SWB on bill dodgers and frenemies



LSB and I were parked in front of the TV the other night  watching the film Trainwreck with Amy Schumer.  It’s bold and outrageous, just don’t watch it with your mammy beside you as she’ll turn all shades of puce. The scenes which tickled me in particular were those starring LeBron James. Of course I didn’t know who it was. “Should I know who that really tall fella is?” I asked LSB. “You should, but you won’t, of course,” he replied, going on to explain that he’s possibly the most famous basketball player in the world and plays a kind of caricature of himself in this movie.

Apparently he’s unerringly generous in real-life but he’s portrayed in the film as being exceptionally tight, whipping out the calculator app on his phone to divide up who-ate-what for lunch, and driving across town to pick up a pair of cheap sunglasses he’s left behind. He’s a multi millionaire NBA star and in one scene he’s frantically patting his pockets to find he’s forgotten his wallet so his best friend has to cough up for the bill.

Well this made me think of all the excruciating times I’d been out with friends or colleagues and the waiter brought the bill and a terrible hush had descended and all bonhomie was long gone in case some one was diddled out of a pound. I have to admit, if some of these individuals had done a Lebron James and got their calculator out, I’d  have been so relieved they were actually going to pay AT ALL that I might have broken into applause. If there’s one thing I can’t bear, it’s a bill dodger.

A friend of mine went on a charity bike race which involved travelling with a group of people they didn’t  know. Arriving in Vienna late one evening, they found themselves in the only restaurant that could squeeze them in, but was considerably more expensive than they had anticipated. However, since they were tired and half-starved, in they went and were busy ordering the moules frites or pasta special to keep the cost down. All of them, that is, except for Mervyn, who’s getting wired into the filet steak and chips and orders a fine bottle of red. And you’ve guessed it, when the bill comes, there’s not a mention that his meal cost double everyone else’s. He had the audacity to do the same the following evening, but by the third night the party broke up. People went off in twos and threes and so sickened were they by his stinginess, that the whole trip felt a bit flat by the end, and the fizz went clean out of the celebration.

A lack of generosity never makes anyone feel good, but the person with whom we are often the least magnanimous is ourselves. I could self-flagellate for Ireland. I’ll torture myself over a misplaced apostrophe or a spelling mistake in something I’ve fired out into the ‘cloud’ to torment me for all eternity. I won’t give myself any credit for the fact that I’m finally writing after many years of wanting to, but not having the balls to start. Instead, I’ll berate myself whole-heartedly for what I got wrong. It’s not just me either; it’s a human thing, or more specifically, a woman thing. We seem hot-wired to sabotage our own happiness, or contentment.

Now please, don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t expect the best from ourselves and go all Californian and clap ourselves on the back saying “Good work buddy!” for writing some shite or buying someone a coffee. But a little self–love can go a long way.

Years ago I had a friend for whom stinginess was a life choice. She would never miss an opportunity to avoid paying for a round or weaselling a drink or a meal out of the rest of us. If one foolishly acquiesced and paid her way  she’d accept the drink smugly with an expression which said clearly “Sucker! Got them again!” And this lack of generosity wasn’t limited to money either. We were friends for a long time, and I don’t think she ever, knowingly, paid me a compliment. What she did have, however, was a forensic memory for any past indiscretions, or moments when you weren’t your best self. I’d be sitting, a forkful of curry raised to my lips and all smiles she’d say: “Do you remember the time when you….” and zoom in on some shame inducing moment from our student days, and parade it for public consumption. I’d feel a hot rush start at in my cheeks and flame down my neck until I was aglow with mortification. Thus discombobulated I’d probably be duped into paying twice what I owed in an effort to scarper, and dampen my embarrassment with a bottle of wine.

We’re not friends anymore. Life is busy and emotionally taxing enough without hanging out with people who make me feel small. I ignore friend requests on Facebook from  people if I have no desire to meet up in person.  Maintaining a friendship requires effort, but if you care for the person you shouldn’t have to think of ways to manage the situation, figuring out ways of protecting your time, your emotions or your wallet. A good requirement in a friend, especially one whom you’ve known from school or university, is a big heart and a short memory. It would have saved me much aggravation if I’d worked that out sooner.


SWB and the joys of casual conversation


Here’s how last Saturday went. I was wearing what I believed to be quite a fetching outfit, a wine coloured pinafore with an embroidered flower, all the way from Barcelona, of course. I’d paired it with my ubiquitous red Camper boots with a pink heel, because I pair these with just about everything, other than my sporty ensembles.


