The card came around the office. “Congratulations on your new baby.” it said. I rubber-stamped the usual message amongst the various scrawls from co-workers and people I don’t even know; at least not by name. I passed it on like a hot cake. Only one week later yet another card landed on my desk and I didn’t even realise they were having a baby. I tried my hardest to vary the words from the last card but the message was much the same. ‘Well done.’ just seemed far too involved and inappropriate. It almost felt like it said, “oh well done on your sexual intercourse. Please do tell us the details.” I reverted to the jazz standard of birth cards, “Congratulation! All the best for the future and further sexual encounters.” May be not the latter part. I dropped the card on the nearest unattended desk and allowed someone to take it’s postal responsibility.
I cherish my lunch hour like annual leave, it’s my time, but walking one of the back lanes to the high street I bumped into an old friend from a previous workplace, Carole. “Hiya Carole!” I said brightly. I have time for Carole, she is nice, gentle and yet gets things done professionally. It was nice that she had time for me and so I stopped to talk.
“How’s things?” I enquired, “How’s the baby, congratulations by the way.” It wasn’t just that it had been a week of babies just popping out from everywhere but it was the one major thing I could remember that had happened to Carole since only keeping disconnectedly in-touch over Facebook.
“Oh great thank you.” she said, “It’s been seven months now.” she said.
There was no escaping baby news. ‘Don’t — get — broody.’ I told myself firmly while she spoke. She talked about how things are with her new bundle. ‘Look how well she looks. Concentrate on that.’ I told myself while trying to focus.
It didn’t happen though. I walked on and it didn’t hit me. I surprised myself. I’d only have to catch the eye of some blue eye’d bundle of a boy with sugar clear goo dribbling down his little chin in the arms of a mother at the cafe and I’d be complete mush. I’ve never understood where my broodiness has come from. It’s always been there in some form even when I was young but in my thirties it really took hold. Today though it didn’t. Broodiness was simply a state that only happened when the planets aligned, flowers had bloomed and when Tesco have Shredded Wheat Bite Size on special offer.
I headed straight to the park to clear all thoughts of babies, broodiness and there lack of; just in case. I took the one of the narrow strips of grass in this small ornamental park in the city. Surrounded by short iron railings and centred with gravel mazes and shrubbery islands of flowers in full bloom; the park attracted white collars, call centre groups and sometimes the odd drunk at lunch. It’s multi-culture of people sat on the grass and the few benches is what makes it so vibrant and yet quite peaceful.
I pulled out the Kindle and continued reading, briefly flicking back a page to work out what a television programme would state in an American accent, ‘Previously on…’ I know I am a bit of a purist when it comes to most things, including books, yet since starting with the Kindle I’ve soon realised it’s the words that matter and I still enjoy it exactly as I would from a pile of paper pages. I stopped reading for a moment and thought about the fact I’d seen this book for half price in Waterstones the day before. I came to a decision that I would probably end up buying it for the book shelf as well.
I re-adjusted my bum with only my hoody separating my jeans from the grass and began to read only to notice a man walking behind me lightly humming and singing a song in a foreign language in a falsetto pitch. He sat several feet away and laid down for a moment. I thought for a minute he was about to do sit-ups when he pulled himself up again and pulled his t-shirt off and laid back on the grass in the sun. Not quite the ‘city’ thing to do but feel free all the same. I continued to read and then his phone went. Possibly Polish. Reading was obviously going to be a little bit piecemeal this lunch hour, but baby thoughts had since long gone.
I saw James again this week. We sat on the bench over looking the sandy bay with late evening joggers and a pair of horses kicking up spray with their legs on the shallow waves of the waters edge. It was peaceful. The copper tones of the summer sunset made everything slow down so much that the only passage of time noticeable was the incoming tide. It made a change from the monotony of the after-work evening of tea, washing up, the dredges of television and then bed routine.
“Do you reckon you could run the length of the beach?”, he asked before taking a mouth full of some strong ready made orange-squash-in-a-bottle drink he’d just bought in one of the quiet convenience stores that was still open. He winced at the lack of dilution.
“What… that. Where that jogger is?”, I said surprised. “ Yeah, of course, no problem.” To me it really didn’t seem that far but after second thoughts it might have been far enough that some motivation would be required.
“You reckon?” he said.
“Yeah, why not.”
“I think I’d probably work up to it bit by bit.”
“I reckon you could do it.” I said encouragingly. “It’s not that far, I think once you were going you could do it. Put an iPod on and you’ll go far.”
What came next I didn’t expect. James has always wanted to get back to exercise but with his busy family life it’s hard for him to make time for it, and after a nine-to-five day at work it’s hard to get the motivation and a lot easier to sit in front of the TV with desert.
“Would you like to start running with me?” It was almost like he’d led up to the idea. “It looks lush down there along the waters edge.”
“You could get some new running clothes to fill your newly acquired space.” I joked knowing that it would be unlikely that he would use female running gear so close to his home. “I wear my three-quarter length running trousers, bit like those.” I said, pointing to a pair of girls that were strolling away from us after their own run on the beach.
We sat for a moment in thought still looking down the beach to the waters edge and mulling over how we could be those joggers on the edge of the tide on a warm summer evening. “I really want to get rid of this.” he said, cupping his belly with both hands that really isn’t very noticeable under his t-shirt, “I want to get into a size 14 again.”
“I know what you mean.” I said as I remembered one specific item of clothing that I, annoyingly, cannot wear comfortably at the moment, “I’ve got this grey skirt I bought from H&M years ago. I wore it a couple of times and then I put weight on and haven’t been able to wear it properly since and I really like it. It’s my challenge.” I bought the skirt some time after the Bridget Jones era, it was similar but, disappointingly, not identical to the one in the lift scene, “It’s a proper size 12 if you know what I mean.” I added giving my excuse.
The fact is I’m not terribly over-weight by any means but I am at least a stone more than I want to be and used to be. When I get to that ideal weight I’m always just a little bit happier about my body. Clothes feel right, rather than tight. Whether I can get there is another matter. I seasonally jog and run when I feel well enough but if I’m ever run-down it halts like a train at the station, brakes slammed tight and I hit the chocolate in the fridge. This is now my new challenge though, to get back into my exercise routinely and regularly, with or without James though really looking forward to sharing the salty sea air in my hair. Besides, it’s another thing to keep me occupied that is positive with hopefully a positive out-come (being able to get back into the H&M smart grey skirt) and feeling a little more healthy. In fact being able to run means I can wear my three quarter length jogging bottoms which in turn, being out running in my jogging bottoms, encourages me to go running. A vicious cycle of energetic cross-dressing. Eugh, even writing cross-dressing against myself doesn’t feel right. Just at the moment I think, ‘no, they’re just clothes, my clothes. My clothes that I bought for me that I just happen to wear.’ That’s my confirmation that my inner female gender is genuine because it just feels normal that they’re my everyday clothes; even if I do feel a little happier than I should running in those black bottoms.
James is planning on buying what he needs to run in the next few days and then we’ll be arranging our first run. I doubt he’ll be wearing anything remotely female. We shall see.
Until next time.