Sunday, June 03, 2012

The generational line

Over a dinner of Middle Eastern chicken and couscous, my eighteen year old daughter told me she wants to be a farmer.

‘I know what you’ll say.  Finish you arts degree first’, she said.  ‘But I want to be a farmer.’

Something subterranean rumbled inside of me.  A farmer.  Muddy gumboots and smelly sheep.  What could she be thinking?  But I went along with it, as you do.  Not so far as to say, fine, do whatever you want.  No.  I took the generational line.  Why not?  Your father’s father was a farmer. 

‘Great model he was,’ my daughter said. ‘He turned into a hopeless alcoholic.’

It’s your fault. You steered me in the direction of literature and history,’ she went on.
 ‘When I have children I’m going to encourage them to do other things, like sport.  To have bodies, not just brains.’  Her words rankled. 

Like most children, my daughter can see through her mother, can see through the gaps and holes there, can glean the prejudice.

I scraped the left over chicken onto a plate ready for the dog, and wondered yet again, why I should worry so.

If my daughter wants to be a farmer, let her go.  She’ll find out soon enough what it’s all about.

There are days like these when all I want to do is run off and hide.  Hide in my computer and talk to my blog friends, pontificate on the nature of life, get involved in discussions with bloggers like Jennifer Wilson of No place for sheep. 

Jennifer’s been arguing about moral rights campaigner Melinda Reist Tankard’s take on pornography.  Tankard objects to an American women’s football team coming to Australia to play football in their lingerie, in case there might be ‘accidental nudity’.  In case some part of their bodies in the rough and tumble of the game might show and men watching the performance would get excited.

There’s something here about the forbidden.  A woman’s ankle exposed in Victorian times and all hearts were aflutter.  Freud wrote about it as repression. 

And then there's my secret skepticism at my daughter’s fantasy of becoming a farmer jammed against my curiosity about this less than earth shattering discussion on footballers in their underwear. 

The computer light blinks at me, the email ping sounds and I flash over to my Face Book page. 

I am a woman of her time, with a blog and a Face Book profile.  My daughter reckons it’s a sign of eccentricity.   Who else’s mother keeps a blog. 

I offer suggestions, but the blogs I mention are purposeful blogs, cooking, gardening, sport, not like mine, which wanders into unsafe territories – in a safe sort of way.

And here I am writing about women who play football in their underwear, a touch of ‘accidental nudity’ and too much is revealed.


erin said...

i think we all need to get into our skivvies and play contact sports, with our minds in tow. i think we all need to get right and dirty like farmers in the field. i think we all need to admit we have bodies and that these bodies will die, that we will be hungry at times and very uncomfortable. i think naked is a good thing. i think your daughter's onto something. if she fails, she'll be even closer to truth.


The Unknowngnome said...

Your writing excites me! :D

Windsmoke. said...

Women wrestle in their underwear so what's the big deal about women playing football in their underwear i see no difference at all. Hard yakka that farming business and plenty of suicides to go along with it when all goes belly up for one reason or another :-).

Rob-bear said...

You worry about your daughter and her decisions because you're a mother, and mothers are supposed to worry about their children. (Fathers worry too, but I think in different ways.)

Farming is a tough life, with not much money in it. An easy way to go broke. To loose everything. To respond to that loss by becoming a hopeless alcoholics.

I feel a certain kinship with Erin, about being grounded and in touch with our bodies. To know with gut certainty what is going on. Which is good.

Lingerie football is for people who don't know enough about football, particularly how damaging it can be to the body when played without really good protective equipment. My senses is that those footballers play at it rather than play it, and do so for a reason which is not entirely honest. I wonder how grounded they are.

There is a commercial up here about internet, in which a surprised young woman learns here father is on Facebook. It's the thing that isn't supposed to happen, in some peoples' minds. My children both know I am on Facebook (though I don't check it every day, or even every week). I've received strict instructions from my daughter not to comment on her page, or her friends' pages. Sigh.

I hope your daughter finishes her degree. Our world needs more people with training in the humanities — the subjects which help keep us human. And if she wants to be a farmer, then, well. . . .

