Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Telling the truth in your blog

I have loved being an anonymous blogger. It has meant that I have been able to talk about my children, my love life, my ex husband, my work...all absolutely freely, without bars or limits or censorship. I have written one or two posts which I know may be considered mildly offensive, but I don't write them to be offensive -  it's just the way that the words form themselves in my brain, and drip out of my fingers, a bit swearily, onto the page.

I generally write because I feel I have something quite important, or vaguely amusing, or perhaps even a bit irritating on my mind. Nothing more than that.

But trouble is coming. I have stumped up a relationship with a fellow Twitter user (let's call him Bellend) and worse: he has seen me without a bag over my head. He knows my real name. He even (shudder) knows where I live.

And this immediately changes things.

Recently I wrote about some issues we'd had with a condom. I didn't write it to show off that we'd been having sex (honestly! Oh maybe a little bit...); much more about how stupid I felt and how horrible it was to go shopping for the morning after pill. When you're middle aged. And should know better, perhaps.

But because I wasn't quite anonymous anymore, someone who knew my partner contacted me on Twitter to rant at me. Someone I didn't know from Adam - which was pretty horrible, out of the blue, and because my skin is so thin, it hit me like a train.

A couple of people on Twitter have unfollowed because...actually, I'm not entirely sure why, because since they've unfollowed, their DM has disappeared... but I think it's because Bellend and I have been very (too?) open about our relationship. I find this odd. I mean, if they were our friends in real life, would they withdraw if they found out that we'd fallen in love? I doubt it. They'd probably invite us in for a glass of red and a celebratory olive or two.

I understand that the weird transparency of our relationship doesn't sit particularly well with my (at least part) anonymity. It probably feels like I'm either sharing way too much, or bizarrely too little. It doesn't sit right with me, and puts me in a bit of a pickle: do I 'come out', guns blazing, and share all, Katie Hopkins-stylee? Or do I drop back into the shady depths of relative anonymity and, for example, refuse to meet the new in-laws - or only meet them whilst wearing a sombrero and a heavy, woollen scarf covering my face?

Tiny bit odd?

I'm not ready to bare all just yet. I'm enjoying hiding under a blanket, thanks very much. So I'll just carry on in the half light. Until my cover's blown.


And then the fun began...



Thursday, 26 March 2015

Embarrassing your children

It was Tween's Parents' Evening last night. The ex had showed no interest in coming (as per), and so it was just me and Tween, the terrible two.

As we were leaving, Tween caught my arm. Looking me straight in the eyes, he said, "Mum. Please don't embarrass me tonight."

And so. The moment had arrived. I was used to Teen (who is 14) walking ten paces behind me, and hissing at me when I dared to talk in public above the 'whispering' threshold; but Tween? Outside of the house, Tween had always laughed like a drain with me, no holds barred; he had danced on the pavement; he even, once, took his trousers down in a shopping centre for a dare.

But now, he too has arrived in the Teenage Sulking Pit, where he thinks that all eyes are on him and laughter, it seems, is not the best medicine.

It was with a very heavy heart then, that I left the house with Tween in tow (literally, as he walked five paces behind me all the way there). And as we waited in the hall, and I dared to talk and - yes, belly laugh - with other parents, Tween stared at me with all the hate that he could possibly muster. And when I got the timings wrong and mistakenly sat down ahead of another parent, Tween couldn't stand the embarrassment, and disappeared to the toilets to calm down.

I knew it was coming. And I do understand (my God, I even just about remember) that when you're 12, adults are the friends of the devil. There's a really lovely article by Adam Gopnik which explains that, unfortunately, our whole generation are destined to be embarrassing and ridiculous in the eyes of our tweenagers - partly because we still think we're cool. At this stage, our parents had left their cool days behind and were firmly planted in the 'building patios' and 'having dinner parties' territory. We, however, are watching The Voice and downloading everything by Will.I.Am in the hope that we will like it. (Generally, we don't.)

I think I'm cool. I mean, what is not cool about me? I wear skater dresses and converse trainers. I'm a whizz on Social Media. I don't like wearing coats. And I know who Rita Ora is.

Oh yes, and I'm 44. And I like Oli Murs. Oh - and I talk loudly, fart in public, tell shit jokes, hug my children constantly, live in a tiny house, struggle with gadgets, wear a hi-viz jacket, listen to Wham.

Ah.

If you have small children, I've drawn up some helpful guidelines to help you prepare for the inevitable.

