Poor Girl

 

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I heard yet another harrowing tale of a young woman disappearing and believed dead on the radio this morning. This time it was a twenty-two year-old backpacking in New Zealand. She was last seen going into a hotel with a man.
In this twenty-first century, you would think it would be safe for a young woman to be out alone. After all, the age of savagery is long gone, isn’t it? What a pipe-dream.
The problem is young women are brought up to believe they are equal in every way to men. I readily espouse this view, but in the area of safety I will always have reservations. It simply isn’t the case, unfortunately, that if a man can go backpacking on his own, women can do the same. It doesn’t work out this way because men are stronger than women and some men, as we have seen time and time again, will avail themselves of this advantage.

This isn’t a rant on men’s sexuality. Most men are decent. Many men are loving fathers to daughters, love their sisters and respect their mothers. I am talking about dangerous men with skewed minds, who persuade themselves that the women they target will want their advances and enjoy forced sex with them. When they go too far and go on to kill their subjects, some are even able to rationalize their actions and manage to sleep well at night afterwards.
Psychologists say the actions of rapists and killers are fuelled by the need for power. Some say they have had fraught relationships with their mothers, and there are many other explanations as to why they are a danger to women. Either way, a young woman on her own will appeal to these men as would a gazelle to a predator on the Serengeti – easy target, easily taken.

In the aftermath of this sad story I hope young women will come to realize that, even though they are as good as men, even though they can do many things as well as men, in the areas of walking out alone and travelling alone, they are on sticky ground. Unfortunately, this isn’t about to change any time soon.
Emancipation is with us yes. It’s alive and it’s real. However, true freedom hasn’t landed in our laps. If young women delude themselves into thinking that it has, they might find themselves paying a very high price for their mistake.

Move Like Jagger

 

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That’s how the song goes, doesn’t it? I remember thinking how uncomplicated it is for a well-shod person like Mr Jagger to keep fit. Uncomplicated, not so much because he’s always had the money to kit himself out with gym equipment and maybe afford a personal trainer, but because he had, and still has the time to put himself through a multitude of exercises every day.
It’s an annoying fact that our bodies start going to seed after the age of thirty. The process is insidious, but inevitable. And dammit, it’s also a fact that, as a rule, when we are in our thirties and forties, we are at our busiest. We are cutting out careers for ourselves and having children. These two things alone are enough to ensure that we are at our most exhausted in the evening, and have little inclination to go to the gym. Even if we are determined to go to exercise after work, when then have to factor in getting meals and finding somebody to look after the children.
I lived in a family with a mother who constantly battled with her weight. Her lamentations on this subject got into my psyche and I thought the same was on the cards for me. Thankfully, an actress by the name of Jane Fonda then came up with a fitness craze that eventually swept the western world. You can remain slim and fit, she said, as long as you get off your bum and do her set of aerobic exercises every day. Aside from her fitness movements, aerobics in the form of jogging and sustained swimming also became popular. Gyms opened up and now even airports have them, to ensure that long-haul travellers can factor in their wellness routines.
I chose to exercise in the morning and get it all over with for the rest of the day. When I first went to early morning swimming sessions at my local pool, it was just after the Jane Fonda craze took off. Then, only cranks got up in the morning and swam a mile before work. I ignored all that and duly swam my lengths with the mantra, keep at it or watch it all point south and turn to jelly, swishing through my synapses. Afterwards, I attended meetings with chlorine-cloudy eyes and a self-satisfied air.
Did it pay off? Yes it did. For the past thirty-eight years I’ve swam, jogged and power-walked on a treadmill. Now I’m retired and have time, I do a ballet routine every morning and can hold a developpe well above ninety degrees. Trust me, you don’t know you’re alive until you’ve held a developpe that high for at least twenty seconds!
All this has ensured that I am the same size now as I was when I was eighteen. Yet truthfully, the only thing Mick Jagger and I have in common is a determination to stay on our feet, (because we’re well past it chronologically). I’m not crowing about this achievement. Sure I give myself a pat on the back for being so single-minded about keeping fit. But when I think back to the days when it all started, and how difficult it was to get it all into my schedule, I completely understand how hard it is for the younger, movers and shakers out there to be doing the same.
Being overweight and under-fit sucks. But getting up each morning and working out before work sucks too. So, when I hear that song, Move Like Jagger, my cynical side takes over and I say, ‘Yeah, right, it was easy for him.’

Success!

