A Booker Prize-winning novelist celebrated for her ‘ability to inhabit her characters’ has revealed in an interview that she considers 14-year old girls to be mature enough to have babies. Yeah, right.
The novelist is Hilary Mantel. She is 57 and childless, having had, for medical reasons, an hysterectomy aged 27. She states in an interview published in The Telegraph that she feels she was “perfectly capable of setting up and running a home” at the age of 14, asserting that if things “had been ordered differently” she might just have fancied having a sprog at that age and says that she might then have gone on to “get my PhD” in her early thirties. Yeah, right.
I’m sorry that Ms Mantel had severe endometriosis leading to her hysterectomy at such an early age and I’m sorry that she feels her fertility was “confiscated” by the surgical solution of the day but 30 years ago serious ‘women’s problems’ were solved by whipping the womb out and spiriting away the unfortunate woman’s cervix at the same time. Fertility and the cervix – whoosh, gone in the blink of an eye.
If she hadn’t had her reproductive plumbing plucked out, Ms Mantel might have gone on to have some nice little kiddiwinkies in her early-, mid- or late-thirties. Or maybe she wouldn’t. For all I know, she may have been banging away nineteen-to-the-dozen for years hoping to get pregnant but was foiled by the condition which eventually necessitated her hysterectomy: or she may have been on the pill all the time so that a pregnancy didn’t interrupt her academic studies. It’s anyone’s guess.
As it is, she didn’t have any children and that’s why I find her statement about 14-year old girls having babies so incredible. I almost think she doesn’t have the faintest idea what she’s talking about. Ms Mantel may have an ‘ability to inhabit her characters’ but I’m not convinced she has even the vaguest grasp of how ill-equipped 14-year old girls actually are when they find themselves faced with motherhood.
If Ms Mantel had gone on to have children, she’d have spent a couple of decades sharing her presumably book-lined home with some of the most challenging creatures on earth. No doubt she’d have smiled indulgently when she found her favourite book’s pages covered in the glorious felt-tip swirls that children under ten do so well. No doubt she’d have chuckled indulgently over the loss of her latest draft novel, having accidentally pressed ‘delete’ rather than ‘save’ while rushing to attend to the unwiped bottom of a strident 4-year old. No doubt her parental pride would have known no bounds as she found a painting she’d been fiddling away at for weeks had been daubed lovingly with glitter glue. Hmm.
If she had had some kiddiwinkies at any stage, she’d have lived through the infinitely interesting experience that is motherhood. She may even have had her children late enough so that their surge into physical maturity coincided with a sharp drop in her own hormone levels and would have found herself to be possessed of much less patience and good humour than she expected, just when she needed an inexhaustible supply of both qualities.
Ms Mantel is seriously suggesting that our society’s ‘male timetable’ forces girls who have been teenagers for all of 1 year to ‘suppress’ their maternal urges and keep their hideous ‘jeggings’ tugged firmly up and their crop-tops tugged firmly down. Ah, the poor mites; all those reproductive hormones flying around, making them spotty and greasy-haired, when all the precious blessums want to do is to settle down with their 15-year old (equally spotty) swain and live in a grotty council flat once little Cydah is born.
If I’d had my kids when I was 14, they’d be grown and flown by now. I might even have been a MILF at some stage in their lives, systematically bewitching my son’s friends and my daughter’s boyfriends with my tattoos and my snake hips; I might have been on the Jeremy Kyle show; I might have been on my 8th or 9th ‘long-term’ boyfriend and my 18th year ‘on the social’; I might have had four or five children by different dads and be planning a few more; during all this, I might even have decided to “get my PhD”, but I doubt it.
Hilary Mantel doesn’t know what she’s talking about and I’m annoyed that my own daughter has leafed through the paper and seen her silly opinion reported there.
Unless Ms Mantel has been a full-time nanny, a ‘work experience’ co-ordinator or a specialist single-mum housing officer, then she’s come out with this jaw-dropping statement without knowing the first thing about 14-year old girls.
12, 13, 14 and 15-year old girls are silly. They are quarrelsome. They are prickly. They are self-obsessed and worried about everything from their weight to which shade of nail varnish they will be ordered to remove at school. “Nothing is fair” and very little is as important to them as pointing out that “Nothing is fair”. The last thing they need is to be encouraged into the bike sheds with a pimply oaf for a quick, contraception-free shag.
What 14-year old girls want is to have their every immature whim taken seriously and indulged. Give them the green light to get knocked-up and they’ll sit back on a sofa someone else has provided in a flat the State has paid for, all the while flicking the ‘Vs’ at their ugly fishwife of a mum who’ll end up looking after little Cydah.
I haven’t written a novel. I haven’t won the Booker Prize. I’ve only had 2 kids. What do I know?
Nothing, if you ask my 13-year old daughter.