Tag Archives: PSAs

Seriously, do I have to say this? Vote YES

I’m pretty sure I’m preaching to the converted here. I mean, given the demographic of people I know on social media, I’d say it’s highly unlikely that anyone out there reading this is an Irish person who’s going to vote no in the upcoming referendum.

But you never know. Maybe I need to say it, just in case. Just in case some way I put some words together can make a change somewhere out there. Ripples, ripples.

This Friday, Ireland is voting on same-sex marriage. Ireland, the country where the concept of church-state separation is vague at best, where divorce has only existed since 1996, and where gay sex wasn’t legalised until 1993. We’ve come a long way in a short space of time, but we can do more. We owe it to generations past, and those to come. We owe it to vulnerable teenagers out there right now.

Here are a few points I’d like to make to anyone who might think they have reasons to vote no:

If you think it’s irrelevant to you because you don’t know any gay people, I’m 99.9% sure you’re wrong about that. And even if you’re not, why not just do it anyway, for the sake of happiness? Spread a little love around.

If you think it will lead to gay people getting married in the Catholic church, no, it won’t. It has nothing to do with the Catholic Church’s rules, which stay the way they are. It just means that gay people can be married in the eyes of the law in Ireland. Sure, why not?

If you think it will somehow affect your own marriage, just think about that logically for a second. It won’t make your marriage any less valid. It won’t make anyone have to marry anyone else, gay or not. I’m sure you know that, right?

If you think it will lead to the breakup of the family, I can see that the No campaign has been at you. Children need people who love them. And gay people can already have children and adopt children: this referendum has no bearing on that. This argument is In Valid.

If you think marriage just isn’t that, and that gay people have civil partnerships and that should be enough for them, think again. Marriage may have been defined as between a man and a woman in the past, but we need to move on now that we as a society understand more about real people. We understand that being gay is not a “cool” life choice, it’s not a rebellion, it’s not (god help us) a perversion or an abomination. If you thought you didn’t know any gay people, that’s because it’s something they always felt they had to deny, or at least ignore, in your presence. In society’s presence. Because they felt they were somehow, through no fault of their own, second-class citizens.

So tell them they’re not. Tell them that they get to stand up and shout to the rafters that they love this person and they’re going to marry them, just as loudly as you did (or maybe you whispered it to the stars instead, but you weren’t ashamed of it), because they’re people who get to love and be loved in the light of day.

Their mammies get to buy a hat for the big day out. Don’t deny the mammies that.



50 Shades of Judgement

I’m going to do something risky here. I’m going to have opinions on a book I haven’t read and a film I’m not going to see, which is primarily concerned with stuff I’m not into. But bear with me because there’s a point I really want to make.

I honestly will not judge anyone for reading 50 Shades of Grey. Just for curiosity value, for titillation, for fun, whatever. It’s nice to read good writing, but if you’re enjoying whatever it is, hey, it’s just words on a page. I’m not going to claim it’s all Nabokov and Joyce on my bookshelf.

Same goes for seeing the movie. I don’t care if you go to see it. I like seeing attractive people doing sexy stuff as much as the next girl. Or boy.

But here’s the thing. It’s such a mass event now that a lot of people are going to be reading about or seeing things that they haven’t really ever considered before. Suddenly everyone’s talking about BDSM without even knowing, quite possibly, exactly what that stands for. Did you know that it’s an amalgam standing for all of “bondage and dominance, sado-masochism, and dominance and submission”? I didn’t know that either, till about two days ago.

There’s another reason why people in Ireland may suddenly have become more familiar than they ever wanted to be with these terms, and I want to tell my American readers about it because the timing is ironic. While teddybears with handcuffs are being advertised all over my Facebook page, there’s a court case going on in Dublin involving the murder of a vulnerable woman (allegedly!) by a man who (seemingly!) has admitted (in text messages that have not, I suppose, yet been proven categorically to come from him) that his major turn-on would be stabbing a woman during sex. Whatever the exact details, and I don’t want to be sued and I’m not a lawyer, it’s pretty clear that this woman was looking for love in all the wrong places.

Here’s the thing, though. We’ve known for a long time that Ana’s relationship with Christian is not healthy. But the flip side is that the real BDSM community is going to suffer from all this ignorance. Now, people who didn’t even know what it was before are under the impression that BDSM is all about cruelty, exploitation, intimidation, and unhealthy relationships. Again, not something I know a lot about from personal experience, but from what I’ve read this is exactly what BDSM is not supposed to be. It’s about ultimate trust and respect, on both sides. It’s about being comfortable with your sexuality, whatever that may be. It’s about give and take.

BDSM is not about abuse. 50 Shades is about abuse. Sometimes people get the wrong idea and then often something terrible happens. Please don’t let the way 50 Shades is suddenly all mainstream lead to spreading the wrong idea even further.

That’s really all I wanted you to take home from this. Thanks for reading.

World Meningitis Day

April 24th is World Meningitis Day, and I promised to help out a little by putting a few words and links here.

