So, I have found myself with a boyfriend. Even though I didn’t want one, here I am, with one. I put up a decent mental fight not to let him become my you-know-what but it just sort of evolved over the last few months into a lovely, easy thing. I’ve done well not to have an absolute shitstorm of a freak attack about this all week, since I finally admitted to myself, and confirmed with him, that we are, in fact, in a relat… Nope, I won’t be changing my Facebook status just yet, if ever.
On the topic of internet pain-in-the-assery…Tonight on Dotty’s Facebook page there’s been discussion on the smug fetishisation of motherhood on the internet, prompted by today’s Guardian article by Flic Everett, which seems to have struck a chord with many of my like minded feminist friends and most of the publications I follow online. I urge you to read the article: all of you, mothers or not, but especially if you’ve come across the whole “Nominate a Great Mother”/#motherhoodchallenge trend on your social media and it’s left you feeling sad or inadequate. (Nobody nominated me, by the way…)
Anyway, this latest trend in virtual smugness (a trait the Irish are not usually known for, by the way), coupled with my own new “status” as a girlfriend (I feel like a douche even writing that), has got me thinking.
What, pray tell, Dotty Rocker, have you been pondering now? Well, I’ve been thinking about how we all seem to be in constant need of validation; of defining our status and trying to project an image of what we think society expects us to be. I try to avoid Instagrammers who endlessly post selfies of themselves looking fabulous in beautiful homes with cute kids and non-pooping dogs; beauty bloggers who are so well groomed and toned that I feel like Hagrid compared to them. I try to avoid vegans and marathon runners (yes, I was once one of those annoying people who had her Map My Run linked to her Facebook. God, was I actually that smug? Ugh, sorry). The ones who only post pictures of themselves enjoying kale while running up a mountain, smiling. I prefer the ones who are truthful about craving a chicken burger from Trade Winds (if you’re not from my home town you don’t know what Trade Winds is, and you haven’t lived) after they’ve finished a serving of quinoa. If your hair isn’t plastered to your head in a mess of scummy workout sweat after a run or gym class, you haven’t done it right. If you’re wearing a full face of make up to the gym, I will judge you. I will unfollow you. Yes, I hear Liam Neeson’s voice as I type these words. I will also hit the “unfollow” button on people who post photos of the flowers their “hubby” has sent them ‘for no reason!” or the cup of tea their boyfriend has made them: “I’m such a lucky girl!”. Oh, what’s changed since you were giving out yards about him to me last week when he didn’t answer your texts when he was on a night out/ didn’t spend enough on your engagement ring/ didn’t shower for three days in a row?
Am I a begrudger? Am I just dying for you to fall of off the wagon/ have a really shit boyfriend so that I’ll feel better about my failures? Are you really that perfect? Is your fella really not the dickhead you thought he was last week? I’m not sure of the answer, and I really am trying not to be as judgey. Writing this blog and maintaining the Facebook page has taught me a lot. I’m constantly evolving, and as I learn more about the world from the internet, my opinions are changing too. I’m thinking of the time a few months back when I criticised South Dublin mothers and their badly behaved kids at my gym: I’ve since stopped to think that I should be more compassionate. I was being smug then, just because my kid is grown and I had only one to deal with. And maybe I was a bit jealous because they all had Michael Kors handbags and l’Occitane body wash whereas I had a hand-me-down gym bag and bulk buy Sanex.
There is a woman, not directly connected to me, of whom I’ve been judgmental lately and I shouldn’t have been. I’ve thought of her parenting as somehow, beneath my own standards (like I have an actual clue as to what I’m doing). Maybe some people will think that those of us who repost and like today’s Guardian articles are judgemental ourselves. And maybe we are. But what I’m sure of is that only sharing the good stuff, projecting the perfect image of your life; your relationships; parenting; body; make up; hair; home; hobbies; nights outs – whatever, does nobody, least of all you, any good. We’re all in this together so for once, let’s leave off the Mayfair filter and share the stuff we’re scared of too.
Thanks to social media, there has been such a huge leap forward in the last couple of years: we are witnessing and encouraging open admission and discussion about mental health. Our individual and collective struggles are no longer taboo – “it’s ok not to be ok” is our new mantra. I’d hate to see all that undermined by the flip side of the internet, the side on which we have to be perfect and “whole”, and not ourselves.
PS As you read through the rest of this post, I hope you realised that I did not declare my acquirement of a mango (I’ve decided to retitle the word “boyfriend” as “mango”, which seems much less intimidating and terrifying. I also really like mangoes) as smug. I reckoned that after 4 ish months of seeing this guy, it was about time he had a firmer footing in Dotty’s world.
PPS The cover photo is my supper of smoked salmon, spinach and scrambled eggs which I devoured after an intense Bikram yoga class (it’s far from Bikram yoga I was reared). What I haven’t posted is the tin of muffins I’m making my way through now as I sit in my pyjamas at a cluttered desk in a room that really needs to be dusted and vacuumed. And the only reason I had supper – which sounds very posh – is that I didn’t get my shit together in time to make the Shepherd’s Pie that I had planned to make for dinner.