Accessibility matters: How to be Sound, episode 4 – transcript

Jeanne Sutton endometriosis

Episode 4 of How to be Sound is live now, on iTunes and everywhere you listen to podcasts, and I would love to know what you think. For those people with accessibility issues, a transcription of Episode 4 is below, so you can read along with the podcast if you wish! The show notes are in the podcast description in your app, but I’ve also reproduced them at the bottom of this tome.

In Episode 4, I chatted to journalist-turned-content-director Jean Sutton about loving your body, getting rid of food guilt, self-care and being a stay-at-home parent. And more! If you like what I’m doing and you’d like to support it, you can do so at Patreon – and, if you donate at the $6.66 level or higher, you’ll get two exclusive Minisodes per month, as well as the chance to hear me read out your name on every episode!

Hello and welcome to another episode of How to be Sound, where someone who is trying to be sound interviews other people who are trying to be sound – about how to be sound-er. I’m your host, Rosemary Mac Cabe, and I’m joined in studio today by Jean… whose name I used to think was Jeannie. Is it just Jean?

J: My name’s actually Jean Anne.

R: Oooooh. Hyphenated?

J: Aaaaah… no. So, it can be hyphenated. I don’t really have ownership over my name anymore, which is really sad, because of social media. So I’m, like, Jeanne, spelled the French way, on my LinkedIn, and professionally, I’m Jean Anne on my birth cert, I’m Jeannie on Facebook. It all came about because, when I started writing, for the first time, people were using my Twitter name as my byline, without asking me. It just became such a chore to correct that I just went, yeah, okay.

R: Oh!

J: I’m now [French accent] Jeanne Sutton.

R: Oh yeah, cos I always just thought you were really posh.

J: No, I’m from Tipperary.

R: Well, I mean, you can be posh and from Tipperary.

J: If you’re a Protestant, yeah.

R: And you’re not – do you want to clear that up? To make that explicitly clear?

J: Yeah – ticked Catholic on that Census.

R: Jean Anne Sutton, Tipperary girl and Catholic.

J: Yeah.

R: So… the reason I want to talk to anyone on my podcast is because these are women I think are smart and interesting, so well done – good for you!

J: Wow!

R: But, more specifically I thought that it would be interesting to talk about… we’ve both had a kind of a similar, eh, evolution, for want of a less disgusting word? In the past year or so, in that, we’ve both changed careers, basically.

J: Yeah.

R: And it’s something that, I mean, obviously I’m really self-obsessed, and I go to therapy, so I do think about myself a lot. And I’m like, oh, I really…

J: That’s healthy!

R: Yeah! I think so. I’ve been thinking a lot about career changes, and what that means, and how it feels to change career and… what age are you? Are you my age?

J: I’m 28.

R: Oh no. Everybody I think is my age, is younger than me, I’m learning lately.

J: I’m 29 this year, so… I’m 29 in a couple of months.

R: Oh, so you’re practically 30. You’re entering your 30th year.

J [hesitantly]: Yeah…

R: My mother would have you down as being 40. She’d be like, “oh, you’re nearly 40 now.” She says that to me now – I’m like, “Mum, I’m 33.” She’s all, “oh, you’ll be 40 before you know it.”

J: Yeah, I think that’s pretty young. I’m not worried about turning 30. I’m a bit annoyed, like, if this was 20 years ago, I’d probably have a house or something?

R: Mmm-hmm.

J: But I’d also probably be married with two kids, and I wouldn’t have retinol. So…

R: Yeah! You’d have shit skin, and we’d all have way worse hair.

J: And we’d have no channels. I’d be stuck watching the Late Late Show, so I’m not really that bitter about being born when I’ve been born.

R: We wouldn’t have the morning-after pill, which is probably why we’d have two kids. What else did we not have? Twenty years ago… 1998…

J: We’d have a diaphragm… they definitely had the Pill then, didn’t they?

R: They had the Pill… they had condoms I think, but only just. Weren’t condoms in the 1990s?

J: I think, like, they were…

R: We know things.

J [laughing]: My little sister put up an Instagram commemorating the legalised sale of condoms, or contraception, so I think that was the 1980s but you got it on prescription.

R: My God, imagine getting a prescription for your condoms; would you have to get measured?

J [laughs]: I don’t know.

R: Could… like… could women…

J: Text our dads!

R: Oh no. My, my parents have never seen a condom and, in fact, my uncle – eh, who I actually won’t name, just in case. I’m sure he would not mind me telling this story. But he was telling me that, when he was younger, he was living in, I think, Sierra Leone, and he had a friend – I think she was either Irish or English, but the way he tells the story, right, she sounds like she was a very Protestant friend. She was very learned, and wise, and she knew things that they didn’t know. Like, not that she was… kind of… em, what they would call a fast woman, but she was kind of like… you know, she went on dates and she had different boyfriends…

J: Liberated.

R: Yeah, she was liberated.

J: Protestants are getting a great shout-out in this podcast so far.

R: I always wanted to be a Protestant so I could go to Sunday school, although I don’t know why because I didn’t even like Mass. Anyway! So he was friends with this woman and he was over in her apartment, they were going out for dinner or something, and he’d gone over to pick her up, and she was getting ready. And she said, like, “oh, will you pass me in my lipstick?” or something, and he said, “where is it?” and she said, “it’s on the bedside table beside the condoms.” And he had never seen a condom. He was married, and I think he had…

J [laughs]: In Sierra Leone’s the first time he sees a condom!

R: Yeah. He was married, he had one or two children at this point, and he’d never seen a condom, and he was looking in the bedside cabinet going, “beside the condoms, where’s the lipstick, what…” and he suddenly spied what he thought were condoms, and he was, he said, agog, literally staring at them thinking, I don’t know how these would work. This is insane… And she eventually came out of the bathroom going, “for God’s sake, where’s the lipstick?” and he went, “these are condoms?!” and she looked at him and she went, “no, you fucking eejit, they’re hair rollers!” and he was just staring at the only thing that he could see that was in any way cylindrical.

J: His poor penis was probably so scared!

R: I know! I’d say it shrivelled right up inside him.

J: But you know, like, condoms have been around since the Victorian era. They were vulcanised rubber. They were really thick, you had to roll them on…

R: You’ve to roll them on now, Jean!

J: Do you? Em, as I said before, I’m Catholic, Rosemary. No, they were like, they were a really thick rubber, you can see pictures of them online. So they, like, made your penis feel a lot bigger.

R: Oooooh!

J: They were ribbed for her pleasure on, like, a huge scale. Maybe not for her pleasure. They were kind of like, I’m trying to think of the thickness of them… if you look them up online, they’re fairly…

R: Like latex gloves?

J: Thicker than that.

R: I thought they used to make them out of, like, sheep’s or lamb’s stomach lining, or something?

J: They did that, like, before the Victorian era.

R: Maybe, even, you know when they find things in the tombs in Egypt and they’re like, “these must have been condoms”, and you’re just like, “how do you know?” That could’ve been a finger glove.

J: Can’t you still get lambskin ones, or…?

R: I really, really hope not.

J: No, I’m pretty sure you can.

R: How did we start talking about this?

J: I don’t know. My career… [laughs]

R: Yes! Your career. Tell us – tell our loyal listeners about what you were doing, what you’re now doing and why you changed.

J: Will I start from when I’m 18?

R: Sure why not? We don’t have a time limit.

J: And I’m leaving the convent like Maria in The Sound of Music.

