Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Rules - Made to be Broken

Relationship Advice Books are flying off the shelves. How the Media has had a bizarre impact on modern romance.

Romance is a confusing, difficult thing for many of us. We can often feel lost, especially in the wake of a break-up. We can be left desperate for answers and explanations – why didn't it work? Why can't I find someone? Is there such thing as "the one"?

In the last few years we've seen numerous books aimed at both men and women claiming to hold these answers, selling millions of copies around the globe. Are they really beneficial, or just exploiting our vulnerabilities?

Ever since the book He's Just Not That Into You was featured on the Oprah Winfrey show, it's been topping best-seller lists worldwide. Inspired by an episode of Sex and the City and written by Liz Tuccillo and the show's former writer Greg Behrendt, this book challenges many of the myths that women create about men and dating by explaining things simply and realistically – and from a guy's perspective.

It's called a Break-up because it's Broken, also by Behrendt, attempts to help men and women come to grips with the rejection and confusion of a break-up, and to accept that it wasn't working. Writing this time from the perspective of someone who has been dumped and survived, Behrendt tackles difficult issues like the crazy out-of-character behaviour and obsessive thinking that many "dumpees" experience.

If I'm So Wonderful, Why Am I Still Single? by Susan Page provides 10 strategies which are supposedly critical to success in love. The Rules by Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider is an infamous Bible. Its followers call themselves the "Rules Girls" and are convinced of the philosophy's power. Some would say that the book is outdated, with its return to pre-feminist mind games. However, it is also considered by many to be useful and motivational. And the authors' only credentials? They're married.

Most of The Rules involve playing hard to get, and letting the man come to you – which is of course manipulative, but can give girls with low confidence a feeling of empowerment and of being in control – something that thousands would happily pay for. And they do.

The Rules reached number one on every major bestseller list, and sold over 1.4 million copies in America alone. It received tremendous media attention which quickly catapulted it to world-fame, having been featured on various TV shows and in Time, Newsweek and many others publications.

Wendy Finerman (Forrest Gump) and Paramount Pictures have optioned film rights to The Rules. Ben Affleck is currently in talks to star opposite Jennifer Aniston and Scarlett Johansson in He's Just Not That Into You the movie, which will have a number of interweaving stories about modern relationships. Both films will, of course, be box-office smashes. People lap this stuff up.

Sex and the City, Friends and other hugely popular shows like them have had more of an impact on the modern perception of romance than anyone could have imagined. Women's attitudes towards their own sexuality have dramatically changed too.

Prudishness and discreteness are looked on as stuffy and old-fashioned, and buying a Rampant Rabbit is almost like a right of passage. Outrageous new concepts like "fuckbuddies", "going on a break", "one-night stands" and "flings" have made their way into our vocabulary, and our love lives.

It's remarkable how quickly we adopted this bizarre belief system. Relationships are strictly categorised as "serious" or "casual", "exclusive" or "open". Commitment – something once sought as the final goal of any relationship – is avoided at all costs and the word alone strikes fear in the hearts of men and women alike. In today's world, being "tied down" is portrayed as the ultimate enemy to freedom, and a successful career.

These authors are making a lot of money, and little wonder so many people are turning to their books to make sense of it all – modern relationships are positively insane. There are so many specifications, rules and restrictions, and a whole new terminology to come to grips with; taking things to "the next level", being "just friends", clingy-ness, "coming on too strong", playing it "cool", leaving a minimum of three days before you call… It's certainly become a lot more complicated than the old Boy Meets Girl story.

Books, TV, magazines and even modern music are telling us how to be in control and how to gain the upper hand in relationships. Am I the only one who feels the fun has gone out of it all? Is it supposed to feel like a power struggle?

In today's world we are getting married a lot later in life, so the reality is that the relationships we have in our youth, and well into our twenties, are not likely to last – so why not have fun with them? Why obsess over the why why whys of failed relationships?

Relationships can, and should, be eye-opening opportunities to get into someone else's head, to get interested in new things and new types of people. Share with them what you're interested in, and give their stuff a go. Learn from them. Broaden your interests and your mind. And when life decides it's not working anymore, take what you've learned and move on.

The advice and explanations these books provide can be comforting – after a break-up we need all the help we can get – but all this over-analysis, over-thinking, and over-liberalisation of sexuality is warping our outlook on things. If you obsess over every little detail, how can you get any enjoyment out of your time with that person? Is he going to call? Is she looking for something serious? Is this moving too fast? It's about time we realised just how ridiculous things have gotten and how we're making everything a lot more complicated than it needs to be.

These books claim they can show you how to control the course of love, or how to control someone's attraction to you. No book can give you that power. Those urges come from our most basic animal instincts. You are bound to want people who are wrong for you, you will always feel terrible after a break up, and you will often find yourself getting swept up in it all, getting carried away, or acting crazy. And that's ok!

