travel with me from SAHM to working mum….
People are always telling me how wonderful other people they know are. My reaction, secretly, is ‘oh yeah’. This isn’t because I’m jealous that they’re not calling me wonderful, amazing or talented (obviously I am soooo confident that I already know this is true) but because it always reminds me of a passage in Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” (Chapter 8). Mr Bingley says: “I am sure I never heard a young lady spoken of for the first time, without being informed that she was very accomplished.” Darcy replies: “The word is applied to many a woman who deserves it no otherwise than by netting a purse, or covering a skreen.” Miss Bingley then proceeds to list the numerous talents which the truly accomplished young lady should possess to which Mr Darcy adds reading to broaden the mind. Elizabeth wonders that they know any accomplished women at all, judged by these rules.
I’m with Mr Darcy. My ‘oh yeah’ covers a range of thoughts including: not knowing the other person, not trusting the judgement of other people, thinking that some of these rushing around, having/doing it all people are medically ill, ok envy, an under-appreciation of others’ skills; though mainly: ‘but I know someone better…’
Many of us have every day friends, people we co-incidently share the same space with, be it at work, school, dropping our kids off. We have friendly acquaintances and sometimes we’re lucky to live near our closest friends. As we go through life, particularly if we’ve moved around a lot, we meet people who we genuinely connect with but rarely see. When we do, we take up exactly where we’ve left off, almost like there’s some chemistry at work. I have fewer than a handful of friends like this, and I adore them because I am in awe of how wonderful and truly, amazingly talented they are. One I have already mentioned in this blog – Cool at 40? Today I will mention another.
I met my friend at ante natal classes. Are there some people who you can remember the first time you saw them? Well I remember her. She walked in with this dreamy look on her face, she looked so calm and other-worldly compared to all the other neurotic middle-class South London mums-to-be. I don’t recall in detail what she was wearing, but she had on these shoes. Usually shoes, jewellery, new hair styles pass me by, but this woman had high-heeled mules on. Not the spike-heeled ornaments that pass for shoes this decade, we’re talking 90’s fashion, but high enough for me to notice and be impressed by when worn by an 8 month pregnant woman. She just looked so comfortable in her pregnancy, her shoes, herself.
We got chatting and swapped numbers. When a group of us decided to meet up for coffee and support as we neared our drop dates, although she wasn’t at the group that day, I made sure she came along too. And that was it for a whole intensive 2 years. Those friends you make at such an impassioned, emotional time of your life are very special. Sometimes the experience is too intense and friendships erupt in a volcano of recrimination, at other times you have made a friend for life, or it’s possible to just drift apart.
My friend went back to work after a year’s sabbatical. From the outside it looked seamless. A bright, personable lawyer, she appeared to float from competent professional to caring homemaker and back with ease. Sporty, musical, cultured, party animal… a modern woman. I’m sure it wasn’t as easy as she made it look, but I hope it was. This sounds like there’s going to be a sad conclusion and it’s true that my friend decided to return to her native New Zealand taking baby and husband to start a new life near her crazy half-Moari family. I thought I would never see her again. But within six months we were also on our way Down Under, a mere 3 hours flight away in Sydney. In 6 months we met up 3 memorable times. I met her brand new baby and we reconnected. I was in awe again at her calm, can-do approach to life.
And now she lives back here. Another baby, a fantastic job in a hedge fund, a runner, footballer, singer, but most of all a warm and funny person. On a girlie weekend away, while playing a silly drunken game, I once wrote that she was ‘a good laugh, my highest praise.’ Well, life changes us all, and I value other skills just as highly now, but she is still that, and much, much more. And I will never forget that when I told her I always wanted to be a writer, she didn’t laugh, but offered encouragement.