“I have to touch your bump”

I was so pregnant that I waddled. Everything ached. Although exhausted, I was still looking forward to supper with friends.

As I reached the restaurant, a man stopped me. He was lounging against the wall; later, I realised that he was probably too drunk to stand up straight.

“You’re pregnant!”, he slurred.
“Yes. I’m pregnant.”

I tried to walk past him, but he grabbed my wrist and started telling me how he’d never wanted kids, that he’d make a terrible father, that he wished he’d loved someone enough to have children with them, that he always wanted to have a son; the sentences clashing, contradicting and bumping against each other. He talked and talked at me, while I thought of my friends sat inside, and wondered how to get myself free. He held my wrist, talking and talking.

I suffer from extreme politeness. I stood there and nodded, horribly aware that in being polite to this man, I was being rude to my friends as the time got later and later. And then:

“I have to touch your bump.”

Now, I’m not comfortable being touched at the best of times. My skin is quite sensitive and it can be rather overwhelming. And when it’s someone I don’t know, I get really uncomfortable.

“Really? Do you have to?”
“Yes. Let me touch your bump and then you can go.”

Today Me is typing this with shame and anger. Today Me wants to go back in time to that moment and shout at the guy, leave her alone, let her go. I wish I’d handled it differently. But I didn’t, I muttered, “OK”. I was desperate to go and it seemed like a decent trade-off.

He let go of my wrist, but grabbed my top and started trying to put his other hand up inside it.

Enough polite. “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?”

“I want to touch your bump.”
“OVER MY CLOTHES.”
“No. It has to be your bare skin or it doesn’t count.”
“NO. I NEED TO GO NOW.”

I forcibly removed his hand from my top.

“Fine. But take my email address. You need to tell me when you have the baby what sex it is. But don’t bother telling me if it’s a girl. I only want to hear if it’s a boy.”

I waited, furious, humiliated, hot-cheeked, while he scribbled down an address on a scrap of paper and handed it to me.

I joined my friends at the table, apologised for being late, and waited to stop shaking.

Anyway. I had a girl. I didn’t email him.

THE WINNING LINES: Tales from my dating days #7

We’d been seeing each other for a while. One morning I awoke to find two texts from him.

The first was sent the previous night: “Just to tell you how beautiful you are, and how much I love you.”

I was thrilled to read it.

Then I read the second text, which had been sent a few hours after the first:

“I sometimes send texts in my sleep. If you’ve received any other texts from me in the last 12 hours, you should ignore them, I didn’t mean anything I said.”

I was no longer thrilled.

BLOODY PARENTING ANECDOTES #832: Thanks, sweetheart

My Middle Daughter came running up to me and gave me a massive hug.

MD: “I love you mummy.”

Me: “I love you too sweetheart.”

MD: “I’ll leave flowers on your grave every day when you die.”

Me: “……… thanks, sweetheart.”

This is far from the only time my children have said this sort of thing to me. Does anyone else’s kids do this, or are mine just unusually sinister?

No Boundaries

I’d left my worldly possessions with my new landlady. It was a pretty big move; I was also changing jobs and cities. I’d finished my contract on the Friday, and schlepped my belongings the 170 miles to my new home the same day. There wasn’t time to unpack, only to unload the car before collapsing into bed. The next morning, an early flight for a quick holiday inbetween jobs.

When I returned home, my new landlady greeted me. She looked particularly pleased with herself: “I saw you hadn’t had time to sort through your things, so I thought I’d make you feel at home!”

She’d been through my boxes—through every single thing I owned—and taken it upon herself to unpack my belongings.

Every single thing I owned.

It’s one thing when someone takes it upon themselves to unbox your CDs and books and pop them on a shelf for you.

It’s another thing entirely when someone you’ve only met once previously has gone through your knickers, your bras and even your tampons, and arranged them for you.

She was so thrilled, with what she saw as a really kind act, that I couldn’t bear to tell her I was actually pretty upset by the whole thing.

I wound up moving out a week later, but that was for completely different reasons. I’ll tell you why another time.

All Along the Watchtower

*ding dong*

I opened the door to find two nice ladies smiling at me.

Lady 1: “Hello! Isn’t it a lovely day?”

Me: “Sure is! Have you come to sell me some religion?”

Lady 2: “Well, we were in your neighbourhood and yes, we’re spreading the good news.”

Me: “Sounds lovely, but I’m fine for religion, thank you.”

