The Sticky Embrace

I’ve never done anything as quintessentially female as this in my life. Any fool could have got him/herself a wedding dress, for goodness’ sake. And yes, I do sing quite high, but so do grotty little boys with scabby knees. Being with child, however, with very few exceptions in humankind, is entirely, earthily feminine. I’m blossoming, like the spring. Developing young hillocks.

The only problem is that I’m such an old bag. I’m in pretty good health for my age – hey, I seem to be functioning – but there’s very little of youthful bloom about me. I’ve got friends of about my age with grown-up children! Who were born when I was younger than they are now! Cripus. I feel rather less like this


than this


However, from everyone else’s point of view, that doesn’t really seem to matter. The other day I went to get my hair cut. I haven’t got a complicated haircut. My hair’s dead straight and rather fine, and it won’t grow long, and it works out better if I pretend that’s the way I wanted it. So I have it sliced off at jaw level. It should really only take a couple of strokes of the shears.

But when I left I saw that I’d been in there over an hour!

My first reaction was one of Puritan guilt. Hadn’t I got Stuff to Do? And.. surely I’m not the kind of woman who spends hours in the hairdressers? What on earth had happened to me?

I’d been welcomed into a feminine embrace, of course. Everyone in there was really happy to talk about all the pregnancies they’d known, how big the bumps were at given points, how the mothers had fared, etc. Whether they, the young girls of Psyche Hairdressing, thought they might have children themselves (yes, of course) and when (not now – not until they were twenty-two or so). I probably encouraged them to talk. I was enjoying my moment in the spotlight, enthroned like a pot-bellied Buddha, surrounded by women wanting to celebrate my fecundity.

Likewise, the mothers among my family and friends really wanted to take me with them. I understand that there is a wardrobe of maternity clothes which have been passed from woman to woman in my generation; they’re knocking around Hull at the moment, and when I get a bit bigger I will be entitled to claim them. Passing things on is rarely just about generosity, is it? Sometimes it’s a sort of statement of solidarity. The passed-on possessions carry an implication of shared identity. It would be simpler to give the clothes to Oxfam, but that wouldn’t help to reinforce the maternal group hug. Maybe that’s why you don’t find that many maternity clothes in charity shops.

Curiously, therefore, despite being described as “elderly” for the first time in my life, I’m also, for the first time in my life, defined as a woman not by how old I am but by what I’m doing. And there is something really quite hopeful about that.