23 September 2009


I have been missing in action recently due to an upcoming deadline. I realise that makes everything sound so official but really it is my way of saying I am way over extended at the moment. I will hopefully have an interesting post for you sometime this weekend. I just need to get through this weekend...

14 September 2009

Language and Gender

When undertaking my masters in Women's Studies the discussion of essentialism vs social constructionism formed the basis of many discussions. I was all for social construction - meaning in simple terms that gender, as separate from biological sex, is asserted by social conditioning - i.e. a girl must wear pink the instant she is out of the womb so everyone knows she is a girl and will treat her as such.

I have really tried my best to counter this by dressing her in gender neutral and boys clothes (sometimes because they are just so much cooler - seriously who doesn't love blue?) You can imagine my surprise when the other day she pointed at this new music box we inherited from my aunt and said "Girl? Girl?" Now that word, girl, is not high on our list of words. Not because I refuse to use it, I accept that I am bound within the limits of patriarchal language if I want to communicate and be understood by other people. It's just I have been talking about horse and bear and Dora and chair. And I certainly never pointed to the dainty little wind up ballerina and said girl. I have used the word dancer but never told her a dancer is a girl. Where is this all coming from? Perhaps it is the little mirror that the dancer turns in front of, symbolising vanity? Or maybe it is the pink satin interior of the box or the little ruffle of tulle that clings to the dancer's waist? Perhaps himself used the pronoun -"She" when referring to the ballerina. I am finding all of this totally amazing and puzzling.

11 September 2009

If at first you don't succeed?

I was notified that I did not receive that scholarship I applied for in June. When I wrote that first line, yesterday, I was so upset I thought I would have a mental breakdown. You see sometimes it doesn't matter how much you want something, how dedicated you are, how positive and optimistic, or even how smart you are or wonderful your idea is. Sometimes when it comes to competition there is just someone who is better. A scholarship at this level is like gold; it helps you on your way, makes people stand up and take notice and importantly, buttresses the validity of your research.

I went and picked my daughter up from creche, I saw the pure joy on her face when she realised that I was there to collect her. Unconditional love. That is what they call it right? To her it doesn't matter that mommy has tried unsuccessfully for four different scholarships. She doesn't care if I theorise out my ass about contemporary Irish art. All that matters to her is that I am her mommy and that I love her. Remember that childhood innocence? That feeling of security you had when you knew that everything you needed in the world was your family? I think I need to revisit that and draw strength from those memories and from my current support system. I told someone today that I am a pessimist. This is not entirely true. If I was a pessimist I would have quit this whole academic life three years ago. But each time I get knocked down I tell myself this is what I really want and I will stop at nothing to get it. I suppose the lesson to be learned from this is that life might not be fair but I have to keep on chipping away at the things I want. Oh and I am incredibly stubborn.

I guess it is time to get back to work.

08 September 2009

And so begins my academic career...

Published. Yes one of the greatest words in an emerging academic's life. 

While on holidays I was notified that an article I submitted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal was accepted for publication. I cannot tell you the excitement that has kept me on a permanent high for the last two weeks since I found out. One of the reviewers suggested a few changes to make the article more theoretically sound, which I whole-heartedly understand and appreciate. After all this is my first publication and I want to make it a good one. It won't be a problem, I thought to myself, that is until I realised that one of the things I needed to do was discuss feminist deconstruction. Not exactly the piece of cake I expected, especially considering that I am not really even familiar with Derrida, much less the feminists critics that employ deconstruction (well aside from Judith Butler, but can anyone really ever understand her?) I have spent my last few days frantically reading, mentally scrambling for something that will fit the bill and not seem like a last minute addition. The only thing that I have managed to pinpoint is precisely what deconstruction is not - i.e. a critique, a method, an analysis. Whoever said editing was the hardest part was not kidding. Here's to hoping I make my two week deadline... glup.

04 September 2009

The Month of Mama

For the last month Cupcake and I have had an intense closeness. By this I mean an emotional as well as a physical proximity to one another. It started harmless enough, in the mornings she would call out "Mama? Mama?" The first few mornings I thought, "It is nice to be needed" and I smilingly went to pick her up out of her crib. Then bed time routines evolved to only Mama reading her a story, singing our "Nana Baby" song (a lullaby made up by my Grandma Marcelina) and finally putting her to bed by stroking her face or tracing circles on her chest. Occasionally I would say to my husband, "Oh leave this to the expert." 

This was all well and fine until we went on holidays and four new teeth blossomed. 

Then this loving, cuddly relationship morphed into Mama waking up several times a night to soothe a cranky baby because she didn't want Dada. "NO Dada" was a phrase we heard over and over as she screamed for "MAMA". In order to get some sleep I then started to bring her into our bed to cuddle when she woke up at 5 am and wouldn't settle in her own bed. But what was really getting to me was that during this time by semi-pulled shoulder injury returned and hours of rocking, bending and lifting did not seem as therapeutic for me as they did for her. Then she decided we should relive our breastfeeding closeness and she would sleep lying on top of my chest. I have big boobs but they are not made to support a 26 lb child. Since when did Mama become so cool? I will have to remind her of this during her teenage years, but for now I need to figure out how to get Dada back in the picture so I can get some rest.

03 September 2009

Tales from California

The trip home to visit my family was an action-packed adventure. Keeping in mind that my parents had not seen the little one since Christmas, we were hoping to spend quality time with them. First we spent several days at home; we went to my Aunt's house for a swim party (I guess it is what all the cool kids are doing these days- at least those with pools!) and my closest friends came over for a BBQ. It was great to see all the girls and the girl's girls. I was especially envious that my best friend has taught her daughter to kiss her fingertips in a dramatic flourish after finishing a meal when she says, "Magnifique!"

We went to Yosemite on the Wednesday and spent two nights in the tent cabins at Camp Curry. This is where the real adventures began. The first night saw an encounter with a small mouse in the little one's portacrib. I was surprisingly calm as I flipped on the light and this little furry rodent darted around her bed like it was on speed. I even kept my cool when through my drunken haze I heard a bear clawing frantically at our bear locker, which by the way I had only previously stashed Cupcake's cheerios in five minutes earlier. My sister and I hiked to the top of Vernal Falls after everyone else whimped out in the 95 degree heat. We also celebrated anything and everything with copious amounts of food and alcohol at the Awahanee Hotel, after which my husband, sister and I drank three bottles of wine in the back of my dad's pick-up truck. Real classy.

After driving through Tioga Pass at an elevation of 10,000 ft, we made a long four hour journey up through California and Nevada before arriving at my parents' cabin in South Lake Tahoe. The showers were a welcome sight for all of us, especially my darling dirt-encrusted daughter. Dad quickly tacked up the hammock and soon we were vying for our favourite napping spots. A surprise to all of us was the 10 year old boat that my father bought on our fifth day there. He had been talking about it for years but no one every believed that day would come. Nono (spelled incorrectly for you Italian buffs) decided it was proper order to name it after his most cherished, no not yours truly, but his beloved Cupcake. Our new watercraft will proudly bear the name, Nono's girl. In fact Nono's girl was the first to drive it aside from our new captain.

Time went by quickly and before we knew it our vacation had come to an end. As I sat in the front seat of my mom's car, my hand resting on the door handle, for the first time I felt as if I didn't have the strength to get out. I thought to myself, "I can't do this anymore, I can't say goodbye to my family again." Watching my mom take a private moment to say goodbye to her sleeping granddaughter broke me. I am not a carefree twenty-something, I want my child to spend more than two weeks every 10 months with her grandparents. I want to move home.