Saturday, April 25, 2009

Guilt is other people

So I'm sitting in Cafe Nero last week (yes Starbucks, that's right, I'm a flippant hussy), and I overhear an exchange between a woman and her approximately two to three-year-old daughter.

The woman (for the purposes of clarity, let's call her 'Mrs Overbearing') had been having a coffee with a friend of hers. This friend was also there with her daughter who looked to be the same age as the other child. Mrs Overbearing had been constantly bickering with her little girl who was trying to clamber out of a highchair that was evidently too small for her. Eventually the friend announced that she had to leave and run some errands. After she and her little girl left, Mrs Overbearing turned to her daughter and said, "You see Emma, Becky and Ruby left because you wouldn't sit still in your highchair."

Yup, way to go lady. Lay on the passive aggressive crap and guilt tripping early. Not to mention the outright lying. I see great things for you and your daughter's relationship in the future, as well as her emotional development, left to simmer in your company, over the next 18 years.

I am off on a girls weekend trip to Amsterdam in a couple of weeks. Yup, Amsterdam, famous for its great museums, nostalgic architecture, beautiful canals, and legalised dope cafes., Actually, I don't smoke dope. What with the fact that I'm already 100% naturally paranoid and anxious, who needs any help in those departments? But yes, I'm all for choice, and having it, and Amsterdam strikes me as a democratic laid back sort of place. Even the heroin addicts are laid back there, usually in the parks I'm told.

The last time we were in Amsterdam, as in Roberto and I, we decided to do the requisite walk through the red light district, which meant he kept his head down, eyes fixed to the floor, and I walked along staring with my mouth open, trying, surreptitiously, to take photos. The muscular transvestite prostitutes looked like they could smash through those glass cubicles and break my camera and me in two, so I was a bit more careful down those particular strips.

This will be the longest I have ever been away from Julia, which will be a strange experience. But yes, probably necessary from time to time to remind yourself that you are in fact an entity unto yourself, and to have some time to just be outside of your roles as a mother and a partner.

Not sure if anyone has been watching the US Drama series, 'Damages?' I am totally hooked on that and eagerly awaiting series II. Very very good TV. I was also enjoying the American Celebrity Apprentice, for the escapist quality of course, until Donald Trump fired Khloe Kardashian, not because she was shyte on a task, but because he found out she had a DUI. I kid you not. He even said so.

It was quite shocking to watch actually, and while I have a feeling a lot of that show is staged, this felt genuinely real and was very offensive and upsetting.

And what's worse is when you see someone like Ivanka Trump, who is evidently a very intelligent successful young woman in her own right, sitting there and nodding in agreement to what her obtuse dinosaur of a father has just done when I felt sure she was thinking, like the rest of us, wtf?

While I am probably the most anti driving under the influence South African you will ever meet, I felt firing her was totally discriminatory. She'd been punished by the law for what she did, was very open and honest about the fact that she had done it, and was even raising money for people with drug and alcohol abuse problems. But all of that is completely irrelevant. The premise of the show is that people get fired for screwing up a task, and while she was by no means a stellar contestant, the annoying country singer Clint Black was overtly responsible for the failure of the task and everyone knew it.

I don't know why I bother. Bring back Project Runway with the lovely Heidi Klum any day. Oh, and some Top Chef would be nice too.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Things overheard in shops

I hate packaging. The kind of stuff they wrap scissors in. The irony being that while trying to rip the indestructible cardboard and plastic encasing the scissors, you need the very pair you bought in order to get to them. Likewise, I hate how tight they make the tops on things, especially the cardboard juices that have little plastic tops that screw off. Always, while trying to open them and ripping the skin between my thumb and forefinger, I wonder how the elderly and especially those with arthritis in their fingers manage if I cannot. And indeed just the other day while in St John's Wood Tesco's, I saw a tiny old lady asking the cashier if she could open her pint of milk for her so she could have a cup of tea when she got home.

I was in Boots the other day, and a young girl, possibly 15, maybe even 13, walked in dressed very much how I imagine she thought a much older women dressed. It looked incongruous, much like me wearing my mother's massive 70's styled engagement ring when going to the British Embassy all those years ago and saying that while I wanted a 2 year working holiday visa, I was in no way planning on staying here and looking for work. I was engaged, in love, and very much planning on returning to South Africa to marry pronto, flashing the dated bling in the woman's unimpressed 'honestly do I look like an eejit?' face.

