Saturday, 25 January 2014

Swearing with the Family

We have a swear word hierarchy in our house, as I'm sure exists in most houses. At the lower end of the scale, sweary word nuggets for all to delight in include arse, crud, cack and balls. For times of stress, and almost always used by the adults only (ie me) we save shite, bloody, bollocks, crap and occasionally feck. 

At the top end of the scale, words to only use when alone, and only in company when frightened for one's life, include shit, fuck and wank. The C word is off the scale. (It doesn't even feel good saying it, so what's the point?)

In general, I am in favour of silly swearing. The word 'arse', for example, is allowed in the house due mainly to its flexibility. It can be used in a Father Ted stylee, just for fun. Or as part of a more violent outburst, such as 'ARSE! I've just burnt my finger on the hob.' Or sometimes, I use it to get my rhythm when riding my bike up a hill ("arse, two, three; arse, two, three" etc). There is, of course, the phrase 'you're such an arse!' which, in this house, is used as a beautiful and tear-jerking term of endearment.

I found that, when the kids were small, I really wanted to swear a lot. Loudly and crudely. As luck would have it, when your children are under one year old, you can swear all you like. When it was 3pm, I was still in my dressing gown and my hair was unbrushed and dirty, nothing was washed up and there were indescribable bits all over the floor, and I was changing a nappy, I would sing - very softly - to the tune of Humpty Dumpty:

Fucking shitting cackety balls
Wanky Farty bollocking crud
Shittity fuckity crappity AAAAARSE
Fucking shitting cackety balls.

Put these words into any order and fit them to any nursery rhyme. They make you feel a whole lot better about life.

I tell the kids that swearing is all about context. Your can't walk around the house saying 'fuck' every five minutes because it loses its magic swear power. It ceases to work any more as a swear word. And from 'fuck', there's not many places to go. Apart from the C word. Which we don't talk about. So I'm not saying that 'fuck' isn't allowed. I'm just saying that I only want to hear it in an emergency.

For instance. A couple of summers ago, I hired a 1960s VW Campervan to take the kids on tour for a few days. My God, it looked cool. But My God, is was a fucker (excuse me) to drive. Left hand drive, hand brake on the dashboard, top speed of 45mph. I was nervous when I drove off from the hire place, kids in the back looking worried, but the nice man had said I'd have no trouble, and so I almost believed him. That is, until I reached a hill and realised that the van couldn't quite make it up it. And when I put the handbrake on, we started to slip backwards. On a main road. That was when I said "SHIT! SHIT! SHIT!" at the top of my voice.

Now, I don't remember saying this. The boys reminded me afterwards, when we had been helped to safety by some scary-looking but actually extremely lovely teenagers. They said that the combination of me using the S word, and the look of sheer terror on my face, meant the surety that we were all going to die. We joke about it now, of course (ho ho...ho) but my point is, that I was let off swearing at that point because a) it was an appropriate time to swear and b) I wasn't even aware I was doing it, so there was no point telling me off anyway.

I forgot to mention The Finger.  I will not have The Finger in this house, although the boys may proffer Two Fingers at unusual and appropriate times.  I have no idea why Two Fingers is more acceptable than One Finger.  Something to do with Agincourt, perhaps?  Whatever, Two Fingers is more Monty Python, One Finger more Benefit Street.  Not allowed.

That's it.  Time to do the tea.  Arse.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Who do you love the best? Me or your Dad?

I was driving my youngest (11) back from school today, when he asked whether he was going to his Dad's the following day.

No, I said, you're coming to mine.

Then there was silence.

At which point, the evil gremlin inside me started to mither: he's silent because he's wishing he's going to his Dad's.  He likes his Dad's house better than mine.  His Dad is more fun than me.  He loves his Dad more than me.

I have these inner dialogues often and they chew me up.  Even when I was married, happily married, I was anxious that I was never as good a parent as their father.  I was always the practical one; I would cook, clean, wash up, clean their clothes, iron, do the school runs, attend parents' evening, food and clothes shop - a typical female role.

Their Dad was always the one who played with them, who seriously enjoyed their company.  I used to blame the fact that I was always busy for not being able to devote much time to them, but if I'm honest, I was bored by their games and lost patience easily when they started to grump.  I felt - feel - extremely guilty about this.  I can honestly say that I love my boys with an intensity that is beyond words, and yet sometimes, spending more than half an hour with them in a block can send me round the twist and reaching for the valium.

