Burlesque me away…

Put down that Agatha Christie… There is real life scandal afoot.  Hertford, my sleepy little market town, has been brought into disrepute.  The townsfolk are in uproar.  Local churches are fearing the beginnings of Armageddon.  Council officials are reinstating the ducking stool.  We need to protect the vulnerable women within this, our precious community – BURLESQUE HAS COME TO TOWN!!

As a family, we migrated to Hertford three years ago.  We yearned for the quiet life – the kind of place that only concerned itself with first-world problems.  Our journey followed the northbound A10 and allowed us to find that place in Hertford.

Hertford.  A pretty town where split ends are not tolerated thanks to the vast amount of hair salons.  A serene town that only comes to life when the local celebrity swan gives birth to some, quite frankly, ugly cygnets.  A town where middle-class mothers crumble at the prospect of their child going to a (wait for it…) “good” school with “outstanding” features rather than an “outstanding” school with “good”.  Hertford is an island.  Separated from the real world.  It’s our Hertford bubble.  But, God damn it, this fragile bubble was about to be popped by some corseted she-devil in fishnets.

I first felt this evil presence when I stepped inside the local theatre.  Hertford Theatre, our precious, community hub, torn apart by An Evening of Burlesque.  Some West End floozies set to dirty the usually pristine stage with this “exotic” cabaret.  Pure.  Fucking.  Filth.

Then… the bloody Burlesque Jems caused havoc offering lessons, a FREE taster session no less.  Tempting (how dare they?) regular-sized (scandalous) women to shimmy their breasts and butts at no financial cost.  Local churches were in uproar because they (the poor things) had mistakenly hired rooms out to these saucy little minxes.  It was bedlam.  Sweet Hertford life was over as we knew it.  Pure pandemonium…  There was pillaging.  Looting.  A swarm of mutant locusts destroyed our monthly farmers market.  A zombie, flesh-eating duck replaced our celebrity swan.  Survivors barricaded themselves within the castle walls for protection.  Complete and utter chaos… Hertford was about to be outrun by harlets… and I, dear reader, was definitely NOT going to miss out on all the fun…

Burlesque me away

My husband nearly choked on his spag bol when I told him I would be attending the Burlesque Jems lessons.  He didn’t say anything.  Instead he simply gave me that look.  You know the one.  That look that personifies the complete shock of another.  The truth be told, I didn’t need a glance to reign me in.  I was already full of doubt.  Why the hell was I putting myself through this?  However, good old pride took its place over the mozzarella so I, no matter how scared, embarrassed or anxious, was clearly going to go for it…

When entering the first lesson, my brave friend and I were welcomed by the deliciously busty Kimmy Von Shimmy.  Our anxiety was quickly replaced by hilarity as we started our pelvic thrust warm-ups.  Then, a few hip rolls, butt and breast wiggles later, we were ploughing through our first exotic routine.  The learning of steps was interspersed by the gorgeous, red-lipped Kimmy shouting “Look at my Hertford Harlets moooooove…”  I cannot remember the last time I had spent a good thirty minutes laughing – laughing deep from my belly.  So deep, my uterus and bloody fallopian tubes were in hysterics.  The hilarity then gave way to me concentrating on the dance steps meaning the constant chatter of my usually fucked-up brain was switched off for a blessing of a moment.  I was confident.  I was beautiful.  I was sensual.  I was…. uncoordinated.  But, who cares… It was fabulous darling.

But why Burlesque??  I hear you, my lovely reader, ask.  Why have I made you sit through my Rambling Red rants about feminism and the sisterhood just to shake my hypercritical ass at some class for strippers?  Why not figure skating?  Pottery?  Karate?  I clearly had other options…

You want the truth?  The honest truth??

My dear friend, I could describe how my body has become purely functionary.  How it has given birth, breastfed, wiped arses, comforted newborn babies for hours, carried lazy toddlers, pushed buggies and stomped its way through numerous school runs.  How Burlesque helped me to get back in touch with the elegance of my feminine form.  But, this isn’t really true.

My lovely pal, I could confess how I grew ashamed of my figure.  How the constant changes of pregnancy, birth, motherhood and the simple act of ageing has affected my confidence in my body.  How I panic as younger women begin to flourish against my fading youth.  How Burlesque empowered me and helped me to accept myself, just as I am.  However, this just ain’t true either.

