I grew up in a small rural Welsh town, surrounded by roaming fields, livestock and a dramatic mountainous backdrop. I grew up going to pony shows and learning to shoot with my dad, my teenage years getting drunk on cider at barn-held young farmers discos, avoiding checked-shirt, sweaty, hormonal boys. My best friends were those I’d had since school, we spent the pre-makeup tutorial you-tube days, wearing blue eyeshadow and dodgy too long, flared jeans, that had a three-inch wet rise-up whenever it rained. I grew up in a small town, which means I sent most of my life being wary of gossip, avoiding the netballers at, the even more bitchily claustrophobic, school (the pastoral equivalent to American cheerleaders) not kissing boys for fear of being labelled ‘easy’ and trying not to get too drunk on cider; that primal terror of my mum and dad finding out ever present.
I was excited about moving to Germany, my first ever posting, of not knowing every face I see and their checkered relationship history; of my world opening up from a three-mile wide town to the 137, 983-mile Germany. I’ve loved exploring, I’ve loved seeing and meeting new people; different kind of people, who grew up in cities and rough neighborhoods, who grew up as far away from rainy Wales as you can get, where sunshine and beaches were the backdrop. I have been overwhelmed at times by the kindness of other women, I have, however, also despaired at sometimes feeling like I’ve traded in one small town, and the small-town mentality that comes with it, for another one. I’ve heard women criticising other women, and I don’t know how on earth they manage to remember, I can’t remember what I had for tea last night, for wearing the same dress to a mess do two years in a row. I’ve heard bitching about a mum
for being late on the school run. I myself have hardly been a paragon of humane understanding; I’ve wondered about the Mum who comes to the bus stop in her pj’s or the mum whose kids seem to think running into the road counts as a hobby. The truth is it’s the easiest thing in the world to get carried away, to criticise someone who does things differently to you, someone who just doesn’t seem to have figured out this whole adulting thing.
I too have been judged; for not going back to work after having a baby, for wanting to go back to work after having a baby, I’ve been warned by one of my husband’s friends that “people talk” after grabbing and ushering him to the bar to drink tequila the HB was getting in. And so, what to do? To change what you do, the way you dress, who you are? No, I don’t think so, because the truth is you can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world and there will still always be somebody who hates peaches. “Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about, be kind always” wise words, don’t you agree?