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Memory lapse; or, in which I utterly fail to multi-task.

Posted by Tania Kindersley
Tania Kindersley
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on Wednesday, 24 October 2012
A tentative email arrives from the editor. I forgot to do the blog. I FORGOT THE BLOG.

This is not good. This week was supposed to be my organised week. I have about eighteen things to do and no hours to do them in. It was going to be multi-tasking a go-go.

Who started this stupid rumour that women are really, really good at multi-tasking? Who came up with the hideous word in the first place? All it actually means is doing lots of things at once. It carries a subtext too, although this may be an inference too far on my part.  The subtext is that the females are not only really good at doing lots of things at once, but they do not complain about the lots of things. This is our great talent, we must be true to our calling. No moan shall escape our lips; no, no, because we are ladies, and we work like little pit ponies, clip-clopping up and down the livelong day.

A woman from ASDA was on the Today programme this morning. I’m sure she is a perfectly nice person and very good at her job, but she said something that really rubbed me up the wrong way. She said that the supermarket’s greatest concern was for ‘our busy mums’. Perfectly harmless, you might think. It’s not as if ASDA is raping the land or depriving grandmothers of their pensions. But something about it made me crazy. It’s that chummy ‘mums’; it’s the slightly patronising nod to them all being so very busy. I thought, furiously: what about the fathers? And the good-for-nothing singles, which is my cohort? Are we to be ignored by the retail giants?

I tweeted crossly on the subject, and one of my fellow twitterers wrote back: ‘Having it all = doing it all.’ Back I circled to the evil rumour of the ladies and their brilliance in multi-tasking. I can’t believe I am completely unrepresentative of my gender, but I have no ability at all to do more than one thing at once. In a week like this week, when I have four different deadlines, a book to write, at least one new secret project (there is always a secret project), and slightly odd things like the building of a new feed shed to oversee, everything goes to pot. Piles of paper mount on my desk, faint panic gallops by my side like a grumpy bronco, vital telephone calls go unmade, my hair looks like I have been dragged through a briar patch, and my email inbox resembles feeding time at the zoo. I also, as you can see, fall into hyperbole, mixed metaphors and insane similes.

I suppose it’s too dull never to generalise. I do it myself. Women do this, I have written in the past; men think that. A little generalisation can add to the gaiety of nations, and conversation would be very stilted and pedantic without it. But some sweeping statements are pernicious, hardening prejudice and bolstering bigotry. Old, ugly ones have gone into the file of things that decent people no longer say. The idea of the ladies with their excellence at a multitude of tasks is one of those that sounds like acompliment, but in fact is more of a curse. If we females are so fine at doing everything at once, the implication is that the big old fellas must do one thing at a time, and that thing will be the serious, important article, like running the country or heading the United Nations or discovering the Higgs Boson Particle.

I may be over-egging this. Trying to cram in too much makes me fractious and prone to over-reaction. It may just be displaced angst because I FORGOT THE BLOG. But, for what it’s worth, that is my small, cross theory of the day.


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