The truth is… I have no rational answer.  The only tale I can tell is that Burlesque makes me happy.  Ferociously happy.  I mean, when else is it deemed OK for me to pile on the eye liner and wear inappropriately slutty clothes?  When else in a group situation, can I hopelessly attempt to be provocative and not be judged?  When, since the girlie sleepovers of my teenage years, do I get chance to giggle hysterically with a group of women?  I definitely can’t remember the last time I asked a lady “Can I feel your knickers?” before asking her name.  I realise it probably all sounds bizarre in a ‘real world’ kind of context but the truth is… I love it.  I love Burlesque because it makes me happy.

But… how do I justify it with my feminist principles?  Is Burlesque good for feminism?

The answer: How should I know?  There’ll of course be numerous debates.  Undoubtedly, they will touch upon the objectification of the feminine form, the example Burlesque sets to young women, how we all have a responsibility over the example we set to others, blah, blah, blah.  Well, maybe I’m sick to death of responsibility.  The responsibility over my kids, my marriage, my house, my work…  Why the hell should I have responsibility over the 3 1/2 billion women across the world too?  For this protected hour each week, during my Burlesque class, the only thing I take responsibility for is my own happiness.

So, is Burlesque good for feminism?  Who bloody knows.  Is Burlesque good for me?  Hell YEAH! 

I’m a better parent when I…

OK… Don’t judge me.  Please don’t judge me.  You see, I’m going to admit something which may force you to mount your high horse.  I don’t blame you.  In fact, you may not be able to help it.  Those little legs of yours may just clamber up on to your saddle of self righteousness.  Before you know it, you’ll be galloping off into the distance, to a bright, beautiful, virtuous sunset, while turning your back on me.  Me.  Your embarrassment.  Your oh so slightly dingy, redheaded, blogging friend.  Me, who along with your other embarrassments in life, you would rather forget – those long, hazy university nights; the man in your past that you should NEVER have spent the night with; the purchase of 50 Shades of Grey.  You will try your very best to forget me too…

And of course, is it fair for me to ask that you don’t judge?  Is it fair for me to censor your judgement?  For me to ask that you control your thoughts before knowing the reason why??  Before I smack you square in the face with the punchline?  How can you (you poor reader) guarantee no judgement before hearing my confession?  It’s completely unfair.  But… I guess the truth is… I feel vulnerable.  I feel unsafe and I need to feel that safety, that emotional safety, before I admit something… You see… It’s a terrible truth… It’s a “see you in hell” kind of truth… I hate to admit it but… I’m a better parent when I – wait for it – d r i n k.

PicMonkey CollageYou have probably guessed that I don’t mean “drink” in the mainstream sense of the word.  It’s not in a tan-tights-coloured cup of Yorkshire tea kind of a way.  I, of course, mean the hard stuff.  The stuff that changes your otherwise flawless perception and steadfast emotions – even during a non PMT week.  While I’m not suggesting that I’m able to parent while wasted, I am completely convinced that a few drops of alcohol make me a better mother.

Now, just imagine… I’ve finished my day of work, it’s 4pm and I have just returned home after collecting my two boys from school.  It’s a happy reunion for the three of us.  Cuddles and kisses are shared.  Stories about the day are told.  I happily locate my house key and open the front door.  This door swings open.  The boys charge inside.  I follow, excited and relieved to return to my warm, welcoming home.  However, my smile slowly fades as I am gradually confronted with the devastation that has been left to smolder over the last 8 hours of work and school…

Is it possible that in the haze of a panicked morning routine, I lit a cereal bonfire, leaving the embers of milk and cheerios to burn and embed on our kids plastic table?  While in my zombie state of not asleep, not awake, did I allow the county council to relocate the local recycling centre to our lounge?  What kind of a charity shop is forming in our spare bedroom with clothes – indistinguishably dirty or clean – wrinkled and scattered everywhere.  My heart sinks as I survey the chaos.  My blood boils as the requests from my children begin to pour in: “Mum?  Can I have a drink?”  “Mum?  Am I allowed a lolly?” With every second that delays my response, their voices get louder, higher, increasingly whiny “Mum?  He’s got my game.”  “Mum?  He’s blocking the TV.”  School reading books need to be read.  Bills need to be paid.  Dinners need to be prepared.  A headache begins to form at the base of my head – the pain conscientiously radiates round to my temples.  Pressure forming, pounding within my skull.  Why God why don’t they offer trephination on the NHS???

