Dear Ger Walsh,
Every year, for the last ten years, more than 4000 Irish women have travelled to the UK for abortions. Some women who became pregnant as a result of rape. Some who had found out the baby they were carrying had a fatal foetal abnormality, and would not live past birth. And, almost certainly, some women who experienced crisis pregnancies, and made the determination that they weren’t ready to bring a child into the world just yet.
We could read all the literature in the world about abortion - pontificate about the nuances of Roe v. Wade, debate the existence of ‘Post-Abortion Stress Syndrome’ (it’s just your guilty thoughts, bad girls), wax lyrical about the growth of the foetus for days on end - and we would never come close to getting inside the head of a women who’s had, or is considering, an abortion.
Choosing not to become a parent is an equally big decision as choosing to become one. Neither is something women dive into without consideration, because babies are fashionable, or because they decided they just wanted a dog instead. When something begins to grow inside your womb, your whole life changes regardless of the path you take once you discover you’re pregnant.
The conventional Irish approach to abortion is to pretend it’s not happening: bury our heads in the sands while women board planes to the UK, safe in the conch of moral superiority. As we’re trying to herald in abortion in situations where the life of the mother is at risk (only after years of holding out), some people still haven’t figured out that there’s a difference between abortion as a responsible decision, and abortion as contraception.
You suggest that changes to the abortion laws in Ireland could lead an Irish woman to get an abortion when she’s about to go on holiday but “…an unexpected pregnancy could interfere with her plan and how she might look on the beach,” or where she’s about to go to a wedding, but an unexpected pregnancy might turn up like some errant Pokémon, “…ruining the chances of fitting into a very expensive dress.” As if choosing not to have a baby is the same as choosing an outfit. As if 4000 women every year don’t have to make a life-changing decision.
Making light of one of the most important decisions a woman of any age can make with respect to not just her body, but the rest of her life, highlights you as another ‘man who doesn’t understand woman,’ a man who sees women as materialistic nobodies, inclined to carry babies to term only if they’re in season. A man who does not understand pregnancy, motherhood, or what it means to be a woman.
Without even broaching on the issue of a woman’s right to choose, this depiction of Irish women is so truly insulting and degrading, it beggars belief. You say you’re “…not for one minute suggesting that many woman would want to do this.” But you believe these women are out there, frolicking around, engaging in unprotected sex, safe in the knowledge that should things go wrong, their beach bods will be saved with a quick trip to the clinic. And that only these frivolous women will be responsible for any abortions that result from less stringent legislation.
And because of your frankly ridiculous belief, we should continue to bury our heads in the sand.
Shame on you, Mr Walsh. Shame on you.
Last night I laughed so hard I couldn’t breathe. It was the kind of laughter that can only be shared with someone you’re really comfortable with, someone who doesn’t mind when you careen from infectious to ridiculous, gasping for air, snorting, trying to hold down the stitch in your sides, someone who stays laughing with you, and not at you. When the pain in my ribs subsided, I hugged my boyfriend close, then, as often, grateful that I live with someone who can really make me laugh.
Flash forward to this afternoon and I’m sitting at my desk. My Facebook feed is full of people sending thoughts and prayers to another massacred city, and I keep hitting refresh when I see a (1) on twitter. #bostonmarathon. I can’t think of anything that makes sense. My prayers and thoughts mean nothing to anybody. Only to me.
I think of the future. Our collective past is one which has already been pockmarked with tragedy and sorrow, and much as we seem to want to create a safer world for our children, we’re constantly reminded that our ability to do so is hindered by something great and entirely incomprehensible, the desires and caprices of others.
I think of the two to four children I someday want to bring into the world, who will hopefully not have my co-ordination, but instead a love of tennis and musical ability. What does it mean that I can’t promise them safety? I can’t promise them safety in their schools, in movie theaters, at races in the open air. I can’t promise any daughters I have freedom from financial discrimination, or the company of adults who will understand them and console them if they get raped. There is no place I can bring them to where they will be truly safe.
