Category Archives: School

A short history of school

“Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school”

said the world’s most darling mathematician, Albert Einstein, clearly outlining that school and education aren’t same thing.

But can they be mutually exclusive?

“Semantics” you might say. But really, education is what you learn and school is where you go to learn it.

Einstein was clearly criticising the formal school system. And rightly so. It couldn’t have been easy for a child who learnt to speak late, and who had an inquisitive mind and an overconfident contempt for authority.  No one saw his genius mind craving the gift of a more creative environment where he could be inspired and encouraged to think beyond a textbook, instead he was expelled from one school and told he wouldn’t amount to much, back when the yardstick to “much” was money or fame or teaching.

Fortunately, he amounted to far more than that thanks to the gift of a compass he was given at age five by his father. Thus began his obsession with magnetic fields, and the rest is an entirely different history lesson.

The question is what would have happened if his genius was noticed and given room to grow whilst he was in a classroom. Would this have made any difference? He might have solved more of the world’s greatest mysteries, or maybe not. Maybe the only difference would have been a happier childhood.

But before we get into the pros and cons and overall efficacy of the formal education system, we need to look at its history, because there can’t have been a single child throughout history, sitting bored and restless through a class that hasn’t sullenly wondered whose bright idea it was to “invent” school.

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So who was it?

In short, it is blamed on credited to American politician, Horace Mann – also known as “Father of the Common School Movement”.  Also, “Most Unpopular Visionary, Like Ever!”

So if you hate school, this is the guy you should be penning your letters of outrage to, kids. Although before you do, it would be best to realise that, to quote Mark Twain, “there are no new ideas”. Mr Mann didn’t think of it from scratch or all by himself. Education has actually been around for thousands of years, and school houses for hundreds. But it was Mann who started this whole “professional teachers promulgating organised curriculum to pupils” thing and even went so far as to implement it and then make it a legal requirement.

By 1918, his system of schooling had every child in the state of America attending at least primary school, by law. Naturally, word spread by any means possible (no doubt by gossipy parents moaning about relatives who were suddenly deemed ‘uneducated’) and soon schools were popping up all over the place. Kids, mostly boys, were being forced into brushing their hair and carrying the first of billions of sandwiches and pencils across a threshold of The Room of No Talking, and Breathing Only When Necessary. Here they sat for most of the day listening to a teacher tell them what they needed to know which would guarantee them a spot in society or prison, depending on their test marks and general behavioural disposition.

But mostly depending on their marks.

Anyway, this is a vastly simplistic outline of how we came to our current school system and we haven’t even touched on why it was necessary to create it, which is popularly thought to be a result of a changing societal structure brought about by the Industrial Revolution – with conspiracy theorists going so far as to say it cleverly created a compliant populace.

However, the point is still that the idea of finding ways to impart knowledge to children was not new by that time. Before Mann and The Committee of Ten reshaped and formalised the education system into a school with pupils, teachers and a curriculum, there were competing models, although these didn’t include the building of schools. This responsibility fell mostly to families to ensure that Jane could read a book to pass the time until she is able to nab herself a suitable enough husband, and John could become a farmer or shipping magnate, both requiring him to be able to at least read, write and do basic arithmetic.

This is what nowadays we refer to as “home-schooling”. A concept that strikes fear in the mind of a very high percentage of modern parents, who would sooner stab at their own eyes with coloured pencils, or worse, attend a parent teacher meeting, than try to teach Maths to their recalcitrant child every day.

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Here we are 100 years later, lots has changed in our schools, we have a better understanding of how a child’s brain works, we recognise the importance of nurturing the individual, but also a vast amount hasn’t changed. The way our kids are taught, the emphasis placed on the results of standardised testing, the millions of square pegs being squashed into round holes.

Just like the telegram morphed into an iPhone 7, school today should operate entirely differently to the way it did 100 years ago.

So why isn’t it?

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School then

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I never saw the point of school. And I still don’t.

I know right? How trendy and anti-establishment I sound. And how ironically uneducated too, mind you.