One reason I’m glad my children are rarely very sick, and that I always get a little antsy any time one of them does spike a fever, is that the spectre of meningitis is always there. I don’t even have any close personal experience with it, thankfully, but for some reason I’ve never forgotten the advice about rolling a glass over a rash to see if the spots disappear, and whenever anyone looks like they might have a stiff neck, my hackles rise just a tiny bit.

Maybe I watched too many episodes of ER in my young adulthood, or too many episodes of House in my young parenthood, but these things stuck in my mind. On the other hand, maybe it was knowledge picked up from awareness campaigns like this one, aiming to make parents remember that this horrible, sudden-striking, disease has not gone away.

In Ireland and the UK, the most vulnerable group of people are babies and young children. In the US, the main at-risk group is teenagers, and a vaccine is recommended for all 11-18 year olds. (My pediatrician’s office gives it at 11, with a booster later on.) But even the vaccine does not protect against all forms of meningitis.

No matter where you are in the world, it does no harm to be aware of the symptoms for all age groups, because catching this early can literally mean the difference between life and death.

Symptoms of bacterial meningitis and septicaemia 

  • Fever
  • Very sleepy
  • Confusion
  • Seizures 
  • Non-blanching rash (doesn’t disappear under pressure)  
  • Vomiting  
  • Severe headache  
  • Painfully stiff neck 
  • Sensitivity to light 
Not all the symptoms may be present, and yes, a lot of this might look like the flu, but if you’re worried, please do listen to your spidey-sense and bring your baby or child (or teen) to the emergency room. This really is something that can escalate very quickly.

Ireland has the highest incidence of meningococcal disease (the main cause of bacterial meningitis) in Europe, with over twice the average disease rate. Irish children are currently not protected against all types of meningitis, so it’s important that parents keep watching for the signs and symptoms. 

You can find resources here from the Meningitis Research Foundation (UK) 
Some more information for the United States is here.

 And this is a video for the “Keep Watching Ireland” campaign. 

You can find links to other Irish bloggers participating in this important one-day blog march at the MeetMums site.

Mind, body, baby

Your head is connected to your body.

This is something that apparently didn’t occur to me when I had my first baby. I decided to try believing it for my second, and it turned out to be true. Stop the presses.

To be fair, we’re not used to thinking about things this way. When you fall off your bike and scrape your knee as a child, you can’t stop the bleeding with the power of your mind. When you slice into the top of your thumb cutting a bagel, no matter how hard you concentrate you’re still going to need a band-aid. And because we’re conditioned to think of giving birth as a medical situation – because, you know, it happens in hospital, attended by doctors – we assume that we can’t just think the baby out either.

Okay, so you can’t actually, necessarily, think the baby out. There are a lot of factors you have no control over in the great rollercoaster ride of giving birth, but there are also elements where your mind has more influence than you might understand. It’s just that birth has become so medicalized, so much treated as an illness – a great hurdle with which a woman’s body cannot cope unless aided by drugs, interventions, surgeons perhaps – that the fact that you do actually have some influence over your own body is often forgotten.

Worse than that, even, I had the vague impression that anyone who told me my mind could help me give birth was in league with the hippies. You know, the hippies. The crazy women who want to paint their feelings and eat placenta paté and wear their hair in a centre parting and probably give birth naked.

Well, I’m a civilised modern woman and there’s no reason not to use the drugs that the good Lord got the doctors to invent for us and I’ll certainly be keeping my clothes respectably on when I give bir…. oh.

You have to take your clothes off to have a baby. At least, the ones you’re most used to keeping on. You may as well divest yourself of all your other preconceptions, while you’re at it. Giving birth, as I have mentioned before, is an elemental, visceral, down deep and dirty business, and you have to get in touch with your inner cavewoman.*

Your inner cavewoman is a hippie. Of course.

So remember what the hippies say, and believe it with all your heart, because it’s true:

  • A woman’s body is designed to give birth. If this was not the case, the human race would never have made it this far.
  • Once labour has started, your state of mind has an effect on your cervix. It really does. 
  • Visualization and verbal affirmations do make a difference. Because your mind is connected to the rest of your body, and just as I can tell my fingers to type these words, I can control what’s happening inside. The problem is simply that we’re not used to telling our cervix what to do, and we can’t see the results in front of us, so we suspect that it’s all just crazy touchy-feely claptrap.

If you’re pregnant, read Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth. Disregard the 80’s-esque photos and let the words sink in. Read the birth stories and remember that these are real stories of real women who simply chose to believe in their own bodies. Look into something like Birthing from Within or HypnoBirthing or (if you’re in Ireland) GentleBirth. They are not as kooky as you might think. In fact, they might not be kooky at all.

Read happy birth stories and stop watching all those TV shows where women give birth lying on their backs strapped to monitors in hospital beds, screaming in agony and finally, probably, being wheeled off for an emergency c-section.

Giving birth for the first time is a totally alien experience for most of us in the modern world, where birth tends to be hidden away from all but those immediately involved. It’s scary and weird and like nothing you’ve ever experienced before: a new human is about to burst forth from your nether regions, after all. Hire a doula, if you possibly can. No matter how well prepared you are, having someone who knows what’s going on – with your body, with the environment, with the medical professionals – who’s there solely for your benefit, is like having a GPS where previously you had only a candle.