Anyway, so this young girl walked up to the counter clearly mustering all the confidence she had, and with as nonchalant tone of voice as she could manage said, "Hello, I need emergency contraception please." The man behind the counter looked at her and said she needed to talk to the pharmacist, to which she reddened and said she'd wait to do so. The delay, and then having to say the same thing to yet another person, seemed to shake her confidence.

I felt sorry for her to be in that position, and at the same time I thought it wise of her to be taking care of matters. I also had a compulsion to pull her aside and say in the nicest possible way: "Next time make sure the little shit wears a condom." You can see I am a mother to a daughter now, shamelessly biased.

I'm not sure how we are going to handle the whole sex talk thing with Julia. I've heard from friends and family that kids actually start asking questions about the subject a lot younger than one might imagine. And I myself remember being explained the facts of life rather crudely by a girl called Paige, when I was about six or seven years old. I didn't really process what it meant at the time, but it sounded disgusting and certainly not something I ever intended on participating in. Especially after looking around at the motley crew of smelly, nose-picking scabby kneed boys in my class, thank you very much.

I suspect I'll say something like: When you get to a certain age you may find your body telling you it wants to do things with boys. Ignore it and eat chocolate or go shopping. Boys themselves will tell you that you might enjoy doing these things with them, and in that case you come home and tell your father, and he will get out the shotgun and take care of them. Hopefully that will take care of matters for a while at least.

Separately, but on the subject of guns, I am overjoyed at hearing the verdict in the Phil Spector trial: Guilty. Justice has been served, a misogynistic nutter will be removed from the streets, and that poor woman can hopefully rest in peace.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Snakes, ladders, and gadgets

I recently bough a packet of vitamin tablets that you take when you are trying to conceive. As in a child, as opposed to a money-making invention, for example. Although I suppose if you make your kids work as child models, you could say that you had conceived money-making inventions. But I digress, massively.

We are not actively trying to have another baby, it's just that I'm neurotic and I want to get my body ready for when we do start trying. Some books and nutritionists advise getting your body into shape three months before even starting to try. Saying that, a lot of women fall pregnant after a night of heavy drinking, and indeed continue to drink, smoke, and imbibe other interesting things without even knowing they are pregnant in those early weeks. And their children turn out perfectly fine right? Or like Amy Winehouse.

So these vitamins - the box has an image of an attractive young couple embracing and smiling smugly at the camera, as if to imply that they are intimate with each other, just in case 'For women who are trying for a baby' in clear lettering is not self explanatory. There's also what looks like a large pink moon being attacked by a giant blue snake in the foreground. I think it's safe to say that the marketers were assuming prospective buyers of the product were not only trying for babies but were idiots too. God only knows what non-English speakers must make of that packaging.

We've been house hunting ahead of our move in the summer. You'll be amazed at people's choice of light fixtures. It's always an interesting one. One place was absolutely gorgeous - newly done and with great taste. And then you entered the dining room and there was this eyesore of a chandelier. The landlord stood there and proudly told us it was all Swarovski crystal, and how he'd gone directly to the manufacturing factory in Europe to get it etc. I had a feeling that any request to have it replaced with something a little less ornate would not have been warmly received.

It's come down to two houses, and Roberto and I are split down the middle on this. One is very much a family home - beautifully finished, well thought out, and it has a nice airy peaceful feel to it. I think it's safe to say it's boringly perfect. The other, well, it's kind of like this massive gadget, but no less beautiful, light and airy, just not what you'd picture if you were going for a 'family home'. No prizes for guessing which one Roberto favours, and if you are still in doubt, one of them has fingerprint recognition technology to get into the front door.

I thought back to all the times I've struggled to get the television and phone to work in Roberto's absence, and an image came to me of myself standing in the rain loaded down with shopping, babies crying, trying to get the fingerprint recognition thing to work at the front door, failing, and the state of my marriage being in serious peril.

But as Roberto so emphatically points out, the sensible perfect family home can be rented, or even purchased, at any time. But how often do you get a chance to live in a gadget house? With, lest we forget, fingerprint recognition technology? I think he's got me on that one.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Floor-length capes and the like

Our internet has been down yesterday and today. It is only during these kinds of technical inconveniences that I see Roberto really angry. Apart from when he has to do domestic chores that is, but then, to be fair, he is merely acerbic and grumpy. Apparently Virgin are having technical problems in the Camden area. I thought the only technical problem Camden experienced these days was Amy Winehouse moving out. Just think of the drug dealers and bar owners throwing themselves out of their apartment windows as their assets plummet.