But still. I came away from the dreadful experience of attending school every day for twelve years with a basic knowledge of the “three R’s”, just as I ought to;

Reading, ‘riting and resentment.

But other than that, I self-taught pretty much everything else I have needed to survive the rest of my life so far. Which explains so very much.

Dammit, I should have used that at the reunion.

Doctors and similar: “What are you doing now? (this should be interesting, tall, lost and not particularly academic or sporty person I once knew)

Me: I’m a Life Autodidact.

D&s: “A what? That sounds AMAZING!

Me: Right?! It’s sort of a little bit like a Life Coach…anyway, just topping up, must do the rounds…back in a sec etc. *vanish*

emma-stone-amanda-bynes-scream

Many years prior to my starting at the school as a gawky Grade 1 pupil, the school was run by nuns.  Whatever nuns were still shuffling around by the time I arrived however, were quietly stashed in convent in Durban somewhere. I know this because apart from the name “Sister Mary Margaret” being bandied about on Speech Day – as matrics about to embark on the important decision of choosing our life paths, we were taken off to meet them on A Special Outing. I imagine it was in an effort to instil some sort of reverence in us and a sense that the simple life of a nun was all we need aspire to in order to be listed as “Most Successful Old Girl” for time immemorial in the school magazine. This didn’t happen to a single one of us, but I speak only for myself when I say there have been occasional tinges of regret that I did not at least consider it.

Like now. As I sit across the table from lawyer #4 in as many years, trying to understand why my ex-husband can refuse to pay fees for the high school I have chosen for my youngest son to attend next year, when surely…..just surely you can tell him he just….MUST. (More on this later because although you can’t tell, it’s relevant).

School was a battlefield for me. I had ADD, was painfully shy and extremely self-aware. This meant that being called out in a classroom meant snapping back from wherever my mind had raced off to and absolutely cringing at the eyes on me, and the silence as I frantically tried to remember which lesson I was in, what we were discussing and what question had just been asked. These moments were my nightmare and so typical of old-school teaching. I couldn’t actually hear what the teacher was saying in that moment because on the outside I was in shock and on the inside I was shrinking myself into a teeny, tiny matchbox.

If any one of those teachers had an inkling of how getting my attention without the rest of the class knowing would have changed my high school experience for the better, I like to think maybe they would have tried it. Instead I spent my entire high school “career” trying to blend in to the closest inanimate object. Anyway, I think “non-compliant” was sternly hand written next to my name somewhere and therefore in defiance of my defiance, I was constantly being called on with questions I couldn’t focus on answering.

I was also very, very terrible at sport. This did not bode well with the academic and/or sport ethos of this prestigious establishment. Not a bit. But I still am (unsporty) and refuse to apologise for it. The only sport I did was swimming. That was because one sport was compulsory and that one didn’t require co-ordinated bobbing and weaving around in close proximity to sweaty others, and then not only having to manage that successfully but also to achieve something on top of it, like connect that minute sized ball onto the end of a narrow stick and then correctly aim it into a box. No. I had bent down and tied my shoelaces without falling over and that feat – again, if they knew me at all – in itself should have been commended at prize-giving.

So basically in the eyes of the school and its wardens I was surly and disinterested. I did not participate and was easily influenced because I followed my cool, popular best friend around like a shadow, and yet they said I was a bad influence and promptly separated us. I was so furious at the separation and being so horribly misunderstood, it certainly did become the end of any compliance of any kind from me. I became exactly what they expected me to – of little significance.

Infuriatingly this was the late 80’s/90’s when the cool kids were bubbly and fun and were allowed to wear eye-shadow and off the shoulder baggy t-shirts on the weekends. Just a decade later I would have ruled that school with my make-up-forbidden attitude of surly indifference and non-participatory passive-aggressive resistance. BAH! Timing. You can cross reference the Breakfast Club to this story. Honestly, Molly Ringwald’s character would have been the darling of Diocesan schooling in South Africa at that time.

