Advice to women. Not.

14 Feb



Were I ever to give advice to women which I wouldn’t because I continue to learn that the ways in which I can be stupid are infinitely more numerous than the ways in which I can be smart and to give advice to anyone it ought to be the other way around, but if, stupidly, I disregarded that little spark of self-knowledge and went ahead anyway, I would say, a woman in a family must resist the domination of the managerial if she wants her creativity to survive.

By the “managerial” I mean that aspect of ourselves so competent, so deft, so practical, so capable it could run a global corporation with one hand tied behind its back, and blindfolded. In my life as a partner and mother, and in the lives of many women I know, this aspect became so dominant it stole the oxygen from every other. This occurred as much because it suited everyone else that I manage the family’s daily affairs as it did because I thought I was supposed to.

Virginia Woolf grappled with  the problem the managerial can present to women, describing its pernicious influence as “The Angel in the House”  with irony and humour, but with deadly seriousness as well:

You who come of a younger and happier generation may not have heard of her — you may not know what I mean by the Angel in the House. I will describe her as shortly as I can. She was intensely sympathetic. She was immensely charming. She was utterly unselfish. She excelled in the difficult arts of family life. She sacrificed herself daily. If there was chicken, she took the leg; if there was a draught she sat in it — in short she was so constituted that she never had a mind or a wish of her own, but preferred to sympathize always with the minds and wishes of others…

I now record the one act for which I take some credit to myself… I turned upon her and caught her by the throat. I did my best to kill her. My excuse, if I were to be had up in a court of law, would be that I acted in self-defence. Had I not killed her she would have killed me. She would have plucked the heart out of my writing. For, as I found, directly I put pen to paper, you cannot review even a novel without having a mind of your own, without expressing what you think to be the truth about human relations, morality, sex. And all these questions, according to the Angel of the House, cannot be dealt with freely and openly by women; they must charm, they must conciliate, they must — to put it bluntly — tell lies if they are to succeed. Thus, whenever I felt the shadow of her wing or the radiance of her halo upon my page, I took up the inkpot and flung it at her. She died hard. Her fictitious nature was of great assistance to her. It is far harder to kill a phantom than a reality. She was always creeping back when I thought I had despatched her…

For me, it wasn’t entirely about reviewing male writers and depending on charm to get me by, although the spectre of disapproval, the fear of offending and as a consequence being despatched to the margins also has to be regularly fought off if I’m going to write what I truly want to write. My recent foray into erotica, for example, was a frightening experience of voluntary vulnerability, as is any self-revelation, but if we are to write about what it is to be human, that writing will always provoke anxiety in its author, and likely at times in its readers.

As unlike Woolf we had no household staff, for me the managerial was about knowing where everybody’s socks were, remembering the washing and the shopping and the cooking and the lunches and the driving and the.. look, I can’t even bear to go back there, you all know what I mean. I lost myself. I became The Manager, and worst of all, I found it almost impossible to turn her off in my head. I came to hate her. She was like the strangler fig parasitically stealing the life of the rainforest tree.

This suited everybody in the family, but it didn’t suit me.

One of the wisest pieces of advice any woman ever gave me was to cultivate absent-mindedness. For example, when people asked me where their socks were I would gaze thoughtfully at them for much longer than necessary. I would assume a puzzled expression and tug at my lip. Oh, darling, I would say finally, I know I saw them somewhere but I can’t think where…

I had to strictly discipline myself  in order to be able to do this. My every conditioned impulse urged me to take responsibility for everything in our household’s daily life, and this conditioning had to be constantly and consistently resisted. Family members do not easily relinquish their dependencies, and tend to passively and aggressively fight changes in a wife and mother with every bone in their bodies. I think it was harder than giving up smoking, and there were no quit lines to help me.

It took quite some time, but eventually I noticed they weren’t asking me to manage their entire lives for them quite as often as they used to. Then one morning I overheard one child saying to another, I’ll ask Mum. She won’t know, replied the other, she’ll just look at you as if she doesn’t know what you’re talking about, she never knows where anything is, we’ll have to find it ourselves.

And I knew I’d done it.

This proved to me that you can’t change anybody but yourself and if you do change yourself there is a good chance that  people who really love you will eventually learn put up with it, and change as well.

There are many advantages in being thought a muppet by your family. Muppets are not renowned for their managerial abilities, and nobody expects it of them.

Sometimes, it’s the only way the creative woman survives.

Many thanks for the inspiration for this post to the lovely M, who sends me a poem to wake up to every morning. The two words “managerial mess” in this poem by Jennifer Strauss, What Women Want  summed up an entire period of my life. 


