Biting My Pip

It’s about 2002 and I’m admiring myself in the passenger side wing mirror as I tap my Mackenzie trainers to Blazin’ Squad’s new banger, Cross Roads, I don’t notice mum’s judgement billowing over me in typhoon waves from the other side of the Corsa. My frizzy, mouse brown hair is sprayed back into a sleek bun and my cerise Mackenzie hoodie is zipped up to between my 28AAs, revealing the apex of a Tammy Girl ‘99% angel’ T underneath. I am the absolute epitome of coolness and I damn well know it. Then, out of absolutely nowhere, mum sticks a pin in that good mood.
‘Is the reason you have no confidence because I’m prettier than you?’
She looks totally innocent, satsuma orange face slightly turned toward me but green eyes on the road. The light shines through the window, catching the baby hair all over her face and I am reminded of an overly fluffy peach in both hue and texture. I focus on her hooked nose, the one weakness in her attraction arsenal. Unsure how to answer without offending her I kept my rollerball-glossed lips pursed. She continues, undaunted by my silence.
‘Because if that’s why you are refusing to get a boyfriend then that’s really silly. Yes, I’m prettier than you, but you’re clever and sometimes that’s better. I get the good looking ones, sure. All the boys at your brother’s school make comments about me and not you…but it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.’ She genuinely believes this. Firstly, mother darling, you never get the good looking ones. Secondly, the boys at school fancy the mums with massive tits, not your Dairy-Lea triangles and thirdly I’m actually not that insecure for a 14 year old girl. Like seriously, I know a girl who self-harms with her own door-knob! That’s insecurity.
‘No I’m fine. I just don’t want a boyfriend,’ I try to be glib so she doesn’t embarrass herself further thinking I am bothered. My cheeks have begun to glow rosy at her misplaced opinion of herself.
I blame Gordon for this new obsession she has with me getting a boyfriend. Gordon is Helen’s dad and he’s the most absolutely wonderful Scotsman you’ve ever met. Helen was a couple of years above me at school so, of course, we never socialised during the school era or she would have known to warn her father off encouraging any man-trap tendencies when liaising with mum. Alas, Gordon has not been forewarned and so, upon hearing that my behaviour is demonic and she is at her wits end, Gordon informs her that Helen was just the same when he split with her mother and she went off the rails until she met her boyfriend. Now she’s a different girl and back on the straight and narrow. (Helen was actually skiving off school, getting in detentions and being suspended all the time so Gordon’s ‘she was off the rails’ was justifiable while my mission at the time was to get through the Harry Potter series again before the newest book was published) Like a Venus Fly Trap, mum grabs this information with both hands and believes me getting a boyfriend will solve every problem in our entire lives, maybe even the world’s problems could be solved if I’d find myself a beau.
‘You’re gay aren’t you? Because if you are it’s fine. We’ll deal with it. But you are, aren’t you?’ She’s trying to be conciliatory but it feels too aggressive to be mollification.
‘No mum, for the last time, I’m not gay. I go to an all-girls school; I don’t know any boys and I don’t want a boyfriend.’ The subtext to this is that I can’t bear to be touched by anyone and I am washing my hands up to nine times per wash with bleach just because I’d begun to believe bad things will happen if I don’t. Not the basis for a strong childhood sweetheart relationship.
‘You’re letting him win by refusing to move past it, you know that don’t you?’ Oh wow, she’s really dipping into basement level desperation now and pulling out the big guns. She is alluding to the years of abuse I suffered at the hands of my step dad…the same step dad she forgave after just three weeks of finding out about this abuse and invited back into our home only to kick him out again a year or so later because he had radiotherapy hair.
‘Mum. I’m not gay. I like men. I just don’t like the men round here.’ Why am I trying to assuage her? This is all about her ego…what she really wants me to say is ‘yes mum, you’re so heart-stoppingly beautiful I find it intimidating as a fellow female knowing I’ll never match up,’ but I would never give her the satisfaction even if that were true…which it’s totally not – I swear! She’s a straight up 6/10 at best…inching into a 7 as a young woman.
‘You liked Darren,’ she presses on. ‘I never understood why that didn’t work out.’ Darren is the English middle-school version of a high-school jock except he is shit at PE because he is too cool to break a sweat and prefers doing stupid stuff like drawing penises on the Science desks in Tippex. The reason it didn’t work out is because we kissed at Sophie Bishop’s 13th birthday party and I literally went at his face like a guppy for a strong 30 seconds (it was my first kiss), surrounded by my entire year group. He didn’t want to kiss me again, accusations were thrown and we ended up hating each other. Well, I hated him and he forgot about my existence excluding the time where he threw chewing gum in my hair at an under-17s Liquid night.
‘I would smile over Darren’s rotting corpse, mum. I literally hate him.’ My retort isn’t my best work but she’s not clever enough to realise that.
‘He was too good looking for you anyway. You’ve got that plain-pretty thing; it takes a long time for people to take a good look at you and realise you’re not an ugly duckling.’ Unashamed and unabashed she continues to rip me to shreds and I know if I come for her, both arms swinging (metaphorically, obv!) it will be a vicious tirade of insults from which there will be no return. She takes my silence as an admission that I am ugly and seems satisfied she has won this particular battle I didn’t know I was fighting. I zip my Mackenzie hoodie up to the neck as I’m no longer feeling 99% angelic and imagine digging my nails into her freckled face and ripping it straight off her skeleton. The next time she speaks, the subject is changed and her tone is lighter and I am relieved she’s not talking about Darren anymore.
As an aside, years later I found out that she had in fact telephoned Darren’s mother at the time of our Year 7 break up, unbeknownst to me, and begged his mother to persuade him to take me back. She refused, he called me a ‘munter,’ which was a savage insult at the time and I never knew a thing about it. The cringe factor literally makes me pinch the bridge of nose in embarrassment.

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