I have seen some distasteful sights in my three months out of BabyLand. The portrait, for example, my Father painted of me having discovered a previously hidden interest in art. ‘But you complain if you have to so much as give the fence a quick lick of varnish,’ said Mother, surprised, when Father had proudly announced his idea to capture my image for posterity. Father had shrugged. ‘I was pretty good at drawing at school,’ he’d retorted in the face of her disdain. ‘And I’d quite like to do something special for her, y’know, something that she can hang on her wall when she’s grown-up.’ Well, all I can say is that the only place the resulting masterpiece will be hung is inside a rubbish bin; Father’s artwork was massively insulting to me. One, my head is not anywhere near as big as Father’s outrageous representation, and two, my eyes are not somewhere back near my ears. It’s a good job I am a confident baby, otherwise I might have been hugely upset by Father’s ‘work.’ Mother tried to be positive but even I knew she was appalled: ‘If people ask, we’ll tell them that you were drunk when you did it.’
And if that wasn’t bad enough, a recent outfit that Mother had chosen for me had been horrendous. Pink, fluffy, sparkly and with layers of layers of fabric that made me look like a giant marshmallow. ‘What a cutie,’ cooed Mother gently. ‘You look so fab. I just love your outfit!’ ‘If you like it so much then you blooming wear it!’ I’d spat angrily. I was just grateful that there had been a very timely and well-aimed projectile vomiting incident later on that day.
But these memories, these scenes, paled into insignificance now when compared to the one before my eyes. It was Mother and Father, moving with abandon, stepping over each other’s feet, losing time with the beat of the song and showing no sense of any rhythm whatsoever. I had seen my parents dance before, of course, but this had always been for my benefit, their exaggerated movements designed to garner my pleasure. But this time was different; those moves were serious, meant to impress the assortment of people crammed into this noisy room. I would have liked to have been able to put my head in my hands but with my neck muscles still wanting, and my coordination a little lacking, I had no choice but to stare at the pair of them in horror and wait for the nightmare to be over.
‘Ah it’s lovely to see the young ‘uns enjoying themselves,’ suggested Grandma, nodding in the direction of Mother, who was shuffling backwards then forwards as if she needed the toilet, and Father whose efforts were obvious from the sheen of sweat covering his face.
I looked up at her from my position on her lap. There was so much to correct her on. ‘Firstly, Mother and Father can, in no way, shape or form, be described as youthful. They are extremely ancient in my eyes. Secondly, it is not nice to watch people enjoying themselves when those people happen to be related to you and are therefore clearly humiliating you.’
As ever, my remark came out as a scream – this was really getting on my nerves now. How can I have such erudite and considered thoughts in my head but nothing but babble come out of my mouth?
‘She’s tired,’ announced Grandma confidently to Grandad. I had never seen Grandad looking this happy. Beside him were several empty glasses and one half-full of a yellow liquid that he kept sipping enthusiastically. I wondered what was putting him in such a good mood; I suspected it was my company. I tend to have that effect on people.
‘She’ll go to sleep in a minute,’ added Grandma assuredly.
But I had no intention of snoozing off, how could I, after all with that noisy music playing so loudly. My eyes returned to the floor, reluctantly, where Father was now spinning Mother round. Mother looked as if she was going to fall over but bravely managed to retain her poise if not her dignity; that had been lost quite some time ago and I doubt she would ever be getting that back.
Still, if Mother and Father were embarrassing, then they weren’t alone. There were several other people alongside, shaking and stepping and jumping and twisting, and in one unfortunate incident, falling over. Without fail, every single one of them was smiling beatifically, as if they were having the best time imaginable. How bizarre, I mused, to find so much entertainment in making an utter fool of yourself. But then, this whole day had been rather odd.
It had started with our unusual choice of attire. I had been dressed, after some resistance, in a rather delicate pink dress made up of several layers and covered with a sweet flower pattern. As someone who prefers the comforting embrace of a soft Babygro, or a relaxed tracksuit, affording easy movement, I wasn’t impressed and I let my feelings known. Usually, a good kick around, a few screams and attempts to wriggle off the changing mat result in me getting my own way, but not on this occasion. ‘Sorry darling,’ said Mother, through gritted teeth. ‘But you’ve got to look nice today.’ Later, it struck me that she was perhaps indicating with this comment that I didn’t usually look nice. I duly expressed my annoyance, but I don’t think Mother made the connection with her earlier faux pas.
