We had a rare night out this week – a pre-Christmas meal with friends.
There is not much I could do nowadays that would cause our boys to raise their heads from their latest gaming obsessions. But there was a time when Mummy putting on clothes that were not covered in baked beans was a source of great curiosity.
Oliver would watch me applying make-up with great interest.
“Mummy, why are you decorating your face?” he once asked.
How to explain to a three year old? To try to look less exhausted? To hide my desire to forget the whole “going out thing” and just put my pyjamas on? I can’t remember what explanation I gave, but I doubt he was satisfied with it.
Sometimes their questions would be more disconcerting. Children are painfully honest. As I was straightening my hair, William watched with a fascinated expression.
“Mummy, are you trying to make your hair REALLY flat?” he asked. I have to confess, “flat” was not exactly the look I was going for, but it was obviously the stand-out characteristic for this small fashion critic.
In the days when Mummy was always to be found in jeans, or on bad days, joggers, Mummy in a skirt was always very amusing. William would point suspiciously at my tights.
“What’s happened to your legs, Mummy?”
“I’m wearing tights.”
“What are those?”
“Sort of very thin socks”.
I could see him thinking, “Not very good socks. Not warm, and they don’t have pictures of Bob the Builder on them”.
Oliver particularly liked shoes as a small child. Some of his most dramatic tantrums were over new shoes, or sandals, or wellies. So when I dug out my heels from the back of the wardrobe, he was very excited.
As we were getting ready to go out for my birthday, (I think it was a significant milestone), I produced a pair of high heels with a diamante strap, which I had worn on our wedding day.
Oliver bent down to touch the sparkly stones. “These are like party shoes!” he exclaimed.
“Well it’s sort of a party, because it’s my birthday,” I said.
Later, as we were about to leave the house, Oliver spotted my husband’s black lace-ups. He was outraged.
“Why don’t you have sparkly party shoes, Daddy?”
Walk into any children’s clothing department, and the space devoted to girls' clothes will be double that for the boys. Racks and racks of pink and purple skirts, dresses, and tops, with sparkly slogans, kittens, and unicorns, outshine a few drab racks of navy, and khaki, and plaid.
There has been a lot of debate recently about gender and clothes. Certainly, this polarisation seems to have become more extreme in recent years. I am absolutely in favour of girls’ clothes being more practical, and I think gender-free clothes are a great idea.
Equally, though, I can’t help thinking it’s a shame that boys' clothes are, well, boring. Many boys are just as interested in dressing up as girls, but as they get older they quickly pick up that this is not acceptable. Boys wear black, and grey, and khaki. They don’t get to sparkle.
So, wouldn’t it be great if boys had more glitz and glamour, for those rare, special, occasions, when only glitz and glamour will do?