SERIOUS and other important trivia…

Those of you who read this blog and they’re aren’t all that many, (but it’s QUALITY not quantity that counts right? 😉 ) understand that flippancy is my middle name. That my preference in writing posts is for tongue-in-cheek, self-mocking nonsense about chooks, dogs, coffee and Poppet, although anyone who is the parent of a teenager or remembers being a teenager, will appreciate that teenagers and in particular, teenage girls, are anything but trivial individuals. And indeed Precious Poppet is every bit an important and high-maintenance individual.

Autumn Perfection.

Poppet and Autumn Perfection.

 

S & M     D & M

Occasionally though, I do get a bit existential deep and meaningful and wax on about something weightier, more philosophical.  I’ve read a few insightful posts this past week or two on a variety of serious topics – too many to mention now, so please don’t be offended if I’ve commented on your post, but haven’t mentioned it here.

One on incivility in social media stands out: Let’s Talk Twitter and Trolls and Dinner Parties, shall we? Kat’s post looks at ‘trolling’ and general impoliteness on social media and urges us to engage in virtual discourse as one would do with face-to-face discourse, with good manners and decorum. This post made me think about life before social media and I got all contemplative. Of course, there was work, family commitments and writing a year ago, before I started writing a blog and twittering, and I was very busy but it was a different kind of busy. I didn’t jump with glee when I received notification of a comment or an email to inform me I had a new follower on Twitter. I was a rather simple creature in my non-virtual world. I didn’t squeal with girlish delight when my tweet was retweeted or avidly read a particularly warm and charming comment on my post. I was spared the pleasure, or pain…if my tweet disappeared unanswered into cyber space or my post languished comment-less. I wasn’t needy. I think I was a bit cooler.

Yet there’s so much good about social media – engaging with clever and interesting people everywhere – the sheer scope of talent and opinion is vast. They might not be real friends in the sense of those we meet up with regularly for coffee or brunch or dinner or just meet up. But real ones, nonetheless.

SERIOUS

I read several brilliant posts written on ANZAC Day and its significance and one lingers:  ‘Reflections on the selflessness and sacrifice of some ordinary Australians…’ I’ve never before read anything more lyrically worded on war and its devastating implications than that of Wing Commander Sharon Bown. Simply beautiful words. Then there’s Majoring in Literature, an erudite blog that’s good value, reviewing books with a close understanding of the text, combining travel and history, interspersed with beautiful photos.

And there was Deb’s interesting post on idealised TV shows and life envy: ‘Why I won’t be watching Offspring.’ I seriously believe ‘life envy’ has increased exponentially since the advent of social media. There might have been perfect people with perfect lives around before but we didn’t know about them. We were spared their perfection.

Bad Behaviour and Girls’ Schools.

Jonah Takalua has a lot to answer for. I recall when Summer Heights High came out  a few years ago and Year 8 boys thought it was funny to draw dictation on the black/white board. They chanted “Puck you, Miss. JOKE Miss!” with monotonous regularity until I wanted to send them all back to Tonga, except they weren’t from Tonga. They were typical Aussie kids just trying to escape writing essays.

Image courtesy of: futuremusicgroup.com

Image courtesy of:
futuremusicgroup.com

Jonah from Tonga is back. No wonder Pinky (that witty minx blogger I know) wants to work in a girls’ school. This post is HILARIOUS: ‘Why I want to work in an all girls’ school!‘  And you don’t need to be a teacher to appreciate it. (Apparently smiling – even the act of stretching your lips in a grinning expression whether you feel happy or not – releases feel-good endorphins that literally lift your spirits). I guarantee that after reading this post you’ll be giggling, very naturally. 😀

CHOOK UPDATE – THE STORY OF RED.

