When I log onto WordPress.com, it opens on a page called Freshly Pressed, which features a selection of WordPress blogs. Sometimes I have a look at them and occasionally I find one that I enjoy (see my Blogroll). However, the other evening I was motivated for the first time to comment on another post. It was called “Lies Your English Teacher Told You” by Lisa Kusko and I thought it was brilliant. It was as if someone had given me permission to break all the pedantic grammatical rules that I had learned at school (including the one about not ending a sentence with a preposition) and write exactly as I want to.
For your information:
The alleged ban against splitting an infinitive — the word to plus a verb — is another Latin-based idea. In older forms of English, largely rooted in Latin, the infinitive was one word and therefore couldn’t be split. Once the language evolved to include two-word infinitives, writers began splitting, but some grammarians decided that the practice shouldn’t be allowed.
You’ll probably find the rule if you dig up a really old grammar book, but modern ones don’t mention it. If you want to gently split an infinitive, go for it! Your mission is to boldly go where good writers have gone before.
It got me wondering why I needed permission to break these so-called rules in the first place and I realised that, although I don’t regard myself as conventional, I do like to appear normal! Kiera once wrote a very funny school essay about our family. In it she wrote about my short-lived attempts to morph into certain characters like Mrs Brady (twin set and pearls), Muffin Mom (baking cookies and churning out muffins for lunch boxes) and Earth Mother (how I managed to put my family off chick peas and lentils for life). It was all very amusing at the time but now that I think of it, I realise that I was a square peg trying to fit myself into a round hole. If only I could’ve just been me and not a role that I was trying to play for the sake of fitting in.
I’ve always identified with people who are rule breakers or outsiders, and contradictorily I’ve envied those who are part of the “in crowd”. However I’ve learned over the years that not everything is always as it seems. Sometimes the unconventionality is a façade, that if you scratch away at the surface you find a person who has the same mundane, middle class pretensions as the next person (or their mother, as the case may be). And conversely, if you actually get to know one of the pillars of the mothers’ committee, you may just find an absolute gem of a person.
It’s all about stereotypes and being judgemental. How you look and what you do is not necessarily who you are. I remember when I was working, my mother used to lay a huge guilt trip on me for not being at home with the children. I so badly wanted to be the best mother in the world but I also wanted to make my contribution to society. Feminism, in some ways, did women a great disservice because we not only believed we could do it all, but we believed we should. That was fine if you had a personal assistant, driver, house keeper, au pair and a partner who didn’t work 24/7. I didn’t, and I spent most of my days rushing around like a headless chicken. When it became clear that Peter couldn’t give more support on the home front because of his work commitments, it made sense for me to become a stay-at-home mum. Perhaps you will understand what I mean when I say that Peter is a workaholic if I tell you this story. I went into hospital to have Alex induced. I went into labour that evening and I had a long, long uncomfortable night of it, pacing up and down the hospital corridors. I was taken into the labour ward in the morning and as I was lying on the delivery table, I heard Peter ask the doctor if this would all be over by lunchtime because he had a meeting with a funder. Suffice to say I was not amused.
When I eventually became a stay-at-home mum I didn’t get a lot of support from my female friends, who were all working women. I was told by one (who didn’t have children of her own) that I would have nothing to talk to her about if I didn’t work. I was told by another (who was a mother) that I was indulging my children. Because that is the stereotype, stay-at-home parents are boring people who have nothing to do but dote on their kids.
So, I say “Sod the in crowd and follow your own path, and don’t worry about what others think: those that matter won’t mind and those that mind don’t matter. And, if you always listen to the chicken (see Lazy Sunday Afternoon, May 2011) you just can’t go wrong.”