The Booby Trap – Quite Literally…

This morning, as we both stood in our pants getting dressed, my 5 year old grabbed my cerise pink brassiere (an original Sainsbury’s design) and using the elastic, pinged it at my head while earnestly saying “There’s your booby trap Mummy”.  Booby Trap.  Booby Trap?  After much laughter (him because of the excellent flickage.  Me because of the confusion of phrase) I was suddenly drawn to this ‘trap’ that encased my boobs.  This evil breast holder that locked away my beautiful bosom.  This evil device that restricted my tits’ freedom.  My poor darlings…  Held captive in a booby trap.  Be Free!  BE FREE!

Mmmmmm… actually… don’t.  Let’s face it girls, you two have seen better days and while I am very grateful for all that you have done, your days of being free (while saunaing, sunbathing, attracting swingers – which their offer, may I add, we NEVER accepted) are probably in the past.  I am still completely in love with you both though – in a companionship kind of a way.  I mean, we’ve just been through so much together…

Remember the summer of 1993 when you decided to make your delayed appearance?  Leaving school at the end of the year as a girl and returning in September as a ‘b’ cup WOMAN, I was just thrilled by the commentary from my male classmates “She’s wearing a bra”, “She’s almost as big as Mandy Cartman” (the second smallest boobs in the classroom) and the inevitable “Would you screw her now?”  Ah ha…  That period of my life wasn’t embarrassing at all.  I never once cringed while listening to these pimple-faced adolescents describe me as a quasi-desirable female.

BraOr how about the University years my boobies??  Remember how I popped ‘the pill’ for half a decade and you decided to grow into a magnificent pair of rounded melons?  Beautifully pert.  A terrific cleavage-making machine.  Fabulously perfect timing as I donned low cut tops and boob tubes.  Oh how I took for granted the appreciative stares and (sometimes quite inappropriate) comments.  Oh how I now yearn for the double hoot for my hooters from passing cars.  I took you both for granted only appreciating you after you had left (at some speed) when I decided to stop the tablets.

But then, my little puppies, all was forgiven and you returned!!!  I was 29 years old.  I was pregnant.  I swore I would appreciate you this time.  I didn’t.  My tummy grew fat so you were just relative to this growing swell.  All in proportion until… I popped out the sprog and four days later my milk came in!  Woo Hoo!!!  No need to steal that 5K for a boob job anymore…  Rock.  Solid.  Breasts.  Unbelievable cleavage.  Brassiere overspill.  I remember screaming “LOOK AT THESE!!” to both male and female friends alike!!!  I didn’t care about their discomfort or any psychological damage caused.  I had been reunited with the body I was always supposed to have.  I was desirable.  Until, of course, breast feeding…

My functional mammaries… you served our little family so well.  I remember the soft hum of the breast pump, lulling me to sleep after a night of no ZZZs.  I remember being compared to an old sow by my husband as I lay sideways on the floor (exhausted) allowing my little ‘piglet’ child to snuffle and suckle at my milk.  I remember the unintentional leakage… As my little one would cry out, you (my breasts) would respond with a comforting squirt of milk before my mind had even realised that the baby was upset.  I loved the nursing bras.  The visible veins on my skin.  The ridiculously bumpy nipples.  I loved being sternly told by others to “cover up” as I became so matter-of-fact about whipping you darlings out to feed.  They were just functional boobs after all?!?  What was everyone’s problem?

But now…. it’s the present day.  I am 35 years old and my breasts’ journey has come full circle.  I am now an established mother of two young boys and boys, it seems, have the natural inclination to find a woman’s chest (and indeed anything breast-related) a source of great amusement.  They take such pleasure in prodding my pair and shouting “Boobies!!!” in between bouts of hysterical giggles.  My ‘booby trap’ bra is a great way to transport Lego.  My nudity is apparently hilarious.  I am now once again the target of male commentary.  Not that I care anymore because I now know the breast kept secret.  I am now proud of my boobs – not because of their size or shape but because of their true function.  They helped my tiny babies to grow strong.  How can I not be proud?  A woman’s body is amazing and I am a woman.

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Stepping Out of the Box

A good friend (perhaps sensing my creative drought propelled by my latest attempt at caffeine withdrawal) sent me the following quote by text, challenging me to write about it:

“Never allow someone else to define you based on how they perceive you”.