Anyway, on my last day with not a vestige of self-esteem left in my entire being, my testimonial was kind of shoved at me. It was mostly facts. I had attended the school from then to now and was a member of the swimming team and debating club. Debating! Ha! If I only knew the torrent of shit-storms that were headed my way that I would have to argue and appeal my way out of, I may have paid less attention to the rare glimpse of boys on the other team and much, much more on the art of being ingeniously articulate under pressure.

Still. I looked at the sheet of formal looking yellow paper in my hand that seemed to have absolutely no relation to me at all.

Me: For me? Did I do something to deserve this?

High School: No, but we have to give it to you so you’ll leave. Off you go and let us never speak of this again.

“The problem with that school was that they never helped you discover your ‘pockets of excellence’, you had to arrive with it if you wanted be recognised” a former classmate once very wisely put it. I rolled about laughing at the term “pockets of excellence” – for some reason I thought it was hysterical and imagined that awful headmistress striding up to me –

AH: “WHAT IS THAT IN YOUR POCKET?!”

Me: They’re my excellences.

AH: But you don’t have any! Give those to me!

AH: What are these?!

Me: This one here is Mockery aaand this one…careful, it’s quite heavy…is Sarcasm.

But then I realised that actually my friend was absolutely right. Is it not the duty of a school to find something in a child that they can nurture into a positive identity instead of just highlighting everything that child is not?

Now I understand the line from my old school song

“Still seeking noblest truth and gazing upwards” 

It was really a divine nod to girls like me who spent all their time there rolling their eyes and muttering “Dear God, do I really have to do this again tomorrow?”

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The Holiday

School holidays, and they’re gone again. On a plane to see their Dad. We’re at the airport and I’m trying to tell them who to talk to and who not to, and what to do if the stranger sitting next to them wants personal details, but they know exactly what they’re doing. They’ve become seasoned travellers since their father moved away. Now since the eldest is old enough to be the in-flight “guardian”, they can fly unaccompanied. Which is scarier to me than an actual plane crash. In fact if there was a plane crash, it may briefly cross my mind that it might be caused by the two of them arguing about, and in turn wrestling each other for the window seat, the last sweet in the packet that was meant for sharing,  etc and distract the pilot. “Destination?” enquires the woman at the check-In counter. “Um..J…” I open my mouth to answer and at the same time scratch around for their birth certificates in my bag. “JOBURG!” they say in ecstatic unison. As if the place is a giant theme park. Its not. Momentary blind panic gets me every single time I can’t find the documents in the first 2 seconds of looking. Even though I’ve already checked that I have them twelve or thirteen times since I parked the car. They already have their bags off the trolley and are peering at the scale to see whose is heavier. For no apparent reason this can elevate ones status quite decidedly. They are delirious with excitement, and I’ve finally hauled out the white envelope that I’ve been moving out of the way to peer past in my bag. I’m trying to be excited too. I’ve already mentally listed the things I’m going to do while they’re gone apart from work. Watch a 5 ‘o clock movie. Control the remote. Be spontaneous. Be free! Damn I cant think of anything that will get me as excited as they are now. So I settle on nothing. Doing nothing. I’m going to do nothing!  Somehow this doesn’t thrill me either.  I’m sure I’ll think of something. It crosses my mind that I’ve possibly become one of those parents who claim to be nothing without their kids. The ones who live for driving them around and making sure they have clean school uniforms and organising play dates. The ones I am vocally scornful of.

