Melodramatic and Abstract

The first batch of responses to the poetry I submitted for publication are back from three magazines. It was one outright rejection with no explanation, one being “considered” for the October issue, and the last one was a “no” on the grounds that my poetry is “too melodramatic and abstract”.

Me?

He wanted to know if I wrote poems about more mundane subjects because that’s the kind of poetry he likes. He thought I had a “way with language” so was publishable if I weren’t quite so off my trolley. I suppose he means about daffodils, or cleaning the toilet.

What’s the difference between a dead marriage and a divorce?

A curious week. I’ve been ill and off work, leaving me too much damn time to contemplate and unmotivated to post here until feeling better.

My last post a week ago discussed my new resolution to remain single for the foreseeable. A couple of days after that, I had a remarkably vivid dream which basically was the story of a divorce. Curiously, the woman in the dream bore no resemblance to either of my ex-wives, nor anyone I have ever met. I woke with a deep sadness that I had lost something.

I strongly suspect that my new attitude and the dream are not unconnected, and this has triggered all manner of thoughts.

I have two young children from my second marriage. They stay with me one weekend every fortnight, I continue to contribute financially and am involved with their lives in other broader ways.

Question: What would happen if their mother got run over by a bus? On a personal level, I would not register an emotional flicker, no more than if I read of a death of a stranger in an obituary column. I no longer feel anything, there. However, there would be huge practical implications. Ultimately, the lives of my children would be diminished. Their standard of living would drop. They would have to deal with the death of their mother. My own quality of life would fall too.

Day to day, it’s also still important that she doesn’t self-destruct, keeps on doing her part of the child-rearing of course. The quid pro quo, that it is relevant to her that I stay alive and contributing in various ways, is also true.

In other words, even though we have no emotional connection any more, until our children are independent it remains true that our continuing mutual well-being is of vital importance to each of us. Significant ill-health, other negative life events or in the worst case, death, of either of us would have a bigger impact on the other than such events happening to other people. In practical terms, she remains the most significant person in my life, when you consider the impact her absence would have on me and on my children. Once you have kids, this doesn’t change until they are grown up.

And yet, this person who retains such practical significance, I have no personal investment in any more. I barely see or speak to her these days.

Most of us know of “dead” marriages where a couple stays together “for the kids”. Stripped of emotion, all that is left is the mundane and practical inter-dependence. The thing is, divorce doesn’t really change very much about that, or not if the parent with whom the children do not live continues to contribute to their upbringing and support. My answer to my question in the title is “not a fat lot”. You just don’t live together any more, and both of you are worse off financially. That’s about it. In reality, I’m still in a dead marriage, and the corpse still hangs around, even if we have a different word for it.

I have an extraordinarily low opinion of divorcees who abandon their parental responsibilities. It’s unforgivable. However, I understand why they do it. On forms, it moves the “tick” from the divorced box to the single box. It stops them having any continuing practical significance to their ex-spouse, and for them avoids the conflict of the emotional and the pragmatic. I can see how that is much, much easier, especially if they have a mind to hook up with a new partner (or already have done so). Because the alternative, what I do, is harder. I’m not complaining about that, and won’t change it – just making the observation. Yes, the bottom line is the welfare of your children, but all I am doing there is picking the most important thing and choosing to ignore the other conflicting issues. It is a fool that tries to argue that there is no conflict to ignore.

Love After Love

My most recent screen-dump of thoughts brought to mind this poem by
Derek Walcott. Sums up my mood, I think.

Love After Love

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

I can’t even be bothered to blog about dating, it seems

I firmly believe that sometimes you can learn as much from what people don’t say, as what they do.

I have a few choice theories about why dating in your forties is such a shit-storm, and perhaps when I started this blog I imagined I might pontificate on the subject. I find that I have not, in the main, and am curious why that is.

I think it’s because I just can’t be arsed. I’m bored with the whole subject. Currently I am, for the first time in my life, thoroughly happy to be single and have no desire to actively do anything to change┬áthat, nor even be open to any possibilities that might cross my path.

Partly, this may be down to the disastrous, brief, relationship I had at the start of this year which culminated in my abandonment in the middle of a Welsh field with no convenient means of getting back home (this was far from the whole story, but it sums it up). It has made me seriously question the sanity of the whole endeavour.

