The first week of the long summer holidays is over and we’ve all managed to survive intact – well, sort of. One of my daughters did nearly come a cropper, earlier in the week, on her scooter. She was zooming along quite nicely when, suddenly, something caught her eye. The something disturbed her concentration and she nearly scooted into a wall. The something also caught my eye and disturbed me greatly.
“Watch where you’re going!” I yelled. “Stop looking at the dog in the dress” I mumbled under my breath. Now, I see no problem with a dog in the autumn of its years wearing a natty tartan coat in the winter. But this wasn’t a dog in the autumn of its years nor was is a tartan coat. This poor dog was wearing a lemon dress in summer.
You maybe thinking, “How did she know it was a dress and not a coat?” To which I would answer, “Because it had a ruffle around the middle which made it look like one.” A ruffle on a lemon dress made for a tiny dog (of course it would have to be a tiny dog. Can you imagine trying to coerce a Great Dane into such a thing?), what was the owner thinking of? It’s a dog not a doll for dressing-up!
If this wasn’t bad enough, the lemon, ruffled dress also had a large diamante pattern on the back of it. Or was it the front? I wouldn’t like to say. Anyway, it was on the part of the dress that covered the dog’s back. The whole outfit was reminiscent of something out of an episode of “My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding.” I briefly wondered if the dog was, perhaps, a gypsy dog descendent. That, maybe, it had a bit of Irish-Traveller doggy blood in it. Perhaps the dress had been all its idea after all. Maybe it had barked “Diamonds, diamonds, it must have diamonds,” at its poor owner.
But no, I was wrong, because there on the back (I was right the first time) of its dress was a little hood with ear holes in it. Its only purpose could be for the dog to cover its head in shame from the other dogs in the neighbourhood. After all, what other purpose could it have?
It was something that had to happen. The only problem was, I wasn’t expecting it to happen this soon. This thing could tear our happy, little family wide-apart; at least in the short-term. It will cause uncountable tears and tantrums. It will be the source of much anguish and heart-break. One of my daughters has been invited to a birthday party and the other hasn’t.
I thought this would happen when they were older and had established firm friendship groups. But my daughters are only five and the both play with the little girl in question, so to try to explain it to them will be a traumatic experience for all concerned. I mentioned it to a friend of mine. She said, “I wouldn’t do that. Not at this age, anyway. I’m surprised they have. Her mum’s a psychologist.” “Fantastic!” I thought. “She’s surreptitiously using my daughters as guinea pigs in some kind of secret twin trial.”
Luckily, the party invite was hidden in the favoured daughter’s book-bag so I was able to whisk it away without her noticing. Then, the dilemma started. Should I allow the favoured-one to go? After all, they are not the same person and, perhaps, the sooner they understand they can do things separately the better. But, they are only five years old and to tell them would break the unfavoured daughter’s heart. I thought, maybe, I could take the unfavoured daughter out for a special treat whilst her sister was at the party but I knew, deep-down, that this wouldn’t make up for the disappointment and rejection she would feel. This may seem like a dramatic statement to you but that’s because you haven’t had to live with the disappointment and rejection the unfavoured daughter felt after Sports’ Day. In fact, this is another thing I was hoping not to have to deal with just yet,
The unfavoured daughter is quite small and not very good at running. However, she threw herself into the School Sports’ Day and seemed to enjoy it despite still collecting bean-bags in the bean bag race when all the other children had finished. She ran valiantly and sololy and with a big beaming smile to the finish line encouraged on by lots of “awws” from other parents. I gave her a big hug and congratulated her and thought she wasn’t affected by it – after all she’s only five. But I was wrong.
On the way home, she said, “I’m not very good at running, am I?” I explained that she was only small and that we can’t always win. I asked her if she had had a good time, to which she answered “Yes.” “As long as you had fun, it doesn’t matter where you finish, ” I said; quoting countless parents before me. I hoped that that would be it. That the matter would be put well and truly to bed and we could forget about it. But, again, I was wrong.
The following week, my daughter was upset as ‘no-one would play with her’ at school. After a little digging (no-one ever tells you when you become a parent that you will need to develop and hone good police detective skills), I discovered that she wouldn’t fully participate in a game as she was not good at running. “The other children would have caught me straight away,” she sobbed.
“Fucking School Sports’ Day,” I silently muttered to myself. I explained to her how we can’t all be good at everything. I told her that she is very good at art and reading but not all the children in her class are. I gave her a list of the things I’m not good at. It was very long as you can imagine. I also told her she can only try her best and that we could practise running over the Summer Holidays as that’s the only way she will get better at it. I wiped her tears and gave her a cuddle. I wanted to tell her that, although when you are at school being good at sports seems to be the be all and end all of things, in the long run it means jack-shit. Except, of course, if you are a professional athlete; which most of us aren’t or ever likely to be.
And so my dilemma was solved for me. There could only be one outcome. I will graciously decline the invite, offer up no explanation for doing so and wish the little girl a very happy birthday. After all, what else could I do?
I wrote in a previous post about my recent meeting with two female actors from a local theatre group. I wrote about how, on graduating drama school, one of the actors had been incredibly type-cast. This type-casting had led her to leave London and head North. However, this wasn’t the only revelation into the world of acting that I had that day.
The actors also discussed a recent production of Saturday Night, SundayMorning they had performed in. One of them had played a character that had had an affair with the lead. She discussed how, in order to understand the part properly, she had gone on an “improv date” with her fellow actor. “Obviously we couldn’t have an affair,” she said. “So instead we had an improvised date, where I had to leave by a certain time to get back to my ‘husband.'”
Now, I am not an actor and I maybe a bit naive but I’m sure I wouldn’t need to go on an “improv date” to imagine how I would feel about cheating on my husband. The words guilt and shame spring to mind and, no, this is not because I have. I haven’t – ever. All I have to do is close my eyes and imagine.
Another writer recently told me the story of how, on a tour of her recent play, the two lead actors fell in love and started a relationship. “How romantic,” was my first thought. “To mirror the characters they were playing.” And then I thought about it some more. They fell in love whilst playing characters that fall in love night after night. I mean, there’s no wonder this happened is there? Falling in love, night after night, must be so wonderful. Your heart-racing, your stomach doing somersaults, your palms slightly sweaty, the slight sicky feeling. It must become quite addictive.
But what happens when the tour has finished? What happens when you go back to being Fred and Jean instead of being Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth. When there is no drama in your relationship. When there are no seemingly impossible odds to overcome. When instead of worrying over whether your pride has ruined your chances with the love of your life, you’re more concerned over who’s turn it is to empty the bins.
I’m glad I’ve decided to try to become a writer. I’m not sure my fragile sanity would stand the actor’s life.