As any mother will tell you — probably until you are sick of hearing it — sons never cease to surprise you. My own, Josh, is no different in that respect, but I think that maybe his latest bundle of surprises are a little out of the ordinary. Let’s see what you think….
At the start of the summer, just after Josh had sat his exams and began the anxious wait for the results that would, or would not, see him accepted by the university of his choice, life itself gave me something of a surprise. I received a lovely letter informing that after three years of trying I had finally been successful in winning a major web-content design contract. Better yet, with the letter came an advance payment of sufficient size that I could immediately drop all of the fiddly, dull little contracts I had been eking a living out of, and finally pay off some of the bills that had been mounting up ever since my ex had left for pastures unknown the previous year.
I opened a bottle of something cold and bubbly and was already quite well ‘celebrated’ by the time Josh arrived home that evening.
Fuelled by the booze, I waxed lyrical on all of the things that the new contract would enable us to do — buy clothes, go on holiday, eat, that sort of thing — and although my son’s enthusiasm levels didn’t quite reach mine, he seemed happy enough to be sharing a few glasses with me.
Now before anyone raises an eyebrow, I don’t let Josh drink at home as a rule — his father was far too fond of the bottle for my liking, and although Josh is eighteen now, if he wants to drink he can go to a bar with his friends as far as I’m concerned.
That night, though, the rules were suspended, and by ten o’clock Josh was almost as giggly as I was. There hadn’t been a whole load of things to celebrate in the past year and we were both making the most of the opportunity. After twelve months of tension and stress, a few glasses of beer stripped away all the repression and gloom, and we were soon chatting away as openly and delightedly as we had done before the departure of ‘it’.
Looking back now, it’s hard to believe how much more open — and how much more mature — Josh had become in those intervening twelve months. At the time, though, I was far too pre-occupied with my success (okay, and with the booze) to take any notice.
“So, mom,” Josh began somewhere around the eighth beer, “Does this mean you’re going to by some decent clothes, or are you just going to replace all your ratty jeans and baggy sweaters with newer versions?”
“My jeans are not ratty!” I protested. I looked down and saw my right knee poking through the over-worn denim, “Well… not very ratty. And anyway, since when are you my fashion guru?”
“Just offering an observation,” Josh shrugged.
I laughed, “This from a guy who two years ago was wearing a pair of jeans with the crotch somewhere between his knees!”
“That was just a fashion thing Call it a youthful misjudgement.”
“A youthful tragedy, more like. Mind you, it did give Melissa and me a good laugh.” Melissa was our neighbour and was, like myself, ‘blessed’ with a teenage son.
“Gee thanks, mom. Glad to know I’ve managed to cheer up a couple of frumpy housewives.”
“Hey! I am not frumpy and I am definitely not a housewife.”
Josh grinned, “I’ll let you off the last bit, but those sweaters…”
“I like my baggy sweaters. They’re comfortable to work in when I’m sitting up designing stuff on the computer.”
“Point take, but you don’t just wear them while you’re working, do you? You wear them to the shops, in the garden, everywhere. It wouldn’t surprise me if you wore one to bed at night.”
“Well I don’t!” I tried not to let my boy see the lie, and tried to change tack, “And anyway, would you rather I dressed myself up like a middle-aged Barbie doll like Matt’s mother?”
Gemima Gordon, mother of Josh’s friend Matt, had something of a reputation for her dress-sense (or lack thereof) in the local area. A bleached-blonde air-head with a barely controlled weight problem, she wore the absolute minimum that decency — and probably the law — allowed. Her make-up on any given day probably weighed more than her entire wardrobe — and I’m talking about the mirror-fronted oak one she has in her bedroom, not the clothes that are in it.
Josh looked appalled, “No! No, no, no, no. She looks frightening.”
“I thought all you boys ogled her at every opportunity. After all, whenever she sneezes her boobs almost fall out of whatever little top she’s wearing — and she has hay-fever.”
“Well… I mean….” Josh looked embarrassed for a few seconds, then laughed, “Okay, okay, so I guess maybe when we were like fourteen we did think that she was … you know?”
“Kinda sexy is what I meant. I mean she always shows so much flesh and… well, I wasn’t used to it.”
I laughed, “Are you suggesting that my innate shyness about my clothing drove you to leering at your friend’s mother?”
“Yeah, that’s be right!”
For a fraction of a second, I wondered how much truth there was in that statement — but then Josh grinned from ear to ear. I sighed at him, “In that case you have my apologies. It must have been so traumatic for you.”
“It was just fine as it was, I guess.”
“You only guess?”
This time there was the tiniest flash of evasiveness before he shrugged, “Seriously though, mom, I really wouldn’t want you to dress like Gemma the Bimbo.”
“Nice nickname. And I’m glad to hear it about my clothes.”
“It fits. Well, at a push. Anyway… your clothes. I guess what I mean is… well….”
“So erudite, so sophisticated….”
“Mom! It’s just… like, you know, a bit awkward trying to give you advice.”
I laughed, “Just try — I really do need another good laugh.”
Josh sighed, “I suppose now you’ve mentioned Matt’s mom, that kinda illustrates my point. I was just trying to say that the baggy sweaters and jeans make you look like the dead opposite of her. She’s all over-blown female and you’re…”
“No! But… well.. maybe sorta… like you cover up the fact that you’re female.”
“It’s the law. Public decency, that sort of thing.”
“I didn’t mean-” Josh broke off and laughed when he realised I’d been teasing him, “Very funny. I just meant that you could wear things that didn’t hide the fact that you’re…. you know? A good-looking woman.”
“I’m….” I was genuinely surprised, and rather touched, “Well, that’s very sweet of you to say so.”
Josh took a deep breath — he clearly figured that he has dived in now so he might as well enjoy the water, “I mean you’ve got a great figure under all those clothes and sometimes I want to tell the other guys when they’re bragging about their own moms that, you know, my mom looks like way younger than she is and she’s like, you know, really pretty even though she’s kinda tiny, and I guess what I mean with the clothes is, guys could kinda see for themselves just how cute you can look.”