No 73. Bigot me once, shame on you.  Bigot me twice, shame on me

The last date I went on was with a man who, it turned out, was a holocaust-denier.  You may think this was a deal-breaker but sadly, in my innocence, I actually went on a second date with him.  It was only when he started blaming “the gays” for all the ills of the world that I realised I had to give up the ghost.  I can ignore one vile and unacceptable opinion (I’m not fussy), but two in as many dates pushed me over the edge.

This particular dating excursion reinforced for me the possibility that I may have evolved past dating.  With a good number of my friends knocking on the door of divorce, and still others feeling fairly mopey in their relationships, I’ve moved on from romance, skipped over marriage and divorce, and am now landing happily in a rather tubby and content single middle-age.

And even when hope springs in my heart, an article like this one http://metro.co.uk/2016/01/15/10-dating-struggles-only-single-mums-will-understand-5620811/ rears its head and I’m firmly put in my place that SINGLE MOTHERS ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO DATE (you filthy wenches). We are, naturally, meant to subsume all longing into the greater cause of child-rearing.  To be fair, most of my longings are currently around prosecco and double-deckers rather than gentleman-callers, but I still resent the implication that it’s Just Too Hard to try to date, so don’t bother.  Hollywood is particularly guilty of this message, dividing single mothers very cleanly into The Good Mom Who Puts her Kids First (marriage awaits!), and The Bad Mother Who Goes Out, Drinks and Meets Men (sticky end ahoy!).  Apparently you can’t be both of these at once.

A number of people have tried to persuade me onto Tinder, but I think I would rather fully embrace my inner mad old spinster than descend to swiping at men with my left thumb.

I’m beginning to realise that the compromises I need to make to be in a relationship just aren’t part of my make-up.  No, verily, I am not prepared to deny the holocaust in order to have someone snoring next to me.  Weird, I know.

 

This post is dedicated to whoever devised Channel 4’s new programme “date my mum”. God bless you for your hopeful spirit, but if Mini were in charge of my dating I’m fairly sure I’d be going out with Mr Tumble (*shudder*). Or possibly the man who runs the mafia-ice-cream van that parks outside the primary school.

No 72. Single beds are only made for one (or two)

We’ve been playing musical beds in our house for some time.  I ditched my proper Grown Up Bed a year ago, trying to make room for the growing mountain of Mini’s plastic tat.  I migrated, swallow-like to the kitchen, where I spent a happy few months sleeping on a fold-down.

Unfortunately, the fold-down has turned me from a 6ft woman in my 30s to a 5ft 5 crone of 103, so I transferred back upstairs, nicked Mini’s child-mattress (covered in lions), and have been cruelly making her sleep on a ‘bed’ fashioned out of my old sofa.

To add insult to back-injury I’ve been trying to sell my place, and every time a potential-buyer came round the house, we had to convert her bed back into a sofa again. This involved a wearying amount of artful shenanigans with throws, teddy-bears stuffed into corners, and a lot of wailing from the child: “where’s my big-girl beeeed?”

We had got into an uncomfortable rhythm of regular Changing Rooms transformations, when it was dealt a bitter blow by a urination problem.  Mini has insisted on getting into bed with me in the early hours for the last two years or so.  Normally this isn’t a problem, but she’s had a bit of a toilet-training regression lately and now the lion-mattress is so full of wee, I fear it may have doubled its weight.

I’ve decided to ditch it amongst the flock of discarded furniture overwintering on the pavement outside my house (and yes, I will “book it for council pick up” recycling fans). But the challenge now is getting the blasted thing out the door.  Of all the tasks that are clearly designed for two people, getting a mattress down the stairs without personal injury or damage to property, is definitely one.  Just dragging it off the sleeping platform has ruptured something essential in my trick hip.

And can I really bring myself to be a one-bed hippy-mother, who sleeps with her child until they leave for university?  Will Mini and I be sharing a bed when she starts school?  When I turn 50? When I eventually marry Richard Osman?

Perhaps the solution is bunk beds.  Or slinging a hammock from the ceiling. Whichever one I go for, I’ll definitely be investing something king-size.  And covered in plastic sheeting.

 

This post is dedicated to whichever of my neighbours started the furniture-dump by leaving their stained and stinking mattress on the pavement with the note “free to a good home”.  The horror.

 

No 71. Even road rage is different

This morning I was bumped by a car while taking Mini to nursery.  We were doing our usual joyful morning dance (she crying, me carrying the scooter she’s refusing to use and wiping her face so the tears don’t freeze to her face), when we made our trickiest road crossing. Half way across, a car zoomed into view.  I raised my hand as a pre-emptive “thanks for slowing down”, and the car just, err… didn’t slow down.  Mini was nearest to it so I threw her onto the pavement and the car clipped me on the hip (it had slowed by then so I was more shocked than hurt).