“Stop being ridiculous. Wine! Woo-hoo. Right now..Straight from the airport! Phone a friend”  I try some over the top self encouragement  in an attempt not to cry a little bit. Oh wait..its Monday, its 9am. I hand the envelope to the eldest after they’ve been given their boarding passes, and begin the same speech he has heard 20 times about putting them directly into his fathers hands upon landing or there will be no return plane trip. He nods and stuffs it into his jacket pocket while he is helping himself to a handful of green sweets that the airline has cleverly left on the counter for its passengers.  Obviously these are especially for unaccompanied  children passengers, who by the time the sugar hits their blood stream will be airborne in a tightly confined space without parental supervision. I ignore them shoving them into their mouths and pockets, and make a mental note to re-iterate the no sweets from strangers lecture when they get back. I dawdle, they run, to the passengers only gates. I hug them very tightly before they go through and try to think of something meaningful to say. I suddenly need them to forget all the times I’ve been a monster parent, like make them change the channel on the TV to something other than football or Disney, or made them tidy their rooms, or gave them cereal for supper, or had an evening of wild dramatics and banning all things electronic over homework not being done…Because I know that Dads house is the fun house. He takes a week or two off work and crams it full of mini-getaways, football watching marathons, rugby matches, pizza dinners out. I know its guilt. I also know the cost of it is coming off my maintenance. They don’t. Please  please don’t let it be so fun that you don’t want to come back, I silently, selfishly plead. “Be Good. Have Fun!”, is all I can think of as they dash off to join the queue to the boarding gates “Stick TOGETHER!” I shout. A few people look at me alarmed, not sure who I’m yelling at or whether they heard the word “bomb”. I try and look apologetic and unthreatening. The boys haven’t even heard me. I stare through the glass partitioning and wait for my youngest at least to turn around all teary eyed needing my reassurance that everything will be fine, they’ll be fine without me, for almost two weeks! I watch them put their bags through the scanner. .pick them up..walk past the area where Im standing . Any minute now they’ll turn around. I resist the urge to call and wave frantically. Okay, they’ll pop their heads back around that wall and wave. Oh. Okay, Ill just phone them later. They looked a bit like they were laughing,…I sit and wait for the plane to take off. I watch it until what I thought I was staring at suddenly comes to land on the roof of the baggage trolley on the runway in front of me, as a pigeon.  I text their father to let him know they are in his airspace, which means therefore, now his responsibility. I try not to think about how much I already miss them. How its all their stupid fathers fault that Ill never get these eleven days without my kids back, how selfish his decision was, why should I have to go through this because he chose to be the part time parent?! On the drive home I sing at the top of my voice, something I am expressly forbidden to do if one or both of them are in the car, or near the car in fact just generally. It’s only eleven days I tell myself. Then I remember why this trip is harder to deal with than the others. One of those eleven days is my sons eleventh birthday. And I want to wake him up with tea and presents and see that look of pure birthday joy as he opens his eyes just like I have every other birthday. I deserve that at the very least. More than his father does. Just as I realise I’m singing along to a song called ‘Fiery Crash’ and I have a panic that its fate telling me something,  I get a text message. “We’ve landed. Dad is taking us out for pizza and is getting tickets for the rugby for Nic’s birthday! He will love it. Miss you”. Then I get another one from a friend saying “Come away with us this weekend”. And I realise that I’ve had momentary lunacy. The kids are going to be more than fine. It’s okay for me to admit that they have way too much Mom by the time they leave. They need a break. And it’s also okay for me to admit that they need as much Dad as they can get, including the odd birthday now and again no matter how much I think he doesn’t deserve it. I see now it doesn’t matter what I do or what they do in those eleven days. What matters is that I’ll be right in the front waiting when those doors open at the arrival gates, and not say a word when they both speak at once or argue about the details of the trip. What matters utmost to me though, is that when they are leaving, they’re going to their Dad, but when they come back, they’re coming home.

To celebrate my independence and control of the remote, I am watching Gone With The Wind. No, really, that’s not an intended pun. I actually am. All three and a half hours of it from 1939. By a stroke of luck and possible fated intervention, its on TCM tonight, the boys most hated channel. Also, I’m having wine and popcorn for supper.

And suddenly, I find myself thinking that eleven days doesn’t seem that long at all, not long enough even.

What Did You Get For English?

