Review of “Confessions of a forty-something f##k-up” by Alexandra Potter

With some personal comments…

A brilliant book about how life sometimes finds its own path, despite what we hoped for or planned for.

Nell, a British forty-something, who thought life was going the way she had expected it to go; soon to be married, living in sunny California, running her own business with her fiancé, probably kids in  the near future, suddenly finds herself single, broke and back in rainy London. She feels like a total failure, or as the title gives away, a f##k-up.

But despite the gloomy prospects, life can take unexpected turns. An encounter with an old widow brings along quite a lot of surprises, and new perspectives. The new friend of an old friend makes her want to grind her teeth, and online dating prove to be a challenge.

In the midst of all this, she decides to make a pod cast, just to let out some steam, to kind of “balance” the ever perfect Insta-life in her feed, without much hope of anyone actually listening.

I don’t want to reveal too much, but I think it’s not only forty-somethings who can identify with Nell. Albeit we might think that we have life figured out when we’re in our twenties, I can recall feeling like a twenty-something f##k-up. Being single, graduated from university, but not holding a job I really liked (or even remotely relevant to my studies), while my friends seemed to find relevant jobs (paying much better than mine), being in happy relationships, starting to marry and planning (and having) kids.

Then the same happened again in my thirties. Another relationship ended, I still had not much clue about what I really wanted to do professionally, as the jobs I dreamed of seemed out of reach, and my friends still seemed to have figured it out.

But then I finally landed a job a wanted, and life took an unexpected turn (I never planned ending up in France, but here I am…)

Still, even if I met someone, married and got kids, it doesn’t mean I don’t feel like a forty-something f##k-up more than once a month. Especially when scrolling through Instagram, looking to all the fabulous pictures of camping around a beautiful lake, a bon fire with a coffeepot hanging over (we’re not allowed to make bon fires in the wild here, and I miss it!), ski tracks through the forest (hardly anywhere to go cross country skiing here), or kayaking under the stars (I sold my kayak when I moved here).

I mean, we see what we want to see, we compare ourselves to different people. Meaning in my Insta-feed there are not may pictures of perfectly decorated living-rooms or ever-clean kitchens. But there’s all those other things I dream about doing, and I don’t get to do them, and I wonder how everybody else manage to do it “all the time”, and I feel totally…

But as Nell discovers, other’s perfect lives aren’t always that perfect, and that is my experience too, when we are being honest with each other. And no matter how we twist and turn things, what’s perfect for me, isn’t necessarily perfect for you. I think the key is to do what seems right for you, not looking so much to what other people are doing, but also realise that it’s totally normal to feel like a f##k-up at any stage in life. It should not even be embarrassing, as it’s human to make mistakes, and to take time to figure out what we really want with our lives. Honestly, I think very few people, if any, has never, ever felt like a total f##k-up. I raise my glass to every f##k-up out there, I’m sure I find myself in good company! Thanks to Alexandra Potter to make such a brilliant point of life’s imperfectness, the best since Bridget Jones entered the scene.

With that said, if you’re looking for a book to cheer you up, to make you laugh, to entertain you, and if you at any point in your life have felt like a total f##k-up, this is the book for you!

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It’s time to move on, no?

Monarchy is outdated. Let’s face it. Inheriting titles and positions in Europe in 2023 seems out of pace with time.

Not that I have anything personal against the royals of Europe. I grew up in Norway, a monarchy whose members have caused very little scandal and controversy, expect the current king insisting on marrying the love of his life, despite the fact she was a “commoner”. Back in the days, that was sort of a huge thing, and he had to wait nine years for approval of his choice. Nowadays, nobody really lifts an eyebrow.

I like the Norwegian royal family, but still I find the institution of monarchy to be outdated. I find the concept of being born into a job, sort of, bizarre. And evidently many royals would rather prefer to live an anonymous life, doing something they have talent and interest for, instead of cutting ribbons and being chased by the paparazzi. I don’t blame them.

After watching “Harry and Meghan” on Netflix, I was down at the local commercial centre, and I was actually thinking about how wonderful it is to be able to walk around in peace and quiet, doing my things, without having to put on a disguise or being closely followed by bodyguards and paparazzi.

