Recently, I was out on an adult-only evening which involved completing a meal in its entirety, whilst simultaneously engaging in civilised conversation, when my very adult friend asked if I would like to join her new book club. A book club? [I scoffed]. Now there’s a laugh. Isn’t that where grown-ups meet on a regular basis to unlock the hidden depths and common threads running through mutually selected texts, whilst nibbling on fancy flavoured nuts and tippling on tiny tots of sherry? My very adult friend took a sip of her robust-looking red, whilst I choked on my neon-looking pop and declined her invitation promptly. Captain Underpants and the Attack of the Talking Toilets would be lost on her club.
I can read. That’s not the issue here. I’m all over Jacqueline Wilson, David Walliams and Julia Donaldsen. Jamie Oliver, Nigella and Claudia Roden are toilet-time favourites of mine. And when it comes to interpreting trash-mag, monthly horoscopes, I am a pro. But if truth be told, my very adult friend had struck a chord deep down inside me, where it seems I had been stifling a sadness that has been suffocating me silently for years. Shelves lined with book after book of every genre, from fiction, biography, art and languages, to reference, self-help, history and travel, had been taken over by giant peaches, marvellous medicines, big bad mice and flying super-heroes in oversized pants. Crinkly, tea-stained pages awash with age old annotations, scribbled secrets and highlighted words of wisdom, had been left un-thumbed for years, sandwiched between pocket-sized oompa loompas, love-sick beasts and handsomely proportioned Princes.
But it doesn’t stop there. An old friend recently questioned me on my writing career. Where had the blog bogged off to. Where was the much anticipated book I had promised to produce. Blog, book? [I spluttered]. Now here’s the thing. Surely a book requires hours of creative masterminding, reams of endless editing and the patience of an infinite number of Saints? The unforgiving silence on the other end of the phone was quite simply deafening. I blurted out my usual patter of excuses, shamefully defended my ineptitude and promptly hung up. It was becoming clear that a tongue-in-cheek blog post every six months wasn’t going to land me a billionaire book deal.
I can write. That’s for sure. As a seasoned FTM, I’m a whizz at correct letter-formation, spelling, punctuation and grammar. Shopping lists and reward charts display handwriting penned to perfection using the finest cursive precision. And when it comes to social media, I can type-write Whatsapp responses faster than the words can even formulate themselves. But what’s that to be proud of? Since turning myself over to full-time familial duties, it seems that I had become guilty of serious intellectual disengagement and mental neglect. And it had been creeping up on me in stealth.
So when confronted with the oh-so mature proposition of book-clubbing with contemporaries, my heart took a brief excitable flutter, before nose-diving sharply into my teacup and dissolving as fast as a battered old sugar cube. It was a stark reminder that I don’t read. And I don’t write. Apparently I don’t have time. In fact, as and when I do have some non-FTM leisure time , I don’t have the energy or mental capacity to read or write anything with more depth than toilet-hugging trash or absurd acrostic poems. And anyway, I have pants to press, bags to pack, lego to sort. Sound familiar? I was good at laying the excuses on thick. But could I really defend such idleness? How could I forgive such ignorance? Forget Diary of a Wimpy Kid. The title of this book should have read Diary of a Wimpy Mum. What a class “A” wimp I had become.
But before I hurl myself into a diatribe against the unrelenting and self-sacrificical nature of being an FTM, apparently all of the above is normal. And it comforts me to think that there are actually very few wonder-women out there who can seamlessly multi-task several small children, a man-child and herself, all in equal measure and have space for a life of her own. Super-mums who can successfully micro-manage an entourage of little people, against a husband with a better social life than herself, whilst still finding time to wash her hair more than once a week and poo in peace. Finally, it soothes me to know that I am not alone when it comes to ripping my clothes off in favour of a onesie as soon as the school-run is done and the count down to bed time has begun. This is real life. So forgive me for being an intellectual wimp these days, but a comatose evening on the couch watching mindless reality TV and eating a tub of Mini Heroes, sounds much more appealing than the billionaire book deal right now.
So, to my very adult friend, hell yes I’ll join your book club, but just as soon as I’ve written my very first book.
It might be a while.