Discover more from Life Litter
Think of the most awkward encounter you can
Then double it.
Well, it happened again.
Another person asked if Joel is my son.
Joel is my boyfriend, to be clear. Not my son.
I say “again” because this was not the first time it’s happened.
The first time was last summer, back in the heady days when I was 36 and Joel 28. We were still pretty new to the village and no one knew us. To remedy this, a kind neighbour asked us to a garden party — the same one who you may recall also invited us to a fancy dinner party.
I know, the Cotswolds eh? It’s all garden parties and dinner soirees. (Not really: those are literally the only two we’ve been to.)
We turned up at the party in the garden, along with my actual son (age 7 at the time).
The hostess was effusive in her genuine delight we had come. “I’m so glad you could make it!”
Kind, warm and welcoming, she turned to Joel.
“And is this your son?”
(Actual representation of me, as a human-sized emoji making precisely that face.)
I was actually able to laugh at the time. I convinced myself it was a one-off.
Sure, Joel looks young but, like, not young enough to be my son! It’s just because he has a young face! He can’t really grow a beard! He still gets carded when he buys booze! And matches! You have to be 16 to buy matches! So someone thinks he might be 15!
Hahahhahaha. Let’s move on.
Anyway, cut to the pub last night and someone introduced me to a neighbour who I’d actually met before, last summer when I was out in the garden and we got chatting.
He leaned in politely to initiate the conversation and reminded me that we’ve already met.
I indicated Joel, my hand on his (Joel’s) knee.
Have you met Joel?
Freeze-frame of a car crash, in slow motion and with each syllable resonant. His mouth formed the dreaded words.
“And Joel…. is your…… son?”
I’m not sure who was more upset and mortified during the fallout from this incident.
I suspect it may have been him — although two days later, I did have a mate check in with me, just to, you know, see how I’m doing and to make sure I’m holding up ok and paying it no mind.
Now, to be very clear, Joel is 29 and has three kids. I would need to be about a quarter my age again to be his mum.
I don’t really care if anyone thinks Joel is my son — but I do care (very much) if people think I could be his mother. Do you see the distinction? I’m in my thirties. I don’t want to look like the mother of a 29 year old. I know I’m not supposed to care, but I do care. I don’t want people to think I look like an old bag.
At parent’s evening, a little girl said to me “hi old lady”, which stung a tad until I remembered she is four and my son, at 8, is basically an adult to her. By this calculus, I am definitely an old lady.
Then, I got wolf whistled at in the car park of The Range in Cheltenham. Most middle-aged catcall ever but never mind. I’ll take it.
She’s still got it, I whispered to myself.
The question remains then that, if it’s not (entirely) because I look like an old bag and not (entirely) because Joel has the face of a twelve year old, is it just because we don’t fit neatly into the to-be-expected older man/younger woman dynamic?
If I was a 37 year old bloke with a 29 year old girlfriend, no one would bat an eye, much less ask if she’s my daughter. Would they? Of course they wouldn’t. It would never be remarked upon, certainly not in a negative context.
It doesn’t matter though. My friend Helen has the solution.
“Next time, you just look them dead-straight in the eye and say ‘yup, and we have sex all the time’. Then stick your tongue down his throat.”
She’s right, of course.
That is the answer, and I will be putting it into action forthwith.
The most upsetting thing, though, is how certain she is that there will be a next time.