Fiona Ness: Why I’d ban Valentines, International Women’s Day and Diversity Barbie
'Nipping at the heels of my Most Hated Day of the Year is International Women's Day on March 8.'
Call me an old romantic but I am rejoicing that Valentine's Day is over. Each year I approach the day with cold dread. Is that normal?
The card had dropped like a depth charge through the letter box. "Roses are red, violets are blue, I love your pigtails and want to marry you too". A flash of purple blazer and my secret admirer was gone. There was the briefest frisson of delight, before my dad erupted. What did I think I was doing up at that school? I was there to get an education, not to attract the attention of boys!
No matter that I was in junior infants, and had no notion of what part my pigtails had played in attracting my young suitor's ardour: I was living in an AJ Cronin novel and Valentine's Day - nay, love itself - had been sullied. For 12 years the man policed a ban on any daughter of his attracting the male gaze.
In a cruel twist of fate, I was whenceforth plagued by red, rhyme-splattered envelopes every February 14. I would skulk in the front porch waiting to shove them unread to the bottom of the outside bin.
I don't suffer the problem of suitors expressing their undying love any more. But yesterday, as I sifted through 259 junior infant class WhatsApp messages debating what red or pink clothing the five-year-old was meant to wear for the day, a feeling of unease persisted. He brought in a bashed box of pink jellies for the class SNA. A beautiful, blonde older lady, I hope she's not afraid to bring them home.
Don't forget the men on Women's Day
Nipping at the heels of my Most Hated Day of the Year is International Women's Day on March 8.
Women back-slapping other women to step up, be more, do more, achieve more… words such as 'empowering' and 'resilience' being thrown out like sweeties when really, all this woman would like to do to mark International Women's Day is take a nap. Achieving things as a woman does make you very tired.
After the nap, I'd pay silent tribute to the amount of support I've ever received in my life. Only the majority of this hasn't been from women, but from men. And instead of reeling in the PTSD of Valentine's Day, I could thank the dad who hammered home the fact that schooling came before any nonsense with boys, who railed against women's magazines, with all their misrepresentations of womanhood, who coached me through public speaking competitions and physics homework, who hammered me in mock job interviews and wouldn't let me go out at 15, "showing my midriff".
The dad who gave up his own job in his 50s to look after my sister's babies so she could go back to work. On International Women's Day, I won't forget the men.
It's not Barbie we need to put back in her box
Then, to round the day off, I might dig out my Barbie. The 1950s glamourbomb might have a raft of new career options (she's an entomologist now) and be a diversity champion (Prosthesis Barbie), but she still has a bit to go if she wants to represent real women.
For that we'll be needing Ugly Barbie, Ageing-and-Ignored Barbie, Stressed-Out Barbie and Can't-Lose-the-Baby-Weight Barbie. But where's the fun in them?
More and more I am nostalgic for the simplicity of the violet-eyed lady of my childhood, who wore sumptuous dresses and dazzled at balls and who, come to think of it, looked just like (celebrated female role model and one of 'Time's' 100 most influential people) Margot Robbie at Sunday's Baftas. And for the fact that, at the end of the day, at least I could put Barbie back in her box.