Lady 1: “We’re Jehovah’s Witnesses and we want to share our joy.”

Me: “How wonderful for you! I’m Jewish and I’m also full of joy.”

Lady 1: “Would you like one of our leaflets?”

Me: “Sure, I’d be more than happy to learn about your religion, if you’re prepared to learn about Judaism.”

Lady 2: “Errrm, not really.”

Me: “Well, if you want me to keep an open mind about your religion then you need to the same with everyone else’s. Have a wonderful day!”

Tents Nervous Headache

When the kids were smaller, we’d go to Camp Bestival every year. One night, I was startled awake by shouting. It was 4am. It transpired that a group of revellers had returned to their respective tents, and were shouting their conversations between them.

I laid awake for a while, listening to them yell about who fancied whom, what a bitch so-and-so was, and I wondered what to do next. I figured that we were at a festival, everyone was there to have fun, I should ignore it and try and sleep. But, having said that, it was 4am, they were so loud it was impossible to ignore them and go back to sleep, and it was disturbing my kids.

I struggled out of my sleeping bag, into my wellies and over to one of the tents. I blinked hello at the young man and woman sat there, somewhere in their early 20s, and tried to find my best “cool mum” phrasing.

“Hey, I know you guys are having a lot of fun. But it’s pretty late now and you’re waking me and my kids up. We’re only in the tent behind you. Perhaps could you keep it down, and in return, I’ll stop the kids making too much noise in the morning when you’re sleeping it off?”

“Oh! I’m so sorry!”, replied the woman politely.
“Yes, sorry about that”, her friend joined in.

I thanked them, staggered back to my tent and into sleep.

We had a busy day on the site the next day, enjoying bands and relaxing in the sunshine. In the evening, we returned to our tent to find that someone had let it down.

Surely they hadn’t…? But that would be so petty… perhaps it was just a co-incidence? I managed to put the tent back up, and we went to sleep.

At 4am, I awoken again by the revellers returning to the field. That time, I got to hear them shouting about how they’d “taught the fat bitch a lesson by letting down her tent”. The young woman who’d apologised earlier was busy doing impressions of me: “Yeah, she was all ‘WHY ARE YOU HAVING FUN? WE’RE AT A FESTIVAL, YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO BE MISERABLE!'”

I listened to them cackling and shrieking about me for a while, wondering what to do. I did contemplate going back and talking to them again, but decided I’d probably be better off sticking my headphones in and listening to anything else.

I’m never usually one for revenge, and I’d like to be able to tell you that I rose above it, that I was the better person, that I didn’t let it get to me. Instead, angry and sleep-deprived the next morning, I emptied the girls’ potty onto the doormats outside their tents. If you happen to be reading this, loud festival go-ers, I’m sorry. x

BLOODY PARENTING ANECDOTES #93: Games

The Smallest Daughter bounced up to me.

“Mummy, can we play I Spy?”
“Sure.”
“You go first, Mummy!”
“OK. I Spy with my little eye, something beginning with…”
“POO POO!” *chortles*
“Ha, very silly. Right, I Spy with my little eye, something beginning with…”
“POO POO!” *hee hee hee*
“Enough now. I Spy with my little eye, something beginning with…”
“POO POO!” *guffaw*
“Sweetheart, we can’t play I Spy if you’re just going to bellow ‘Poo poo’ every time I start talking”.
“OK mummy, I won’t do it again.”
“Thanks. I Spy with my little eye, something beginning with…”
“WEE WEE!” *nearly expires with laughter*

That’s my girl…

Farewell, Wuffles.

Two years ago, we drove to the shop to pick out a pet. With six of us, it’s sometimes hard to make a decision, but this was easy. Amongst the little scraps of fur sat a giant ball of fluff. With two huge beady eyes and the wuffliest whiskers that you’ve ever seen, there was no doubt about which hamster we all wanted. The sales assistant gave him a quick once over: “Yes, she’s definitely a girl*” and popped him in a carrier for us.

I drove home as carefully as I could, Si holding the little cardboard box. Every bump in the road and pothole seemed enormous, with Si murmuring “She’s* not moving, I think she’s dead” as we drove. But, we got him home safely.

Si is not a lover of instructions, and had missed the part about leaving the hamster for three days to settle in. He plunged his hand in to pick the little guy up, and was rewarded with a pair of needle-sharp incisors sunk deep into his thumb.

