Another regular, we hope. The Mysterious Third Sister will be documenting our brilliant innovating posts with photos.
Here's what she gave this week:
"When I'm mad with syphillis..."
Maternal Instinct, anyone?
Each weekend, you'll be getting a joint double post on a single theme – there and back, as it were. And there'll be extra features: in-flight menu, and in-flight movie, where we share our brilliant recipes and our unique cultural insights.
Once a month our flight will have a correspondence: that's you! We want readers to suggest themes – the sillier the better - and we'll pick one to write about. Not that we don't have plenty of silly ideas of our own, but we like a challenge!
So we're counting on you, in the comments or on facebook or twitter!
This month's Charter brings you Maternal Instinct.
A mother's love is irreplaceable (sigh)
I'm sorry to be harping on about these things in a particularly non-humorous way, but seeing as I'm writing a book on Wollstonecraft I can't very well avoid thinking about it. And if I have to suffer, I don't see why the rest of the world shouldn't. So here we go. The other day in class, we were playing around with one of those utterly senseless thought experiments: you wake in a hospital tied to a man who's in the next bed. You find out he's a world famous violinist suffering from a terrible disease and only you can cure him, by sharing your blood with him for nine months. Do you have an obligation to stay? The students all seemed to think that yes, you should stay, except if you're a woman who's a mother. So I ask whether the father of the children could not equally well take care of them, at which point they go all misty eyed and say that a mother's love is irreplaceable. Of course they can't tell me why.
I tell them I don't think my love for my children is irreplaceable just because I'm their mother and not their father. I don't think that's ever the case in families where the father is as involved in the children's life as the mother. But then again, there aren't that many of those around.
The students' eyes are no longer misty by then, they're becoming harsh, and they start talking about maternal instinct, which I clearly lack.
Well, it's not even clear that human beings have instinct. Used to, but that died out along with being hairy all over and painting in caves. Except for infants. When you hang your baby up on the washing line by its toes and it holds on, that's instinct. (Ok, so maybe my students had a point and I do lack maternal instinct). It's to do with the bit in the middle of the brain getting covered up, I think. Something wierd, physiological and complicated.
Ok, so some people, probably psychologists, would say that I'm taking the word instinct too literally. Nobody is saying that mothers haven't made it passed the prehistoric stage (yeah, you bet that's exactly what they're saying!) Instinct is something more subtle than that, some internalisation of popular wisdom, an ability to respond immediately, in an unreflexive way, appropriate to the situation. Fine, I don't deny I've got that. Many is the time when there's been a situation involving the children and I've responded quickly and unreflexively. Usually, that's when I'm trying to watch something on tv and they break something, or get hungry. You can imagine the kind of instinctual response I'm talking about.
So I know every one is talking about it on the web, and there's pages and pages of 'lost theories'. But there's a couple of things I feel really need saying. First Sawyer is way hotter when he's on the right side of the law. Secondly, Richard, Ricardus, or Ricardo, whatever his name his, turns out to be a bit of a wimp. What's with all the mysterious non-ageing if he's only Jacob's servant? Does he eat bugs?
Just when I thought streaming couldn't get any better, I came across SKINS, a British show about teenagers in Bristol. It's called Skins because they get naked a lot and they, well, you know, skin up. (That just means rolling your own cigarettes, really). One good thing about it is that the principle actor is the little boy from About a Boy and he's all grown up. Put that together with information you've already got and that is plenty good enough reason to watch the show. Plus it's all gritty and humorous and deals with really issues and stuff, so you don't have to hide when you're watching it, like when you're watching Gossip Girl (oops, sorry I let that out).
That's all for now, as I don't want to let out any real spoilers.
On Maternal Instinct. Or not.
I love my children. I utterly adore them. Aside from the usual “no”, “shush” or “don’t bite your sister/brother”, I also say “I love you, but I’m not just your mommy, I had a life before you got here and I intend to keep some of it”. When I say this, my kids (6 and almost 3) have that dead fish stare and start asking why, or even better, just shrug and seem to think that it’ll pass and I’ll go back to normal anytime soon.
On the other hand, when their dad tells them to go see me or do something else because he’s busy, they’ll just do it. I was talking about this to someone the other day, and also complaining a little (OK, a lot) saying how I was doing all the children-related work and that I couldn’t understand how I was the only one to hear them scream at night, and here’s the answer I got : “Well, of course, you’re the mother”. I am going to say this once, and once only, so listen up: there is no such thing as maternal instinct. It does not exist. The survival instinct does, yes, that’s true. But maternal, nope. The fact that my kids think I’m all for granted and not their daddy just means that he drew the line way further than I did. Mothers are not more patient, they don’t have Bionic Woman’s hearing abilities, and they don’t need less sleep. They just deal with those things because society makes them. Instinct calls for natural, for action deprived of thought. Does that mean women stop being human beings and turn into animals when they have kids?
