The other night I watched Kathrine Ryan’s Glitter Room netflix special. It was the first genuinely funny, uplifting, and witty take on single parenting I’ve come across so far. It didn’t help with the wave of anxiety that has taken over this week (you see, I get thrown off balance when I’m lied to in a deliberately hurtful way but I’m told this is my problem as trust is not, and is not meant to be, a shared value – a position I find quite hard to come to terms with), but I did get a real kick out of it.
I am pretty sure Kathrine Ryan made more sensible choices around who would be fathering her child, so she might be in a less precarious mental condition than myself, but the social critique applies across the board. Apparently this single parenting business is one of those conversation topics you just DON’T bring up in everyday conversation. If you do, you get some bizarre responses as if you had suddenly proclaimed you had herpes at the school gate. It’s a conversation killer. It makes people uncomfortable. So you avoid mentioning it and keep pretending you’re just fine, ‘busy’. I’m not sure which word I detest more vehemently in English, whether ‘nice’ or ‘busy’ – two ways of describing anything and everything and saying absolutely nothing.
The thing is, I’m not sure where we get this idea we should never make people uncomfortable. Or that discomfort is a bad thing in itself. Ok, extreme discomfort is probably always undesirable but some discomfort has taught me a great deal on so many occasions. I stand in front of students and explain how questioning knowledge and reality will make them uncomfortable and that’s to be expected, and a positive sign that they’re engaging with the subject and learning something they might not put their finger on right now but still something valuable that will come in handy. Then I put my work ID in my bag and I go about life making sure I don’t tell anyone how, actually, this social system hinders social networks and support for struggling humans -including single parents- because they might not know what to say and never speak to me again.
What happened to “shit, mate, I have no idea what that is like, but what sort of thing can we think of together to make days more manageable?”
Think about it. This doesn’t just apply to single parenting. It is true for most difficult situations humans find themselves in. Single parenting, abuse, mental distress, financial difficulties, gender diversity, disability, neurodiversity. You name it. We don’t talk about it. Ok, maybe we wave a flag of one kind or other on twitter. But we don’t really talk about it. And it sucks. Because THIS is what social isolation is. It’s not about somebody spending all day locked inside the house getting miserable, waiting for some random social service to be delivered to their door or for a stranger to walk them to the local community group. Not talking about the things that are difficult and challenging and a little overwhelming is what social isolation is. And by ‘talking’ I don’t mean we need to have an academic discussion about single parenting or mental illness -although, by all means, go ahead if you’re into that, it’s all good- but a simple (verbal or non-verbal) acknowledgement that shit exists, that we all have a fair amount of it in different forms, and that maybe we can laugh about it. Because if we can laugh about it, together, loneliness can’t take hold as strongly as it does otherwise. And that’s all I wanted to say on the matter. And that Kathrine Ryan rocks.