It has been too long. I said I would be back, do you remember? Well, I meant it. I am returning to your busy, mean streets for a while. This new city makes me long for the trad-music in Temple Bar that I once hated and the donuts from the O’Connell kiosk, of which I ate far too many during exam periods and the memories of the heartbreak that I cherish now.
Your back alleys and dingy side-streets are tainted with broken love, loud laughter and bold curiosity. I can’t forget any of it. I shut my eyes and suddenly I am on Grafton Street at two thirty am, in a summer dress, my eyes wild and hopeful, staring into the mischievous face of my best friend, believing that anything really is possible. Where will tonight lead? Neither of us want to know. The anticipation of what might be, is enough for us. Tonight, we live. Tonight, we dance like we are the only two people in this whole damn city. We thrive on the lack of any real direction because in this moment all that matters is us. I miss that audacious delusion. I miss you. Because you, Dublin, are painted with the faces of my brothers and sisters that fought for the things they believed in. You are haunted by the faces of the rebels. You are woven from the faces of the renegades who dared to be different, the souls who insisted on being authentic and not just liked. You are composed of the men and women who took the right road, not the easy one. You are the embodiment of authenticity.
You see, the things that chased me away from your unhinged heart are now the things that make me crave your noise, your scent, your energy. The shattered promises, the shared secrets, the laughter between old friends, the tears, the memory of that first kiss, I crave them all.
That little café I avoided for the last year is the first place I will drink my coffee. Instead of grieving what I have lost, I will celebrate the fading memory of intertwined hands and how it feels to wear your heart on your sleeve.
I will lose myself in the street music along with the hopeless romantics dancing alone to the sound of hope.
I will decipher the numerous languages being spoken around me while I cycle like my life depends on it down Leeson’s street because although you are forgiving, your bus drivers are not.
I will indulge myself in the atmosphere of Café en Seine on a Thursday night in a pair of over-priced shoes and a dress that isn’t weather appropriate.
I will write crappy poetry in St Stephens green while a man I barely know tells me his unfiltered life-story.
I will pour my heart out to the handsome barista in a confusing, hipster café over a beverage I can’t pronounce.
I will, once again, look into my best friend’s defiant eyes and suggest a stroll in our drunken states, so we can, for just five minutes, soak it all up.
You are steeped in history and heartache.
I’ll see you on the flip side, I have a suitcase to pack.
- Relationship counselling.
It might seem like you are jumping the gun a bit but as soon as that fifth date hits, get yourself a good, objective professional to help you guys work through your issues. Your friend Sarah who is a law graduate who has seen over forty episodes of ‘Cheaters’ is perfect. Get ready for relationship bliss.
- Social Media.
Be sure to post every relationship update on Facebook. It lets the world know how in love you are and it is fun!
- Make sure you are his social life.
Friends? Lol, that was pre-Christina hun. He doesn’t need anyone else if he has you. You provide him with all of the social, emotional and physical needs he could possibly require. I don’t care if Rob has been his bestie since birth, he is annoying and interferes in your super healthy relationship.
- Passwords and Privacy.
Just download a decent app to track his movement and whereabouts. What’s that babe? You visiting your granny? That’s funny cos I’m pretty sure she isn’t residing in a downtown strip club. Ima lose my shit in about 2.5 seconds.
- Keep him guessing.
Men love it when you mess with them. Remember that thing I said didn’t annoy me? Today it enrages me and tomorrow, I probably won’t care. Am I off my meds? Am I on them? He loves the mystery.
- Tell him your opinion on absolutely everything.
It’s hardly your fault his sister decided to have her engagement party on your dog’s half birthday. Don’t be afraid to share it with him and everyone else at the party.
- Get drunk.
