If I met my teenage self, I’d cringe and pretend I didn’t know her.

Sitting in Starbucks this morning, I found myself in a situation I haven’t been in for almost a decade; sitting next to two teenage girls on study leave, complete with massive ringbinders and several too many different coloured highlighters. As with all girls who have committed the day to serious revision, they spent most of the morning chatting to each other and putting on unnecessary amounts of eye-liner. I normally feel pretty young, but when confronted with the real deal, I left the coffee shop at the ripe old age of 25 feeling almost painfully old in comparison.

Sharing the same seating area as the couplet, and as a result of teenage girls having absolutely no concept of privacy, I naturally now know these two better than most of my own friends. (I shudder to think the amount of people who know my entire life story from multiple loud coffee shop and bus ride conversations that I ignorantly broadcasted before I left school.)

I wouldn’t want to spill confidences, but here are my fave tidbits from the few hours we spent together. Wise words from the youth of today, all verbatim, all said with entirely serious faces.

On friendship.

“We’re not exactly best friends.”
“Well, would SHE consider you to be her best friend?”
“Yeah, probably. But I wouldn’t say she’s MY best friend if you know what I mean.” -pause- “Obviously don’t tell her I said that.”

___

“I used to make friends so easily, like remember when we were in year nine, you could pick and choose you know? Now it’s just so much more complicated.” -worldly sigh-

On relationships.

“Did he call you?”
“Well he didn’t call me, but he did text me before he went to sleep. And then I replied, but he didn’t reply.” -pause- “..but he was probably asleep.” -longer pause- “…although he’s probably awake now.” -checks phone-.

___

“Did you see them together?”
“Yeah, I was really surprised. But look, its up to him who he gets with isn’t it?”
“And she IS so skinny now.”
“Yeah that’s true. Maybe I’m not that surprised. -pause- I wonder if she’s like, anorexic.”
“If she is, someone should definitely tell him.”
“Yeah, maybe I should tell him.”

On family

“Wow, I really love that skirt.”
“I know. And my mum said it didn’t match my top!”
“My mum said the same thing!”
-high five-

___

“I personally think you’re prettier than your sister.”
“Right but she IS really smart.”
“She’s fake blonde though right?”
“That’s true.”

On politics

“Do you want to study at mine tomorrow?”
“I actually said I would study at X’s. I would totally invite you but I’m not sure if people are invited or if its like a thing.”
“Oh ok.”
“You know if it were my choice them of COURSE you would be invited, but I just don’t really know what’s happening. -pause- why don’t you phone and ask? You should definitely phone and ask.”

On work ethic and self image

“Can you test me on this vocab?”
“Sure. But first look at this pic from X’s Instagram.”
-laughs far too loudly- “That’s amazing!!! Here, lets take our picture.”
-they move to sit next to each other and spend five mins taking the same selfie over and over and deleting it-
“Ah, that ones good. You’re so pretty.”
“What do you mean? You’re stunning! I look awful today!”
“You’re crazy!”
-returns to studying, vocab clearly forgotten-

Five mins later:
“We’ve been revising for ages. Want to go get food?”

 

Definitely the world leaders of tomorrow. Now to spend some time on Google checking no one’s written a blog about the creepy lady who was frantically transcribing their conversations all morning in a less than subtle way.

Cardinal Parenting Sins (and our dirty little secret).

Before I became a mother, like the rest of the childless world, I found certain behaviours by parents seriously annoying. I rolled my eyes, complained to other non-married’s, laughed at them behind their backs, and generally tried to ignore certain situations as best as I could. Don’t they know how irritating they are? I would wonder often.

Now that I have my own son, I see where I was confused. The big unspoken about secret is, there are just some ‘parent’ activities which we know no-one else finds interesting or amusing, even when they have kids of their own, and yet we just kind of… do them anyway.

Putting our babies ‘on the phone.’

