It was only a matter of time. I've been riding the wave of positive comments, compliments and encouragement for too long. There had to be a flipside, and today I experienced it.
After dropping The Cheeky One off at school, I trundled round in the hail and rain to the local free government Children's Centre to take Captain Bibble (boy number 3) to the play group. I was greeted by a friendly worker who asked if he had been before. I told her he regularly comes to the centre with his childminder but she didn't know him. The nice lady brought a clip board and registration form back and said, 'So he's here with Granny today then?'.
And there you have it. Granny. I mean WTF???!!!!! I told her I was, in fact, his mum and I saw her quickly do a visual reassessment of my body, clothes, face finally looking, frowning in fact, at my hair.
'Um, it wasn't me that said that!' She lied in a high pitched voice, 'it was one of them!' Waving her arm behind her vaguely at the group of snaggle toothed chavs in similar red tabards hanging about by the office.
'Is it my grey hair?' I asked, remaining fairly calm, kind of enjoying the squirming embarrassment of the woman.
'Hahahaha,' she laughed, 'I just re-dyed mine this morning! Hahaha, it's meant to be blonde. Hahahaha'
I walked away.
She then proceeded to follow me for an hour being VERY NICE and asking lots of questions about me and my family. I didn't really talk back. I took the time to look around the room. There were two other silver haired women there, probably 20 years older than me, and half the women there were probably my age or 5 years younger. The rest were all very young mums in their early 20s.
It made me realise that my cohort of mums, my contemporaries have all had our children relatively late. And for those of us who, shall we say, have a happy accident after we thought we were done, that last child does indeed make us an older mum. But I'd got used to the other mums I met a the school gate being my age or just a little younger, especially those with several children.
Does having grey hair REALLY make that much difference to people's perception? Well, yes, apparently it does. Bar the sick pleasure I got from making this slightly blundering lady feel uncomfortable, I spent that hour feeling very uncomfortable myself. What have I done? I thought. Why would anyone want to be instantly categorised as a 'granny' when they are only 42? I'm still mulling it over now.
But hang on a minute! I could very well be a granny. I could quite conceivably be a grandmother. I could have a daughter or son of 22 who has a child of 2. To be honest, there are some places round here where I could quite easily be a great-grandmother at 42 but that's another story...
I spent the rest of the time there talking with a fellow professional mum (not grey) about the usual work/life pressures which made me quite forget the incident until the end of the session. The centre manager brought a 'quick questionnaire' over for us to fill out.
'It'll only take a minute - there's not too much personal information for you to fill out.' She smiled.
The third question was 'how old are you?'.
My friend balked, 'Oh god! Do we have to say?'
'Sorry', smiled the centre manager.
I smiled back. 'One of your staff referred to me as a 'granny' earlier.'
'Oh I'm so sorry! I mean, well, you don't look like a granny! And it wasn't me!'
I continued to smile.
As I left, she shimmied over. 'I'm sorry someone upset you.'
'I really don't care. It's fine.'
'That's the spirit, rise above it!' She said waving us off cheerily.
Yup, rising above it.