Thanks, but no thanks, for all those memories

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The Independent Online
GARY RAMONA, of Napa Valley, California, is suing the psychotherapist who enabled his daughter Holly to 'retrieve memories' of his supposed sexual abuse of her in childhood. This sort of memory retrieval is not confined to the United States: there have been at least 350 cases in Britain of grown- up children accusing their parents of hitherto forgotten hideous crimes. What I want to know about the memories dredged up by psychotherapists is why they're never nice? It would be worth going to a therapist if he or she could help you retrieve all the times your dad took you to the park and bought you an ice cream, or your mum cooked steak and chips. But they only ever uncover sexual abuse.

Another thing that bothers me is how easily the victims forget the crime in the first place, as if being abused by your father could just slip your mind, along with remembering to have spare lightbulbs in the house. Take Laura Pasely: she could remember that she'd been molested by a stranger when she was nine, but only with therapy did she 'realise' that she'd also been molested by her mother, brother, grandfather, and 'others'. Later, she remembered that it was nonsense and won a six-figure settlement from her therapist.

The degree of hatred involved in all this is alarming. Holly Ramona's supporters (odd in itself that there are such things) have been cheering her evidence from the public gallery. Undoubtedly, though, the most compelling reason to be sceptical about memory retrieval is that Roseanne Arnold has retrieved hers. I cannot feel that the woman who recently claimed she was in a 'three-way marriage' with her husband and a vice-president of her production company is a reliable source. That said, I do rather envy people who remember that they were abducted by aliens. This would be a rather amusing thing to dredge up - although, tediously, it turns out that aliens don't abduct people to find out about our notions of democracy or hopes for interplanetary peaceful co-existence. They just want sexual abuse.

MIDDLE-CLASS women are miserable, claims James Buchan in the Spectator. Those who work feel torn apart and wretched; they're 'bad cooks and housekeepers'. Those who don't work get no respect, and are 'bad cooks and housekeepers'. Absolutely the last place you want an Englishwoman, he adds, in case we haven't got the point, is in the kitchen. I think Buchan must have eaten something that disagreed with him, probably at one of the grim dinner parties he describes in his article. This is the only explanation I can think of for his bizarre confusion of women's happiness with his own access to good food.

At these dire dinner parties, Buchan explains, he struggles to make conversation with women who don't work, only to bump up quickly 'against the limits not of their intelligence but of the cultivated parts of it'. Ouch. It doesn't surprise me at all that he is frequently reduced to smoking alone in the kitchen: if he throws himself around with as much arrogance conversationally as he does in print, women probably raise their eyes to the ceiling and ask for his tips on bikini line waxing just to drive him away. I would.

As for women who work, he goes on, they've been duped into thinking their employment is about self-fulfilment, when it's really about economic imperatives. But the two things can happily co-exist. It is true, as he suggests, that most working women are unwilling to relinquish the pleasure and duty of raising their children, and so live in a constant state of tension, thinking they ought to be at home when they're at work, and at work when they're at home. But many women may also feel that to have a home life and a work life - something men have always had - is a privilege: hard-won and highly prized.

There's more. Men are so dilatory about fixing shed doors these days, Buchan warns, because they suspect that women have effectively torn up their marriage contracts by cooking all this convenience food. The truth though, is probably that men aren't fixing the shed door because they've gone to get the kids from school. They want a home life and a work life too, and increasingly recognise that such a thing requires many pairs of hands. It does mean, of course, that they have little time for the kind of dinner parties Buchan attends, at which near- strangers make strained and empty conversation. So perhaps the next time a dinner party invitation arrives, Buchan should turn it down, and cook his wife a nice meal instead.

I AM going to make a prediction about Loaded, the new magazine from IPC for lads who want to be yobs. It's not going to last. I realise this is going against the grain. The Sunday Times said: 'Loaded looks like it could be a big hit, if only because it is honest about what most twentysomething men want out of life. A piss-up.' I'm sure they do want a piss-up, and shagging, and the memories of first fags and gropes that fill the magazine. But I'm not convinced that they want to read about these things in a publication that is almost devoid of irony. The Fat Slags can be funny (sometimes), and so can Beavis and Butt-Head and Carling Black Label ads, because they satirise slobs even as they celebrate them, and even if only slyly. Loaded isn't funny, clever, smart or knowing. Of course, it's always possible I'll be wrong and it'll be the publishing phenomenon of the decade. In which case I'll just slit my wrists.

BARBRA Streisand is said to be constantly in and out of the White House, which may explain (think of her obsessions with privacy and draughts, and her inability to remember the words of songs she's been singing for the past 30 years) why American policy towards Bosnia is so wacky.

It's been quite a week for singers, what with Dame Vera Lynn having left John Major's premiership hanging by a thread. Perhaps this is the beginning of a new trend: if comedy is the new rock 'n' roll, why not superannuated singers the new power brokers? And, by comparison, would government by Bananarama be so absurd?

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