R: Did you go to a convent?

J: I did, yeah.

R: Was it a boarding school?

J: There was a boarding school, but I went as a day girl because I lived in the same area. I really liked my secondary school. It was an Ursuline order of nuns, but the nuns didn’t teach there. But you did have religion classes, which were really funny.

R: Like, funny, ha ha?

J: Yeah, I found them funny ha ha. Because… at home, I had a pretty okay time. You know, my parents weren’t really strict or anything, so you’d come in and you’d be taking it with a pinch of salt.

R: Okay, okay, yeah – so your parents at home weren’t going, “you must believe everything the nuns tell you, Jean.”

J: No, there wasn’t any of that.

R: Do your parents call you Jean Anne or Jean?

J: Jean. They don’t use my name that often when they’re talking to me. It’s on the phone, so…

R: True, yeah. My Mum actually mostly calls me Beatrice, which is my sister’s name.

J: You have lovely names.

R: She uses that name a lot more than mine.

J: Yeah, my Mum calls me my sister’s name before she gets to mine whenever she’s trying to pinpoint. But, yeah, so I left school at 18, and I went to Trinity and I did Law. I picked it out on my CAO for the reason that, like, I remember, like, my Mum will say she didn’t say this, but she was like, not into me doing English and Philosophy as an arts degree. And I did very well in my subjects in school – like, I was getting As from 12 on, so it was kind of… destined that I would do a high points course. I didn’t really have a choice. But I wanted to do it as well.

R: How many points was Law?

J: It was like, five hundred and something. I don’t want to be that person who remembers. I do remember, but…

R: Then you are that person! [laughs]

J: I remember those things anyway. So, it would have been five hundreds – but I knew, going into my Leaving Cert, that I didn’t find my Leaving Cert difficult. I didn’t get that stressed out about it. I was really good at study, so… I think, when you’re a particular person and, when you know the bare minimum you have to do, you’re going to be fine. So I studied by exam papers, that was how I did it and that’s how I did it in college as well. So… I did Law in Trinity, and I originally had Cork down, UCC, to do Law, because a lot of girls from my secondary school in Tipperary would be going to Cork, and I thought it would have been easier, to know people – but then, my whole life changed because my sister had tickets to Shayne Ward in Cork, at Live in the Marquee [laughs].

R: What?!

J: It was before the CAO deadline, so I went down to Cork with her… because she had a ticket, and we stayed in a hotel down there.

R: And did you decide it was a shithole, or something?

J: I just… Shayne Ward was funny. We had a great time at it.

R: [laughs]

J: I was hanging around Cork the next day, and… it was just, em… yeah, I just, I didn’t feel it.

R: It’s funny how you can have those moments, like, you know when you go somewhere and it’s raining and it’s grey and you don’t, like, you don’t have a particularly great time and you’re like, this place is a bit shit.

J: Yeah, so I went home and changed my CAO. And the thing is, Cork’s lovely!

R: I went to Lyon once and had that experience. And Lyon, I’m sure, is lovely, but I was just like, this is such a boring place to be.

J: So yeah, I went home and changed my CAO, ended up getting into Trinity and did Law there for four years. And I went to Canada for my year three, for two semesters, and then when I came back to Trinity, for my fourth year, Canada sort of changed me a bit. I was on my own a lot.

R: Did you get real liberal?

J: They are really liberal over there. Like, they started giving out to me about our abortion law. And I was just there, like, hi, I’m 21! [laughs] I’m not an elected representative, I’m sorry. But they were… people over there were quite nice, but I took a class in Gender Studies over there, it was Law and Feminism and a few other things thrown in. It was… the “woke” class.

R: That sounds really nice. Law and feminism – and a few other things, I think we could all do with a bit of that.

J: Yeah. And we learned loads of things. There was kind of a quota in the class, nearly, of people from all different backgrounds, and there were loads of guys in the class. We learned different things, and every class we did a different theory. It wasn’t a forced thing, and your essay could be pretty flexible. Like, there were guys in the class… you were talking about privilege and all that without using the word “privilege”.

R: Well, the word privilege wasn’t really around then. That’s new.

J: People were just talking about really interesting things. One girl did her essay on fashion labels robbing native designs from, like, women in Asia and Africa, and just how these women don’t know that something that a girl saw on her holidays, in Madagascar, is now in Milan…

R: …making them millions.

J: Yeah… and just how those women can get redress. So that was her essay. She did it because she was really into crafts. I did my essay on abortion in Ireland, and everyone got to share, and it was lovely. At the end of the lecture, Sonia Laurence was her name, the lecturer. She was so nice; I’ve since met up with her when she came to Ireland. She said, there’s no point in taking this class if you don’t do anything with it. So I came back to Trinity and I applied for, with my friend Fiona Hyde, to do a women’s magazine, in Trinity.

R: Fiona Hyde, at andgoseek on Twitter?

J: Yeah… I don’t know if we’re allowed… to name her Twitter. I’m sure we are!

R: Oh, well, I mean, I think you can search “Fiona Hyde” and you’ll find her at andgoseek on Twitter.

J: Yeah, and she does that advice column in the Journal. So… she’s out there. She’s public. And we did a women’s magazine called Siren, and we got funding for it and we printed it and we did photoshoots. It was all about, like, we said it was a gender equality magazine at the time, to get the funding [laughs]…

R: Ah, Ireland!

J: Yeah, so… And the equality office in Trinity were great about it. We launched it, Zappone and Gilligan launched it, and it won a Smedia [award] at the time.

R: Oh yeah!

J: So it was really fun, and it was really positive, and I met loads of people through it. So I sort of put myself out there more, and that magazine kind of led to other opportunities. One opportunity I didn’t take up – which I probably should’ve at the time, looking back – in that, The Gloss had judged the magazines thing, afterwards, the magazines award, and afterwards, when we were in the, kind of, room, after you get the award, one of the women in charge at The Gloss had told me, listen, send us an email and come in and do an internship. She’ll probably deny she said that now, but… she had said to me, like, you know, if you want to come in and get work experience, let me know. And I was like, sure I don’t have the money to do that, and I didn’t do it. And I then was… I was working in Trinity as a receptionist and then after that I was unemployed, and I think I worked for a few weeks, no I did work, for a few weeks, in a Dylan McGrath restaurant. It was a disaster. It just was not for me.

R: I actually can’t imagine you…

J: No! [laughs] I was the hostess!

R: I mean, similarly, I think, like… I’m not good at, you know if I think somebody’s being slightly rude to me, or even, you know, if somebody kind of… when you’re showing, I often think about hostesses when they’re showing men to their tables and stuff, and men might put their hand on the small of your back. Those kind of things, I would not be graciously smiling at them. I’d be going, “excuse me…” I’d be fired, basically.

J: One of the days… One of the guys came in, who funded it, or an architect or something, they were coming in, having a meeting there, and he asked me to make coffee. And I just said, “I don’t know how to make coffee”, and went back to my job. But the thing is, I don’t know how to make coffee! I grew up in Tipperary.

R: Do you know how to make coffee now?

J: No.

R: But you went to Trinity, for crying out loud!

J: I know how to put Nescafé in hot water.

R: No, no, no, no, no, no, no.

J: But I think, not learning how to make coffee means, I can’t make you coffee.

R: There is actually an interesting… in Feminist Fight Club, which is…

J: I have that book! I’ve read bits of it, it’s great.