This wasn’t my first road incident of the week.  On Friday I was on a pedestrian crossing — green man beeping away — when a white van cut across right in front of me. What made the whole thing even more delightful was that the driver gave me the finger as he went past.

I’ve blogged about my Hulk tendencies in the past, so you can imagine my reaction.  The white van man was forced to stop 3 metres after the crossing (well worth his risking my life by going across it), so I dived back into the road and started banging on his window, yelling that he was a silly billy *ahem – kind of*.  I won’t go into details, but neither of us came out of the conversation covered in glory.

This morning was different though.  I felt a moment of rage, but then couldn’t react.  I was thrown into a sudden desolation at how precarious everything is, and how many possible horrible outcomes I’ve got to navigate before Mini grows up.  The driver was in tears as I stood there, and was also frozen in place.  I don’t know how long we looked at each other, but eventually I just turned around, picked up the scooter and took Mini to nursery.  Some things don’t need saying.

 

This post is dedicated to the woman who waited patiently on the pavement while I yelled at the white van man, and then caught up with me to say helpfully, “I don’t know if you saw, but he gave you the finger!  The finger!”.  Thank you madam.

No 70. I hate playing ‘imaginative’ games

“Mummy, you be the baby”

“Ok, waaaah, waaah, waaah”

“NO, mummy, babies go ‘weeeah weeeeah’”

“Ok, weeeah, wee…”

“NO MUMMY!” (stamps foot) “you need to put your hands in the air.”

(sighs, waves arms in air) “OK, weeeeah weee…”

“Naughty baby. Go and sit on the stairs by yourself”

“errr…?”

I joined a thread on mumsnet this week where like-minded souls revealed their deep hatred of being forced into pretending to be babies/aliens/dogs/robots/dinosaurs by their dictator-children.  Mini directs me with the perfectionist zeal of David Fincher, demanding take after take of each re-enactment.

(take 9)

“Mummy, you’re the shop lady and I’m going shopping.”

“Ok. Hello, would you like some tomatoes?”

“NO MUMMY!  You say ‘would you like a 5p bag?’ and then I say ‘no, I’ve brought my own’”

(Take 14 — environmentally-conscious version)

“would you like a 5p bag?”

“No, I’ve brought my own”

(pauses to ‘scan’ items)

“MUMMY! You aren’t scanning it right, it’s like THIS”

“ok, the shop lady is going for a lie down in the stock cupboard”

There’s nothing “imaginative” about it.  It’s the same old daily routine regurgitated with increasingly auter-istic precision.  Don’t get me wrong: I enjoy lurching around the park, going “urk” and pretending to be a zombie as much as the next person.  I could just do without the repeated kitchen-sink dramas of baby-care, shopping and cleaning, which were pretty mind-numbing the first time round.  And this time the small voice going “you’re doing it all wrong! You’re rubbish at this” isn’t just in my own head.

This post is dedicated to the lunacy of Donald Trump.  Truth genuinely is stranger than fiction. Now there’s a piece of imaginative drama.

No 69. Fathers’ Day can be redeemed

Lots of us are slightly confused by fathers’ day (fathers included).  On mothers’ day it was always clear that you were meant to get something nice for your mum, give her a rest and maybe make an inedible meal.  On fathers’ day, is it the same protocol?  Is it a day to give dads a break from fatherly duties, or rather for them to spend time with their kids (as in some 1950s parallel universe where children are wheeled out to meet their fathers once a year, dressed in white, while daddy smokes his pipe and pats them on the head)?

A friend of mine once spent a sunny day drinking in a pub, went home at 6.30, read the kids a bedtime story and was back in the pub by 8.  He was warmly applauded for the attention to his family. And the praising went on for at least two rounds.   (If it had been a mother doing the same, I fear we would have focussed more on her alcoholism/neglect and perhaps her ‘poor husband’ would have been applauded for looking after the children while she drank.)

It’s common to patronisingly praise a man for looking after his children, or listening to them, or changing their clothes or feeding them: as though there is something inherently unusual about being a good dad.  Our collective internal picture of fatherhood has some serious issues.

There is too often a distance, or even a bitterness in a lot of people’s relationships with their fathers – and (in my new circles) also with the fathers of their children.  Having hung out with enough lone-mums to last a lifetime, I know the abandoners, the adulterers, the liars, the thieves and the abusers all too well.  And all of those stories have taken the shine off the occasion.

Mini didn’t see her dad today.  She barely knows the days of the week, let alone special celebrations, so she was happily unaware, and it gave me time to think about what fathers’ day now means to me – with my own great dad happily cycling round the hilliest bits of the world, and the father of the person I love most in the world, absent.

Maybe fathers’ day should be about redemption – about making something good out of some imperfect relationships.  And for all those who have been deserted or hurt or neglected, that today should be about transforming that damage into something good.

