Giving Quarter: Finding Life

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Hello everybody,

I find it generally a good rule to follow in life to get to every party one possibly can. Just think who you might meet.

Some might say a Crisis is not the best reason to throw a party – others, that it's the only one. If I say myself that it is always better to throw a party than not (one does like to be a good hostess), you'll probably see which side of this metaphysicalroom I stock my champagne

I have already met some delighthful guests at the Quarterlife party, many of whom have pointed out in their wise and wonderful ways (given the champagne I'm relieved that I am writing this rather than saying it….) that Numbers really don't have the last word on what it means to be alive.

I did not knowmyself until quite recently that the Quarter Life could be termed a Crisis, and I was very grateful for the knowledge indeed,as I may otherwise have missed it altogether. In the midst of so many Crises -the Global Recession, The Cuckoo Clock (hang on – that doesn't sound quite right – the Fertility Clock? the Knicker Bock? Oh no – got it – the Biological Clock. Yes, on side now, definitely), Romney vs. Obama, the Career vs. Marriage Crisis and other pressing issues as set out by television and the media – one does like to feel that one is staying on top of ones Crises, and panicking in good order.

A fellow guest at the party has written with warmth and humour about Bridget Jones. Oh Bridget – the only girl on the silver screen ever to be sprung from jail (let us remind ourselves that she WAS innocent. It was her friend Jude's holiday umm…squeeze…who slipped the funny, white powder into Bridge's bag) and throw a leaving -do. For that reason alone, not to mention the fact that she trained her fellow inmates to deliver a choral rendition of "Like a Virgin," it's impossible not to love her.

However, you say Bridget – I say Ally. Fellow guests,let me re-introduce you toAlly McBeal. The girl who to my bemused mind, had all the ingredients of a fantasy life at her fingertips, and yet mysteriously seemed to be forging a career path for herself in Unhappiness and Frustration. Mark you, these capital letters are not written in anger but in sorrow.

Was she pretty? Yes, indeed. Hmmm – was she thin? EVER so very (scarily thin, and hurray for Adele who is letting teenagers know that size zero isn’t a necessity at all, at all). Did she go to a top school? For sure – Ivy League, but of course. Did she have a well paid job that kept her in designer heels (ok, so she may be blurring into our Carrie from you-know-what just a bit here) and definitely would not have had her laughed out of high school reunions….. yes, yes and yes.

What then, you ask perplexed (and if not you, then definitely me) – was the cause of her constant unhappiness?

Waving my summer cocktail expansively in the air, let me tell you what I think.

The one thing I took into my twenties, and which judging from the excellent conversations I have been privy to at this party others did also – was an almost limitless ability to be unhappy. I had absolutely no sense of proportion. This was partly an effect of the fact that I had so little to compare my experiences with, and partly an effect of the fact that I grew up in a virulently emotional culture. Indian, in fact. (And yes, I know that I am wildly overgeneralising here as to be Indian is to belong to not one, but a composite mass of cultures). Ally had been spared my genes, but nonetheless she was in her twenties and superbly capable – like the rest of us – of absorbing, extending and building upon pain until it was (almost) her signature life dimension.

The second thing –the second thing – ah, you may well ask.

Before I tell you what I think, let me explain that I wholly exclude Divine Caroline from what I want to say about that prophet of our times, the Media. Caroline the Divine has invited us all into our own virtual shared space, and as such she is taking us into the next generation of public consciousness. We no longer READ the news – we WRITE the news, we ARE the news.

Come forth fellow guests, and take up your pens and I-pads. Write back to the people who’ve been writing US for generations, and tell ‘em what it’s really all about.

WHY was Ally McBeal unhappy? Why, because she didn’t have her childhood sweetheart Billy. Not only did she not have Billy, she didn’t have any kind of a sweetheart at all – at least not one that was a factor for more than about ten episodes, as far as I can remember. And she had the Baby dream – being pursued from the loo in her legal offices (where community singing amongst other things took place), to court case, to her incredibly roomy flat in upmarket Boston – by the imaginary infant she imagined she would never have.

Despite her filmstar good looks (albeit she WAS a filmstar), and her professional achievements, Ally was haunted by that whispered taunt that still pursues her flesh-and-blood counterparts and has historically tormented kind, beautiful and talented women who deserved better through the centuries –sss-s-ss-SSSpinster!!!

You may be rich (or at least not dodging through back alleys at the sight of your bank manager), you may have worked enormously hard to come an enormous way. You may be so beautiful that men sometimes forget to breathe when they look at you. It matters not. If you have somehow dared to carve out a life for yourself – one that doesn’t depend on the other halfness of a male other half, and thus at least hold the prospect of motherhood – you’ll still have to deal with the boos and hisses the media will throw your way.

Ally I think, was one such Boo and Hiss. She was the media’s warning sign that even bright and talented and professionally successful women, could never be happy all on their ownsome. Every so often there’s a new such Icon of Doom. Jennifer Aniston – a highly successful, extremely wealthy and hugely attractive lady if ever I saw one– was an ongoing focus of media attention in the wake of her divorce from Brad Pitt for something like ten years, solely because of her – gasp,SINGLENESS . Cameron Diaz and Kylie Minogue have attracted similar flak, though rather less (which has boded well for their peace of mind, I’m sure. As for the lady Jennifer, she has my undying respect for her ability to keep her sanity and dignity intact, in the firing line).

In my twenties, I fell for this line -as trusting as a baby seal out on the ice blocks of Antarctica.

In my thirties I have only this to say. Come to the party – bring your friends, and (if you can convince them) bring your enemies too. You may be able to cross the border between hate and love – and if you can’t, just stand ‘em in the corner with a drink and leave them to their own devices.

Keep the past with you but don’t let it slow you down. Spend time everyday bringing yourself into the present (the tense we of the human race have the greatest difficulty with, I find) – look to the future with a smile on your face and meet it halfway with a Pimm’s in your hand (British summer cocktail in which pink gin gets itself mixed up with ice and strawberries).

Salut and enjoy the party,




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