Thursday, 9 October 2014

Dignity

I am squatting in the garage trying to dislodge cobwebs and mouse droppings from my cycle helmet with a leaf. The 9-year-old is watching me. 'You,' he says as I cram it onto my head, 'are the most undignified person on this earth!'

I am consoling an ailing check-out assistant with a jelly bean from the pot I carry in my handbag for emergencies. 'Mum!' hisses the 12-year-old, 'don't you realise how embarrassing that looks?'

I am watching Downton Abbey with an all-day breakfast on my knee when a poached egg drops into my slipper. The Vicar glances up. He is too kindly to pronounce judgment, but his eyebrows say it all. I am undignified.

Middle-age and motherhood rob you of many assets - your rainy-day savings account, for instance, and reliable bladder control on the trampoline. But there is one loss that I do not mourn and that is dignity. Dignity, and the exhausting maintenance of it, dogged daily life in my younger days. When a stranger handed me the squished egg sandwich that had slithered from my handbag onto the pavement, I  avoided that route to work for weeks in case I should meet him again. I'd grin clamp-lipped at parties for fear that spinach was dangling from my incisors and I'd lurk in the Ladies rather than compromise my decorum on the dance floor.

My 12-year-old suffers similar agonies. Mufti days torment her at school in case she wears the wrong kind of denim and, after vainly trying to ban me from her class Meet and Greet, she issues me with a list of proscribed topics of conversation lest I impair her image.

I, however, have shed such shackles. The company of small children erodes ones dignity so completely that I have long since ceased to take myself seriously and nor do I expect others to. It's a wondrous liberation. I'm comfortable carrying a bumper pack of loo roll up the street from Co-op. I readily agree to jive at the school gate so someone's mother can experiment with a new phone app and I'm unperturbed when, strolling genteely through a shopping mall, I'm grabbed by a saleswoman and told I need bottled sludge from Japanese swamplands to cure my blackhead problem.

Sundays are different, though. On Sundays I defer trampolining until I've washed up the lunch-time roast. On Sundays I wear my most inspirational wool garments and keep my jelly bean pot at the bottom of my handbag. Despite the toddler brawls as I instruct my Sunday school, despite my son testing paper aeroplanes during the sermon and despite an unintentional conversation with a new worshipper about haemorrhoids, I maintain an implacable decorum on this one day a week.

Or I thought that I did. I'm dressing myself for the church service in celebratory hues and telling myself that I wear middle-age with aplomb when the 9-year-old walks in. He surveys me for a moment, then beams. 'You look,' he concludes mirthfully, 'like Father Christmas's helper!'




Do you still have shreds of dignity? If so, get rid of them fast!

21 comments:

  1. I lost my dignity long ago, though my children much older than yours, while in high school they would warn their friends who visited that their parents were/are weird. I am quite proud of that, mainly because the kids and their friends chose to hang out in our basement. Keep up the good work, your children will one day appreciate your loss of dignity.

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  2. I am the absolute queen of the undignified no matter how hard I try, fortunately it pretty much taken as read that I will say, do or wear the wrong thing on any given occasion no matter how hard I try (and I really DO try). So nice to know I'm not alone.

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  3. There's no room for dignity as I don sweatshirt and jiggers over my PJs to do the school run twice a week. As long as I don't have to get out of my car, everything's peachy :-)

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    1. What else would one wear to school (apart from wellies, obviously)?

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  4. Every morning, as my disabled 5 year old is wheeled onto the school bus in her wheelchair, my 2 year old make me take her, normally still in my pyjamas, onto the front of the bus, so she and I can dance with the other kids to whatever 80's Classic is blaring on the radio!

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  5. I don't think you should worry about dignity until at least 10am, if at all!!

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    1. I don't think you should worry about it at all. Except on Sundays, of course!

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  6. Dignity? People actually have dignity AFTER they have children? Really? No one told me this!

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    1. No, no they don't, thank goodness. That's my point.

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  7. I had a bikini wax done by a Thai lady today. Trust me, no dignity allowed in that situation. She should have pulled out a speculum and given me a smear while she was down there, that's how intimate it got. And frankly, I didn't care.

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  8. Thank you! I thought it was just me and I've been trying to justify how embarrassing I've become to my other half for the past 7 years hahahaha!

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    1. No, my dear. It's you and me both plus half the mothers in cyberspace!

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  9. I like to think that as we age, we slowly replace superficial dignity (ie a keeping up of the appearance that we are perfectly composed underneath) with a deep sense of confidence, (ie that however we appear on the surface, we are, indeed, perfectly composed underneath, because we no longer care so much how our surface appears).

    I'm going to shut up now. That sounded better in my head than it looks in the comments box.

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    1. It looks very stylish in my comments box and when I read it a third time I realised it's also very wise!

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  10. I once tripped over on my way to work (aged early 20s, trying to look business-like, competent, city girlish). I was carrying two carrier bags of glass bottles to the recycling and wow, did it make a big loud noise when I put out my hands to save myself, landing on the two bags. To my horror, the woman who had been walking in front of me, who turned round to help pick me up from my sprawled position, was my boss's boss - the most senior woman in the department, if not the organisation. She was very kind and concerned, but I was just dying inside, and desperate for her to walk on. My tights had holes at both knees, and there was blood, plus broken glass strewed on the pavement. I kept repeating "I'm fine, honestly, I'm fine", though I was shaking rather, with the shock.

    These days, in a similar circumstance, I wouldn't be embarrassed at all. I'd let her pick me up, and probably milk it for all it was worth. I'd expect at least to be taken to the nearest Starbuck's and bought a restorative coffee with a calming muffin. Maybe more...

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