If they are in fact a baby, they cant speak. We know that. We know that the best case scenario is that the caller might hear a slight gurgle or a coo, which we will then interpret as “well done! you said hello to grandma you clever thing!” Meanwhile, the caller probably had an actual reason for calling rather than to listen to absolute silence. If the child in question is a toddler, it is probably slightly better, but still, as a mother of a 2 year old, I know that even I have trouble understanding him face to face most of the time, let alone on the phone to someone else. And yet somehow, I find myself passing the phone to my son to have a ‘chat’ more often than not. At least I have the decency to use speaker-phone so the caller can at least cut short the fascinating interchange when they stop feeling polite.

Sharing identical photos.

This is Sammy on the swing. And now Sammy next to the swing. And OH, look at this, he’s trying to climb back into the swing, isn’t that adorable?
No, probably not. But we can definitely see a difference between baby aged 2 weeks sleeping with her eyes shut, and baby aged 3 and a half weeks sleeping with her eyes shut.

Loud kid shows.

You’re in Starbucks, not your living room. The rest of the world doesn’t want to hear what Peppa and George are up to, let alone your own child mimicking the lines back verbatim. We appreciate that your kid isn’t running wild underneath our table and knocking hot drinks into our laps, but seriously-if they cant sit quietly without a noisy smart phone, why are they in this restaurant in the first place? I can now answer this one. I also used to be of the opinion that there was a child-friendly age for adult haunts, and a distinctly un-friendly age, which is where all such outings should cease immediately. I probably even wrote a blog to that effect about a year ago. But hey, we must all admit we are wrong sometimes, and I am willingly eating humble pie on this one. While I still think it’s appalling when toddlers run riot around ANY adult serving place, (kid-friendly or otherwise) I also now know the mutant-human I become if I am not allowed the minimum amount of adult conversation on a weekly basis that doesn’t take place around strangers’ evil kids or whispered during a baby music class. If this means that someone has to sit a couple tables further away so they aren’t distracted by Fireman Sam…? So be it. Just be grateful I’ve given him the show to watch in the first place. And that you get to go home and leave it behind.

Stories involving bodily functions.

No. Stop it. All of you. Even your spouse probably doesn’t want to hear about this, but at least they are forced genetically to be involved and somewhat interested in matters pertaining to your offspring. At an absolute stretch, best friends who are also parents can be involved. Woman sitting near you at soft play? Absolutely not. This one I am not guilty of. As a general rule, if you need to start the sentence by saying “Sorry if this is TMI…” it probably is.

You don’t mind if he….?

Presses the lift button/ the pedestrian crossing light/ the self service tills, etc etc.
No, not at all. If he can do it as quickly as I would do it myself. Do I want to wait by the side of the road for the longest 15 seconds of my life while he stands up on tip-toes for almost long enough each time to reach the damn button? I could be across by now. (Not to mention the dirty look I get for not waiting for the green man in front of impressionable children if I dare to dart over the crossing while your child is messing about.)
Even as a parent myself, I doubt I could stand patiently sharing the same lift space as a child who has been ‘allowed’ to press number 4, and has actually pressed all the numbers from zero, making our journey pointlessly and frustratingly longer.
And I hold a special place on my list for something I will never be guilty of. Parents who let children scan items on self-service checkouts. Lets be honest, most adults cant use those efficiently, so why are you delegating the task over to a ball of dribble while I stand here waiting to use the till?
Having said all this…. Even while I remember the angry feelings I had pre=parenthood, I do think it’s adorable to let R press the lift/crossing buttons, and I do kind of ignore pained smiles from other people in the vicinity when I do so.

So don’t worry folks, next time you see one of us committing one of these (or many many other) cardinal parenting sins, just remember: We are not oblivious. We know we are alternately boring you half to death or driving you up the wall. We’re just doing it anyway.

Hope that helps. 😉

happy meal

The Grudge

Tonight, I went to one of those social events where you’re bound to run into a million faces you haven’t seen in forever. Some are genuinely a nice surprise, while others you cross the room multiple times to avoid. Awkward encounters are inevitable, as facts and faces are forgotten and small talk ensues for far too long when the appropriate ‘get-out’ sentences elude you.

