House of Groupies, or stalking Tom

For months I moaned to anyone and everyone about not being able to get tickets for the Men’s 10 metre platform diving. At the end of the first week of the Olympics I – more in hope than expectation – clicked on to the ticketing website and additional tickets for the preliminaries the following Friday had been released. Moreover, they were in a price bracket I could afford. I put one in my basket, waited 14 agonising minutes for the website to decide whether I was worthy of the ticket or not (I feared that LOCOG may have blacklisted me) and squeaked with joy when the magic payment screen appeared. My hands actually shook as I confirmed my credit card details.

The reason for my excitement? When I said I was going to watch the diving my friends laughed and said: ‘He’s a CHILD Jo. A child’. I protested my innocence until I was blue in the face: I just wanted to pat him on the head; he’s the sort of boy that I’d like the girls to bring home one day; I’m almost old enough to be his mother, all of which was true. Then I SAW him in the flesh (as t’were) and I became a proper 15 year old Tom Daley groupie. The boy had become A MAN.

Flipping heck.

When I was actually 15 I was a total nerd. Very academic, very geeky, extremely gawky, didn’t follow the crowd, liked to be a bit different. A bit weird. When my friends were drooling over Take That I was listening to Pulp and Blur. Mis-Shapes by Pulp was my anthem. My classmates didn’t understand me; Jarvis Cocker did. I missed out on a whole chunk of my adolescence trying (and mostly failing) to be a grown-up. I didn’t really go through the posters on the wall, screaming, sobbing fangirl thing. I’d liked Bros when I was 8 but by the time New Kids on the Block came along I was, like, so over the whole boyband thing.

On Friday night I became the 13 year old I had missed out on being first time round. Every time Tom stepped up to dive I squealed like a One Direction uber-fan. I watched his dives though my fingers, yelling GOOD BOY! GOOD BOY! as he splashed into the water. He wasn’t diving at his best on Friday (maybe I jinxed him with my presence) and squeaked through the prelims. At the end he went over to the mix zone (I’m up with the lingo, me) and I took the opportunity to get a bit closer and take some photos.

Now, I have this weird thing with celebrities and sporting heroes. I’ll watch them perform, I’ll buy their stuff but the thought of actually meeting them fills me with dread. They do their thing, I do mine but I won’t ever put myself out there and press flesh or exchange words with them. My sister will happily stroll up to any cricketer in the country and have a chat, but I always hide in the background praying not to be noticed. I have an irrational fear that they’ll laugh at me, or be rude and I don’t want to put myself through that. I guess it’s one of the reasons Dh is so secure about it all. I admire from afar but I’d wet myself if I ever actually met any of them.

So, I was hanging over a balcony taking pictures of Tom and I realised that everyone around me doing the same was at least 10 years younger than me. Some of them were wearing glittery t-shirts bearing his name. At one point Tom’s Mum looked up at us with an unfathomable expression on her face. She wasn’t cross, more bemused. I tried to put myself in her place. As a parent, it must be weird for one of your children to be revered and adored by total strangers. I can’t imagine how I would feel if R or G were down there being leered at by a bunch of lusty blokes. Actually, I can and I’d take a shotgun with me…

It felt a bit wrong, so I stopped and went home (not before going to the toilet and practically bumped into Team Daley on my way out as they waited for their boy to finish his media commitments) and resolved to get over myself. Then I got chatting to one of my Mum friends the next day. She’s 45 and when I mentioned that I’d been to watch him dive she went into proper PHWOAR HE’S GAWGUS mode and I calculated that, actually, thanks to being a late developer I’m not old enough to be his mother and that it’s all perfectly fine. As it turns out, there’s quite a cohort of 20, 30 and 40-something women that think he’s rather marvellous so I’m not alone.

My friend and I are already hatching plans to go and watch the Commonwealth Games in 2014. The Games themselves are in Glasgow but the diving competition (sorry, ‘meet’) is taking place in Edinburgh. I quite fancy going up there on the overnight sleeper and making a girlie weekend of it. I just need to get a diamante t-shirt made. Then there’s the British diving championships in 2013…

We asked R and G who their favourite Olympians were. G tends to favour ‘OO-SAIN BOLT’ whilst R likes doing his stance. She’s also fond of doing the Mo-bot, in honour of Mo Farah. They both said that Tom was their favourite tonight as they pretended to dive into the bath. In four years’ time the girls will 8, Tom will be 22 and they can take over the fangirl mantle from me.