R: It’s really good. And there’s a lot of talk in that about how women are the ones who always get asked to make the coffee.

J: I always think if you’re asked to take notes in a meeting, say you’ve carpal tunnel.

R: Have you ever done that?

J: No, but I plan on doing it. It’s one of my back-ups. I do actually have a little wrist support thing I have to wear sometimes…

R: So you can whip it out and be like, oh no, I’ve carpal tunnel.

J: …actually, I can’t. Anyway, so, I did that for a few weeks and it was just disastrous. Then I did an internship at the Web Summit for six months, and… I really liked the Web Summit. I had a gas time there. I worked with some really fun people. I didn’t work for the Web Summit itself, they had satellite events, in a way, so I worked for one in London. I had loads of fun at that, and you meet, like, the funniest people at tech conferences – they’re so serious. They’re just… odd people. I’m just going to say that. Really intense. Their companies probably don’t exist any more, you know? They were like, these are going to change the world…

R: Yeah, yeah…

J: I think because I was having such fun there… It was really stressful, because you were doing calls to America, so you’re up late, waiting to talk to these people. But everyone was just a bullshit merchant in that space, so you’d be on the phone, kind of laughing, but you’d have to be like, “and tell me, Adam, about your start-up!” And you don’t care, and his start-up sounds really dumb!

R: But I feel like, a lot of this is your attitude to life. In that situation, I would be getting really pissed off. Like, fuck’s sake, I have to interview this… it’s going nowhere, it’s stupid, such a waste of my time, and this person is so weird, whereas you’re like, “this is gas.”

J: Yeah. Like, one of the guys in the place was obsessed with getting LinkedIn requests, so we’d try to outdo him on LinkedIn connections. It was just a really funny time.

R: LinkedIn can get very competitive. Because it rates you! You can see where you are… are you an expert, or are you an A or a B… you know what I mean? I don’t know exactly what it is, because I’m not on LinkedIn any more, but when I was, I was pretty high.

J: I’m pretty good at it as well. I use it a lot, for things. I find it a really easy… from working in the Web Summit, I was doing sales, so LinkedIn was a really easy way to know what to say to somebody.

R: God, I’m so easily influenced, now I’m like, maybe I should get back on LinkedIn! That’s compelling!

J: If you don’t need it, you don’t need it. And I think, actually, working in sales in the Web Summit helped me for journalism, and all that, a lot. Because you had five minutes to get ready for a call. And, you know the way some people do these research packages, and all that… they get really annoyed when they hear someone on RTÉ Radio going, tell us a bit about yourself! And I’m like, that person has the same approach to life as me, in that like, no, I’m going to read my Kindle on the way to work rather than doing work.

R: Yeah, yeah.

J: So, it prepared me for doing stuff really quickly, and having to learn about complex businesses that no longer exist. And also, everyone in there was a really funny person. And I left that after six months because, if I was staying, I was going to be staying in sales. And I said that to, like the HR manager and Paddy, when I was leaving – I was like, “there’s not really a role for me.” They did ask me to stay on, but I knew I would end up back in sales, no matter what role was created for me, because it’s a company that sells tickets. So then, I was on the dole for a while after that…

R: So you really should have taken the internship at The Gloss! Although… that does raise the point that internships are such bullshit because you need to have the means to support yourself while you’re doing them. So they are the reserve of people who have money.

J: Yeah, well, I didn’t get offered the internship at The Gloss… I was invited to, kind of, apply, sort of.

R: Yeah, sorry – but I mean, after the Web Summit then… you had time that you could have gone in…

J: Yeah and, this actually led to me… after the Web Summit I had a few months, so, it was actually really tough at the time because I was on the dole, and the dole in Ireland is no money whatsoever. I just… I agree completely with raising it, and some people would really recoil at that suggestion. But it’s no money. It’s not a standard of living. That Leo Varadkar campaign really annoyed me – you can’t live in Dublin at the moment on the dole. It’s terrible money. It’s not money – it’s money to do one grocery shop, like, it’s really bad. And you can’t live on it. I was having, like, one meal a day on that – and, like, I always say, me and my boyfriend grew a lot closer because I would stay at his house to eat. That’s what it was like. It’s just a bad way to spend a pivotal year in your 20s, undernourished, and having bad food. So I was doing all that and I went down to Electric Picnic. My boyfriend was DJing at it, and I was like, “oh I’ll come with you”… and then, in the car on the way down, he and his friend were like, “Jean, we don’t know if you’ve a ticket.” And I was in such a, kind of, mood – I was just like, “I don’t care because I’ll get a lift back with Davey’s dad.” I’d only packed a playsuit, various pairs of tights and knickers, and I had a Nature Valley [bar] in my bag. That was my attitude at the time. I loved how, like, I didn’t really give a shit. And I was just there with my sunglasses on, to Dan, my Penneys sunglasses, going, “I don’t care.”

R: This just seems so stressful. This is a very stressful scenario. What happened then?

J: I loved it! We went down there and…

R: Did you have to go home with Davey’s Dad?

J: No. I got in and we were staying in the artists’ camp area. It was really funny because Dan and them were acting in some play in the kids’ area, and I didn’t get… I wasn’t cleared to go into the kids’ area, so I’d have to wander around on my own. Dan was playing Hamlet in some kids’ play. [laughs] It was just really funny. But Róisín Agnew was in the play as well, and hanging out, so I got to know her at it, and I was hanging out with that crowd and then, a week or two later, Róisín messaged me, “oh I need an intern in Image.” And I was like, I’m not doing anything else, and JobBridge was starting up, so I went in and I met them and I was like, yeah, I’ll start in a few days, and I did. But before I went in to meet them, my Mum at the time was saying, “would you look at doing a Master’s?” And the Government had taken away the grants for Master’s, so it would have meant my parents paying for it, and I was like, okay I’ll think about it. I looked at some in DCU, and she had said, listen, you really like communications, you loved doing that magazine, and you got loads of… coverage from it, or whatever. Would you think of doing that? And I was like, oh, I would. So I met a woman who was an established journalist for coffee… and she said to me, all you’re going to get out of that Master’s at the moment is your work experience.

R: Yeah.

J: She was like, you know how to do this stuff. You’ve a really sound degree in Law. You’ve done other things. Just go in and do the JobBridge. And I was on no money. JobBridge is really bad; paying for your commute really ate into it. But I really liked working in Image. Looking back, they were great. I had really nice bosses, I worked with great teams. Róisín then left to set up a confessional magazine and she’s now doing film and stuff, and Caroline Foran came in to be deputy editor. I was working with Caroline and Ellie Balfe, and they were just lovely to work with. And it was, kind of, the early days of websites in Ireland – not early days, but the thing about women’s websites around the world is, I don’t know how… It’s really hard to do them right. And it’s hard to know your audience because, with the internet, the audience changes so much. One week, mental health is in; the next week, people want to know about abs. So it’s really hard to get that.

R: Yeah… yeah.

J: We were kind of in that phase of trying to find out what the reader was, and… You have analytics, but if you follow analytics too much, you end up making bad stuff.

R: Yeah. And I think that was around the time as well, that the advertising money was moving. So it was like, well, we haven’t figured out how to make money from online yet, but people aren’t really spending with print any more, so we need to figure it out really, really quickly. It was that kind of urgency, I think.

J: Yeah, and I was lucky in that the three of us had a pretty similar outlook and sense of humour and they were just… Ellie and Caroline were lovely to work with. And then, I was there about two-and-a-half years, maybe longer. I was there about three years.