I’m not saying there’s no special bond between a mother and a child, I’m saying it is as special as the one he/she has with the dad. Different, sure, but just as special. You see, when people tell me about maternal instinct, a real instinctive reaction comes and urges me to punch them in the teeth. But since I’m not an animal and I can control myself, I don’t hit them. Why should I be any different towards my kids? Wouldn’t maternal instinct be something worrying if it existed?
Last night my little girl decided her bed was lame and ours was cool. She was pretty stubborn and ended up screaming, yelling, crying, waking her brother up who threatened to move to another house to get proper sleep. Now, instinctively, I would probably have told her to go sleep in the hall or kicked her in the arse or yelled like a mad woman. But since I’m a mother, and not an instinctual animal, I just told her endlessly that she had her bed, that it wasn’t lame at all and that I needed my sleep and my space at night. She fell asleep at 2 a.m. and woke up at 6 a.m. and said “I want my bottle now. I think my bed is lame and I want to sleep with you tonight”. Having no maternal instinct obviously does not make me good at this mother thing either, it seems.
Recette de la tarte au citron meringuée : (if you want it in English, please post a comment and I’ll translate it. Also, you could start learning French. Or Japanese, for that matter. But it wouldn’t help you for the lemon pie.)
Pour la pâte :
250g de farine
125g de beurre
30g de sucre
Pour la garniture :
75g de beurre
20g Maïzena (farine de maïs)
230 g de sucre
4 Cuillérées à soupe de sucre roux
Enlever ses bagues. Pétrir les ingrédients pour la pâte et faire une boule. Attention ne pas y aller de main morte, c’est sportif. Recouvrir d’un film alimentaire et mettre au frigo pendant une heure.
Préchauffer le four à 180°C mais on n’a pas le temps d’aller boire un café en attendant qu’il chauffe, y’a d’autres trucs à faire.
Râper le zeste du citron (attention aux doigts : d’abord parce qu’on peut se faire très mal et ensuite, parce que c’est de la tarte au citron, pas de la tarte aux doigts) et presser les fruits. Là c’est mieux d’avoir une machine. Ou quelqu’un qui ne s’est pas coupé les doigts avec la râpe.
Faire mousser les œufs et le sucre ; Ajouter le beurre fondu, la Maïzena, le jus de citron et bien mélanger au fouet.
Etaler la pâte, piquer le fond et garnir
Cerise sur le gâteau (non, non, y’a pas de cerise, c’est une expression) : la meringue. Une fois que la tarte est cuite, battre très fermement 3 blancs d’œufs puis incorporer toujours en battant 50g de sucre très fin. Recouvrir la tarte, faire un joli dessin au couteau et mettre au four très chaud sous le grill pendant 5 minutes. Se faire un petit café si on veut mais le boire DEVANT.
Laisser refroidir tranquillement (là on peut même sortir le boire, le café) et mettre au frigo.
I called my first boss Cruella. I think it was well deserved, even though she didn’t look one bit like her. She was – and still is, I believe – a fat red-head. Yes, “fat” is a strong word, and yes, for those who know me for real, I know I’m not a size 0 and never will be. But I am all against politically correct vocabulary. She’s fat and ugly. Now, maybe ugly isn’t nice, but fat is neither nice nor mean. Anyway, Cruella liked me instantly. She even had a nickname and I still shudder when I hear it. No one is allowed to call me that anymore, it’s almost like saying Voldemort out loud : you can be in real trouble. Anyway, she started hating me a couple of months after my arrival. She liked me because I did all she asked, and did it pretty well, and pretty fast. She hated me for the same reasons. When she realized I was basically doing her job and she was getting tired of people calling me instead of her, she started the War. Yes, capital “W”. Slowly, but surely, she told stories about me, then she wouldn’t answer when I spoke, and in the end, I wasn’t allowed to go inside her office. I think she basically wanted me dead when I got pregnant with my son while she’d been trying for two years. I left for maternity leave and she called me, a lot, until the day when I yelled at her on the phone. You see, I’m a pretty easy-going person. But I hate hierarchy. I just hate it. I don’t like being told what to do, I like making decisions, moving fast, and working a lot. Only once in my life have I had a proper “boss”, one I valued and respected, and I’m sure he’ll know it’s him if he reads this. So I made a lot of efforts but in the end, I yelled. I told her all the things I’d wanted to say since I’d started working with her. It wasn’t pretty. She stopped calling and when I got back, there was a “teacher’s room” sign on my office door and my stuff were in a garbage bag. I swear it’s true. I still hate hierarchy now, but I’m older and wiser, I don’t yell anymore. I even manage not to tell the truth and lately, I even had a proper behaviour : I let someone yell at me, smiled, and then elaborated an evil plan to get out of there and screw them. It worked like a miracle, but I fear I might turn into some kind of Cruella if I keep on doing this. I think I like myself better when I’m big mouthed and spontaneous. I’m currently negotiating a position in a company and told them right away what kind of person I was, presenting it as a take it or leave it situation. Ballsy, but it might work. If it doesn’t, I guess I’ll have to create my own company and try not become someone’s Cruella. I’ll keep you posted.