If Romeo and Juliet had followed the rules and obsessed about doing everything "right", theirs would have been a fairly boring story. Although, the end may not have been so tragic.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Sweet Music

I love music. Doesn't everyone? But music is a pretty touchy subject for some people.

I love Punk, Funk, Soul, Metal, Rap, R&B, Trad, Ballads, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, Noughties, Dance, Trance, Pure Cheese, Classical Genius... anything and everything.

And WHY NOT?! There's gold in every genre. Music should;
1. SAY something!
2. Make you wanna Dance or Sing!
or 3. Make you FEEL something. Up, down, good, sh!te, nostalgic, relaxed, whatever!
Outside of that what else matters!?

Music isn't a brand or a fashion statement - that band tshirt does NOT make everyone go "wow how cool he likes ____!!". It's just a fucking TSHIRT!! A person's music taste says nothing about who they are. NOTHING!

WHY do people think they'll be compatible if they have the same music taste? Rubbish! Idiots like cradle of filth, but so do perfectly nice people. My dad listens to Metallica and so do half the little pree-teens in the world. Pretentious uber-"alternative" people hate pop - so do 80 year olds.

I feel I have a healthy, varied and balanced musical diet. I HUGELY dislike music snobs.

Why rule out things you've never heard?

Why is metal "noise" to some people? It's not! Have you listened to it?!

Why is indie cool now - what's so great about a genre where the bands sound SO alike there's no telling them apart! Indie used to be short for Independent. Now it's short for mass-produced, skinny-jeans-wearing wankers.

Why are quirkiness and catchiness consiered BAD things?!

What's wrong with dance music - it's just for dancing to! Cascada never claimed to be the next bloody Chopin!

Why don't people write about things that MATTER anymore?! (Greenday aren't great but at least they're TRYING!)

Whew. I feel better now.

Monday, November 19, 2007

How dare you!!

Ouch. Never been dumped before - feel quite huffy and indignant!!!
But, I suppose, when your pride hurts more than your feelings do you KNOW it mustn't have been right.

Although, I won't lie, I'm also feeling a little deflated. Disgusting, sad, insulted, ugly, rejected - all the usual shite. But that's normal and that'll pass. I mean... he said it wasn't working, and that it was fun for a while but wouldn't go anywhere etc... which was hard to hear and quite cold. But I've thought about it and actually found I agree with everything he said.

I was never gonna fall for the guy, to put it frankly. And I'm lucky in that. Because there's no way I'd be taking this so well if I had! But it would've just bin a big waste of time, energy and money in the end.

We'd so little in common. His priorities in life were weird. A total music snob. He didn't seem to have any ambitions or passions or dreams or anything. None he told me about anyway.

Yet I thought nothing of that because he was just so perfect on paper. Sweet and cute. Perfect height for me. Funny. Thoughtful. He said and did everything he was supposed to and texted just as often as he should. But... there was just no fire!

And so, I was indignant. Yeah! Strange reaction, but it was my first one. I mean – I did everything right!!

Usually in relationships I mess up in some way, or act neurotic, or (this is why I've never been dumped before) dump him in some nutty panic (wanting to hit first and save face!)... So – usually – I'm at LEAST partially at fault when it goes down the sh!tter. But in the last year I've done a lot of reflection, taken time to myself, thinking, working on myself... And I'm not that person anymore. I got comfortable with being single. I'm very happy with who I am, and I KNOW who I am and... well... I suppose I've matured!

So, anyway, yes, I was indignant and surprised. It didn't work?! How dare you! That was flawless! I can't be faulted for this! Shouldn't the dumpee be the person most at fault?

Nah. This has helped me realise that sometimes no one is at fault. Just because someone hasn't pissed you off or screwed you over doesn't mean you should stay together – doesn't mean you FIT. You don't need to wait for an excuse to come along before you can legitimately – fairly – dump someone. (I was waiting for one!) Someone once said – a crap boyfriend's better than NO boyfriend. Bull!!!! Not having one is lovely!

If you're not happy and not right for each other it's ok to end it. Why shouldn't it be? I'm happiest when I'm single! And not just in the "wooo I can do anything I want!!" way, more like the "wooo no pressure, no obligation, no gifts, no extra stress, no 'talking', no opening up, no letting someone in, no meticulous planning, and a lot more space to be impulsive!"

So... Thanks Dec! (Even if ya DID ruin my perfect record - you prick – wish I'd gotten there first!)

Friday, November 02, 2007

An Eye-Opening Visit to Belfast

At 9:30am, on Thursday October 25th, a group of students met with Jamie Ó Tuama of the Conradh na Gaeilge outside the League’s building on Harcourt Street, Dublin 2. Picket signs and flags at the ready, they were to drive to Belfast to protest outside the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure.

This was in reaction to Minister Edwin Poots’ announcement the previous week where he stated there would be no Irish Language Act in the North, despite two public consultation processes showing an undeniable majority were in favour of its introduction.