When I'm 50, my children will be adults. Tween will be stressing his way through the final year of his 'A' levels. Teen will have arisen from his pupa to be a fully-fledged carbon copy of Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory, and will be studying Physics with similarly uber narrowly bright people.

But when they are home, and knocking their heads on my low ceilings, I hope that they will dance with me again in the kitchen. Watch shit TV with me. Even be seen outside with me.

Because I am already missing it.

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

Monday, 23 March 2015

Getting help from your children

It's come to the point now when my kids, aged 12 and 14, should bogging well help me around the house.

Thing is, I'm not sure how to get the wheels turning. Most of the time, they are lazy shite-bags, who can only be arsed to do anything at all after I've had an emotional hissy-fit and taken to my bed. This might result in some sheepish loading of the dishwasher, the occasional bed-make or, if I'm lucky, some extremely half-hearted hoovering.

I know, I know - this sad state of affairs is all my fault. If only I'd trained them correctly from the off, refusing to do things for them, enabling them to be proactive. But I didn't do it. Perhaps because I thought it was my role to be skivvy. Or perhaps because I felt that I didn't have the time to show them what to do.  I know; I've scored a shabby two out of ten on the parenting scale.

Anyway, the other day, I had a bright idea. They don't currently get any allowance (when I split from their father, I told them all bets were off - and pocket money was off, too) but now I'm more settled, I could afford to give them a small amount, every month. In return for (some tiny) chores.

But when I broached the subject (how about helping me around the house in return for COLD HARD CASH?), their response was muted, at best. "Well, what would we have to do?" mumbled one. "I'm not sure I've got the time", stuttered the other, lying prostrate on the sofa, xbox controller in his hand. And then, almost in sync, both of them, "We don't really need any money."

WHAT? They DON'T NEED ANY MONEY? This was something I was unfamiliar with. I could cope with their laziness (been there), their ability to wheedle out of work (been there), their lying (been there so many times I practically lived there for a while), but this? THIS? Not needing money? This was beyond me. When I was young, money (LITERALLY*) made the world go round. I washed cars, did paper rounds, babysat, stole from my brother (yes, I knew where the key was to his NatWest globe piggy bank and I raided it for 50p once. I'm sorry. But now I've confessed, I feel an awful lot better).

The truth is, they don't need any money because I pay for their Xbox subscription, I pay for the odd PC game that they want, and I pay for Netflix. I buy footballs and shoes and hockey kit. They usually get books from the library but when they want something special, I get it for them, too.

No more. The rota is drawn up (including such helpful gems as "check lawn for cat poo" and "clean toilet - and I mean properly, not just poking it with a loo brush and giving it a flush") and a monthly amount has been agreed. I must try really hard to make them do it properly, and not be soft and paying them anyway, even if they do a bad job. Tricky. But if I can make it work, it will be fabulous for me, as I'll do less around the house - and great for them, as they'll get the double whammy of learning what it means to look after your home, as well as managing their own budget.

Wish us all luck. I've got a feeling we'll need it.



*not literally of course. the sun's gravitational pull makes the world go round, as we all know.


Thursday, 19 March 2015

Poo

Having a poo. We all do it. And most of us do it at least three times a week. We do it more often than going to the gym or to the cinema; probably more often than washing our hair.

We need to do it. If we didn't, our bottoms would puff up like balloons, and eventually pop. (Or something.) And some days we need to do it more quickly than others - like that time a couple of days ago when I ran to the front of the queue, knees together, in Waitrose loos, shouting 'GANGWAY - MY PANTS ARE ABOUT TO EXPLODE!'.

Sorry about that.

Having a good poo makes us happy. I've drawn up my own, personal, happy scale.



Yes. You read it correctly. Having a good poo is - just for that moment - better than being in love, having wonderful sex or even winning £10 on the lottery. It really is.

And when we can't do it - When Poo Goes Wrong (great title for a film starring Jason Statham, perhaps), we get depressed. Or perhaps, when we are depressed, poo goes wrong - the two things seems inextricably linked.

What I don't understand about having a Number 2:  why we don't talk about it more?  We all do it. So why don't we shout about it?

Even the subject of having a wee gets freely talked about round here. I frequently bemoan my lack of pelvic floor ("NO I'M NOT GOING ON THE SODDING TRAMPOLINE"), and saying "I need a wee" to your work colleagues seems somehow more acceptable than, "I'm dying for a dump."

