This week my daughter had a school reading book about Steve Fossett’s attempts to circumnavigate the globe in a hot-air balloon (you guessed it – it’s from the same child-unfriendly series as ‘Food as Art’, which I ranted about some weeks back. Plus it’s a bit out of date – it ended, ‘What do you think Steve’s next adventure will be?’ To which the answer is, of course, ‘Crashing his plane into the Nevada desert. And dying.’)
Anyway, my daughter declared she couldn’t quite believe what Steve Fossett had achieved, given that he is really, really old, and old people ‘just sit in their rocking chairs all day long.’ Cue a long chat about why we shouldn’t stereotype people according to age, appearance, etc, after which she demonstrated her grasp of this sensitive issue by telling me, ‘When I saw that really old woman in the swimming pool on Sunday [this was an active sixtysomething Gran, splashing about with her grandson] I wasn’t scared.’ She pulled a sad face. ‘I just felt sorry for her.’
Naturally, she finds me physically repellent, too.
[Daughter:] ‘Beyonce’s prettier than you, isn’t she, Mummy?’
[Me:] ‘I should think so, darling. She’s gorgeous.’
[Daughter:] ‘Little Boots. Who sings ‘New in Town’. [That info was added for my benefit. She’s five and she’s already twigged I’m too ancient to know who most pop stars are.] ‘She’s prettier than you, isn’t she, Mummy?’
[Me, smiling beatifically:] ‘Yes, she is.’
[Daughter:] ‘Lady Gaga – she’s prettier than you, isn’t she, Mummy?’
[Me, realising that at 41 I can’t even compete with a woman who wears a giant telephone on her head:] ‘Are you going to list EVERY pop star who’s better looking than Mummy? Because we’re going to be here a very long time…’
It’s payback time for me. As a child, I had a monstrous ego. For the first few years of my life, I honestly thought everyone else in the world was a robot. I can still remember on my own mother’s 40th birthday, giving her a tear-stained lavender notelet in which I’d written, ‘I wouldn’t care if you were 140’. Notice how I began that sentence with the first-person singular. Yes, it was all about ME. I hope she realised her ageing was damaging my psyche. Bitch!