R: But you weren’t on JobBridge, as an intern, the whole time, were you?

J: I was on JobBridge for nine months. Then I became Junior Editor, and then I became Senior Editor. Then I was Senior Features Editor for, like, a month. But I’d done things like events with Image. Being on JobBridge for nine months was very tough, and it’s affected me financially to this day. But I don’t really get angry about it… I’m emailing my TDs at the moment about my tax credits, because I am low on them. I don’t have enough tax credits to claim a free dental appointment every year because of JobBridge. And that’s happened to a lot of people around the country – and that’s, I think that’s bullshit, that I went in and worked every day, and the Government set up this scheme and didn’t reward me for going along with their scheme. Like, I didn’t emigrate. I stayed in Ireland…

R: Which is what they said they wanted. Do you know what I mean? That’s what they wanted.

J: Yeah. And I think that’s a crime, that they treated people like that. And the fact that companies used JobBridge to not hire people… It cost the companies nothing. And they got away with that, and it’s kind of the reason, like, I don’t think I’ll ever be able… I voted my Labour candidate in the last election, on a pro-choice platform. But I don’t think I’ll do that ever again. After this Referendum… I don’t think… If it passes… I don’t think I’d vote for Labour again after this Referendum, because the JobBridge thing… which, I know various Government parties or political groups were party to. I just really hate it, and it was good that I got to do it and it’s affected, like, it got me into media. But what it did to people, I just don’t like that. It really devalued work.

R: I mean, there are definitely some pluses, but you could see… when you looked up the JobBridge site, I remember at the time, going in one day and just looking through all the jobs, and the amount of jobs that were on JobBridge that were jobs. That were full-time roles, that they needed to hire full-time people for, do you know what I mean? And they were really… I felt loads of companies were just taking advantage, and taking someone in who, they weren’t giving… They weren’t going, we want someone to come in and really learn from us and we’re going to mentor them, and do X or Y, they were going, we need labour and we need it really cheap and we need it now. And it was a really easy thing to take advantage of.

J: And I think that happened across the country.

R: Yeah. It happened everywhere – from newsagents to, I mean I think I saw, at one point, somebody, looking for people with a PhD on JobBridge. And you’re like, how the fuck do you think people are going to have gone through… like, their Leaving Cert, their undergrad, a postgrad and a PhD? And have paid for all that… And now you’re going to not pay them.

J: Yeah. It was… I don’t know if the word is criminal, but it was really dismissive of people. So, it was great in that I got into media that way, and then I went for the job in STELLAR, which you also had!

R: Oh yes!

J: I was your successor.

R: You became the new me.

J: Yeah! Without the Snapchat.

R: Oh yeah… back in the heady days of Snapchat fame.

J: So I was there for about a year and eight months… I did the calculations today and I’ve now moved on from that, and from that kind of media role. I’m now working in content design in the public sector, because I just… Not that I was done with media, but I just needed a change. I went back to college part-time, doing Science Communication in DCU. So I’m trying to pivot, I think is the … from my Web Summit days, the word, I’m pivoting.

R: It’s very on-trend, I heard.

J: Pivoting?

R: Yeah, the career pivot.

J: Science Communication is as well – a growing field. It’s really interesting. What got me interested in Science Communication was… I was writing so much women’s health stories, but also observing bad advice on social media and I was like, oh, this is weird, and it was kind of before the big fake news phenomenon, but I was thinking about it for a while, like, this is bothering me. And I want to, sort of…

R: …be better. I mean, in your science communicating.

J: Yeah, and just this sort of… you can get a press release and you can write up the press release without questioning anything, and I think that happens a bit. It doesn’t happen a lot, like, I think people really go after journalists as being lazy, and I don’t think that’s the case. I actually think readers are lazy. So, like, if you’re into those content churning sites and you’re clicking the links, that’s, like, a decision you made.

R: True.

J: A newspaper, you can pick up and it might be in a cafe… But when you go online and you click a link on Facebook, you decided to click that link. You decided to give them traffic.

R: It is kind of that moment of, when you see people going, “do you really call this news?” and you’re like, you’re reading it! You clicked on that knowing it was a story about Kim Kardashian’s arse, and now you’re giving out that it’s not news…

J: So annoying. But, like, you can surround yourself with the type of media… That’s the whole bubble thing. You can surround yourself with whatever news, hard news, broadsheets, and I think people giving out about clickbait, I’m like… You liked those pages originally. You can unlike them. You can block them from your feed. You can seek out news. I read the RTÉ.ie site every morning now, and I read The Irish Times and I click on the Irish Independent.

R: Do you subscribe to The Irish Times?

J: I have a student offer, which I believe is free. That’s the reason I went back to college, all the discounts.

R: That is another compelling… I’m like, get back on LinkedIn, go back to college, get your free Irish Times.

J: Now, you’re gonna pay for your fees so it’s an expensive Irish Times! But yeah, so I kind of decided to change my career… I was in a shop, the Londis on Westmoreland St, and I was on the phone to a friend, and I saw, like, the Sunday papers – and there was someone profiled in the Sunday papers, and I looked at her face and I was like, fuck, I’m going to have to interview her some day, and I don’t want to do it. And that was… I was like, d’you know what? I’m going to make a change.

R: Who was it?!

J: I can’t say because I’ll get – you’ll get in trouble!

R: I’m in enough trouble!

J: So… because she’s harmless.

R: Well, they’re all harmless. That’s the problem with Irish celebrity. I was talking to somebody about this today. Somebody was going, oh, do you think such-and-such gets trolls, or gets haters, and I was like, no, because I think the majority of, kind of, A-list or like very successful celebrities or bloggers or Snapchatters or influencers are harmless. Which I think is an insulting word, actually.

J: Ellen Tannam says it’s the worst thing you can say about somebody.

R: Yeah, or, like, they’re nice. Or, “they wouldn’t hurt a fly.”

J: Nice, I think, is different from harmless, because harmless suggests a level of idiocy.

R: True.

J: Not that you’re banging into walls like Mr Bean, but… that you just nod along with things.

R: Yeah, like, you couldn’t really make a difference if you tried… you know what I mean? You couldn’t really affect change if you tried. Like, back to Science Communication for a second. You have a specific interest, or, like, you have a specific problem that you’re interested in having represented correctly. Which is something that’s, kind of, been in the news the last few weeks – let’s talk about Lena Dunham! I know you really want to talk about her.

J: And my relevant vagina! Yeah, I have endometriosis. And actually, it was the first article I wrote for Image, was about my endometriosis, and my diagnosis. So I was writing about it before it was cool. [laughs]

R: So you pipped Lena to the post.

J: Yeah… um, I don’t know if I feel comfortable being compared to Lena…

R: I used to be compared to her all the time, you know, like, a couple of years ago, oh God, Rosemary Mac Cabe thinks she’s the Lena Dunham of Ireland, and kind of before she was, like, the anti-hero… When she was still, like, annoying but kind of woke.

J: I don’t know if you could call her an anti-hero now… Because her reputation is pretty…

R: It’s pretty bad. She’s more anti than hero now, isn’t she?

J: Yeah, and I… do you know, when she writes something like an essay, they usually are good. Like, they’re… her book’s grand.

R: Oh, I hated her book.

J: I’m not a fan of… that navel-gazing anyway, but, like, objectively I was like, it’s fine.