This post is dedicated to Kate T and her brilliant poetry finds. (And, surely, to my own lovely dad too…)

Last night while I was sleeping
I dreamed — blessed illusion! —
I had a beehive
inside my heart,
and from my old bitterness
the gold bees
were contriving white crumbs
and sweet honey.

No 68.   One woman’s lift is another man’s toilet

I had hoped not to write any more words about bodily functions.  There are only so many times one can wax lyrical about the contents of a nappy before one realises that the Pulizer Prize is not in one’s future (even if one does use the gender-neutral pronoun so elegantly). We’d made it through potty training. We’d made it through the constant removal of pants.  We’d even made it through a rather bleak fascination with what happens to poo once it goes down the loo.   But we’ve not made it through the urine.

And sadly I’m not talking about Mini’s urine.  She’s certainly had her moments. My favourite (least favourite) was her repeatedly removing her nappy at 2am, weeing on the mattress and shouting maniacally “don’t take your nappy off mummy! Don’t take your nappy off!”.

This wee belongs to someone else entirely.

Transport for London have installed lifts in as many of their larger stations as they can manage.  Most of them are so labyrinthine-ly impossible to find that I avoid them, and prefer to continue working on my biceps up and down the stairs.  But, one exhausted afternoon at Bank, I decided to make my way down a few miles of winding tunnels from the DLR to the northern line and into the lift.

As soon as I got in, my eyes starting watering. The stench was horrific: it was like an ammonia coffin. Given its location, my best guess was that pissed city workers had decided to use it as their own personal men’s room at the end of a long night’s bonhomie and back-slapping.

And then I got really p***ed off.  Perhaps it was delayed trauma from the election result, or a toxic-high from the urine, but the pee-soaked lift suddenly symbolised something that made me angry.  The only people who use those lifts are the elderly. Or people with disabilities. Or the daytime carers of young children.  The only people who use them are the people who need help on the stairs or who are using a particular station because they can’t get their wheelchair out on the rest of the line.

The people doing the pissing almost certainly don’t fall into those categories.

The people doing the pissing lack the imagination to understand what it feels like to either rely on the kindness of strangers or use service-provision that someone (more powerful, more thoughtless and more entitled) has made as unpleasant as possible

I was reminded of my interaction with HMRC about tax-credits. I was reminded of the 32,675 single parent families who have had their benefits capped in the last two years – and how 70% of them have a child under five. The government doesn’t insist that lone parents of pre-schoolers seek work, but with the cap, they’ve made it impossible for some to even pay their rent.

The facilities and benefits being provided for those of us who are forced to use them (not through choice, not through laziness, not because we are scroungers) are literally being p***ed on by those in power.  And I think that’s worth being angry about.

This post is dedicated to all the lovely men who have never weed in a lift.  May your future be sunny and bright, and all your Christmasses be white.

Source: http://www.gingerbread.org.uk/news/286/benefit-cap-may-15

No 67. Romance is dead (though innuendo is alive and well)

My new, lightly-bearded, neighbour is kindly blasting Bond themes into my kitchen at high volume.  I say “kindly” as I’m aware he’s doing it to disguise the sound of enthusiastic afternoon bed-action.  Ah, young love. I’m unsure how to go about telling him I’d rather have my wall vibrate to the rhythm of his bedframe than the terrifying stylings of Shirley Bassey, so I’m just trying to block it out by listening to Soundgarden at a tinnitus-reawakening volume.  Superunknown and The Man with the Golden Gun don’t make the most soothing blend but at least I’m not hearing all about his “powerful weapon” any more.

The most confusing thing is why he’s chosen a compilation of Bond tunes as his seduction soundtrack.  I can’t imagine “they are all I need to please me, stimulate and tease me,” creating anything other than the feeling you’re on the set of a Carry On film.  And a badly-timed swelling crescendo could put the best of us off.

So, to help him out, I’m going to put together a little romantic playlist.  This is really what we ladies are after…

Perhaps start with a bit of Henry Rollins’ LiarThe truth is the greatest aphrodisiac after all.

As you make your way to the bedroom, how about Bad Actress, a reminder to fake everything except what really counts (what a horrible person you are).

Maybe go from there to something sinister (is this romance or is this a prelude to a slow and painful death at the hands of a maniac?) with Bullet for my Valentine’s Hit the Floor or for those who prefer the volume lower, a soothing murder ballad by Nick Cave and Kylie.

I’d create a longer list, but I wouldn’t want to make assumptions, so would probably finish up with If you want blood. This has already featured once on my break-up playlist, but it deserves another outing, given the greatness of Mark Kozelek and its perfect encapsulation of the slow, sucking death of love.

With so much aural evidence, I can safely say that ding, dong, the romance-witch is dead.  No jokes about dongs please.  There’s enough of that in Diamonds are Forever.

This post is dedicated to all the lovely people who have offered to help me go to my dental appointment since my last rant.  Romance may be dead but friendship is alive and kicking, and apparently very willing to listen to me babble following sedation.