In which I go to the pictures, try to tidy my office and worry that I might not be a Proper Girl.

I’m writing this perched amongst the debris from my most recent attempt to tidy my office. My office is an important room for me. It started off, nearly ten years ago when myself and EngineerBoy persuaded a bank to buy us a house (that is how that works, isn’t it?), as our shared home office. Steadily, but decisively, the Boy has been phased out of this little bit of supposedly shared space, and the office claimed as my tiny box-sized writing room. At least it’s supposed to be a writing room. In real life, writing doesn’t earn me any actual money, and I’ve just discovered that we need actual money to give the bank so we can carry on living in the aforementioned house. Frankly, that’s a much poorer deal that I was imagining.

But the office, yes, it’s not just my writing room. It’s also the office from which I run my freelance training business and home to my folders of random business related receipts, and course notes and lesson plans on everything from Welfare Benefits law to writing a villanelle.

And it’s a mess. A proper, possibly infested, men-behaving-badly type of mess. Yesterday, in a fit of good intention, I cleared all the random paperwork off the desk and into a box, which is now sitting on the floor waiting for me to sort through the paper mountain. Somewhat dishearteningly, it’s sitting next to two full crates from the previous times I’ve done the same thing. Oooops?

messy messy office


And yes, that is a lakeland carrier on top of one of the piles. And, weirdly, it does contain cookie cutters. And no, I have no idea why it’s in my office.

All of which is a bit of a worry. I’m a girl, after all. Aren’t girls supposed to be clean and tidy beings? Sugar and spice and all that? Even this article defending the joys of raising sons concedes that they “do tend to be noisier, messier and more aggressive than girls.”

No matter. There have been plenty of chances to assert my femininity of late. For example, in the last couple of weeks I’ve been to see two of a the big film releases of December/January: The Hobbit and Les Miserables. Now these look like the sorts of films where you could expect a fairly predictable gender-split in terms of enjoyment. One of them is a searing epic of love, loss and redemption told through the medium of a fully sung-through musical, and the other one is about dwarves. Both are stupidly longer than they need to be, but apart from that, I did, as expected very much enjoy one and feel entirely “Meh” about the other.

However, the one I very much enjoyed was The Hobbit. It had wizards, and awks, and a dragon, and a range of recognisable actors with comedy stick-on hair arrangements. Really, what’s not to like?

Les Mis, on the other hand, left me underwhelmed, although I can’t quite put my finger on why. I didn’t mind the live-singing, even though that meant that it lacked the polish of most film musicals. I didn’t even mind the fact that you could see the pressure of trying to act and sing AT THE SAME TIME etched on Russell Crowe’s face. I very much minded the amount of noble dying, and I definitely minded the amount of gazing into the middle distance looking a bit wan. And at no point did I feel on the verge of weeping the copious tears that various (mainly female) friends had led me to expect.

Add to that the fact that I taught a creative writing class last night where my mere mention of Terry Pratchett (my absolute definite favourite writer) led to great excitement from the male students and absolute indifference from the women, and I’m starting to worry that I might not be a Proper Girl.

Happily that’s very obviously a stupid thought. I’m clearly a girl. I definitely have boobies, and I own more than two pairs of shoes. I like chick lit and baking and bubble baths and accessorizing, and also football and sci-fi and not tidying up. I’m girlishly pathetic about pretty much all forms of DIY, and blokeishly underwhelemed by pretty much all forms of romance. So probably it’s not me that’s weird. Probably it’s our tendency to think of some traits as masculine and some as feminine, rather than just thinking of people as individuals, that is weird. Yeah – that’s it. I’m not messy – I’m asserting my individual right to choose not to conform to gender stereotypes. Go me!

So how about you? Are you a rugby-playing make-up lover? Or a testosterone fuelled natural home maker? Talk to me people…

Author: Alison May

Writer. Creative writing teacher. Freelance trainer in the voluntary sector. Anything to avoid getting a real job... Aiming to have one of the most eclectic blogs around, because being interested in just one thing suggests a serious breakdown in curiousity.

4 thoughts on “In which I go to the pictures, try to tidy my office and worry that I might not be a Proper Girl.”

  1. Since when was tidying feminine? The tidiest people I’ve ever known have been males. It’s all definitely stereotyping. I mean, look at my love of all things crime and serial killer… I mean, of course, in purely literary terms. It’s not exactly “ladylike”,… and then, upon finding this out about me, some do look askance at my wide selection of fluffy cardigans… Now, off to find some pink fairycakes (I’m not joking).


  2. I think the girls being tidy thing is definitely a myth – lots of the tidiest people I know are men, and I know plenty of girl-slobs too. (Although I’m definitely one of the worst of those!)

    I’m not sure crime fiction is a blokey thing particularly – I’d see that as fairly gender neutral I think. Just look at crime writers. They seem to be quite mixed between men and women?

    It’s all stereotypes I agree – interesting though how/why we think of some behaviour/skills as more feminine or masculine.


    1. The crime fiction one is fascinating – as you say, there’s a fair split in genders both in writing and reading, but if you’re out on a date and you “confess” a penchant for anything so “dark”, it’s amazing how many guys change their perception, even subtly, of you. I’ve found it makes a girl more “one of the boys” than “date” material. Of course, that’s not always the case, but I’ve noticed it a surprising number of times, both in my own experience and that of other female crime fans. It’s very interesting…


  3. Heh. In the last two weeks I saw Les Mis–which I mostly enjoyed, but wanted to murder the silly girls sitting behind me, giggling and crackling sweet wrappers and shrieking whenever anyone died. I suspect they were trying to impress boys. I hope it didn’t work–and Django Unchained. I went with two male friends to see Django and was possibly the only girl in the cinema. I’d LOVE to see what those shrieking girls made of the violent explosions of blood and gleeful use of the N word every few minutes. I loved it. Bring on the sweary gore and the gory swearing!

    (K8, who quite definitely has boobies and is reading a romance novel on a Kindle in a pink case)


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