I take my children to and collect them from school. As do a lot of parents. I drive as we do not live in the same village as the school and it’s hard enough getting out of the door – if we had to add a forty five minute walk through fields into it, then I am not sure we would ever get there, and there would be no chance of us being remotely clean.
I used to have a bright green car in which to transport my family. This was very noticeable and absolutely no good if I was planning on having an affair because my whereabouts could always be plotted. On previous sightings I was either having a brief liaison with the Post Office or a fairly steamy one with the village cash machine. There are a lot of cars about at drop off and pick up times as you might expect. On the whole, collectively as a group of parents just trying to get our children safely to and from school before going about our day, we manage to park considerately, collect everyone and then leave.
Last year, when I was arriving and leaving in my green car, it seemed that I was a particular target of ire for a woman of certain age who lives in the village and near to the school. Every time she saw me, she would exclaim loudly and gesticulate wildly about the number of vehicles. This was when I was inside my car and her inside hers, you understand. I refrained from reacting as I thought that I had to come to the school each and every day and I didn’t want the hassle. I have been tempted on so many occasions to question her wisdom of living near a school if she doesn’t like children, or isn’t prepared to accept that children will need to be brought to and from it. Whilst I could have seized the opportunity at least ten times over to advise her on Highway Law and point her to a gripping read on the subject should she wish to take issue with my interpretation, I chose not to. I decided that a shouting match in the street with an old crone was not very becoming for anyone and if it were to turn physical, a wrestling match would be even worse. So on one occasion, when she was really getting on my wick, I stiffened all of my sinews and smiled and waved. This nearly sent her into the stratosphere. It was immensely satisfying – try it sometime. I have been near this woman on the street on occasion and she has never so much as uttered a peep to me, so like so many people, she is very brave when behind the wheel of a car, but perhaps not so much at other times.
Anyway, so one day I had parked up. I wasn’t blocking anyone, I wasn’t over anyone’s driveway, pathway – nothing. This woman drove past in her car and went through her usual routine of huffing and puffing in my general direction. She then drove, entirely uninhibited by other parents who had parked in an equally considerate manner, and parked on the road outside of her house. In a space that her husband guards, presumably at her behest, asking people who park there to move. Oh the temptation……She then decided to share her upset with, presumably, her long-suffering husband who was cowering by the front door. I had had enough. I got out of my car. I slammed the door as hard as I could. She turned around at hearing the door slam. And then she saw me turn squarely towards her. I folded my arms, leant against my car, and crossed one leg across the other. All of my body language said “Come on. Come and say it to my face.” She went inside immediately. And I have never, ever, had one word from her since.
Yesterday, my sister was browsing in a home wares shop. You may consider this a foolhardy pursuit with my three year old nephew in tow, and you’d be right. She had him safely secured in his pushchair and was looking for picture frames. It wasn’t busy, and in an effort to see what they would look like on her wall, she placed a few carefully on the floor, away from the flailing arms of a three year old. From across the shop, came a voice:
“I’m calling the Manager. That is a trip hazard. I could trip, I could fall.”
At first, my sister didn’t realise that this comment was intended for her ears as the person saying it was not near to her. The voice got nearer, presumably in an effort to try and trip over the frames and claim compensation. It was blathering on about a manager and health and safety, and then its owner, a woman of a certain age, hoved into view. Still going, my sister interrupted the never-ending gob, and advised that if she was in the way, if asked, she would be more than happy to move the items from the floor. The never-ending gob kept going, suggesting that picture frames are for walls, not floors and then pointed to my nephew and said “poor child.” That was it. My sister turned to her and said “why don’t you just fuck off?” Shocked, presumably because it is acceptable for her to be astonishingly rude but not for people to respond when provoked, the woman took a breath and then continued speaking. When it became apparent that my sister and this woman were not going to even agree to disagree on the subjects of the prevalence and severity of trip hazards and modern parenting styles, in a now marked and notable absence of staff, managerial or otherwise, the mouth and its owner went to leave. As she left, my sister warned her to exercise caution because she could come a cropper given her propensity to make a beeline for things upon which to trip.
I have numerous examples that I could give you; the village I used to live in has a woman of a certain age who is so uniformally awful it is rumoured that she has been barred from the pub and banned from working in the community shop. How monstrous do you have to be to be barred from a pub in your sixties? Blimey. I would love to know what it was that she did. Or your behaviour is so vile that you can’t turn up and do your voluntary hour or two in the community shop that many of the elderly villagers rely on for essentials and a bit of a chat? A friend of mine has to put up with her stepmother treating her to Masterchef-style critiques of her cooking, and to add insult to injury, the stepmother and her father invite themselves to stay rather than wait to be asked. Another friend has her housekeeping skills queried regularly. My own mother has previously commented that my husband may leave me if I don’t “make more of myself.”
So my question for you, All Ye Women of Certain Age is this? What the hell is wrong with you? Not all of you. Some of you are lovely, and kind, and great fun to be around. But the rest of you. Really. What makes you so pissed off that you feel the need to berate a woman picking her children up from school? Why is it okay for you to accost a woman in a shop when looking at photo frames, be as rude as you like, also question her parenting, and be surprised when she gives you a mouthful back? And why is it always women of my age with children that you want to have a go at? Get over yourselves, ladies. We’re not trying to upset anyone, we’re just trying to get through the day. You should be helping and supporting the next generation of mothers, not bitching because of some misplaced desire to be queen bee.
When two people were trying to tell me what to do with my son when he was very small, by shouting over each other at the same time so that I couldn’t hear either of them, one of my friends gave me the best piece of advice I have ever been given. She’s very quiet, not at all outspoken, but very perceptive and could see that not only was I likely to have hearing damage, I was getting flustered. She leant over to me, and said very, very quietly so that only I could hear: “Ignore them all, ignore them all. You’re the mother now.”