But why? Why don't we talk about it? I'm wondering if it's because it feels like the ultimate personal experience. For example, to have the best poo, not only do I have to be alone in the bathroom, but I'm happiest if the house is empty. In fact, if everyone in the entire street could just bugger off for half an hour, all the better. There needs to be reading material. If anyone does have the impertinence to be in the room next door, I will ask them to put the radio on, or sing, or much better - just piss off.

Why is it so important to get it right? Because, for me, it can be a euphoric experience. If it's a good poo - complete, smooth, medium sized -  the process of pushing it out is... well, it's sodding amazing. And when it's out, I not only feel ten stone lighter physically - but somehow mentally, too. When I'm constipated, and I feel - well, like shit - and no matter how much rocking backwards and forwards I do on the loo, only the tiniest nut comes out (if I'm lucky) - then pooing can be a grim....job.

Is poo one of the last big taboos? If so, why? Most of us think of our crap as disgusting, smelly, bacteria-ridden, messy stuff, not even to be looked at in the toilet bowl. We'd rather lick the pavement than our own poo. And yet, eating your own poo won't harm you (after all, it's just come out of you, so you're not adding anything new to the mix) whereas conversely, that shiny pavement you've just licked will probably give you toxioplasmosis and lots more besides.  And in fact, the medical benefits of poo are only just beginning to be uncovered; scientists are looking into the beneficial effects of poo transplant, where crap from a healthy individual is transfused into a poorly person's gut. Apparently it can perform better than antibiotics.

So poo is natural, and it's beneficial. And we know that, if our poo looks odd, has blood in it, is a funny colour, or similar - it can be a marker for serious illness. Yet most of us don't even look at our poo. We conveniently flush it away or cover it with toilet paper before it catches our eye ("YOOHOO!"). Occasionally it makes its own way round the u-bend (which has always foxed me, by the way. I stare at the empty toilet and think - did I just dream that?).

The Germans - masters of design and engineering - have put a shelf in their toilet bowl, to catch your poo before it disappears underwater, and to force you to look at it.
Marvellous, isn't it? Although I'm not sure how widely it's used in Germany, as my North German colleague had never heard of them. And apparently they smell. And your toilet brush is in frequent use (and needs constantly replacing). But apart from that - brilliant.

In the UK, we don't normally talk about our poos in public (a bit like we're buttoned up about sex - although I think we're getting looser) - and yet we've got a gazillion nouns for it; Shit, turd, poo, dung, waste, stool, excretion, faeces, plop, crap, number 2, shite.... We've picked them up with invaders and settlers ('turd', for example, may have come from old Norse, whereas 'shit' has German roots). We can describe poo in such a rich and encompassing way - and yet we're embarrassed to do so.

Well, people of Britain - and perhaps of America too, although I'm less sure of your toilet culture - it's time we started talking crap! If there's something wrong with your poo - go to the docs! If you've had a really good shit - celebrate with your family! If you're all blocked up and need sympathy and syrup of figs - get your husband/kids/dog to look after you!

Turd is important, and it would be great to lift the lid on it, just a bit.

___________________

Further info: a couple of good websites -

http://thepowerofpoop.com/why-we-fear-poop/
http://www.thepoopproject.org/

Sunday, 15 March 2015

The case of the exploding condom

So there's this guy. Let call him 'B'.

I went to see B this weekend. And because he and I are...dating, there was the inevitable rollicking saucy business to deal with.

I mean, contraception.

Oh God, it's a ridiculous state of affairs. I'm FOURTY FOUR for Christ's sakes, too old for condoms or femidons or caps (are they the same thing? I've no idea). I can't take the pill. I don't want a coil. And B very selfishly didn't have a surprise vasectomy in the last few days.

And yet, the stakes are high. I didn't want a baby when I was a teenager. Well - multiply that 'didn't want' by a trillion billion and you just about get how much I don't want a baby now. Just the thought makes me have a tiny bit of sick in my mouth.

Not that I don't like babies. I LOVE babies. And I loved my babies. But I had them 14 and 12 years ago, and since then, I've got a bit more tired. My eyes don't work as well. I've got grey hairs. My bottom's spread out. And sometimes I don't quite get to the toilet in time.

So you see, I've got enough challenges at the moment. Which is why the contraception issue needed to be solved.

As it turned out, at the crucial moment, we had nothing better than the standby box of Durex. The packet was duly scuffily ripped apart, the innards applied, and the deed was done.

Afterwards, I said, as I always do, "Can you just check it?"

