Sotto alla Corona
- 2016 (7)
- 2015 (18)
This shall be my last post before the Easter break. We are going down to Italy to be with the grandparents and to introduce Gabriel to all the clan. It will be interesting, and it will definitely be the subject of my next post.
It's actually quite funny how in the UK we are all trying so hard to be politically correct. Sometimes it gets so out of hand that it reaches the realm of psychosis (passing through the ones of the ridiculous and of the plain stupid).
I was actually writing to a friend of mine about UK society, faced with issues of Anti Sexual-Discrimination Laws, Human Rights, Community Cohesion issues and Racial Integration.
Well what? Do you think that all I can talk about is America's Next Top Model? Tsk.
Truth is, we are going bonkers.
My little niece, informed me some time ago that poor 'Bah Bah Black Sheep' is no more. The little mammal got slaughtered in the name of political correctness.
Its replacement is now 'Bah Bah Multicultural Sheep'..... Can you believe it? You better! And there's more!
Some schools have banned the 'Three Little Pigs' stage play as it turned out the theme could upset the muslim community.
Some other schools have banned the use of terms like 'mum' and 'dad' in favour of a more generic 'parent' as it is feared that pupils from an unconventional family unit (...like ours I suppose...), could feel left out.
Aside from the ridiculousness of all this, the shift of attitude towards diversity, be it racial, sexual or religious, has never been more dramatic.
Everybody is afraid of upsetting everybody else and we find ourselves tip-toeing around every issue.
Ok , end of introduction.
Recently we have decided to put our property on the market and we've enrolled the services of an estate agent to help us market it.
You know estate agents right? The only humans that have been proven to share part of their DNA with tiger-sharks.
Well, we had this guy coming in to view our house, I was trying to feed Gabriel his lunch and was covered in several green stains when I went to open the door.
He was very friendly, wearing a nondescript blue pinstriped suit, his faced was clean-scraped ( I don't use the term 'shaven' because some straight men just have a penchant for raping their own skin every morning....) and he was carrying a pile of files under his arm.
"Hi, I'm David" he smiled shaking my hand vigorously
"Hi, Marco, nice to meet you..." I just replied casually whilst trying to stop Gabriel sticking his fingers in my eyes.
"Awwww, and who's this little one?" he asked trying to be friendly
"This is Gabriel, my son.."
"Well hello Gabriel! At home with daddy today?" he added, gently stroking the baby's head.
I proceeded to show the guy around the house.
"Wonderful! I love what you have done with the walls!" he gushed
"I have to say, this is in exquisite taste! The presentation is excellent!" he gushed some more
"I simply love the colour palette.... So warm, so sophisticated... Who's the interior wizard here Gabriel? Daddy or mummy?"
He was trying to work his friendly magic on my son and score some point with me, potential seller, but he stumbled upon the m-word, so I had to correct him.
"Well, it so happens that it's actually both daddy and papa that have an eye for interiors... We are a gay couple...."
The colour of his face trickled away, replaced by a purplish red.
"Ow...Uh...Erm... I am sorry.... I mean.... I am not sorry that you are gay..... Erm.... I am sorry to have made that mistake...
I saw the baby.... And you don't look gay.... I mean... Not that gays look any different than any other normal person.... I mean, any.... person...." David was on a crash-and-burn route to hell.
"Gosh... This isn't coming out right, is it David?" I taunted him, serious, merciless, loving it
"Uh... I'm...I'm sorry...." He was now staring at the floor.
"Here!" I said, handing him over the baby "Let's have some tea!"
He was now positively shocked and sat down on the sofa with Gabriel on his lap, the pile of files by his side, getting his suit chewed up and his slicked-back hair messed with, but he dared not move.
After a meaningless conversation about the weather and a tentative on his part to interest me in the latest football cup results (yawn...), he had a brilliant idea and he blurted out
"My wife always tells me that I could be the perfect gay!"
"And how is that?" I asked faking amusement, which obviously gave him the courage to gallop on
"Well, because I am so much tidier than she is, and my taste level is way more sophisticated than hers.... Also, I love to shop!! I spend hours grooming myself and I like musicals, believe it or not...." adding a little fake laugh
Oh boy! He was trying so hard and he really didn't need to.
Moreover, with the exception of tidiness, he listed all my least favourite characteristics of a stereotypical gay guy.
"I see...... And do you wear concealer too?" I taunted him again
"On occasion, yes I do!" (LIER!! You wouldn't know concealer if I was to shove a bottle of it right up to where you don't need it...)
"No way.... And do you like Barbra..... Liza..... Shirley....???"
"Oh...Oh yes! I love them all!" he hurried to answer.
(can you imagine a straight thirty something bloke listening to Shirley Bassey in his car? ME NEITHER!)
Was this guy for real? What was he trying to prove? Was he trying to be empathic? I started feeling slightly offended...
"Ok, and when was the last time you kissed a guy?" I added casually
"Oh....I am NOT gay!!" he replied wide eyed, with an expression that read 'I-cannot-believe-you-just-said-that-to-me!'
"And how can you be so sure? Sounds to me that you are one Sex and the City episode away from Sodom...."
He looked at me stunned....
Then I laughed out loud!
"A-ha!!!" I pointed a finger at him! "Just kidding! Back to business!!"
"Oh..Erm..Sure... Shall we continue with the upstairs?" he merely said, affecting a laugh and looking like he wanted to leave immediately.
So we carried on and at the end he left in such a hurry that he forgot his pile of files on my sofa... They are still here.
A couple of hours afterwards, another estate agent came knocking at my door: Simon.
Slightly older than David, big broad smile, same nondescript suit. As soon as he entered the house he said
"Wow! What a great job you've done here.... I bet it didn't look like that when you bought it..."
"No...It didn't.... It was more like a bad trip to the seventies!!" I replied
"Well.... Look at this! I love the walls! The sand block effect is amazing!" he went on to open the nursery door where Gabriel was taking his afternoon nap
"Wait! Shhhh...Quietly! My son is sleeping in there!" I stopped him.