Exams are over! Honestly, I’m so happy my eyes are leaking a little bit. I dread them more than the meetings that come after exams where the teacher deals a deathblow in the form of a report. And that’s bad dread! There is no fighting between the teen son and I almost at all most of the time, until there is studying to be done. During exams its WW1. The one where battlefields were mainly shouting and throwing whatever object was at hand. Before exams, I am oblivious to what needs to be studied, what tests are being written, or what stuff needs to be handed in when. In order to keep the peace I have to take the ostrich approach, and tell myself the foundations are laid, the responsibility is his, Ill go in  and ask just as soon as the cork is out of this bottle blah blah. Anyway. I’ve tried to be one of those Moms, like the one who wrote that book. Slayer Mom of a Teenage Dragon Battle Hymn of a Tiger Mother. Its impossible. Well obviously its not impossible. Its just hard, takes up a lot of time, and requires serious follow through of threatened disciplinary action. Of course I am excited as any mother would be who see’s great earning potential in their lawyer/politician trait-ed child, and just want him to see it too. But as I lack his obvious articulation skills, after hearing his explanations, I usually have to make excuses that I smell burning and throw in an over the shoulder “we are NOT done discussing this!” When I know as well as he does that we are. The problem is this… His explanations for why there is nothing written in his homework diary….every day of the year… What exactly he needs to study… When last he studied… Why he is watching endless seasons of Chuck on his laptop the night before an exam…and Why he has his laptop when it was confiscated along with the phone that he is using to simultaneously play games on….are as clear, and reassuring and sound a lot like…

Um…good, so you’re done studying then?

Test One: The Sick Child

There is no doubt in my mind that the Universe’s sense of humour is pretty dark. Dark as in The Dead of a Winter Night really. . .here’s why.

I was a “single” parent for 3 years before now.  Manageable single is what I mean by adding the inverted commas, with every second weekend to do sweet nothing (to do with children) and their father a mere four kilometres away, always on emergency standby providing it was convenient, he was available, and had been given sufficient notice. I’ve been an entirely solo parent now, since he moved 800kms (as his the crow flies) for just under two months. Two. Months. That’s hardly enough time to remember that I need a calendar, let alone print one out and write very important things to remember on it.

Ha” the Universe smirks. “You want to do this alone”? ”Well, no actually, I was pretty much forc…” “Pfft.. details! Let’s test the strength of your sanity anyway”….

Test One.

A sick child. A single working mothers worst nightmare. Not beginning on a Friday, when I can be home for two full days plying him with medicines to ensure a full recovery by 8am on Monday. Nope, that’s too easy. The Universe decides to smack my youngest with a 39.7degree Celsius temperature at 4pm on a Monday after noon. Noooo! No .No. Seriously? I’m hoping he’s just really hot from excessive running around and playing. “Do you want to go for a quick swim”? I nudge him as he lies half comatose on the couch, too weak to reach his bed.  “Huhh”…he mutters. “A swim?” I try again slightly less enthusiastically. No response. I manage to rouse him enough to ply him with Ponstel and then leave him to sleep. I almost convince myself that he’ll be fine when he wakes up. 12 hours later he’s vomiting onto my bedroom floor, narrowly missing the clean washing pile waiting to be ironed by no-one. 10 minutes spent panicking that’s its meningitis. The rest of the night spent wondering if he’ll be ok to send to school by 8am. Of course he’s not. At 7am his forehead is hotter than Satan’s. I’ll take this opportunity to quickly mention that my boss is not kind nor understanding, think Meryl Streep in TDWP, only less approachable. In spite of the fact that she has two children of her own, she is possibly less than sympathetic, due to the fact that she also owns her own company, has two full time domestic workers, an au pair and a husband. I lecture myself about my childrens health being my very top most priority and my right to use my three ‘family responsibility’ leave days I get a year, and decide to stay at home. I text my boss. Sweat a bit. Then text the temp.  No reply from either…I get back into bed. I fly out of bed, remembering I have another child that needs to get to school. Crap, another dilemma so soon after resolving the first. I try and nudge the sick child awake to tell him he needs to crawl to the car. I watch him attempt to lift an eyelid and immediately feel stabbings of guilt to the upper chest area. Defeated, I phone my father to ask for help. Thankfully he lives close by and immediately comes over to pick up the healthy child, I slap some jam onto a slice of bread and throw it into a lunchbox with a stale biscuit and off he goes to school. Then I get back into bed. He’s still not better the next day, although he briefly showed signs of being perfectly well, just long enough for me to rejoice that it was just a ‘24hour bug’. By midnight that night  though, he was curled up in ball with excruciating stomach cramps, and I was in a complete panic about the fact that there was just no way I could take another day off work, particularly after finding out that the temp was a no-show the day before.  The upside of being the only employee of the ‘Cape Town branch’ is just that, I’m the only one in the office. There was nothing I could do but take him with me to work, wracked with further stabbings of guilt at this less than ideal environment for a sick child, I still had give him strict instructions to lay low and not make a single sound if I was on the phone, so as to ensure zero risk of raising any suspicion, even though he was still barely able to move his eyes from side to side. On the third day, I did the same, still terrified that I would be caught secretly harbouring a sick child in the workplace. On the fourth day, I phoned my father in desperation. My son was still fighting raging temperatures, and I had a client meeting that obviously I couldn’t take him to, as the risk of losing my job was too great. Not that I hadn’t considered it and run through all awkward yet unavoidable scenarios. Mercifully, my father came through for me, and spent the day with him.

