? I know, let’s start lending to people who can’t’).

Hopefully this will soften the attitude ‘going forward’ (obnoxious banking term) of those who believe totally in the free market, and who believe that those in receipt of any type of welfare are lazy worthless scum who should be either (a) forced to take any job offered to them or (b) sent home.

The six Central Banks have a fund of $180 billion which will they make available to commercial banks in order “to boost their short term requirements”.

In layman’s terms, the banks have temporarily gotten themselves into financial difficulty, and the governments are giving them money until they get back on their feet.

In other words, the banks are on the dole.

Happy Birthday Dad

My dad is 75 today, though he certainly doesn’t look it.

We have a rather strange relationship. I will ring at some time today and he will thank me profusely for doing so. Then we will have no contact for another couple of months. He will forget all my kids birthdays, as he always has done, though all they would need is a phone call. When he does arrive unexpectedly at the house, as is his wont, he will hand them all ridiculous amounts of money to make up for forgetting them. I will be short with him, because I will be annoyed by this, but we will not discuss it, because he reacts to criticism with embarrassing displays of childishness (he would either get all melancholy, going ‘you’re right, I’m a terrible grandad’, or get all uppity, saying ‘ok, I’ll ring them every day from now on, let’s see how they like that’). God, I’m so like him.

But when I was in hospital he came to visit me every day. He made light of it, saying sure he was retired, what else would he be doing, but the fact is he lives six miles south of Wicklow town and I was in Vincents, so he must have spent about three hours each day in the car.

And when we were young, when we needed a dad, well, he was the best.

I tried to get this across in the speech that I made when he got married again nearly three years ago. Being Best Man at your dad’s wedding is a surreal experience that I would recommend to everyone if it weren’t for the fact that your mother has to have died before it can happen. I was thrilled and delighted for him that he was happy again after all the years of loneliness. My Wicked Stepmother is a lovely person (if that seems like a contradiction, it isn’t. The word ‘Stepmother’ must, in my world, always have the word ‘Wicked’ in front of it, but the ‘Wicked’ had no meaning, rather like the ‘Civil’ in ‘Civil Servant’. Or the ‘Servant’ in ‘Civil Servant’, for that matter). The two of them are great together.

Anyway, in the speech I tried to pay tribute to him by pointing out how I have tried to be a dad like him. When I have made my kids laugh, and tried to give them a sense of humour, it’s because he did it with us. When I’ve gone to watch all their sports, it’s because he did it with us. When I have tried to teach them morals and values, it’s because he did it with us.

So, though I rarely say it, I’m hoping the way I’ve modelled my parenting on his tells him how terrific I think he is.

Though I might just say it to him when I ring today anyway.

The Big Bang

It’s 8.57 in the evening on September 18th, and the first firework of the autumn has just gone off on the hill at the back of the house.

So that’ll be it now, six weeks of nightly noise provided by people who think that a loud bang and four seconds-worth of pretty colours is the height of entertainment. A better bang for their buck, in fact.

To hell with the dogs. To hell with the elderly. They’re having fun.

And they know it’s Ok because, come Halloween, many of the adults in the area will themselves flaunt the law by having firework displays in their gardens. And they’d be horrified and outraged if the Guards did anything about it.

Because, like, it’s only havin’ the craic.

I know I sound like an old fart. ( As do some of the fireworks).But adults who buy fireworks really piss me off. Fireworks are illegal because they’re dangerous. Every year children get injured. That’s why the law is there. If you don’t like it, campaign to change it. Until you do, it’s not up to you to decide which laws you’ll obey and which you won’t. Because that teaches your children that they can do the same.

Do the words grown up mean anything to you?

