I have a friend who is only ever truly happy when she is surrounded by children or being a bouncy castle inspector, a job I highly recommend. She knows how to have fun. She treats all the children in her care equally, not the same, that would be wrong, but equally. She’s the type of person that knows elephants can’t climb trees and fish can’t walk out of water. Not all of them anyway.
Having spent the afternoon in her back garden, kids, dogs and bouncy castle, I was feeling rather content with life until the row started.
“You’re a girl, you can’t be Superman, you’ve got to be Supergirl.”
“Because you’re a girl, stupid, and Superman is a man.”
“But I want to be Superman.”
Lou immediately jumped up and got stuck in.
“This is a world where anyone can be anything they want to be, there are actors that play women and actress’s that play men all the time.”
“Name one.” The little boy, hands on hips was sure of his position.
At that Lou led all eight children into the sitting room and started turning on TV’s and DVD players. The film began.
“There, now watch.”
The children settled down as I watched through the patio windows.
As she returned to her garden chair and picked up her lemonade I asked her what she had put on. “Mrs Doubtfire.”
Smiling to myself, I realised that this wonderful woman was going to blow the ten year old’s illusion of men and women straight out of the window.
That evening I had one of those moments. I know that as a woman, our moments of temporary insanity are fully justified. We are entitled to be angry when we see the crisp packet on the coffee table that’s been there all week. I flew into the, “Can’t you just pick it up rant. What I wasn’t expecting was the reply.
“I’m a man, what do you expect, I don’t see it as rubbish, I see the packet as a part of the furniture if it’s there more than one day. You didn’t move it so I guess I just thought you’d left it there for a reason, when you didn’t throw it away.”
“But it’s your crisp packet.”
“No,” Mark added. “It’s only mine when it’s got crisps in it. Once it’s empty its rubbish, which comes under housework.”
Now my tantrums are legendary. They rate a 10.2 on the Richter scale. This one was heading for an 11.
In the scheme of things picking up one empty crisp packet isn’t that much of a problem, if I had seen it when I threw mine away, then I would have taken it out to the bin, but I didn’t. Why didn’t I? Because it was covered by empty envelopes, letters that needed replying to and spoons that hadn’t been taken out, and magazines that still hadn’t been opened. But when Mark pulled the housework is your domain stunt I almost killed him, until I saw that tiny twinkle in his eye. Then I went looking for the axe.
We don’t have many rows. He’s a numpty, I know it. I’m the world’s worst housekeeper and he doesn’t really mind. Only every now and again he has these twinges when he suddenly gets house proud. It’s OK though they last about as long as it takes me to make a cup of tea. So, he doesn’t get house proud very often and I don’t make tea that much either. It works, what can I say.
Calming down we settled into a conversation about gender assignment. I think that’s the posh term for boys not playing with dolls and girls not being Superman. It wasn’t an issue when Mandy was young. She was a pink kid, then she was a tom boy then she became a teenager with everything that threw at us. Luckily the doll bug never caught her, I remember one mother at the school telling us how she had spent over £200 on Barbie bits for her precious little girl for Christmas. Thirty years ago, that was a lot of money. (There I go again, sounding like my mother)
It’s funny how some conversations travel and transfer. I always wonder how far and what road a conversation will take before it fizzles out. I went out the next day and was talking to Paul and his husband Jack, the conversation I had with Mark came up and we carried it on, I thought that the gay married couple would be all for women being Superman and boys playing with dolls, but Paul shocked me. He thought it was a bit odd a girl wanting to be a man. Different if they were transgender but for a girl it was odd. The conversation went viral. Now there were four sexes to worry about when you bring children up. There are the boys and the girls, the transgenders and gays, because they were different all together.
I know Paul knows Lisa and Lisa knows Michael and there are only six degrees of separation between everybody in the world. What I didn’t expect was to walk into the local coffee shop and to hear the women talking about the same subject, but once again from a different angle. I asked how they got on to the subject.
“Michael was in earlier today, he was talking to Lisa about it. Apparently one of Paul’s friends had been teaching kids about transgenders and Lisa didn’t approve.”
I was gobsmacked, the only place Michael could have got that conversation from was Lisa who had been meeting Paul earlier. And they had all got it wrong. Now I was faced with the should I correct everybody and trust that it doesn’t turn into a he said, she said, but you lied and you didn’t say that, thing, or do I just…
“Really that must have been awkward for you.”
Taking my coffee, I sat down and picked up my phone.”
Me: I’ve had a bad day
Mark: What’s up
Me: I think I’ve upset Paul
Me: I think…..DELETED message.
I rang Mark.
After explaining the twists and turns of the conversation, he laughed.
“I’ve just spoken to Jack, he said that Lisa was horrified that anyone would allow a girl to be Superman so Paul decided to have a bit of fun with her.”
“You wait until I see him, you know that old woman that works in the coffee shop?”
“The one that is only a year older than me?”
“Yes, that one.”
“Right…” Mark was being sarcastic, I could tell, but I didn’t know what about. I was concentrating on the whole gender issue.
“She thinks I’m a monster.”
“Does she know it was you that Paul was talking about?”
“I don’t know.”
There was laughter at the other end of the phone, and it wasn’t Mark.
“Who’s that, it’s Paul, isn’t it?”
The Richter Scale was warming up.
“I’m sorry,” Paul’s voice came through the speaker. “I didn’t realise the world would get involved. Lisa was being so pompous about the whole thing I thought I’d throw in a spike or two so I told her that the person I had the conversation with was going to teach religious education and added that she thought it would be appropriate to separate the class into four sections, one for each gender when they did sex education. It was funny.”
I did see the funny side, Paul being Paul was able to make such a statement, but what if Mark had done so publicly, what he if had suggested that gay and transgender teenagers had to be separated to be educated, how would he have liked it.
The conversation continued about a month later, we were talking about the breakup of Michael and Lisa and Jack stated he knew it would never work because Lisa was a closet heterosexual and Michael was obviously a man. We all laughed. But I managed to steer the conversation around to segregation and the serious thing happened. Paul apologised for misguiding Lisa. I teased him and said it was his fault her relationship had ended. That she had gone home and argued with Michael over the issue and it had been the beginning of the end for them. He was mortified at the thought.
I smiled and a twinkle entered my eye.
“You bitch,” Paul screamed as he noticed. “You really made me feel guilty then.”