In Praise of Magnolia and
In Praise of PMS
In Praise of Magnolia
When I was in my twenties I painted my bedroom shocking pink. I spray painted Hey where the fuck were you when my lights went out?* and Under neon loneliness motorcycle emptiness** below a string of multicoloured fairy lights.
Twenty years later my husband and I have spent hours poring over paint charts trying to choose something pale and neutral. So what happened, have I become boring? Driving to work I flicked from a CD to Radio 4 and came across Martin Creed (Turner Prize winner in 2001 for an empty room in which the lights went on and off at 5 second intervals) being interviewed about Kazimir Malevich’s Black Square (a square of black oil paint on a white canvas)
and whether or not it is art. I am sure I have been guilty of saying dismissive things about conceptual art and certainly I have often been at a loss as to what to say at friends’ art exhibitions. But with Martin, I’m going to call him Martin from now on, a light went on (a terrible pun, I know). He refused to get into making judgements about whether or not things were art; he said it only matters if you like it or not.
He explained that the purpose of things like black squares or white squares or lights that just go on and off is that there’s nothing but your own thoughts and reactions. In this busy world it’s nice to just sit and stare at a plain canvas and see what comes into your head.
Yes! That’s it! In my twenties I needed all my stimulation outside of me. I repainted my room every year or so. I wore homemade gold dresses and leopard faux fur hats. But at forty-four, the inside of my head has a whole lot more stuff in it, and more importantly, I know my way around in there now. I long for simple clothes, because I am interesting enough.
So rather than thinking that to paint everything magnolia smacks of a lack of imagination, perhaps the opposite is true!
As with most things, there is a middle ground, and in this case the middle ground is called Hay or number 37 by Farrow and Ball. ***
In Praise of PMS
Maintaining my equilibrium was hard this week.**** My emotions skittered all over the place, my confidence wobbled, I felt anxious and panicky. But is there anything good about PMS? However challenging I find it, I do think there is something valuable there. The veil between my emotions and the world is so thin. It’s so hard to fake my feelings. And even though I do not enjoy the few days each month of feeling a sudden loss of confidence and capability, I can’t help but wonder, if I were to scratch the surface a bit more would I find that the emotional state it unleashes could actually be useful? It might need a couple of days off work though, so that instead of normal activities I could explore doing whatever it is that would be best done on those days.
On Wikipedia it gives a biological explanation, saying that the woman at this time finds her man so annoying that she breaks up with him, thereby freeing her to find someone who will get her pregnant. It also quotes a man in 1873 saying that women should stay at home due to their uncontrollable behaviours when they have PMS. A different man said that women were at the height of their powers at this time and so should be freed from mundane concerns and distractions. A woman researcher said that women need time alone when they have PMS but rarely get it. And it said that some countries give women menstrual leave. (I always admired a woman at my last job who was so open with her (male) boss about asking for a day off during her period, saying, I could come to work but I’d have to sit on a black plastic bin bag and I think the patients might think it was weird. Enough information, he said, but gave her the day off).
I think I could take something from all the Wikipedia theories and opinions. So, PMS shines a light on everything that irritates, from the trivial to the important. It shows us what is not in harmony with our temperament and needs, what is bad for our soul. Of course some things will be minor that on reflection we decide to live with. Sometimes it might show us what we need to change: I suddenly fell out of love with work, suddenly couldn’t stand the late hours and the drive and the lack of support. I calmly decided to look for another job. And sometimes, all we need is some time alone, if only to eat a family size bar of Dairy Milk Fruit and Nut and watch romantic comedies, and contemplate how wonderful we are.
**Manic Street Preachers
***I know, but I probably won’t do it again for another ten years
****But I still prayed five times every day. I still felt creative, connected and insightful. I still got stuff done (my proudest achievement- I took off, washed, dried and put back on the sofa and sofa cushion covers, a feat akin to climbing Mount Kilimanjaro).