Why? Because it’s There

ClosestWorkBuddy emailed me a copy of a report from the BBC News yesterday. It essentially said that there are nine categories of drinker, as listed below:

The Nine Types of Drinker
Name Characteristics Key motivations
Depressed drinker Life in a state of crisis eg recently bereaved, divorced or in financial crisis Alcohol is a comforter and a form of self-medication used to help them cope
De-stress drinker Pressurised job or stressful home life leads to feelings of being out of control and burdened with responsibility Alcohol is used to relax, unwind and calm down and to gain a sense of control when switching between work and personal life. Partners often support or reinforce behaviour by preparing drinks for them
Re-bonding drinker Relevant to those with a very busy social calendar Alcohol is the ‘shared connector’ that unifies and gets them on the same level. They often forget the time and the amount they are consuming
Conformist drinker Traditional guys who believe that going to the pub every night is ‘what men do’ Justify it as ‘me time’. The pub is their second home and they feel a strong sense of belonging and acceptance within this environment
Community drinker Drink in fairly large social friendship groups The sense of community forged through the pub-group. Drinking provides a sense of safety and security and gives their lives meaning. It also acts a social network
Boredom drinker Typically single mums or recent divorcees with restricted social life Drinking is company, making up for an absence of people. Drinking marks the end of the day, perhaps following the completion of chores
Macho drinker Often feeling under-valued, disempowered and frustrated in important areas of their life Have actively cultivated a strong ‘alpha male’ that revolves around their drinking ‘prowess’. Drinking is driven by a constant need to assert their masculinity and status to themselves and others
Hedonistic drinker Single, divorced and/or with grown up children Drinking excessively is a way of visibly expressing their independence, freedom and ‘youthfulness’ to themselves. Alcohol used to release inhibitions
Border dependents Men who effectively live in the pub which, for them, is very much a home from home A combination of motives, including boredom, the need to conform, and a general sense of malaise in their lives

When I asked why she sent it to me, she just laughed. I suppose I do mention the pub a lot.

The scary thing is that I reckon I fit into five of the nine groups. Even ‘Border Dependents’, which I had taken to be someone who drinks to celebrate the Peace process is going well, turns out to be one. the only ones I don’t have are four, six, seven and eight, and even seven, the macho drinker, is one I had when younger.

It’s very worrying. It’s enough to drive you to drink.

Making Holemaster Whole

A guy I know is going into hospital today. He’s going to have part of his lung removed, to get rid of a small but malignant growth. There are loads of us thinking of him.

None of us have ever met him, and his name is, er, Holemaster.

He’s one of the regular commenters on Twenty Major’s blog. Sometimes he tells us more than we need to know about his um, toilet habits. Other times he makes witty remarks. To show an example, I’ve gone into Twenty’s archive, picked an article at random and came up with this comment that he made:

“Hey imagine if D.I.D. Aldi and Lidl merged?


Ok, that didn’t really work.

Anyway, if you spend enough time there you get a feel for who you’d get on with out in the real world, and HM seems to be one of the good guys.

On August 4th, after nagging encouragement from Jothemama (so called because she is a blog midwife), he started his own blog, ‘Esker Riada’.

On September 4th, after just fourteen posts, he wrote the post ‘Operation Holemaster – Post 1’, in which he told us of his doctor’s diagnosis, and that he was looking at surgery to remove the left upper lobe in his lung (Honestly, the lengths some people will go to to get commenters).

The great thing is how many comments he did get, both on his own site and on Twenty’s, all wishing him well. Because somehow we all feel that we know each other, and sad that one of our number is unwell.

Good luck with eveything, HM. Looking forward to a load of post about bedpans, hospital food and cute nurses soon.

Like, whatEVer…

This morning in the kitchen at work I was talking to one of the young people I work with (she’s 31, which is young to me).

“So-and-so is leaving,” I said.

She said, “no way!”, and, to my horror, I heard myself say “Way”.

So, there you go. I’m a 17-year old Amonda Dort girl trapped in the body of a 50-year old man.

Like, yeuww.

In a World of His Own

I haven’t done any blogging or reading of other blogs since Sunday because I’ve spent every spare minute reading Terry Pratchett’s new book ‘Nation’, which I’ve just finished. So, loyal reader (that’s you, Jo), now I am back.

