Grrr. Why do parents do this. Why? Is it desperate mature person's plea for attention and importance, or is it that our urban generation are too busy and suspicious of each other to be open and friendly? I remember when I first came to London I used to smile at everyone until a man on the tube escalator masturbated into the back of my coat.
"Espresso? Filter? Latte? Cap: half fat or de-caf?" snapped the waitress, sweeping all the plates off the table next to her and looking at me accusingly as if Mum was my fault.
"Half fat de-caf cap and a latte," I whispered apologetically.
"What a surly girl, doesn't she speak English?" huffed Mum at her retreating back. "This is a funny place to live, isn't it? Don't they know what they want to put on in the morning?"
I followed her gaze to the fashionable Trustafarian girls at the next table. One was tapping at her laptop and wearing Timberlands, a petticoat, a Rastafarian bonnet and a fleece, while the other, in Prada stilettos, hiking socks, surfing shorts, a floor-length llamaskin coat and a Bhutanese herdsman's woolly hat with earflaps, was yelling into her mobile headset, "I mean, he said if he found me smoking skunk again he'd take away the flat. And I'm like, 'Fucking, Daddy'" - while her six-year-old child picked miserably at a plate of chips.
"Is that girl talking to herself with that language?" said Mum. "It's a funny world you live in, isn't it? Wouldn't you do better living near normal people?"
"They are normal people," I said furiously, nodding in illustration out at the street where unfortunately a nun in a brown habit was pushing two babies along in a pram.
"You see this is why you get yourself all mixed up."
"I don't get myself mixed up."
"Yes you do," she said. "Anyway. How's it going with Mark?"
"Lovely," I said moonily, at which she gave me a hard stare.
"You're not going to you-know-what with him, are you? He won't marry you, you know."
Grrr. Grrrr. No sooner have I started going out with the man she'd been trying to force me onto for eighteen months ("Malcolm and Elaine"s son, darling, divorced, terribly lonely and rich") than I feel like I'm running some kind of Territorial Army obstacle course, scrambling over walls and nets to bring her home a big silver cup with a bow on.
"You know what they say afterwards," she was going on. "'Oh, she was easy meat." I mean when Merle Robertshaw started going out with Percival her mother said, "Make sure he keeps that thing just for weeing with.'"
"Mother--" I protested. I mean it was a bit rich coming from her. Not six months ago she was running around with a Portuguese tour operator with a gentleman's handbag.
"Oh, did I tell you," she interrupted, smoothly changing the subject, "Una and I are going to Kenya."
"What!" I yelled.
"We're going to Kenya! Imagine, darling! To darkest Africa!"
My mind started to whirl round and round searching through possible explanations like a fruit machine before it comes to a standstill: Mother turned missionary? Mother rented Out of Africa again on video? Mother suddenly remembered about Born Free and decided to keep lions?
"Yes, darling. We want to go on safari and meet the Masai tribesmen, then stay in a beach hotel!"
The slot machine clunked to a halt on a series of lurid images of elderly German ladies having sex on the beach with local youths. I stared levelly at Mum.
"You're not going to start messing around again, are you?" I said. "Dad's only just got over all that stuff with Julio."
"Honestly, darling! I don't know what all the fuss was about! Julio was just a friend - a penfriend! We all need friends, darling. I mean even in the best of marriages one person just isn't enough: friends of all ages, races, creeds and tribes. One has to expand one's consciousness at every . . ."
Reprinted from Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason by Helen Fielding by permission of Viking Penguin, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright (c) 2000 by Helen Fielding. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.
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