It was time for the solemn business of choosing his name. This was more difficult than picking out which hamster we wanted; there are six of us and many opinions. But we put forward our choices (Si proposed “Bitey”) and voted, and Wuffles he was.

Hamsters don’t look like much. It’s hard to explain exactly how a small bundle of fluff can have a personality, or be so adored. But Wuffles was. The simple happiness of watching him waddling around, the tickly joy of him pottering along your hand, the deliciously tactile floofiness of his fur, and the zealousness with which he stashed away peanuts kept us all entertained. Sometimes, in a world that can be harsh and confusing, you need a bit of trivial, uncomplicated happiness, and that’s what Wuffles gave us.

However, while we got a lot of pleasure from Wuffles, he was always—as one would expect from a hamster—entirely indifferent to us. He never gave any suggestion that he was pleased to see us. For the first year of his life, he would even raise himself up on his front legs, direct his bottom along the wire bars, and pee out of the cage onto our wall and carpet. Wuffles, basically, didn’t give a crap about anything but his sunflower treats and his wheel, and I rather respected him for that. He simply sat around, looking simultaneously magnificent and daft. “Look at our stupid hamster”, we’d coo, lovingly. “Look at him.”

We were lucky to have two great years with him. But over the weekend, he lost interest in his food. He suddenly slowed down. I couldn’t even entice him with a favourite sunflower snack. Si fed him drips of water by hand. The last two days passed in a strange sort of daze, with me popping in to check on him every hour. In an echo of his first car journey, I’d murmur to Si, “He’s not moving. But I think he’s still alive.”

His decline was so quick, we weren’t even able to take him to the vet. Last night, he was quiet and so still. And so small, now. I sat on the floor, cradling him in my left hand, listening to the click of his breathing. He didn’t move at all. I could barely get him to drink. We moved his cage into our room so he wouldn’t be alone (not that he would have cared). In the morning, he was curled up peacefully; he was gone.

A pet teaches you a lot about life, of love, of loss. Yes, Wuffles was only a hamster, and a stupid hamster at that, but he was our stupid hamster and we loved him.

Sleep well, little friend.

*A year or so after we got “her”, Wuffles was climbing the bars of the cage when I noticed, with some horror, that “she” had some lumps on “her” undercarriage. It turned out that these were merely fluffy testicles and that he was definitely not a girl.

The Art of the Compliment

I lost quite a lot of weight a few years ago.

I was round at a friend’s house for tea. She was busy in the kitchen, when the doorbell went. It was a good friend of hers—someone I’d met before but hadn’t seen in a number of years—and he greeted me with some surprise.

Friend-of-Friend: “You’ve lost weight!”

Me: “Yes, I’ve lost weight.”

F-o-F: “You’ve lost a lot of weight!”

Me: “Yes, I’ve lost a lot of weight.”

F-o-F: “Your husband must love that!”

I was totally thrown by that last sentence; in my world, love isn’t measured or contained by body size. My shape has indeed changed over the years, and it will change again, and it’s no measure of my worth.

Then, there was the insinuation that he used to find me unattractive, but now thought my appearance was acceptable; this troubled me. Why was this guy—who I barely knew—assuming that my relationship and my body were any of his damn business?

I wish I’d picked him up on it.

In a parallel universe, I’d have launched into an eloquent speech explaining all the above. Occasionally, I enjoy imaging myself simply shouting “OH FUCK OFF” as I slam the door in his face.

For the record, I was too flustered to think of a suitable comeback and instead stammered out a factually accurate but deeply unsatisfying reply:

Me: “I’ve no idea what my husband thinks about it. We split up a few months ago.”

The ensuing silence was immense, awkward and well-deserved.

The Shed of Doom

Having a productive sort of day, I decided to assemble a shelving unit in the shed.

It was a pretty easy job, but as I triumphantly pushed the final cap into place, I shrieked. I’d managed to trap a chunk of my wrist skin in between the pole and the cap, thus painfully attaching the whole unit to my arm.

I was stuck fast, pinned in place, like a lo-budget version of 127 hours.
I had no tools to hand to take the shelving to pieces.
I couldn’t reach my phone to call for help.
I was royally stuffed.

Eventually I managed to drag the whole shelving unit, still attached to my arm, to the door of the shed where I started shouting. Thank goodness some kind soul came to my aid and freed me from the unit (and my own stupidity). He didn’t even laugh at me. What a gent.

Anyway, five years later, the shelving unit still looks ace, so it was totally worth it.