Blessings and Bear hugs.

Glenn Ingersoll said...

I wonder what my mother dreamt I would one day grow up to do, you know, when she was holding her baby or chasing his toddling ass down the hall.

River said...

I see nothing wrong with giving farming a go, as long as she has other options to fall back on if things don't work out.
But playing football in lingerie? Imagine ruining your best lacy knickers and bra set with rips and mud and possibly blood from scrapes and banged noses, not to mention how little bodily protection a teddy would give.

diane b said...

An interesting post . I like your honesty and writing. Been there and done that.....when it comes to the generation incompatibility when my daughter was a teenager. Even with an Arts degree she ran away with the circus much to our alarm but what can you do? Just hope they grow up and be sensible.Continue to love them and have faith in them. It happened in the end when she became a production manager at the Sydney Opera house. Now that she is a mother, she has apologised for causing concern during her teenage years and she is the most loving, caring and adorable daughter.

Andrew said...

To be a farmer requires capital. Has your daughter thought about that? Or perhaps she meant working on a farm, which is a position of a low paid labourer.

I quite like blogs that wander into unsafe territories.

persiflage said...

I hope the football underwear is good tough stuff and not flimsy see-through synthetics. Methinks they protest too much, and the results sound absolutely stupid. Pointless gesturing, in my view.

Jim Murdoch said...

When my daughter came to stay with me she wanted to be an actress—she was almost 18 at the time—and so I wrote her a play, a dramatic monologue actually, and I think the sight of all those words on the page put her off; we never heard about it again. I’m not sure how I would have felt had she wanted to be a farmer or even a gardener given my own feelings towards horticulture. At the time she was supposed to be going to college but that never lasted. That did disappoint me since I’ve always regretted not going to university, getting in with a bunch or writers and finding my true calling when I had the stamina to do something about it. But I was supportive and soon after she got a job in the Civil Service and she’s been there ever since. It’s a boring job but secure and she’ll have a tidy pension. Idiot that I am I cashed mine in when I left. Then one day she told me she was going to take an Open University degree in Psychology. I was supportive—that’s what dad’s are supposed to be—and, in a few months she’ll have that very degree. She’s not expecting a 1st—a bit too much to ask for since she’s been working full time—but a 2nd would be good. The question then will be: Is she going to pack in her secure job and head off to the private sector or look for a shift within the Civil Service? That is the good thing about her job but how many jobs are there likely to be in the near future for 32-year-olds wanting to start afresh? I hope something works out for her. I’m quite good at not meddling in my daughter’s life or even showing disapproval not that she ever gives me much cause for concern. All the available evidence points to her being content with her life with occasional flashes of actual happiness. The only thing I have in common with her husband is that he also sports a beard. He’s a nice enough guy but I struggle to talk to him; Carrie has no such problems. He likes motor bikes, the outdoors and mechanical things, also he’s not much of a reader. Since my daughter is so much like me I just don’t get it. But it’s her that’s got to live with him and not me.

I read the article on accidental nudity. It didn’t get me hot under the collar. Times have changed. Fashions have certainly changed and I’m not so sure it’s such a bad thing. Prohibition never works. As soon as you tell anyone they can’t do something—be it drink alcohol, wear short skirts or eat the fruit from a certain tree—they want to do it. I grew up around modest women who dressed accordingly. All that did was stoke the fires of my curiosity. Curiosity is natural, so is sexuality and so is nudity. I remember the furore when the Page 3 girls appeared in 1970 but that died down soon enough. The thing about Page 3 was that sex was never really the thing. Naked does not necessarily equal erotic, is can be just beautiful; naked men and women have appeared in art for hundreds of years. What does Melinda Tankard Reist think is going to happen if there’s a wardrobe malfunction and one of the girls reveals a little more than she intended? Queues at the loos? Or are the men going to vault the railing enflamed with passion and ravish anything wearing a skirt? Be realistic.

