Friday, November 04, 2005

Pigeonholing and first impressions

I’VE had a few occasions lately where it’s like deja-vu and I am back to when the young wan was a baby and people are looking at me like I am an incompetent single parent.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not a wildly paranoid person but there have been instances where this judging has definitely been the case and as such it has always been very important for me as a mother to show that people’s perceptions are often wrong and badly misguided.

I suppose that’s why I have warmed to the characterisation of Vicky Pollard on Little Britain. I am sure it is very funny, I am sure that there are people who ‘fit’ that description and character.

Though while I know of quite a few single parents, it’s funny that none resemble Vicky Pollard.

As my baby has grown up, so have I and I no longer look like the young teen mother I looked before, even though I had her at 21 but was ehm blessed! by looking younger.

I would reckon that in 100 cases where I feel judged I am right 60 per cent of the time, the rest it is myself who needs a kick in the arse.


However I wouldn’t have always felt paranoid, circumstances and people’s reactions or comments or looks, whatever, have made me feel that way over time.

As I get older the more I come to the conclusion that I do not or should not care what people think, if they are wrong, that’s the bottom line, they are wrong.

I’ll give you an example or two.

When the young wan was about six months old, I had been feeling off all week and had put off going to the doctor as it cost £20 at the time (I think, it now costs €40) and earning only £100 a week of which £45 went to a crèche and £17 went on rent. So as you can imagine rushing to the doctor at the drop of a hat or a sniffle just wouldn’t happen.

I felt ill for a couple of days without getting better then about three days into it, so did my wee baby. So off we went to the doctor.

The doctor ignored me, it was almost like ‘you’re old and ugly enough to take care of yourself’ and tended to my baby.

At the end of the day I was more worried about my daughter so fine, work away Dr Dismissive!

However then she started to speak VERY, V.E.R.Y S.L.O.W.L.Y saying ‘y.o.u.r d.a.u.g.h.t.e.r h.a.s a s.o.r.e t.h.r.o.a.t’.

I looked at her blankly, then puzzled and said, ‘ehm I K.N.O.W isn't that why I brought her in?”

Then I dropped in the fact that earlier in the morning I had already spoken to my brother ‘the doctor’ for advice.

It is ridiculous but I needed to do that on a number of occasions just to try and dispel whatever nonsense was being thought, and sometimes it worked. Isn’t that disgraceful?

Or there is the time that I sprained my finger and the next day it was as painful off the young wan and I went to the A&E of our local hospital.

She would have been about six at the time with manners and consideration that would put you all to shame.

We sat and waited while another child who was with his mum and dad ran riot all over the place.

As it was busy, if someone needed to sit down, the young wan would jump up and give them her seat before landing on my knee.

A matron or something kept firing me dirty looks, which I duly ignored. Then she came over and informed me the seats were for patients and I replied I know which is why my daughter is giving up her seat when someone needs it.

The matron ignored the tearaway who was sprawling over seats unchecked by his parents and asked me to control my daughter before asking could I not send her home as an A&E department is no place for a child.

I replied I can hardly give her the keys to the flat and tell her to walk the 20 minutes home and let herself in and sit quietly until I returned, though she would.

I also told the Matron to look around a bit better and she would see that in actual fact the only child that she should be watchful of was the other one, not mine.

Do not get me wrong, if my child was being bold, I would be the first to chastise her, but she never was, she did what she was told.

However, the upshot was, she obviously did not believe me and I was seen to by a doctor within 10 minutes, skipping the queue, just so this Matron could get the two of us out of there. Work away Matron, fantastic.

Instead of a three-hour or so wait, we were back home in no time leaving the bold child to run riot all over the shop. Serves the Matron right!

So as we have both gotten older this prejudice (and it is) is not as frequent but it still happens and happens too often for my liking.

However, I do know the problem is not with me, not at all, the problem is with people who think they know me or my circumstances or whatever when they blatantly do not.

If I am being honest I am as guilty at times of jumping to conclusions, weighing up a situation wrong, misjudging people or having a very wrong first impression.

I had a great one the other day. There is a mad woman who drinks in a local pub and she is mad. She is older and made up like a madly, made-up thing, she flirts with all the men, she’s loud and did I say mad.

When I met the lovely man the other night for a drink, he was sitting finishing the Irish Times simplex crossword.

She saw him, came over and said in a broad Dublin accent how she had one left to do and maybe he could help her out. Only she had nearly done the cryptic and was stuck on one clue, which I am delighted to say I finished for her.

The point is that in all my first impressions of her, tackling the Irish Times Cryptic crossword wasn’t one of them. I haven’t finished one, and if I am honest it has even been years since I started one.

I just love it when my misguided first impressions are swept away by one thing, making me reassess my own prejudices. If we are not open to that, we are a shower of shits.

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