R: Her book, I felt like was written by somebody who thinks they’re, like 20% more intelligent than they are. Which is probably what my book of memoirs would be like!

J: I think if anybody writes a memoir in their twenties, they’re basically inviting regret into their life.

R: What if you have enough regret already, so you’re willing to take that risk?

J: I think there’s, like, the hot mess memoir and then there’s the… just that particular, oh, I feel like everything in my life is profound.

R: Well, she does!

J: Yes. So there’s, like, the Cat Marnell memoir, which is your, WOAH! And you’re loving it. And I think there’s grief memoirs… not grief memoirs, but someone writing about a difficult time they went through. I’m okay with that. But this sort of, like, churning everything in your life into a metaphor. I am not into that.

R: Yeah…

J: And I feel like, I just feel that Lena Dunham came along at the wrong time. I think if Lena Dunham was in the 1990s, she would’ve survived. Her reputation would’ve survived intact.

R: Well, because nobody would’ve thought she was racist when she said that thing about the MTV Awards, do you know what I mean? She’s kind of this privileged white person who is maybe not very aware of her privilege and not very “woke”, in terms of race… and so says these things that, in the 1990s, nobody would have batted an eyelid at. We would’ve been like, oh she’s a profound feminist, whereas now it’s like, okay yeah, fine, we’re all fucking feminists. But you’re also a bit, like… Off.

J: I hate the TV show, Girls, I’m just not into it.

R: I gave up after season two, but now… then I heard the last season was amazing so I want to restart. But tell our listeners, if they don’t know and they’ve got this far, what is endometriosis.

J: Well, I actually contacted the Endometriosis Association of Ireland, because there’s a lot of miscommunication around what endometriosis is. And magazines are better at it now, but there was an era where they were misdefining it. So I contacted the Endometriosis Association of Ireland, who I’ve been in touch with since before I was diagnosed. Because I’m quite proactive with that kind of stuff. Like, I emailed them… What happened was, I emailed them as soon as I had the symptoms, and I was like, “what are the supports in Ireland for me?” And they rang me. They were great.

R: Oh, wow!

J: So endometriosis is, basically, a chronic condition. It’s invisible and it’s diagnosed by a laproscopy surgery. There’s no other way to diagnose it, which is something that people… Someone might meet me and they’ll be like, I have endo! And I’ll be like, oh did you have the lap? And they’re like, no, my GP told me. And I’m like, you might have something else wrong with you and you’re treating the wrong thing. A lap is the only way to diagnose it. So it’s basically, cells, similar to that in the uterus, are found in the pelvic area, on the bowel, bladder and space between the bowel and womb, and they’re lesions that are similar in nature to the uterine lining but they’re not the same. So, some people are like, oh it’s when your womb lining grows outside your womb, but it’s not – it’s something similar to it. It responds to hormonal stimulation and can create inflamed and painful areas within the body. It’s been found in other extra-pelvic locations, such as the lungs and skin, in extreme conditions. It’s not an STI and it’s not cancer. The current science is that it’s most likely present from embryological development, so, when you’re in the womb as a baby.

R: Oh, wow… so it’s nothing… Importantly, and kind of obviously, but it’s nothing you did. It’s nothing anybody’s done.

J: It could be something your ma did…

R: God, yeah…

J: Which is something I’m really interested in. There’s a whole conversation around feminism and motherhood and giving birth and… people are like, oh we’re let have one drink and you’re like, actually, medically, that’s ill-advised. And there’s stuff that came out, this study recently, about taking painkillers during pregnancy, and there’s a correlation between girls having a lower egg count, of mothers who took painkillers. So there’s a lot to be… It’s an unpopular feminist sort of outlook, but when you are pregnant, you should be…

R: Well, because it’s a very double-edged sword. On the one hand, we’re like, okay, you know, when you are pregnant and planning on giving birth to that child, then there are certain responsibilities and maybe expectations – and, I guess, there are certain “should”s that, as a society, we could expect – that like, you should refrain from drinking alcohol and you should refrain from smoking, and all these things. But then there’s the other side of it that’s like, well women get enough shit for the decisions that they make around their bodies and around their reproductive systems.

J: I’m really interested in all that. It’s an unpopular thing to be, kind of, really gleefully into. Not that I’m gleefully into it but I’m like, what does happen? I’m not a scientist so this is probably me just speculating, but if they found out that endometriosis was caused by something during pregnancy, I would want to know the cause of endometriosis. They don’t know the cause. It’s incurable. As someone with a condition, I want to know why I have it. And I’m not going to find that out in my lifetime.

R: And also so that you can not pass it on, and we can all not… so that we can eradicate it.

J: Well, it’s not so much about eradicating and passing it on. Say, if I was pregnant… Like, I wouldn’t think having endometriosis is a curse. I don’t see it as a curse. It’s just something that’s happening to me.

R: Well… I mean, so I, A, am not a doctor and, B, do not have endometriosis, but when I was working at STELLAR, I did a piece on endometriosis…

J: I remember reading it!

R: …I interviewed a number of women who suffered from it, and spoke to the Endometriosis Association of Ireland because they were saying the same things, that there are so many miscommunications. And I was really staggered by the fact that, for example, I didn’t know that you could get really bad symptoms of endometriosis when you didn’t have your period. I thought it only happened when you were menstruating. And I didn’t know that it could get so severe… I spoke to women who were like, “I’ve been off work for a year because I can’t move, because I’m in incredible pain, because it’s growing, like, at the back of my bladder and it’s pushing on my spine and I’m in pain and I have these lesions…” And I didn’t know any of this. So, you know, not necessarily that I’d be going, let’s test for endometriosis in the foetus and then consider whether to continue with the pregnancy… that extreme… but at the same time…

J: Plus, the science isn’t there.

R: Well, TG! as my friend Kirstie would say. But I do think that there are some endometriosis sufferers who would see it as a curse, do you know what I mean? Because they have incredibly severe… and I’m not saying that you don’t, because I don’t actually know.

J: Well, I got diagnosed in Ireland, but the road to my diagnosis started in Canada when I was living there. And the great thing about Canada is, you have health insurance. But you pay for it. You pay a couple of hundred… I paid about $800 when I was there, and that was for eight months, on a student visa. So you would be paying more. And their health system, in my opinion, it was fantastic. But I don’t think that would work, really, in Ireland, because you’re paying a health insurance company, and it’s a big cultural shift here. But it meant that I did have to queue at my GP over there, but I wasn’t queuing for ages, and I got to see them. And I was in Canada, I think it was around February, maybe, and I passed out from pain, from my period. My periods had been pretty bad in Canada. A lot of people, it’s triggered with puberty. Mine was triggered in my early twenties. I had heavy periods, but I wasn’t off from school… there were other girls and they couldn’t sit in class, they’d be up in the hallway with the hot water bottles.

R: I have a friend who took about three days off per month, in secondary, and at the time we were all a bit like, oh that’s very dramatic! And she’d be like, “I was getting sick and I was fainting”, and we’d be like, “as if!” and it turns out she has endo. Really badly.

J: That didn’t happen for me in school. I had periods and they were really heavy – really, really heavy, but you know the way the ads are all, the blue water at the time… you were like, you’d nothing to compare. You were like, oh, there’s another clot, you know?

R: And I mean, when I spoke to the people from the Endometriosis Association, they were saying tha tone of the big issues is that, a lot of the time, when women go to male doctors, doctors who have never menstruated will say things to them like, that’s just normal, that’s just to be expected, some women just have heavy periods.