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Damn unpretty

There’s been an awful lot of debate on the social networks over the last few days about a particular newspaper article that I’m not going to reference here because I don’t want to give the paper any more advertising revenue or publicity than they have already (cleverly) generated. It’s that one written by the woman about her looks.

Allow me to present something written from the other end of the spectrum.

I am not good looking. On my better days I look presentable. The rest of the time I can barely look at myself in the mirror. I’m not saying this to garner any well-meaning sympathy. I am merely stating facts.

When I found out that I was having girls I was terrified that they would look like me. I didn’t want them to suffer the abuse and ridicule that I have suffered for years. I could cite hundreds of examples here but I’m only going to give you one.

A few years ago, pre-children, I was walking home from the gym. We only lived a short walk away from the gym so I used to walk home in my workout gear and shower in (relative) comfort rather than risk the communal showers. I was trotting home one day along a reasonably busy road when the traffic lights ahead changed to red and the traffic stopped. As I walked past a stationary van the window wound down and the driver decided to ‘have a chat’ with me:

“YOU’RE A FAHKIN’ DOG BUT YOU COULD AT LEAST MAKE A FAHKIN’ EFFORT”.

At that point the lights changed and he sped off before I had a chance to retaliate. Although even if I had used my right to reply, I’m not sure what I would have said. I have tried many different approaches to this over the years (I’ve had a fair few opportunities to practice), from giving them both barrels back (usually met with ‘Don’t have a fit luv’ or ‘Ooh language’), to performing a two-fingered salute (greeted with gales of laughter) to my current approach, staring straight ahead, pretending I haven’t heard and not responding. I don’t think there’s an adequate response that would make me feel any better about it.

When I was a teenager, I figured that success would make me immune to such abuse. I hoped that living well (said to be the best revenge) and getting educated, meeting someone and getting married, having children and having a good career and lovely friends and family would render me immune to the White Van Wankers (Ooh language!) but it doesn’t.

One effect of this is that I now can’t leave the house without a full face of make-up, hair blow-dried and straightened and clothes immaculate. Even my ‘casual’ clothes are carefully considered. I make the best of what I do have and wear dresses to work most days. This isn’t vanity, it’s self-preservation.

I envy naturally beautiful girls that can slouch around in trackie bottoms, Uggs and messy hair and still look fabulous. I simply couldn’t get away with that in public without attracting ridicule (believe me, I’ve tried).

As the months and years pass and the girls get older, I breathe a huge sigh of relief that the girls look like Dh with their fair hair and green eyes. They haven’t (yet) developed my too large for my face nose and they have something resembling a chin, which I definitely don’t. (I went on a date once that was going well until the guy looked at me carefully and said ‘Your nose it too big and you’re quite plain, but I like you. You won’t be shocked to learn that there wasn’t a second date).

I’m incredibly lucky because Dh tells me I’m beautiful every day – and after nearly 12 years I think he probably means it! R and G aren’t of an age yet where they notice prettiness or ugliness, but they have noticed my make-up ritual, the length of time it takes me to get ready in the morning and my array of dresses and pretty scarves. Of course, I think the girls are gorgeous but I’m biased because I’m their mother. However, I’m relieved that they don’t look like me. I’m told that there are elements of me in them, expressions and frowns (frowns mostly) but they look more like Dh and my sister than me.

I don’t want R and G to ever experience what I and other women that don’t conform to normal boundaries of beauty go through at the hands of thoughtless, mindless morons*

*I like to think that they have small penises, or are in fact as smooth as Action Men.

Recovering

It’s fair to say that my hospital dash on Monday has knocked me for six. Although I’m feeling much better now, I keep nodding off at random intervals! It’s like my batteries need replacing or something. After spending most of the last three days in bed I decided that I actually wanted to get up, get dressed and leave the house. Apparently it’s been sunny and spring-like this week and I wanted to see the evidence for myself.

