It’s a new jeans kind of day as I write this. There’s no perceptible give and little in the way of fraying. I feel contained.
When she was younger, a very self-possessed friend of mine was invigilating an exam. A small-boned boy of fourteen had decided to write on the subject of sex. Glancing over his shoulder, which she wouldn’t ordinarily have done except for the word “SEX” written in large capital letters and underlined several dozen times, she read the first line of his essay.
“I hope to have sex in the next two to three years,” he began.
There is a true awkwardness to the world of the teenager. Neither child nor adult, nothing in the world fits although everything, one is told, is designed for the new, male moisturizing generation.
As one who grew up rather faster than might have been intended, I consider childhood sacrosanct.
That does not make me a mother.
This is the point in which I find myself trapped. I am by no means a teenager. I have been an adult for the greater part of my life, but something has changed in the last few months, and I can’t say I’ve enjoyed it.
I used to be the cool aunt. That was my station in life. Any time we had a group of younger people come into the Legion, I was there, probably slightly sozzled but funny. Daubed in half a dozen tattoos, Guinness in one hand, a cigarette rolled so thin it resembled a prison fag in the other, I didn’t give a damn what anyone thought of me (unless it wasn’t good, and then I cared rather a lot) and I was tremendous.
The aunt that everyone wanted to party with.
I was invited to nightclubs by kids who I could, by the numbers, be the mother of, but no – I was the cool aunt. I might have been the weird, rather embarrassing aunt, but I was, fundamentally, incredible.
We have a relatively new and entirely delightful selection of young people who come to the Legion. Our booze is cheap and plentiful, and therefore much appreciated. And, utterly without warning, I’ve become the parent figure. I know this to be true because on my birthday, one of the kids got me a card addressed “To My Lovely Mum”.
If I’d sent that to my own mother, she’d think I wanted either a cheque or a kidney.
If further proof were needed, I have just returned to this post after ten minutes snapchatting with one of my non-sons.
He’s at the gym. There’s something quite tragic about that.
Nineteen years old, everything works, expert in many thousands of diverse subjects because that’s what it is to be nineteen and he’s at the gym. Jogging towards, but never getting closer to, a wall.
The kids weren’t even born when Princess Diana died. 1997 was a lousy year, I remember it well. I watched the news report, convinced I was just having a nasty dream, until I rolled a fag, and reality came dolloping out.
I wonder if this is just how it goes.
One of my older Sunday guys went from thinking himself the lover to being adopted as the father figure. That must be a larger shock. Aunt to mother is a comparatively small change.
This is, I recognise, the battle between how I view myself compared to how I am perceived.
This is ageing. It’s been stealthy, this desiccation.
Realistically, it’s not one sided. I worry about the kids. I don’t think they’re eating properly. I don’t know if their peers are predominantly good influences.
Today we drove to the seaside, and an enclosed dog park with a view over the crystalline waves. Tara, Poppy and Pumpkin ran and yipped through the tufted grasses. Aimée took a couple of hundred photos of them; they don’t even have to be awake for the photographs but if they’re moving so much the better. Then, not a word of a lie, she sat me down at a picnic bench.
I rolled a fag.
The older chaps on Sunday lunchtimes have said so many times that they’re twenty on the inside. Even this slight change, from aunt to mother, from early to mid-thirties, has challenged me.
Although I have moved on from the crushing days of ache and puberty, adulthood was too brief and motherhood without children sits uncomfortably.
Decision made: as time is flitting without my agreement, I am going to be an angry old person. I will be belligerent, I will criticise the young for their youth, I will be wildly inappropriate at all times.
I have already started needlessly blaming the young.
From nowhere, in the last couple of days, blue stains have started appearing on the new cream carpet in the living room.
No chance it could be Tara, she’s soft as butter but non-destructive.
Doobie is too crackle-backed to do any real harm.
Pumpkin is too dippy to do much of anything except be perilously happy at all times.
Poppy. Poppy is clever and active, a definite possibility for up-to-something. I didn’t remember walking her near paint of any kind, but supposed she must have found some.
I took a shower, and suddenly noticed my thighs had turned a greyish-blue. What in the world. I surmised I had developed multiple fractures, perhaps I’d been in some dreadful accident, something so appalling I’d blocked it from my memory.
In my head, I worked out the whole journey to the hospital, the scrambled explanation to the triage nurse, the obvious series of broken bones.
I was standing in the shower, thinking of driving to casualty.
And then I noticed it: the blue puddle collecting at my feet.
New jeans, damnit.