J: This is where I have, like, an infuriating divergement from that – if that’s even a word? – in that I had excellent male doctors.

R: I think the word is Divergence, cos I’ve seen that great movie with Shailene Woodley.

J [laughing]: So I actually, in Canada, I passed out from the pain, and it took me ages to walk to the health clinic, a 10-minute walk away, because I kept having to sit down. When I got to the clinic I had to go into a room and lie down on the floor. And I then got seen by someone, and she was like, okay, I’ve a feeling I know what this is, and she goes, we’re going to do a few tests and give you a painkiller or whatever. And then I got, with my Canadian healthcare, I got a reduced drug price. So I took a few weeks… or, a few weeks later, I went in to get all my tests done, got… I’ve had so many smears, like, that it’s definitely not good for me. Because I’ve been investigated. They have to outrule everything, before they can open you up.

R: So they rule out polycystic ovaries and polyps and…

J: A lot of things like that. And I forget all the things I had done, but a man walked into the surgery and he looked through my files, looked at me and goes, “you’ve got mechanical problems.” And I love that, because I love honest, black and white chat. And he just went through, “I’m pretty sure you’ve endo. We’re going to do more tests here so when you arrive back in Ireland you’ve everything done, all you’ve to do is get the surgery.” I was delighted with that. The weird thing was, though, I had… this makes me sound all mystical. Years ago, I had read about endo as a teenager, and, you know when you’re, like, a teenager and you’re like, oh I bet you I was this in another life, or I bet you I was that, you know when you’re mental?

R: Yeah, yeah.

J: I remember reading about endo in a magazine and being like, I bet you I have that. You know? Wanting it, in a weird way, you know when you want something…

R: I kind of wanted a back brace, like Deenie in that Judy Blume book, for like, why? That sounded awful. But I think it was because she was almost a model. Until she found out she had scoliosis. So it was more that I wanted to be pretty and thin enough to be a model…

J: You could have had that chance.

R: Yeah, if I just get my back brace, then when I come out of it, I’ll be like, the swan.

J: So, I’d read about that and I remember going to a friend, like, we were in an Indian, you know when you go at 16, out to a Chinese or an Indian and you’re so adult.

R: You’re so fancy.

J: I remember saying, I think I’ve endometriosis. I forgot about that until recently – but I didn’t make it up, because my memories are really clear.

R: Okay. I believe you.

J: Also, a couple of months before that, in Canada, my ex-boyfriend had come to see me. I remember, we were driving to Niagara Falls, which is a shithole.

R: I’ve heard this!

J: I’m just going to say that right now.

R: It’s a really shitty little town, isn’t it? I hope I don’t have any listeners… well, I do hope I have some listeners from Niagara, that would be so exciting!

J: I’d say they’d agree! But we were stuck there for ages, and I bought a copy of Cosmo. And I remember there was a quiz, and I’d answered yes, no, to a bunch of questions, like… well, it’s too private a question to say here. And I ended up landing on the endometriosis tile. So Cosmo had diagnosed me before doctors did, which I was like…

R: That seems irresponsible of Cosmo to have a yes/no quiz that diagnoses you…

J: US Cosmo has great medical writing in it.

R: It’s good for Science Communication?

J: Very good medical communication. I subscribe to it by print. But then, in Canada, I came back home and I went to a female GP in my local area, and I had all my documents from these specialists in Canada, like… they were like, this girl, all we need to do is cut her open and we’re going to find it. And I was chill with that. And I went to the doctor and I was like, I need you to refer me to this doctor who the Endometriosis Association of Ireland had recommended, a list of doctors they knew were specialists, and I’d picked one out because I looked him up and I saw a YouTube video where he’d won Pampers Doctor of the Year.

R: Pampers?

J: Yeah! Or some, like… brand. This is how I make my decisions, Rosemary, I go with my gut. And I was like, I’m going to the guy a nappy brand have crowned ob/gyn of the year, and whose picture is just a YouTube video with some music. I was like, I wanna see this guy. So I said, “I want to get referred to him.” And the GP questioned my whole… even though I had professionals from Canada, she was like, I don’t think you have this, and I was like, “well it’s funny because a team of medics in Canada think I have it.” And I got really aggressive with her – and I was like, “just sign the fucking letter and post it off.” And she was really taken aback – but I was like, I just want to get this done. I had read about diagnostic delays – there’s delays of like, nine to 15 years with people.

R: I’d say doctors hate people who have read about diagnostic delays. They’re like, not another one!

J: But if you’re sick, you’re sick!

R: Yeah, and it’s really important, in all these situations, to be empowered enough to go, no. You need to send me for this. Like, now. Just… yeah.

J: And I got up to see the doctor a couple of weeks later…

R: This was for the laparoscopy, was it?

J: Yes, to get the lap. And he did a transvaginal exam, which is where they put a dildo in you, and it’s got a camera. I’ve had loads of them done.

R: A dildo with a camera.

J: Yeah. A transvaginal exam. You’ll get it if you’re looking for cysts and stuff, and you get it if you’re pregnant, up to a certain trimester I believe. They just lube up a thing and put it in you.

R: Ye gads.

J: I’ve had so many people look down there… that I have no qualms about it anymore. So I got that done, and then he was like, yeah we’re going to book you in for the surgery. He got me in way sooner than I should have got in. But it was to do with this private-public thing that has now disappeared, where a consultant could, like, make a decision, if he wanted to see you sooner. So I got seen years before a lot of people would have gotten seen.

R: Years?!

J: Yeah. Some people don’t get seen for years.

R: Ugh.

J: It’s because I had everything else done. So I was a tick-the-box, there’s a free bed in that day. And I got in and, after the surgery, it was my final year… I was doing a dissertation at the time and I actually dropped out of the dissertation module, because I just wasn’t in the headframe. Having surgery is… you don’t realise, you’re being cut up. And your body, afterwards, is not right for ages. Because it’s been invaded.

R: And also, even from general anaesthetic, that takes days to get back to normal.

J: But I was having a gas time, because I was doing that women’s magazine with Fiona, and I was hanging out with loads of new people. I’d met my boyfriend around then. We weren’t going out or anything, but like he was in my life and… just all these really fun, new people. And, even though I’d had surgery and had to wear, like, high-waisted dresses for a while because they had, like, blown up my belly and all that to…

R: Uhh!

J: …to find the endo and to excise some of it. So that’s where they take it off. But it grows back… so… You can’t really stop endo. You can treat it but you can’t stop it. So I don’t know what I’m like down there anymore. I probably am due another surgery, but I don’t really want to investigate that. And also, it’s the money… I’d have to go private to see somebody, and I don’t have health insurance, and pre-existing conditions… it’s an absolute quagmire. So, after that, I was put on… I remember, I got a prescription for, like, one version of the Pill, and I didn’t want to take that Pill because two girls I’d known who had taken it had tough times on it. So I went back to the GP in the college, and they put me on… some shitty, like, little generic. And it wasn’t right, and then I went to the GP I’m with now, and she’s like, you’re not meant to be on that and you’ve been on the wrong medication for six months. So then, I’m now on Ovranette, and I’m finding it amazing. And I’m off it, there, for the last week – but I have to see my GP, so I couldn’t get an appointment… so I’m off for an extra few days. And I immediately started breaking out. I don’t have spots, most of the time, so I’m like… When people are like, “oh I came off the Pill”, I’m like, “fucking thick! You’re all complaining and you’re all buying acids and you’re like, just pump yourself with chems.”