I spend all afternoon absorbing as much information as I can about what happened in Boston this afternoon. I read stories of runners who changed course right to hospitals and donated blood, of first responders rushing to the scene, not knowing whether there were more attacks on the way, not knowing the fires they might run into. I heard of people in Boston who opened their homes to strangers, restaurant owners offering free meals and somewhere to sit, strangers who used their belts to make tourniquets.
Ours is not a world that will ever be trained to expect or accept merciless attacks on innocence. But it is a world where strangers will rush into fires for those they don’t know, where decent people live, love, work, learn, make each other laugh and try to come to terms with evil. I will never be able to keep the people I know and love as safe as I would like, but if they can even occasionally feel the kind of unbridled joy I did as I laughed last night, or witness for themselves the sheer goodness of the human race, life will be worth it whatever the risks.
I started to use Foursquare recently, four years later than everybody else. I had been turned off the idea of using it by people obsessively oversharing, checking in at ‘my local shop,’ or ‘my cosy bed.’ But in the past few weeks, I have been trying to remember to check in at restaurants or bars, to write down what I tried, and what I didn’t like about the menu.
I recently found about Jamie Rubin’s ‘Paperless’ project. You can read about it here (www.jamierubin.net/going-paperless) The project documents Jamie’s process of removing all paper from his life, by scanning it into the program ‘Evernote.’ He does this with everything - receipts, bills, his children’s artwork and report cards, postcards from friends. Not only that, but he has synced up his Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare account (zing!) so that every time he updates one of these, it saves a note in Evernote. Kind of like a digital diary.
I had been looking for the perfect way to document my life. When I was younger, I used to keep journals. I’d stick photos in there, receipts, cinema stubs, notes from friends. The older I got, the less dramatic my life became, and the less time I had to pour into writing everything down. My hope that some day they would be discovered and I’d become the next Carrie Diaries became less accessible. So I wanted to find a substitute. Facebook or a blog is not an option. There are some things that only I want to remember, just me, and not the whole world. I want to remember things like that time my friend got a love bite at 24 and texted me a picture of it. Or when I’m shopping with my boyfriend, and he says, “Oh I’d love to have xyz…” and I can make a note of it for his next birthday. Or what about that time we stopped into some random bar after a concert, and now I can’t remember where it was. I want to remember who I loaned my stuff to, or whether or not I actually threw out that thing I’ve been searching for for months.
Evernote seems like the easiest way to do this. It’s a journal I don’t have to stay up late to update, and I can access it on my phone whenever I want. I can record my life, but not have to feel like a sycophantic fool updating my Facebook status every time I eat a sandwich.
You can sync up your Evernote to your other social media sites using If This Then That (ifttt.com) Any time I tweet, check in on 4sq, post a picture on instagram or update my Facebook status, it saves automatically to a ‘social media’ folder on Evernote. Everything is searchable instantly. I no longer have to scroll through tweets to find something I think I might have tweeted about eight months ago.
It’s the perfect compromise. Once a week I download my Evernote data and back it up to a hard drive. Programs can have expiry dates and I don’t want to lose anything. I’m trying to become less of a hoarder, and while I can’t throw out letters or postcards or the paper-plate spider my godson sent me for Easter yet, I love knowing that I’ll have a digital copy I can look at for life.
You can download evernote here
I have come to the conclusion that our government should not limit the right to marry based on who you love…Good people disagree with me. On the other hand, my children have a hard time understanding why this is even controversial. I think history will agree with my children. — Sen. Claire McCaskill, becoming the 42nd senator to support marriage equality. Extra points for making the announcement on her Tumblr (via shortformblog)
Generally speaking, the news media don’t lament the theretofore bright futures of young men (or women) convicted of other violent crimes, such as the killing of girlfriends or executing down-on-their-luck job-hunters. They don’t grieve at the loss of college football careers for kids convicted of drug-related offenses, or empathize with would-be murderers who break down in tears when faced with consequences for the crimes they committed. They don’t assign deeper motivations to the tears of men and women who must now contend with the most openly broken part of the American criminal justice system – incarceration – to which around 2.2 million Americans are currently consigned (at 730 prisoners per 100,000 citizens, the highest rate of imprisonment in the world) and which is widely recognized as minimally rehabilitative and maximally punitive.