And…. pop!  The bottle has been uncorked.

And… glug, glug, glug.  The prosecco has been poured.

I swig back a mouthful of cold bubbly stuff and feel the transformation.  Shoulders start to relax.  The headache fades.  I lie on our hard laminate floor, finishing a digger jigsaw with my boys with no cares about the wet laundry festering in the washing machine or the important phone calls I needed to make.  I am happy.  Relaxed.  The boys are happy and relaxed.  Their high maintenance mummy has been replaced with a woman who is able give them time without being swayed by other demands.  I just don’t understand it.  Why do I need wine o’clock to help me chill out?

Initially, I berate myself for needing this hidden pleasure.  I despise my weakness.  But then I get thinking…. it’s the numbing sensation I enjoy.  The ability to slice away the extra, unwanted layers in life – the things that aren’t that important.  The ability to enjoy that moment rather than worry about the past or future.  True, it would of course be more healthy to practice meditative yoga.  However, the reality is that a Downward Dog ain’t that effective when your kids use the asana as a bridge for their diesel trains.  I’m not using a little sip of wine to escape from my family life, I’m using that tiny tincture to escape the other shit.  So quite frankly my dear reader, you can judge all you want.  Go enjoy your numerous, pointless demands.  I’m off to watch Topsy and Tim snuggled up on the sofa with my two boys and a dash of the hard stuff.

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Play-date Hell

I know you, my delicious reader…  You read this blog title and thought “have to read that” because you’ve been there too.  Us mummies, we’ve all been there… the play-date from hell where Satan manifests in human, 5 year old form, wearing a Ben 10 t-shirt, cut-off jeans and faded red Crocs.  As soon as you welcome this Satan child over your home’s threshold you know, like a vampire, there’s no going back.  You’re in for a whole day of tears, tantrums and trouble.  You should have pushed this little devil away.  You should have sprinkled holy water over his TOWIE haircut and thrust a crucifix in his face.  Yet in true polite, mummy fashion, you open the door, you smile, you welcome, you settle yourself down for a bumpy ride knowing full well it’s all your own bloody fault for allowing this day to take place.

First let me state – I’m not entirely comfortable with the phrase “play-date”.  It sounds too contemporary, too fashionably weird for me to use, reminding me of some terrifying double date.  Although perhaps that’s quite apt.  Those double dates where the women are friends but their partners have less in common than an Xbox 360 and a 50p value sponge from Tesco.  Those double dates where the men are friends but their female partners use the three hours to weigh up how they compete on the scale of looks, success and glamour.  Those double dates where one couple is so obviously at war that the other has to just sit back and endure the show.  In fact it is a blessed rarity when the four attendees of a double date enjoy a harmonious evening.  Just like a play-date there are too many possible combinations of relationship dynamics.  Can it be possible that four people ALL happily get on??  Our most recent play-date tested this question.

playdate hellYesterday, the hottest day of the year, we were visited by an ex-colleague and her darling little boy.  By the time he had asserted that our lounge is indeed “VERY small” and pointed in the faces of my own children while shouting “Who are you?”, it was too late.  They had arrived and I was in for 8 hours of Hell.  The day progressed as follows:

Satan takes the first 30 minutes of his visit to dedicate himself to the devastation of my kids’ room.  Satan pours a full cup of apple juice over my 3 year old’s head (in our lounge).  Rambling Red mummy calmly requests that Satan does not repeat this action.  Satan asks for another drink.  Satan pours a second cup of apple juice over my 3 year old’s head.  Satan demands cheese sandwiches for lunch.  Satan announces his hatred for his lunch.  Satan’s mum screams at Satan to eat all his lunch.  Satan’s mum ignores Satan’s pinching of my 3 year old’s forearm.  Satan tells my 5 year old that his bike stabilisers are for babies.  Satan crashes the 2 day old said bike into a brick wall.  Satan shouts “Oi!  Did you hear me??” after me ignoring his rude request to “Go get (his) drink”.