So we crept in, me bare footed, Simon with his squeaky shoes. He had a look around the room and whispered "Wow! Someone's been decorating in here..." and he smiled.
I showed him the rest of the house and then we sat down to discuss in front of another cup of tea.
"How long have you been living in here?" he asked
"Well, my partner was already here when I moved in, but it's now about ten years" I said
"And what does she do?"
"He.... It's a he...We are a gay couple...." I answered
"Oh.. I beg your pardon, what does HE do?" he asked again smiling.
That was it. No extra stumbling upon messy apologies.
Our conversation flowed amazingly well. We decided a marketing strategy for the property, a price for it and ended up comparing our experiences with married life, with being parents, exchanging tips on how to stimulate your child to start crawling (Simon has a baby girl a couple of weeks older than Gabriel...). All with the maximum ease and simplicity.
Simon did not try to 'become gay' to impress me or make me feel at ease.
He didn't think I needed to be made comfortable, and he was right.
The problem with David was that it was HIM to be uncomfortable, I was just sitting pretty, sipping tea, looking at him setting fire to his own arse. (ok, I might have poured a little gasoline on it....)
Regardless of what Simon's ideas are on gay parenting or gay people in general, he was friendly, relaxed and interesting.
David tried so hard to "win me over" that he ended up making things awkward for himself.
Simon did not "handle me with care" once realized I am gay. He did not need to. Yes he was after my business, but he did not kiss-ass to get it. He maintained his persona and established a contact with me through a common ground: parenthood.
We might NOT all love Gaga, or a trip to the body-waxing clinic, but we all DO love our children.
He unwittingly reminded me of the humanity we share, beyond sexuality, beyond religion, beyond race.
He did not try to make himself similar to me, he pushed aside the obvious differences between us and compared similarities successfully.
Two guys from two completely different worlds, talking about the same worries, the same feelings, the same love.
In a nutshell, discrimination is wrong and very uncomfortable for any minority, but at the same time, the excesses of political correctness are equally uncomfortable both for the giving and receiving party and I cant believe I had to use an estate agent to illustrate my point.
I just want to sell my house, and Simon is the person for the job!
Well done Simon! The first estate agent that is proven to have more DNA in common with a human than with a tiger-shark.
Oh...I almost forgot... He even sent Gabriel a scale model Mini Cooper with the logo of his company.
No note, but there was no need for it.
I was already won over.
I thought I was done with my clergy-bashing antics for this month, but I just couldn't resist adding this gem of a road sign....
I have a doubt though...
Is it for kids ( Beware of the horny priest behind you ),
for drivers ( Beware of the children chased by the horny priest )
or for priests ( Children Chasing Area )?
Oh the relativity of it all.....
Have a good weekend folks!
I am gay, yes, and as such I do possess my fair share of superpowers, but I DO NOT see dead people. This kind of abilities are exclusive to Sally Morgan and Mystic Meg (together with a penchant for trashy magazines, fatty foods and flatulence...).
I am more the kind of home decorating/cake baking/opera loving/child rearing/eyebrows plucking type of superhero.... Sorry to disappoint.
My ghost was metaphorical, but none the less present!
Well, to get started, let me tell you that occasionally, although I don't like to admit it as I am a tremendous snob (...not really....I am quite a nice person... ask anyone... apart from my cousin Dina, she is a bitch...), as I was saying, occasionally I do some little bits of shopping down to my local Somerfield.
Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with Somerfield, I actually find the range of their products quite amazing really and it's very conveniently located for me to just chuck Little G in the stroller and hop down whenever I run out of my cupboard basics.
What is TOTALLY wrong with it is the following:
- The mainly indian staff speak an english that I cannot understand (..well maybe it's my fault)
- The wine bottles are chained to the shelves (...yes, even the £2.99 bottles of Spanish paint stripper...)
-There is an alarming presence of teenage pregnant girls that walk around the shop with their side ponytails, spitting on the floor and eyeballing people up, almost as if they were pregnant cats looking for a fight.
- They keep on offering me a reward-card every time I visit, although I already have a stash at home with which I could easily open my own market stall or re-tile my bathroom.
- Glenda the cashier always asks me about my wife.
Ok, I don't mind a bit of chit-chat, I love friendly people just chatting you up in the elevators, at the bus stop, at the gym, and why not? At the supermarket. It's so american and I love americans. I say this because in London, the few times someone chatted me up (in a non-gay environment that is...), involved me pushing in the queue, me standing in somebody's way, me listening to my Ipod too loud, me me me..... In America everybody is much friendlier. Apart from the guys at the passport control desks at LAX airport. They're assholes.
But yet again, I digress.
So I was saying about Glenda...
Glenda is different.
First of all I must say that her appearance is already something remarkable. Glenda is a woman of colour (is it PC enough? Can I get away with saying that she is black?), she is quite a large person, likes to wear all the colours of the spectrum at once, has a big placid face and a frightening purple-ish whig on her head.
The whig itself does not appear to be fixed in any way to the head, and it seems to move of its own accord, just like a little dog curled up on the head of its owner. You can look twice and see that it had already moved.
The whig is styled as a bob with bangs, has the shine and appearance of fishing wire and more often than not, it's worn back to front. Probably she thinks it's a hat, and wears it in many different ways according to her mood.
Obviously this thing kills me.
I find it so hysterically funny that when Glenda has her whig out of place I pay at the self checkout because I just can't take it.
I can try to ignore it, but then Little G would be staring at it, blank in the face with his little mouth open, and that cracks me up.
In spite of the obvious elements of ridicule in her, I have to say, Glenda is quite a nice lady. Always smiling, always trying to be helpful. Always trying to save me money by reminding me "Why did you buy this floor cleaner? The Somerfield own brand is much cheaper!!!".
