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Archive for February 3rd, 2011

The Click

Recently I’ve taken up knitting. Anyone who knew me in primary school and witnessed my epic battles with a pair of plastic needles and a ball of cheap wool would no doubt be horrified.

I was a dreadful knitter. I despised it. Many a night I spent in mute misery not being able to sleep from the sheer terror of knowing tomorrow morning I’d have to uncover my efforts from inspection. None of the neat, careful rows of pretty woollen squares carefully folded up in the tidy, sweet-smelling old Quality Street tins of my classmates for me, mine was a tear-stained, grime-smeared, twisted and tortured rag of knots stuffed in a Dunnes Stores bag.

The needles were that foul ‘bathroom’ shade of pink with large knobbly tops which I used to chew so much that the top part had faded to a milky white. They also made excellent accessories for cat poking and were covered in scratches. I’m ashamed to admit I still chewed them even after the cat had.

The wool was justifiably cheap – anything else would’ve been sacrilege in my paws. There were two colours, a ‘school paint bottle’ red (remember how that smelled?) and a dull navy. And yes, I chose them myself. I believe the plan was to knit a scarf for a doll or something equally basic but I simply never could get the hang of it. The woman with the unhappy job of teaching me was a lady by the name of Mrs Shannon and a kinder, more motherly woman may never have entered the teaching profession before or since, but nevertheless those Wednesday afternoons were torturous. Every week she would take up my knitting in amazement, sigh and with a gentle admonishment of ‘But how on earth did it get like THIS, Jude’ would calmly riiiiiiiiiiip back and ‘start me again’.

Years later while careering into adulthood, I joyfully set about putting my knitting needles and childish ways behind me. But somewhere along the line something changed and I found myself inexplicably looking at the delightfully goodie crammed craft shops with more than a little interest.  And then one summer, the combination of being unemployed and laughably cash-strapped resulted in my actually completing a wildly coloured, extraordinarily long if slighted wonky scarf.

But odder still was the realisation that not only could I remember the stitches with relative ease, finish the project without abandoning it in an almighty huff,  I was actually enjoying knitting.

Recent attempts at double point knitting (woolly sock time!) have been slow, but slowly successful having roped in my mother to teach me the basics. The poor woman gave up an entire weekend to teach me to turn a heel. And in glorious biting-off-more-than-I-can-chew form I’m slightly worried at just how many people I’ve promised to make socks for.

I’m still only learning, have monstrous problems following a pattern and am constantly undoing something I’ve worked on for an entire month but stick on Coronation St, hand me my needles and wool and I’m a happy girl. I don’t understand what exactly has fallen into place for me to enjoy knitting, but am heartedly glad something’s ‘clicked’ into place.

Oh yes, I did just go there.

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The One You Love

This is the sort of stuff that terrifies me. Wait until after you get married to have sex – an academic study and a family therapist say so!

The therapist’s logic is that as sex is one of the most common causes of rows in relationships, it’s better to delay sex until after marriage. No, I’m not following either. The study, though interesting, is from an institution run by Mormons, in the notoriously conservative state of Utah, so let’s not pretend that there might not be some small biases here.

More depressing is the experience of two Irish couples speaking about their decision to wait to have sex before they get married. It’s the idea that you have “clearer heads” if you’re not sexually active; that it’s “weak” to give into sexual feelings; that if men (only men, their responses imply) have slept with someone other than their wives they’ll be discontent, and most irritatingly, the definitive “Couples who refrain from sexual activity before marriage are just going to be happier”. Full stop.

I know, I know. This is the kind of thing that newspapers love to print so that people can get annoyed about it. It’s also the kind of thing that validates a lot of assumptions – that everyone wants to get married. That everyone will get married. That a good relationship means getting married. That despite it all, despite the crazy liberal bias out there (where? Where?) really at the end of the day everyone just wants their one true love and to be settled down with the Love Of Their Life.

I don’t believe in Loves Of Your Life. The American journalist and sex advice guru Dan Savage (‘Savage Love’) talks about how every relationship you are in will fail, until one doesn’t. Excuse me, mister. The end of a relationship is not automatically a failure. Painful, often, sure, but the point of many relationships isn’t that they last forever – it’s that they’re good while they last. In an era where people may frequently move jobs, move towns, move countries, it makes far more sense to think about relationships as something which need to be with The Love Of Today – by all means considering long-term possibilities, plans and goals where appropriate, but always ensuring that each relationship is in itself a good thing. Not something which will later be compared to a marriage, not something which prepares you for the ‘real’ love later on, not something which seems like it could ‘become’ good if you follow a rigid path, but something worthwhile in itself.

The Love Of Today might sound pretty flippant, but the benefit of it as an overarching theory is that it works for all relationships, not assuming that everything needs to lead to marriage or long-term commitment or monogamy. It reminds us that people grow and change and that the person who’s a perfect fit at fifteen might not be at twenty, or be great for us at twenty and completely wrong at forty. We don’t always want or need the kind of relationship that could last forever – and there’s a whole lot of worthwhile, valid and meaningful middle ground between the fleeting one-night stand or holiday romance and the lifetime commitment.

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