So today, the silence in the car set off all my guilt alarms.  I then did a bad thing.  I probed deeper.

"So," I said, "Do you mind coming to mine tomorrow night?"

"No", he said, "You've got an Xbox."

Never has a four letter word given me such delight.  Getting that Xbox a few months ago cleaned me out, but boy, if that scores me a few points, then it was worth Every. Single. Penny.

(I am a bad person.)

But I didn't let it end there.  I let out a little cough. "Ahem.  And...um... what else do you like about staying here?"

"Well - your teas are much better.  And I've got a double bed.  And a cat."

Now, this is where I should have stopped.  This is when I should have said to myself, that's great, he loves me, he gets fed well with me and he loves his cat.  Stop.

But bugger me, the gremlin wasn't having any of that.  He wanted to know all sort of other things.  So before I knew what was happening, I'd already spurted out,

"So what's better at your Dad's house, then?"

WHAT THE FECK DID I SAY THAT FOR?

And, wishing I hadn't asked the honest question, I listened to the honest reply.

"Dad gives us more treats." (Mental note - that's why they're getting fat.) "He's also a bit kinder." (WHAT?) "He gets me a drink when I ask, rather than me having to get it myself." (Oh.  Ok.)  "He's got a bigger garden." (That's true.)  "And he also spends more time with us."

Oh.  Guilt.  Shame.  I am a shit mother.

The only way I could handle this was to tell my son that he was completely right, that his Dad does spend more time with them, and that he is very good at that.  I did not have any excuse for my own behaviour, for how I feel when I play boardgames with them; how I am not interested in the Xbox in any way.

I deeply wish I was a better, kinder, more patient person.  I am going to try harder.

I am going to suggest a board game.  Right now.  And when I suggest it, I shall smile and pretend it's what I really, really want to do.  And I will continue to smile right the way through it, even if it's Risk and lasts for a hundred years.  And my smile will not turn into a grimace.  And I will be gracious when I lose horribly.

Because I want to try to be the best mum I could possibly be.

Even if it sends me completely nuts.




Thursday, 9 January 2014

Let's Talk About Sex

I'm really struggling with something here, and I'm hoping you can help me out.

I'm a Mum. A mummy. Mom.  And I blog.  So that makes me - a Mummy Blogger.  I'm linked up to Mumsnet, Britmums, Netmums and Tots100.  They have been lovely to me, and welcomed me with open arms.

And yet today, I want to blog about porn.

Now this is an inappropriate subject for a Mummy Blogger, who really should be writing about more age-appropriate stuff like lego, meatballs and school uniforms.  Even tough subjects like Depression - and other illnesses - are fine to discuss under The Mummy Blogger Umbrella because we either suffer from them ourselves or know someone who does.

We mums might discuss sex amongst ourselves on occasion.  "We don't do it as much any more" or "we don't do it at all any more," or if we're lucky, "he went and bought a thing like a glass cucumber the other day". (That last one was me, by the way.)  Thing is, I wasn't interested in sex for the last few years of my marriage.  I ended up sleeping in the spare room in a bid to avoid him.  I can see that, reading that back, it seems harsh - but I didn't love him, didn't fancy him, and didn't really have any respect for him.

Now that sounds even worse.

Moving on.  So my married girlfriends and I sometimes discussed sex, or lack of it, but we would never talk about the raw edges of sex; things like porn, or even (whisper it) masturbation.

Discussing masturbation is a step too far even for me today. Let's save that one for later, when I've had a Baileys or two.

But porn is a different matter.  When I started this blog, the first person I followed on Twitter was the marvellous Betty Herbert, who was blogging about The 52 Seductions.  She was also a mum, but wasn't afraid to discuss sex and porn and rock and roll.  I was also reading the latest Caitlin Moran book, in which she very matter-of-factly talks about porn sites and what they can offer (both women and men).

So I've had a good mooch about the porn network.  The first thing to say is that I'm absolutely flabbergasted as to how much free porn is available to watch.  Yes, most of it is degrading to women, but some of it isn't.  There's a particular site called Fake Taxi, where a guy pretending to be a taxi driver drives round Surrey picking up women who agree to have sex with him in the back of his cab.  This absolutely astonishes me.  Yes, he is breaking the law by assuming the identity of a cab driver.  Yes, he lies to the women, telling them that although they are being filmed, he will delete the footage later.  Yes, the women will be in the shit when they get home, and their loud, energetic sex will exist on the internetoscope forever and ever and ever.  And that is a hard way to learn your lesson.