But rape isn’t any other crime in America, or elsewhere. Statistics show that every 100 rapes in America results in only five felony convictions. It’s the only crime in which the level of intoxication of the victim is considered by some, like the convicted rapists’ lawyers and some in the media, to be mitigating evidence. It’s the only crime in which the perceived attractiveness of the perpetrators to other people or the victim is considered relevant information. It’s the only one in which we’re encouraged to sympathize with why perpetrators picked their victims – their supposed drunkenness, their clothes, their reputations – and then blame the victims for making themselves attractive targets. — Steubenville and the misplaced sympathy for Jane Doe’s rapists. Megan Carpentier at The Guardian - http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/mar/18/steubenville-misplaced-sympathy-jane-doe-rapists
Who am I anymore?
I think one of the reasons our long-distance relationship worked out is because neither of us were looking for it in the first place. When we met, we were residents of different continents. I was working in Los Angeles for six weeks, and was going back to Ireland to school, and, hopefully, a career. He had just moved out to LA and was excited to start a new life.
When our summer fling reached its expiry date, I would say that we were sad, but not devastated. It was one of those don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened moments. (I didn’t think those existed either.) We hadn’t spent long nights wondering whether we should ‘give it a shot’ or if it was ‘worth it.’ We’d had fun, and I flew home happy.
After a few months of regular skype conversations and emails we realised this wasn’t over yet.
Almost two and a half years later, we’ve moved in together.
When people ask me how we managed it, I say, “You know, it really wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be.” I think if I had spent hours agonising over whether or not to choose that path, I’d feel differently. But I fell so hard in love, and it ended up being that there was no other option for me to take. Long distance or bust.
Your life changes exponentially. You find yourself brushing your teeth and putting on perfume at 2.30am (6.30pm for him) because you think you should make an effort, it might be discernible 5000 miles away. You convert everything into their time. You become adept at subtracting 8.
You become accustomed to Skype dating. This is gradual. You start off with post-it notes of acceptable conversations, to stave off the awkward silent skype stare. There are a lot of ‘um’s. Approximately 110 skype dates later, you’ve gotten over this.
You get to a point where you think, “I’d be happy just go to sleep together; we wouldn’t even need to talk,” but when you do get to lie down together, you freak out if he falls asleep. You want to stay up all night cherishing every minute of whispered conversation because sometimes the silence is so deafening when you’re apart.
You have a lot of conversations with well-meaning friends. “It’s not going to be a fairytale, you know this right? I mean…are there things you don’t like about him? You’re in a honeymoon period right now. It’ll be different when you’re together, you see. You might be better off finding someone closer.”
Absence makes the heart grow fonder, true, but nothing about distance makes you blind. Moreso, you wake up every morning on your own, and you get to learn very quickly whether or not it feels right.
There were a lot of things to hate about those two years, but we adapted to the uniqueness of the situation. We imagined what our lives would be like together, what our apartment would look like, where we would spend our Sunday mornings once we were experiencing them at the same time.
We have the same address now. We wake up together every morning, and brush our teeth at the same sink. Two years on, we still have so much time to make up. Our first time taking a vacation together, our first time going to an amusement park, our first trip to IKEA. Planning reality has taken over imagining it, and every day, just as for the past two years, we get a little bit closer.
Obviously I have thought a lot since reading the New York Times’ latest disparaging criticism of my generation. I am into responsibility, and so I like to keep track of what the media blames and criticises me for. I am irresponsible with money. I need to be marketed to in 140 characters, or I’ll lose interest. I’m to blame for bookstores closing down. I’ll probably move back in with my parents. I’m a boomerang. Most recently, according to Alex Williams at the NYT, I am killing love as we know it.
