I remember very clearly, a time when my dad told me off for having airs and graces. I was round about thirteen years old, I was in the kitchen with him and mum chatting and I asked for a Nice biscuit, (as in the city of Nice in southern France). My dad thought I had asked for a nice biscuit (as in pleasant or pleasing) and pronounced ‘nice’ with a posh accent, ‘neese’. So vigilant was he in the prevention of any of us kids, ‘forgetting where we were from’. My mum and I looked at each other, a little confused and somewhat amused.
Parent hang-up #1 – never forgetting where you’re from.
It was only a couple of months ago that I pointed out to my dad, that he was in fact, middle class. Own home, no mortgage, car, savings etc. etc. This fact was met with a little disbelief, incredulity, maybe even disappointment.
Us kids (43, 35, 34) are all expert at eating in complete silence and with absolutely no mess and on a scale of 1- resisting the urge to get all stabby, our intolerance and annoyance when others slap their chops, is completely off the scale. My mum swears blind my dad’s obsession scarred me enough, to hate oranges for the rest of my life. When last year, I was seeing Twinkle Toes Temper Tantrum, I tried to avoid sharing meal times with him at all costs. So prone was he to talking and chewing at the same time, (I say chewing, but I’m not sure how you actually do that with your mouth wide open and your molars never making contact), making slapping noises, letting things fall out; and once, while eating a fairly inocuous salad, I found myself impulsively snatching a stray leaf left dangling from his chomping chops and saying through gritted teeth, “What are you, a bloody horse?” it just came out. I apologised, he was crest fallen. It’s my issue (well, to a degree, manners cost nothing), I know. It was like dining with a tumble dryer, watching empanadas being thrown around.
And it was only a week ago, that I had to completely rearrange myself on the beach, after Chompy, dribbly melón girl, lay down next to me and slurped her way through approximately twenty kilos of watermelon. I came to the conclusión that this was a better option, than braining her with the remaining fiifteen kilos.
Parent hang-up #2 – messy, noisy eating.
“I can do IT.” But now I have a broken pelvis and a slipped disc, after climbing up a twenty foot ladder to stretch my five foot nothing self to reach the ceiling, to paint; and falling off said ladder. (And I might have also dragged a tonne of furniture solo up four flights of stairs.) But it’s OK, because I was not weak in asking for help.
Parent hang-up #3 – being totally and utterly self-sufficient to the point of stubborn stupidity.
I can spend an inordinate amount of time in the bathroom, two, maybe three or four (depending on the circumstances), times a day…… cleaning my teeth. My dad cleaned his teeth so well, so often, that he lost two of his front ones about ten/fifteen years ago. Obviously, I’m acutely aware of that, so am careful not to do it so rigorously, but nice, clean teeth and fresh breath, are paramount. My teeth aren’t perfect, but I do notice nice straight smiles, all the time. When I meet you, I’m looking in your mouth. Stray spinach, visible plaque??? Nnnnoooooooooo! Poor teeth make me irrationally angry, because there’s no excuse for it. If I can see your visible plaquey and brown teeth at fifty paces, you need to have a word with yourself. You could be melting people’s faces when you’re chatting to them, you need to be aware of that. And if you’re going to holler at me in the street, at least have brushed your teeth before you left the house.
Parent hang-up #4 – oral hygiene.
The only one of these hang-ups that I haven’t really fully embraced is the first one, because the lines are a little blurry somewhere in the middle where we reside. What is working-class? Someone who works? Then Richard Branson or any one of the Dragons in the den are working class, despite being gazillionaires. The other three hang-ups, however, are a heavy burden I have to bear every day of my life and are becoming more and more prevalent, the older I get.
*sigh, <looks into some kind of self-help therapy in local bookshop>