Rachel Johnson: Me, in a mood? I'm right as rain...
"You’ve been in a bad mood all half-term,” my son (15) revealed. This came after I’d asked him whether he could kindly remove the mugs and cereal bowls from the playroom/TV room where my three teenagers spend most of their day, sprawled on a newish large red velvet sofa, watching the MTV Music Awards/South Park/Modern Family and grunting when one of us comes home from work or carrying 18 Tesco bags of shopping.
“No I haven’t,” I snapped. I brushed crumbs and sweet wrappers from the plush surface of my prize sofa, picking off a dried yoghurt (God, I do hope it was yoghurt anyway) splodge with a fingernail. Of course, nothing is guaranteed to put one in a bad mood faster than someone suggesting one is in a bad mood. It’s like a man daring to suggest a woman is ‘on’ her period.
The funny thing is, I don’t think I have been in a bad mood, or noticeably worse one. I try hard not to be, as I consider it bad manners. Life is grim enough (at the time of writing it has rained solidly for two months and my husband has been diagnosed with vitamin D deficiency) without others making it worse with their foul vapours.
“In what sense have I been in a bad mood?” I asked my son, with interest, on the grounds that I am always prepared to have a conversation about me, even an unpleasant one. “Give examples.”
“Horrible voice,” my 15-year-old answered. “You say things in a horrible voice. Very naggy.”
“There’s no Crunchy Nut,” my daughter (18) added. “We ran out of milk this morning. You didn’t make pancakes fast enough…” She suddenly stared at me with quiet horror. “And you’ve got a bogey in your nose.”
My hand shot to my nose. “Other side,” she said.
“Any other complaints?” I said, working away with a tissue at my left nostril. “I could fill my Big Issue column with them.”
When they realised that I was using them for copy they refused to elaborate on my shortcomings. I let the subject drop and bided my time until after lunch one day when it stair-rodded so hard that we didn’t leave the house once, so I had to resort to what there was in the fridge and larder. After baked beans, chips and sausages, I felt I’d done them proud.
“What would you give this lunch out of 10 then, you ungrateful children,” I asked, as I placed a steaming cafetiere and lemon tart on the kitchen table. There was a silence. “Six out of 10,” said the son. “Why only six?” I asked. “There were only two chipolatas each,” he replied.
When I think that my husband would have expected a new national holiday to be announced if he’d rustled up a spread for five teenagers in 15 minutes, this bothers me. The fact is – and I am prepared to debate this with any readers on Twitter – that women, especially mothers, are held to a higher standard than men and generally judged more harshly.
I am so confident you will agree with me that I have decided not to support my generalisation with a redundant example and anecdote.
After I’d cleared up lunch my husband appeared. By this stage you could perhaps distinguish me from a ray of sunshine, but only because it was too wet to go outside and it is only when I don’t exercise that I become genuinely scary.
I was wiping down surfaces and complaining about the children giving my lunch low marks when he came up close and smiled at me. I thought he was going to say something nice.
“Well, when it comes to you being a wife I give you three out of 10,” he said. “At the moment.”
There are times when you don’t feel like one of those conversations that rapidly escalate, you know, when you both list each other’s faults and all the things you’ve done wrong or broken in living memory. So I decided to let it go downstream and went for a run in the rain instead, and came back drenched, freezing and NOT IN A BAD MOOD AT ALL.
Rachel Johnson is editor-in-chief of The Lady, @RachelSJohnson. She has donated her fee for this column to the Big Issue Foundation