Sunday, April 5, 2009

Give Me A Break

So it is the start of the Easter holidays and both boys are at their dad's for the first week. The house is very, very quiet. I love the first 24 hours of solitude. Then I start to get bored with my own company and, left to my own devices for too long, this leads to heavy, morose thoughts like 'no wonder my husband stopped loving me' and 'it's a wonder I have any friends at all - they're all obviously piling up points in heaven whilst simultaneously vying for Patron Saint of Friendship awards'.

The holidays started well. Captain Underpants had an Easter sing-song in his class that the parents were invited to (soooo cute), , followed by an egg hunt around the school (a debacle). Captain Underpants had a huge turnout on his behalf. There was me, his dad, the babysitter and Johnny Drama all watching 20 five year olds earnestly sing along to an English CD of Little Bunny Foo-Foo, Little Peter Rabbit Had A Fly Upon His Nose and Chick-Chick-Chick-Chick-Chicken. Captain Underpants, for all his many talents, takes after his father and does not have an apparent dancing gene. But he enters into it heart and soul and just observing his obvious delight in our attendance makes my heart ache with love. Watching his little bum wiggle to 'lay a little egg for me' is truly a sight to be behold. He's not going to be getting many ladies on the dance floor with that particular move but I love him all the more for it. The CD is British and, for me at least, that is worth the tuition fee alone.

I have the kids on Saturday and we have a lazy morning. I am woken up by a naked Johnny Drama in tree pose. 'Look at me mummy. I'm a mango. They're pink'. It takes a few seconds to click...'oh, you're a flamingo are you sweetheart?' 'Yep, a fu-mingo. They're a bird on one leg. Can I have a snack?' and so my day begins. We sing Happy Birthday to Granny, which seems to make her day, before heading off to a sports class. There are always lots of protests - and for the life of me I can't see why. Every week it is the same whinge...'we don't want to go' repeated ad infinitum for at least 2 hours solid. And of course when they get there they run around like greyhounds out of a trap and have a whale of a time. What is that with kids? I am concerned that they are developing similar traits to me - where everything on my daily agenda is usually greeted with a giant sigh and the thought, 'Oh God, do I have to? I really can't be arsed.' I would make an effort to set a better example but...'Oh God, do I REALLY have to? I just can't be arsed'.

I follow up sports class with a trip to their favourite park. It features a couple of wooden forts and as soon as they arrive I usually see neither hide nor hair of them for at least an hour, while they make friends and chase their new chums from one end of the park to the other. So I sit myself in a bit of sunlight and get out a book. But no sooner had I immersed myself in the story then Captain Underpants, whilst demonstrating a 'hand stand' (I am sure Olympic judges would disagree with this loose description but the intention is there, I promise), succeeded in lodging a huge splinter in his palm. It smarts. He is distraught. I do not have the obligatory first aid kit to hand to deal with the situation and short of calling out, 'Is there a doctor in the park?' I am not able to offer a short term solution. He tries to be stoic about it and potters around the playground with his injured hand tucked into the opposite armpit for the next 30 minutes, but he is distracted and distressed. I make an executive decision to head home so I can morph into my favourite alter-ego, Florence Nightingale.

Of course once we do set foot in family territory Captain Underpants has the screaming ab-dabs every time I even approach his hand to take a closer look. I breath deeply and tell myself severely to remain calm and patient - neither of which are natural states, in fact they are the ones I find the hardest of all to accomplish. I get all the first aid equipment to hand. Sterilised needle - check. Sterilised tweezers - check. Batman plasters - check. Antiseptic cream - check. I talk to him reassuringly about how my mum used to fish splinters out of my body on a regular basis and that it will only hurt for a little bit, but he's having none of it. I lose my rag and try to shout him into submission, but funnily enough that technique is less effective than 'calm and patient' so we watch another episode of Star Wars the Clone Wars and I wait it out. For 3 hours.

