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  • Writer's picturertoon8

Mum's the Woke

I normally blog when I’ve got something I need to rant about, but I’m writing this to mollify the Facebook bot that keeps on telling me “you haven’t posted in a while”… and because this is my first day off since reducing my teaching hours and I feel ever so slightly guilty that so far I have lounged around reading and spent a leisurely hour in the solace of the deserted local library while the working world slogged through to the week’s finish line outside.

My phone friend over in Scunthorpe said I should blog about HER recent automotive fiasco – she’s been trying to get her car through its MOT for the past week and is now relying on the good will of road worthy friends to get her to work. Well, you can sod off and write your own blog Kaplinski – and it serves you right for not getting a pre-test check.

It did occur to me while hoovering the living room earlier that I could blog about how much I resent housework. I really do. Every second of it. Such was my loathing of carrying the dust sucker up and downstairs I now have one up and one down: each time Upstairs Hetty falls over drunkenly as I pull her down the step into the bathroom, I want to ring her fat pink throat with her own hose; and this morning, when I tugged George Miele a little too hard, causing the plug to come out of the socket for the thousandth time, I did explete with a capital C. When, seconds later, I yanked the wretched machine into my ankle bone, I effing C’d some more.

But no. It’s bad enough the time wasted hoovering and dusting and wiping down and scrubbing (occasionally) and mopping and polishing and washing and THINKING ABOUT hoovering and dusting and wiping down and scrubbing (occasionally) and mopping and polishing and washing and CHOOSING from the ridiculous array of products that supposedly make these chores so much easier and CARRYING said products home… I’m not dedicating good blog time to domestic drudgery. The time to rant about cleaning is while you’re cleaning; while you’re in the throws of despising the guts of it.

Yesterday, I overloaded my backpack and peddling up a rather steep incline it occurred to me I’ve not blogged about the ‘joys’ of cycling on the congested roads of the UK. My dog went lame yesterday, just the latest ailment in her cabinet of disorders; I’ve never dedicated an entire blog to her. I’ve been back at work all of eight days and already I’m drowning in additional admin work, most of which seems pretty counterproductive – apparently the boss’s latest agenda is ensuring us middle managers ‘earn our money’. Worth a blog? Not sure I’d know when to stop.

So, as I don’t actually feel especially rantish right now, I thought maybe I’d attempt something a little more – dare I say – upbeat.

She-who-shall-not-be-named in Scunthorpe (privacy freak) reckons I’m way too obsessed with labels. Yes, certain aspects of my identity are really important to me: being a vegan, a cyclist, asexual, non-binary, socialist, even being left-handed. Over 2 years ago I asked my GP to refer me to specialists to try and get an Asperger’s assessment (I am 100% sure and 2 psychologists have now indicated they agree – BUT, I will not ever define myself as such until I have the official diagnosis). What difference would it make? Well, quite a lot, actually. And if it’s important to me, then that should be enough to warrant my quest. And it does feel like a quest! But, no – not going to rant.

Probably there’s a part of me that just doesn’t want to be ordinary and average. No one ever made me feel ‘special’, so maybe this is my way of proving to myself I am in some way. When I started to research the gender identity spectrum and found my home amongst the many new terms, it was a real disco-ball moment for me. And over the past 3 years I have truly found my family. At least, that’s what I thought. Up until that point I had isolated myself after a pretty horrendous relationship ended. Embracing my enby-ness and my work with LGBTQIA+ youngsters has enabled me to form a support network with allies at other schools, charity workers and certain members of staff at my own school, who I would now count as friends. And I thought this was the extent of my new community. I didn’t ever imagine ‘coming out’ to my actual family. When I suggested to my sister that I thought I might be gay (in my questioning phase) she quickly dismissed this, shrugging it off and changing the subject. I would never dream of speaking to my dad or brother about anything remotely ‘touchy, feely’ and I just thought, ‘Mum? No, she just wouldn’t ‘get it’.’ It didn’t seem fair somehow to burden her with trying to remember to call me a new name and use neutral pronouns. After 50 years of thinking of me as her daughter, Rachel, it just wouldn’t be fair.

How I underestimated you, Mum!

Another thing I never imagined was that my mum would ever read any of my books. But when I think back, I do remember in my early days of writing poetry, it was Mum, tea towel in hand, who would stand in the kitchen and listen as I read out my latest clumsily rhyming diatribe condemning climate change, or the arms trade, or capitalism. And she doesn’t have a political bone in her body.

Anyway, I had received 5 complementary copies of Post Midnight Blues (come on, I’m allowed the odd shameless plug on my own blog, aren’t I?) surely I could spare one for Mum. And every few days she would give me a chapter update, usually grinning ear to ear about something or another that had made her chuckle. I keep on saying how much I regret self-publishing, but if one thing has made the process worthwhile, it’s knowing I gave some pleasure to my Mum and instilled a love of literature in someone who has never been a reader (she’s now half way through a draft copy of The Baptist). Forget the extortionate £800 fee; that’s priceless.

Then came the real-life lot twist I never saw coming – we were on the phone, most likely talking about the dog, and out of the blue, she just asked me what non-binary meant (she’d seen it in my biog, of course). When I explained, she responded with an, ‘I thought so. You probably get that from me.’ As if it was some flaw, like a hook nose or receding hairline that she needed to apologise for. I told her how liberated I actually felt about being enby and she asked about my name and I have never felt closer to her in my life because in that short, pragmatic conversation I knew, absolutely that she accepted me for me. She got me. I look back to my teens and early twenties and how I railed against my mother and rejected any claim we were remotely alike. Now I’ve mellowed and stopped pretending I’m not basically a carbon copy of her in many ways. She may well be non- binary; I’m pretty certain she’s autistic as well. But it’s not for me to label her and she’s quite content just being Kath. She’s the way God made her; that’s the way she sees it because being a Christian is the most important aspect of her identity for her.

I wish I could give her the same affirmation she gave me; I wish I had a faith. But that’s just not me. I’m Rae: vegan, enby, cyclist, left-hander, voluntarily single and childless, unofficially Aspie.

There’s just one label I’m thinking about dropping. What if I stopped describing myself as a teacher and started to say “I’m a writer”?

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