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Mia Culpa : Confessions from the Watercooler of Life - Mia Freedman

Mia Culpa

Confessions from the Watercooler of Life

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Published: 23rd February 2011
Format: ePUB
$12.99

Sometimes, when I meet someone new and I tell them I'm a writer, they ask 'What do you write about?' Tricky question. It's a lot like asking a woman who's just come home from a girl's dinner 'What did you talk about?' The short answer? EVERYTHING.

When Mia Freedman talks, people listen. Perhaps not her husband. Or her children. But other people. Women. Mia has a knack for putting into words the dilemmas, delights and dramas of women everywhere. The new rules for dating in the internet-romance age? Yep, tricky stuff. Things are not what they used to be. And sex talk at the dinner table? Appropriate or not? Perhaps not, unless in an educational capacity and even then some things are best left unsaid . . . And what about Botox, Brazilians, and boobs that are not as fabulous as they once were? With intrepid curiosity and a delicious sense of humour, Mia navigates her way through the topics - great and small - of modern life.

Mia Culpa is funny, moving and just like one long, wonderful dinner-party conversation.

With chapters such as Does My Bum Look Old in This? Life with Children, I Used to Be Cool Too, and The Sex Gap, Mia nails life as it really, really is.

Follow Mia on Twitter - here

Mia Freedman is a successful journalist, social commentator and blogger. Like many women, she juggles a busy professional life as author, full-time blogger on her website, phenomenally successful and fun website mamamia.com and chair of the National Body Image Advisory Group with the demands of family.

Mia Culpa

Introduction

I'm having two simultaneous and intense conversations in bed. One is with a close girlfriend. The other is with a woman I've never met. One woman is distressed, the other reflective. Both conversations are important. My husband is out for dinner and I'm relishing the opportunity to prop myself up on pillows, alone with my laptop, a packet of Smarties and a cup of tea.

My reflective friend has recently moved overseas and this is the only window when we're both awake and able to talk in real time, even though we're emailing. I miss her. She moved not for a job or a relationship but because she felt stuck. So six months ago, at 37, my friend impulsively decided to shake up her 'stagnant life', as she wryly described it.

Things were not going according to the unwritten plan she had in her head, a plan so ingrained in her expectations that it came as a rude shock that motherhood and a 'forever' relationship may never end up on her CV Her actual CV is stellar, and for a while work was enough but not any more. 'I know everyone here,' she explained to her loved ones. 'I've done everything in this town. It's time.' And then she put her apartment on the market, sold her furniture on eBay and rolled the dice on a ticket to London where she had a few friends and a lead on a new job.

A routine pap smear had recently sparked a conversa­tion with her doctor about fertility and on the eve of her 38th birthday she emailed to tell me that she's confronting some ugly statistics. After an initial freak-out, she's now trying to imagine what her life might look like without children in it and tentatively thinking that it might be okay. 'Or should I do the sperm bank thing?' she wonders, after taking me through some details about a disastrous date she'd been on last weekend. We discuss fertility options for a few emails and while I'm waiting for one of her replies, another email pops into my box from a name I don't instantly recognise.

Two women I know contacted me independently a few weeks ago within 24 hours of each other to ask for my advice for a friend who had just had a stillborn baby. Both women knew I'd lost a baby halfway through my second pregnancy and thought I might have some suggestions for what to do or say or send. Having experienced nothing similar themselves, they were lost. I guessed that they were asking about the same women and after linking them to a couple of articles I've published on Mamamia about pregnancy loss and still­birth, I asked for their friend's email.

I don't know exactly why. I just felt compelled to be in touch with her. Possibly because I remembered how through my fog of grief for months afterwards, it was somehow easier to talk to strangers than the people who loved me most.

That was unexpected because I've always been very close to my friends. But during those dark, dark months, the only people I wanted to talk to were those who had been through something similar. Except I couldn't find them because it was before the Internet had permeated our lives. Impulsively I'd emailed this woman a day ago and now she's replied.

It's an intensely moving exchange as I tell her things about my lost daughter, May, that I've never told anyone, not even my husband. She responds with intimate confes­sions of her own and as my other girlfriend logs off to go to work, this stranger and I continue to email for an hour, making each other smile and cry with black grief and even blacker humour. Until she isn't a stranger any more. I don't know if we'll ever meet. I hope so. But we'll be forever con­nected regardless through shared memories of the daughters we never got to take home.