Finally at the end of my (admittedly short) tether I call ex and ask his advice. I am just not capable of pinning Captain Underpants down whilst performing delicate surgery and need some assistance. To my surprise he offers to come over immediately to help. Johnny Drama adds to the tension at this point by repeating over and over, in his gravest tone, that daddy is coming to chop Captain Underpant's hand off - just like Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker. (I KNEW he was too young to watch that bloody film.) By the time daddy arrives Captain Underpants is very agitated and on the verge of losing it completely. Daddy starts off brilliantly with reassuring chit-chat but this soon escalates into the use of brute force and the sound of a young boy who could very well be being hung, drawn and quartered for all the ear piecing shrieking that's involved. I get a quiet satisfaction from the constant sobbing request 'mummy do it - I want mummy to do it' so I take over the role as house surgeon and in 2 minutes the splinter is dug deep out of the soft innocent flesh and relative calm and order once more prevails. Within seconds the splinter is forgotten and at long last we can get on with our day again.

A couple of hours later I drop the boys off at their dads. I am slightly aggrieved at their nonchalant goodbyes, but even more irritated at ex's new bedlinen and wall art. It galls me that he has the money to spend on such luxuries when I am counting every penny for petrol and groceries. A little later I reflect that I don't have a need for either a new duvet cover or a picture for my wall and my irritation fades. I have just got to stop comparing our lives and finding mine lacking as a result. I have a tendency to resent the fact that ex is out nearly every night of the week, whilst I am tethered to the house tending sleeping children, a slave to BBC America for yet another night running. I am jealous of the fact that he is out and about, wining and dining, while I am eating a jacket spud or, more than likely, a bowl of cereal, for my dinner. It doesn't feel like there is a fair allocation of parental responsibilities right now. But I know deep down I would rather be with my boys as the 'primary carer' and have ex be Disney Dad than the other way round so I stuff thoughts of injustice and 'bastard' away and get back to watching BBC America.

Saturday night I spend at an all night Kabbalah study. Yeah, yeah, I know. Sounds a little bit like I might be off my rocker but whatever works, right? Now the Kabbalah Centre, well in Chicago at least, is not the place to go if you are on a man hunt, believe me. Not like the local McDonalds early on a Saturday or Sunday morning - full of dads with kids, many of them single, presenting fairly rich pickings for a woman in my circumstances. But spirituality does not seem to attract a hot bed of good looking men, unless you count the ones that are gay and that would take you quite some time. So I naturally assume the new guy I meet, just after the clock strikes midnight, is gay. He's probably in his 40's, incredibly well dressed (unlike me - no makeup, lank greasy hair and practically in my pajamas) and tanned. The tanned part concerns me a little. I make the mental assumption that he is either a fan of sunbeds or eats one too many carrots and instantly dismiss him. Mistake. Turns out, when I am eavesdropping into his conversation, that he is from San Diego (OK, being from the west coast obviously explains the healthy colour and could contribute to his stylish appearance) and definitely not gay. We chat. I do my best to flirt, batting my naked eyelashes behind my glasses in a meaningful and spiritual way. During the 'study' I sneak glances at him across the room and keep myself awake by trying to picture him with no clothes. I imagine him being the sort of man who can take me to heaven and back - Phnaar, phnaar. I know it's not very spiritual but, trust me, it's been a while. I don't come across many men that are even worth fantasising about, so I just enjoy the moment and when dawn breaks I feel that I have gained more from the study than I had anticipated. We leave together and he asks me if I fancy a drink. And this is where I always go wrong and probably why I am alone humping my pillow when the urge takes me. 'No thanks - I can't face the thought of any more coffee'. Er hello? Did he say 'coffee'? The truth of the matter is I am feeling grimy and ugly and just want to go to sleep. We hug goodbye and he tells me I smell lovely, which is the nicest compliment I have received in quite some time.