I don’t know where the quote is from, who wrote it or who the intended audience was but it truly got me thinking.  We’ve surely all experienced being squashed into the character mould that other people have built to confine us.  Instead of seeing you as the multidimensional human being that you are, you can be viewed as the clumsy one, the pretty one, the shy one, the creative one, the sensible one.  You surely get the idea.  Whatever action you take that fits your allocated role, happily affirms the person’s view.  Yet if you perform out of your character’s remit, the event is at best ignored, at worst it is suggested that you were temporarily ‘just not yourself’.  A frustrating position.

Perhaps parents and siblings are the most guilty of creating and maintaining our defined categories.  Within the family you may be assigned differing talents, character traits, weaknesses.  You are not able to encroach on someone else’s territory.  Surely there can’t be two of you that are intelligent?  Not two of you who are athletic?  And if there is, then the competition begins!

It is quite scary (and sad) that the judgements people make when they first meet you can also last an eternity.  A colleague at work has recently assigned me the disorganised role.  Quite a surprise as I actually pride myself on my secretive organisational skill.  I am a covert anal retentive.  Everything has its household place, I have to-do lists galore, robust systems for completing each domestic task regularly and effectively.  OK, I slightly exaggerate but that’s how this unfair categorisation gets me.  It makes me rebel.  It makes me want to prove the opposite point.  It isn’t enough that I truly know that this person has assigned the role because of their own silliness, insecurity and inefficiency.  Instead I get angry.  I feel cheated.  I feel restricted.  I feel bound by their stupidity.  But most of all I feel scared.  What if they’re right?  What if someone has exposed the ugly truth?  My God, they’ve finally found me out.

The most infuriating box I have been hemmed into is the nice box.  It sends me into spirals of rebellious fury!  I imagine I am Marvel’s most plausible yet surprisingly uncreated superhero character – the Incredible Hulkess.  Yet because I am in my nice box I can’t even unleash the green, gamma-radiated, mad-woman from within.  All I want to do is scream in the person’s face; saliva dripping from my incisors; my dry, rancid breath permeating the pores of their skin; blood vessels bursting in the whites of my eyes.  Instead, assigned the nice role, I smile, I please, I compliment.  The thought of not performing correctly terrifies me.  Consequently, I am confined in this cage of expectation.  I blame the other person for throwing this role upon me.  Yet ultimately I understand that the real anger is with myself for living up to this ridiculous standard.

A very special woman with whom I had a short-lived but intense friendship once stood close and teased me, watching as the fury rose from the pit of my stomach to the surface.  I started to verbally retaliate until I quickly noticed the Mona Lisa, side-smile appear on her beautiful face.  We both laughed realising that we had been on the precipice of a monumental event in our friendship.  She had seen the fury of this Redhead and had survived.  Quickly I apologised feeling sheepish and ashamed.  But simply she stood tall, strong, yet with a warmness I could never emulate, replied with a smile “Baby, I don’t care.  I want to see you in every way, in every situation, in every mood.  I want to know you“.  You may translate this story with caution.  You may feel I had been manipulated or tested.  But let me promise you, no relationship game had been played.  Instead the overall feeling was one of complete acceptance.  This confident young woman was not scared of me stepping out of my usual role.  In fact she relished seeing the side of me that others may not be privy to.  She allowed me to be free.  I will never forget that moment.  So much freedom and absolutely no fear.

Perhaps those people who assign us our roles would also wish to see our true personas?  Perhaps we have assigned them the judging role unfairly when they, given the opportunity, might be grateful to see us laid out bare.  They may actually be strong enough to cope with our anger.  They may be understanding enough to respond to our insecurity.  They could be encouraging enough to celebrate in our talents.  Maybe they just need to be given the opportunity to step out of the roles that we have assigned to them?

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A Dedication to all Mummies

This morning my oldest boy donned an oversized blue sweater, grey teflon trousers and black leather dinosaur shoes (which he swears help him to run faster than any other 4 year old).  All in all the clothes looked baggy but of course I told him how handsome / gorgeous / smart he looked.  And he did look great – in a Michelin Man kind of way.  He looked so cute.  Just how I imagined my child to look on his first day at school.  We have prepared for this day in all the usual mummy ways: attending school introductory meetings, sowing nametags into clothes, playing imaginary ‘school’ with Avenger characters.  I thought I had prepared for all eventualities, both practical and emotional.  However the one thing I hadn’t prepared for was the emotional response this day would evoke inside of me.