Yes it is, but it smells like cat piss and it probably is. No thanks Glenda.
"Oh thanks... But I just like this one..." I only reply smiling.
"Waste not want not!" is her usual answer. Whatever.
Anyway, on occasion, Glenda has asked me the following questions hinting about my wife. I divide the questions in three categories for precision's sake:
Category A: Vague and general
'How nice of you to take the baby out shopping and give mum a break'
'Awwww, is it your turn today to take baby out?'
'What a considerate husband. Is mum at the hairdressers?'
Category B: Downright intrusive
'Look what pretty eyes he's got. They must be your mummy's cause they're not like your daddy's'
'Did you have a fight with your wife? Usually we plonk the kids onto the father when we want to get back at them!'
'What a beautiful shaped head! Your wife must have had him through C-section, has she?'
Category C: Pure Psychosis
'Uh! Hi little one! You are here again! I saw you this morning with your mummy!'
'How's your wife? I have not seen her since last week!'
'You pretty boy... Look so much like his mummy! Doesn't he?'
Glenda seems to have a very good idea of what my wife looks like, how often she comes to the store to shop and how she delivered Little G.
There is only one problem. My wife doesn't exist.
I admit, the fault for Glenda stumbling upon a parallel universe where I am straight and have a wife, is partially mine, for not clearing up the air at the first occasion and usually I don't have a problem in doing so, but the whole roughness of a supermarket built next to a council estate, made me rethink my ways. So I kept my mouth shut.
I am very amused, but left with a huge curiosity about my virtual wife...
Who the hell is she? Does she live only in Glenda-World, is she somebody real that she picked randomly, assuming "This one must be his wife!" ?
More frighteningly, is she one of those teenage pregnant ASBOS?
I've got no answer to these questions I'm afraid.... We'll see, maybe I will come out to Glenda one of these days so she will have to cough up the truth.
It better be funny.
With Easter in the air, it was only befitting to talk crucifixion on my blog, even if, to end up with holes in his hands and feet, this time around would be my pet peeve, the Pope.
It's been few weeks now that all over the press and the TV news the catholicism is getting a bashing.
It seems that, finally, some of the dirt and turpitude locked away in God's Head Quarters is letting its whiff being smelled in the outside world in the form of child abuse claims.....
Far from taking part to the stoning match ( I'm selling tickets for it on Facebook though...), as I was never under false impressions of holiness and infallibility of the clergy, I find myself thinking of my own experience being raised as a catholic in a small italian village up in the hills and, inevitably, thinking about my son and his spiritual future....
Not six months ago, Little G. was christened a catholic. Yes! You read correctly!
Me and my husband of six years, both refugees from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, had our son baptised by an italian catholic priest.
Before you cynics start, I swear that I did not have to do the following:
-pay an inordinate amount of money to the priest (just a small donation...)
-renounce my lifestyle and embrace "straightness" (does this term even mean anything?) or celibacy (does THIS term even mean anything?)
-submit to sexual favours in the confessional (more plausible, given a certain track record of the organisation)
-dress up as a suburban housewife (I am very much urban, thanks)
Instead all we had to do was ask, and we were welcomed with wide open arms. It felt wonderful.
Both me and my husband, up there at the baptismal font, holding our son while the priest poured holy water on his gorgeous little head. It felt like a big warm embrace. Our families on either side of us. The luck of experiencing the wonderful side of religion.
Sounds like science fiction uh? So much so in fact that when my mum and dad returned home and told my other relatives about this amazing event, EVERYBODY came out saying:
"Noooooo... How did they do it? What church is this? Can they do it? Is it legal?"
(Amazingly, none of them is asking if all the reported child-abuse cases classify as a legality....Tut tut.).
The disbelief was general and really amusing! And yet we did it and we've been treated with the same respect as any other couple.
No ominous thunder from the sky or dark clouds over the sun upon us entering the holy building, but a beautiful, sunny and hot september afternoon.
The only thing we were asked was to ensure our son would be brought up 'within' the faith.
We were asked to raise a compassionate, tolerant, generous, respectful child.
My question is why wouldn't we anyway? What has this got to do with faith?
Do we really need a man in a dress to tell us that is far better growing up as a lovable, happy and positive individual rather than a stupid asshole?
The so called man in a dress, whose authority I question so strongly, made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. It was like coming out to your dad and him telling you that is ok. Acceptance. This is the moral hold this institution has on me still today.
And I hate it, but I cant shake it off, because deep down I still feel like there is some good in there that it's worth respecting.
I always had a bit of an issue trying to conjugate my sexuality with my religious beliefs.
Well, that was until I moved to England and became part of Europe's staunchest ( albeit still only a wannabe) secular society.
I remember with fondness ( not really...) all those saturday afternoons of compulsory catechism, spent kicking my legs under a plastic chair in a church hall that invariably smelled of bleach and carnations. Stifling a laugh with the friend sitting next to me, being caught and sent out in the street as a punishment (in reality we would bring toys with us to play with outside, in this lucky eventuality...)
All those parables to tell us about greed, selfishness, lack of integrity and general moral decrepitude..... All those examples, those words of guidance, all those "Love thy neighbor as thou love thyself" sent my brain into a spin and left me wondering: are we all going to hell?
There was this guy appointed to be our teacher of catechism, his name was Giuseppe and, together with his girlfrend, they were sitting there, telling us right from wrong. Now, these two were no clergy members, they were two regular young people, in their late twenties, lecturing us about the meaning of life and the way of the Lord (even if, years later, their 'way of the Lord' involved getting married and divorcing following several HUGE indiscretions on both parts....)
"You don't care about Jesus! " he used to shout at me every time he caught me chatting or laughing.
"You know what is going to happen to you when you die?" and everybody in unison
"YOU ARE GOING TO HELL!". Cute.
So I would straighten up my face and pay attention for the rest of the lesson.