When the going gets tough I go to Hobbycraft and buy card-making equipment. I find wandering the aisles extremely soothing, as I browse for card toppers, paper stacks and sparkly letters. The girls have two 4th birthday parties this weekend (it’s neverending) so I have four cards to make. I’m really not very good at card-making it’s a hobby rather than a commercial venture, but it keeps me off the streets and I like doing creative things. I have a little Facebook page to display them on so I can look back at cards I’ve done before for inspiration. If you’re so inclined, a little Like on the page would make my day.

I enjoyed my brief trip out but  felt really tired so went home and watched THE KYLE. It’s the law that ill people must watch THE KYLE. I lasted one and half episodes before turning it off and doing some more of my mammoth cross-stitch project.

I was determined to accompany Dh to collect the girls from nursery as they (especially R) love it when we both go to pick them up.R rushed over to greet us….and immediately threw her arms around Dh. When he was sorting G out, R finally deigned to give me a huge hug and asked ‘Are you better?’. I dread to think what they’ve told everyone about Mummy this week. I imagine that, like everyone else, they have concluded that I’m pregnant and will be awaiting an announcement. They’re be waiting a bloody long time….

It’s book group tonight so I’m going to go along for an hour or two, clutching a bottle of water (no alcohol for me at the moment) as I have *drum roll* actually read the book this time. I need an early night anyway as Dh is on early shift tomorrow morning. He has instructed the girls to a. Give me a lie-in and b. Look after me. The chances of me achieving either are remote. I have visions of nodding off over a bowl of cornflakes.

Now that I’m on the mend, I’d quite like my subconscious to stop giving me ambulance-based nightmares where I pass out and don’t wake up. I’ve had quite enough of waking up bathed in sweat to last me a lifetime, thanks.

Mothering Sunday

Dh-less this weekend, I didn’t get a lie in (unless 7.15am counts as one) and I cooked a Sunday roast for my Mum and Dad who came down for the day.

R and G followed Dh’s strict instructions to the letter and located the gifts and cards that had been squirrelled away for me. I got a lovely new bathrobe and this:

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I’ll be requesting my lie-in next weekend.

Hairy hormones

Hormones don’t half sock you round the head. I really thought I was fine with the whole not having any more babies thing but I’ve noticed that at the most <ahem> productive time of my monthly cycle* I get the ‘ImusthaveanotherbabyI’mnotdoneyet’ urge. Earlier this week I was relaxing with a bit of light cross-stitching and watching an old episode of One Born Every Minute on 4OD when the ‘Imusthaveanotherbaby…’ thing smacked me in the face again**.

If I look at it objectively, I can see where all of this is coming from. I didn’t have a ‘normal’ pregnancy as I was having twins that sucked the life and soul out of me. I didn’t have a ‘normal’ birth because I had to have a caesarean. I didn’t enjoy the early days – first two years, since you ask – with the girls because I was convinced I was going to break them. I still feel bad that I didn’t invite my Mum and my sister to at least one of my (many) ultrasound scans. During my pregnancy I was terrified that I would lose one or both of the girls and became incredibly insular. Dh and I lived in a protective bubble and it didn’t even occur to me to involve people in our journey. I’m also still a bit cross that I wasn’t allowed to name one of the girls Freya. I happened to mention to the girls that I didn’t have a middle name today and Dh (rather waspishly) said that I should change mine to Freya…

I had always thought that I would like to experience a singleton pregnancy, a vaginal birth and looking after one baby rather than inexpertly juggling the needs of two babies simultaneously. However, I read an article today that also (figuratively) smacked me around the head. I realise now that I have been mis-diagnosing myself. I don’t think I actually want to have more babies. I’d like to wind the clock back and do a better job with R and G than I think I did first time round. I’m four years older and wiser. I have a few years of coal-face parenting experience in pretty tough conditions to fall back on and I reckon I’d be much better at dealing with everything that was thrown at me now.

Unfortunately, I can’t go Back to the Future and do that so I need to take on board the lesson of the article: I should enjoy R and G more because we’re really not having any more children. I can’t rectify any of the mistakes I made first time round so I need to move on from them.

