There is a widely touted myth that gay sons develop a close bond with their mothers.
An ex-boss so believed this that she desperately wanted her son (and only child) to be gay, so they could, in her words; “Go shopping and attend the theatre together.”
It got to the point where, as a young man, he had to sit his mother down and come out as NOT gay.
“I’m sorry to disappoint you,” he told her. “but I’m straight.”
“Maybe it’s just a phase you are going through,” she suggested. “Have you tried being with a man.”
“No. I’m sorry, but I like woman.”
“I understand,” she conceded solemnly, “and I will still love you, no matter what you are.”
My relationship with my own mother is strained… to say the least.
To put it bluntly, I think she is an unpleasant paragon of suburban prejudice, pretention and hypocrisy, with strong opinions and a sharp tongue (Imagine a combination of Margo Leadbetter from The Good Life and Hyacinth Bucket (Booooouquet) from Keeping Up Appearances, but without their wit or one-liners). For the sake of harmony, I keep these opinions to myself and maintain the thin facade of caring son.
Despite a lifetime of railing against my rearing, elements of my mother’s personality do inevitably manifest, not as bigotry and bile, but as pompous bloody-mindedness.
I endeavour to channel my more bolshy genetic traits in positive directions: I am a wiz at securing refunds from retail outlets and dealing with errant utility suppliers and I have left many a customer services manager with shaken timbre after encountering my unyielding stance that every issue can be resolved to my satisfaction.
I once explained to a New Street Station official how I had left my return ticket in the toilets at Wolverhampton, whist having a poop, and being a frequent passenger, would know better than traveling without a valid ticket.
“I believe you,” he admitted, but resolutely insisted that I still had to pay the fine, as that was the rule.
I disagreed with his stance and asked, “If policies are so intransigent, then why employ managers to make decisions?”
“Good point,” he conceded… and let me through.
My bullishness does mean our small Birmingham backstreet is litter free.
When my partner and I moved in, I got so frustrated by the amount of litter dropped by pupils from the local school and drifting in from the nearby Balti Triangle, that I became a vigilante litter picker.
Initially, I cleaned the street under cover of darkness, as I felt self-conscious about being a local busy body.
One evening though, I was caught in the act by an elderly Pakistani neighbour.
He pointed at the binbag in my hand and, in faltering English, told me, “You… good neighbour.”
From that moment, I became an out and proud litter picker at large.
A family over the road even bought their own litter picker sticks and would join me on weekend mornings.
I returned home one evening to find a card on the doorstep from the school, thanking me for my community spirt, along with a family box of wine gums. How they knew these were my all-time favourite confectionary, I have no idea.
Unfortunately, the school let themselves down, when hundreds of letters failed to make it home to parents as intended but were instead strewn far and wide.
I picked up every scrap, filling several binbags, which I tied to the school gates with a note, written in red pen, ‘POOR EFFORT. MUST TRY HARDER. D- ‘.
I subsequently invoiced Birmingham City Council for maintaining the neighbourhood.
The council responded, predicably stating they do not pay for unsolicited services… but I had made my point.
On another occasion, a secondary school pupil provoked me when he spouted homophobic insults on my morning bus ride into Birmingham city centre (Not specifically at me, but in an obnoxious manner, to the whole bus).
He was remonstrated by a couple of passengers, which only resulted in a further tirade.
I don’t usually keep quiet in the face of homophobia (as the guy who delivered a drive-by insult outside Missing one evening discovered. Three years of drama training meant my response of “CUUUUUUUNT!” was far louder), but on this occasion I decided to remain silent and pursue a different course.
When he got off in Digbeth, beating aggressively on the bus windows from the outside, I also disembarked and followed him. It did occur to me that pursuing a schoolboy across the city in the early hours could be misconstrued, but I hoped to follow him to his school and report his behaviour to a senior teacher.
Unfortunately, he boarded another bus at a stop further up the high street.
As I had already made myself late for work with my impromptu crusade, I abandoned the chase, but made a mental note of the bus number.
That evening, I conducted a little research online and then set about methodically telephoning every secondary school on that bus’s route.
The majority of schools were sympathetic, but one severe receptionist, of the type schools and medical practices favour, scoffed, “We have almost three thousand pupils at this school. How are we supposed to identify one child from a description?!”
I politely explained, “I know your school’s demographic. This particular boy will stand out… as he is white.”
There was a brief pause, while she nibbled humble pie, then the subdued receptionist admitted, “Ah, well yes, that is unusual in this school.”
I proceeded to give a full description, “He is overweight, although more chubby than fat. He has mousey brown hair, a dull face and thick rimmed retro style glasses that would look funky on somebody more attractive. The most distinctive thing about him was his coat. He was wearing a mustard-coloured anorak, not Colman’s mustard though,” I clarified, “more like those cheap brands you get in Lidl.”
He would have stood out like a chubby sore thumb.
Each school got back to me with their progress over the next few days.
None admitted to a positive identification, but all promised to pursue the matter, and several said they would bring the incident up in no uncertain terms in assembly that week. By this point the red mist had dissipated and I let the matter go. I just hope one podgy pupil in a school off Coventry Road, unexpectedly learned actions have consequences.
My finest hour came in a local supermarket.
It was a busy Saturday afternoon, but inexplicably only the self-checkouts were open, which is fine when you have a limited number of items to scan, but impractical when dealing with a large trolly load, a comment that was curtly dismissed by the member of staff I mentioned this to.
I felt my hackles rise.
After several failed scans, a prolonged proof of age verification and unregistered discounts, I had had enough.
“Right, this is ridiculous,” I fumed, sweeping items back into our trolly.
I stormed around to one of the abandoned checkouts and started to pile it high.
Using that drama training, I projected, “AISLE THREE IS NOW OPEN, AISLE THREE IS OPEN!”
A queue immediately formed behind me and within moments a harassed looking young woman dashed over and took up position behind the till.
I was politeness itself to the shop assistant, aware that none of this was her fault and thanked her profusely as we bagged up.
“Thank Christ that worked,” I remarked to my partner as we left. “If it hadn’t, I would have looked a right twat pulling everything back in the trolley.”
It is said, ‘Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned’… you should try a mildly inconvenienced homosexual.