Having no internet is a hassle, especially if like me you work from home. However it’s worse than that, as almost our entire household runs through the internet, including the television and the phone. Yes, our home phone runs through the internet. Roberto tells me our current convoluted set up is actually designed to make our lives easier, this after he had to give our babysitter tutorials on how to (a) turn on the TV (b) find channels (c) change channels and (d) choose a channel.


At my aforementioned visit to my obs gyn the other week she told me that a lot of women experience more acute PMT/S in their 30’s. This, combined with our overly technical household setup, probably doesn’t bode well for Roberto, poor man. During my pregnancy with Julia (PMT times 1000) I once got so annoyed with our TV system, or more specifically my inability to get it to work, that I nearly opened the lounge window and shoved the whole lot out onto the street below.


That internal exam business is a schlep whichever way you look at it. There’s always the thing of worrying about which underwear to wear – certainly none of the greying stuff with holes in it. Then there’s the grooming, and hygiene one must attend to, at least for the sake of the poor doctors. I watched this episode of Oprah where her resident doctor said that the vagina is actually a self-cleaning part of the body. One female GP in the audience piped up, ‘Yes, doctor, that may be so, but that doesn’t mean women shouldn’t shower ahead of internal exams. Please, ladies, keep it clean!' She had quite a desperate expression on her face and I imagined she had seen some unpleasant things in her time.


So you wear the right undies and have a shower, then you’ve got the whole awkwardness of lying there with your kit off, or half off, waiting for the doctor to come in. You both try and pretend that you’re not doing what you’re actually doing, i.e. you lying there vulnerably with your your legs akimbo, and she inspecting your bits. A good doctor almost always attempts to deflect the gross discomfort of the situation by asking you some random question about an upcoming holiday while he/she inserts a jellied speculum into your nether regions, and you try (cheerfully) to expound the virtues of Trip Advisor and how it’s never ever let you down.


And breathe out.


Yesterday, while perusing some photography books in Waterstones, I suddenly found myself next to a very tall man clad in a floor-length fur-lined black cape. On closer inspection I noted that he was also wearing head to toe black velvet, a large cravat, and these rather menacing black leather gloves which had enormous cuffs attached to them. On his feet he wore knee-length black boots, not unlike the feline protagonist in 'Puss n' Boots,' which also featured two sharp spurs on the back. Looking up I noted he had a long thin face with chiseled features and a dramatic Salvador Dali mustache, complete with curly waxed ends. He resembled a glamorous if somewhat effeminate conquistador lost in the wrong century.

What makes a person dress like that to go to the book store? I wondered to myself. Or perhaps he merely stopped in the bookstore en route from some terribly exciting and dramatic adventure where such flamboyant dress was required. Who knew? I imagine he was looking at me and my lack of imagination jeans and T-shirt thinking very much the same thing, only minus any thoughts of adventure on my part.

It's true, I've joined the leagues of boring and unimaginative dressers and pretty much live in jeans these days. To their credit, jeans are hardy companions, and never complain when you smear them with mud, regurgitated pieces of cheese, or stain-inducing baby food. They wash well, most of the food and stains come out, and they are good to go the next day. Certainly I watch episodes of things like Project Runway and make promises to myself to be more careful in my dress, but right now, with a small somewhat mess-prone toddler, I think jeans are the uniform for me. At least in the day time.

Julia had her very first professional haircut today. Discounting of course that time when she was a balding little baby and I cut off the long comb-over strands that made her look like a middle-aged man clinging to the illusion of his lustrous youthful mane. The result of that exercise was that she looked like a little corn on the cob, with a stubby tuft of short hair on the top of her head. The second time, not so very long ago, I attempted to cut a fringe for her, which resulted in the hairdresser today, a straight-talking Portuguese women to say, 'This fringe? This is not the work of a hairdresser.'

She sat there well enough until the hairdresser started blow drying her hair, something which was not only noisy but entirely foreign to her. Not even a lolly could diminish her distress and the final styling and ambitious bouffant was not to be. And later, as if to emphasise her disgruntlement and indignation at being manhandled in such a way, she rubbed a variety of food stuffs into her stylish little quiff, making it known, in no uncertain terms, what she thought of the whole business.