We bought Red, Snowy and Blacky as two day old chicks  all ostensibly GIRLS. Snowy and Blacky were feminine hens but Red was always a bit butch blokey. But hey we’re not discriminatory about gender in our family, feathers or no feathers. But when she he started crowing pre-dawn, a VOCIFEROUS TRILLING “COCK-A-DOODLE-DOOOO!” it was time to take Red back to the farm (we’re in the middle of suburbia!) I should’ve noticed before this, especially when she he was mounting cuddling the other hens in an unplatonic way. The Sexer had got it wrong. (Bizarre as it sounds, there is a profession/job entitled “Sexer”. They look at chicks’ private parts and deem them male or female…Sometimes Sexers get it wrong).

CHICKIBABES.

growing chickadees

They’re getting bigger and have moved to a larger pen, but I’ve observed an undesirable hen dynamic: Lasquisha – the biggest and bossiest – dominates. Unfortunately, the pecking-order is alive and flourishing in real life. Lasquisha keeps Cinnamon, Princess and Lacey under control. She pecks them on the head for no apparent reason except to show she’s the boss…a bit like the classroom/playground bully, really.

I'm boss!

I’m boss!

Who is big and bossy in your life? Or are you the boss? And I’m not being sizeist either, I mean big in the metaphorical sense…

Linking up today with Rhianna and Thankful Thursday which has made me focus on the things I am grateful for: I’m thankful that Lasquisha can’t boss me around (I just can’t avoid flippancy!) I’m thankful that Poppet is no longer being bullied. And I’m thankful for the dying splendour of Autumn leaves. Is there anything in your life that you’re thankful for?

Joining With Some Grace for FYBF

Advertisements

Walking on leaves, rustling…

Image courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org

Image courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org

For the second time I’m joining in with Anna Spargo-Ryan’s Flash Fiction, writing prompt.

Walking on dry leaves, she veered away a little and the rustling deepened, as though a new stridence had entered her step. But it wasn’t enough to drown the whispers, the sporadic peels of laughter. There was no joy in the squeals, only malice and a quite deliberate intent to wound.

Samantha quickened her pace, separating herself from her friends, though to deem them friends was to attribute a virtue to the epithet that reality lacked.

“Sammy, you’re out of bounds, you’ll get sprung!” cried Georgina. “Come back, you don’t want a detention, Sammy!” Feigned concern at her welfare abounded in Georgina’s tone but Samantha recognised it for what it was. They knew she hated Sammy, that she only liked to be called Sam. Sammy set off a train of memories she wanted to forget.

Ignoring them, she continued wending her way down towards the large piece of land that dipped into a kind of field, adjacent to the sports oval. Trees lined the path, old trees, and Samantha gazed up, allowing the shards of sunlight through the thick leafless branches to warm her face.

*****

Her mother had taken on an extra job to pay the fees at St. Clare’s Senior College, making it a total of three jobs. She barely saw her mother now. She was either cleaning houses a few suburbs away, at the office in the car-yard or in the seedy bar, where she was the perfect employee because she was cheap – a cash-in-hand, no-questions-asked member of staff.

Her mother announced the school switch, presenting it as a fait accompli. “It’ll be good for you…get you away from that nasty crowd, now that Bianca’s gone.”

“I can cope. I’m not going to a new school. Again. It’s not the school, Mum, it’s me.” Her voice had a steely quietness, belying her certainty that her mother had already won the fight.

Ignoring her daughter, she continued, “I want you to focus on your school work…the academic standard is much higher at St. Clare’s. And I want you to do well in your final year Sam, unlike me…” She trailed off.

There were some further arguments but her mother had already paid the fees and starting mid-term, almost inviting stress and misery,  Samantha walked through the school gates. The elegant tunic had a matching blazer, which in spite of her misgivings she rather liked, but the hat made her feel slightly ridiculous.

*****

“Sa-man-tha!” shouted Elissa, “Mr Sante is coming now…you’re in major trouble. So don’t blame us!”

The girl’s voice suddenly changed, becoming a sychophantic whine as she directed her attention to a tall athletic man, wearing John Lennon glasses.

“We tried, Sir.”

