The most extraordinary thing happened at the shops the other day. Liability had gone AWOL as usual and I was hobbling after her along the parade, weighed down with a bag from the butchers, a bag from the greengrocers, a nice bag of ginger parkin from the bakers, and a bunch of flowers tucked under one arm – it’ll never catch on, this boycotting the supermarkets, you know – when a man suddenly stood in my way.
A man with a brown leather blouson on, which clearly indicates that he hasn’t got what the Lawyer terms a “proper job”. The very fact he was handing out leaflets at 11am on the high street confirms, alas, all my husband’s prejudices.
Only the man didn’t seem to be handing them out to me – a surprise that, as the woman of conscience generally has to leave one hand free in town to collect a fistful of flyers and delve for Big Issue change. I could see doubt in the man’s eyes as he looked me up and down, and I began that clumsy street ballet that gets one to the side of someone in the way. Peering over his hands, meanwhile, to find out what teenage accessory shop or sweaty nightclub I was deemed too old to frequent, the man then appeared to make a decision. He thrust a piece of paper at me, printed one side only (“Poor shop warning!” the Lawyer would shout at this point.) Instinctively, I clutched it, turned it over, and read: “Big Momma in Fashion – sizes 16 to 38”. My first thought was a very rude word indeed.
Later on, I took some comfort in his moment of doubt, but the fact is that he gave me a leaflet for big women. Liability and I spent the afternoon in front of the mirror in my bedroom, making lips with our tummy fat. Only Liability found it funny. Later on, a filling fell out of my tooth. “You’re coming to bits, mummy!” said Liability, gazing at the dirty metal chunk in awe. “Will I fall apart when I get as old as you?”
“Is it stress?” I asked the Lawyer on his return from work. He fixed me with a bloodshot gaze, the whites of his eyes covered with tiny red snakes after three late nights on the hoof trying to close a deal, and snorted. It is pointless trying to convince the Lawyer that anyone who could watch Richard and Judy of a morning out of choice would know the meaning of stress, and so I turned stiffly to sorting out the piles of paper that accumulate on the mantelpiece over the course of a week, trying to show him that my work never ceases, even if it’s nowhere near as glamorous as sitting in meeting rooms for four hours at a stretch crossing words off fifth-draft agreements.
“Feeling fat?” shouted a full-colour leaflet for the local gym. “Feeling stressed? Is your eating up? Or are you just fed up?”. The leaflet showed a picture of a lovely instructor called Pete, only slightly pockmarked about the cheeks, raising an equally lovely instructor called Julie above his head, both grinning madly, with Julie swishing her long blonde hair about the place.
Normally, I would snort the eloquent “beauty is within and even Teresa Anderson, the prettiest girl in my school, ended up working in the fishmongers” sort of snort that generally gives one so much comfort, but not tonight. I rang the gym. “How about Thursday?” they said. “We’ll show you round and work out an exercise programme for you. We could give you Julie or Pete that day.”
“Oh, Pete,” I said. “Definitely. Give me Pete.”