What is it about groups of women that set my teeth on edge? That feeling that I don’t belong?
I felt like this long before I got caught up in the competitiveness of prep school mummies, checking one another out at the school gates and babbling on about their next holiday or why they’d sacked the nanny.
In fact, I’ve never felt comfortable in all-female groups. Maybe that’s why I chose to have close male friends (gay or straight). I was in my comfort zone.
Women check one another out. Go on, admit it, we do! ‘Ooh, she’s put on a bit of weight’ or ‘Mm, bit too much concealer going on there.’
And the private school mums are the worst. A Primark top can be sniffed out at twenty paces and non-designer bags are a definite reason to never converse with the culprit again.
Now, they’re not all like this - I’ve also developed some fabulous relationships with those who have kept their feet on the ground - but, believe me, I’ve met some of the worst. And, actually, I owe them a big thank you for giving me the inspiration to write my book. I was most definitely judged on what I didn’t have and that didn’t sit well with me. My book was in no way ‘revenge’ but it did feel good to take real life experiences and mix them up into a work of fiction - people I’d met or heard about were thrown into a great big melting pot and spewed out as a morph of different characters.
I never felt ‘good enough’. And no wonder, when I was once introduced as “Amanda, she lives in a little house”. Yes that really happened! I left that coffee morning rather swiftly and returned to my modest three bed town-house to lick my wounds.
I was the ‘mum to look down on’. The cliques that gather at the school gate always have to have one outsider and I fitted the bill perfectly.
Imagine my surprise when my son moved on to secondary school (also private) and I discovered that, amongst the elite, there were many other parents like us who sacrificed holidays in favour of education and also lived in little houses!
And yet there were still those groups of women - a breed unto themselves. They speak a different language, it’s all about appearances and keeping up with the Barrington-Smythes. They’ll simper in your face but pull a bejewelled dagger out and have it in your back before you can utter the words “Day Spa.” The only thing that stops them frowning at your poverty is their botox and you’ll never see them blush at their indiscretions because of their year round tan (part real, part fake). A friend of mine calls them the ‘Shiny People’ - all that buffing and waxing creates a permanent Mr Sheen type mahogany gloss.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not averse to personal grooming - I sport a healthy blonde bob, paint my nails twice weekly, shave bits and bobs and apply a light fake tan when needed. I wear make up every day (don’t want to scare the cats) and I keep trim(ish) by doing yoga.
I just don’t make it my life’s mission and spend thousands of pounds in the process. I’ve been to cocktail parties in a charity shop bargain (designer of course) and once went to the wedding of a milliner with a pair of tights on my head, looking fab! (I’d seen a stunning latticed headband in Harrods - £235! - so hubbie and I designed our own, using black tights and cream satin. Sorted!)
I don’t judge other people by what they have or haven’t got and I don’t expect people to do it to me - we all come into this world with nothing and leave the same way and you’re not a better person for owning a Hermès Birkin.
So mummies, as you break up for the summer, start to think ahead to the new September term - be nice to one another, don’t gossip behind anyone’s back, take that little outsider under your wing and be a friend.
You might find yourself ostracised from the hard-core yummies but you know you’ll feel a better person for it.
Read my fictional tale of bitching and botox at the school gates. “Diary of a Mummy Misfit” on Amazon for Kindle, PC or Smartphone. Now also available in paperback at Lulu.