As my Granny would have said, he’s ‘walking out.’
A delightful phrase – which doesn’t mean that our youngest son is leaving home. It does mean that he has a girlfriend.
And ‘walking out’ is exactly what he’s doing.
“I’m just going for a walk.”
“I’m just popping out for an hour.”
“Just going into town. Can you give me a lift?”
We smile and say “that’s fine” and maybe we reach for the car keys. And then we have a talk with him…
No, no, not that talk. What do think the internet is for?
“Look, this is madness. You don’t have to go out and freeze in the cold. Bring her home, just introduce us, go up to your bedroom. We don’t bite. We’re perfectly normal.”
Ben smiles enigmatically. He’s heard this twenty times before. But we’re parents: hard-wired to repeat ourselves. He smiles again – they’re elderly, they can’t remember being young – and disappears into the cold.
“Madness,” I say again, as I artfully multi-task by turning the TV on and filling my wine glass at the same time.
“He’ll bring her home when he’s ready,” Jane says.
He will. The question is, will we be ready?
The nightmare scenario unfolds in front of me…
The front door opens. It’s Ben. And he’s not alone. He’s taken us at our word: finally admitted it’s too cold for love’s young dream. But why didn’t he warn us?
“Dad, this is Chloe. Chloe, this is my Dad. The one on the sofa watching football. Who hasn’t shaved for three days and who’s hurling abuse at the TV because his team is losing. Who’s just finished the red wine and – judging by the fact he’s wearing tracksuit bottoms – had a large plate of cheese to go with it…
…And this is my Mum. Who’s wearing her dressing gown and drinking gin because she was absolutely convinced I’d stay out in the cold.”
At which point Chloe tells Ben she’ll be ‘washing her hair’ for the foreseeable future. And we rehearse the ‘plenty more fish’ speech.
Nope, if your son or daughter is bringing someone home for the first time you need some warning. And you need to do your research…
“What does she like to eat?”
“Will she be OK with the dog?”
And – most importantly, according to my wife – “Is there anything your Dad shouldn’t say?”
The last time we were in this position was five years ago. Jessica was about to arrive with her first serious boyfriend: well, the first serious boyfriend I’d been told about. And here – not for the first time in my life – I must confess to the words ‘hypocrite’ and ‘stereotype.’
Relaxed about my daughter’s first boyfriend? Yes, of course I was relaxed about it. As relaxed as the Spanish Inquisition.
“So what’s he do?” I demanded of my wife.
“Duh. He’s still at school.”
“What’s he want to do?”
“Be a musician.”
“What? What sort of career is that? Do we know his parents? Where’s he live? What exams results is he going to get? What do you mean you don’t know? She’s our daughter…”
My wife told me to relax. She told me to relax about 618 times.
Whereas with Ben, I am relaxed. I know Chloe’s name. Well, her first name. I have a vague idea of the A-levels she’s doing. And that’s it.
Clearly I’m older and wiser. Or maybe Ben just won’t tell me anything…
“What’s she like?”
“Yes, yes. But what do you like about her?”
“I like spending time with her.”
“Well what – ”
But it was no use. My son smiled, and went walking out. Again…
My apologies for the late publication of this post: as you’ll see when ‘Poor, Brave Soldier’ is published, keeping the blog updated has been the last thing on my mind…