On Sunday I spend most of the day in my pjs reading a great book. Finally at 3pm I get in the shower to wash my skanky self and then tart myself up a bit, throwing on my best underwear and a pair of booty shorts, to go to a pole dancing class. I have only just resumed taking classes, after an 8 month break, and my arms, legs and hips are already a patchwork of bruises. My whole foray into pole dancing is probably worthy of a dedicated post. It's not even worth trying to explain the feeling of femininity and liberation I gain from it. And being able to climb a 20 foot pole, hang upside down legs akimbo and then spin around - sometimes elegantly, sometimes not so much - in a variety of 'tricks' has boosted my confidence in many ways. Spinning around a pole isn't necessarily that difficult. But doing it with style and panache is a little more challenging. As usual, the class is a 2 hour experience of sensual female expression and by the time I leave there is a spring in my step (and a crick in my neck) and I rush home to get ready to go see The Ting Tings.

On my way I ring the boys to say goodnight. They are both missing me. Captain Underpants asks when he can come home. His voice sounds very sad and carries the weight of our separation in it. My heart sinks like a stone and I throw every ounce of love that I have for him into my voice and hope that he is able to feel it. I know they have had a lovely day, but now it's time for bed and they just want their mum. I could feel a sense of satisfaction from it but I don't. I want to just sob with the guilt.

When the call ends I then pick up a message from my friend that she has lost the concert ticket I gave her and won't be able to come. Pants. I am slightly irritated that I am going to have to go on my own but more irritated at the fact that I really need the 50 bucks she owes me and I am not sure now whether that is ever going to materialise. I don't have any money on me whatsoever and decide, fuck it, I'll drink a diet coke on my way there and save myself both the trouble of getting to a cash point and the $6 or so for a beer. It's snowing a storm (honest to God, Chicago winters and springs are the absolute pits) so I take the risk of parking on a permit street. If there are any parking ticket Nazi's out in this blizzard on a Sunday night then I decide I will quite happily pay the ticket in homage to their dedication.

The venue is tiny and it is easy for me to get within spitting distance of the stage. The audience is mixed - lots of teenagers and young'uns but also many people sporting a more weathered look. I stand next to a woman who I judge to be a similar age to me. I assume she is with the bunch of giggling fresh faced teenagers just in front of me but it turns out she is there alone. Hubby has a duff leg. Friends couldn't be bothered to go out in the snow. But she loves The Ting Tings and didn't want to miss it. We chat a little and find out we have kids of similar ages and also a mutual friend in common. She lived in London for 5 years, is a self-confessed Anglophile and would move back in a heartbeat, which warms me to her even more. When the band comes on she lets out the meanest and shrillest whistle I have ever heard and we both dance like a couple of nutters who don't get out very often. The band are fantastic and the crowd go 'wild'. Which by Chicago standards means 80% of the people there, give or take a few, look like they are enjoying themselves and, every now and then, clap along when prompted. It's certainly not like watching a great band in the UK where, in my experience, the crowd goes 'mental' and dancing and providing backing vocals to all the songs is customary. This difference has always bemused and perplexed me a little - in a music or even a sporting environment American participation can be pretty tame, much different to a Brit's natural reaction. But chuck them on a game show....well, you know what I am talking about. Different kettle of fish. Odd.

At the end of the gig, cool rock chick mum and I exchanged numbers. I don't want to harp on about karma and all that, but it certainly felt that the universe had played a part in orchestrating our meeting. I left with my ears ringing and a niggling concern that all that head banging might result in me needing to wear a neck brace for the remainder of the week.


  1. OMG Nicola! So much to pass judgement on - so little time.
    1) FFS track down that man and make sweet sweet spiritual love with him!!
    2) OMG you pole dance? You are a legend...

  2. MTJAM - ha ha ha ha!!!! Making sweet sweet spiritual love sounds so appealing...but really, I would be quite happy with being rogered over a shiny pine table any day of the week ;-)

    And yes, I am unfortunately a legend among my current set of peers - and not in a good way. *sigh. Lighten up people! I'm not performing lap dances for your husbands!! (yet)