 Trust your body. It’s trying to bring this baby into the world. Work with it, not against it.

Baby Dash, just born or thereabouts

PS: No, I’m not contemplating another birth of my own. A friend had a baby and it made me think, again, that’s all.

PPS: Of course, you can do all these things and believe in your body and be the biggest hippie on the block and still need intervention, and then isn’t it wonderful that modern medicine exists for just these times? I’m not advocating that you run off to the backwoods to have your baby beyond ken of mortal midwife, because that’s not terribly sensible. I’m just airing some thoughts and discoveries that I wish someone had stuffed down my own gullet the first time I was pregnant.

* I don’t think I came up with the inner cavewoman thing, but I can’t remember where I read it. If you know, and especially if it was you, please tell me and I’ll put in an appropriate link.

Pretty cool

Dash is still pushing the envelope with his sister, and she’s still yanking his chain:

– I love you a million. But I love mummy and daddy and friend-across-the-road giant.
– So do you love me giant?
– No.
– Tell me the truth.
– I love you seven. That’s the truth.
– But do you love me infinity? I love you infinity.


Somehow, a dichotomy has been established in our house between cool and pretty. Cool things are boy things and pretty things are girl things. Every time I hear some variation on this being trotted out, I tell them “cool can be pretty” and “pretty can be cool” and “nothing is just for boys or just for girls” and I hope some day it makes it through and out the other side by osmosis because at the moment they are rigid in their definitions.


And I want to tell my daughter something:

Pretty is fine, but you don’t need to be pretty*.

I want you to be strong, I want you to be heard. I want you to stand up for yourself and for others. Polite is good, consideration is vital; but I want you to above all keep yourself safe and sane, which means demanding the respect that is due to you and no less, as a member of the human race and as a woman.

  • First, use common sense. You’re smart. Act smart.
  • Second, listen to your gut. Follow your spidey sense, never discredit a “feeling”.
  • Third, it’s never too late to make a change for the better.

Pretty is fine, and good is nice, but strong is beautiful. Be strong, my beautiful daughter, and you will rule the world.

*Inspired by this blog post I happened upon recently, which quotes (but doesn’t really attribute) a famous thing Diana Vreeland once said. And I have no idea who she was, but she seems cool.

Today’s Public Service Announcement

Here’s a new topic.

What do you think of if I say “transgender”? Drag queens in dodgy dives and Pride parades? The big reveal in The Crying Game? (Oops. Sorry.) Middlesex, if you’ve read it? Now what if I say “transgender child”? Ross from Friends wearing a dress and throwing a tea party? Maybe the stupid captions that the trashy magazines throw at Shiloh Jolie-Pitt from time to time when they’ve run out of pregnancy rumours for Jennifer Aniston? (Angelina was pregnant with Shiloh when I was expecting Dash. And Gwen Stefani with Kingston, and Jennifer Garner was just ahead by a month or two with Violet. That’s a link that can never be broken, the celebrity-pregnancy-sister link.) (Wait, is Jennifer Aniston actually pregnant now? I can’t keep up.)

Transgenderedness (I don’t know if that’s a real word, but I bet it is) is not something that affects my children or anyone I know right now, but it came up recently and was so interesting that I feel like I need to spread the educational word. What follows is my own very lightly educated opinion. If I’ve got something wrong, please let me know. I aim to enlighten.

Our society, for whatever reason, has decided to lump transgender in a box with gay, lesbian, and bisexual. But transgender – in children, at least – is not about sex, it’s about gender.

Sex is a biological fact; gender is the boy/girl identity, and everything that goes with it, that people assume, usually at a very young age. For most of us the two things mesh and we go about our lives thinking gender just is another word for sex and blithely misusing it all over the place in an effort to save granny’s blushes. (You are finding out the sex of the baby, not its gender, no matter how much more polite you might think that sounds.) To put transgender in simple terms, I think it’s possible to say that a person’s body grew one way, but their brain is wired for the other.

Transgender is also not about sexual preference. This is the Very Important Thing to remember. This is why it is perfectly possible for a child to be officially diagnosed as transgender when they are as young as four years old. They are not deciding that they find boys, or girls, or both, sexually attractive. They are telling the world that they are a boy or a girl, no matter what the world tells them they should be, based on their physical appearance.

These children face a huge struggle in their lives ahead. If they are lucky, their parents will listen and take their feelings to heart, and read good books and consult trustworthy experts, and let the child identify as they wish to. They might make it through elementary school unnoticed and unquestioned in their “new” identity. But when adolescence hits, they’ll have to make some huge decisions about hormone treatments and eventual possible surgery, and their lives will always be marked by their difference.

And those are the lucky ones, in today’s society where we understand that such a thing is possible. The unlucky ones walk a much sadder, lonelier road.

That’s my PSA for today, so that in the unlikely event that this issue comes your way, you might face it with a tiny bit more education, insight, and compassion than otherwise.