Friday, March 2, 2012

Barren in Books: Caitlin Moran's How to be a Woman, the quiz

Available on Amazon July 17, 2012.
On now
One of the funniest books I read last year was Caitlin Moran's How to be a Woman. I liked it long before I got to the whole chapter toward the end on Why You Shouldn't Have Children. (Caitlin Moran does have kids, and the previous chapter is called Why You Should Have Kids.) Part of the former chapter goes like this:

“If you want to know what's in motherhood for you, as a woman, then - in truth - it's nothing you couldn't get from, say, reading the 100 greatest books in human history; learning a foreign language well enough to argue in it; climbing hills; loving recklessly; sitting quietly, alone, in the dawn; drinking whisky with revolutionaries; learning to do close-hand magic; swimming in a river in winter; growing foxgloves, peas and roses; calling your mum; singing while you walk; being polite; and always, always helping strangers. No one has ever claimed for a moment that childless men have missed out on a vital aspect of their existence, and were the poorer, and crippled by it.”

Being hopelessly, pathetically competitive, I used this as a quiz to find out how much I, a childless woman, know about motherhood.  Here's how I did:

1. 100 greatest books in human history. Wikipedia has such a list and, as I feared, Proust was on it.  I may not ever read the 100 greatest, but I do read a lot so I still give myself 2 out of 3.

2. Learning a foreign language well enough to argue in it. Massive fail. After four years of Latin, several attempts at French, two years each of Spanish and Italian, and an aborted semester of Mandarin, I only know how to order food and curse in three languages, including English. Va fanculo.

3. Climbing hills. 3 out of 3. I lived in the Cotswolds for two years (wold means hill for any non-Brits reading this).  Before that it was Notting Hill adjacent -- which I think counts -- and now it's Beacon Hill.

4. Loving recklessly. 3 out of 3. Have you met my husband? There are other adverbs I can think of, but recklessly will do.

5. Sitting quietly, alone, in the dawn. 2 out of 3. I did a lot 5:00AM zazen back in my Los Angeles days, admittedly with other people.

6. Drinking whisky with revolutionaries. 2 out of 3 because I once drank whisky with some gay friends to celebrate Burns night. As they are gay and members of the conservative party I figure that metaphorically speaking they could be considered revolutionaries.

7. Learning to do close-hand magic. 2 out of 3. Not sure what close-hand magic is, but I did used to put on magic shows when I was little, forcing my older sister to dress up in an old ballet costume and be my assistant.

8. Swimming in a river in winter. 3 out of 3 because I think swimming in the Pacific in any season counts.

9. Growing foxgloves, peas, and roses. 1 out of 3. I tried roses once. They didn't work out so well.

10. Calling your mum. 3 out of 3. I even let her text me.

11. Singing while you walk. 1 out of 3, but not for lack of trying. Husband always shuts me up when I do, something about being tone deaf...

12. Being polite. 2 out of 3. Inadequate customer service people always bring out the worst in me.

13. Always, always helping strangers. 1 out of 3. Must try harder.

If this was a Cosmo quiz I think my score of 64% would have been accompanied by a description that went something like this: thank fuck you didn't breed.

The bottom line here is I don't know what I'm missing by not being a mother.  But the important thing is Ms. Moran isn't saying I need to do any of this to be a real woman. It's just a set of helpful guidelines in case I am ever curious. I was curious enough to take the quiz, but that is the limit of my endeavors; her prescribed motherhood-equivalency-degree sounds awfully hard.

C'mon admit it, you took the quiz too. How'd you do? (Remember, I warned you I was hopelessly, pathetically competitive.)

Other Barren in Books posts:
On Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love and Committed
On Jonathan Franzen's Freedom

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