I’ve just returned from a 2 week stint in South Africa – looking after my gorgeous nephew/godson, (5) and his equally gorgeous sister, (18 months) while their parents were away. I love them deeply and I’m more than a little melancholy I don’t get to see them as often as I would like. Which is funny, because I never wanted children of my own.

As a single, career-minded woman, I was happy to be the godmother/aunt/interested adult…as long as I could hand them back to their parents and go back to my own (semi-interesting) life.  Of course that all changed when the Tadpole (a.k.a. aforesaid nephew) was born, but I still had the luxury of hot-footing it back to corporate life and champagne-ville when it suited me. I quite enjoyed playing the role of not-so-wicked godmother!

Having learnt the entire theme song to Paw Patrol last week, along with reaching the dizzy heights of supercool stardom in Slugterra, I have also been reflecting on my role as an aunt and godparent. Parent– being the operative word.  It’s not something you prepare for. But damn…you need to be prepared.  For the questions, the challenges and the absolute clarity of a 5 year old.  For the high energy, instant requirements of a little 18 month old soul who is seeing things for the first time and demanding everything!

Which got me thinking.  In my other life, falling madly in love with The Belgian has also brought children into my life. They are not mine, but they are the most gorgeous boys. Two of them. When we first met, I was.. a single, career-minded woman happy to be the interested adult.  As long as I could hot-foot it back to corporate life and champagne-ville.  Of course that changed when The Belgian proposed. Suddenly, I faced the prospect of being a step-mother. I wasn’t prepared. I felt…wicked. In every sense of the word.

I hadn’t had kids of my own. How would I know what to do when they came home with bruised knees. Wicked!  There are loads of Brady-bunch type books on the market.  You know, the blended family, step-parenting-for-dummies publications that are totally – and I mean totally – geared towards those people who a) have been married before and b) are bringing their kids together. Eh?   What about me?   I simply could not relate. I wasn’t sure whether ‘stepmom’ was something I actually wanted. Even more wicked!  Yes, I am a single, career girl by choice. My career is still important to me, regardless of whether I do the school run or not. Wicked-er!  And yes,  of course I have never had kids so will probably not know how to parent.  Oh so, super-Wicked!

Nevertheless..I’m not half bad with small people, and despite my own misgivings, I will probably make a semi-cool parent. So far, I have presided over the funeral of the pet gerbil, given big hugs when disappointment strikes and taught the boys to love jelly and bacon.  I am prepared to take on someone else’s most precious possessions, along with their birth mother’s foibles. I am prepared to hug them, love them and make sure they are well-fed and watered.  I am there to tuck them in and cuddle them when they can’t speak to mom or dad. More importantly I am happy to spend my spare time, teaching them things they might not otherwise learn.  Getting them to make a perfect champagne-cocktail  however, might be some way off!

Hit and Ms…

Being one has never bothered me…but clearly my marital status is of great concern to people who really should know better. Perfect strangers and distant relatives all seem to think my private life is fair game. They labour under the misapprehension that being unencumbered must mean a) I’m deviant in some way or b) I’ve missed out or  c) I don’t mind intrusive personal questions.  Wrong on all three counts.

Them: Why aren’t you married?

At this point I have three possible responses depending on how riled I am, or how stupid they are…

Response #1:  Because I forgot!
Response #2:  Because George Clooney was unavailable last week!
Response #3:  Because in my spare time I sacrifice babies to the turnip god and shag elephants!

Or my other personal favourite…

Them: Is it Mrs or Miss?
Me: Actually, it’s ‘Ms’. There is no Mr B.
Them:…Oh…Are you a feminist?

For the record, ignoramus, ‘ms’ is the French abbreviation for Mademoiselle! It’s a bit more chic than ‘miss’. As a woman in my prime, ‘miss’ just seems a bit juvenile. Frankly I’m fed up answering rude questions about my love-life and deflecting wrongful assumptions about my sexuality, simply because I’m a modern gal.

This is annoying enough, but being one means you also have to deal with the unwelcome advances of neanderthal man.  You know, the type that frequents the end of the bar and spends his time wondering how women can resist his bald head and oversize beer belly as he wobbles to the slot machine. 

This was the conversation on a recent night out with friends at our local…

N-Man: Hi baby, wanna drink with me?
Me: The last person who called me baby left with his balls in a bag.  I don’t think so.
N-Man: Wassa matter, don’t you like me?
Me: No, you are ugly and your mother dresses you funny.
N-Man: Awww…come on, have a drink with me?
Me: No thanks, I’m not your type.
N-Man: Are you sure?
Me: Yes, I’m not inflatable!

And for the record, the distinguished chap who sent over a bottle of bubbly was the guy who scored the hit that night. Stupidity will never win fair maid, but champagne always might! 

Private view…

Tonight I was invited to a private view by a former client. A small and bespoke exhibition of ceramics and glass in the chichi part of Marylebone. Beautiful. Exclusive. Champagne and Canapes. Two of my most favourite pastimes.  As is customary for a girl about town, I walked into a room full of strangers. At least I had heels and matching underwear! I’m the shy and retiring type (yes, really!!) but I can usually do the business networking thing, so the evening was a cinch. Conversation flowed. Business cards were exchanged and… mine (being unusual) garnered particular comment.  All good.

Back on the highspeed home, I couldn’t help wondering about our own ‘private views’.  Those glimpses of ourselves that we allow other people. The thoughts we have in a solitary moment. The inexplicable joy we feel when no one is looking. The raw honesty that lives beneath our image in the morning mirror.  Since we aren’t Tracey Emin or Jeff Koontz these pictures of our psyche remain under the surface of our skin. In reality, most of us are not creating a persona to win the Turner prize.

These views are fleeting and rarely shared – only revealed to those we trust or love. Not the whole of us, but like an iceberg…a significant part of who we are. Sometimes nothing is stranger than being oneself. Perhaps if we invited others in, we would be surprised to find that what we conceal is most treasured.