My life is pretty great right now and I need to get on with enjoying it.

*I’m not actually tracking my cycle for fertility reasons – my periods are stupidly erratic (the consultant that told me they would settle down after I’d sprogged was LYING) – so I have an app on my phone (how modern) that tracks the start and end of things and happens to flag up my fertile week as well, should I wish to know.

**I also get quite lusty watching the X-Men films at this point in my cycle. It’s the manly hairiness <sigh>

Predictable

As sure as eggs is eggs, it’s November 2nd and I have already had my first November Wobbler of the month. It’s not like I plan them. I don’t sit with my diary on 31st October, cackling as I fix a time and date to hurl an inanimate object at a wall, massively overreact to something relatively minor or break down in tears for no obvious reason. It’s certainly not an enjoyable time for me, or anyone that has to live with me during this ridiculous period.

I have also been waking up in cold sweats – literally – the last few nights. I jolt awake at some ungodly hour of the morning and realise that I am dripping with sweat (practically soaked through and no, we don’t have the heating on yet) and have clearly emerged from some terrible nightmare…although I cannot recall the details after. Probably for the best as the content clearly has an adverse effect on me.

It’s all very odd and there’s absolutely no reason for it. G is…[searches for polite term] challenging at the moment but she’s been the same since the day she was born and is unlikely to change any time soon. People keep telling me she’s bright, which I think is code for ‘Annoying little sod’. R is mostly delightful, apart from when she’s tired and we all have to suffer with her. Dh is lovely and sends me Emergency Jackman pictures when I’m feeling blue. Dh is a keeper and I’m punching well above my weight with him! Work is mostly good. I have a reasonably active social life and lots of lovely friends and a nice family.

I reckon the clock change is the root of it. Like most people, I absolutely HATE going to and from work in the dark in the Winter. I haven’t ever experienced jet lag, but I just want to hunker down indoors, wear pyjamas, eat lots of food and watch The Only Way is Essex (don’t judge me) at the moment.

I’m doing my classic thing of taking on lots of extra tasks, like making the invitations for the girls’ birthday party (final count = 21 hand-made unique invites), joining a professional development group and becoming Secretary at the first meeting I attended and finally committing my long-overdue romance novel to screen as part of NaNoWriMo.

Lest anyone think I’m neglecting my children (heaven forbid!) I am squeezing these extra-curricular hours into the evenings, when R and G are tucked up in bed asleep. Dh works in the evening every other week and I don’t want to sit in front of the television every night watching TOWIE on catch-up and eating chocolate, so I like doing creative stuff. It’s cheap therapy, basically.

I did something today that I would never normally do. I reached out and took help from a friend. I have become really good friends with one of the the girls’ friends’ Mum (tortured grammar there, but you see what I’m getting it) as she and I are really similar. We’re both perfectionists and over-achievers and regard even the merest slip in our impossibly high standards as a massive failure and fall apart. The girls and I went to their house for Sunday lunch a couple of weeks ago and during a post-lunch walk on the Common, I poured my heart out to her. Normally I ignore the ‘If you ever need anything…’ platitudes from friends but she has been checking in with me regularly ever since to make sure that I’m ok. When I reached meltdown this morning I sent her a text and couple of minutes later my phone rang. I sobbed at her for a few minutes while she made soothing noises (she was on the bus at the time – it must have sounded like she was making a booty call). She couldn’t do anything practical to help, but she listened and didn’t offer spurious advice or ‘You’re brilliant and you’ll be fine’ cliches. By the end of the call I felt much better, although I started fretting that I had become a leech and was taking too much of her valuable time – she assures me that I haven’t.

This is a real change for me. I absolutely loathe taking help from anyone and regard it as a failure on my part if I have to do so. However, I keep being told that I don’t need to bear this alone so I’m making a real effort to accept help and not feel like I’m being a terrible burden to anyone. I spent several months shouldering this – anxiety? –  on my own when the girls were small and it did me no good at all. Along with the self-management plan I devised last year, I need to learn to reach out for assistance when I need it.

Hopefully normal service will resume soon.