Men look and women do stuff to ensure they look; they like to be looked at. Why would a woman take part in a performance like that if she didn’t like to be looked at? I doubt any actual leering goes on. It’s like all that fuss about Janet Jackson’s breast at the Super Bowl. It’s a breast for God’s sake! There are about seven billion of them on the planet. They’re kinda hard not to notice. Most of us will have suckled on one or at least been encouraged to. If one flops out when you’re dancing pop it back in and laugh about it. Context is everything. This needs to get put into perspective. I’m reminded of the film Birdy. When his pal Al tries to explain the unearthly delights of the female breast to Birdy, he responds, “What’s the big deal, they’re just overgrown mammary glands… just like on a cow but in a more stupid place.”

R.H. said...

Playing sport in their undies seems a desperate way to get male spectators?
How come Jim's comments are always huge? And why is he holding a can of Draino? If I knew the answer to all this maybe you'd hand me a rich widow.

Yvonne Osborne said...

Personally, I like blogs that wander into unsafe territory. I like farming, but it is a lot of work and takes a lot of endurance and smarts. Everyone has a farmer in their ancestral line, but most can't connect.

MedicatedMoo said...

The 'farming' idea could be being raised because she's a bit tired of reading, essay writing, lectures etc. Idle thoughts to express a bit of frustration when the reality of farming hasn't even been considered. I figure too that if she's really keen on farming, then she can start with your garden - get a productive vege and herb patch going - including all the weeding required and then see if farming is her thing!

And bloggers that reveal too much - should I raise my hand also?

Lingerie football. I think I'm more sad than outraged about the patheticness of it all. Is 'patheticness' a word?

ellen abbott said...

Well, one thing is, you can't live your children's lives for them. You can guide or advise but you cannot make their choices for them. That never works, no one is happy, not with their lives and not with each other. My niece is trying to control her 15 year old daughter's life choices. Abby wants to do X, her mother wants her to do Y or Z. Fine, her mother says, but I will only pay for your college for Y or Z. If you want to do X you have to pay for it yourself. Of course, Abby has plenty of time to decided what she really wants to do. It may end up being W but the point is, what she is hearing from her mother is, 'I will only love you if you do what I want you to do'.

When we see women all but naked in the skimpiest of bathing suits, when lingerie often covers more skin than bikinis it makes me wonder why we find underwear so shocking. And why is seeing a little boob flash so unsettling? And what about all those hunky men running around, sweating and grunting, showing off their bodies? No one seems to be concerned about us ladies being titillated.

Art Durkee said...

The ancient Greeks did all their sports in the nude, so lingerie actually seems a bit much, even a bit silly. :) I'm all for nudity in sports, but then, I'm all for nudity most of the time. Shocking? I suppose it depends on what one gets used to.

Of course, one can blame the Victorians for many, many cultural eccentricities that we are still dealing with in their wake, and sexual repression is very high on that list. This is a repression common to post-Victorian English-speaking countries, in contrast to say, France, or Holland, where they're a lot more relaxed about nudity, too. I find it interesting how Australia can sometimes be more uptight even then the US or Canada. One wonders if that's part of the convict history, or because so many in Oz arrived from Britain's lower classes rather than upper. One can theorize, but who knows.

Speaking as someone who apparently has become an elder, since handsome young men now hold the door open for me, rather than me holding the door open for my own elders, I think it's just part of the cycle of time. No one is more certain of what they want to do, and about life in general, than the young; uncertainty and indeterminacy are more common among the older. The flip side of that youthful certainty is the need for many to make their own mistakes, and learn from their mistakes, all the while ignoring what they could have learned from what their parents learned from their own mistakes.

Also part of the cycle: People need to discover things for themselves. Part of my apparent elder status is that I have ceased offering advice or intervention except when asked; I let people screw up as much as they want to, and then when they come complaining to me, I just gently remind them that such lessons have always been learned anew every generation, and sometimes I even allow myself the occasional "I told you so," depending on the occasion and mood.

Lally said...