Normally, I enjoy these mingling affairs, and catching up on what people are doing in their lives. Tonight, a weird encounter almost immediately after I entered the venue put me on edge for the night, and has left me bemused to say the least.

The hall was filled with stalls and tables, women everywhere, familiar faces and otherwise, and I decided to make a quick circle around the room before a more detailed second viewing of the ladies and their various wares. I was in a semi-conversation with someone I hadn’t seen in ages, and was genuinely interested in swapping baby-talk with, our kids bridging any gap that existed as a result of time spent apart. A lady approached me, who seemed entirely unfamiliar. She launched into what sounded so much like a prepared speech, that it took me a few seconds to realise I wasn’t being given sales patter for any of the items on sale this evening.

Evidently, we had worked together at some point, not very closely, but in the same place. And her being far more religious than I am now, (and certainly than I was at the time) I had inadvertently said something which had hurt her feelings. Not only that, but so oblivious to what I was doing, I had apparently repeated the thought many times over the time we worked together. Tonight, she repeated the story like it was so big deal, a funny anecdote to share with an old colleague, but as she quoted me verbatim, I could tell that it was so much more than that to her. Frankly, I didn’t even recognise this woman; I wouldn’t blink twice if I saw her in the street, after all it has been over 4 years since I saw her last. And yet she made a beeline for me the moment she saw me, and offloaded her hurt feelings which she has clearly been holding onto for almost a half decade.

Why didn’t she just say something at the time? I would have apologized, we might have laughed, I certainly wouldn’t have said it again at the very least!

I can appreciate that different people, like different cultures, can take serious offence at various things which I myself wouldn’t even consider. Personally, even after hearing from her tonight, I think what she is upset about is ridiculous, and even after being told, I don’t really understand her point of view. But without being told, I have zero chance of ever understanding it.

Sheer fluke brought us into the same room tonight, and we mix in entirely different circles. If she hadn’t run into me this evening, would she have held this grudge forever? Tonight, I laughed as if it was a semi-joke, out of sheer awkwardness, and said sorry almost too effusively-to keep up the appearance of levity that our conversation was balancing its fragile weight on. Her words “Dont worry about it” seemed flat even to me.

I wish she’d made the effort to explain to me her point of view 4 years ago. We were colleagues then, we saw each other every day, the conversation wouldn’t have been that awkward, and we both might have learned a thing or two about the different kinds of people that embrace our religion and how to live in harmony despite our differing practices. Certainly neither of us would remember it today.

Now its far too late to have that conversation. Even if I knew how to get in touch with her, it would be beyond awkward and ridiculous, and she would have to admit that it bothers her, an impossible thing to ask of a virtual stranger. All I know is, unfortunately for me, a woman I barely recognise is somewhere out there holding a grudge against me, and unfortunately for her, she still holds that grudge.

 

Yizkor Etiquette (FYI)

There is a prayer in the Jewish holiday services, to honour the memory of people who are no longer with us. The widespread custom is that it is not said by people who still have both of their parents living. In many communities, those people do not even stay in the synagogue while the prayer is being said.

If I’m honest, I don’t really understand why that latter custom begun in the first place. When prayers are said by other parts of the community that I am not included in, (Men, Kohanim, those in mourning etc) I find it pretty self explanatory just to stand quietly and wait. After all, there is plenty of the prayer which is relevant to everyone, including a prayer for our soldiers and one for the victims of the Holocaust, something we all could benefit from being a part of. Surely it is an odd action in itself to get up and leave the building, basically abandoning everyone with the misfortune of having lost a parent or both.

Superstitious or not, I can however appreciate the reasoning behind it. And if your parents would rather you left the synagogue for those five minutes, or you yourself feel uncomfortable being there, then leave by all means.

But I do have a couple of small requests.