Do you want me to continue?  I could.  But I think you get the idea…

In true Hollywood style The Omen was an exaggeration – Damien doesn’t just frequent the world of U.S. politics.  He’s all around us in normal peoples lives – in reception classes, in swimming lessons, playgrounds, soft play areas…  There’s no true escape.  The Devil is everywhere!!!  However, while this prospect scares me (and rightly so) what scares me most is the person I become while surrounded by these children.  You see what I find most difficult about these play-dates is that they truly test the qualities that I pride myself on most as a parent: my laid back approach, my gentle guidance, my patience, my use of humour to teach my kids right from wrong.  Instead these kids bring out the worst in me.  My own hidden Devil: moods, irritation, anger, impatience.  The parts of me that my 35 years has taught me to suppress.  But then it gets me thinking… I consider myself a relatively OK individual despite these, my own devilish qualities and surely that’s part of being human – the battle between doing what you feel to be acceptable and not so acceptable.  Of course we all have our conflicting aspects.  But then that means I also have to accept that these little Satan kids too have another aspect to their being.  A ray of light to oppose the hellish shadow they display.  If that’s the case, I guess it’s time for me to take a deep breath of tenacity and find their hidden angel.  It has to be there somewhere.  Doesn’t it?

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Long Distance Clara: My Feminist Inspiration

It’s my birthday today… I am now 35 years of age.  That’s right…  This redheaded blogger was born in the 1970s.  However, it was the 80s when I finally crept (with some caution) outside the insular yet imaginative little world I inhabited with Duncan (my pretend friend).  By this point the decade in question was in full swing.  I had my first crush (Jacko from Brush Strokes).  Pass the Dutchie and Total Eclipse of the Heart LPs were played on loop.  I barely survived the emotional trauma that was the death and resurrection of E.T. while my family basked in the technological advancement of Spectrum Computers and Yamaha Synthesizers…

For fucks sake… Don’t we just love the cultural references to childhood???  Possibly because it makes us feel cool again as we secretly freak out about our increasing age.  Hey… I’m so cool… I remember My Little Pony’s (the FIRST generation).  Vintage!  pigeonHey… I’m so cool… I had a full size Care Bear (Type?  Friendship – Of course).  VINTAGE!  BUT… It’s the reminiscence of TV that really helps us 80s kids bond… Mr Benn, Button Moon, Dungeons and Dragons, Dogtanian, Willy Fogg, Bananaman.  You get the idea…  Beer.  Brainstorm.  Bond.  But I have a problem.  You see, my favourite 80s kids TV programme is a little more obscure so tentatively, risking the blank faces of companions, I declare: “My favourite was (and of course still is) Pigeon Street!”

This programme was colourful.  The stories were fun.  It was liberal, forward thinking.  It had pigeons!  What’s not to love?  IT HAD PIGEONS!!  BUT even more inspiring (dare I say ‘influential’) was the character Clara, the Long Distance Lorry Driver… my first feminist role model.

Long Distance Clara stole my heart.  She enthused my mind.  Her big blonde curls, her curvy, womanly figure, her brightly painted lips – she was a hottie – AND she drove a Juggernaut.  A Juggernaut!  Yes… it had red, heart-patterned curtains but it was undoubtedly a Juggernaut.  She’d control, Long-Distance-Clarasteer, dominate this, the hugest of vehicles to the Docks before returning to Hugo, her chef husband who had lovingly prepared her an American-sized portion of Sausage and Mash.  She was an inspiration.  However, it’s only as a grown woman that I can look back and admire her true power.

Imagine… you’re a five year old girl, sat cross-legged on the reading carpet in your school’s reception classroom.  The teacher asks “What would you like to be when you’re older?”  Nurse?  Hairdresser?  Lawyer?  Artist?  NO.  “I want to drive a Juggernaut”.  Imagine the sniggers from classmates.  Imagine the patronising responses from the adults in your life – a soft giggle, a gentle tap (of sympathy) on your head, smug whispers to their friends “Bless her… she wants to drive a Juggernaut”.  Imagine having the balls to look them straight in the face, smile and quietly think “Fuck you.  I’m going to do it.”

Imagine… You’re in your early twenties.  You finally have the job of your dreams – your first real job.  You drive a Juggernaut and this Jugernaut-driving-world is a world dominated (and I mean DOM-IN-ATED) by men.  Imagine… as a young woman you have to navigate your way around (not just the UK motorway system but also) the politics of this working world: the stares from colleagues, the derogatory comments, the sports conversations, the suspicion that you may not be up to scratch.  Imagine having to prove your ability over and above your male colleagues in order to snatch their acceptance only to be reminded of your difference with the arrival of each innuendo or inappropriate remark.  Because remember, in this world you ARE ‘the other’.  You have a vagina for God’s sake – you will ALWAYS be different.