I was raising her little brother on my own and had been for years when my daughter joined us at around eleven or twelve. I was a big city poet/writer and musician/actor etc. who ha always made my living in the arts somehow, and often poorly, not even able to give her busfare for school some days. We were in NYC at the time but moved to Santa Monica CA when she was in high school where as her form of rebellion against her leftie/hippie/beatnik/etc. father she became a cheerleader and preferred Stephen King novels and horror movies to the avant-garde and what I found more thought provoking and inspiring stuff. In college she ended up getting a degree in painting and singing and then went on to sing mostly in church and paint rarely and for herself and her family and friends. She married a country boy who wanted to farm and they did some of that for a few years until they grew tired of the work involved and when the goat and horse and etc. passed they didn't replace them. She's in her forties now and combines the best of a lot of what she experienced with her mother before her mother passed and from me and all the years I raised her and her brother and of the many other influences in her life and of her own invention and just threw me a fantastic 70th birthday party out in the country where she lives with her husband and daughter across from a farm field and where her daughter at nine paints and sings and etc. Life mostly takes care of itself I think, if we let it.

R.H. said...

Lally, Santa Monica is marvellous. So is your comment.

Juliet said...

It seems to be a universal law that our children want to be different from us. I couldn't believe it when my son finally did an English literature degree and then a drama diploma, for these were the very things he pushed away and rejected (because his parents did them).
My guess is that being a farmer is not a gumboots and mud vision at all, but more a business model that is being applied to the land - if your daughter is of her time.

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

I think I am happy that my girls had their own ideas of what they wanted to be. In fact they changed many times and will continue to. They must evolve with the times that they are to live in. We did. We blog!

rhymeswithplague said...

Couscous I know, but what in the world is Middle Eastern chicken?

Elisabeth said...

You'e so right, erin and you put it beautifully, too. We learn from our mistakes, but if we don't try and face up to challenges we never grow.

All up it's a good thing to take the plunge and be human, to use our bodies, minds and ingenuity as best we can.

Thanks, erin.

Elisabeth said...

Thanks for the compliment, Unknowngnome.

Elisabeth said...

You're right, Windsmoke, women's wrestling has been around for some time now, but it happens indoors. perhaps it's the outdoor aspect of the football that adds to the moral indignation. And yes, farming can be an unforgiving profession, especially given the vagaries of land and climate.

Thanks, Windsmoke.

Elisabeth said...

I'm on Face book too Rob-bear, but my husband is not. He is concerned about privacy issues but he leaves me free to deal with my privacy as I see fit. My daughters have all befriended me on FB but none of us go overboard. FB a great medium for occasional contact, especially for folks over seas or at a distance but it can't replace real connections. To me if you use it well it's an enhancement to relationships.

I'm confident my daughter will finish her degree, but who knows where she'll wind up. The future is a glorious open book, despite my worrying.

Thanks, Rob-bear.

Kirk said...

Given how easy it is to view the naked or near-naked female body in the times in which we live, I'm not only surprised that lingerie football is controversial but that it's even that popular (incidentally, has anyone from the other end of the spectrum, i.e. feminists, complained about it?) Perhaps BECAUSE female nudity is so readily availiable, so commonplace, that it now rewuires the novel twist of football to sell it. When the actor David Carradine died from auto-aphyxiation a couple years ago, I thought, well, being a celebrity, he probably had a lot more access to sex, with a lot more different partners, that the average person, and that's what it took to get him excited in the end. Don't know how I went from lingerie football to auto-aphyxiation. The slippery slope, I guess.

Without ever having met her, I would guess your daughter doesn't really want to be a farmer. But she does clearly resent you having pushed her into the arts, or else why would she continue to provoke an argument ("it's all your fault for...") once you said you were OK with her being a farmer? As for myself, I would have LOVED if my parents had pushed me in that direction. They didn't exactly push me away, but I don't think they, or my teachers ever saw my interest in comics and TV sitcoms as an interest in "the arts" Neither did I for that matter, but when your a kid growing up in a pop culture-saturated society, any latent interest you have in the arts can be easily sidetracked in that direction.

Phoenix said...

I think most mothers instinctively want their children to have easy lives; and I don't think there's a single nation on this planet that provides an easy life for its farmers. Your daughter will probably change her mind 15 more times before she settles on something; and then another 6 times after that.

I would think that for practical reasons alone that a full contact sport played in lingerie would not be advisable; I wouldn't want to see men do that either. I suppose in the end it's more about freedom of expression than it is about what actually makes the best sport.