R [laughing]

J: People are like, oh Jean, your skin, and I’m like, oh yeah I know, I don’t even drink that much water. It’s because I’m kept alive by Big Pharma. But the only thing is, I do get extra hair, and I find it really hard to lose weight, but I think that’s more the endo than the Pill. Because this Pill treats me fine. But some women, it doesn’t work for. Every endo case is really different. As regards symptoms, this sounds like, oh I just have endo! But I have terrible fatigue. I haven’t been to a nightclub in years. I can’t do nights out. And that has caused ruptures in friendships, these kinds of passive-aggressive distances. And it’s also, like, my relationship has been affected. And me and Dan don’t go out a lot together. We hang out a lot, but he’ll be out on nights out and I’ll be home by 12. And it’s because, I know if I went out, I’ll be fucked for days. And sometimes I get fatigue, in that, I just can’t get out of my bed. And it does affect your life, because in a workplace, how do you explain you’re arriving in late every day? You look like you’re really shit at your job. So it does affect people’s perception of you and you look like you’re zero craic. So it affects your social life and your professional life. And I do get pains in my legs a lot.

R: Which are actually gross… I got, I mean, dull aches in my thighs after I got the coil put in – and they’d said to me, you know, you might feel cramping for a couple of days. And it was just the most… I mean, it wasn’t the most painful thing I’d ever experienced, but it was just so uncomfortable and kind of unrelenting. It was, like, I would put it in the same category as, one time I had sciatica. And this just, like, this pain that just will not go away.

J: And you’re really worried, you’re like, oh my God, am I getting a clot? Should I go to the Mater?

R: Is this what it feels like?

J: I know two girls who’ve had clots, so I’m always like…

R: I feel like you know two girls who’ve had everything.

J: I know, but people tell me… my private messages, I say to Dan, like, if something happens to me, delete everything.


J: Delete every account I have, because so many girls have confessed to me… and I love getting the messages. First of all, I’m really interested… if I had brains and patience, I’d have become an ob/gyn, because I’m really into women’s health. And a girl who’s studying ob/gyn got on to me on Instagram, she goes, “Jean, this is a book you’ll really love.” And it’s a medical textbook. I’m like, my God! I’m so glad a doctor’s recommending this to me! But I’m just… I really like hearing about different conditions and also, sympathising. Just being like, no, that is shit you have that, if you want to go for coffee. Probably not go for coffee, it’s probably bad for us! And I hate herbal tea. And I have to drink it. I’m having proper tea right now but I try to drink herbal tea, and I can’t stand it.

R: Have you tried Rooibus – or, Redbush?

J: I hate it!

R: Oooh. I like that, it’s kind of like vanilla.

J: My Dad buys that. I’ll have it when I’m home. I like peppermint tea, and that’s about it.

R: Yeah, but peppermint tea is a bit like, you can’t drink that much, you just feel like you’re brushing your teeth.

J: Yeah. It feels like something you get, also, in those overpriced cafes. Hipster ones.

R: Well, it is.

J: I’m trying to, like, with my endo at the moment. I’ve put on about a stone and a half in the past year, and I can’t really shift it. So I’m just trying to get used to that. But I am trying to exercise more, because it’s good for you, as you know, Rosemary.

R: I do know! It’s funny, though, so many of those hormonal… polycystic ovaries, endo… make it really difficult for women to lose weight. Because whatever, all these hormonal changes that are happening, like, I think PCOS especially makes you more insulin resistant, so you find it harder to process carbs, all these things… It’s just such a headache and a minefield.

J: Yeah, and some people… I meet girls and they think they’ve endo, and they’re like, I’m going to treat it by diet, and I’m like… well. Okay. You can eat all the kale you want in the world, it’s gonna be pretty hard to shift.

R: There are definite arguments for… there are a lot of things that can be… I mean… I kind of shy away from the sentence, “it can be treated by diet…”

J: I think you can say…

R: You can help things with diet, do you know what I mean?

J: But one girl was talking about it to me recently, and she was like, “well, I’m not going to get the surgery, and if they find anything, I’m going to tell them to leave it in there” and I’m just a bit like, “okay…” like, my brow furrowing, just being like, this is not a coffee… I’m not the person who’s going to be like, “yeah!” I’m going to be the person to be like, “are you sure?”

R: Sure, you can positive-think that away!

J: But also… if you eat less bread, if you eat more vegetables, if you don’t have sugary drinks, you are going to feel good.

R: Yes. Agreed. You are going to feel better and you are going to feel healthier.

J: Healthy eating, doing exercise, not emotionally eating… you’re going to feel amazing. That’s what happens. It’s not going to cure endo. Endo is incurable, and the thing about Lena Dunham’s… she doesn’t say she had her… Lena Dunham, basically, to listeners who haven’t heard, she had a hysterectomy. And she wrote about it for Vogue. And I haven’t read the essay yet, because I feel I’m too close to it, but I do have to read it for a thing in the coming days. But a lot of articles framed that she had a hysterectomy for her endo.

R: To cure her endo, yeah.

J: She does say in the article that it wasn’t to cure her endo, it was to treat her pain. It’s not a cure for endo. Endo doesn’t live in the womb. It lives in other parts of you, so… you’d basically have to get rid of the lower half of your body, in some cases, to cure your endo.

R: And, I mean, I hadn’t realised that either, until I spoke to women who were saying, in the 1970s and 1980s, it was like, the only cure for this is a hysterectomy, and women would have hysterectomies, and still have fucking endo.

J: There’s loads of knowledge around that, and when you go to the endo information days, you’ll talk to people who’ve had different treatments. Some people have been put into early menopause and things like that. There’s a host of different things. Infertility is a big thing with endo. But 70% of women with endo go on to have children.

R: Say if there’s anybody listening who thinks they may have endo – what would you tell them to do? What are the first steps? I mean, obviously, go to your fucking doctor.

J: Cynically? Find a job that has health insurance. And you don’t want them to know you already have it, so maybe… scam…

R: Get the health insurance now, before you get diagnosed, basically.

J: I don’t know how health insurance really works, not having it. So that is not my lived experience, having health insurance. But maybe, like… get a job… because you might need a bit more money than you think. Holistic management of your endo will help you with your mental health. I found acupuncture was amazing for… I loved acupuncture. And I know some people would be like, oh Jean, that doesn’t work. But for me, I really enjoy that, sitting down, lying down for a half hour with needles in me. And it worked for me, okay? Sue me. Sue me, science! You might need a bit more money – so maybe give up on your dreams of working in a publishing house. That sounds really cruel, but… do you know what? It’s… you’re facing into a life of this, so that’s my cynical advice.

R: These are very practical suggestions.

J: Be a bit practical about your money situation because you might want to get more massages. You might have to go to physiotherapy more. Yoga’s good. Yoga’s not cheap.

R: Yoga is not cheap.

J: Maybe look at your work situation. A stressful environment isn’t going to help. I think… I’ve IBS, and I think that was developed in tandem with my endo. And it’s not good, so in my endo, I have real… I’d say, if they opened me up, there would be something to do with my bowels, because it’s every time I come off my Pill… I take the Pill continuously because I got a five-week period once, and it was horrific. I was actually grey. My boss said it to me at the time, they were like, “Jean…” And the doctor was like, that’s no way to live. I take it back to back, three packs at a time. You can take it, back to back, continuously – it’s fine. I take it three months at a time.