 

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It was well past five pm. My stomach rumbled with hunger, but my brain told it to stop moaning because there was no chance of relief until late that evening. An emergency admission to care necessitated my staying behind until a foster placement could be found for my clients, four children under ten, who were already placed on the Child Protection Register because of neglect. I got on with the mountains of paperwork, while waiting for the Family Placement team to ring.
As time wore on, I received a call from the mother, (who was heavily intoxicated), took a call from the Duty Officer and then made a list of thing which I knew had to be done in the morning. Finally, I managed to place the children in care, and got the paperwork signed.
Thank goodness, care incidents didn’t happen all the time. Nevertheless, they did happen more than any of us would have liked. Apart from witnessing the trauma of the children and the ire of the parent(s) when this happened, it played havoc with a social worker’s diary (already overflowing), for the next week or so. Dates had to be re-arranged for the consequent court appearance and the writing of a report explaining why the care incident was necessary.
When I got home that evening, it was around nine pm. I ate some pasta, which didn’t like being nuked in the microwave and mulled the case over in my mind, while my poor husband tried to make normal conversation.
The following morning, tired and aware of the zillion things I had to do, I got a brusque telephone call from the children’s solicitor telling me that I shouldn’t have taken the children, because the mother was doing so well. That is, she was attending Alcoholics Anonymous as well as working on her parenting skills at the Family Centre. I had made an unannounced visit to the family that afternoon, I replied. I found the mother drunk and the children running amok in the house, as well as spilling out onto the street. Then, I spoke to my Line Manager, who at that time was under great pressure to reduce the number of children in care, (because of the cost to the local authority). She also voiced her concern and said we should have worked with mother a bit longer, etc, etc.
In my indignation, it seemed to me that everybody was more concerned with the cost and the legal personnel’s negativity, rather than the core of the problem. Four vulnerable children were not being supervised, and it would have remained thus until the mother sobered up. Judging by the state of her, that would have taken hours.
I almost handed in my notice that day.
But I’m glad I didn’t, because the warning shot given to the mother did the job. She worked even harder with Alcoholics Anonymous, gave up drink and finally got her children back. She even gave me a hug and thanked me for my intervention.
Such success stories do happen in child protection social work – not often, but they do. And I’m so glad I was instrument in the outcome of this one.

Too Young to See The Tarnish Behind the Glitter

 

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The other day I was watching a pageant and a little girl came on the stage. She introduced herself and engaged everybody with her smile and cuteness. As soon as she started singing, it was obvious that she was already in the throes of voice training and that a career in showbusiness was in the offing.
No problems there. What did bother me was the way she wiggled while she sang. As with her singing, it was clear that an adult had schooled her to do this, and that that person, alongside her parents, saw no problem with the behaviour. In fact, she could gyrate about, like a woman four times her age as much as she wanted, and it seemed fine by them. And, the audience couldn’t get enough of it either.
I am aware that some people might think I’m not generous of spirit enough to see how a sweet little girl wiggling cuts such an adorable image. You know, the innocence cancels out the alluring movements, so that makes everything all right, kind of thing. No it’s not all right and it never will be.
Two reasons. First, paedophiles watch the TV. They watch it a lot. They watch TV and other mediums because their whole being is condensed down to getting access to children’s images and achieving sexual gratification from them. (I’ll expand on the workings of their minds in another blog, maybe). When they see a child like this they will use their imaginations and…well let’s not go there.
Then, they will send the image on to their cronies, because these people belong to and use large, sophisticated networks.
Second, what does it do to a female child’s psyche? What does it do to learn from a tender age that, because she is female, she must look and act in a certain way in order to gain positive endorsement from people? Some might argue that it’s just the same for little boys who go on the stage. Well, maybe, but little boys aren’t plastered with make-up, dressed in frothy dresses and curled and primped, are they.
Young women are hard-wired to attract men. Fine. There is nothing wrong with that, as long as the woman approaches adulthood in a well-rounded way. That is, she needs to be confident with her sexuality, and not to view it as the main part of her. Developing her mind is much more important. Or put it this way, she needs to learn that it’s what’s inside her which ultimately fascinates a man – unless, of course, the man in question is an absolute moron.
I argue that pageants and showbusiness for tender-aged starlets needs to be approached with caution by the adults and parents involved in them. To keep their subjects’ little, tippy-toes firmly on the ground, they need to be surrounded with people who can see the pitfalls, fend them off, and set their offspring on the right road. If they don’t, these children could be in for a major shock, when they mature and get out into the adult world.

