What’s Your Cup Size?

Mine is a short, wide, china cup, bought from the well-known supermarket that rhymes with ‘pains-worries.’ The cup is as wide as the top of a classic old-fashioned teacup but nice and broad all the way down instead of being cup-shaped. So perhaps it’s a mug…? It’s the perfect width for a teabag to move around in freely and also a good shape and size for a frothy coffee. China also seems to be perfect for herbal tea. This cup/mug is pale blue with swirly flower patterns. I’m a big fan of swirls, curls, twists and spiral shapes. It is also nice and light. I’m not fond of big chunky mugs. I seem to prefer a thin rim to drink from. The lovely wide handle is hand-huggable and I also like the fact that it is not too delicate or feminine. I do use other cups/mugs but this is my favourite. It suits me.

The diminishing acceptance for difference in our society is my biggy bugbear. I think about, write about, and discuss it a lot. I am reminded of it every day when I listen to news and discussion on the radio, watch TV, hear what my children have been doing at school…etc, etc… and I wonder what sort of future we are mapping out where everyone is put into boxes and made to fit, made to follow a certain route and made to suffocate their own individuality. I think if we worked on accepting difference more easily, loosening what we consider “normal” and “successful” and made childhood and schooling more varied and free then we would create naturally accepting and tolerant adults. I could go on and on and on for days and travel down many different avenues discussing this.

I think that if we could be easier with ourselves and stop trying to fit or all be the same then we could shorten the time we spent navel-gazing and get on with just being us. Limited goals, routes, criteria, set standards of achievement within life and education cannot possibly incorporate everyone who is genuinely useful in our society, and I wish we could get away from this feeling of one route to success.

I’m rather concerned about an emphasis on financial productiveness, labelling some school subjects as more worthwhile or important than others, and less support for arts and creativity coming from our current government, and suggestions in the media that some options are ‘soft’ or less valuable. People that have come away from school, with less so-called ‘academic’ subjects under their belt, are not broken, they do not need fixing. It’s about who they are.
Bright people within arts, media, literature, constructive jobs, catering, horticulture, farming, design, (feel free to add your own), make all those areas well-run, successful, and worthwhile to all.
In my opinion, it is an important aspect of human evolution that we all feel we have different skills, talents, likes, dislikes, strengths, weaknesses and even habits. We don’t all need to be brilliant at maths, we don’t all need to play a musical instrument, we don’t all need to know how to raise and kill a chicken, we don’t all need to know how to design a building, plough a field, make a table, sew curtains, hold our breath for three minutes, gut a fish, chair a meeting, rescue people from a fire in an office block, teach science, split an atom, design an uplifting environment within a children’s hospital, write a book, (feel free to add your own). What we need is encouragement to go our own way so that there are people successfully doing all of those things.

I went the one-size-fits-all way in the eighties, and saw how many people it didn’t fit – including me. I was told what was considered academic and what not, what would make me look more successful and less successful. That route lead me straight to a job in a pub for three years. (Not that there’s anything wrong with people who work in pubs – I just stopped doing all the things that made me me in those years)

By the time I’d dusted myself down and started again I was thirty. By the time I was comfortable about who I am I was… errr…. Well, I’m getting there at 2 days away from forty-two.

The reason I am getting there is because I followed new routes, explored, experimented, experienced new ideas. I found out that it’s not a disaster – in fact it’s okay and very cool – to want to write, to want to learn, to want to be a quiet person.

Imagine if we were all competitive chicken-killing mathematicians with a fixation on financial success…

While I’m at it, I may as well mention again how worried I am about the Open University’s planned extortionate fee increases. I would be lost if I had to start my self-discovery now.

I think the government is getting education all wrong.

Support difference, you mugs!

14 thoughts on “What’s Your Cup Size?

  1. I agree with you wholeheartedly about the hierarchy of subjects. Not everyone is good at or enjoys maths and the sciences, I know I don’t.
    Also re your comment about it’s alright to be quiet – My daughter is always critisied at parent’s evening for being quiet in class, so many times I have to say 1) it’s your job as a teacher to draw her out in class, and 2) don’t criticise her personality – yes she is quiet, but she works hard, gets good exam results and loves reading and learning – do they want her to do cartwheels in class?!

    My cup is a mug with a penguin book title on it in purple: Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own


    • Oh, the quiet thing! I always had, ‘Is too quiet,’ ‘needs to join in more,’ ‘is very reticent,’ etc, etc on my reports! Some people are quiet, some people are chatty and some people are something in between. I have one child who quiet, because like me she is shy, another who is quiet because he is laid back and doesn’t like attention and the third – if I’m honest – probably talks more than some teachers would like her to! They’re all different – yay!
      I like the sound of your mug 🙂


  2. A lovely piece and I totally agree. I loved maths and physics (I still do) but watched others just dying of boredom and frustration to no useful purpose. I hate the idea that education is to ‘train’ people so that companies don’t have to bother and school league tables that look at exam results as the be all and end all of education.

    My cup is a Tottenham Hotspur mug commemorating a famous victory over our bitter North London rivals.


  3. This is a great post, Rachel. I completely agree about individuality and, from my own professional viewpoint, I get particularly upset when mental health care patients are labelled just because it makes doctors feel more in control about themselves.

    My mug holds exactly a pint. It’s thick, cream ceramic and has ‘mug of tea’ written on it in big, black letters. Just in case I forget what’s in there 🙂


  4. Brilliantly said as usual, Rach. I know I’m not as accepting as I could be at times but I totally agree with you. I think we need to value all the skills we need as a society and realise that the financial incentives aren’t everything. Where we live in Aberdeenshire, the oil business is king and various firms come into my daughter’s school, pushing careers in oil & gas. Loads of kids will go there because of the silly amounts of money some of the jobs attract. Not once has a non-oil related company come into school to drum up new blood.
    And I have a variety of cups that I like for drinking different things.


    • That’s really sad, Nettie. We should be encouraging kids to be more imaginative 😦
      What – no favourite cup? Surely everyone has a favourite cup? 😉


  5. I’m really glad I read this post, as it expresses what I think on so many levels. So many schools, and some parents for that matter, put too much emphasis on not just choosing a career, but choosing a ‘suitable’ career. When I left school, I was a teenager who loved English and History, and had little interest or aptitude for maths and science. Nobody could have been more shocked than me when I found myself training as an accountant. Why? Because while temping in an office someone offered me the opportunity. Because everyone told me I needed a proper job. Because people told me it was all very well being arty, but where was that going to get me?

    I managed to kid myself for quite a long time that the accountancy lark was what I wanted, until one day I woke up and realised I couldn’t do it any more. So, I went travelling, signed up for an English degree, and started to write again. I met my husband while studying as a mature student. Since then, I’m not going to pretend it’s all been plain-sailing – sometimes, I’ve had to go out and do boring work to pay the bills. But the important thing is I’m not lying to myself any more. I’m a lot closer to the person I want to be now, than I ever was at 18.

    Incidentally, my current mug is an ‘I’m not a royal wedding mug’ I bought when I was getting irritated by all the Kate and Wills drama. While I don’t object if people want to be royalists, I don’t think they should object if I want to express my opinion either. Differences are good.


    • I guess one good thing about doing things that don’t make us happy is that we realise when we have found the right thing and it feels brilliant 🙂
      I would like your mug. But I expect I would find the lip too thick 😉

      Thanks for commenting, Helen. R x


  6. I love different people, we are such complex beings. What a pleasure to find new characters.

    Also love GIANT mugs for mocha, coffee etc… but delicate china mugs for tea!


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