“Back to the in-bounds area, girls. Seniors have a few privileges but you’re pushing it.”

“Sammy wouldn’t listen,” simpered Georgina, with a hint of the coquette.

Samantha’s feet were weighted to a spot on the path. She wasn’t scared of detentions. In fact, few things frightened her.

“Samantha…or do you prefer Sammy?”

“I hate Sammy.” She couldn’t keep the petulance from her voice.

“Well, Sam then…” He smiled, cool and business-like, “I have a proposition for you. Our debating team is short one member and we have a comp at the end of…”

“I haven’t been on a debating team before,” Samantha cut him off.

“It’s settled then. I think you’ll like the topic: “School days are the best years of our lives.” He smirked a little but there was no meanness in the grin, more an ironic arching of an eyebrow under the small round spectacles and a tilting at the corners of his mouth. “We’re the affirmative.”

“Affirmative..? It’s not possible then.”

“Oh, I don’t know. It’s a jungle – we all know this – but I think you’ll be up for the challenge. I marked your essay from last week’s exam…I’m confident you’ll rustle up some strong arguments. We meet most lunch times – Room 43. You can bring your lunch,” he added, as though the matter were settled.

As they walked back up the leafy path towards the quadrangle, Samantha was already thinking of things to say, constructing sentences about the quality of friendships forged in the classroom and playground; respect and kindnesses initiated and lasting; life lessons and challenges. Perhaps she might fudge it.

“They’re up there now, if you want to join them. We still have some time left…nice group of girls.”

Samantha nodded, not noticing the expressions on the faces of her friends, Georgina and Elissa. The spite remained but some of their triumph had dissipated.

Blocked, defriended, unfollowed…

Flippancy is my middle name so I’ll begin with a photo my son sent me:

IMG_0517

This funny pic got me thinking about blocking and being blocked. I thought about a recent experience on Twitter, where someone I follow – a strong, intelligent, articulate woman who happens to be a feminist – was being trolled. She blocked the perpetrator but others – anonymous or using fake gravatars – popped up and joined in the trashing of this woman…not just her views, but her appearance, her sexuality. This led me to think about rudeness, ugly rudeness. My grandmother used to say: “Manners cost nothing” and called people “ill-mannered” but that phrase doesn’t really cover the viciousness of an online troll. A troll used to be a hairy monster who lived under the billy-goats’ bridge. Now it’s a not-so-hairy monster who lives on the internet…

Image from: oakthorpesc. files

Image from:
oakthorpesc. files

This woman’s trolling reminded me of when Poppet was bullied in Year 9. She was fourteen and had just dumped (her first) boyfriend. It was amicable, they were still friends, yet this didn’t stop some of his friends from posting revolting things on Facebook. There were anonymous bullies on Formspring (a site active two years ago), but somehow the Facebook ones were worse because they had names and therefore profiles…faces. They were real. Poppet didn’t tell me about this bullying at first. Like many teenagers, she internalised it, blamed herself. After all, she’d dumped a very popular boy, a boy with loyal, vocal friends. I can’t repeat what was said – it’s too graphic to type here, but think of one of the worse things you could say to a young girl, think sexual, and you’ll be close to the truth.

I found out accidentally, glancing over her shoulder one day, eyes zeroing in on her screen, so appalled I wanted to seek out this boy and tell him off; ring the school; ring the police; ring his mother.

But world weary Poppet, just fourteen and already apprised of the online world and its dark corners, said: “Don’t! It will get worse.”

“What’s worse than that?” I shrieked.

She blocked him – this ill-mannered but quite normal boy. Interestingly, he’s apologised to Poppet recently. Two years older, now at the same school and lately acquiring some manners, he told her he was sorry that he “…said some stuff. I was a total d**k.”

But I’m not sure if an apology, even a sincere one, can really appease the victim (or her mother). An apology shows character – not many people can apologise, least of all a teenage boy – but an apology can’t negate the immediate and ongoing effect of those brutal words on a fourteen year old girl (and her mother).