My generation is no longer dating. Men are casting women by the waysides, refusing to take them out for dinner and pursue them. “Women in their 20s these days are lucky to get a last-minute text to tag along.” Women have become victims of a “mancession,” whereby men are too broke to take women on proper dates, so they prefer to immediately integrate them into their existing social groups. As one male friend recently told some poor millennial love-hopeful, “I don’t like to take girls out. I like to have them join in on what I’m doing — going to an event, a concert.”
That sounds awful.
We hear the story of Lindsay, who recently had a terrible experience. “After an evening when she exchanged flirtatious glances with a bouncer at a Williamsburg nightclub, the bouncer invited her and her friends back to his apartment for whiskey and boxed macaroni and cheese. When she agreed, he gamely hoisted her over his shoulders, and, she recalled, “carried me home, my girlfriends and his bros in tow, where we danced around a tiny apartment to some MGMT and Ratatat remixes.”She spent the night at the apartment, which kicked off a cycle of weekly hookups, invariably preceded by a Thursday night text message from him saying, ‘hey babe, what are you up to this weekend?” (It petered out after four months.)”
I think we’re supposed to feel sorry for Lindsay, who presumably just wanted to find out more about the bouncer’s psyche. But it sounds to me like Lindsay had a bit of fun that night, and maybe every so often for the next four months. Maybe what’s happened is that the bouncer recently carried someone else home from his club, Lindsay’s feeling a little dejected about her love life. Lindsay wishes she could go out with someone a little more stable. But if Lindsay didn’t really know what was going on when she went home with the bouncer that night, then actually I really do feel sorry for her.
This “hook-up” culture exists because we are complicit in it.
It’s not a zero-sum game. Just because millennials (men and women alike!) are engaging in casual sex doesn’t mean we are eschewing relationships for always and forever. You’re allowed to have both if that’s what you want. If you want a four month casual relationship with a bouncer, you can have that. If that’s not what you want, nobody is forcing you to do so. Don’t go home with him. There are other options out there.
These kind of articles interest me even more because in Ireland, people don’t go on dates. I have a friend from Northern California who came to study abroad in Cork. She was dismayed at the lack of a dating culture. “I just want them to take me out for dinner,” she said. “For us to get to know each other better.”
How best to explain that that’s just not how we do it here without making myself sound like a shameless whore? Relationships start different on the other side of the Atlantic. Dates only begin once you’re actually dating. We meet in certain social circles, and we stay in those until we’re comfortable enough to hang out just the two of us alone. This takes less time for certain people. For further discussion, see this brilliant article at the Guardian.
I have never really been on a traditional date. Neither have many of my friends. I don’t need a man to take me out to dinner in order to make me like him, or to make me think that he likes me. I met my boyfriend when we both worked at summer camp. We watched movies in dorm rooms and played volleyball with friends in the evenings. My main problem with articles like these is that they fail to account for individuality. They judge a generation by the reaction of one girl who went home with a bouncer, and a guy who took his girlfriend out with his buddies.
Anyone who involves in casual hook-ups is stupid, “…according to Cheryl Yeoh, a tech entrepreneur in San Francisco,” the piéce de résistance of Alex William’s NYT piece. Cheryl is Doing. It. Right. She “…said that she has been on many formal dates of late — plays, fancy restaurants. One suitor even presented her with red roses. For her, the old traditions are alive simply because she refuses to put up with anything less. She generally refuses to go on any date that is not set up a week in advance, involving a degree of forethought. “If he really wants you,” Ms. Yeoh, 29, said, “he has to put in some effort.”
For what it’s worth, the best relationship advice I’ve read recently comes from Ramit Sethi, a financial advisor and life coach. In his article, “Why won’t anyone be honest with you?” he suggests that maybe, if you can’t find people worth attracting, you should work on yourself. “I guarantee [you] could improve [yourself] — becoming more fun, getting more fit, picking up interesting activities, and overall working on [your] positive attitude. This idea of actually improving yourself is advice NOBODY tells their friends. It’s politically incorrect and impolite, and it’s easier to tell them to DUMP THAT LOSER! But it also happens to be 100% true.”
“The End of Courtship” is available here