B said,

"Oh yes, everything's fine. Oh. Hang on."

Silence.

I looked up, and he held up the sad little see-through bag. There was nothing - I mean nothing - in it.

I heard this 'gadjunk' noise and it took me a little while to realise that it was the bottom falling out of my stomach.

"Ummm" (small voice) "I don't suppose you were mistaken about...you know..."

"No. There's a hole in it."

Now listen to me, makers of condoms. How the actual fuck can the 'power of fishes' make a hole in a condom? Are they ejected at such high speed that they take on the power of a laser, burning a hole through the latex - such is their desire to reach the failing egg of a burned out 44 year old? Because that seems to be what happened.

A miserable night's sleep ensued with lots of 'I'm sorry's and 'It's not your fault' and many, many trips to the toilet to try and squeeze the fishes out. (I've watched Call the Midwife so I know this works.)

And in the morning, B took me to the chemist at opening time to get the morning after pill.

Last time I asked for the morning after pill, I was 18. Precisely 26 years ago. I remember taking it and being very, very sick. I really would have preferred to eat a jar of cow's eyes than to take it again.

But, needs must (remember, I don't want another baby. It's key to the story). And the great thing about being in your 40s is, nothing is embarrassing any more. In fact, needing the morning after pill implies to the world that you have had sex, which at 44, is amazing.

So in a loud and confident tone, I asked the extremely young assistant, "I'd like the morning after pill, please" and with all my power, held back on giving her a cheeky wink which I would have so loved to do.

The young assistant backed away nervously and called the pharmacist - a woman with more piercings than you usually see in someone working in the medical field - and she took me into a little room next door.

She was very lovely. We had a bit of a laugh about my age, and how embarrassing it all was. She looked sympathetic when I told her about the fish-lasered condom. When I said that the previous pill had made me sick, she looked at me sternly. "Don't be sick with this one. Best to go on a walk. Take your mind off it." I nodded, taking on board her wise words.

She asked me whether there was alcohol involved (no). Any STIs (no). Am I already pregnant? (What the actual...NO!). And after a tiny bit of chit-chat about the weather, I left with a small box and a huge instruction leaflet. No charge.

She made me feel an awful lot better.

So. The pill was taken. There was some queasiness and an awful lot of tiredness but, to be honest, that might all have been a reaction to the horrifying thought that I might be HAVING A BABY. I didn't have a stroke (I was a bit worried about that). And today, I feel fine. The proof will be in the pudding in a week or so's time.

Keep your fingers crossed for me.











Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Outgrowing our house

My house is too small.

I don't mean, "Oh no, we've only got three bedrooms and the bathroom's downstairs, and the kitchen's not big enough for a table, and we can't all fit in the dining room..." No. I mean, our house is LITERALLY too small.

Teen is now 6'2'', and still growing apace. I live in a cottage where even I have to duck when I come down the stairs. Teen has to cower through doorways, and in the kitchen, his head brushes the light fitting (please God his hair doesn't go up in flames).

There is a spare bit of wall in the utility room which I've marked their growing chart on, and even this is now proving ridiculous. Tween's measurement is now off the wall and up on the ceiling, meaning that when I attempt to see how tall he is, he has to crook his head at right angles.


It is beyond belief.

And Tween isn't far behind. He is 12 now and 5'9'', just taller than me, and is a beefy rugby boy (whilst Teen is a lanky streak of piss). When Tween is spreadeagled on the sofa, you don't mess with him. You just go and sit meekly on the chair that's about as comfortable as a spike, and look happy about it.

Mornings in the bathroom are alternately hilarious and disastrous. One of us is in the shower, whilst another is having a wee and the last is cleaning their teeth. Then we rotate, each trying to cover our bodies with towels or flannels (or sometimes the cat if she has wandered in) - particularly Tween, whose embarrassment is so obvious that you can occasionally smell it. It only takes one of us to slip, and we all topple over like dominoes. Including the cat.

We can survive about ten days with each other before we all go absolutely bleedin bonkers, at which point it is time for them to go to their Dad's for the weekend, and I sit on the sofa with a cold flannel on my forehead, in the dark, for a few hours - until the panic subsides. After which, I get up and shriek with joy, whilst running through the house flinging my arms out, celebrating the fact that I'm touching no one. Not even the cat, who by this time has jumped ship and hidden in the neighbour's shed.

About a day of peace and space and quiet is left, and then....

it starts all over again.