This may not be entirely rational. Like the stock market, previous performance is not a reliable indicator of investment returns in the future. Whatever. I’m just not interested any more, and have plenty of other things going on that engage and delight me in equal measure. I’d rather focus on them. I’m also in the process of a number of other rationalisations, centred on the idea that my concern for what other people think has pretty much dive-bombed to zero.

People that have known me a while may be raising their eyebrows at this novelty. I have not actually been single as such for any period exceeding 6 months in the last 24 years. We shall see how this pans out.

If it weren’t for internet quizzes, I would not know a thing

Today I saw some guy’s comment in response to an internet quiz result posted on Facebook. He said he had started it himself, but the first question had three multiple choice answers which, gosh, were all leading and none of which were appropriate, so he abandoned it as futile right then and there.

Oh. You mean they are not highly scientific assessments of my personality and values? Damn. Until now I had always undertaken at least three of these in a strictly controlled test environment before making significant life choices, just to make sure I knew my own mind. You can’t be too careful.

And when I say “strictly controlled” I mean I only used my left hand to eat my coco pops.

Click-Bait

A couple of weeks ago The Observer ran a column by Barbara Ellen. The content was facile and completely lacking in self-awareness or maturity but crucially the headline included the phrase:

“Men are Stupid”

It struck me that it comes to something when the supposed vanguard of the liberal free-thinking press prints that, but to understand it requires a recognition of the fact that these days a substantial amount of consumption of newspaper feed is done online where the content is available “free”. It’s not really free of course. It is paid for by the advertising that you get subjected to. And the revenue stream for them relies on people clicking. So, “Men are Stupid” is just click-bait and…

Click-click-click-click-click-click-clickity-click

It has always been the case that catchy/provocative headlines have been used to sell newspapers, but I do wonder if the internet has made it worse. Bombarded with more free news than you can shake a stick at, the attempt to catch your eye seems to be going into overdrive, and once reasonable broadsheets seem to be going down the tabloid road ever further. It is also the case that advertising becomes the driver.

I once worked for WHSmith Travel, the company that runs their outlets in train stations, airports and motorway service stations. The financial reality for that business is that high rental costs meant that the profit from simply selling “stuff” was negligible. The bottom line was driven by advertising. Publishers will pay an extraordinary amount of money to have “Magazine of the Week” posters plastered in high profile locations across the country and an army of checkout staff asking every customer “Would you like a copy of X for a quid?”. In effect, those shops are naught but glorified advertising billboards.

I wonder about cereals. Do they pay Disney and their ilk for the right to include syndicated free gifts in the hope it will shift more boxes of food, or are Kellogg’s getting paid for the benefit of placing adverts on people’s breakfast tables? I don’t know the answer, but I strongly suspect it is the latter, the pre-eminence of the perceived value of advertising.

All this *might* be changing. The new adblocker inherent in Apple’s iOS9 is predicted to slash online advertising Revenue. It is estimated that Google’s revenue is already 10% lower as a result of people using independent adblocker software, but that Apple’s move is going to be catastrophic for them. It might seriously affect the availability of free news content on the internet. Time will tell.

Even here, I don’t pay to run this blog. I guess readers may see adverts, over which I have no control. Effectively it pays for me to be able to do this for free. Such arrangements may go – I may have to start paying to blog, rather than it being an optional thing to do if I want more whizzy features.

I have been linking my blog posts to Facebook. WordPress tells me how many times a given post is read as a result of a “click-thru” from FB, so I know what is popular and what is not, or at least amongst my FB contacts. By far the biggest responses have been to “Fuck It” (profanity) and “I Forgot to mention…” (the prospect of me nearly getting my face smacked). In contrast, “Kim Addonizio” caused barely a ripple. The content was the same sort of thing, comparable quality (even if I say so myself) but the headline was not a “hook”. It was dull. What’s a boy supposed to do?

I doubt this will be widely read. I should perhaps have called this post “The Secret Sex Life of Space Badgers”. If, as I predict, this does not get read much, that will be my title for tomorrow and it will simply refer people back to this post. Yes, you’re all guinea pigs, and I’m terrible.

Advertisers and online news providers defend themselves by saying they can’t help it if consumers are primarily interested only in the bizarre and lurid. That it’s all, ultimately, your fault.