You Can Go Your Own Way- Learning To Say No


Has anyone else been watching Kathy Burke's Channel 4 documentary series All Woman? If not, why not? I would highly recommend you give it a try! Her commentary on what it means to be a woman in 2019, along with her no bars held attitude not only gives you some serious food for thought but leaves you asking the question, "why can't I be more like Kathy?". She's down to earth, insightful and straight down the line without being abrasive or judgemental and although the the topics discussed aren't necessarily groundbreaking, her honest approach is refreshing. In the most recent episode she explores the ideology behind motherhood in modern day society and I've got to admit a lot of what she had to say struck a gigantic cord with me. Since heading into my early thirties I've noticed a real shift in how people see me and what is expected. At the risk of sounding slightly dramatic, it's genuinely shocked me to learn that these preconceived ideas of what a woman SHOULD do and at what age still exists (maybe I was naive to think otherwise)! I've wanted to broach this little niggle of mine on my blog for a while now and in light of Kathy Burke's latest episode (or in a bid to make good on my wish to be more like her) I've finally decided to pen down my thoughts on what exactly my late twenties/early thirties has meant to me so far and why apparently I'm completely off-roading from the path that has seemingly already been planned out for me.

First things first I want to start by explaining that turning thirty has made very little change in my day to day life. I tick a different box every now and then sure, but aside from this it has made absolutely no real difference and let's be honest, how many forms am I really filling in on a regular basis? Thirty just hasn't been something I've felt the need to worry about, in fact quite the opposite. For me it's a wonderful milestone in your life where you kinda start getting your shit together. At thirty you start to grasp a real understanding of who you are and what you want. I'd like to think thirty is the age I've truly mastered the art of saying "no". As awful as it sounds learning to say no without it being followed by an apology, consolation or excuse is really quite liberating. I'm no longer concerned with appeasing every person I'm in contact with and that's not to say I've suddenly become rude or obnoxious but I've just learned that running around the houses avoiding "no" in the hope you still come out smelling like roses is a waste of time. If there's something I don't agree with or I don't want to do, I'm perfectly happy to say "no, thank you" without scrutinising over my likability afterwards. As women we're constantly taught in one way or another that "no" as an answer is something to be apologetic for. No means you're difficult, you're a bitch or you're cold- it's a small word which lies very heavy and I just find the whole thing a little tedious. In short- no, I don't want to apologise.

And it's not just about declining an invite or learning to disagree with someone's opinion, my stance on "no" applies to the big stuff too. Since my late twenties started I suddenly found that babies and marriage became a hot topic of conversation. I have a boyfriend, we recently bought a house and I've just turned thirty- three factors in my life which some how, combined together gives people a free pass to ask about my non existent plans to get pregnant anytime soon. Ok so it's not a endless stream of questions being thrown at me admittedly but it doesn't have to be,  a lot of the time it feels very much unspoken. The phrase "your biological clock is ticking" is one women are all too familiar with whether it's said out loud or not, effectively we're a pressure cooker come baby maker with a guarantee which is due to expire any day now. A few months back I had a routine appointment with my doctor, scanning through my notes she commented on my decision to have my contraceptive implant taken out of my arm. Without asking me why first (three months of sporadic heavy bleeding FYI which ended with a slight blow to my dignity and one ruined white summer dress on a bus in Rome), she praised me on my decision because "it's sensible to start thinking about pregnancy soon"... The question of wanting a baby had just been completely skipped and instead it was just assumed. Don't get me wrong maybe one day I do want children and marriage at some stage would be nice, but right now fresh into my thirties it's just not on my trajectory, no explanation necessary.
Kathy Burke put it so perfectly when she said that in 2019 there is still a lot of "boxing in" and it's true. It's been instilled into us that we can have it all but this seems to have limitations, labels and strict guidelines! You've either got the entire package; job, husband, baby and house or you've just not made it yet. Worst of all we're made to feel like we should be lucky to have the two choices of "everything or nothing at all". Excuse me for possibly thinking that the term "having it all" is completely subjective from person to person and luck doesn't come into it. I've worked hard, I'm happy with my life right now and at this moment in time babies just aren't on the cards. Moreover if babies are never on the cards than this will STILL be ok and I will STILL have it all from where I'm standing. The term "Having it all" is no longer empowering but slightly debilitating and a little patronising, used as an excuse to pile yet more pressure on to women with a checklist of things we're "supposed" to have (least we forget that biological clock, apparently still ticking all the while). We may often feel as women there's a set tick list of goals we should be achieving and within a certain time limit, it's not realistic nor does it speak for every single woman out there and with that in mind I think I'd just prefer to take my own detour. I'm now unapologetically ok with saying no thank you to the labels we're often given and a big no thank you to the fictious clock that's ticking... I'm more than happy to do things in my own time and in my own way because having it all to me means having the option.

Sophia x

Photography by Rosie Butcher

2 comments:

  1. Hey, I found your post interesting. I am 28 and am due to have a baby in October. Although it was a little surpise and wasn’t planned I defiantly felt the forced pressure to start thinking about it. However I actually now feeling the “have it all” pressure of having a job. I got made redundant last year and have been free lancing and have felt increased pressure about the effects on my career having a baby will do. I feel like I’m this day and age women are expected to “have it all” but it’s more damaging than good maybe we could just have the choice of what we want rather than an increased pressure to be top of our game career wise and be amazing mothers.

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