Imagine… You get up each morning, shower, blow-dry beautiful curls into your blonde hair, apply make-up liberally.  You are movie-star beautiful.  Imagine following this morning routine knowing that it will only serve to further separate you from your colleagues.  You are no short-haired, plain-faced, zero-breasted, androgyne.  Imagine spending your day in the cabin of your Juggernaut with only a rear-view mirror to truly appreciate your effort.  Imagine being feminine for your own enjoyment.

Imagine… returning from a tiring day at work to your loving husband.  After hours of packaged sandwiches and Yorkie bars, imagine tucking into a carefully prepared meal, savoring each nurturing mouthful.  While numerous women around the UK clear away dishes of the meals they themselves cooked, imagine snuggling with your man in front of the latest episode of  Knight Rider.

It was this Clara that was an inspiration to me.  My first feminist inspiration.  Clara, my dear… you taught me so much.  You showed that I could be both different yet equal to men.  You taught me that I could be nurtured within relationships yet still consider myself strong.  I can play ‘dress up’ for my own feel good factor without believing that men around the world had somehow created my image to objectify women.  You taught me to eat and enjoy.

So… It’s my birthday… I have been cared for and nurtured throughout the day, I have just managed to rise from the hottest bath in history to put on a slutty dress and full make up.  I’m off to eat garlic bread topped with mountains of cheese.  I will possibly drink copious amounts of wine.  Or enjoy a few pints of beer.  I may have a debate with my husband.  If he’s lucky, I may give him a kiss.  All these options.  All these contradictions… AND I’m still a feminist.  Thank you Clara.  I’m a feminist.

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The Booby Trap – Quite Literally…

This morning, as we both stood in our pants getting dressed, my 5 year old grabbed my cerise pink brassiere (an original Sainsbury’s design) and using the elastic, pinged it at my head while earnestly saying “There’s your booby trap Mummy”.  Booby Trap.  Booby Trap?  After much laughter (him because of the excellent flickage.  Me because of the confusion of phrase) I was suddenly drawn to this ‘trap’ that encased my boobs.  This evil breast holder that locked away my beautiful bosom.  This evil device that restricted my tits’ freedom.  My poor darlings…  Held captive in a booby trap.  Be Free!  BE FREE!

Mmmmmm… actually… don’t.  Let’s face it girls, you two have seen better days and while I am very grateful for all that you have done, your days of being free (while saunaing, sunbathing, attracting swingers – which their offer, may I add, we NEVER accepted) are probably in the past.  I am still completely in love with you both though – in a companionship kind of a way.  I mean, we’ve just been through so much together…

Remember the summer of 1993 when you decided to make your delayed appearance?  Leaving school at the end of the year as a girl and returning in September as a ‘b’ cup WOMAN, I was just thrilled by the commentary from my male classmates “She’s wearing a bra”, “She’s almost as big as Mandy Cartman” (the second smallest boobs in the classroom) and the inevitable “Would you screw her now?”  Ah ha…  That period of my life wasn’t embarrassing at all.  I never once cringed while listening to these pimple-faced adolescents describe me as a quasi-desirable female.

BraOr how about the University years my boobies??  Remember how I popped ‘the pill’ for half a decade and you decided to grow into a magnificent pair of rounded melons?  Beautifully pert.  A terrific cleavage-making machine.  Fabulously perfect timing as I donned low cut tops and boob tubes.  Oh how I took for granted the appreciative stares and (sometimes quite inappropriate) comments.  Oh how I now yearn for the double hoot for my hooters from passing cars.  I took you both for granted only appreciating you after you had left (at some speed) when I decided to stop the tablets.