There were some really absurd statements like "You must love God more than you love your mum and dad" and that was a very famous occasion that nearly got me expelled from school because I dared reply:
"...but God doesn't need my love, my mum and dad do!"
My mum received a phone call from the village priest that very day and I remember she was very surprised to hear that I was questioning his teachings.
She demanded an explanation from me and I remember protesting and telling her and dad
"....but what can I do if I love you more than I love God? I don't even know him.... And do you love him more than you love
"Of course not..."
She smiled and hugged me tight. That night she made my favourite dish: arancini di riso.
How could I love God more than my mum? She would always forgive me, no matter how big my flaws could be. She would never threaten me with hellfire and brimstone.... I felt safe with my mum, safe to be myself, safer than I did in the virtual hands of God.
I remember my first confession to a priest... I must have been about 9 or 10... It was just before my first Holy Communion...
I was terrified because I knew I was far from perfect in the eyes of the Lord, I had my flaws, sometimes I denied my mum some help clearing up the table after dinner, sometimes I lied to my friends to my advantage, sometimes I envied my best friend red bicycle. So I was prepared to blurt it all out, and I was hugely surprised by what happened next in that cubicle.
Ok, ok, hold on.... Nothing untoward happened, before you start giggling, it's only that that bearded priest, whose breath repelled me, seemed to know ALREADY what sins I might have committed.
Bear in mind I was only 9 or 10 years old. I was trying to spill the beans about my little misdemeanours, but all he wanted to know from me was if I had 'impure thoughts', 'seen dirty magazines', 'committed impure acts'..... I didn't even know what the heck he was talking about.... Why would a magazine be dirty? I wouldn't even touch a dirty magazine.... My mum would make sure everything around me was clean. Was being dirty a sin? Should I have spoken to my table companion at school, whose head was always crawling with all sorts of fauna? Was he going to hell because his mum did not wash him properly?
I remember clearly my thought process.... It felt just wrong.
But, what crushed me the most, is that I felt that whatever I had to offer, was not good enough to qualify as a proper confession. The guy was fishing for dirt in the name of Jesus and I needed to cough up something bigger.
So I made things up.
I spiced up a little all my wrongdoings... My lack of willingness to help mum clearing up, became an inclination for domestic anti-social behaviour, my little lies here and there became a tendency to malice, my jealousy of my friend bike became a vocation for greed. The priest was not judging me, by any means, he looked on peacefully and nodded, in an almost gratified way. I felt so happy I finally had something to tell the guy. I kept on glancing at the other cubicles from behind my curtain... My little friends seemed to have a lot to talk about and appeared to be immersed in conversation and self purification, and I was struggling to find a topic.....
At the end of the confession, Father Beard (I don't remember his name...), absolved me and I remember leaving the cubicle feeling great, even if the three quarters of my confession were a work of fiction (but then again, what is absolution if not science fiction?).
Now, almost thirty years later, the idiocy of all this seems almost too big to be brushed aside.
Entire generations brought up with the mechanism of "sin and absolution". Armies of assholes striding through life like assholes, behaving like assholes and queuing up towards the confessional every sunday to get spiritual clearance and "sin credit" as I like to call it...
There is still some good left within the church, there are still some men with a progressive way of thinking, men that use their office to unite and not divide, to educate and not manipulate, but they are few and far between, and certainly not enough to undo what has been badly done.
'We are all imperfect, we are humans as well!' is their argument and excuse, but then I say to them: start living like humans, live life to the full, fall in love, marry, have a family and still preach about values and morals, because then you will be in the position of knowing what you are talking about.
Turning yourself into a reluctant saint is not the answer.
We don't need saints, we need inspiration and motivation.
Sadly, this is not our church. Our church is quite different, and my son will NEVER be part of it.
My son will learn that redemption, forgiveness and spiritual elevation is to be reached through deeds, not prayers.
My son will learn that his body is his own and so it's his soul and that NOBODY no matter what dress they are wearing, has the right to put either of them down or to make him feel not good enough for God's love.
My son will learn that religion is NEVER a hiding place for his weaknesses, OFTEN a cash machine dispensing spirituality, and ALWAYS a divisive tool that preys on the ignorant for the benefit of the powerful.
My son is Catholic by chance, but will be spiritual by upbringing, and faith has got nothing to do with it, LOVE has.
And that's divine.
Now, this is creative writing... What a lovely image.
Anyway, we all sat down in an uncomfortable silence and I decided to break the ice:
"So, Pat... Do you go to the early Learning Center often?" I asked, hinting at her bag.
"I do" was her dry answer
"I only pop in if I have to kill time really" I added casually "I find the crowd in there really obnoxious.."
"OBNOXIOUS! That's an interesting word!" Bar jumped in half laughing, looking at me in disbelief as if to say 'You just called my friend obnoxious! What's wrong with you?'.
So I adjusted the aim of my imaginary rifle and carried on:
"Well, maybe obnoxious is a strong word.... What about 'rude'? Nothing personal Pat, it's just that I can tell you the funniest story that happened to me in that shop!". Pat struggled to curl up her lips in a dead smile.
And I proceeded to tell the story of my encounter with Pat, obviously changing it slightly to avoid Bar making any obvious connections.
"My... I can't believe people can be so rude!" Bar said looking theatrically shocked.
Bang! First hit.
"I probably would have punched the bitch on her face!" she added laughing, winking at Pat that looked livid.
Bang! Second hit.
"Sorry Pat, I know you don't like bad words... I am such a bad girl!" and laughed some more, obviously relieved that I was not on to get her friend. But I was.... I was indeed.
I was relishing in the moment....No...Wait..... I was positively gloating!!!!
Mother Twat was getting a bashing from both of us and couldn't do anything to stop it.
"Well.....Maybe that lady was having a bad day...."
Pat tried, surprising me.
"Maybe she was having a bad day and needed to take it up with somebody." She said looking at both of us. Neither me nor Bar were really convinced by such lame justification.