Just in time for the weekend, he had made a full recovery, and was swimming again. Whilst I, instead of sighing with relief at having somehow juggled it all and miraculously kept us both alive, spent it plying myself and my oldest son with Probiotics, terrified that the next test set by the Universe would be that by Monday afternoon, he or I would have caught the 96 hour bug. We didn’t.

Score:

Single Parent – ten points for managing to nurse sick child back to health, keep healthy child functioning, hang on to job and (some) sanity

Universe –  minus twenty on a humour scale 0-10 (with zero being not the tiniest bit funny and ten being knee-slapping joyous mirth)

Surviving School

Being a single parent at school meetings is mostly manageable. In the case of a class meeting, you walk into the classroom, find your child’s desk and if he/she is still in the Foundation Phase (Grade 1-3), you attempt to squeeze yourself into the miniature desk bench combination without cursing out loud or crying actual tears as you bang the really sensitive spot just above your kneecap on the side of the desk. This is common in non-contortionist parents. Or parents taller than a nine-year old. Once you have successfully resisted the need to yank the leg of your jeans up and thus exposing most of your unshaven leg to check for swelling and bruising, you listen intently to what the teacher is saying about school procedures and disciplinary actions, whilst skilfully avoiding the circulating roster of ‘Teacher’s Help’ commitments.  I don’t feel I should have to explain that I nearly killed myself in traffic from work just to get to the meeting on time, and that although my father was kind enough to pick the kids up from school and aftercare in order for me to attend, its unlikely his generosity extends to shopping for missing supper ingredients and then cooking and serving it and doing homework…. Therefore, it is less likely I will be able to find the time to help out with swimming lessons, watch a class when the teacher is away or sorting the recycling on a weekly basis. Generally these types of meetings are attended by only one parent anyway, so as a single parent, they’re easy enough to get through.

One on one parent teacher meetings is an absolute breeze. Mostly the teacher already knows the situation, and therefore these are a good opportunity to explain away unfinished homework, unfilled Ritalin prescriptions and less than acceptable classroom behaviour with an unravelling less than ideal home situation.  Then race home and ensure that you child has everything complete and packed for the next day, lest he/she gets kept in after school for a quiet little Q&A session with the school counsellor (this must be avoided at all costs to prevent further miscommunications..!)