Given that we were standing having a perfectly normal interaction or sometimes even conversation 2 minutes previously, please don’t suddenly act like I have the plague. Yes, you’re being given a reminder that I once lost someone dear to me. I can understand your twinge of awkwardness. But not looking me in the eye? Stumbling over your words? Feeling the need to look apologetic as you leave the room? Bizarre. I do this four times a year, and sometimes it’s harder than other times, but I am in the same mood I was 4 seconds ago, I don’t suddenly need special treatment.

Which brings me to my second issue. The mad scramble for the door. This is different at different places, but in every congregation, there are the people who start gathering their bits and pieces together a good ten minutes before the guy shouts ‘Yizkor.’ They are standing by the door as soon as the Haftorah has finished, and they are pushing past everyone in their way to make it to the coridoor before heaven forbid, someone starts reading from their memorial booklet with them in the vicinity. What are you afraid of? That you might catch my dead parent virus? If its your custom to leave, then leave. In a normal manner. Exactly how you would regularly walk out a door, in a line, at a normal speed. Even if you disagree with me that it’s rude to leave in the first place, it’s certainly not polite to canter out the door virtually shouting silently that we shouldn’t confuse you with one of us.

I’m probably coming across kind of bitter, and it really isn’t that at all. And it certainly isn’t the fault of the people who leave. The custom should never have begun, because it feels to me almost anti what we stand for. Surely the very best part of Judiasm is that we are all accountable and responsible for one another, we share in each others joy and pain and we certainly don’t leave one of our own when we are in need. So where did this custom start, that we should segregate ourselves, even for twenty minutes a year into orphaned and not orphaned? Speaking for myself, and I only say one small portion of the service, it is a very lonely feeling to watch everyone hotfoot it out of the room at arguably one of my most vulnerable times. How must it be for the older members of the community who have so many dearly departed to remember and miss?

I don’t know where it started, and I hope that those who don’t mind either way, would start to make a point by staying in and standing quietly with their prayer books firmly closed. But even if you can’t, or simply don’t want to, I hope you’ll think twice before you push me out the way in your eagerness to leave.

Social Networking, Face to Face.

Some people thrive in social situations. These people look forward to events where they will see both their nearest and dearest and also meet new faces, potential friends and contacts of all kinds. They enjoy getting dressed up, making small talk, mingling and shmoozing with all kinds of people, finding out about others as well as opening up about themselves.

A lot of people say that they dont enjoy social affairs. Oh-I’m no good at small talk they will sigh, or I never know where to put myself at these things. This type, despite their protestations, normally find the people they already know and stick by them, or choose a wing man for the duration of the engagement to keep them company on the daunting task of meeting new people. Truthfully, they are fine, even while they do not shine at first impressions or superficial chatter, they go home perhaps glad that the evening is over, but no worse off for having attended.

There are those out there however, who have a real phobia of not just crowded events and new people, but even socialising with current friends and family. Just being taken out of their comfort zone, out of their own homes can be a serious mental and physical ordeal. Watching someone with a disorder like this is an eye opener into both psychology and sociology. They may stand frozen to the spot, not knowing who to talk to or where to go. They will perhaps look moody, or act rudely, not speaking to the host or hostess, not answering direct questions, not engaging in conversation, eating hardly anything or in an anti social manner. In contrast, they might be overly interfering and pushy, make a scene, burst into tears, or fall into a noticable sulk. They may even walk out.

The drama begins far earlier than the time listed on the invite, with anxiety starting perhaps months beforehand, and debriefing and rehashing continuing for the same amount of time afterwards. A 2 hour cocktail party can become a 6 month ordeal.

This kind of issue is all the harder to understand because simply talking to another person, especially someone we know already, is something we all do on a daily basis, without even thinking about it. It is so second nature to us all, that it seems almost laughable that just being in a room with more than 3 or 4 others can cause such a strong and negative reaction.

But it happens. I see it. I’m sorry for it. I’m sorry for you, I’m sorry for the host, and I’m sorry for the people who are just trying to make you feel more comfortable. And if I’m honest, I’m sorry for me too.

Unfortunately being sorry for us all doesnt make it go away, or make it much easier to deal with.