Being Called The ‘C’ Word

On Sunday afternoon, after a lovely morning at the cinema watching Despicable Me 2, we drove to Waitrose to acquire some groceries for a late lunch. As we were pulling in, Husband and I were having a discussion about something or other, one of the usual things that we chunter on about in the car, you know, like how we feel about what’s going on in Israel, the price of baked beans and whether the dog needs his anal gland expressed. I can’t remember what it was in particular (probably because I’m in shock) but in the course of the conversation, my Husband called me The ‘C’ Word.

Yep. My Husband, the man for whom I carried a child, the man whose pants I wash and meals I cook, called me the worst word he could ever have uttered. I was genuinely shocked at first because I had no idea he felt that way about me. After seven and a half years of sharing your life with a person, you get to a point where you know each other well and you feel like you know exactly how they feel about you, how they view you as a person. But to drop the ‘C’ bomb on your wife? Well, I was beside myself.

Before I go on, I should probably clarify which ‘C’ word it is that I actually mean. Are you ready? Brace yourself…

He called me…*looks around to make sure no kids are listening*…a CONFORMIST!

A close approximation of the look on my face, after the dropping of the C Bomb

How dare he call me a conformist? I’m the girl who, when my friends went through their ‘Goth’ phase, would go out with them dressed head to toe in pink. I’m the girl who has argued vociferously against The Beatles, simply because I hate being told  that they’re the greatest band ever and that I should love them. I’m the girl who wore Dr. Martens to primary school when all of my friends were wearing Mary Janes. I’m the girl who answered back, the naughty kid in class, the one who got kicked out of sixth form for frequent bunking.

I have opinions, ones that I’ll voice whenever the hell I want and usually as forcefully as I can. I’ll talk about anything, religion, politics, current affairs. I’m passionate about feminism, human rights, the demonisation of youth. I’m not just a ‘shut up and do nothing’ type.

But, as I look down at my safe Mummy uniform (beige cardi, muted green vest, sensible John Rocha jeans and a pair of loafers), my Cath Kidston bag and my long, highlighted bob, I begin to wonder. 

Yes, I have opinions, opinions which aren’t shared by everyone. But am I hiding?

As we were walking out of Waitrose, I saw a girl with hair that was that most beautiful shades of pink and purple, a teenager with her Dad, and I thought “I used to have pink hair…I’m probably too old for pink hair now”. And that thought saddened me a bit. I’m not saying that I actually want pink hair, what I’m saying is that there is still a non-conformist inside of me, but I’ve hidden her under a bushel of ‘appropriate’ grown up clothes and outward conformity.

I don’t want to be the same as everyone else. So why do I feel, suddenly, like I am?

I’m not giving up my Cath Kidston bag though.

Family · Parenting

The Same As Everyone Else

I got a bit of a bollocking last night. I got home from work and a rather grumpy-faced Sausage said “Mummy, I still have a white t-shirt in my P.E. kit”. Her kit got sent home for the Christmas hols and I dutifully washed it, ready to go back. Only, on the Tuesday of her first week back, P.E. day, I realised that I’d not gathered all of the items up and put them in her bag and said-items were now spread far and wide throughout my chaotic house. I managed to locate her shorts, drummed up a pair of white socks and dug her plimsols out from under a pile of new toys, but the yellow, logo-embroidered t-shirt was nowhere to be found. In desperation I shoved a plain white v-neck into the bag, knowing that this was just as acceptable under the school’s uniform code, with promises to Sausage to replace it with the yellow one later that week.

Obviously, I forgot. Skip forward to today and Sausage has had to endure four whole sessions of Physical Education in a white t-shirt and, apparently, this just isn’t good enough.

Having been previously oblivious to the importance of the yellow t-shirt, I enquired as to whether she’d been told off for wearing a white t-shirt instead.

“No” was her reply.

Hmm. So, I asked, does anyone else wear a white top?

“Yes, the twins do”

Right, so if you’re the same as the twins, what’s the problem?

“Because everyone else wears yellow and I want to be the same as everyone else” she said.

And suddenly, it all became clear and my childhood came flooding back to me. I think, as an adult, we get so caught up in defining ourselves as one thing or another that we forget that, for the kids, it’s mostly about fitting in. Conformity is key and anything different will have you singled out. It’s like an innate survival instinct.

As an adult, and even as a teen to an extent, being ‘a bit different’ can be a great thing. But to a child, it’s the worst thing in the world and it’s suddenly become clear that it’s our jobs, as parents, to do what we can to facilitate that conformity.

When I was a youth (around 11 or 12), the Adidas track suit was king and if your trainers weren’t Reebok or Nike, you were a total loser. I got bought a black Adidas track suit with white stripes and I lived in that bloody thing until it was swinging around my ankles. But, it was a uniform and it fitted in with what everyone else was doing. That track suit got me through some tough times.

So, tonight after work, I’ll be going home, searching through the ironing pile and getting the yellow t-shirt ready for tomorrow, when I’ll extract the offending white garment from Sausage’s satchel and make the world, her world, right again. Because, while conformity might not be my cup of tea, for the moment it’s everything to Sausage and that’s just fine.