Recently though, after having moved from one end of the province to another, and therefore changed my sons schools, I had to endure Parents of New Pupils Orientation Evening. X2. One high school. One primary school. Both as awful as each other.  Here’s the scenario. Parents of new pupils gather in a hall. Some are there, because they, like me, have recently moved to the area. Others have lived in the area their entire lives, and have children starting Grade 1 or Grade 8. Further to these groups, are the ones whose third or fourth child is starting Grade 1 or Grade 8, and like to be seen at school as often as possible, with the added bonus of free wine.  The first set of parents are unlikely to know many people if any, but as a couple, they have each other to pretend to talk to. The second set, may know a few people, from probably having gone to school with them themselves, this gathering then doubles as a mini-reunion, and instant play-date arranging opportunity. Bonus. The third set, are the most terrifying. They know exactly how everything runs, who’s who and who’s new, are on every school committee and on first name terms with every single staff member. They sit together at every function and even socialise together on weekends. Eventually their children will marry, and they will become one giant family. As a (painfully shy) single parent who falls into Category 1, this is a Hall of Horror. There are just not enough people to be inconspicuous and not look like a lone lonely loner, clutching a glass of wine and desperately willing someone, absolutely anyone to talk to you. In such instances I will even endure the listing of someone’s child’s previous years Grade 2 Maths test results without glazing over. But to stand there pretending to read the list of prefects  dating back from 1978 on a giant wooden board hanging above the stage for lack of anything else to do and want of doing something is just torture.  To top off this endless evening of social suicide, I got saved and then mortifyingly stranded again in an unfortunate case of mistaken identity. A loud rather crass woman came over thinking she had read my label (yes, gotta love standing alone with a big white sticker labelling your child’s Grade and teacher stuck to your right breast) as being the same as hers. She promptly invited me to a class party she was organising, then peering awkwardly closely at my breast, realised her mistake, laughed slightly hysterically, and then said ‘ Sorry you cant come’…and walked away.  After laughing a bit myself (purely on the outside) whilst surreptitiously glancing around to make sure not a soul had heard that particular (and only) exchange of the evening, I snuck home. Next time Ill bribe a friend to role play as an attentive other half. On occasion, fierce independence can backfire. Lesson learnt.

St. Valentine

Valentines Day. Or ‘Single’s Suicide’ Day. Ugh. Of course I’m cynical. I am divorced after all. I’ve had my fair share of sweet and now meaningless flower arrangements delivered to my bedside. Although I’m not anti the idea of expressing ones unfailing love through cards with well versed poems written by someone whose job it is to think up schmaltz for your love-shopping convenience, the problem with this particular day is that it’s a tight, smug little club. Either you’re in, or out. It’s not like the other days, where there are definite grey areas that accommodate most. Mothers or Fathers Day is a good example, you don’t have to be one to celebrate, you wouldn’t be here if you didn’t have them, and even if they’re no longer here, as is the case with my mother,  you can still get messages on such days from friends saying ‘thinking of you today’… You can abhor your parents with every fibre of your being, and not have spoken to them in 25 years, you still can’t be excluded, try as you might. Valentines Day, on the other hand… Even if you’re a couple that scoffs at the day and declares that you would rather have a romantic dinner any other night of year, this is your choice. And anyway, that’s stealing lines from the singles. That’s our defence against the dark art of smug love. The least you can do is leave our mantra alone. It is not a day easily ignored either. You would have to stab at both your eyeballs with the thorns of a red rose to achieve this. Red everywhere.The entire world for a single day becomes like a love bloodbath.  Horrifying carnage in the eyes of non-club members. Spain’s ‘La Tomatina’ is less of a mess. Seriously, someone needs to come up with a better colour scheme, we don’t even need to ditch the heinously cliché chocolate flowers combo. Just make it chocolate cupcakes and orchids. A classier non-kitsch version. Keeps the essence, loses the severe visual assault… If I owned a restaurant I would turn it into an exclusive singles only zone for just that night. Offer twofer one tequila specials, ban the colour red and use the tables for dancing on. I bet I would make a mint! *

But what is a mother to do when her sons buy into the hype? I recognise that it is my duty where the subject of couples love comes up, to avoid continuing the theme where their father and I are concerned, only that the opposite of love is contempt. But actions speak louder than words, and with no everyday loving couple visual aids at my disposal to counter the argument that there is true love without Valentines Day, I have to bow to it. Of course I’ll add a slight variation on the theme, them being sons and not lovers. Far be it for me to be so cynical as to kill the dream of a happy ending with their princess one day. So they will wake up on that good sense forsaken morning to chocolate cupcakes and homemade cards that will say something along the lines of

Roses are Red

Violets are Blue

Please Clean Your Room

I Love You

Thereby cleverly killing two (love) birds with one stone, with the added benefit of not selling my stubborn self out.

*Please note that these views are subject to change without explanation should the 21st century Mr Darcy ever show himself.

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