NEWS flash: 54-year-old woman goes on night out. Gets drunk. Falls over. Is escorted out by door-man. Confesses to blanks in her memory of said night out. Ends.
Except that’s not where it ends.
My night out on Saturday was just the beginning. The beginning of something much bigger and some-thing I could never have anticipated. And I’m now raging, internally and externally.
We might not agree on everything. But can we please agree on this: An unplanned night out can often be an absolute triumph. And so it was for me on Saturday.
The family went out for an early dinner to mark the 21st birthday of one of the Ungratefuls, after which I was more than content to head back home.
Said Ungrateful insisted on going out for a drink, despite my protestations that a drink at home would be just as fun.
Fact is, I’m not a great goer-out. I cannot actually recall the las girls’ night out, bar-propping or even dance. Not because of my diminishing memory but because these events are so few and so very far between.
So, I relented. One drink at a local bar. Can’t hurt, right?
Except, this particular night out turned into so much more.
First and foremost, it became what the young people of today may refer to as a bit of a “bender”.
Despite not being in the habit of going “out-out” with my children — I am not their friend, after all, I am their parent and to that end we tend to keep our social lives separate — this night became an exception.
Somehow and in some way that only alcohol could possibly explain, the Ungrateful and I met and subsequently hijacked the evening of another group of women, none of whom we’d ever met before.
(I love the company of women. Despite being brought up a tomboy, I have never felt the need to be surrounded by men).
The night was excellent. I drank. I danced a bit. I fell over.
I fell because I was drunk. But also because my ridiculous arthritic hips don’t seem in any way, shape or form to connect to the bits of my brain that regulate motor control, be that reflexes or directed movement.
'RIDICULOUS ARTHRITIC HIPS'
I don’t even have the excuse of having been in heels — my Dr Martens were firmly laced high up my ankles.
Did I feel embarrassed? No. You won’t find this bird pretending she’s sober when she’s not. I fell on my arse another couple of times. Until, bless him, the doorman felt the need to escort me out of the bar “for my own safety”.
I paced outside, without handbag, without phone, without daughter and without friends.
Eventually, my newly made friends and the Ungrateful emerged with my handbag. By this stage we had been joined by my daughter’s two close friends from her old school.
I may have met these two 21-year-old men before — they have all known each other for over four years — but I can’t recall. We took a taxi home to my house, obligatory stop at McDonald’s on the way. The guys stayed over.
I posted a story about it the next day on my Instagram because the hilarity of the evening was not lost on me and because it had felt so amazing to let my hair down and, unintentionally, let my arse tumble to the floor.
I had so much support from my social-media followers, who clearly understood the enjoyment of a good night out.
But one comment got my goat: Something along the lines of: “As a woman who has been attacked by men before you shouldn’t have put yourself or your daughter’s life at risk by inviting ‘two strange men’ back to your house. You’re an old woman and you should grow up.”
What infuriated me about this sad Karen was not only that she was clearly in dire need of a good night out, nor that she didn’t know the facts but chose to comment anyway, but that she was carrying on the patriarchal narrative that a woman should avoid having an “unknown” man in her home for fear of being raped or attacked.
Once again, making it the woman’s prerogative AND responsibility to protect herself, NOT the job of a man to behave appropriately.
Even if, in my wildest dreams, I wanted to bring two men back to my house, I should be quite within my moral and sexual rights to do so.
That may not be what society expects. It may not be what we consider “safe”.
But if we want to achieve some kind of equality or parity with men, then that is what we should be able to expect.
What made my blood boil, however, was something of even greater significance.
I had a telephone call from my 13-year-old son’s school’s Safeguarding Officer telling me they had seen my social media that I had had two strange men at the house, and they needed to know if my son had been at the house at the time.
Firstly, blissfully and lazily unaware of the facts, they chose to take advantage of my profile in the media — which dates back some 34 years — and pursue a thread on a social media platform. What I want to know is what happens to the other parents, who aren’t ’slebs — how do they monitor them?
I have to presume they have the advantage of going under the radar and “unmonitored”.
Secondly, had I been a dad bringing two women back to my home, would I have received a phone call? Methinks not.
Thirdly, had my daughter had a party and 12 unknown young men and women had stayed over, would that have captured the Safeguarding Officer’s imagination quite so much as the idea of me “accommodating” two men?
Fourthly, I have posted many times about my struggles with my mental health — depression and anxiety. Where was the Safeguarding team then? Where was the phone call checking if I was coping OK and whether my son was “safe”?
I can only deduce that depression isn’t quite as sexy, appealing or gossip-inducing as the idea of two men sleeping over at my house.
Herein lies the rub. I’m a stickler for consistency. Do not make one rule of officiousness and judgment-making then not apply it to every situation.
But the saddest thing about the whole affair is that a sense of humour seems to have fallen out of everyone’s behind. I joked on Instagram about there being two strange men sleeping upstairs and that I hoped my daughter knew who they were — swiftly followed by a wry smile.
Do you seriously think I’d post publicly about something like that if I thought my children’s safe-guarding might be compromised? I mean, come on!
When I brought up the school phone call with my ex-husband — father of both the 13-year old and the 21-year old — he nearly choked on his coffee because, like me, he was staggered at the inconsistency. And because he couldn’t fathom the school’s reasoning.
Fame and notoriety have some major rewards but it also comes with people taking advantage of situations and not applying the same rules as they would to those less conspicuous.
Safeguarding is a serious issue and, of course, I’m encouraged we think about children in different terms to before. But I do know a few things.
I will never grow old gracefully. I would never put my children’s safety at risk.
I will never toe the line of common presumption that women need to protect themselves from men, and should therefore alter their behaviour.
I will never lose my sense of humour and I intend to go to my grave in the most provocative manner possible.
The idea that I might be “too old” to go out and have a great time, drink, fall over and have fun while doing so is ageism in its highest or maybe lowest form.
To suggest that, as a woman, I couldn’t have “strange” men to my house because I need to protect myself — rather than us continuing to implore men to learn to behave appropriately around women — is sexism.
It flies in the face of all the recent conversations we’ve started since the murders of Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa — and all those women who preceded them.
'NARRATIVE NEEDS TO CHANGE'
The narrative needs to change. And urgently. A woman drinking. An older woman drinking. A woman trusting men — who IF people had bothered checking the facts, she knew already — should all be acceptable social behaviour.
Anything less will maintain the infuriating status quo. It will advance the anecdotes which keep women from being their own people and it will make a mockery of the all the brilliant conversations we’ve started to have about women and age and safety.
I will not be tamed. I have chosen a life in the public eye and will continue to take the rough with the smooth.
But I will NOT go quietly into the night of old age just because my behaviour makes others uncomfortable.
I am now also looking for a guest bed sponsor. Any takers?
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