All that glitters is not gold

Let’s face it. We’ve all done it. At least once.

It’s so easy to get into a mindset where we become increasingly dissatisfied with ‘our lot’ reaching unwittingly for those rose-tinted glasses through which so much of what we see on social media must surely have been captured.

However, it’s human nature to want to better oneself and there is nothing quite like the feeling of seeing the fruits of one’s labours boldly looking back at us in the shape of a shiny new purchase!

The first car I ever bought will always occupy a very special place in my heart. Not only was it a nippy little thing in a pretty purple colour – mercifully, with age, comes better judgement! – but it was what it represented that made it so precious to me. It was a symbol of my new-found independence and heralded my first foray into the world of paid employment. I’ve bought no less than seven cars since then, and although they have outperformed my humble little Clio on pretty much every single level (I mean, it had handles to ‘wind’ down the windows, for goodness sake!) not one has won my affection in the same way.

And people can be much the same. Some can make you feel instantly better for seeing them – exuding warmth, humour, and compassion – whilst others don all of the outward vestiges of confidence and success but fail to touch us in quite the same way.

I recently learned that a friend of mine had been (as they say) rather unceremoniously ‘traded in for a younger model’ and she was quick to show me a photo of the new ‘acquisition’. And (apart from some rather prominent body-coloured bumpers!) it was difficult to see the attraction. All of a sudden, my thoughts returned to the car that had won my affection all those years ago. It had faithfully taken me safely all over the United Kingdom (in high winds, snow, and fog) and, had it not eventually gasped its last on my mum’s front drive, I’d like to think that it would still have been with me today. For no other car (albeit blessed with a host of advanced electrical features) has ever been quite so dependable – or indeed so much fun to drive.

‘All that glitters is not gold’ by Gaynor Hall

She always looks so glamorous, bedecked from head to toe
In jewellery rich and sparkling and tones that make her glow.
Her hair is thick and glossy, a profusion of gentle curls
Which frame her dainty cheekbones whilst her generous lashes unfurl.

His smile exudes an arrogance – the cat that got the cream –
As upon his arm she simpers, doing wonders for his self-esteem.
They dart from table to table, simply desperate to advertise
To every other person there that he’s won the topmost ‘prize’.

They cut a striking figure as they glide across the floor,
Moving in perfect synergy as they chassé towards the door.
They step into a waiting limo, waving such fond goodbyes,
But as soon as the car is out of sight, she drops her clever disguise.

The demands start to tumble incessantly out, each one just a bit more unreasonable,
He weakly offers his assurances, though he’s not sure they’re actually feasible.
He watches as she snaps and snarls – transforming those dainty features
Into something far less alluring – akin to a vicious creature.

His thoughts drift back to times gone by, when the person at his side
Cared about his feelings – made him laugh until he cried.
She never asked for expensive gifts, preferring instead to play
Endless board games with him and the kids, bringing cheer to a rainy day.

He’d been foolish (he could see that now) simply wanting to spread his wings,
Getting caught up in his own vanity and seeking ‘better’ things.
Why hadn’t he seen the value in the life they’d built together?
A life where honesty and love so many storms had weathered.

Unreasonable behaviour

According to ‘Divorce online.co.uk’, 36% of all husbands and 51% of all wives file for divorce on these grounds. Apparently (when making a petition) the relevant party is generally advised to cite 4 or 5 examples of ‘unreasonable behaviour’, as a means of proving that the relationship has irretrievably broken down. Certainly, some of the examples listed (such as domestic abuse or alcoholism) would be difficult to contest and I found myself feeling incredibly grateful that my own circumstances are so far removed from the heart-breaking reality faced by so many.

Nevertheless, this got me thinking…

If 87% of adults who are seeking a divorce are using this phrase as justification (and I did read that ‘the Responder spending more time with their pet than the Petitioner’ was also a perfectly valid reason, albeit a little less compelling!) then it’s nothing short of a miracle that we, as a society, haven’t yet reached a stage where parents actually consider divorcing their own children!

Over the course of the last week alone, I’ve lost count of the number of times that I have been rendered speechless by the sheer audacity of my own two. The following is just a small sample:

  • Monday – A seemingly simple request relating to the relocation of a pair of (evidently quite weighty) ankle socks (a whole 5 paces) from the bedroom floor to the laundry bin culminated, quite bizarrely, in an extended bout of flouncing and door slamming. On the plus side, at least this extraordinary outburst earned the protestor some much-needed steps on his Fitbit!

  • Tuesday  – Having spent approximately 90 minutes producing a new recipe that was very much on a theme of past successes (with any potentially contentious ingredients shrewdly omitted), I was greeted by morose expressions, deep sighs, and some carefully timed gagging – purely for dramatic effect, of course. Later on, having actually deigned to taste it, they both reluctantly admitted that “it was quite nice actually” – small comfort when your blood pressure has already gone through the roof and you are suffering the effects of chronic indigestion!
  • Wednesday – Having rushed straight from school to the weekly swimming lesson – ‘beach ready’, as is the norm these days – I was treated to a full blown meltdown (synchronised to perfection with the arrival of the swimming instructor) for that most heinous of crimes; that of removing the ‘wrong’ sock first.
  • Thursday – Upon mentioning (after at least two prior warnings) that it was time to  switch off the Xbox and leave for football training, I was met with abject sullenness, Olympic standard fist clenching and an apparently genetic inability to prevent his bottom lip from repeatedly dragging on the hallway floor! None of this would have been quite so galling if:
  1. I hadn’t literally just got in from work and
  2. my son hadn’t already spent an hour and a half slouching at leisure in front of said Xbox, whilst his Dad stoically tried to finish off a fee bid, to a relative symphony of rapid gunfire!

After all, whose football training was it, anyway?!

  • Friday – This is traditionally my ‘day off’ and, therefore, the one day of the week when patience is in slightly greater supply… I arrived outside the classroom door smiling warmly through the window at my youngest, whom I had come to collect from school.  With a face like thunder, he burst passed the teacher thrusting first his coat, then his jumper, and finally his bag into my arms. Upon enquiring tentatively as to what was the matter, I was met with an angry tirade during which my failure to return a slip to the office, from a letter that never came home, concerning an activity that (until now anyway) I genuinely didn’t know existed, was cited as the sole cause of his displeasure. I was so glad that I had asked!!

So, in just one (fairly typical) working week, I had single-handedly managed to gather enough evidence to file for a divorce from my two rather temperamental (but ultimately fairly normal) children, on the grounds of ‘unreasonable behaviour’. Imagine the strength of our case if my husband and I ever chose to pool our resources and produce an entire portfolio of examples?

The difference, of course, is that the love we have for a child is unconditional, whereas the love we have for a partner can stand up to a good deal less provocation. And so, on reflection, I guess that we’ll just have to accept that we are the grown-ups in this particular relationship and that it is our moral duty to continue to love, guide and support them.

Just wait until they have children of their own!