Wednesday, 14 October 2009


It all started with a Peperami . How one, small, dried sausage could cause such angst is extraordinary. But it’s presence in my daughter’s lunch box almost gave grounds for divorce. The instructions to Hubby were fairly clear, i.e ‘I am going to BodyMax; whilst I am gone would you please do some shopping and get together some things for a packed lunch as we may be gone for hours’.
On my return from my killer exercise class last Sunday morning, I then expected to throw off my sports gear, chuck on some jeans and a sweater, beckon a ready to go 7 year old, pick up her lunch box and my own salad and drive to the audition. Only it didn’t work out that way at all because the sight of the aforementioned sausage sent me into a rage.
“What the hell is this hideous thing?”, I yelled, extracting it from her lunch box.
“She wanted one” replied Hubby, confused by my reaction.
“She just sees you as a soft touch. And what is this, and this and this?” I asked throwing out a packet of Quavers, a sausage roll and a Kit-Kat, “For God’s sake, she’s going to an audition not a birthday party. There is more fat and salt in these few products than the kidneys of a grown man could tolerate in a hedonistic weekend”.
“You are over reacting Alice”. There is nothing more likely to make me over react than someone suggesting I am and within a heartbeat, I was possessed.
“Over-reacting?” I screeched, “Really? So, you are quite happy then for your child to attend an audition, where she will be judged by God knows whom, sucking on a Peperami. Lovely. ‘Hey, Chav girl? Don’t call us we’ll call you’”
If Hubby had looked confused before, he now looked genuinely bewildered.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about Alice”. And that’s the bottom line, men, however hands on and domesticated they are, unless they are lone parents and even then they are excused, have no idea what it is to be a mother. From the minute we conceive, to the lifestyle choices our grown up children make, we are judged by other women. We don’t need to smoke whilst we are pregnant to be disapproved of, it is enough that we throw caution to the wind that is our unborn foetus and liberally apply listeria infused Brie to our bread for many mothers to get on their high horses. From then on there will always be someone tut-tutting at you, whether it be for breast feeding in public or not breastfeeding at all, for adopting a let it cry attitude or shaking their heads and sighing ‘You’re making a rod for your own back’ should you choose to cuddle your baby at the slightest whimper. Motherhood is flooded with opinions and censorious attitudes to child rearing and nothing you ever do, other mothers will be quick to inform you, will be the correct decision. Whether you go to work and leave your child in a nursery or you turn your back on a good career to raise a child, someone somewhere thinks you’ve made a bad choice.
The Pepperami therefore, wasn’t just about a one off unhealthy snack that I doubt would have caused that much damage, but more the fact that I couldn’t bear to sit in a hall full of women, each one of us scrutinising the other over every little thing, from the ballet shoes and leotards to the best bun - I’m talking hairstyle here, not sticky, bakery treat. What I perceived to be a ‘common’ lunch spoke volumes for my own ideology and the subsequent horror of another mother thinking we were ‘that sort of family’.
On our arrival at the rehearsal rooms though, it was immediately apparent that I was in good company as there was a glut of those sorts of families. My daughter and I had recovered our equilibrium and she sat on my lap on the floor and we surveyed the scene unfolding before us. It was like Fame for pre-pubescents. Hundreds of little girls and a handful of little boys twirled around in legwarmers and leotards. Every now and again, when yet another group of children had undergone the process of the audition, a door would open, spewing out emotionally spent little divas, whose ‘dream’ of appearing in the pantomime had been dashed.
Seven, eight and nine year olds ran into the ample armed and large bosomed embraces of their mothers with the refrain that is so often heard nowadays, “I’m devastated”, they cried, “Dancing is all I’ve ever wanted to do. It’s my life”, they sobbed, “It’s all over”, they wailed. Hyperbole after hyperbole, reiterating Saturday night television whose vernacular has infiltrated the vocabulary of even the youngest wannabe.
I felt very uncomfortable, especially when a tiny little girl whose face was plastered in orange foundation and whose earlobes were deep red under weight of heavy hoop earrings, ran into the hall, having been unsuccessful. Far from being embraced however, her mother launched into an inquisition, “How did you go wrong? You’ve been practising for weeks. Why didn’t they want you? Did you keep smiling? I’m so disappointed”. Poor little mite, it did little for her self esteem.
Was this environment healthy? No-one is fonder of a weekend long, X Factor fest than I, yet I hadn’t fully understood the impact of the negative influence of such popular television culture until I walked into that hall and saw the hordes, heartbroken or just as worryingly, ecstatically elated. How would my own child react? As it transpired, with a shrug and a matter of fact, thumbs down sign.
We drove home via the Hoe for a consolation prize of an ice-cream and a coffee. Sitting in the car looking out to the Sound, my daughter chasteningly said, “You know that Peperami mum? It made you a bit of an animal”.

1 comment:

Mary Alice said...

so matter what we choose, half of everyone will think it wrong. Your girl has a great attitude though.