Narcissistic Self-Absorption: 2013 365 Challenge #170

Playing tennis

Playing tennis

My daughter had her first taster session at primary school today, and it inevitably raised the subject of schools again.

She’s happy with her current placement and so am I. What was interesting, though, was spending the day with two of my baby-group friends and raising the question of State vs Private schools with them for the first time.

They’re both State school teachers, and their children will be in my daughter’s class in September. I therefore wasn’t expecting an endorsement of private education.

However, what I hadn’t really expected was the strength of their negativity. I’m not a political person and it never occurred to me that State vs Private was such an emotive subject. (Okay, I’m naive).

Phrases like, ‘You might be able to afford the fees but can you afford the lifestyle?’ came up, even though one of them had looked aghast at me the week before, when I’d suggested getting my kids clothes from a cheaper supermarket, and admitted that I’d happily send my child to school in a jumper with a hole in.

Tennis balls hanging from the washing line

Tennis balls hanging from the washing line

The nuances of okay and not okay are too subtle for me to comprehend. I’ve never been very good at fitting in, although I’ve always tried desperately hard to do so.

Also both my friends already have children at school and I felt I was getting it all wrong by ordering the wrong uniform in the wrong sizes and taking at face value the letter that says summer dresses are only for the summer term. (I haven’t ordered one as a result, even though my daughter is desperate to wear one. Apparently they’re fine for September. Who knew.)

It’s like joining the parenting club all over again. So maybe it’s going to be as bad whatever school she goes to, and if it’s one where I don’t know any other parents, well at least I won’t know if I’m getting it wrong!

I did get a whiff of a sense that I might lose some friends if we decide on the private school. I’d be sad, for me and for Amber, but can’t help wondering if they’re really friends in that case.

My best friend and her son live in a different town and our friendship – and that between her son and my children – has survived him going to a different school, (as long as his school friends aren’t actually there) so I won’t be without friends, whatever our decision.

Next stop Wimbledon

Next stop Wimbledon

I also read an interesting article today on shyness and how it can make people narcissistic in their self-consciousness. That’d be me. I’m clearly destined to be paranoid and delusional whatever, so it may as well be on a grand scale! Sometimes I’m rather proud of being different. Maybe I’ll be the one who doesn’t wear make-up and Boden on the school run. The world won’t end.

I tried for neat hair and make-up today, so I didn’t embarrass my daughter at her new school, and the faff it took finding time and space to get ready wasn’t worth the look of shock on my friends’ faces or the surprised ‘Wow, you look amazing’.

Though, of course, that was nice.

What were those three rules again from the comments on my last post on Education?

You’ll always get it wrong, your kids will think you got it wrong, and none of it really matters in the end.

A good friend I bumped into today, whose kids attend private school, said pretty much the same thing.


Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog:


“When did you last have your hair cut?”

The stylist lifted Claire’s hair and let it fall again. Claire looked up at his face in the mirror and caught the faint sneer as he pulled his fingers roughly through her hair.

“I don’t know. A few weeks.” She did a quick tally in her mind. “Two months. I had it done before my leaving do. It’s only been two months.”

With a small tut, the stylist turned away and called to an assistant. “Wash this, please. Plenty of conditioner.”

Claire allowed herself to be led towards the sinks, feeling abashed at the terrible state of her hair. It didn’t seem fair. She hadn’t straightened it or done anything more than brush it into a ponytail for weeks. It should be in excellent condition. Okay, maybe being out in the sun and wind didn’t do it much good. And she often only managed to wash it with shampoo before the shower ran out of hot water. But still.

“Is that water okay for you?”

Claire realised the timid question was directed at her. The water was too hot, but she nodded and gritted her teeth. Attempting to relax into the chair, despite the sink digging into the back of her neck, Claire closed her eyes. The assistant massaged her scalp, digging deep with nails that were too long for comfort. As her head was pulled this way and that, Claire inhaled and admonished herself to relax.

A hair cut was a luxury she hadn’t managed in a while. There hadn’t seemed much point on the road. But that morning she had woken with a clear urge to have it done, and had phoned around the local towns until she’d found a salon with space.

The massage complete, Claire shuffled back to her chair, where the assistant asked her if she would like a drink, without quite meeting her eyes.

“Tea, please. Earl Grey if you have it.”

The assistant glanced at a machine in the corner, and Claire braced herself for something more akin to dishwater than a tasty beverage.

“What are we doing with it, then?”

Claire winced as the stylist dragged a comb through her wet hair. She met his eyes in the mirror and tried a smile. It bounced off his tanned skin, as he continued to frown.

“Your hair is thick, isn’t it?”

Stifling a sigh, Claire nodded. Every new hairdresser said the same. “Yes, it’s thick and heavy, no it doesn’t hold a curl or a style. I just need it tidied up, please. With some feathering around my face.” She indicated the shorter sections that were meant to tuck under her chin but currently hung nearer her chest.

With a look of disappointment at the lack of challenge to his consummate skill, the stylist sectioned Claire’s hair and clipped most of it up on her head.

“No highlights or lowlights? I can see some growing out.”

Claire tried to shake her head, but he had it pinioned. “No thank you. Keep it natural, please.” A tiny thought flickered in her mind, Michael prefers it natural. She ignored it.


An hour later, Claire’s head felt gloriously light, as her hair bobbed above her shoulders, curling under in a way she knew she’d never achieve at home. It shone like polished mahogany. The stylist had cursed at how long it had taken to straighten her mass of hair, but it was worth it.

Claire swung her head a little on the pretence of shaking away the shorn locks clinging to her cardigan. She felt like a woman in a shampoo commercial.

With a beaming smile, she took her credit card back from the lady on reception and left the salon, head held high.