LIFE LESSONS

She will for­ever be known as Su­per­woman, fol­low­ing her book for women who hate house­work, and Shirley Con­ran is still stand­ing up for her sex. She talks to GH about fem­i­nism, money and how she taught girls to be more de­mand­ing in bed...

Good Housekeeping (UK) - - Contents -

Su­per­woman Shirley Con­ran

Life is too short to be short of money. This mantra is my up­date on ‘life is too short to stuff a mush­room’, which I wrote in Su­per­woman. We’ve come so far, but women don’t like talk­ing about money – it is still con­sid­ered un­fem­i­nine and nasty. I’ve found that teenage girls are re­fresh­ingly dif­fer­ent. Girls of 13 and 14 like a par­tic­u­lar shade of pink, they like choco­late, they like kit­tens and they like money. I think this is tremen­dously healthy.

I am usu­ally all for bribery with chil­dren. When one of my grand­sons was about six, his par­ents were wor­ried be­cause he couldn’t count up to 100. So I got 100 £1 coins and poured them out on to the kitchen ta­ble in front of him. Af­ter he had played with them, I took them all back and I said, ‘Next Satur­day, if you can count to 100, you can have them all. You are only go­ing to have one go and if you get one wrong, I am tak­ing the lot back.’ The next week he counted to 100.

It frus­trates me when women say they can’t do maths. They would never say they can’t read, but some­how, when it comes to maths, it seems to be ac­cept­able. It won’t be by the time I fin­ish! I want teach­ing meth­ods to change. They are out­dated – we should push out things like trigonom­e­try and cal­cu­lus. My aim in set­ting up the on­line course Money Stuff was to teach enough maths so you could get through life, run a busi­ness, un­der­stand stocks and shares.

My book Lace taught girls what to ask for in bed. When I started it in 1979, the sex­ual rev­o­lu­tion was in full swing, but ev­ery­thing was still from the man’s point of view. At that time, the av­er­age English­man thought the cli­toris was a Greek

ho­tel. So I wanted to write a non-fic­tion book about sex for teenage girls. Then I got a bit bored. I have al­ways wanted to write a novel. I also re­mem­bered the ro­man­tic novel For­ever Am­ber, which ev­ery­body read in my day. I thought if I can write a book like For­ever Am­ber, then the girls can pass it round in brown pa­per bags or what­ever – and they did!

My son Jasper didn’t speak to me for years. I still don’t know why, but we made up af­ter he asked to meet me for lunch. Af­ter­wards, I thought about how we didn’t even dis­cuss why [he hadn’t spo­ken to me] and then I thought, ‘Well, it doesn’t mat­ter. What mat­ters is that we are to­gether again.’

My fe­male friends have al­ways been im­por­tant to me. Now the hard­est thing is los­ing them. If I’d had these losses when I was young, I would have howled, burst into tears and let ev­ery­one know how I was feel­ing. Now I don’t say any­thing to any­one, but I have no en­ergy for weeks and I have to force my­self to do things. It is a form of de­pres­sion.

I am a great be­liever in let­ting work dis­tract you. I work from 8am un­til 5pm with an hour off to sleep at lunchtime. I have suf­fered from ME for more than 40 years. It doesn’t get bet­ter; you just learn to live with it and not to do too much.

I don’t have any prob­lem call­ing my­self a fem­i­nist. I was at the bar­ri­cades in 1970. I was one of the ring­leaders! We were dubbed ‘man haters’, and the most prob­lem­atic thing was be­ing forced not to wear a bra! I re­mem­ber some­one say­ing to me, ‘Of course I am not a fem­i­nist, but I do be­lieve in fair play.’ That is what fem­i­nism is!

Shirley: ‘The sex­ual rev­o­lu­tion was in full swing in the 1970s, but ev­ery­thing was still from a man’s point of view’

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