31 Responses to “Advice to women. Not.”

  1. Michaela Tschudi February 14, 2015 at 11:40 am #

    Reblogged this on Wishful Thinking and commented:
    Being all things to all people? No, don’t go there.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. paul walter February 14, 2015 at 12:00 pm #

    The surest way to get a woman to do something is to advise her to do the contrary.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Michaela Tschudi February 14, 2015 at 1:06 pm #

      Uh oh careful PW! You jest perhaps? 😊


    • Jennifer Wilson February 14, 2015 at 2:03 pm #

      PW what is wrong with you??!! This sudden provocation, first nagging, now this!! 🙂


      • paul walter February 14, 2015 at 10:36 pm #

        Ok.. it’s a nasty toothache, the legacy of a visit to the dentist early this week. I think the removal of a filling to protect one side of my jaw means and its replacement by her has it that my upper jaw has set up parts of the other side to grind agains t the bottom. She wants to yank teeth there and is determined this happens, but there would be no grief if things were the way they were until a few days.ago.

        Any way…

        If a man goes to a forest and speaks and no woman is there
        to hear him, is he still


        • Jennifer Wilson February 15, 2015 at 8:41 am #

          PW: Yes, and he will be spanked.


          • paul walter February 15, 2015 at 10:30 am #

            YOU are the one who should be spanked.. then the others.

            But no, creativity wanes.. no sleep again despite a trough of pills.

            On thread, I can’t disagree with the observation of yours involving Virginia Wolf, all the women in my family did it and it just made me love them the more..but yes, they suffered at times, I think.

            Also losing your wallet, women will generally answer, after a pause, “where you left it”.

            Also the first para, finding it so much easier to find stupid ways than smart ways. Its a blokes problems also, beleive eme.


            • Jennifer Wilson February 15, 2015 at 10:45 am #

              I hope your toothache lets up, PW. You sound a bit under the weather. Sending good vibes.


              • paul walter February 15, 2015 at 11:00 am #

                Hey, I think it popped..a foul taste and now the stabbing pain has gone..bottom back molar.

                I feel like a prince, even though it is fieryl hot again, before a change later.

                Even the panel on Insiders looked ok.
                I actually “got” the thread starter above for the first time and had a good laugh, although god knows who you might have had in mind, concerning denial/ removal/retrieval of attention. Tsk.


                • Michaela Tschudi February 15, 2015 at 11:38 am #

                  Oh dear PW. I know that pain. Get thee to a dentist. And some good drugs. The world looks so much better then. 😊

                  Liked by 1 person

                  • paul walter February 15, 2015 at 12:07 pm #

                    Thanks, Michaela.

                    It’s like the last time, with a different tooth.

                    Intensifies till it’s unbearable, then suddenly a sense of relief. Only an opiate would have helped, the last couple of nights.
                    I’m not scared of having teeth pulled, it just makes me sad, still have most of them (vain) I love good food, will I look ugly, I am getting THAT ooold, come-uppance..

                    I just wish the dentist had left a particular tooth be and am suspicious of the tampering with it, although the flare-up might have developed from the descale, instead.

                    She’s said there is a deleterious affect on general health and wants to pull before they play up again, so it isn’t too hard a job, but she gets paid the same either way, wtf?

                    And they charged liked wounded bulls, all that money due to be yanked in such a short time?


                    • Michaela Tschudi February 15, 2015 at 12:39 pm #

                      Do you blog PW?


                    • paul walter February 15, 2015 at 6:34 pm #


                      I just go to the sites of people who HAVE had the wit to learn computing well and set up an original page and annoy people at such places.

                      You could say however,

                      “Ï are, therefore me post”

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Michaela Tschudi February 24, 2015 at 11:47 pm #

                      Ah PW, so you fly on the coat tails so to speak? Setting up a blog is fun and not too tedious. Perhaps give it a try?


  3. Elisabeth February 14, 2015 at 12:06 pm #

    I well know the pull to be that angel, and I too have difficulties knocking her off.

    How much does it go back to infancy? as in, someone has to look after the baby, and so more often than not, it starts with mother.

    But I agree with you, there’s no need for the entire household to stay as infants with only one mother, you, the woman who manages the lot.

    No, we can share the load and free up the manager to create.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. saturnreturnsurvivor February 14, 2015 at 3:29 pm #

    Thank you for this post today. I have a 15 month old and was just saying to my mother this week that as much as I love him, I feel like I’ve completely lost myself somewhere and I’m scared I won’t find her again…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. thevenerable1 February 14, 2015 at 4:55 pm #

    Talk about going off-topic ! 😀
    I suspect this is just as much about forcing your followers not to expect the usual, as well !

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Team Oyeniyi February 14, 2015 at 5:39 pm #

    OMG!!! I am adopting the socks strategy TODAY!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson February 14, 2015 at 6:00 pm #

      I live to serve 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Team Oyeniyi February 14, 2015 at 6:02 pm #

        I know that feeling. Do everything. Find everything. Organise everything. End up exhausted. NO MORE!


        • Jennifer Wilson February 14, 2015 at 6:06 pm #

          Resist Robyn! Resist! Call my helpline open 24 hours.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Michaela Tschudi February 15, 2015 at 11:58 am #

          Robyn, 15 years ago I found myself in the situation where I was the self-appointed keeper of all things in our household. It changed the day someone in my family who shall remain nameless said “she does everything. It’s like Operation Desert Storm”. No more! Feels much better now.

          Liked by 1 person

      • Michaela Tschudi February 14, 2015 at 7:23 pm #

        No you don’t! You delegated that already.

        Liked by 1 person


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