Before this post becomes not nearly flippant enough too grim,  I’ll mention my own experience on Facebook. I freely admit I’m eccentric weird with social media. I pick and choose. I don’t have Facebook – nothing against it, I just find I must limit social media, as it is a heady drug that keeps me from the offline world, the real world. But I did once have a Facebook account, which I opened on the advice of EVERYONE. And in the three hours my account was alive, I’d acquired quite a few ‘friends’. People popped out of the woodwork from all over the place and my head spun with giddiness. I was so popular! But I was suddenly privy to an array of family snaps from people I barely knew; news and status updates from relative strangers filled my feed. This I could deal with, but then suddenly I gazed with stunned horror at my own face – tagged in a photo that week when out to lunch – grinning with Cheshire Cat brilliance (that photo would not have survived my delete button!)

Traumatised reflecting quietly on my new public life, I closed said account and spent the next twenty four hours fielding offended ex-friends and contacts, apologising profusely to them. They’d all thought I’d blocked and defriended them…as if? A sense of the ridiculous is mandatory with social media, I feel. 🙂

According to my in-house online expert, Poppet, Facebook is practically obsolete, at least for teenagers: People only use it for invites and arrangements now, no one posts statuses anymore… *insert eye-roll*…it’s all Instagram and Snapchat! 

The online world is a diverting place. Poppet sent me this:

Image credit: Redditpics.

Image credit: Redditpics.

What are your own experiences with being blocked, defriended or unfollowed? Or is your world full of ‘sweetness and light’? 🙂

Linking up with Essentially Jess for IBOT.

Teens are Mean…

Photo credit - imdb.com

Photo credit – imdb.com

Not all the time and not everyone, but it’s trending… teen meanness.

I’m not the first to say “School is a jungle”… Prompted by Housegoeshome’s recent post on redheads I thought about how carelessly cruel the teenage world is. It reaches a brutal peak in High School…I notice it in the classroom, the playground. Life is tough if you are chubby or have:

  • red hair
  • big ears
  • a big nose
  • pimples
  • freckles

You are reminded of this feature daily and can feel self-conscious, inadequate and even apologetic for not being skinny, pretty, popular or cool enough. Few can bluff it out or give back as good as they get. Most nurse their wounds, silently, painfully. Most turn it in on themselves; victim-blaming is rife. Occasionally a victim fills with hate and punishes the world, picks up a gun and takes out their persecutors. Thankfully this is very rare.

Photo credit - filmthrasher.com

Photo credit – filmthrasher.com

Chris Lilley’s Ja’mie as Queen of Mean, takes nastiness to a whole new level. Her special brand of vicious is reserved for borders, lesbians and Asians. Horrible stuff. It’s satire, but so close to the truth my daughter and I cringe. She relates, she is a teenager. She too was victim to bullying. I’ve written a teen novel on this subject, and a blog post – ‘The Party’ – about bullying by exclusion.

Lightening up

But this post is too heavy and I’d like to finish on a lighter note, narrating a typical conversation with Poppet, my daughter. She isn’t very mean, except to her mother.

On makeup, especially eye-liner – a subject I tiptoe around. Not even a boy on the train crying “Child prostitute!” has limited her application of eye-liner.

Weary parent:      Darling try not to wear so much eye-makeup, it isn’t appropriate for                                      school.

Poppet:                I look horrible without it.

Eager parent:       Nonsense, you are beautiful – a lovely, natural beauty – you don’t need a                              scrap of make-up.

Poppet:                You won’t leave the house without mascara and lipstick.

Sheepish parent:  That’s different, I’m old…I need it.

Poppet:                 You’re a hypocrite! You told me you wore makeup to school when you                                   were a teenager.

Oh why was I so open with her? She uses my candour against me!

Do you or your children have any experiences of meanness? Have you navigated your way successfully through these?

Linking up with Essentially Jess today for IBOT 🙂