But then, my little puppies, all was forgiven and you returned!!!  I was 29 years old.  I was pregnant.  I swore I would appreciate you this time.  I didn’t.  My tummy grew fat so you were just relative to this growing swell.  All in proportion until… I popped out the sprog and four days later my milk came in!  Woo Hoo!!!  No need to steal that 5K for a boob job anymore…  Rock.  Solid.  Breasts.  Unbelievable cleavage.  Brassiere overspill.  I remember screaming “LOOK AT THESE!!” to both male and female friends alike!!!  I didn’t care about their discomfort or any psychological damage caused.  I had been reunited with the body I was always supposed to have.  I was desirable.  Until, of course, breast feeding…

My functional mammaries… you served our little family so well.  I remember the soft hum of the breast pump, lulling me to sleep after a night of no ZZZs.  I remember being compared to an old sow by my husband as I lay sideways on the floor (exhausted) allowing my little ‘piglet’ child to snuffle and suckle at my milk.  I remember the unintentional leakage… As my little one would cry out, you (my breasts) would respond with a comforting squirt of milk before my mind had even realised that the baby was upset.  I loved the nursing bras.  The visible veins on my skin.  The ridiculously bumpy nipples.  I loved being sternly told by others to “cover up” as I became so matter-of-fact about whipping you darlings out to feed.  They were just functional boobs after all?!?  What was everyone’s problem?

But now…. it’s the present day.  I am 35 years old and my breasts’ journey has come full circle.  I am now an established mother of two young boys and boys, it seems, have the natural inclination to find a woman’s chest (and indeed anything breast-related) a source of great amusement.  They take such pleasure in prodding my pair and shouting “Boobies!!!” in between bouts of hysterical giggles.  My ‘booby trap’ bra is a great way to transport Lego.  My nudity is apparently hilarious.  I am now once again the target of male commentary.  Not that I care anymore because I now know the breast kept secret.  I am now proud of my boobs – not because of their size or shape but because of their true function.  They helped my tiny babies to grow strong.  How can I not be proud?  A woman’s body is amazing and I am a woman.

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Stepping Out of the Box

A good friend (perhaps sensing my creative drought propelled by my latest attempt at caffeine withdrawal) sent me the following quote by text, challenging me to write about it:

“Never allow someone else to define you based on how they perceive you”.

I don’t know where the quote is from, who wrote it or who the intended audience was but it truly got me thinking.  We’ve surely all experienced being squashed into the character mould that other people have built to confine us.  Instead of seeing you as the multidimensional human being that you are, you can be viewed as the clumsy one, the pretty one, the shy one, the creative one, the sensible one.  You surely get the idea.  Whatever action you take that fits your allocated role, happily affirms the person’s view.  Yet if you perform out of your character’s remit, the event is at best ignored, at worst it is suggested that you were temporarily ‘just not yourself’.  A frustrating position.

Perhaps parents and siblings are the most guilty of creating and maintaining our defined categories.  Within the family you may be assigned differing talents, character traits, weaknesses.  You are not able to encroach on someone else’s territory.  Surely there can’t be two of you that are intelligent?  Not two of you who are athletic?  And if there is, then the competition begins!

It is quite scary (and sad) that the judgements people make when they first meet you can also last an eternity.  A colleague at work has recently assigned me the disorganised role.  Quite a surprise as I actually pride myself on my secretive organisational skill.  I am a covert anal retentive.  Everything has its household place, I have to-do lists galore, robust systems for completing each domestic task regularly and effectively.  OK, I slightly exaggerate but that’s how this unfair categorisation gets me.  It makes me rebel.  It makes me want to prove the opposite point.  It isn’t enough that I truly know that this person has assigned the role because of their own silliness, insecurity and inefficiency.  Instead I get angry.  I feel cheated.  I feel restricted.  I feel bound by their stupidity.  But most of all I feel scared.  What if they’re right?  What if someone has exposed the ugly truth?  My God, they’ve finally found me out.

The most infuriating box I have been hemmed into is the nice box.  It sends me into spirals of rebellious fury!  I imagine I am Marvel’s most plausible yet surprisingly uncreated superhero character – the Incredible Hulkess.  Yet because I am in my nice box I can’t even unleash the green, gamma-radiated, mad-woman from within.  All I want to do is scream in the person’s face; saliva dripping from my incisors; my dry, rancid breath permeating the pores of their skin; blood vessels bursting in the whites of my eyes.  Instead, assigned the nice role, I smile, I please, I compliment.  The thought of not performing correctly terrifies me.  Consequently, I am confined in this cage of expectation.  I blame the other person for throwing this role upon me.  Yet ultimately I understand that the real anger is with myself for living up to this ridiculous standard.