"Pat, come on.... Drop the Good Samaritan badge for a second.... We all have bad days, but you don't really go around abusing people do you? I mean... You wouldn't stand for this sort of behaviour would you? It's inexcusable!"
Bar was shooting her friend in the face without even realising it....
Bang bang bang!! Third, fourth and fifth hit. The bitch's face was a colander. I was laughing to myself.
"Well... I'm just saying...." Pat replied sheepishly.
Just before Bar could open fire once more, the waiter came to the table to take our order: Patricia ordered a tuna niçoise with a glass of Pellegrino, Bar followed her, but with a more adventurous glass of Pinot Grigio, and I ordered a sacrilegious cheeseburger, fries, and a strawberry milkshake. Take that yummy mummy!
Bar laughed "I wish I could eat like that!"
"What's stopping you?" I asked.
"My jeans I suppose!" she answered
"That's why they've invented the 'mum's jeans' with elasticated waistbands... Aren't you american mums pioneers of the high-waisted, stone-washed one-size-fits-all miracle jeans?" and we both laughed.
"You're so funny Marco! Isn't he Pat?" Bar asked her friend.
But Pat was drifting away in her mind, probably thinking of ways to regain the upper hand in the conversation and not paying much attention to our light hearted chit-chat.
"Are you alright there dear? What's the matter? You do not seem yourself today?" Bar enquired with apprehension.
Pat paused, she looked at me and then looked down at her lap.
She began to cry.
Unfortunately, even before we could realize what was happening, Pat's baby began to scream and kick up such a fuss that it was impossible to focus on anything else.
Pat looked positively distraught, she was now sobbing and trying to calm her little one down, without result.
Bar did not know what to do, she wanted to talk to her friend, but found it impossible.
Something kicked me inside.
"Girls, let me take this little one for a brief stroll around the restaurant, my little boy is still asleep. You two sit here and have a chat ok?"
"THERE IS NO NEED FOR THAT!" Pat yelled.
"I AM PERFECTLY CALM...GODDAMMIT!" she was shaking... Her baby was screaming.... The restaurant now staring.
Fergus started crying as well in his high chair and my little Gabriel opened his eyes with a whimper, startled at the sudden noise. He is such an angel this little one of mine.
I stopped on my feet, feeling mortified.
"Pat... What is it?" Bar asked calmly whilst cuddling Fergus.
Patricia composed herself and picked her baby up, cradling him in her lap.
"It's back." She said, fighting the tremor in her voice.
Bar looked puzzled.
"This morning I went to the doctor and he confirmed it.... It's back and it's bad. I don't know if they'll be able to stop it this time."
I began to understand what she was talking about.
"Oh my God.... Patricia.... " Bar was lost for words.
"Have you told Aaron yet?"
"How can I? He is probably going to think that it's another plea for attention, he's such a self-absorbed moron sometimes.... The first time it happened he just told me to stop moaning and that if I was going to lose all my hair I could just wear a wig..."
'Your husband is an imperial asshole sister..' I thought, biting my lip.
"Gosh... I am so sorry... What are you going to do? " Bar asked her looking worried.
"I'll do whatever I have to. I'll call Dr. Lowenthal, ask for a second opinion. I'll take it from there"
And she forced a smile at her little one, finally calm in his mum's lap.
"How bad is it?" I found myself asking in an alarmed tone. Bar looked at me wide eyed.
Pat raised an eyebrow and said icily "Bad enough and unfair enough to make you want to abuse people I suppose."
BANG! It was my turn at being hit this time... By a cannon ball.... Right in my face.
I hated this... I hated the fact that now I was feeling sorry for her when I felt much more comfortable wanting to knock her head off.
Luckily, our lunch arrived and I dove into my plate to avoid making any eye contact with either of them. Truth is, I would have given anything not to be there.
What followed was a conversation between women that I intended not to get into.
But something was out of place.
There was no talk of Chemo or Radio Therapy.... It was all about lotions, shampoos, acupuncture and head massages.
"Boy!" I thought "It better be Jesus giving you that massage..."
But then, as the conversation got more and more hushed, I got the word that lifted me from my little hole of guilt:
Oh Lord! Oh angels in heaven! The bitch wasn't dying of cancer! She was just losing her hair!
What a manipulative shit.... Having me feeling guilty for thinking ill of her....Ok...This wasn't her fault... I jumped to conclusions and shot myself in the face. Obviously, for a woman, losing the hair it's worth it throwing a tantrum in front of a whole restaurant.
As men we are luckier. Well, nobody likes to look like a billiard ball, by any means... But a balding man, maybe with cropped hair.... Could be quite sexy no?
Look at Bruce Willis! Vin Diesel For God's sake! If their careers had depended on the sharpness of their hairlines, they would probably be serving cocktails in plastic glasses aboard a cruise ship full of fat pensioners...
"A-HA!" I yelled without thinking.
They both turned towards me looking puzzled
"Uh...Erm... Gabriel just winked at me! For the first time!!!" I lied goofily with a smile as fake as spray-tan....
"That's nice." Pat remarked in a condescending tone, obviously uninterested, and carried on mastering her friend's attention.
I swear to God! I would've jumped over the table and finish off by hand what the alopecia had started.
Bar realized I was being left out of the conversation and tried to steer her friend's verbal diarrhoea into common ground.
"Pat, did you know that Marco and his civil partner had Gabriel through surrogacy? Isn't it amazing?"
Pat turned and looked at me as she was seeing me for the first time..... Her expression a mixture of curiosity and disdain.
"Oh.... Did they really?" she merely uttered.
"I think it's fantastic that nowadays a gay couple can achieve the dream of having a family, don't you?"
Pat did not know what to answer, she was obviously not a fan of everything I represented at that table.
"Well, I suppose nowadays you can achieve anything you want, pity that sometimes we pay little attention to the consequences of our actions."
