On grandparenting

About Helen Garner’s grandson, aged four.

At two in the morning, Ted, sleeping in the spare room, has a bad dream and creeps into my bed. He flings himself about diagonally for the rest of the night, cramming me into a tiny corner. God damn it, I think at 5 a.m., this is worse than being married.

From the section titled “While not writing a book” in Everywhere I Look by Helen Garner.


“In the middle of the journey of our life I found myself within a dark woods where the straight way was lost.”

Dante Alighieri – Inferno

Spring comes



The other day a reader/blogger who also follows me on Instagram noted that my photo feed has the intimacy of domestic life that used to be on my blog. It’s true. My Instagram account is locked and having that little bit more control over the audience has allowed me to feel more myself over there in recent times. If you’re a reader here and I sorta know you then you are welcome to follow me on Instagram.


Middle aged sexting

A while ago an American writer friend, Jeremy Adam Smith and I were talking about the shaming of sexting and how misrepresented the practice was in the media. He told me I should write an article about my mothers’ group sexting.. and eventually I did. (It was this article). He also decided to finally tackle the topic himself and wrote two articles on it, one, with his partner.

So, Jeremy’s articles…”Can sexting increase relationship satisfaction?” in Greater Good and “Teens need sext education” in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Of course there are buckets of mindless, consequence-free violence available to our children, in the form of video games where the only real goal is to do as much shooting, punching or murdering as possible. If slaughter is not for you, you might like to build walls in Minecraft, or collect benign, animated creatures in Pokemon Go. But what about play that provides a sophisticated metaphor for the real world, in all its complicated harshness?

I watch my son, and now also my daughter, playing D&D with their dad. My daughter, AKA Sarah Grindbone, nearly loses her life. My son, AKA Sword Slasher, has to decide whether to risk his own life to save her. It’s agonising, because this isn’t like video games, where you instantly “respawn” if you die, without weight or consequence. In D&D, if you die, you die.

It’s a game that’s set in a dark, scary place. It’s not peaceful or cute, but it is creative. It takes teamwork, imagination, and concentration. It’s a place of nuance. And yes, there are devils lurking. A lot like real life.

A lovely, layered article by my friend, Monica Dux in The Age, “Stranger Things lures a new generation into a nuanced world of Dungeons and Dragons”.

This is very supple writing from Kiese Laymon on symbolism very structural solutions with racism. It’s a wonderful use of observational diary writing (the tension in some of them!) and… football to draw you in.”How they do in Oxford” in ESPN.

Right now, I’m eating the best squash casserole I’ve eaten in my life at a restaurant called Ajax Diner. Ajax is on the Courthouse Square, the economic and cultural center in Oxford. There are lots of white folk in the restaurant, and a number of illustrations of Ray Charles and other black bluesmen on the wall. Twice I’ve heard, “We good, but we got to get a running game.”

I keep hearing the names Nkemdiche and Laremy and Laquon and Fadol.

I’m a long way from Jackson, but the taste, the smell and the rhythm of the names uttered in Ajax remind me of home. I have lived, taught and written at a college in upstate New York for the past 14 years. In those 14 years, I’ve never heard a white man say, “Collards pretty good tonight, ain’t they?”

That’s exactly what the white man at the table next to me keeps saying. I love that his color commentary is absent any linking verbs. I feel prideful that these Oxford white folk are eating our food and talking like us, even if they don’t know it.

A few black folk who work in the kitchen come out before I leave. We nod. I don’t feel as good about them eating our food anymore.

This is a really compelling discussion of aging as a feminist issue. For years a very good friend of mine has been talking about life cycle feminism – the various stages you almost inevitably pass through as a woman and how they shape your feminism – and I think this article is really establishing that idea very well.

“Aging while female is not your worst nightmare” by Lori Day (who I once co-wrote an article with, the only time I’ve ever seen a joint article plan with me actually come to fruition) in Feminist Current. 

For me, aging as a woman in America is less about injustices done to me than it is about a subtle undermining of my place within this society and a not-so-subtle disrespect that pops up more with each passing year. For example, if I condemn pornography as systemically damaging to women, it is my age that provokes my labeling as a prude and a pearl-clutcher. It cannot be that I base my opinion on studies and statistics and the understanding that feminism is a movement—one that supports the liberation of all women, not to be confused with individual women who choose to reduce their identities to the sexual uses and abuses of their bodies, calling that empowerment. My age sets me up for a kind of disdain only partially experienced by younger women with the same views. The wisdom that comes with age has little value to anyone but those possessing it, because wisdom is another word for old, and old is what no one wants to be.

I don’t know what the answer is, but I can tell you what it isn’t, at least for me. It isn’t to try to look or act younger. It isn’t to write blog posts about how hot/thin/beautiful/sexy middle-aged women are. They are, but wasting my written voice on championing shallow efforts at continued conformity to what is expected of women in a patriarchal society does not feel productive. It is an insidious capitulation. It entices women my age to trade away opportunities to weigh in on important matters for a chance to be among the “seen” again. I won’t play a game I despise, and that I did not create and cannot win.

To be an aging woman in America is to be constantly bombarded by imagery and media that distance your younger feminist sisters from you, because the idea of no longer resembling those youthful images of femininity and becoming invisible terrifies them. I look like a typical 51-year-old, and it is just bizarre realizing that my appearance is something many young women dread.