I love chocolate. Many people do. They may not think about it as much as I do, though. I may think about chocolate as often as men think about sex, which is clearly disturbing. Sometimes I wonder if I need help, if I'm trying to compensate for something, if I don't have some form of chocolate-oriented-bulimia. I wonder if I'll stop eating chocolate one day, I wonder if I'm capable of quitting. I quit smoking 4 months, 6 days and 5 hours ago. It was hard, painful, annoying, but I quit. I didn't get any help, I didn't become the typical ex-smoker who yells at smokers – even though I'm still a tad jealous of the lucky bastards – and I don't really want to smoke any more, knowing that if I do, I'll buy a pack in the next minute. I had been smoking for 16 years, so I can safely say I have strong will power. The mere thought of going on a diet that will forbid chocolate is too much to take. I tried, I even gave chocolate away, but it never worked. I just cannot live without it. I'm even slightly anxious when I travel or when I go visit friends, wondering if there will be chocolate in the hotel/house. I'm that addicted. So sometimes, I wonder if maybe I shouldn't talk about it (to a professional and not blog readers, that is). I wonder what my life would be like without my addiction. I wonder if I'd be thin, maybe even skinny. When I do think of all this, I eat chocolate, and feel better instantly. I think it's just pure magic. Why would I take magic off my life ? Nonsense.
That's what my 6 years old son tells me. He's the smartest kid I've met. OK, one of the smartest anyway. And I'm not the only one to say this, he is unbelievably smart. He's 6 and he's already made up his mind about religion : of course he has, since he's had the past two years to question the existence of God, talk about different religions, read about them, trust in God and finally deciding that there was no way He existed. So yeah, he's smart. I don't care if people think I'm that kind of mother, the kind to think her son is gifted. What I know, is that I'm exhausted. I'm tired because he keeps asking questions, because he started asking « why » when he was 16 months old and has never stopped since. I'm tired because he second-guesses almost every decision I make, I'm tired because other parents look at me and think I'm a bad mother when they see him yelling at me and being hysterical because he didn't get what he wanted or because he thinks this or that is unfair. I'm tired because I don't know what to do, because I keep looking for answers, solutions, tips, and that I feel that I am, indeed, the most horrible mother in the universe. Today was a tough day. Tomorrow will be fine. We'll be just fine. And we'll go see a shrink because there is no way I'm letting him call me the most horrible mother in the universe again. There.
If you can't drive, you're an idiot. If you made the decision not to drive, then you're a double idiot, or you're afraid people will call you an idiot because you failed. Now that I'm a real grown-up with husband and children and cat and goldfish and snails, I can finally say it outloud : I'll be an idiot, then. I am so over people asking me, with wide open eyes as if I'd just said how aliens have just come down to earth « I don't drive ». Then comes the usual « Oh, why's that ? ». Now, the answer I give depends on quite a lot of things, such as do I like this person or not. If not, then I'll just answer « because I'm an idiot » and go talk to someone else. I might add here that I'm a – fake but really well done, thank you hairdresser, Jennifer Anistonly – blonde, with big breasts. So it usually never shocks people to hear I'm an idiot. If I do like the person, then I'll answer the truth « I failed the written test ». Now, here comes the part when parisiens, parisiennes and all French readers will laugh out loud, because, really, only pure idiots fail. However, I like to think of myself as smart. Not kick-arse smart, but smart enough not to fail a written test. Here are a few facts about that test : it's stupid. I hate doing stupid things. You have to punch a whole in a piece of paper when you see the right answer. It's always between a « yes » or a « no », there's never any way you can explain, or, for that matter, think. I have great difficulties not to think. My main objective as a parent is to teach my children to think for themselves. If I manage to do this, then I'll feel I did my job. You're allowed five mistakes, not one more, I made six. I paused during the test, looked at all the 18 year-olds punching and punching, and asked myself why I was doing this. When I was 18, all I wanted was to get out of the suburbs to become a real parisienne. In Paris, you don't need to drive, there's the métro, the bus, and you walk. Cars are everywhere, they're noisy, they smell and they're ugly, except for the pink ones and the cabs. If I drove, I would never get lost in tiny streets, I'd never stop randomly at some café to draw something that caught my eye, I wouldn't be smiled at, I wouldn't have bought those amazing shoes in that marvellous shop today. So, really, I'd rather stay an idiot.