Tag Archives | parenting

The Comb

The Comb | Betty HerbertThere is a comb on the floor by the kitchen, and we’re all just pretending it isn’t there.

This is a long-standing habit in our household, partly because we own a large number of items that have nowhere to live. Rather than finding a place – which would involve a group meeting of some kind, or, worse, one of us acting unilaterally so that the other person would never find it again – we just conspire not to see it.

Every now and then, Bert will notice the comb, pick it up, and pretend to use  it, which means I spend the next five minutes picking fluff out of his hair. This inevitably leads to me getting my hair combed*, too.

After that, he’ll drop it somewhere else, so we can start ignoring it again. Maybe it’s a good way of reminding us that we ought to brush his hair every now and then. It’s growing now, but he started off so bald that we never really adapted. By the time he’s fifteen he’ll have some sort of wild thatch, and we’ll end up blinking at it, thinking, damn we really should have started brushing that at some point. And then we’ll have to shave his head. And then he’ll hate us forever.

Perhaps the comb is in the right place after all. Maybe I should start leaving his toothbrush there, too.

*banged repeatedly with a comb

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I am no fan of the celebrity gossip mill. I just don’t understand the appeal. Why would I care about Kerry Katona or Katie Price? They do nothing more than exist, and sell the story of that existence for quite staggering sums of money. And we buy it, and we talk about it, and get into stupid, engineered outrages about it, like the obedient puppies we are.

But really, I suppose there’s no difference between what they do and what I do. Aside from the fact that they earn considerably more money from the enterprise (damn them! Where’s my Essex mansion?), we’re all trading in the same currency: the thrill of being allowed to peep through someone else’s window. We love the chance to gaze at the parts of life that are usually private, sometimes recognising our own situation (thank god, I’m normal!) and sometimes finding something strange enough to titillate us (she did WHAT?).

In the early days of writing The 52 Seductions, a few people accused me of writing porn, because I was writing in detail about sex. It’s never been a criticism that’s particularly bothered me – after all, why wouldn’t I want readers to feel the erotic thrill of the sex I was portraying, when it was good? – and I don’t accept that porn is a bad thing in and of itself. But it always struck me that these critics were missing a more pertinent point – that I was dealing in a kind of pornography of the emotions.

To me, that has always been the most questionable element of my writing. To what extent does it undermine my own dignity, to reveal as much as I did? To what extent does it undermine Herbert’s? My answer would be that I set my own boundaries very carefully. I always wrote with Herbert’s full consent, and there were many, many things I chose not to tell. We would, for example, have ‘off the record’ sex during the year of seductions, because neither of us wanted to have to be interesting all the time. Despite it feeling like one big spree of confession, the blog only ever really covered a small part of our lives; for the rest of the time, we were just getting on with it in relative privacy.

But once the project was over, I confess that I floundered. What on earth should I write about now? How could I create anything nearly as interesting or compelling? I wrote about a few sexual encounters, and played around with different ideas and formats, but really my heart wasn’t in it anymore. The seductions project had been an authentic journey of discovery, a genuine cri de coeur. Nothing else seemed to satisfy me in the same way, or set off my urge to write and share.

Meanwhile, I recoiled from the idea of setting out my stall as some kind of a sexpert. I remain, as ever, fascinated by the world of sex, but I’m an enthusiastic learner rather than voice of wisdom, or an advocate. I can’t generalise rules that I think everyone else should follow. Sex, to me, is your own business, and not mine. It’s great to be able to share experiences, but there will always be differences between us all. Thank heavens for that.

For most of the last year, I’ve been writing about the things that have occupied me the most – getting pregnant and being pregnant. I hadn’t ever wanted to become a ‘mummy blogger’ (is that as offensive as ‘chick lit’ I wonder?), but it was impossible not to let my utter preoccupation flow over into my blog, particularly as it neatly answered the ‘what happened next’ at the end of the seductions. As the time to actually meet this exasperating, terrifying and wonderful new being grows near, though, I find myself no longer very keen to write. Maybe it’s a lack of confidence (and lordy how I hate the judgemental sniping and tribalism that accompanies discussions of parental choice online), or maybe it’s just boredom. But my overriding sense is that this is no longer my story to tell. Albrecht can’t give his consent to anything I write about him, and so when the narrative crosses over from my life to his, I don’t feel that I have the right to go on telling it.

For me it’s an ethical decision, but a pragmatic one, too. I have, quite simply, told all I want to tell about my own life. I’m emptied out. I’ve got nothing left. I want, largely, to put my feet up for a couple of months, and then, maybe, to witter on about whatever is interesting me next. I just hope it will be interesting.

But I’m left with some wider questions: are we bloggers good enough at knowing when to move on? For how long does a blog stay on top form, and when does it go stale? In other words, how do you tell when you’ve tipped over into being Kerry Katona?


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Storify: your pregnancy bucket lists


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