As we entered Belfast, I noticed hundreds of small white stickers that read “GAEILGE” adorning almost every road sign. Jamie explained that this apparent vandalism is part of the ‘As Gaeilge Anois’ campaign. Run by a network of young Irish speakers between 18 and 30, it was inspired by similar campaigns in Wales, Scotland and the Basque country. It aims to draw attention to the lack of Irish translations on many road signs.

As we were passing, Jamie pointed out the site of HM Prison Maze where the hunger strikers of '81 were imprisoned. Landmarks like this one, and the radical graffiti on every corner on Falls Road, are just some of the many signs of beautiful Belfast’s turbulent past.

The Department building is situated quite centrally – right alongside the University of Ulster. Around forty protestors stood in its doorway chanting “Acht Gaeilge Anois!” and “Cearta Teanga Cearta Daonra!” Tacked to the walls were posters bearing “Mister Poots, Open Your Mind” and similar slogans.

To the delight of the primary schoolchildren, brought out by their teachers to represent Bunscoil Mhic Reachtain, a man dressed in a chicken suit arrived with a sign reading “Have Some Courage, Edwin!” Some older children had come from Meanscoil Feiriste, and couldn’t help but crack a smile as the chicken clowned around for the benefit of the cameras.

Ciarán Mac Giolla Bhéin, chairperson of the Irish language organisation, ACHT, agreed to an interview right on the scene and spoke with the conviction of a true Gaelgóir; “Both the Irish and British governments promised this Act would come in, yet Poots has now stated that he is not prepared to spend significant amounts of money on this sort of legislation.”

This promise was made last year as part of the St Andrews Agreement, an international agreement to enact Irish language legislation. It now seems this will not be fulfilled.

“In the first consultation process last year, 93% of those surveyed said they would be in favour of this legislation and of comprehensive rights-based legislation,” says Mac Giolla Bhéin. “Even though this dropped in the second process to 65% that is still a clear majority.

“You’re talking about thousands of people here! When they refuse to acknowledge these results, it’s not just the opinions of the Irish speakers they are disregarding, but everyone’s.”

Mac Giolla Bhéin insists all of Poots’ excuses can be discredited with ease. Many unionists have argued, however, that the Irish language has been politically hijacked by republicans, making it a deeply divisive issue. So is the real issue that people are nervous of bringing in any legislation to do with An Ghaeilge?

“Maybe, yes,” he says thoughtfully. “The opinion we have would be that there is much more than just a strong cultural aspect to it. The people who are against the Act are similar to those who laboured to keep the language under-foot in the past, and it was like that for hundreds of years.

“Many politicians in the North are of the opinion that they have to avoid the issue of the language. They are not happy to give any real place to An Ghaeilge and seem to endeavour to put blocks in its way – blocking Irish-medium education, the Irish-language media, and so on.

“We have to speak out, expressing our rejection of this negative attitude and our dissatisfaction with this bad work. It is sheer trickery on the part of the British government. They called for a consultation processes, then another because they wanted a different result, and also to buy themselves more time.

“This is by no means a case of Poots working on his own, the British government say that the language is a controversial issue and (the legislation) would not be accepted by both sides.”

That makes little sense. I point out that the Act merely gives people the right to have services through Irish provided to them – at their own request. Therefore what harm could it possibly do to non-Irish-speakers?

“Exactly,” beams Ciarán. “That is the way we see it and the way it is seen internationally from the point of view of human rights. If a community requests these services to be provided in a language other than English they should be entitled to that.

“Their biggest excuse, and main reason for breaking their word, is the issue of cost. But don’t they understand that an phobal na gaeilge pays taxes too? I pay taxes and I am basically paying them to ignore my requests, print more documents, and provide more of these services through English – and English alone. Personally, I don’t want my money spent in that way. It’s not at all fair.”

But will this demonstration make any real difference? “It will get peoples’ attention. It speaks clearly to the likes of Poots, saying that we find this treatment unacceptable and were distraught upon hearing the promised Act would not come about.”

“Politicians may fear it somewhat, but the consultation process further proved that many within the English-speaking community have a great respect for An Ghaeilge. Without that support we may well not have made the huge amount of progress that we have in the last few years.”

He pauses and fondly looks around as another round of “Acht Gaeilge Anois!” errupts from the small mob of activists. “Take those who are here protesting today. Some of them don’t have a word of Irish, but they can still understand that it has a great importance. They understand that its preservation is crucial, and are volunteering their time to come out here and defend it.”

The schoolteachers have begun to lead the young children away. Ciarán sighs and remarks, “We’ll keep working hard and trying again whenever we fail. Maybe, in thirty years’ time, if the Irish-speaking people of Northern Ireland are still denied their right to their language, these children might just be back here to protest again.

“The Irish-speaking community is a community that is no different to any other, and just as important. Sometimes we just need to have the courage to show people that. Nothing will ever be accomplished for An Ghaeilge without a lot of hard work and putting people under pressure.”

*class assignment*