Recently, or should I say currently, there has been a bit of controversy evolving around the Norwegian Princess Martha Louise. She is engaged to a shaman, no less. An American, who had to be explained the dos and don’ts when it comes to interacting with a royal family. It’s been no secret that Princess Martha Louise has never been fully comfortable with her royal role, and she has established herself on the side-lines of the royal family. Despite the current controversy regarding her role, it’s nothing compared to what members of the British royal family has to put up with.

No other European royal family is even close to the endless chase of them, and I feel truly sorry for people who has to put up with this sort of thing.

Yes, they do live very privileged lives, but at what cost? A golden cage is still a cage. Family disputes and ruptures are still family disputes and ruptures, but the rest of us can deal with things like this way out of constant spotlight and public speculations. Like your parents’ divorce or your mother’s death at a way too young age are not enough to cope with, and then you have to put on a brave face and parade in front of thousands of people in the streets, and millions more in front of their tv-screens at her funeral. Who envies that?

I admit that I have, from early age on, read my part of articles and looked to probably thousands of photos of royals in magazines and online. As a little girl I was of course fascinated by the beautiful queens and princesses in their wonderful dresses and smart outfits. But the older I become, the sorrier I feel for them. They never asked for this attention. It just so happens that they were born into these families, who are supposed to represent a nation and unite it.

There are enough people out there who want to be in the spotlight. Movie stars, pop stars, politicians, and a bunch of others. Let them have the spotlight. They aim for it, they want it. And leave the others alone, at least give them some privacy when they are not representing their country. No matter how much we crave attention, we all need a fair bit of privacy as well.

I’m sure there are royals who would not change their position for anything in the world. They are not accustomed to a less privileged life, and less splendid surroundings. Other royals seem to have dreamed of getting out of the whole thing from the moment they realized what they were born into.

In any case, I find that time has caught up with the monarchy as institution. It’s time to abolish it, and to take on a more modern constitution.

No offence to anyone, I hold nothing against you royals personally. But inheriting a position from your ancestors seems way out of date. Even for such a jolly, grand-father-like king as Norwegian King Harald V and his heir, Crown Prince Haakon. No matter how jovial I find him, and his wife Crown Princess Mette-Marit, I think time’s up for the monarchy. I’m sure their daughter will be just as happy with a different kind of meaningful job in the future. As will several other royals who are still in their early years.

Woman, life, freedom!

The Iranian government is exposing themselves as more and more ridiculous, and evidently nervous about their future. Another two executions of protesters happened Saturday, only three days after Teheran protested against “insulting” cartoons published by the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

So far, four people have been executed since protests erupted in September 2022, and Iran Human Rights claim that at least 476 people taking part in the protests have been killed.

By the logic of the Iranian government, publishing satirical cartoons is far more severe than their own oppression and slaughtering of their own people. Condemning people to death sentence without proper trial and lack of evidence is ok. Picturing the ayatollah in satirical cartoons is not.

The Iranian authorities has demanded action and an apology from the French government, who responded that the theocratic regime in Teheran has nothing to teach France. They have clearly not understood that the French government is never going to condemn anything written in a French newspaper, as freedom of speech is highly valued in France.

Freedom of expression is a very bad thing according to the Teheran regime, evidently, but forcing women to wear hijab because: “Covering up causes a woman to be recognised in society by her thoughts and personality, not by her body and beauty,” (…) “This is the greatest service that religions, especially Islam, have given to women, which obliges her to observe hijab so that her dignity is preserved and she is not sold or passed around like a commodity.” (Part of statement from The Supreme Court of Cultural Revolution, cited in The Guardian 9 January 2023).

According to their logic, it’s all in the interest of women’s dignity and integrity, and not observing the strict rules of dressing correctly, justifies the authorities to arrest and beat up women, which is what happened to Mahsa Amini in September, and thereby sparked the nationwide protests.

When criticized, the Iranian authorities reject the criticism by calling it “Remarks of self-styled defenders of human rights are replete with racist thoughts.” (The Guardian 9 January 2023)

This from a government that claims that western societies have destroyed the family by promoting female sexuality, and who condemns homosexuals to death penalty. A regime that tolerates no opposition and who despises freedom of speech, human rights and democracy. There’s absolutely no logic to it, except a great fear of losing their power.