I think this world would be a much better place if we were less concerned about what others do (parents excepted).

Elisabeth said...

Mothers have their dreams, Glenn. I wonder whether yours ever imagined her son would have such a rich imagination as yours. That would have taken some imagining.

Thanks, Glenn.

Elisabeth said...

Underwear is to football as paper is to scissors, River - vulnerable. It would be different if the footballing women wore industrial strength underwear, the sort you sometimes see in sports shops but that would defeat the point of it I imagine which has far more to do with titillation than with sport.

Thanks, River.

Elisabeth said...

Fancy your daughter running off to join a circus, Dianne. It sounds charming as you say but in theory only.

I imagine such a life might be no easier than life as a farmer. But from what you write here your daughter has entered the next phase and now perhaps it's her turn to worry about the children and what they dream of becoming.

Thanks, Dianne.

Elisabeth said...

I'm sorry to have given you two ns in your name Diane, when only one will do.

Elisabeth said...

Capital! Andrew, now that certainly hasn't entered the equation. At least not yet. And were my daughter to have sufficient capital to buy a farm she might have deeper thoughts about what she does with her money. Still we all can dream can't we.

It reminds of that wonderful game we play: what I'd do if I won Tatts Lotto.

Thanks, Andrew.

Elisabeth said...

Football in underwear, as I said earlier, Persiflage cannot be about the game itself. It has to be a statement of some other. And it's not clear what that statement is meant to be, but we can guess.

Thanks, Persiflage.

Elisabeth said...

I remember, Jim, when my mother had remarried and chosen a man I'd never have chosen for myself , I considered her choice a betrayal of her own tastes as well as mine. Throughout my childhood my mother had berated Australian men as boorish and lacking in culture and education - a racist generalisation no doubt but perhaps understandable in a migrant struggling to grow accustomed to a new way of life in a foreign land.

Then one day, lo and behold within less than a year after my father's death, my mother is engaged to an Australian man, who was different from my father in most ways apart from a certain tendency towards aggression.

I struggled then to come to terms with our differences in taste, just as she had needed to struggle years earlier with my decision to marry a man who was not to her taste. We are all so different, as you say . Sometimes our dearest friends befriend people whom we would never befriend.

As for prohibition, I agree with you, Jim. It's not worth the effort. Prohibition flames desire, gives rise to black markets and perpetuates the fantasies of the self righteous about how the world should be. None of which is conducive to growth.

Thanks, Jim.

Elisabeth said...

I didn't realise you were looking for a rich widow, RH?

I can't speak for Jim, but I imagine he enjoys a blog conversation.

How these things link to women playing sport in their undies is anyone's guess, but to me that's how conversations work. One person's thoughts evoke associations in another's that then link to other associations and so on down the line.

You'll have to get conversational practice if you want to land that 'rich widow'.

Elisabeth said...

Going back into our universal ancestry, Yvonne, you're right, we all have a farmer way-back-when, and some more recently than others.

As for unsafe territory, I suspect we all tend to enjoy brief excursions there, as long as there are readily available ways of getting back into safe territory unscathed.

Thanks, Yvonne.

Elisabeth said...

I think the word you're looking for might be 'pathos' Kath, but that has a kindly ring and I suspect you're trying to throw an insult in the direction of the women in underwear football games, in which case you might prefer the adjective, 'pathetic'. It has a pitiful and hopeless ring to it.

I agree it's sad and hopeless, the way the world is at times: cheap thrills, but not something to turn into thought police about.

Like most forays into degradation of either gender, women in underwear football will probably be short-lived.

That's a good idea, Kath, to encourage my daughter out into the garden. She would not be averse to it I suspect as long as other pleasures- socialising and the like - don't get in the way.

Thanks, Kath.

Elisabeth said...

Ellen, I agree with you about the message we give to our children if we insist they follow our dreams and not their own.

They are not here to fulfill our dreams or thwarted ambitions. They have their own lives to lead.

I agree, too, about the fact that no one batts an eyelid at the less than well clad men on the sports field these days. But the sportsmen play first and foremost for the sport, while the women in their underwear are presumably there for reasons that go beyond sport.

