Remember the days when you used to go on dates? Proper dates I mean, not the trips to whichever local eatery has a two for one deal on with the father of your child (long demoted from being 'a proper man' - now just that bloke who lives with you and leaves Weetabix residue to form a crust in his cereal bowl instead of giving it a 5 second rinse under the tap LIKE ANY SENSIBLE, NON MORONIC PERSON WOULD). I'm talking about dates which might have involved chemistry and conversation about subjects other than teething/frantic comparisons of primary school Ofsted reports/'hilarious' anecdotes of what your kids have done recently.
I always quite liked dates, even though women's magazines would have you believe that they're supposed to be fraught with anxiety. I like the edge that not being quite sure of each other gives you. I like flirting and getting pleasantly drunk whilst getting to know someone. I would go so far as to say that I'm so good at dates that I have never failed to get a second one.
Then I moved to a town where I knew nobody and had a baby. Being stuck in the house with my sleep-shy child, counting down the hours until daddy home time whilst being screamed at was truly miserable. I was going to have to make some new friends. This meant talking to other mums, all of whom looked worryingly like they knew what they were doing and were therefore incredibly intimidating. And once I'd talked to them I had to...you know...meet up with them. On my own. With no wine. Welcome to the terrifying world of The Mum Date. Here are some you may recognize:
Being clueless and terrified, Rich and I signed up to do NCT classes while I was pregnant. These mainly involved eating biscuits in someone's living room whilst wanting to belt the smug, yoga pant wearing leader across the face.
One day, one of the other NCT ladies came over to my house for tea and cake. Turns out we were not only both vastly pregnant, but had both been forced to move to Cheshire because of our husbands jobs, had both worked as actors and both thought that the NCT leader was a bit of a dick. Within half an hour, we were cackling hysterically at each other (always risky behaviour at 7 months pregnant, what with your pelvic floor not being what it once was) and talking about the sort of things that you usually reserve for trusted old friends. We met up weekly until we had the babies, at which point she practically set up camp in my living room, both of us pacing the floor with hollow eyes and no idea of what to do with these horrible little bundles of puke. She was the only person who could tolerate my difficult, screaming baby in the back of her car, the only person who understood when I forgot the wet wipes at baby clinic and had to use a sock to wipe his bum instead, the only person who I knew wouldn't judge the dirt on my floor or my crazy post birth hormones. We supported each other through that miserable first year and beyond and I truly don't know how I'd have coped without her. All hail the lifer friend.
Well That Was Awkward:
There's this woman at Jolly Jilly's Sensory Musical Mayhem (which you've been to two miserable times because the other option is sitting in the house picking dried baby sick off the carpet again). You think you might get on with her because she once rolled her eyes at you when Jolly Jilly harmonized with everyone else during Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, so you bite the bullet and ask if she wants to meet up for a coffee. Turns out you have nothing to say to each other beyond "how are they sleeping", which isn't exactly a great conversation starter because her child has, of course, been sleeping through from 2 weeks old and "what growth centile are they on?" (nobody gives a kipper's dick). Awkward silences abound. Disappointingly, this is a platonic thing so you can't style it out with a low-cut top and a bit of flirting. If this was a proper date, she'd be getting a clumsy back slap instead of a kiss at the end of the night before you go to your respective homes, shuddering and muttering "lets never do this again."
The One Night Stand:
You meet at the park and chat idly while your kids clamber hazardously over the play equipment. Conversation progresses from the usual brain numbing small talk one reserves for these situations, and you spend a marvellous hour deep in the sort of witty repartee that makes you feel alive again. The kids are getting on like a house on fire. You talk about the arguments you've had with your husbands recently, you share tales of postnatal depression. Hell, you throw caution to the wind and tell her about your tricky episiotomy scar. She asks for your phone number. She never calls. You're left with that vaguely familiar feeling of having exposed too much of yourself too soon. At least you didn't have to do the walk of shame.
The Secret Liaison:
You go to this little toddler group where everyone seems nice. You like one of the mums better than the others and fancy meeting up without everyone else. However, organizing this is on a par with an SAS stealth mission. You know that if any of the other mums find out you'll be Talked About and they'll want to know why they weren't invited, so you agree to meet up somewhere that none of them are likely to be, then spend the entire time looking nervously around in case you spot one of them. At the next toddler group you live in fear of your child dropping you in it by mentioning the meet-up. This is the mum date equivalent of shagging someone in the broom cupboard. It is somewhat less exhilarating.
The One Whose Family You Don't Like:
You'd think that this wouldn't be an issue as Mummy Dating is blissfully free from toxic in-laws. It is though, because Mum Dates come with offspring attached. This woman is perfect: You get on well, feel comfortable in each other's company and always have loads to talk about, but their child is an obnoxious little beast who never stops whining and is generally hateful towards your own child. "But I don't want to play with Adolf*" weeps your poor, bloodied offspring. "Why do you make me be friends with someone who punches me in the face?" Because you're going crazy from lack of adult company and need to see his mother isn't going to cut it as a reason. It's just like Romeo and Juliet but with tea and cake and toddler violence and...OK, it's nothing at all like Romeo and Juliet.
The Total Dick:
"I've put on a bit of weight recently - these age 11 jeans are a bit tight at the moment. I must have been eating too many raisins." Who says that to someone they've just met? Who? Someone who is begging to be punched in the throat, that's who. Yes, that's a real quote. No, she didn't get the pleasure of my company again. Anyone who eats raisins for pleasure can knob right off.
Now that my son is coming up to the grand old age of 4, I find it easier to talk to other mums and have a small but perfectly formed selection of friends, all of whom ran the gauntlet of the mummy date with me way back when I met them. I tend to meet up with them on a one to one basis rather than as a group because I met them all in different ways. Some of them are the sort of people I'd always have been friends with way back in my life before kids. Some of them are people I'd never have stumbled across in a million years. All of them are highly valued. Not that one who never called me though. She's a cow. Never liked her anyway.
*Names may have been changed.