Helping our children to communicate better is something that everyone can work towards writes
It feels like almost everyone on the planet is watching Normal People at the moment. It is an incredible book and they have turned it into an equally engrossing and well-acted TV series. Daisy Edgar Jones as Marianne — with her impeccable Irish accent — is captivating, and Paul Mescal as Connell is equally compelling.
Something that really stood out to me when I first read the book and now when I’m watching the series is that up until recently the way Ireland was set up made it hard for men and women to communicate well.
When I first moved here from Canada, I did notice women and men interacted differently to what I was used to. A lot of the girls I became friends with looked at ‘fellas’ almost as a different species and the men I met along the way in my first few years I felt were really shy and found it hard to find things to chat about.
The concept of dating was not really the same. I once suggested meeting for a coffee instead of at a pub for a ‘date’. The fella went along, but afterwards he told me he found it odd to not be meeting in a pub.
Please know that I am generalising here, but that seemed to be the way of things. People mostly hooked up in pubs and it wasn’t until drink two or three that people relaxed enough to move past the small talk.
I might get into a lot of trouble for saying this, but I really think this stems from the fact that most people my age and older went to single-sex schools and that meant that in most cases girls didn’t have boy best friends, and vice versa.
Most of my best buddies in primary school were boys, so by the time I got to an age when I started developing crushes, they weren’t such a mystery to me. Don’t get me wrong, it was still an awkward time and I had far from figured things out. But since having had strong friendships with boys, I was able to chat to them more easily.
The same was true in the reverse — the boys I was friends with in school grew up to maintain strong female friendships in secondary school.
Connell and Marian in Normal People go to a mixed secondary school, but it’s safe to say they have huge communication problems.
I feel this is mostly on his side, and that boys growing up have this unfair pressure on them not to be expressive and to not seem weak by talking about their feelings.
There are so many scenes in the series that capture this well. Connell feels one way, but succumbs to the pressure to act another way.
It is horrible and I am glad that things have changed so much and families have more freedom to raise boys to be able to talk about how they feel. To be strong to stand up when they don’t like behaviour they see around them. That the old ideals of being macho are getting weaker with each new generation.
I love that two of my daughter Joan’s best friends since junior infants have been boys. Both are supported to be who they want to be at home and at school, and I love this.
It is that neverending battle to acknowledge differences while not placing female or male identities on things like dolls, video games, or colours.
To allow our children to express themselves well and to not place limitations on them based on their gender. To most of all help them communicate with everyone in a healthy, confident way.
For as much as we love Normal People as a story, it’s hard to watch how difficult it is for Marianne and Connell to just tell one another how they feel.