If the women were solely concerned to play a good game of football I imagine they'd dress better for the occasion.

Thanks, Ellen.

R.H. said...

My conversations with women are pretty sharp. Like: "Hey, that's a big pair of headlights you got there, mind putting 'em on low beam?" ha ha ha, suave or what?
Well listen, I know blokes who've turned women into widows just to marry them. In other cases it's been inadvertant. But I'm betting you know lots of widows not short of a quid.

Eh? Eh? Come on now, don't be prim, ha ha ha.

Estate Agents and Pimps Association.

Elisabeth said...

I'm wary of 'I told you so', Art, but I agree with you about letting people make their own mistakes to some extent, but funny I'm not so keen when it comes to my own kids.

My parents were/are Dutch, Art. My father had more liberal ideas about nudity that were at variance with my mother's extreme prudishness. The two therefore clashed. I know that Holland is reputed to be ahead of its time, though my parents were perhaps more conservative, and did/do not reflect that.

Its quaint to think of you as an elder. I think of elders as folks in Protestant religions or indigenous seniors but I take it here you mean someone over fifty years. That seems to be the age at which we all become elders, though not necessarily wise.

Thanks, Art.

Elisabeth said...

You put it beautifully, Lally : The cycle of life. You and your daughter. All those contrasts and in the end the cycle begins again with the next generation - on the land, in the words, in the painting and art.

It's also lovely to see you here again. I'm afraid I've been remiss myself in visiting far afield. I have been snowed under with work, life and writing, but I'll be back again at your blog soon.

Thanks for this most thoughtful and poignant comment, Lally.

Elisabeth said...

I agree, Juliet, my view of farming as described here in this post is limited. There's more to farming than meets the eye.

I'm glad your son had the courage to study and explore the things he wanted, despite the fact that his parents might have wanted them, too.

Often times we want the same things as our children. It's just the translation/perspective/variety that needs tweaking.

Thanks, Juliet.

Elisabeth said...

That seems to be the way of it, Heidi: many changes over a career and life span in contrast to the old style of sticking with a career for life.

Thanks, Heidi/Kleinstemotte.

Elisabeth said...

To me Middle Eastern chicken, Rhymes with plague is a version - my version - of Moroccan chicken, namely chicken spiced with Middle Eastern spices.

Elisabeth said...

Th slippery slope, Kirk, from lingerie-clad women playing football to auto-asphyxiation points to notion that there is a degree of sexual thrill seeking that can escalate from the harmless to the positively lethal.

I reckon if your parents show some interest in your choice of career, it's a help. It'd be harder to have parents who simply do not care, but too much caring or pressure can be equally unhelpful. I suspect we'd be agreed on that.

Thanks, Kirk.

Elisabeth said...

Freedom of expression seems to me to be a good way of describing this football in lingerie idea, Tracy. If only we could stop judging and yet how appalling the world might be if we never passed judgement on anything.

As for my daughter, I'm inclined to agree: she may change her chosen career many times over and then one day hopefully she'll find something that makes sense, at least for long enough to gain some mastery over it.

Thanks, Tracy.

Elisabeth said...

Sorry Robert. I can't help here. I know of no rich widows apart from virtual ones.

Dave King said...

An exciting and a fascinating post. We're going through something of the same with our younger grandchild at the moment. He wants to give up his job to go into the marines. He particularly wants to get to Afghanistan before we pull out. Naturally there are those of us in the family who really would rather that he didn't. And his girlfriend, of course. Problem: how to change his mind whilst remaining supportive?

Elisabeth said...

That's a difficult one Dave. If my grandsons one day announced they wanted to go off to war, I'd be horrified, especially given how many of their forebears have died or suffered horribly because of it, war that is. But your grandson presumably sees it all differently. Hopefully with love and help he might change his mind.

Thanks, Dave.

R.H. said...

That's okay, thanks for your trouble.

How about divorcees?

Elisabeth said...

the only divorcees I know, Robert, are not wealthy.

R.H. said...

Yeah? Okay. I don't believe you.