In my next life, I am going to be someone who plays my cards so close to my chest that you’ll be able to see the imprint of the seven of spades on my right boob. No one is even going to know what I had for breakfast, let alone where I went for dinner and with whom. Not for me a line of dirty laundry flapping in the wind, greying bloomers for all to see. No one is ever going to raise their eyebrows at me and say, ‘Really?’ again, or suddenly scurry off in the middle of a convivial conversation because I’ve revealed some unappealing gem about the Fisher family.
I’ve noticed the nosiest people are those who hang onto every whisper of information about themselves. They feel quite free to ask ‘How much did you pay for your curtains?’, ‘Why didn’t you send your children to the same school as my child?’, ‘What did you vote?’, while blocking simple enquiries about where they went on holiday with an obfuscation worthy of a politician.
I’m going to keep secrets about things that I didn’t know were supposed to be secrets, like which maths set my son is in and his stunning failure in the art exam. I’ll become a match for the parents whose offspring regularly provide a sweep of A*s across the board but seal themselves up like a thermos flask the second a B-minus in embroidery darkens their door.
When I go to the doctor, the optician or the hairdresser, I’m going to be all mysterious with my friends and talk darkly about arriving a bit late to meet them because I have ‘an appointment’. God forbid anyone should know that I sit in a hairdresser’s chair and have all that grey dyed brown. Will they like me less if they know? So far they don’t seem to.
Other people trap stories about spousal disagreement, children’s misdemeanours and family skeletons like wasps under a glass. I manage, barely, to draw the line at things that might make people start looking at their watches and back away with their hands in the air, possibly retching as they go.
Maybe it’s just a lack of filter, allowing words out into the air before I’ve weighed up whether the audience really needs to know the gory details of my family life.
Or maybe when I’m actually saying the words, I don’t care what people think, though I do seem to mind more at four in the morning. By seven o’clock though, I’ve usually convinced myself that I’m not as important as I think I am, and if I provide everyone with a topic of conversation for ten minutes, I’ve done them all a favour.
Even if I could rein myself in, turn myself into one of those tight-lipped people whose children apparently clap their hands with glee when asked to empty the dishwasher, whose husband has to be torn away from the dusting, who have their Christmas presents wrapped by Hallowe’en, with sprinkles and bows and bells…would I be able to gag the rest of the family?
It’s not looking hopeful. When my daughter was asked to write an essay about her family as part of her entrance exam, she wrote ‘My mum is so naughty that I simply daren’t write any examples here.’