5 mint leaves
1.5 teaspoons of sugar
500g of Cereal
It started on a hazy summer night. Two incredibly broken people and one bottle of champagne. Nobody else understood. We danced beneath the moonlight and everyone else melted away, we were the only ones left. We celebrated our flaws and embraced each other’s broken pieces. Turned out that my missing pieces almost fitted yours. Where had you been this whole time? I had no idea this dark utopia existed until you came into my life. You were that music that penetrated the vacuum. We moved fast. Trauma does that to you. It binds you. It bonds you. It’s kind of a permanent thing. We danced in that same moonlight until your mind started to wander elsewhere. Suddenly our safe haven wasn’t enough. It was too safe. You craved the broken, the wild, the untamed, the unconventional. All I ever wanted was a peaceful existence. Not you though, you craved the noise, the lights, the entire world outside ours. The same world that never understood you, was now pulling you further and further from me. Why? You wanted me because I defied your expectations. You celebrated my loud voice and brash opinions, remember? The same opinions that you are now trying to shape, the same voice you are now trying to silence. Where did I lose you? Were you ever mine? Was it just circumstance? Was it just a bottle of champagne and pure chance? Was any of it real?
I wanted the man that danced on the edge with me, the one who was raw and authentic and totally flawed. I don’t recognise you now. You are bored. You seek a new trauma, a new life-changing event, a new partner in crime. I am finding it harder and harder to listen to your remarks and critiques. Remember when you craved my flaws, creating poetry out of each one, letting them melt into us? My flaws are now the butt of your jokes, your tired, over-used jokes. You perform to this non-existent audience. We used to be on that stage together but there isn’t room for me anymore. You take my trauma and turn it into funny anecdotes and droll party pieces. When did that happen? I’ve heard a lot about love and this isn’t it.
- Don’t reconsider your career options.
Remember that course you chose post-leaving cert? Well that is your life now and don’t reconsider it for one second. You have made your bed and lying in it without thinking about other options is the only way to avoid a mid-twenty crisis. You chose ‘American studies’ at DCU when you were 17 and now you just go to get your PhD in a super specific area of American culture that has no relevance to Ireland, you, current affairs or even America. Oh and the employment rate is less than 0%. Good luck!
- Don’t break up with your long-term boyfriend.
Remember when you fell in love with Tom because he was good at Maths and let you copy his homework? Well, remember it carefully because that is your future husband. Sure, he dropped out of his accountancy degree and is pursuing his goal of turning his interpretive dance into a business but that’s your man! You chose him and the best way to avoid a major meltdown when you are twenty-five and cleaning up after one of his creative breakthroughs is to just not think about what a giant mistake you have made.
- Don’t make new friends.
New friends only broaden your horizons and force you to grow as a person! You don’t want that! The second someone starts to teach you to look at something differently you will lose your shit. Just stick with the old high school gang. Okay, so Amy is in rehab and Charlotte is technically in jail but Jack and Emmett are still living at home and are up for the craic since they are permanently unemployed.
- Don’t get fit or stop drinking.
Remember, drinking helps you forget the pain of your miserable existence. The second you put that Jack Daniels down you will realise you are in over your head with a mortgage application, two bichon frises, a fiancé who is probably having a mental break down and a mother-in-law who thinks you should wear her seventies wedding dress, complete with sleeves.
- Don’t travel.
Experiencing other cultures and ways of life will only make you realise how crap your hometown (ahem, village) is. Ain’t nobody got time for that. Yeah you may have just read an article entitled ’20 places to see before you die’ but Carlow just got its first Tesco, how is Budapest going to beat that? And, I’ll bet Budapest doesn’t have crazy Pete who goes around town scantily clothed singing at the top of his lungs.
There you have it. If you follow these simple guidelines, you too can survive your twenties without an existential crisis and enjoy your life with your long-term partner and 2.5 children. Make sure not to move away from the homestead, it is important your parents have major, over-whelming input on how you should raise your kids. And who is going to tell you that your new trendy haircut doesn’t suit you if you aren’t living right beside your doting mother-in-law?