I wasn’t the only one forced to wear something they didn’t want to, by the looks of Father’s expression. His suit, it had to be said, looked as if it was suffocating his body with its tightness. ‘For goodness sake,’ hissed Mother. ‘What do you look like? When was the last time you wore that? Your school disco?’ Father did what he always did and pretended he couldn’t hear. I have to admit, Mother looked rather pleasant. She had brushed her hair and was wearing a red dress. I haven’t seen her in a dress before and I couldn’t help but think she looked softer than she does normally in her skinny jeans or her pyjamas.
I had no idea where we were going but the next time I woke up – that damn car seat, tricking me to sleep as usual – we were in a large room, decorated with flowers, tinkly music playing in the background. In the distance I could see a man in a suit – fortunately better fitting than Father’s – and a lady in a tight, white dress. I wondered how she was managing to move around in it; it seemed to be gripped tightly round her top if the protruding bumps were anything to go by.
I dislike waking up in surroundings unknown to me. It makes me short-tempered, as I think it would most people; not knowing where on earth you are can be quite disconcerting. I did what I always do and I let out a massive scream which reverberated impressively in the hollowness of the ceiling and came out significantly louder than I intended. Everyone turned to look at me, eyes from front, back and to the sides of me. ‘What?’ I snapped angrily. Mother looked mortified and Father wore his usual I-don’t-have-a-clue-what’s-happening expression. ‘Well,’ announced the lady at the front holding a big book. I hadn’t noticed her before. ‘Well,’ she continued. ‘I think we’ll just presume that’s not an objection, in spite of the tone.’ The people in the chairs surrounding us laughed heartily. I didn’t get the joke.
Shortly afterwards, we were getting ready to exit the room behind the new ‘husband and wife’, as apparently they were, when a rather unfortunate mishap occurred. Mother had spent the entirety of the ceremony we had just endured feeding me. I knew what she was up to. When I get a little more vocal than usual, perhaps in circumstances where she wants me to be quiet (I know her better than she thinks) then she buys my silence through the use of milk. Of course, I’m not going to argue with that. Only, as we were leaving, I realised that I had taken on board a little more food than I could accommodate and sadly a large part of it ended up over the lady in front. ‘This is silk,’ she said in a cold, stern voice as the vomit dripped off her sleeve. ‘Sorry,’ squeaked Mother whilst Father rubbed away at the sick with his dirty hanky, only stopping when the lady slapped his hand away….
‘And then there was the time when….’ I wondered if the man would ever stop talking. He had been going for what I imagined to be a good eight hours but Father had reassured Mother it was only half an hour. It seemed quite odd to me. He had outlined every aspect of the life of the lady in the tight dress who I now knew as the bride. He was so boring that Grandad had fallen asleep at least three times, only to be woken by a sharp elbow in the side by Grandma. I didn’t blame him. I wished that I could doze off too – his real-time description of the bride’s attempts at ice-skating aged seven had been perhaps the dullest moment of my young life so far.
At last the man fell silent (I think someone switched his microphone off) and it was over to the man in the suit who I now knew as the groom. ‘I’ll keep it brief,’ he said, earning sighs of relief from his guests. ‘Just to say, you aren’t just the love of my life, you are my life,’ a comment which earned lots of ‘aaahs’ and ‘oooohs,’ especially from the old ladies, of which there were many. Personally, I didn’t get it; it was completely nonsensical. I glanced across at my parents, expecting them to share my confusion but they didn’t seem to. In fact, they weren’t looking at the bride and groom but at each other, holding hands. And then Father kissed Mother on the head. I shuddered. I thought this to be quite gross…
‘C’mon party people, up on the floor.’ The man behind the flashing lights, who seemed to be operating the music, was getting increasingly on my nerves. I would have preferred people to ignore his orders just to annoy him but sadly they didn’t and were throwing themselves across the room with a total disregard for health and safety. I wondered if this was what happened when you got older; if overnight you ceased to be able to’ move your limbs in a coordinated fashion to music.
‘And now, the bride and groom,’ boomed the annoying man, and everybody else cleared out of the way to make way for the lady and man who, it had to be said, were looking rather more dishevelled than before. The bride’s white dress appeared to have sprouted various stains, and the groom’s jacket and tie had gone missing in action. The groom pulled the bride towards him, extremely closely, and they circled around the floor slowly. They kept slobbering over each other, earning adoring glances from the crowd. Not from me though. I thought it was disgusting.
‘Look darling,’ urged Grandma. ‘One day, this will be you and your new husband.’
I flinched at this outrageous suggestion. How dare she. One thing of which I am sure is that I am never having a husband. It must be horrible to have someone stuck by you all the time, constantly talking to you and kissing you. I was absolutely confident that this vow I made now, at three months old, was one that I would honour for the rest of my life. It would be a bachelorette life for me.