A very special woman with whom I had a short-lived but intense friendship once stood close and teased me, watching as the fury rose from the pit of my stomach to the surface.  I started to verbally retaliate until I quickly noticed the Mona Lisa, side-smile appear on her beautiful face.  We both laughed realising that we had been on the precipice of a monumental event in our friendship.  She had seen the fury of this Redhead and had survived.  Quickly I apologised feeling sheepish and ashamed.  But simply she stood tall, strong, yet with a warmness I could never emulate, replied with a smile “Baby, I don’t care.  I want to see you in every way, in every situation, in every mood.  I want to know you“.  You may translate this story with caution.  You may feel I had been manipulated or tested.  But let me promise you, no relationship game had been played.  Instead the overall feeling was one of complete acceptance.  This confident young woman was not scared of me stepping out of my usual role.  In fact she relished seeing the side of me that others may not be privy to.  She allowed me to be free.  I will never forget that moment.  So much freedom and absolutely no fear.

Perhaps those people who assign us our roles would also wish to see our true personas?  Perhaps we have assigned them the judging role unfairly when they, given the opportunity, might be grateful to see us laid out bare.  They may actually be strong enough to cope with our anger.  They may be understanding enough to respond to our insecurity.  They could be encouraging enough to celebrate in our talents.  Maybe they just need to be given the opportunity to step out of the roles that we have assigned to them?

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A Dedication to all Mummies

This morning my oldest boy donned an oversized blue sweater, grey teflon trousers and black leather dinosaur shoes (which he swears help him to run faster than any other 4 year old).  All in all the clothes looked baggy but of course I told him how handsome / gorgeous / smart he looked.  And he did look great – in a Michelin Man kind of way.  He looked so cute.  Just how I imagined my child to look on his first day at school.  We have prepared for this day in all the usual mummy ways: attending school introductory meetings, sowing nametags into clothes, playing imaginary ‘school’ with Avenger characters.  I thought I had prepared for all eventualities, both practical and emotional.  However the one thing I hadn’t prepared for was the emotional response this day would evoke inside of me.

If I track my journey back, my reaction to this event began last night, manifesting in some weird physiological manner.  My heart beat quickening.  Sweating palms.  The irritability dial turned up high, swift to respond to any slight demand my family could make of me.  It was only after an hour or so, after the school bag was packed and all trouser hems sowed, that I realised what was going on.  I was nervous.  I was afraid.  I was saddened.  My heart was crumbling.  I was letting go of my baby boy, allowing him an inch more of independence.  I had prepared him soundly for this transition (his ease in entering the classroom a testament to my good mummy work) but I had forgotten to prepare myself.

The mummies I meet are very good at this… shelving their own feelings and needs to ensure the emotional protection of their children.  At 5.30am each day I can guarantee that around the UK there will be mummies in their millions, clambering out of their warm beds to make sure the house is tidy, dishwasher emptied, laundry ironed, school bags organised, allowing themselves maybe five minutes to grab a quick cuppa and slap on some gloopy, out-of-date mascara before waking their children for the day ahead.  During these early morning moments I often imagine other women going about their business, preparing for the day, so I don’t feel quite so alone or isolated.  It makes me feel part of a fabulously, wonderful, organisationally slick yet secret team.  I use the word ‘secret’ because it is only when you become a mummy yourself that you realise the dedication and the skill that it involves.  I am constantly amazed by these women.  These mummy women are understatedly inspirational.  They look for no financial gain and no thanks.  Let’s face it… if that’s what you’re after, you’re in the wrong blobbin’ job.

But the most hidden secret is that the link you have with your child (that link you thought was only temporarily there through pregnancy) stays.  This spiritual umbilical cord doesn’t leave you.  It is evidenced by the sickening sensation a mummy feels when her child takes a closer step to independence.  The child moves further from you, your heart breaking as the next phase in life becomes apparent: birth, nursery, school, university, leaving home, marriage.  Yet, us graceful, dignified, amazing women smile, giving our children confidence and strength.  We smile while our hearts ache, while tears form in our eyes.  We stop our lips trembling with fear and sadness while together with our child we look hopefully to their future.

Mummies of the world, you are amazing.  I’ll be thinking of you at 5.30am tomorrow, astounded by your resilient grace.

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