So, bloggers, how did you choose the name of your blog? Did it take lots of planning – or did it just come to you in a flash? Do you use it as a nom de plume – an alter ego, of sorts? Does it reflect the life you lead in the real world?
‘This Charming Mum’ was one of those ‘flash’ moments – it came to me as I was tinkering with my earliest drafts of a bloggy nature. I had no real idea what my blog was going to be about back then, nor what sort of lifespan it would have. All I knew was that I wanted a space to practice and play with writing, and I wanted to set myself some reading and reviewing goals because my staple diet of Dr Seuss and Hairy Maclary was wearing thin (oooh, so thin….). It would have been logical to choose something bookish as a blog name. But pseudonyms are not always logical. Being bookish is who I am, but not necessarily who I would wish to be if I had the opportunity to spin around in a phone box and come out in shiny red leotard. If I was going to hide behind an online persona it had to be someone more dynamic than the real me. Someone more interesting. Someone far, far more charming.
It is also the case that my only burst of being properly clever was in about 1983. The evidence for this is that I can remember song lyrics, birthdays, album covers and outfits from the mid to late ‘80s and yet may struggle to tell you my own children’s birthdates if you put me on the spot. They say if you can remember the ‘60s, you weren’t really there – but the ‘80s must have been a time of exceptional clarity in my head! So, it was back to the ‘80s I went for blog naming inspiration.
I’ll pass you over to Morrissey for a moment…
Ah Morrissey. The love of my life (well, one of them) from the days when men were men … and being a man involved a whole lot of make up, bead necklaces and curious, floppy, flouncing about with bunches of flowers. There must have been some sort of iron deficiency rife in the UK around this period, too, since most of my great loves were extremely pale and had trouble standing upright for the 3 minutes it took to make a music video. But I grew up in a town where the most androgynous thing a young man could do was tie his flanno shirt around his waist on a hot day, so it wasn’t entirely surprising that I longed for the bleak exoticism personified by a man whose theme song became ‘Heaven knows I’m miserable now’.
This Charming Man came out in 1983. It only went to number 25 on the British charts at the time, but it continues to be one of UK pop legends The Smiths’ best known anthems. Wikipedia tells me (so it must be true) that the band wrote the lyrics in response to feeling alienated by the mainstream flamboyant gay scene in early ‘80s Britain. “I would go out tonight, but I haven’t got a stitch to wear…” The old-fashioned lyrics about a hillside courtship between two dapper gents recall some of the great periods of British literature – the Romantic poets, the Edwardian period dramas – simultaneously suggesting that homosexuality is nothing new, and that it was possibly more refined when it was less in your face. Controversial? Maybe. Morrissey wouldn’t care. In fact that’s one of the things I’ve always liked about him – he says what he thinks with complete disregard for anyone else’s opinion. He may well think something entirely contrary the next time he cares to share, but he’ll be no less vehement. I only wish I was that brave in my writing!
There’s a bit of a paradox there, really though. You’d be hard pressed to describe Morrissey as ‘charming’ in the sense of being personable. Many would say ‘obnoxious’ or ‘arrogant’ are closer the mark. And yet he is enviably charismatic, articulate and creative. That’s the sort of ‘charming’ I aspire to – and since arriving in Mummy land it seems to be slipping further and further away. I thought there might come a day when I could slide confidently into social situations with just the right quip at the ready; or know something substantial about wine, or coffee, or politics, or quinoa and have a spellbound audience hanging on my discussion of it. I thought by the age of 40, I might be comfortable in my own skin and be a bit more generous, even gregarious, socially, rather than spending rather too much time worrying about saying or doing the wrong thing. I’m pleasant enough in compnay, funny and friendly even when it suits me, but certainly not obviously, flower-swingingly charming!
Having said that, I’ve also started reading a new Marian Keyes book this week which sheds new light on the notion of ‘charming’. You guessed it – This Charming Man. I’m a recent convert to Keyes’ work, so this was one of those random in-a-bin-out-the-front-of-bookstore purchases – but timely, since I already had this topic in mind! Just a few pages in, a group of friends is debriefing about the end of one of their relationships.
‘Never trusted him,’ Jem said. ‘He was too charming’.
‘Too charming?’ I said. ‘How can you say he was too charming? Charming is a wonderful thing. Like ice cream. No such thing as too much!’
‘There is,’ Jem said. ‘You can eat a litre of Chunky Monkey, then a litre of Cherry Garcia, then get sick.’
As much as I luuuurve B&R’s Chunky Monkey, I see his point. Charming can be a little sickly…untrustworthy…over the top. Charming is Mr Willoughby, not Mr Darcy. Charming is the ostentatious first guy, not the humble second guy who eventually wins the rom-com lady’s heart. Charming is about blowing your own trumpet. But, for a blogger, I think that might be OK. Many of us so-called ‘mummy bloggers’ spend an awful lot of time leading unglamorous lives at the coal face of work/life balance and the whole big parenting shebang, which leaves precious little time for shouting about who we really are, what we really want or things we really think.
So, how did I name my blog? Well, This Charming Mum combines my love of all things ‘80s, with my proud identity as a mother, and a goodly dose of irony, over-analysis, anglophillia and bookishness – which pretty much sums up the blog, as it turns out.
How about you? What inspired you to name your blog?