'Ooooh..... You did not just say that to my face woman....' I thought, but I simply asked
"And what do you mean by that?", smiling
"Well, don't you think that maybe your son will grow up and there will be moments in his life where he will have to confront the world for your life choices?" Pat replied calmly.
Bar was flabbergasted and was about to say something, but I cut in:
"I see.... Like having to confront all the bullies telling him that his parents are two faggots? Is that what you mean? Having to confront whoever is going to make fun of the two people he loves the most at this stage of his life? " I replied just as calmly.
"Precisely" she simply stated, sipping water from her glass, "Obviously It's nothing personal, but I think that children don't like anything that makes them stand out or that sets them apart from their peers. Aren't you afraid that one day he is going to resent you for being the way you are?"
She said in a patronising tone.
Bar was still trying to avert disaster, but it was too late now. I was set to explode.
"Well, I respect your point of view." I simply said.
"DO YOU?" Bar asked in a shocked voice.
"Yes, I do.... But you better be prepared sister, because as you are set to become the only bald mother in town, your little ones are on for some bumpy school-rides as well." I said standing up.
They both looked at me in disbelief as I reached for my wallet and threw some notes on the table.
"Now... In light of this revelation, are you wishing you never had children? Are you wishing you didn't have to lose your hair? Or, in the name of your love for your kids, are you swearing to do everything as a parent to make sure they feel loved, safe, happy and ready to face the world?"
Pat looked at me, pale in the face, so I carried on:
"Do me a favour then, cause obviously you don't know what I am talking about, save your lunch money, spare your children any future humiliation and go buy yourself some fucking wigs, cause that's all you can do."
I grabbed all my stuff, chucked it under the pram and started to make my way back to the elevator, but then I turned back and, with a finger pointed at her face:
" You better thank Christ that I am still a gentleman, otherwise I would've punched your fucking lights out back at the shop this morning..."
I kissed a now shocked Bar and left, leaving Pat to stare, open mouthed and trembling.
Jesus forgive me, it felt good.
The day of the coffee meeting with Bar came, between a nappy change and a bottle it was already tomorrow...
By the way, I am not sure if it only applies to me, but having a baby really, I mean REALLY speeds up the clocks. You know the expression "Awwww, they grow up so fast..."? That means also "Awww, I am skidding towards old age/knitted hats and ugly grey tweed coats/dementia/incontinence".
But seriously, I can't believe how quickly time passes by. Little G is already 6 months old. It feels like it all happened in a flash. If I close my eyes, I can see his little face, still covered in gunk, as Little G first came out of our surrogate and into our lives. It feels like it only happened yesterday.
But I am digressing again.
Me and Little G got ready for our coffee appointment, we make quite a good team. We were supposed to meet Bar and Fergus, her little son, at the restaurant in Peter Jones. Normally I hate department stores, especially during the Christmas season. It's all a big mess of tinsel, fake snow and some stupor-inducing carols blaring from the loudspeakers.
Bar explained to me however, that this was the only place in Chelsea where one did not have to worry about manoeuvring a stroller, it offered plenty of space and lovely views over the London skyline. It did sound appealing to me, always paranoid about getting stuck in a gridlock of prams, chairs and tables in the impossible (not really...) quest for the perfect place to have lunch with a baby in tow.
We arrived at 10.30 and we were half an hour early, so I decided to venture into the Early Learning Centre, just next door to Peter Jones, to check out small toys to fill Little G's Xmas stocking.
My little man was peacefully sleeping in his stroller, his dummy halfway out of his opened mouth. I was making my way through a corridor of boxes of toys, stacked up almost to the ceiling and stopped to pick up a musical 'Winnie the Poo' toy that caught my eye.
All of a sudden, from behind me, a woman in a yellow coat, also pushing a stroller, overtakes me, getting the back wheel of her pram stuck into mine. Without a glance to me, she forces her way through pushing me aside. The resulting jolt wakes up my little angel. For a fraction of a second I look at the back of this 'lady', expecting her to turn to apologise (we are in Britain after all, here you apologise even if it's your foot that has been trampled on, just as a reflex....).
When I finally realise she was not going to, I shout "HEY!"
And the woman, turning towards me with an expression of bother on her face, clipped out an "Excuse me?"
"You just pushed me aside! Didn't you see?" I tried, politely.
Her thin eyebrows now raised almost two feet in the air "Don't you comment to me on what I did or did not do young man!"
I could not believe my ears. I was flabbergasted.
Then, as she turned her back on me to keep on walking, I yelled at her
"You must be fucking joking lady!"
She turned immediately with her mouth opened in disbelief hissing "I beg your pardon!?"
"I BEG YOUR PARDON MY ARSE! You bumped into me and need to apologise!"
She wasn't having any of it. She turned to another woman, obviously interested in out spat, saying "Can you believe this one? He is getting all hooty with me..."
And then, looking at me with a smug expression on her face "Let your wife take the baby out from now on, you obviously need more experience..".
That was it.
"I DON'T NEED ANY EXPERIENCE TO RECOGNISE A RUDE BITCH WHEN I SEE ONE!"
She snapped at me with a patronising "How dare you using this language! THIS IS A CHILDREN SHOP!"
Here we go, another of those mothers hiding behind the 'child welfare' smoke screen to carry on indulging in all sorts of anti-social behaviour and get away with it. Like the selfish bitches that jump into a packed bus with their stroller and, instead of realising that is full and impossible to fit into, they opt for ramming pram and child up your ribs, in the knowledge that you won't dare to say anything. I don't care who I offend at this point, but the very, very few men I saw pushing a pram seemed to be far more considerate. Again, I am digressing... Must stop this annoying habit.... Anyway, as I was saying, mother Twat was reprimanding me for calling her a bitch, but my back was already turned and, as I walked away, my middle finger was raised high for her to see. And boy did she see it!
"Did you see that?" I could hear her screaming at the onlooking woman, "It's outrageous, I will report him to the shop manager!"
"Cut it out lady! You did push your way through, you should've apologised to the young man!"