 

It occurs to me that the computer has joined cocktails, coffee and cake as fundamental conduits to female conver­sations. Not that we require conduits. Put any two women within two metres of each other and you have an instant water cooler. Sometimes, when I meet someone new and I tell them I'm a writer, they ask, 'What do you write about?' Tricky question. It's a lot like asking a woman who just came home from a girls' dinner, 'What did you talk about?' The short answer? EVERYTHING.

An average conversation between two women will move seamlessly from politics to the difference between postna­tal depression and the baby blues, how you should go up a cup size when ordering bras from Victoria's Secret online to hangover cures to controlled crying to the perils of going to IKEA alone to interest rates to Facebook to managing anxi­ety to childcare to sex to Bonds tracksuit pants to Gwyneth to refugees to orange lipstick to broadband to Botox to pelvic floor exercises . . . and that just about covers the first cock­tail. Often, when I'm catching up with a girlfriend I haven't seen for a while, we joke that we need a written agenda, a PowerPoint presentation and a laser pointer to make' sure we don't miss any vital installments of information.

But blokes seem to be able to spend hours and hours talking about . . . Well, I have no idea what they talk about because they rarely seem to have retained any of it by the time they get home. When my husband comes home from a night out with his friends, the conversation usually goes something like this.

'So, was Johno there?'

'Yeah, he was actually.'

'And how's Ava?'

Blank.

'You know, Johno and Benita's baby?'

'Urn . . .' I can tell he's stalling, waiting for the right answer to fall from the sky into his head. 'Her hip. Remem­ber, she had to have it put in plaster to correct that dysplasia thing?'

'Uh, I guess she's fine. Johno didn't say anything.'

'What about Sandra? Did she end up resigning after that thing at the Christmas party? Did Phil say?'

'Ah, no . . . I don't think he mentioned it.'

'Are Parky and Joanna back together? Have Craig and Margie decided to do another round of IVF? Has Chopper come out to his boss at work? Did Spud's apartment sell at auction? That girl that Sam met on the Internet - what was her name? Shani, did that work out? Oh, and Craig's Mum - is she out of hospital?'

Blankety blank blank blank.

'Babe, you know what it's like. We just didn't talk about any of that stuff.' He shrugs.

But I can't let it go. 'What DID you talk about then? Surely in five hours you have to exchange SOME informa­tion about SOMEthing? Tell me one new thing you learned.'

Pause. Thinks. A flash of relief.

'Craig's got a new car. A Peugeot.'

'That's it?'

'That's it.'

I know a mountain of intimate details about the lives of women I barely know. I know that one of my children's teachers has a sister with depression and is sometimes bedridden for weeks. I know that the woman who runs my local coffee shop has had six miscarriages and has finally given up hope of ever becoming a biological mother. She's investigating adoption and we've discussed which countries allow single women to adopt. I know intimate details about my hairdresser's cycle and the various hits and misses she's had with different forms of contraception. I know that the husband of one of my child's school friends has a drinking problem. I know that another mother is in recovery from an eating disorder. I know that a woman who gave me a massage one time had just lost her elderly father and was fighting with her estranged brother over the will. And none of these people are even my friends. The things I know about my friends and their loved ones could fill this book twenty times over. And they know just as much about me.

Sharing information is what women do. It's how we process our lives, by presenting them to others for input, for empathy or just to hear ourselves speak them out loud. I've come to the conclusion that it's rooted in the primi­tive female need to gather. While cavemen hunted meat, cavewomen gathered salad. They also gathered information because they had lots of time to talk while sitting around sorting bush leaves and preparing roast mammoth. But hunting? That required silence. A lot like watching cricket.

As my husband observed, 'When you talk as much as women do, you need to have an enormous amount of infor­mation on hand.' That's why, when the roles are reversed and I come home after dinner with girlfriends, my husband is cautious about expressing too much interest in what was discussed. He keeps his questions broad and non-specific.

Or pretends to be asleep. Because it would take hours to download what I'd just uploaded and he wouldn't remember it by the morning anyway. It's not that he doesn't adore my friends; he just has a limited capacity to retain the details.

But it's different for me. I live for details. Connecting with my friends and diving into the minutiae bf our lives is like a mix of caffeine with a chamomile chaser. Energising and soothing. Intense and reassuring. All the anecdotes in this book are drawn from such conversations so it's probably a good time to thank them for their candour. And then run for cover . . .

ISBN: 9780670075515
ISBN-10: 0670075515
Audience: General
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Published: 25th February 2011
Dimensions (cm): 21.8 x 13.6
Weight (kg): 21.8