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Friday 31 October 2014

What Katie did next....

If you're not going to stack the dishwasher properly, then don't do it at all." My mother let out a familiar groan, and continued to busy herself over the sink.

"You have to rinse the dishes first, or else there's no point in using the dishwasher," I continued, growing increasingly frustrated.

But my mother wasn't listening. She never does.

As you approach your thirties, you discover that, despite all your better attempts, you are turning into your mother.

I'm not, though. No, I've skipped an entire generation and I'm slowly metamorphosing into my grandmother. I even have a dodgy knee.

And my mother? Well, she's been 25 for as long as I can remember.

My sister nicknamed me 'nana' when I gave up drinking. "Shut up, nana," she recently rallied when I brought her up on what I considered to be her excessive weight loss.

"You're one pound away from being too thin," I warned, pointing my finger (pointing my finger?!) in her direction. "You'll lose your looks," I continued, in that shrill, I-told-you-so intonation favoured by sagacious senior citizens.

My mother caught the end of our debate. "No woman can be too rich or too thin," she declared. And then off she went to get a spray tan.

"No one listens to me in this house," I huffed before going back to unstacking the dishwasher of plates that had dried spaghetti stuck to them.

The role reversal was vividly evident at my brother's wedding. I spent the evening in the company of my grandmother, bitching about my mother's dishwasher stacking technique, discussing a book about Medjugorje and exchanging saint prayer cards in the same way that little boys swap football stickers. "Padre Pio. I have him. He's good."

My mother, meanwhile, spent the better part of her evening in the company of my friends, discussing what, I do not want to know.

I caught one of their conversations. She was telling my pal that he should become a writer. "Sure look at 50 Shades of Grey. Anyone could have wrote that," she announced.

She then launched into a comedy act that involved an imaginary typewriter and an impression of my pal writing his first novel, via Jack Kerouac and EL James.

And sure no better time to bring up his drinking problem, which she seamlessly weaved into her routine.

"I want you to walk over to the bar and slowly pick up an ice cold pint glass, grip your hand around the tap handle and push it deep, deep down..."

As my friends laughed hysterically, I lurked around the circumference of their little circle tutting like some right-wing, red-faced oik from the Censorship Board.

My sister calls moments like this "the mammy nerves". 'What is she going to say next?' you worry. The irony is that the only person your pals are really horrified by at moments like this is you. They think that your mum is great craic. They just can't understand why you look like you're about to have a stroke.

My mum and my pals soon headed back into the marquee, leaving me alone in a cloud of their cigarette smoke, and disappointed that I didn't get to command the stage with a fascinating story about a recent apparition of Our Lady.

I've acquired many more of my grandmother's characteristics. During films, I have a tendency to predict the twist in the tale. Out loud. "He's the killer," or "she's a spy," I announce smugly as everyone else strains to hear what the actors are saying.

I chat with shop assistants about anything that can possibly be chatted out. Even if they don't want to. Especially if they don't want to. "Are these selling well?" / "Almond milk?! Now how would they make that?" / "What would you recommend for a dodgy knee?" These days, I share almost every thought that comes into my head, often while walking around the house, swinging open doors and launching into rooms. "It's cold enough in here. Is the heat on? Will we put a fire on? Who's that on the telly? Jesus, is he still going? Turn it up. Is the heat on? I hope I'm not coming down with something. Who's putting on the fire?"



Obstinate

This, I have learnt, is how women stay sane. There are so many thoughts buzzing around the female brain that, come a certain age, she has to unload the less worrisome ones by verbal expulsion, like a pressure cooker releasing steam. This is why men rarely respond to these machine-gun questions/ statements. They recognise it as self-therapy.

Like my grandmother, I've become obstinate in decisions, however mercurial my mood. "No, I just wouldn't pay it" or "there's nothing happening here". I recently left a warehouse rave after five minutes. The taxi driver who dropped me there was still outside, chatting away on his mobile (probably to the gardai, now that I think about it). "Home already?" he enquired.

Home. My new favourite place. My idea of a perfect night is nursing a cup of tea and watching "a wee truey" -- my grandmother's contraction for 'true movie'. (She is blissfully unaware of what it rhymes with, God bless her.)

She -- we -- like our movies based on real events and made in the '90s.

Movies with names like 'Murder of Innocence'. I turn over during the sex scenes.

While we're on the subject, I now feel like it's too juvenile to use slang words when discussing intercourse. Instead I say "making love", "being intimate" or, a direct steal from my grandmother, "that there's a bedroom scene" (the latter I say with derision as though people should know better than to have the absolute time of their lives).

Do you know those daughters -- often the youngest in the family --who never leave their mother's side? They are generally a bit slow and have probably yet to lose their virginity? They say things like "shush, you'll wake Mammy!" and they rarely stay out past midnight. That's what I've become.

And my master, I mean, mother? Well, we recently had to stage an intervention. My brother led the charge. "For 2013 you have to make a conscientious effort to stop saying 'whatever'." "Yeah, it's so rude and dismissive of other people's opinions," I added.

"Wha. . . ," my mother began, before trailing off. She didn't say another word and instead started to put on her coat. I followed suit and went trailing after her in Igorian submission.

The roles might change but the power will never shift.

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