Wednesday, 4 June 2014
Kirstie and me
I've always had a bit of a crush on Kirstie Allsopp. She's pretty and wears great dresses. I like the mix of successful career woman with crafty earth mother crossed with a dose of poshness and plenty of gob.
It manifests itself by occasional tweets in which I attempt, in vain, to get her attention. This never works - even the one I send quite often asking where she got her fab black furry hat that occasionally appears on Location, Location, Location never gets a reply.
Now my crushes don't have to agree with me, sometimes the very fact they don't just serves to strengthen my crush, but sometimes there's that pivotal moment when alarm bells ring and, you know, you still fancy them but you just don't respect them any more. It happened with a man I dallied with some years ago, a fully paid up member of the Tory Party. I found the clash of opinions rather alluring, truth be told, and convinced myself that some Tories even want the same thing as normal people (to make lives better, all lives, starting with the shittest, in case you didn't know) and just have a different approach. And then one day, sitting on a hill with a view of the city, admiring each other and London, he said 'what's the problem with inequality anyway?' He dumped me in the end ("They only think of themselves, Tories, what did you expect?" said my Labour supporting friends ie nearly all of them) but when he said that, my ardour definitely died a bit.
So it is with Kirstie, suggesting women shouldn't go to university but should instead have babies in their twenties in this interview.
The thing is, I'm not beyond offering similar advice myself. A postgraduate student once asked me in a lecture on freelancing, how to ensure she isn't so busy trying to be a successful journalist that she doesn't find time to have a family. I don't know, I had to reply, it's why I lecture part time and freelance the rest of it. Do it now, I told her, have your babies first.
But I didn't really mean it. By the time I was in my thirties, even before the children came, I was tired of networking and drinking all evening with people looking over my shoulder for someone more important. I did it for ten years and I was bloody good at it, always the one at a reception or networking event flitting between people, gathering business cards, flattering and quipping and remembering key details to bring up in the next day's pitches. But that kind of thing has a limited shelf life, as it should. Otherwise you end up the old soak at the bar trying to wow interns with stories about how great you are whilst pretending you're not hanging out for one more glass of cheap white wine. Luckily, I did it for long enough and was good enough at it that I am still living off the contacts I made then. Start the ten year process post children, when you need to get home for the babysitter or get up at 6am to watch Tikka-fucking-billa on CBeebies? Not likely.
Then of course there are the added extras that are really what make your career. I've written about them before. Basically you might do your job really well, you might make money or have genius ideas or change the world, but what makes you appear to be doing all of these things are the extras, often last minute, like attending a breakfast briefing at short notice or working all night to finish someone else's project because they are sick or speaking at a conference. In my career it's punditry that makes you most visible. Kirstie's article is exactly the kind of thing that in the past would have led to me being asked for a response - for tv, radio and other print journalists. But that would have relied on me being able to read the article as soon as it was published, work out my response, answer the phone and get to a studio. I can't do that on days when I am looking after my children. And those women Kirstie talks about, who at my age would have kids just about to start secondary school, they wouldn't be able to either.
I love Anne McElvoy's response to Kirstie's interview in the Evening Standard. Don't listen to Kirstie, she says, but get your education as soon as you can:
"...I would refer you to the inspirational Geoffrey Canada, who transformed the education opportunities of some of the poorest American children. He has one key piece of advice about why learning is useful. “When in doubt, do as the rich folks do.” And the rich folks, the world over, by hook, crook and private tutor, send their children to university."
That's it isn't it? Kirstie approaches this from the position of someone who didn't need to do that to have a nice life. The same goes for me of course - I fully acknowledge that while not plummy like Kirstie, life would have probably worked out okay whatever path I took, because I've had loads of opportunities from the very beginning. Like Kirstie, I was born lucky. I suspect that the difference between me and Kirstie is the same as the difference between me and the Tory boyfriend that wasn't - which is that I acknowledge this luck, and the part it has played. Oh Kirstie, we could have been so good together...
Posted by Goodynuff Mum at Wednesday, June 04, 2014