And yet.  These women agree, willingly, to have sex with this guy.  Why?  Why aren't they scared when he suggests it?  If a cab driver started to chat me up, asking me how often I have sex, and telling me to lift my top up so he could see my tits in the mirror, I would scream blue murder, open the door and get out - even if we were travelling at 70 down the motorway.

Why do they agree to it?  They're not drunk, so it's not like going to a club, getting lathered, going to bed with someone and waking up not knowing where you are with spittle down one side of your face.  They are sort of wannabe porn starts.  Is that where popular culture has taken us?

And, I have to admit, I don't despise this guy.  He doesn't force anyone to do anything they don't want.  He's always polite with the girls, and charming.  And he's making his way in this world, thanks to a group of attractive, willing and able girls who, once they realised they've been duped, will never forgive themselves.

What I'm saying, I think, is that the women are their own worst enemies.

I have to be honest here; I know that the porn industry is generally a bad thing for women.  I know that many porn stars - men and women alike - have STDs, and suffer anal tears and internal bruising and all sorts of horrific things.  And that's just the 'softer' porn side.  Yet I do find a lot of it arousing and, if I do, then I can absolutely see why men love it.  And why the industry is growing so quickly.

The worry for me is that my boys, tween and teen, will find ways around the Government's new porn filters and view these porn channels, these short sex films, as if that's how sex is in real life.  They will immediately become experts on cold, hard sex and think this is how it is meant to be.  Will they be clever and sensitive enough to realise that making love to their partner (actually, feeling a bit queasy just thinking about this, but need to be strong, objective journalist here) is a completely different kettle of fish?  That there will be laughter and mistakes, fanny farts and squelchy noises and the occasional dislocated hip?  I don't know.

I suspect that I will need to have that conversation with them at some point.  They will be embarrassed, look at their feet, and think that I know nothing about it because I am OLD and a MOTHER.

But all of us mums know a bit about what love making should be about, don't we?  I mean, we all had sex at one time, after all...




Wednesday, 8 January 2014

The 7.39 and its parallels to real life

The second part of The 7.39 was played out tonight on BBC1.  For those who missed it, a short summary: Man is happily married with two children, but stuck in a rut.  Man meets pretty Woman on his daily train commute.  Pretty woman has dim but loyal fiance.  Man and woman have an affair.  Man and Woman are found out by man's wife.  Man is kicked out of family home.  Woman finds out she is pregnant by fiance, but tells him about the affair.  She leaves.  In the end, Man and Woman do not stay together; Man is accepted back into the family nest; Woman is accepted by (yet) another man, who appears to agree to raising her child.  Ergo - happy ending.

Apart from the ending - messy situations like this cause too much hurt to end so smoothly - the drama held many parallels for real life.  The guilt was apparent, but so was the lust between the two of them which overwhelmed them - particularly him.

I remember being in his position.  Not sleeping.  Unable to think of anyone else but that other person.  In the middle of the day I would sit - just sit - for up to half an hour at a time, day dreaming about him.  I recognised the panic when David Morrissey's character couldn't immediately lay his hands on his phone.  The mobile phone - the one conduit to someone who has made you feel alive again.

And when Morrissey was beaten up by the Woman's fiance, and taken into hospital...that pressed buttons for me, too.  The boyf had an affair with me, and recently he went into hospital.  I couldn't get to him, so I had to text his ex wife and ask her for help.  We had that conversation - but by text - that Olivia Colman and Sheridan Smith had in the hospital corridor.  I was Smith - the shitty one, the one who had crapped all over another woman, a black mark to the sisterhood - and his wife was Colman, hurt and bitter and angry.

The other scene that stung was when Morrissey's character had to tell his children what he had done.  Telling your children that you have bollocksed everything up, that you have hurt the other most important person in their lives - is truly awful.  It is then when you realise what a complete arse you have been, how selfish and stupid and impossibly shit.  When your kids look at you, uncomprehendingly, and then start to cry, nothing else means anything.  Your behaviour comes swiftly into focus and all your excuses fall away, are meaningless.

Because generally, affairs do not end well.  And while adults recover, the consequences of our affairs live on with our children forever.