If I track my journey back, my reaction to this event began last night, manifesting in some weird physiological manner.  My heart beat quickening.  Sweating palms.  The irritability dial turned up high, swift to respond to any slight demand my family could make of me.  It was only after an hour or so, after the school bag was packed and all trouser hems sowed, that I realised what was going on.  I was nervous.  I was afraid.  I was saddened.  My heart was crumbling.  I was letting go of my baby boy, allowing him an inch more of independence.  I had prepared him soundly for this transition (his ease in entering the classroom a testament to my good mummy work) but I had forgotten to prepare myself.

The mummies I meet are very good at this… shelving their own feelings and needs to ensure the emotional protection of their children.  At 5.30am each day I can guarantee that around the UK there will be mummies in their millions, clambering out of their warm beds to make sure the house is tidy, dishwasher emptied, laundry ironed, school bags organised, allowing themselves maybe five minutes to grab a quick cuppa and slap on some gloopy, out-of-date mascara before waking their children for the day ahead.  During these early morning moments I often imagine other women going about their business, preparing for the day, so I don’t feel quite so alone or isolated.  It makes me feel part of a fabulously, wonderful, organisationally slick yet secret team.  I use the word ‘secret’ because it is only when you become a mummy yourself that you realise the dedication and the skill that it involves.  I am constantly amazed by these women.  These mummy women are understatedly inspirational.  They look for no financial gain and no thanks.  Let’s face it… if that’s what you’re after, you’re in the wrong blobbin’ job.

But the most hidden secret is that the link you have with your child (that link you thought was only temporarily there through pregnancy) stays.  This spiritual umbilical cord doesn’t leave you.  It is evidenced by the sickening sensation a mummy feels when her child takes a closer step to independence.  The child moves further from you, your heart breaking as the next phase in life becomes apparent: birth, nursery, school, university, leaving home, marriage.  Yet, us graceful, dignified, amazing women smile, giving our children confidence and strength.  We smile while our hearts ache, while tears form in our eyes.  We stop our lips trembling with fear and sadness while together with our child we look hopefully to their future.

Mummies of the world, you are amazing.  I’ll be thinking of you at 5.30am tomorrow, astounded by your resilient grace.

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My Awful Realisation

I have come to an awful realisation.  A gut-churning, guilt inducing revelation that can only be revealed to a person after 4 hours of insomnia.

So, I went to bed as usual and thought my good night’s sleep was in the bag.  It wasn’t.  I trailed through thought after thought, considering how I feel about my ever-increasing age, the dynamics between family and friends, the numerous demands of my job and how I find it oh so difficult to work three days a week then change to being mother earth for the remaining days.  I then started to consider my increasing irritation with my oldest child.  How I had reported to my husband just earlier that day that I found this almost 4 year old boy infuriating.  His constant cry for attention.  His heightened sensitivity.  I moaned about the competing demands of childcare and housework.  You see, I have become more and more houseproud.  Maybe because we have a newish house or maybe this is a phase that comes with my age.  I’m just not sure but one thing is for certain, every comment made that could be construed as negative about my lack of domesticity is a cut to my throat.  Every slight inference that my house is untidy / unclean is a blow to my womanhood.  Which got me thinking… What the fucking hell has happened to me?  I stated counting each pointless domestic task that took me away from giving my children attention and I actually wanted to cry.  My oldest son has renamed me ‘Wasp’ after his favourite red-headed, feisty Avenger superhero yet I apparently can’t play with him because I have to mop the kitchen floor.  The realisation that of course he feels sensitive because he and I have always been linked in some freakish spiritual way.  I sometimes don’t know where his feelings end and where mine begin and of course vice versa.  He must therefore feel my irritation and not understand what has changed.  My poor poor boy.  A sobering, heart wrenching revelation.  But… I am back baby.  I am back.  And I now understand what needs to change.  I am your mummy foremost.  Not your maid.  I am your mummy.  I suddenly feel my mind clearing.  Insomnia drifting away.  Sleep inviting me for the last few hours of  this night.  Sleep which will prepare me for a day of play and a filthy, unhoovered, untidy house.  Bliss.

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