Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Mum's the Word

This morning, in Melbourne, I was sitting in a cafe, minding my own business, having a cup of coffee and reading the newspaper, when two women sat down at the table next to mine. Although we were so close to each other that one of them managed to knock a bottle of water off my table - and smash it - as she made her way round to the chair beside me, they didn't seem aware that I was there.

Unless they were actually some kind of dadaesque performance? I do hope so, because it would make me worry less about their extraordinary conversation, the topic of which was their sixteen year old daughters, Isabella and Corinne.

Apparently, both girls are getting interested in boys, and boys are getting interested in them - and, indeed, taking them out on dates and inviting them to parties. As a result, the mothers next to me are worried about their girls losing their precious 'good names'.

'I said, "Darling, once your name's gone, it's gone forever"', the one across the table from me told her friend.

'I know', said the one who'd broken the bottle, 'which is why I told Isabella, "Have fun, darling, but just don't be adventurous - I mean kiss him, if you want to, but don't hang upside down with your knickers off or let them start licking chocolate off your tits."'

I started gathering up my stuff at that point. The conversation was getting too disturbing. I mean was this advice the product of the woman's own experience, (in which case, shudder)?

'What did she say?' the woman across the table asked, as I edged out between our two tables.

'She was horrified', Isabella's mother shrieked, laughing as she recalled the scene. 'It turns out she's scared of doing anything, even holding hands.'

I keep thinking of Isabella. And of Philip Larkin. It seems he was right about parents: we may not mean to, but still we do it, time after time.


  1. Indeed we do...but then our parents did it to us!

    1. Really it's all our grandparents' fault