“Only connect” is the foreword to A Passage to India – EM Forster’s tale of English colonial arrogance in India – and of how terrible the consequences can be when we choose not to listen to one another.  It’s my starting point today for many reasons:

  • My web access has been madly impaired this last month (temporary location change = lack of wifi = broadband dongle virginity being lost = dongle antennae ‘experiences ‘= absolute, screaming, frustration = invention, of a sort, being born of necessity
  • New life experiences (the Imp’s now a step-parent to delightful mini-imps) and new extended family relationships
  • A new eye on old memories – now I’m on the other side of the parent / child fence (“good God – I did that all the time- that’s terrible! My poor parents!”)

So, lucky you – you get to share my shallow insights, as I sit here with two computers (the family desktop PC with magical tinterweb and my hissy-fit laptop with all my files on it, refusing to find a web connection), two mice and two keyboards, aimlessly (resultlessly) hitting one then the other and swearing.  It’s good to be back.

There’s nothing like life changes to make you see yourself, I now think.  Perhaps I should say, to force to you ‘connect’; to widen your world view, empathise, and take deep breaths.

There I was, this time last year, happily imping, just closer to 40 than 30, with cash, time and liberty. Now I have school runs, after-school clubs, weekends in with the giggly box (mind you, there’s some wonderfully inventive kids’ theatre out there – thank you, Kneehigh!) or out with the rollerskates – and it’s alright, actually.  There’s a great deal about it, in fact, that is jolly fine, when you’re not investigating the depths of your navel!

But there’s this business model thing – you might have heard of it : “form-storm-perform” – and it certainly applies to my inner experiences (inner child foot-stamping vs. any issues with playgrounds or packed lunch-making). The form/storm/perform idea, briefly and perhaps inaccurately, is that when a new team comes together (a family as much as a work team), they go through periods of squabbling / anger / boundary pushing, before they can really come together as a great team to perform. It’s all about boundary testing, creating, forging, understanding one another. 

And with this new team as a background to my life, it’s been my ideas of me fighting my ideas of me! IE, having to accept that I’ve moved up into the next generation, without actually having made it so myself (by deliberately sprogging) ; accepting that my childhood/teen fantasy me being an Imp entirely in charge of her own destiny has – from necessity – had to leave now, become a past experience, because I’m responsible for other people. And it’s been fascinating to watch my self deal with this  (narcissistic? the Imp?! “Don’t you know who I am?!”)  😉 

I didn’t realise that we – naturally – grieve in some ways when we change. Even though change is necessary and very good for us – we ought to go through periods of ‘storm’, of chrysalis-breaking. And when I look at it that way, when I see I’m not leaving something very enjoyable behind, but rather building on it, I’m happy to accept it; excited about the future, instead of lamenting the (completed) past.

These are sometimes things we’re not supposed to talk about, but I now find people whispering to me, because my situation is transparently unusual – and because of that whisper, we’re connecting; showing empathy, feeling relief we’re not alone in having ‘tricky’ feelings about growing up, about leaving child-free / family-lite life behind. And connecting, reaching out to one another – that is very fine indeed.



A family meal. Men, women, kids. Smiles, chat.

Adult male turns to adult woman and asks for the salt cellar. (No, it’s not Mr Imp, before you start to wonder. He doesn’t have a salt cellar. And we’re not adults). Adult woman passes the salt. And when he’s used it, he holds it out for her, for her to take back and put down, rather than putting it back down on the table himself.

Now stop, replay that in your mind.  Watch that transaction and think about it. Sound familiar? If you’re a woman, bet you’ve just smiled. Male? Less likely. Sorry, but it’s true. The first time I saw this happen, I just looked at the hovering hand, the salt cellar dangling over the tablecloth. I looked up the arm, to the man  – my supposed beau – and he wasn’t even looking at me. I half expected to hear the words, “Here, Mummy,” dribble from his mouth.

Since then, I’ve watched lots of adult men do this (or an equivalent, “unconscious” action) to the women they’re partnered up with. They don’t do it to friends, male (can you imagine?!) or female: only established Other Halves. What do I think it means?  You may well differ in your interpretation, but I think it suggests several things:

  • He was a typical boy and regularly pandered to
  • As a result of being given such an emotional foundation, he expects people who love him always to “do things for me”; it equates to love and is only what he deserves
  • And he was at the stage in this relationship where he expected his partner to play the role his mother played, viz:
    • he doesn’t need to do things for himself that he can’t be bothered to (like put the salt back on the table, lower the loo seat, or offer to help her…)
    • he expects his needs to be anticipated without needing to give thanks
    • she doesn’t need to be thanked or spoken to, because she’s just there.

Yes, it happens even today. Yes, even for men born in the ’80s. Perhaps if I were a lesbian or boy imp, I’d say the same thing about women. And there’s no doubt that women do or say things which men see as unfathomable or mad. (I don’t really think that. I’m just being nice).

But lots of guys do this one (not all, by any means;  I mean, really – some of my best friends are men!), and they say they don’t mean to. And if their own fathers behave/d like this, you can see why they find it acceptable, if they give it any thought.

So what is it about – this phenomenon where an adult male accepts his partner to the point where she becomes the equivalent of the infantile “mother-as-ego-extension”? (I say “she” because I’ve not heard of this being an issue in gay relationships, which ain’t to say it don’t happen, of course).  Why don’t these men realise what they are doing, understand how well they have been treated in the past and become conscious that kindliness is not a right, but an act of love which needs to be acknowledged and reciprocated?

If you wouldn’t treat your best mate that way, why is it alright to do it to your partner? Not to say thanks for random acts of kindness? Not to make eye contact when speaking to one another, or to think it’s alright to be late or always look like a scarecrow unless there’s someone else there?

I like that question and think it is a fair way to look at how you treat people who are special to you. The “best mate” test is a great one, because we can have best mates throughout our lives. Those relationships are often longer-lived than romances, even those romances that were most soul-stirring, most deep. Best mates are often (by men and women) treated with more care than loved ones, and that is so sad, ‘cos the kind-givers eventually give up and bugger off, splinters in their hearts (sob).

So, be conscious, all of us! Say thank you and make eye contact, give a smile to all you come into contact with – particularly the ones you love!