There are many things I don’t want to become, but top of my list is “cool mum”. Cool mum who sits up smoking with her 12-year-old and his friends who call her “bro”; cool mum who shares her make-up and relationship failures and talks about sex as if it’s something nobody’s scared of. Cool mum who takes her daughter to get the pill at 13 “just in case” and admits she’s sometimes wrong, and knows about “Netflix and chill”. Cool mum who for her daughter’s 18th kindly gets all the gear in.
Maidstone Crown Court last week heard that a woman from Kent named Nicola Austen bought 12 bags of cocaine for her daughter’s 18th birthday party. Prosecutor Craig Evans told the court: “They were going to London in a limousine and she wanted to ensure they had a good time.” She just wanted to ensure they had a good time! Although, to be fair, she could have ensured that for almost a third of the price by simply taping the Domino’s number to the fridge and going to her sister’s for the night. “It’s all been blown out of proportion,” Austen later told the press. “I’ve had enough. It isn’t exactly the scoop of the century, is it? It was a party.” Jeez, the press, haven’t you met a cool mum before?
I am as tired as an old tree. I can only imagine how exhausting it would be to not just keep a kid alive but to also do it with insouciance, slightly high. One thing at a time, guys.
Being a mum is not cool. Being a mum is, I’m learning in my 14th month, mainly about asking for help on the tube, juggling judgments and identifying the poo face. On holiday in Europe, strangers tell us to keep the baby up for dinner at 10. It’s still warm then, and we’ve turned an empty tumbler into a makeshift speaker. But the pressure to be cool with it, with everything, with sugar and sun and staying up late, the pressure not to worry is even more stressful than the worry itself.
I read about mothers’ groups, sponsored by trainer brands, that organise networking parties at members’ clubs, and rather than hooraying at the opportunity to pick up some two-foot-tall street-style tips, my mind goes immediately to Sadie Frost’s two-year-old accidentally taking ecstasy at Soho House. Admittedly I think about that a lot, the most 2002 story of all time, a story so 2002 it could have appeared as evidence in Winona Ryder’s shoplifting trial, a story so 2002 it’s sung by Gareth Gates, but now I have a baby myself (have I mentioned I had a baby? The first baby in the world?) it seems to have taken on new depths, new resonance, like a love song during a break-up. Like rats, in a city we are never more than 6ft away from a lost bag of drugs. I now see dirty needles where before there was just grass. A cool mum would not see, as I do, death and pain smeared on every surface. A cool mum would sit there on it in her cut-off denim. Vape.
Anything, I suppose, to avoid feeling like a parent. Anything to avoid the feeling that you have faded into air. Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston recently compared being famous to being a pregnant woman. “It’s like having a complete stranger fondling you,” he told the Hollywood Reporter. “And they have this sensibility where they feel comfortable coming up to you and saying: ‘You know that thing you did? I didn’t like that movie.’”
It works the other way, too. While you are pregnant you feel like a celebrity. People smile at you, these smiles of knowingness. They give you their seats in grand flourishes of humanity, almost curtseying. Then, after nine months, suddenly, after an all-night premiere, a red carpet soaked with effluvia, the baby is the talent. You are simply their PA, trailing and bowing and mopping things up. I can see the appeal of trying to live again. But there is a line.
When are we allowed to stop chasing youth? If not after actually creating youth, out of pure sex, then when, when can we just be old? The beauty of age is that you don’t have to hang around with teenagers any more. The beauty of age, surely, is that when you want to relax with 12 bags of coke, rather than share it with the kids you can hire your own limo to London.