I heard a man saying.
"Mind your own business!" she replied, sounding hysterical.
"Don't tell me to mind my own business you rude woman!"
The argument was ongoing....
As I exited the store I happened to notice that the young guy behind the counter was literally crying with laughter, part of me was too. The other part was furious.
Oh, well. Not a good start of my social day.
I was really shaking with nerves (so gay...). I don't like confrontation, even less in a public place where everyone looks at you, but sometimes you need to grow some nuts and put those bitches into their place.
It's Bugaboos at dawn out there!
Little G was back into the land of Nod as I entered Peter Jones through the very stroller-unfriendly set of double doors.
My mobile buzzed in my pocket, it was Bar.
"Hey you!" I answered, "We just arrived! We are queuing up for the lifts now... Are you already there?" I tried to sound cheerful.
"Yes, I am here! I have asked my friend Patricia to join us as well, I hope you don't mind.." she said, shouting into the phone to overcome Fergus screaming in the background.
"'Course not! I need to build up my social network!"
"Super! She'll be here in a minute as well! See you in a sec!"
She sounded so excited to meet up! Bless her, I never stopped to consider how hard it must be for an expatriate to re-build a life in an unknown city! Bar was from Boston, she married a British banker and moved to London six months ago. For the past six months I had been feeling like new-in-town myself!
Although I have been living in London for the last 12 years, having a child had forced me to reconsider and revise all the things I thought I knew about this city. London changed for me, from being a familiar place easily manageable by bus, to an obstacle course I had to tackle whilst pushing a stroller. I was seeing things through the eyes of a parent and analising every daily task with a new set of paranoias and concerns, previously unknown and found out at the same time that insecurity brings people together. You know... Together we are stronger.
The lift came and we got in. Nobody inside. Great. It stops on the third floor, the children and nursery floor. Upon the doors opening, I don't even get a chance to look at the displays as three women, each pushing a pram, come barging in one after the other. Now, the lifts in Peter Jones are ridiculously small, you can barely fit two strollers and their pushers side by side. Obviously the three women were friends, in the middle of a conversation and with every intention to carry it on without interruption. The first one came in, the second struggled, but with me almost in the pram with Little G, she managed to get in, the third was furious that she had to wait for another lift. Her friends trying to convince her that there was still some room left, that we could have squeezed in a bit more and holding the lift forever.....
You see when I say that some of these women use their strollers as a weapon of mass destruction? I was about to head-butt the three of them. Luckily, the third woman desisted and just said
"I'll see you upstairs I guess girls..". The other two didn't look impressed, but let go of the lift-hold button and we were on our way.
"Do you think she's lost any of that baby fat yet?" Woman 'A' asked
"No... Not really... Poor thing, she is really struggling.." Woman 'B' replied
"Must be in the genes of the family.. Wasn't her sister huge as well when she had her baby?"
"Yeah.... She still is... Well, their mum isn't exactly on the thin side either..."
"Poor things.... Hopefully the little one wont inherit her figure..."
Gosh, what bitchy friends in woman's world..... Three generations thrown into the fire in ten seconds. I suppose that the division line was clear to these two: if you fit back into your Seven jeans on your way from the delivery room, then you are a Yummy Mummy, if you don't then you are a Soccer Mum, sister to a Soccer Mum, daughter to a Soccer Mum and so on and so forth. Being a Soccer Mum is genetic and being cursed with this inability to shed weight after birth deserves the sympathy of your 'friends'.
I was laughing to myself.
The doors opened with a shuffling sound, and the open expanse of the sixth floor restaurant made me breathe a sight of relief. Out of the crush at last.
I spotted Bar immediately, as she was waving her arms frantically at me from the huge glass wall on the opposite side of the room.
She looked very pretty. Her blonde hair in a ponytail, light grey turtleneck sweater and skinny jeans. She looked every inch the yummy mummy!
"You look lovely!" I winked at her
"Awwww, thanks... You are sweet." she said, straightening up Fergus on his high chair.
"Where is your friend?"
"She is just taking the lift. Patricia is an old friend of mine from Boston. She is from London, but she was in the US with her american husband, also a banker and a colleague of my husband."
And then, in the best Bridget Jones tradition, she proceeded to introduce me her friend with all sorts of meaningful details.
"She is a very dynamic person you know, back in Boston she was president of the Conservative Parents Association and leader of the Red Cross Parents Training Camp. She is great at organising events and parties. Pat had quite a social calendar back in Boston. Sometimes I wonder how she ever managed to fit all into her schedule and raise three kids.... Some women really are amazing!"
Boy, I thought, this one really sounds like supermum. But I simply remarked
"Oh, must be nice having a familiar face around in a new town!"
"Tell me about it! She is a lovely person, you'll get along beautifully, you'll see!"
Now, I am and have always been one for meeting new people, expanding one's social scene and so on and so forth, but I would have never expected things to turn out the way they did in a matter of minutes.
As Bar was speaking to me, I saw her gesticulating and trying to get the attention of someone in the distance, behind me.
"There she is! HI PAT! WE'RE HERE!"
As I turned around, searching among the crowd, the sight of a sadly too familiar yellow coat made me audibly gasp for air. My smile drained away from my face. The lady, now known as 'Patricia', stopped in her tracks, instantly recognising me from the 'exchange of opinions' we had had not ten minutes earlier at the Early Learning Center.
I was still holding my coat, waiting to sit down, and my first reaction was to pack up and leave.
But then I realised that I wasn't the one who had to hide his face in shame. I thought
"Let's see if Patricia is wearing her butt on her face this morning" (this is an italian expression by the way, wearing your butt on your face means that you don't care about anything that may embarrass you enormously... Cute no?).
But then maybe, the one that needed a good size butt to replace my face was me.
Pat straightened up her face and forced a smile whilst approaching our table. She was carrying an early Learning Center carrier bag.
"So glad you could make it Pat! What a coincidence to find you in the area this morning!" Bar was gushing.