I love his books, and I think characters like Sam Vimes, Susan Sto-Helit, Tiffany Aching or, indeed,  Death himself stand comparison with any other heroes from literature.

This one isn’t set on the Discworld, his flat planet on the backs of four elephants standing on a giant turtle swimmimg through space. It’s actually set on Earth, which initially disappointed me, but it soon turned out to be just as good as the rest.

Tiffany, and her hat full of sky

Tiffany, and her hat full of sky

He thinks about the way people think more than anyone else I’ve ever read, and has a wonderful way of expressing their thoughts.

Tragically, he’s been diagnosed with Alzheimers, a staggering waste of such a fertile brain.

I wish him as much good health as possible. He has made so many people so happy, and his tales of the Discworld have given us a greater insight into this one.

Not Drowning, But Grumpy

On Thursday on Twenty Major’s site, a comment thread that started being about pigs and lipstick suddenly turned to bipolar disorders. People said things like:

“What makes me truly suspicious is the use of the word ’suffering’. ‘I suffer from bipolar depression’. ‘He suffers from ADHD’.”;

“But people who get depressed, or low, and claim to have manic depression are surely deserving of ridicule according to your piece.”;

“I think this is being facilitated by too many in the medical profession. People are always relieved to find there may be an explanation for why they feel bad, temporarily depressed or have problems interacting with the world around them.”;

“Or is it a good thing to do to give something a cooool name so people can say to each other triumphantly ‘I can explain why life isn’t working out for me- and the best thing is its treatable!!’ [rattles pillbottle].”

Jo from Infantasia and Problemchildbride fought back. Jo was the voice of reason, saying“What happens to the real sufferers if we just dismiss their conditions as invented or attention seeking?”.

PCB, whose own mother suffered from manic depression, wrote a brilliant rant, which included this part:

“So enough of this it’s all made up by Hollywood celebrities stuff. If you want to appear urbane or knowing or world-weary or coolly ironic or however the hell you want people to see you, I couldn’t give a flying fuck, I like to adopt that posture as much as the next person some days. We, the sane,medicated or otherwise, have that luxury. But just know that there might be some uppity bitch reading who is having a crap week and having to deal with shit from people not impertinent to this comment, who IS going to call you on it and tell you to refrain from being archly superior and just plain wrong on topics you are clearly not informed about.”

And I said nothing.

The problem is that many people do suspect that those who say they suffer from depression are really just unhappy. And those who suspect it most are the ones with the depression. Like me.

Last year I started blacking out for no apparent reason, and after various brain, blood and heart tests it was discovered that my heart-rate would sometimes slow so much that it would stop altogether. I was given a pacemaker and am now blackout free. Everyone knows about this, I’ve made no attempt to keep it secret. I joke about it, mock myself about it, and have even taken my blogging name from it (the 18 refers to the fact that a heart monitor that I was on revealed that one night my heart stopped for eighteen seconds).

In 2001, I was diagnosed with depression, and have been on medication on and off ever since. And I’ve told five people in seven years.

So, one illness I’ll discuss openly, and the other I’ll keep to myself. Because deep inside I fear that I’m just a big cod, that there’s really nothing more wrong with me than just being a grumpy git. I don’t know, but I’d guess that most depression sufferers (yes, sufferers, try it sometime) feel like that.

I know organisations like Aware are trying to fight the stigma attached to depression, the belief that it’s a failing rather than an illness, but they’ve a long haul ahead of them when the depressed themselves see it like that.

Even the fact that I’m not suicidal, because I just would not do that to my family, makes me think “see, there’s nothing really wrong with you”. (During all the medical crap last year there was a tiny part of me that thought “wow, if I die from this it’ll all be over, & I won’t have topped myself”).

When I get depressed over really stupid things, like a little boutique shop opening that I just know has no chance of surviving, or a recent one where I passed a bald man with a moustache and fell into a state about how ugly he was, how no-one would ever love him, and then how futile everything is, then my mind says “actually, you’re not depressed, you’re just mental”.

And the problem is I’ll never really be sure.