Soapbox – Your Mother’s Friends

 
 

You can’t run or hide from them and, just like the Spanish Inquisition, they show up when you’re never expecting them, Aaron Murphy recounts the horrors of running into your mother’s friends

As I make one of my regular trips to the supermarket or the post office or pharmacy these days, I very often find myself cornered by some inexplicably friendly, elderly-female acquaintance of my mother’s who has known me since I was *disbelieving gesture* “This big.”

It’s not that I am perturbed by these ambushes, which are probably a rather thoughtful gesture, so much as absolutely loathe the conversations that arise from them. I find myself repeating that “college is good” and “my studies are fine,” and “the exams were stressful” up to three times per trip, all to some interchangeable, nodding, motherly figure who has ensnared me on the street.

Once these formalities are dealt with, we move into the bleak, well-rehearsed phrases such as, “You’ve had a spurt since I last saw you” and “you’re the image of (insert non-blood-related relative here)” and “God, it’s an awful spell” and “there’s a storm coming, I can feel it in me waters,” which is truly an absolutely grotesque statement of supernatural ability and which, if you’re not careful, forces you to imagine her psychic juices sloshing about like some meteorological weather vane.

Occasionally, with some of the more malevolent predatory small-talkers, one is then whisked into the advice stage. This, nowadays, seems to be largely focused on my college budget; “Mind the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves” is a common one. My health comes up as well, “When I was in college, I’d cycle my bike everywhere and never once got sick.” And in third place, my studies, “Oh yes, it’s good to keep the head down at the start of the year, it makes it much easier.”

Again, all of this probably comes from some desire to be friendly on their part, but for the victim it can feel like you have to re-live the war with a crooning advisor at your side.

It’s not nice to be rude, so I will usually humour them, but I know that I’m not the only one who braves this horror every time I go out. I just don’t feel like we should be obliged to please the chatter-starved masses to get on with our lives.

It’s probably arrogant, and a little sad, to assume that these women need our lacklustre interactions to fill a hole in their life, but I can find no other explanation for their clinginess. Just as you think you’re out the other side you are brought to heel by an “Oh and tell me, how’s ___ doing now?”

This has to stop. This behaviour shouldn’t be normalised. The vultures are circling. We must rise against the new (old) breed, or forever be servants to their whimsy.

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