Pat was trying her best to act normal with her friend, whilst eyeballing me. Was she going to say anything?
Man I was ready to come down to her like a ton of bricks.
"Pat, this is Marco, my new friend from the Health Visitor's office!"
"How-do-you-do." Pat clipped out icily, stretching her arm forward to shake my hand, her gaze fixed on to mine. It was the most ridiculous moment of the year.
"Haven't we met already?" I taunted her
"No, I don't believe we have" She hastily dismissed me.
Here I am again,
this time I should be able to write with no interruptions as my little one just had his last bottle for the day and has nicely settled in for a night of sleep.... Not that those are hard to come by: little G started sleeping through the night at just 7 weeks!
Anyway, I don't mean to brag (..I do really....), I still empathize with those poor parents, scraping around at night for an hour of sleep....
And I am sorry if I sound patronizing, but since I became a father, I came to realize that parenthood-world out there is always ready to measure your skills as a parent on the basis of how successfully you manage to strap your little one to a routine as early as possible.
Furthermore, this is an achievement every parent DOES brag about, either to make good conversation or simply to score points with the Health Visitor's appointment crowd.
Now, in every book I have read about child care, there seems to be an underlying statement that says: thou shall pay no attention whatsoever to how brilliantly everybody else seems to be doing with their babies; thou shall not be disheartened if you seem to be the only one awake at night, trying to convince the Antichrist to fall asleep, for every baby is different. Amen.
This is like saying: do prepare yourself 'cause just around the corner there is a stroller-pushing bitch ready to take you out and make you feel like shit, 'cause she is supermum and you are barely capable to change a nappy without breaking into a sweat.
Bollocks to that.
Just today I took little G to his routine health visitor appointment, I was running half an hour late, so I had to share the lobby with a dozen of other parents and their pushchairs.
It's encouraging to see that there are quite few men accompanying their wives/girlfriends and baby to the visit, but even more so was the presence of two other men on their own with their little ones. At the beginning of my experience as a dad, I was dreading the health visitor's appointments, as I thought them to be a woman-dominated environment, with the occasional breast-feeding tits-parade....I found myself surrounded instead by a rather heterogeneous group of people in various degrees of distress and no boobs on show: some could not redress the baby without him screaming; some others were juggling a baby, a red book, a mobile-phone call and a nappy bag; another one was trying to change a rather messy (and smelly!) nappy in the pram with disastrous consequences and an unspecified amount of wet serviettes scattered all over the floor.
I was in baby hell!!!
Luckily, my little angel was fast asleep in his pushchair, oblivious to what was going on. As I settled down into an empty seat, a tired looking lady, struggling to keep her bundle of joy on her lap, smiled at me and asked:
-He sleeps so soundly doesn't he?
Pointing at Little G in his cosy pram,
-Yea, he does... He loves his afternoon nap...
-Oh, but that's dangerous.... He will keep you up tonight! that's why I keep mine entertained.
The woman added with a glimmer of triumph in her eyes (ok maybe I have imagined it...).
-No... Not really.... He has been sleeping through the night since he was seven weeks old....
It's just his routine: two hours nap in the morning, two hours in the afternoon and eleven hours sleep at night.... I guess I am lucky! By the way, your little one has just spewed up two days worth of baby sick on your hair.
The woman's smile faded, replaced by something like a defiant grin (ok maybe I have imagined that as well...)
-Your wife has done a great job.... Is she at work today?
-You nosy bitch!
I thought and started laughing... The lady seemed confused by my reaction, so I proceeded to shock her a bit more, while she tried to wipe off the sick from her blonde hair.
- Lady, you are talking to the wife!
She was crestfallen.
- Me and my husband had Little G through surrogacy and egg donation and are both very proud of what we have achieved.... Little G is such a good, happy boy.... But, you know, we are both very relaxed guys and he is obviously benefiting from a relaxed, loving environment... I guess we don't have to deal with all the post-partum hormonal imbalances of a woman..... I can hardly imagine the effects of post natal depression coupled up with a husband that doesn't understand and only thinks of jumping your bones as soon as you don't look so depressed, or fall asleep, only to complain afterwards that 'down there' everything has gotten somewhat loose and that you look always frumpy and miserable.... But I am digressing... What did you say your name was?
I smiled.... She was listening with her mouth open and the eyes at half mast, like in a trance.
-Uh erm.... Mrs Collins....
-Well, nice to meet you Mrs. Collins, my name is Marco.... But you can call me Mr. Platti-Newey... You know, when two man marry they give birth automatically to a double-barrel surname....
The poor woman did not know what to think or say.... She picked up on my sarcasm and now looked embarrassed, so I helped her out of her misery, because, after all, I was not wearing a 'Gay Dad' badge and she only wanted to make conversation.
-Just kidding!!!! You look... Erm... Disturbed!
I laughed, patting her arm.
-Uh..What...Oohh..... No...Not really.... It sounded like you were talking about me for a second...
And my name is Barbara... My friends call me Bar.
-That's cute.... I hope I did not offend you....
-What? Oh no, I hope I did not offend you!
She cut in.
-Not at all... It's probably me in fact. I am still a little nervous and insecure about this fatherhood thing.... You know, the gay thing...
-Oh...So you were not kidding! You are gay and married....
She said wide eyed.
-Come on girl! You gotta keep up.... I thought we got that straight. And hun.... You are not entertaining your pride and joy, you're just letting him abuse you!
I answered in my best ghetto fabulous accent, snapping fingers on her face.
Bar looked at me for a second, as if trying to digest something (probably my humor), then bursted out laughing, her son bursted out crying and Little G woke up.
By then, everyone was looking at us, apart from that poor woman still trying to wipe off baby poo from her stroller.
This is how I met my first Chelsea mum, we both survived the encounter, she doesn't think I am a monster and I don't think she is a bitch.
Tomorrow we'll do coffee.