I was attempting to pay for a light sabre at our local TK Maxx when I heard a voice exclaim ‘Mummy, are you wearing a mummy nappy?’
The voice came from nearby, and it was strikingly familiar. In fact it undeniably belonged to my son, wriggling around on his back by my feet.
‘Rufus, get up off the floor, now!’
‘Mummy, are you wearing a mummy nappy?’
‘Jeezus, just get up now, Rufus!’
‘But mummy, are you wearing a mummy nappy?’
‘For goodness sake, yes, Rufus, I am wearing a mummy nappy!’
Did I mention that I had been queuing up for 15 minutes, this being an indication of just how rammed said TK Maxx was at the time?
Did I also mention that it took me 72 precious hours to push this little truth teller through my lady bits?
And that during breast feeding training, the day after he finally decided to show up, a fellow mother blurted out in recognition of my voice ‘Oh, it was you who screamed like a woman possessed all that time!’
So it is with great humility that I declare that my dignity has long since left the building.
Which came in handy on a recent Wednesday afternoon when I was walking down the road and a van slowed down next to me.
‘Here we go,’ I thought, ’43 years old and she’s still got it! Look at these young lads lusting after the yummy mummy.’
Alas, their interest was purely in covering up my body parts rather than in uncovering them, for the words they uttered as they wound down the window were ‘Love, you’ve got your skirt tucked into your knickers.’
This made me wish that their 20-20 vision had been present the time I spent an hour on my pushbike at peak traffic riding through the leafy streets of West London into Marylebone, only to arrive at my destination realising that I had done so with my bum bared for all those frustrated drivers’ delectation (or otherwise), my skirt firmly tucked in to my underpants.
And the time I turned up for a viewing, fashionably late and struggling with the keys, when the lovely Indian gentleman quietly stated ‘Madame, your dress is tucked into your underwear.’ On further consideration I do hope that by calling me ‘Madame’ he was not insinuating that I had mistaken his request to check out the bedroom facilities one more time for something altogether different.
In fact knickers and I have a long and undignified past.
It all started at the age of seven with a pair of tights with a tendency to slide down my legs due to the elastic on them being so worn. As Simply Red famously sang, ‘Money’s too tight for tights’, which was why my mother cooked up another solution: a pair of her ‘granny pants’ (see Bridget Jones) for me to pull up on top of my straying pair of hosiery.
The system worked well giving young Monika the freedom to strut around without a permahold of the elastic around her waist. Until one day the PE the teacher walked into the classroom, twenty-four pairs of eyes on stalks intently focused on the pair of grey satin and lace granny pants balancing on the tip of her pencil, loudly stating: ‘We found these in the girls’ changing rooms. They look expensive. Who do they belong to?’
A lifetime’s supply of candy couldn’t have persuaded me to admit the proprietary status of this embarrassingly adult undergarment, and so it was with little pomp and fanfare that a pair of grey satin and lace ladies’ granny pants spent the best part of a year tacked on to the noticeboard of year 1, where they shone their satin glare next to the lunch menu and PE schedule.
It was September 1997 and I had just started in my new role as Communications Assistant at Xerox in Uxbridge, a one year placement during my Business Studies course at The University of Portsmouth. The Spice Girls were zig-a-zig-ahing all over the radio waves and their unique look had infiltrated the wardrobes of young ladies all over Britain, this including an unforgiving trend for super low waisted trousers and dresses with see through panels sewn in to the waist. As is the case with many fads, just because something is fashionable doesn’t make it altogether wearable. Which was how I found myself listening to my colleague Rachel shelling out the realities of being a fashion victim in the late 90s through the toilet wall that separated us: ‘Monika, I just don’t know how to get over the visible panty line situation when wearing low waisted trousers.’
‘Ah, Rachel. There is a solution for this: you simply do not wear panties!’
Triumphant at being able to give a friend this lifesaving advise I step out of my toilet cubicle to meet the stern gaze of my 40 something old boss, who, dissuaded by the Spice Girls’ brand of fashion sense looks me up and down and says: ‘I see you’re wearing a low waisted pair of trousers today, Monika.’
Like many phases in one’s youth my knickerless period thankfully lasted but for a breath, thus giving room for the following incident a mere year later:
It was a Tuesday afternoon at my friend Alex’s granddad’s flat. Alex lived there during university and I would regularly sleep over after a late night when granddad was away, which was often. Alex and I were getting our daily dose of Neighbours laced with cheese toasties and a cup of builders’, when in walks Alex’s granddad with the tiniest pair of lacy pink g-strings balancing on the tip of a pencil. ‘Monika, do these belong to you?’
My mind flashing back to that afternoon in first grade fourteen years prior I freeze, before realising that this moment right here is my opportunity for retribution. With the gravity of a soldier on trial I stand up and state: ‘Yes, granddad. The knickers belong to me.’