I have today, against my better judgement, listened to the Friday morning repeat of Caitlin Moran on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs. Apologies to her masses of fans but I have always been rather dismissive and thought that she didn’t speak for my particular generation.
I read her book How to be a Woman and tried really hard to like it. I wanted to conform but found myself lost in a jumbled world that I had personally missed out on being 20 years older and, I admit, feeling a teeny weeny bit jealous that I had not been able to do a similar thing when I was a young journalist.
That’s the rub really, I had conditioned myself not to like her book before I had really considered it. To me this is not ‘chick lit’ but a seminal work of our times. Just like Jane Austen of yesteryear, Caitlin’s observations about women and their inner psyche are game changing for the next generation of women.
She talked about her ‘stand up’ tour and the hoards of young women who queued up for her to sign her books for and whom she chatted to long after her shows had finished. It was clear that this interaction is Caitlin’s lifeblood and her sheer complicity and intensity with her audience is utterly compelling. God knows, if my 16 year old self had met her, my life might have been transformed too.
Caitlin not only immerses us in her world through her writing, but she consumes our experiences as well and turns them into a narrative that gives today’s young women permission to talk about the things that my generation were conditioned to ignore or make ‘disappear’. We didn’t find out about masturbation, periods or orgasms reading Pride and Prejudice!
So, late to the party, as ever, I finally ‘get’ it. My 24-year old daughter will kill me for saying this, but I can see why Caitlin Moran rocks. She has absorbed all the angsty best bits that I also enjoyed, albeit at a different stage in my life – the Beatles, Madonna, Bowie, Cocker and the Common People – and created a polemic that speaks to women on so many levels. Caitlin didn’t even want the Bible on her desert island, opting instead for The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole and a solar powered laptop so that she could keep on writing her very own ‘bible’!
Caitlin has finally weaved her spell on me and I am writing this in tribute. Listening to her speak has helped me to understand the writer and I have clearly missed out on this element of Caitlin’s charm until now. In my ever-so-humble opinion, she is even funnier, more articulate and more dangerously incisive in person than she is on paper.
Writing can be the catalyst to revealing your inner self and we don’t all have to write books to prove this theory. That might come along later and some of my favourite female comedians have had books published on the back of their stand up careers – Susan Calman, Bridget Christie and Sara Pascoe to mention a few who have passed through Funny Women on the way to success.
Keeping a journal, jotting down notes for a comedy routine or even writing a letter is all part of the same discipline. I write emails, Tweets, Facebook posts, lists, press releases, articles and proposals but none of these really reflect the real me. That is confined to the odd musing like this and my ‘day pages’ as inspired by Julia Cameron.
Caitlin has made me think today… so I am writing this down. In comedy we are compelled to talk things out and what today’s listening proved is that we all have a voice whether it be on stage or on paper.
If you missed it you can still listen to Caitlin Moran on Desert Island Discs here.