Dilemma

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When I was a social worker, I received a case where the mother of a five year-old girl kept barging into the school demanding to see the Head teacher, because, in her opinion, her child was being bullied and the school was doing nothing about it. When the visits to the school became too frequent, and when the mother took to actually interrupting the child’s lessons, the school called us.
In their opinion, the mother had a mental illness because the supposed instances of bullying simply weren’t happening. We spoke to the child alone and she was quite clear that she was being bullied. When we spoke to mother alone, however, we suspected that she was imagining the trouble and that her daughter was corroborating her story, just to please her.
The mother suffered trauma as a child and had a history of mental illness. The child’s father had left and re-married. When we spoke to him, he said his ex-wife had always had a clingy relationship with their daughter and got overly-anxious about the smallest of things.
When observing the dynamic between daughter and mother, it was clear to me that the two loved each other. I noted by the child’s body language that she was relaxed and happy with her mother.
The case went to court. There a couple of professional witnesses asserted that the mother was engaging in a form on Munchausen by proxy. This syndrome usually features a parent continually taking the child to a doctor with this or that illness, all of which prove to be a figment of his or her imagination. In this case, the mother thought her child was being harmed by other children. Different yes, but concern about the emotional harm to the child were the same.
The whole process was protracted and de-stabilising for the child. At first, she remained with her mother. However, when after school, the mother got hold of a boy, whom she perceived was being aggressive towards her daughter, and shook him, it was decided that the mother had become aggressive and that taking the daughter away from her was the safest option.
My line management felt that the child should remain apart from the mother permanently. I disagreed. While acknowledging that what the mother was doing was upsetting for the child, it was clear that the child loved her mother. Breaking the bond between them, therefore, could be even more traumatizing for her in the long term.
I argued, in my report that the mother saw the world as a hostile place, and she needed counselling, by a well-trained psychiatric professional. Although the mother still maintained that her child was being bullied, she did admit to me that she had problems and as such, was willing to work through them for the sake of getting her daughter back. She wanted to work with the Local Authority and undergo psychiatric help. This, I thought, should have gone a long way for the court to decide that the child could go home, as long as frequent social work and healthcare visits were made to the home, in the child’s interest.
In the event, the court disagreed. They granted a full Care Order on the child, who then had to remain in foster care, pending adoption.
I moved on shortly afterwards. But, I still think of it from time to time and how sad the outcome was for all concerned. I would love to know what other people think.

Distorted Reality

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When I take a break from writing, and want to give my brain a rest, I go on to YouTube and find things that help me relax. My favourites are watching ballet, anything about animals, babies and amusing things like fails and pranks.
If really tired, I’ll choose something banal, like a make-up tutorial. It was while doing this, about six years ago, that I came across a young woman, with a pleasant personality. Apart from telling us how to apply make-up, she also promoted her, then new, clothing line. Clearly, she wanted to use the internet to help make her name in this business, and doing make-up tutorials was her way of trawling people in. It worked. She is now very rich and has many followers on all social media outlets.
A woman only in her mid-thirties, who can now afford a Hermes handbag, must be a success story, you might say. Not really, I say.
You see, just isn’t happy with herself. Apart from having a nice personality, this woman also had beauty. Yet over the years, she’s had botox and fillers pumped into her face, to such a degree, she now resembles a bloated puffer-fish. I don’t say this to be unkind to her, it’s just that every time I switch to her channel, this is what I see.
When looking at the comments below her posts, many people have told her to stop doing this to herself. She doesn’t listen and has even said that she doesn’t intend to listen. Her actions, she maintains, are to ensure she doesn’t age.
But we all age, don’t we? And turning yourself into a caricature in an effort to stop this process, is rather like a shining sphere enshrouding itself in an ugly, dome-shaped casket, lest its precious light escapes.
Some might say she is vain, and being aware of her own beauty, she valued it to such a degree, she is even willing to undergo painful procedures to preserve it. Now, I don’t think being vain in necessarily a bad thing. Without a little vanity, wouldn’t we all smell bad, look unkempt and lose most of our teeth to decay?
No. The problem with this woman, I believe, is that her self-esteem was so low, the value she puts on her beauty substitutes her feeling good about herself. And now, her perception of what she sees in the mirror is distorted alongside her sense of reality.
Nobody likes getting old. Age sucks, blah, blah, blah. Yet, there are things we can do to slow it down, like taking daily exercise and protecting our skin in the sun. But, we can also take joy in life and in love. If we do that, and we get our perspectives right, we can acknowledge that youth is a transient thing, without going to devastating lengths in an attempt to stop it.
Youth is precious, yes…but healthy self-esteem is for more enduring.

Shame on Them

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This morning I heard that a group of people, of mixed ages, burnt an effigy of the Grenfell Tower. For the benefit of those who haven’t heard of this disaster, a block of high-rise flats called the Grenfell Tower burnt down in June 2017, killing 72 people and injuring 223 others.
The incident in question took place on Bonfire Night. This is when the British celebrate the capture of Guy Fawkes, who planned to blow up the Palace of Westminster, in 1605. Usually, we build bonfires, and put an effigy of Guy Fawkes at the top, set fire to that and let off fireworks at the same time.
Bonfire Night is usually a harmless, fun event. For some unfathomable reason, though, these individuals choose to use it as a vehicle to poke fun of people trapped inside a burning block of flats, some of whom lost their lives. I can’t imagine how devastated the survivors and relatives of those who died in the incident must have felt.
Imagine seeing people laughing around a bonfire poking fun at a burning effigy, (complete with drawn-in faces of people at windows), of the place where your loved one died? Imagine how those who are still suffering from post traumatic stress disorder must have felt, when seeing the depiction of this tragedy and all its ghastly consequences?
Empathy, sympathy and basic human decency, it seems to me, were nowhere to be seen that night. The fact that one of them then posted the incident up on a social media both astounded and disgusted me.
If an alien race were in the vicinity that evening, I wouldn’t be surprised if they concluded that Earth people were psychopathic in nature, with a tendency to lean towards the stupid in order to entertain themselves. They would then probably hasten back into their spacecraft, vowing never to return to our planet again. And who would blame them.