Archive for February 23rd, 2011

Today, there’s much fanfare about the discovery of a new Enid Blyton book. Jolly good, says a nostalgic generation, including me, who loved Blyton’s books as a child. That said, it’s hard to look at them now through the prism of “isms”s – sexism, racism and classism, even if they are of their time. Mr. Tumpy’s Caravan tells the story of an anthropomorphic caravan who, in a fit of wanderlust, goes off on an adventure and – hopefully – doesn’t encounter any evil gypsies on his travels.

More interestingly, is the recent rediscovery of lost work by another feted female writer. Five stories by Daphne Du Maurier, author of Rebecca, and short story ‘The Birds’ (both immortalised in film by Alfred Hitchcock) have also come to light. One of the stories, ‘The Doll’, sounds not just macabre and psycho-sexual, but way ahead of its time. Written in 1928 (when Du Maurier herself was very young), it’s the story of a man who discovers that the girl he’s in love with, is obsessed with a sex doll. Sex doll, you say? In the upper middle-class 1920s of Du Maurier’s life? There’s an almost prophetic modernity to that. And a bravery. Du Maurier’s books were often dismissed as romance novels with a literary sheen, but ‘The Doll’ reminds us just how much of her work is concerned with the murkier corners of human experience.

The new collection, The Doll, will be published in May by Virago.

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…opined my 4 1/2-year-old on the way back from school. He thought the concept quite laughable. Whilst I’m flattered, in a way, to be thought of as in a different category to all other women, according to him, it brought me up short.

I’ve been reading unsettling things lately, which has added to my dis-ease (the disease of being a mummy, as opposed to just being a woman). There was that book I picked up about love and marriage. It had a whole chapter on how men are more likely to stray when they are older because the sex gets boring after 20 years with the same person, but mostly because older women are more likely to put up with an affair and not leave because they are less likely to find someone who would want them.

A week later an article did the rounds on Facebook and Twitter by an American woman who, being recently divorced, regretted taking half a career break to be there for her children in the way we are exhorted to do.

Her advice? Don’t do it. Kids cost a million dollars per child and mummy gets screwed in the process – and not in the fun way. We lose  our financial security and the ability to make what we were making, and on the path to making, before we took two days off a week to bring expensive, needy, future tax and pension paying, joy into the world.

Is being a mummy and being a woman compatible? A woman can stride through her life, making her own choices, having a room of her own. A mummy is a breeder, someone who is there to serve her children, to be seen to try to fail to mould them into what everyone else thinks they should be like. She literally has to give over her body to her young for at least a year, often two. Her job is to love, feed and clean up.

In the process she becomes financially reliant.

In doing all this she becomes dull. Her body is no longer for sexual subjection (begging a hippo of a question about how we define our womanhood), because it’s given up, handmaid-like, to procreation and protection.

The yummy mummy phenomenon only occurred in the past ten years and purely because celebrities with enormous amounts of money had their children early, by optional cesarean section, so that the final couple of weeks of pregnancy, the ones that see the most weight go on the baby and the mother, were circumnavigated. Then, whilst under anesthetic anyway why not have a quick tummy tuck and maybe a boob job and hey presto, instead of coming out of the maternity ward like a sad sack, expanded and then retracted like a five-day old birthday balloon, they sprang out, gazelle like, Frankenstein stitches hidden under designer garments.

Mostly mummy is not yummy. She’s worn out, socially isolated and fiscally poorer.

Of course she will be a lot poorer if she doesn’t slap on a smile and keep her husband happy.

So why do so many of us do it and others yearn for it?


As Alice Thompson Elis put it: ” There is no reciprocity. Men love women. Women love children. Children love hamsters.”

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