The children were at their Spanish class so I had 50 minutes to whittle away as I chose, so I perched at the bar in Kaffe O and got merrily stuck into the boiled eggs and rye bread. I was reading the Weekend magazine from the Guardian, and was engrossed in the story of Pakistan’s answer to Kim Kardashian; a reality TV star, for whom transgressing gender boundaries didn’t end well. I was thus engaged and sipping my one shot latte when an acquaintance from park run stepped up with a thrilled expression and began tapping my tummy and congratulating me. She made some pre-emptive cooing noises, as though the baby was already here, ensconced in a car seat beside me. Except there was no baby, and there was no foetus, because I am not pregnant. I have not been pregnant for five years. I have however, had two children by caesarean section and recurring bouts of IBS. I’m also not in a mood to be trifled with.


“No,” I say wearily, shaking my head and swallowing a large mouthful of coffee. “It have really bad IBS. That’s all.” “But,” says Inspector Clouseau, “you haven’t been running. I’ve seen you at park run, and you haven’t been running. “Well I did today!” I correct her. “And we take turns looking after the kids, so we can’t get to run every Saturday.” On she lingers, and tired of justifying my plump tum and exercise habits I curtly say goodbye and turn back to my eggs, which are rapidly cooling, as boiled eggs are wont to do.


So the poor woman, I’m sure she felt I was rude and dismissive but maybe she’ll think twice before going round pawing anyone else’s stomach, unless there’s a pool of amniotic fluid at their feet and she’s ringing an ambulance with the other hand. Then it’s ok, I’ll let her off with it.


I text LSB to give off. “Sake” he texts back, swiftly followed by another one, “You’re not are you?” I let him sweat a bit before I respond, but last time I checked you have to have sex to get pregnant and there hasn’t been much of that carry on, what with my vexatious gut.


I fended off enquiries on holiday too. There was a lovely waitress, who’d served me poolside glasses of wine and carajillos (that delicious fusion of expresso and Bailey’s) for five days on the trot. “You have two lovely little girls,” she smiled. “Hrrrmph” I say, as they haven’t been at their most endearing that morning (nor the 3 consecutive mornings for that matter). “And I see you have another on the way! I am just noticing!” “No,” I sigh. And she’s a sweet girl and I don’t want to be rude or have to start detailing my intestinal woes so I just get back to my book and question my decision to wear a bikini.


I was showing one of my Catalan purchases to my mum and foolishly asked if she thought it was nice. “Well you do know it makes you look pregnant,” she said. Well I fucking do now, thank you very much.


And finally, (and then I’ll stop, I promise) I wander into Al Gelato with children in tow and another lady I know is enjoying a coffee. “So when’s this one due?!” she asks gaily, eyeing my midriff. I churn out the same old craic, “No I’m not,” blah blah blah…. But then she says, “But you just look so tired!” I mean, honest to God! Do you remember the month of July when your children are very small? Who doesn’t look flipping exhausted? Why don’t you just assess my dire pore situation while you’re at it, and here, don’t leave out my hands, which with their protruding veins are soon going to require gloves AKA Sarah Jessica Parker in the last series of ‘Sex and the City’. I’m a car wreck, and incidentally it was great to catch up. I shall trot on, with my ego inflated no end.


Phew, I’m glad I got that off my chest.


I discuss the matter with my friend who’s a midwife over dinner on Friday night. She’s quite animated on the subject. “Unless someone’s told you they’re expecting, it’s never safe to assume. I tend not to, unless I see a head between labia.” “Quite,” I agree.


So I’m in a bit of a quandary. The IBS has flared up royally, despite my Colpermin peppermint tablets and a reduction in the wheat and the dairy and the caffeine. (I mean FFS, is it worth getting out of bed in the morning?) Wearing jeans is off the table because they’re frankly cruel on my tummy and as I said, I developed a powerful fondness for ice cream over the summer and I was also a serious cake botherer. I am thus carrying an extra couple of kilos. So I’ve been wearing little tunics over tights and leggings, and sometimes a dress. And I suppose, because I’m not a big person in general, the excess around the middle does protrude and people make assumptions. But they’d be wise to keep these to themselves. I’m thinking of my friends who would like to be pregnant, but aren’t. I’m thinking of the friends who’ve had miscarriages. Or frankly, of anyone who’s in any way sensitive and could live without being insulted. Imagine if they pop out for a bit of peace in a coffee shop and some half-wit comes along and ruins their day.


I have the misfortune to have an obstreperous bowel. It’s merely irksome, and thank God it’s nothing more sinister. Fortunately I’ve also developed a thick hide over the years. The aforementioned may be less able to cope with throw-away remarks, so these are best kept to oneself. Unless you’ve seen the two lines on a stick, people, keep it zipped. And when I was pregnant, I had an aching back and I felt putrid for nine months, so if it did happen again, believe me, everyone would know about it. The sourness was legendary.