Since curious eyes gazed upon provocative works such as ‘A vindication of the rights of women’ by Mary Wollstonecraft what it meant to be a woman began to change. Throughout history many brave and courageous women risked it all to fight for what they were entitled to: equality. Without yesterdays heroines I would not be the woman I am today. My bones, etched with their tiny, printed names and my soul woven with the fibres of their very essence. Amelia Bloomer, Betty Friedan, Alice Paul, Simone De Beauvoir, Gloria Steinem each name engraved on me somewhere. These women fought for our equality and dignity but now, I fear we have lost sight of that goal. The word ‘feminism’ has been tainted with a negative brush. You see, I thought feminism was about the sisterhood, allowing, encouraging and arming women to do whatever they want and be whatever they want. That is what we are teaching our daughters, isn’t it? As a gender we are telling young women they can be anything. Anything, as long as it fits in with the unscripted feminist ideals of 2017. If you are a woman who is pro-life you are punished by your own gender. Pro-life must surely mean you don’t want women to have the freedom of choice over their own bodies? If you are a woman who desires nothing more than to have children and spend your days baking cookies and finger-painting, you are told you simply are not a feminist. You are an enemy to women everywhere. Feminists should have ambition, want a long, thriving career, children are not a goal. In order to be a real, respected woman in 2017 I have to fit many ideals. I have to love Lena Dunham, I have to be fine with sexually promiscuous behaviour, I have to wear my ‘repeal the eighth’ t-shirt loud and proud, I have to fight for the right to use forms of contraception I am not totally on board with, I have to be a Hilary supporter, I have laugh at every Amy Schumer anecdote and I can’t really talk about how I am an emotional wreck when I’m on my period. COS THAT JUST AIN’T FEMINIST.
It’s funny, I was under the impression feminism was about the freedom to choose whatever I wanted, be whoever I wanted, yet it seems feminism is a new type of limitation these days. I no longer feel under pressure to be what a man expects of me, now I feel under pressure to be what other women expect of me.
So, while all of you are focused on wanting to exclude and punish the women who don’t fit your narrow ideals I’m more worried about the gender pay-gap, the thigh gap, the fact that more young girls have eating disorders than their male counterparts and the fact that men receive more scientific funding than women just cos.
I am a feminist. The women and men who dedicated their lives to give me the vote, allow me to wear trousers, burn my bra and blur the lines of gender are heroes. I’m ready to embrace what they set out to achieve. When feminists are ready to embrace the sisterhood, let me know.
In the wake of Donald Trump’s rise to power I have been forced to confront my own feelings on some things. Everywhere I go there is some mention of reproductive rights. Something, somewhere always acts as a trigger. Websites chiming in, celebrities tweeting their own personal beliefs, a statement T-shirt on a crowded college campus, news headlines, a friend absent-mindedly discussing his overt views over drinks on a Saturday night, blaring radio segments, magazine covers, trashy red-top papers with misleading headlines, it doesn’t cease. Everyone has an opinion and most are forcing theirs down my throat. I sat in a crowded room, each of them bickering casually over their own thoughts and feelings. I reached into my bag to get my phone and instead met some old tablets. My mum’s tablets. Then it occurred to me that I hadn’t used this bag since before my mum’s passing. I held them tightly in my hand and my breath became shallow. Must. Keep. It. Together. Just as Birdy’s voice began to wind down I was transported back.
I sat in the kitchen of their house. It hadn’t even been four months since I had faced my greatest challenge. They had two children, their first has CF, now in her thirties, fit and healthy. Their second was lucky enough not to receive two copies of the gene. They spoke of their experience with their first child. They had never even heard of the disease. They faced shock, sadness and a steep learning curve. They spoke about all of it in such a ‘matter of fact’ way, emotions of their distress clearly in the past. They then spoke of their second pregnancy. This was when the tone changed. They tell me it was then that they realised they were pregnant with a ‘decision, not a baby’. My heart sank. I felt sick. I felt the colour drain from my face. I was already upset but now I was just disgusted. Did they really just say that? I had no idea how to feel. I was outraged, horrified, hurt, bewildered and just outright irritated. How am I supposed to respond to that? I zoned out. I was too busy immersed in my own grief and misery to defend my personal opinion. Then, they stated in a rather aloof ad stolid way ‘you too Christina may be faced with such a decision, since you carry the gene’.
Please allow me to set the record straight: I will never be faced with such a decision. A child’s life is not a decision for me. It isn’t a choice or something I can play with. Any child of mine will be loved and cared for regardless of their health or their life expectancy. How dare you confront me with your ideals.
I understand everyone has a journey and I don’t understand that journey unless I have lived it myself but this is my opinion. Please don’t talk to about my future. I believe in being informed, prepared and educated on these things but I certainly don’t believe I have a say in any of it. I don’t want a choice, not in this scenario. Unless I explicitly ask for it, I don’t want your advice or thoughts.