I wholeheartedly support the brave Iranian people who stands up against this regime. I hope that one day in the near future, they will be able to live without fear of repression and without violent retaliation for speaking out against the authorities. That women will be allowed to dress the way they want, that homosexuals can live without fear of being thrown off a building.

Jin, jiyan, azadi!

Woman, life, freedom!

Where are the women?

So I had it confirmed finally, that feeling that things were not quite right in flim and tv-series. Today, I came across a column addressing the topic, and it referred to a study made by Dr. Martha M. Lauzen; It’s a Man’s (Celluloid) World, Even in a Pandemic Year: Portrayals of Female Characters in the Top U.S. Films of 2021.

I mean, you have probably noted it yourself, without giving it too much thought (at least it you are a woman yourself), that most films and tv-series you watch, are dominated by male characters. As a mother of two boys, I have seen my share of Marvel films the past few years. Loads of mostly white, strong guys, fighting some villain or several. The character “Black Widow” being a rare, female character. As a matter of fact, I got so fed up with this male, macho universe, that I told my boys and my husband that they can watch these films without me. I can’t stand it anymore.

We have also been through the whole bunch of Star Wars movies, several times, and not surprisingly perhaps, my favourite is “Rouge One” where we are introduced to the female character Ray. Equally not surprising perhaps, is the fact that this is not the favourite film of the rest of the family…

It’s a fact that I have a weakness for a variety of police/agent series, like NCIS, Hawaii Five-0, and New York Major Squad, to mention some. In all of them men are overrepresented compared to women. They do have female detectives and agents, playing central parts, but still, it’s rarely more than one female per team of 4-6 agents.

And it’s this that has been bugging me for some time. Why is it like this? Why this gross imbalance on average?

The column I read today also pointed to another interesting fact. The author had noted that the films Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, and Turning Red, reviewed by males, were viewed as “overwhelmingly” female (Wakanda Forever), and “for relatively small audience” (Turning Red).

Wow! Just because they can’t, for once, identify with the leading character? I don’t know if I find it tragic or comic, that these men whine over these facts. I mean, I don’t expect a man in his 40’s to really identify with a girl growing into puberty, getting her period and experiencing all the hormones raging her body. But I do expect that he can appreciate a film that focus on something else than girls going teenage, wanting to be a perfect little woman pleasing everybody. Because that is how I often see girls portrayed in movies, glossy creatures with long, shiny hair and perfect skin. Well, mister, welcome to the real world! We are quite a few out here who appreciates new ways of presenting our gender!

Being underrepresented everywhere, I think we women are used to stretch our imagination to fit into a universe that often seems to ignore us. But it shouldn’t have to be that way. Girls growing up deserves heroes of their own, whom they can identify with, that look like them. We need more females of all ages on the screen, of all colours and all sizes. (I think our boys could need a bigger variety of shapes and colours to identify with as well). We need more multi-dimensional female characters, in all kinds of films and tv-series. We need more Dana Scullys and Rebeccas (from the 2013 movie “1000 times good night”). Rebecca is a photo journalist, travelling to war zones, while her husband is the one with local based work, taking care of their kids. I found that movie so inspiring! The roles were completely turned around, and I adored it. Because that it also how it can be. We are way too much told the story of the man with a career, and the woman sacrificing herself for the wellbeing of the rest of the family. I welcome every challenge to that image.

I do have to point out at the end, that there have been some rather fun movies presenting girls in a more interesting manner. When I grew up, it was with Pippi Longstockings, a rare female superhero at the time. Pippi really challenged the ideals of how girls should behave at the time (and still do). Recently, I watched Enola Holmes on Netflix, the two films, and I find them amusing and inspiring. And I like to present my boys with something other than the stereotype heroes they are used to from the Marvel universe. Boys, like girls, need the current stereotypes to be challenged. They need to see that there are many ways to live their lives, that humans are complex beings, not divided into “soft creatures” (women) and “tough heroes/villains” (men). Women can be tough, men are allowed to show feelings and cry. I wish we could see more of that, too. Not just in sentimental dramas, but in action movies as well. Why is it always the female characters that grab the box of Kleenex, while the men punch the wall?

Most of all, I would like to see more female, complex characters. The fact is that women makes up about half the population of this planet, but when watching movies we are reduced to a small minority. It’s time to do something about that.

Happy new year!