R: We’re not doctors!

J: We’re not doctors, but the doctor said it was fine. So…

R: You know what, though, on the health insurance thing, I will say – I recently got health insurance, mainly because I was afraid I had MS, because I kept getting pins and needles in my arms.

J: Oh God – was it from your phone?!

R: Well, no, I actually don’t know what it’s from, so I have an appointment with a neurologist. I would wake myself up with pins and needles all down one arm, or my arm would be completely dead, and I Googled it – and obviously, it’s like, “MS! Main symptom!” but I decided that before I would get diagnosed with MS, which I was sure I had, I would get health insurance, because it couldn’t be a pre-existing condition.

J: Yeah… look it up.

R: Well I signed up and got health insurance, then went to my doctor and my doctor was like, no that’s definitely not MS, because if it was, you would get pins and needles in the same place, you know what I mean? She was like, if you get pins and needles in your right hand all the time, maybe that might be MS because it’s one of the… what did she call them? Anyway it’s something about, MS affects specific neurons, so it would be one neuron is affected and that is the one attached to the hand. That’s my very…

J: Science communication!

R: …my very, very rudimentary understanding. I’m not a scientist.

J: So I’d say, don’t take a job where you know you’re going to be working crazy hours, because it’s going to be really bad for you. You’re just going to have to adjust your lifestyle. If you’re in a relationship, one thing endo can cause is painful sex. So that can really affect a relationship – and, you know, make sure you’re with somebody who loves you, and, likes you.

R: Well that’s good life advice, in general.

J: If you think that person is going to be, like, really annoyed that you can’t go out all the time, or that you mightn’t be in the mood for sex… Like, you’re going to feel like shit. So, don’t go out with someone who you feel kind of guilty about… landing them with, like, someone who enjoys your company… that’s good advice for everyone, yes. But a lot of people are with people who they put on a show for, and it’s a performative girlfriend relationship. You have to be with someone who you’re, like, 100% yourself with, and who’s going to be comfortable with you talking about your body parts all the time, in a not-sexy way. So… You know? Outside the bedroom, real talk.

R: I think the defining moment in my relationship was when I had a really bad stomach bug, and I was sitting on the bed puking into a basin, and I wet myself.

J: [laughs]

R: And he was standing right there, and I was like, “oh my God, I just peed myself” and he was like, “it’s fine, just get up and go to the bathroom”, and he changed the sheets while I was in the bathroom, puking and crying. I was like, this is love.

J: Yeah. I think, like, Dan’s lovely. So, he’s seen… He’s seen a lot, too. I’ll just say that. He deserves a medal. But then again, he doesn’t deserve a medal, because whenever I talk to people about Dan or something, they go, poor Dan, and I’m always like, poor me too!

R: Well, poor you, mostly! And there’s a big conversation to be had about men getting medals for doing things that are very human, and we should just expect them.

J: Women do a lot of things!

R: Men get medals for doing 10% of our emotional labour. So… well done.

J: But Dan does do a lot. And he is a great person. But… that’s the personal life aspect of it. But, medically, go to your GP, if your GP is a prick or a bitch, go to a different GP.

R: That’s also an important life lesson. I’m always saying that to people, because people ask me about… for advice on their mental health. And they’ll say, I really don’t feel like my GP understands… and I’m like, go to someone else.

J: Go to your GP, and start the process. You might have to go private. You might have to pay cash. Just do it.

R: That sounds very back-street.

J: No… like… [laughs] People are like, I don’t have the money for this, I don’t have the money for that. This is the hard truth but, find the money. It’s going to save you years of agony or pain… You’re still going to probably have pain and agony. But…

R: It’ll save you waiting seven years.

J: Sometimes you just have to, you know, sort it out. You just have to grow up. Like, there’s moments in your life… Another thing about media with me, I was like, d’you know what? The girls I know buying houses and having these kind of lives have partners who have good jobs. And who have money. And I’m… You know, I’m not going to hitch my wagon to somebody else.

R: Your partner’s an artist, though, isn’t he, as well – so it’s like… Neither of you are… Do you know what I mean?

J: People are always like, “why don’t you live together?” Writers who move in with musicians… tend not to stay together very long. Or maybe they do, in a hovel.

R: Well, I actually remember somebody saying to me that, for every creative person, you need to find a partner who is… eh, incredibly supportive, but also, ideally, not in a creative role. Do you know what I mean? Somebody who’s willing to do their career, in order to allow you to experience yours, if that makes sense.

J: And I know that’s pretty sensible advice, but… I just had no interest in standing outside Facebook with a sign, saying “MARRY ME!”

R: But you’re now the supportive partner to Dan’s artiste!

J: Um, no… not financially supportive. I think we’re both emotionally… hmmm.

R: Not yet!

J: [laughs]

R: You’re like, I have no plans! I’m afraid we’re going to have to leave it there.

J: God, poor Dan, he’s getting a battering.

R: Jean, thank you very much for taking the time to come and talk about your vagina, and that dildo with the camera on it, which I’m now going to have to Google. This has been How to be Sound with me, your host, Rosemary Mac Cabe. You can find me at and online on all forms of social media at rosemarymaccabe with an A in my Mac. Jean, would you like a social media link?

J: I’m no longer on Twitter but I do have a website:

R: Oh, dot IE! French Jeanne Sutton, dot IE. I would like to say a big thank you to Liam, my lovely producer, whose podcast, Meet Your Maker, is also out now – and really worth a listen, but only after you’ve listened to mine! I would also like to thank my patrons. I have four, one of whom wishes to remain anonymous, but to the rest of them – Siobhan O’Rourke, Paul Jeremiah Hayes and Ciara Norton, I would like to say thank you so much for supporting How to be Sound. I really appreciate your… money. And it will go somewhere great, like, possibly to muzzle Coileán for the next recording. If you would like to become a patron, you can do so at patreon dot com slash howtobesound. You’ll get a little bonus episode to coincide with each episode of How to be Sound, and this week – or this fortnight, rather – there’s a very special, Patreon bonus episode, which is a recording of a comedy set that I did, when I did stand-up comedy, that I thought would be a nice tie-in because I did stand-up comedy for a brand, Bayer, when they were promoting some of their women’s intimate hygiene products, and I happened to record this stand-up comedy set on my phone. So that’s going to be uploaded to Patreon, and you can listen to it there, for patrons only.

In the meantime, if you had guests you could suggest that I interview, please do get in touch and we’ll see you next time!


If you’re buying from Amazon, I would really appreciate it if you’d use my affiliate link. It helps support what I do and costs you nothing extra!
AND if you’re super generous, support me on Patreon! It’s basically a type of crowd-funding site that allows you to put your money where your “likes” are; if you like the content I’m making, please consider giving a small amount every month to help fund it! 

Things we’re grateful for in 2018: retinol, the morning-after pill, condoms – but not the vulcanised rubber kind (or lambskin, gag).

Fiona Hyde: @andgoseek on Twitter, see also her DailyEdge advice column.
Read Jeanne and Fiona’s TCD magazine, Siren, here. 
And check out Roisin Agnew’s Guts magazine here. 
Read Cat Marnell’s memoir (which Jeanne actually rates), How to Murder Your Life.
Buy Judy Blume’s Deenie! (It’s good.) 
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