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Monday, 23 November 2009

A Nasty Lady Told off My Girl

Recently, I took The Girl to a magical production of James and the Giant Peach at the Polka Theatre, Wimbledon. At one point, James thrust a giant, squashy peach coloured half blown up rubberised beach ball into the audience and we, the audience had to pass it back through the auditorium. Doesn't sound magical but it was. The atmosphere was as it should be, noisy and slightly chaotic. We sat at the back, so The Girl’s view was slightly inhibited by a family in front of us. The Girl asked the odd question and I whispered the answer in her ear. A few seats down, a boy shouted and shrieked with pleasure. And then just as Act Two was about to begin, The Girl asked what the safety curtain was and the lady in front of us turned round and said Shhh very loudly to her. I was so surprised I had a ‘no that didn’t actually happen’ moment. Then as we sat in silence the lady spun round again and snapped Be quiet! really angrily to my five year old child. For speaking before the curtain had gone up.

I was so shocked my throat stung. Don’t talk to my child like that, I snarled back. The show hasn’t even started yet. She spun round again, face a purple mask of anger-about-something-else-entirely. She TALKED in the first half so perhaps you might restrain her in the second!

So did half the theatre I said loudly. We're in a children's theatre remember? Rage was tearing through me. I would have happily punched her overly made up face with runway burgundy blusher streaks. She in turn looked at me with such hatred, I recoiled. The Girl took my hand, the lights went down and I sat in silence. The Girl was too nervous to ask any questions. I would have happily given five years of my life if the woman's head had exploded in front of me. I sat back in the darkening theatre trying not to cry. The Girl seemed fine. James and the Giant Bitch.

On the way home, I talked to The Girl about what had happened. That the Nasty Lady had no right to speak to my girl like that. She looked at me thoughtfully. And she was fat she said cheerfully.

Where the bloody hell had that come from? Among my many parental crimes and misdemeanors, sizeism is not one of them. I absolutely don't want The Girl to become infected with the horrible body fascism that defines our culture. Probably naive but you can make a start by not whining about your own weight or referring to it in other people. So I launched into my Guardian Lecture about how we were all different shapes and sizes and it didn’t matter. What mattered was that the lady had been rude and nasty.

She was fat repeated The Girl. I didn't laugh. But I did smirk. Then I changed the subject. What is it that money can't buy? Erm, love? Friends? Happiness?

The Girl thought for a minute. Leaves she said. I do love her.

1 comment:

Helen P said...

Jane - although I didn't recognise the situation (never been in it at the theatre with my own children, thank God), I do recognise that gut-clenching feeling of total all consuming hideous hate for someone who makes a totally misguided judgement of your child (I think mine might have been in Sainsbury's). Part of me wishes you had just punched that woman so you made her head explode. And your daughter sounds lovely!
HOWEVER - years ago hubby and I slunk into Wimbledon Theatre (when we lived there and before our chicks were born) to see the Snow Queen. We were on the back row, wishing we'd borrowed someone else's kids as we were surrounded by little ones, when a six or seven year old sitting next to us suddenly stood up and shouted "She's their mother!" Most of the audience just fell about laughing; there wasn't one accusation of 'keep your child quiet' which makes me think that adult's manners are just not what they used to be twenty years ago. Personally, I'd ban all adults from performances if children are in the audience - unless you can prove you don't mind if children actually join in and enjoy themselves!