What really goes on in other people’s relationship? Are they all having a better time together or just keeping up appearances? We have unprecedented expectations of romance, commitment, equality, fidelity and happiness ever after. Consequently we also live with more uncertainty and cynicism about the state of relationships than ever before – yet a committed loving partnership with another is central to our health and happiness as well as that of our children. So how do we make it work? I set out to answer that question by interviewing 120 people from diverse backgrounds as well as reading through all of the academic literature – psychological and sociological. I also felt it was important to place our current understanding of marriage and relationships within a historical context for we have never been better placed when it comes to forging the loving partnerships of our choosing.With the protection of anonymity, men and women – gay, straight, single, married, cohabiting, divorced - have been honest about the highs and lows in their relationship. With this window into the domestic lives of others, I hope that readers will be better placed when it comes to reflecting upon their own. I also hope that this book will correct some of the myths about the state of modern relationships and reassure people that they are doing far better than they ever give themselves credit for. We simply have to seize the responsibility for making it work ourselves.
'Kate Figes leads us on a journey through an often rocky romantic terrain, taking in romance, sex, arguments and power play, childen, family and ageing, meticulously dismantling the myths of marriage,' Melanie McGrath, Sunday Telegraph.
'Figes is a dedicated researcher and a compelling writer and this is a very good book - the most comprehensive summary we currently have of the changing nature of relationships.' Geraldine Bedell, The Observer
'I found it competely absorbing. I have recently separated from my husband. We have three young children and although it has been amicable it has also been immensely stressful.....The hardest thing has been knowing that we are doing the right thing when everyone else tells you that marriage is just like this! Thank you for exposing some of the myths of modern marriage, it has made me feel less alone.
‘Work out your maternal worries with this practical, deep and therapeutic book’ Baby Magazine
‘Should be compulsory reading for every first time mother’ Rosemary Carpenter, Express
‘A sanctuary of revelation about the bafflingly contradictory experience of becoming and being a mother… in places I laughed aloud in relieved recognition.’ Rebecca Abrams Independent on Sunday
As parents to small children we are hungry for information about child development and how to look after these wonderful, precious little people. Yet few parents understand the intricacies of adolescence and how to manage such a key stage in a child’s progress to adulthood well. Consequently many find looking after teenagers the hardest stage of being a parent. The science of adolescence has mushroomed in recent decades. We now know that the teenage years are profoundly important, as important as the early years for the health and happiness of our children. Chapters on the extreme emotions for both parents and teenagers, the shifting sands of identity through the teenage years, keeping conflict to a minimum, understanding the importance of the peer group, emerging sexuality and risk taking – throw a life-line to parents at such a key time of family life. Interviews with dozens of teenagers as well as parents illustrate the nature of the difficulties as well as the solutions. This is a book which will help all parents, even those whose children are not yet adolescent, for much of the first decade in a child’s life influences the nature of the second decade. I wrote this book before my children turned adolescent, as preparation perhaps and it has served me well. I began writing this book with all of the obvious stereotypical assumptions about life with teenagers – that they have to rebel, that it is always a tortured time, largely because my own adolescence was difficult. But each and every troubled teenager I met destroyed the stereotypes. Those who lived with acute stress and emotional turmoil did so because of adult neglect or misunderstanding, not because of their hormones.
I spent the next year going into schools, listening to what girls had to say about bitch life, why they felt they did it and how bitching has become a pernicious form of bullying which goes well below the radar of most parents and teachers. This book works on many levels. It looks at the gendered world girls grow up in and how they are still expected to be good, more caring and selfless than boys and how emotions which are perceived to be more negative such as anger, envy or competitiveness get suppressed. It gives girls guidance when it comes to basic etiquette, and it shows girls of all ages how learned bitch behaviour when young slides into a presumption that this is how women should be. Yet bitching, as a form of humour can also be great fun, and funny. So where does the borderline between good and bad bitching lie?
When the book was published I wrote a piece in the TES about the pervasive scourge of bitch bullying in our schools and put a footnote that I was happy to come into a few schools to lead workshops. I was overwhelmed by emails from teachers who felt unable to cope with this problem, plus it has to be said that any outside adult input offered free was welcomed in these cash strapped times. I spent a day a week in 2007 and early 2008 visiting schools giving talks and leading workshops with small groups of girls. It left me in no doubt that girls lack understanding of gendered stereotypes and the basics of feminism which I grew up with.
‘Being a bitch is a tricky business. Dorothy Parker at the Algonquin? Good. Jade Goody in the Big Brother house? Bad. Bitching is confusing because it’s only funny when it’s cruel. It can be a social necessity and a bonding tool. But it easily oversteps the mark into verbal violence. Figes’s funny, intelligent book steps right into this timely problem.’ Viv Groskop The Observer
WHAT ABOUT ME? charts a year in the life of Frankie between her 14th and fifteenth birthday through her diaries and the email of her mother to her sister in Australia. I wanted to show how mothers and daughters can view similar events and aspects of a normal family life so very differently.
WHAT ABOUT ME, TOO? picks up the story in the following year but adds Frankies little sisters voice too….. plus the dog that follows them home from the park.
‘I’m 12 and got this book for Christmas as my Dad had heard of this book off amazon. COULDN’T PUT IT DOWN. It was so exciting and refered to me. Havent let me mum read it yet but I am sure she’ll enjoy.’ Robyn Simister West Yorkshire (on Amazon)
‘Bought the book not having heard of Kate Figes. Very enjoyable read – got hooked within a page. Very moving, amusing, true to life, poignant. Passed it on to my 14 year old daughter who really enjoyed it too. My friend has also read it and passed it on to her 15 year old daughter – both enjoyed it. WELL WORTH READING and cant wait to read What About Me Too? Kate Figes seems to be talented as fiction writer and self help books.’ Chris, Swansea (on Amazon)
This is my first book, published in 1994 and it has been out of print for years. But it could possibly still be of interest to anyone interested in the gender politics of the 1990s.