"I know that Daddy. I'm going to have a baby when I'm six years old."
That was my daughter placating me and being clever by saying she is looking forward to getting older so she can have a baby. But not at age five. That would be ridiculous. She's going to wait until she's much older. I like how she picked one year older to make it perfectly normal. I thought about taking this opportunity to go on about traditional marriage - the real one where you can have multiple 12 year old wives that you've swapped for a goat. Instead I told her it was inappropriate. I couldn't leave it lie though. I told her that there are a few milestones she'll have to reach before any of that happens. She did ask what some of them were. So I told her she'd need to not only start wearing a watch, but also be able to to tell what time it is. Then from there she can begin to understand the concept of time and learn that it's hopefully going to be at least four times her age before she even thinks about the very idea of getting married five years after that. You know - after graduating university, being married for a bit and making sensible decisions about 401ks and paying off mortgage debt quickly.
To which she said "I'm going to have Bob and Tom's baby..." (names changed to protect the innocent). I don't care what kind of parent you are. You can have the purest mind imaginable. But when your not-even-five year old girl tells you she is going to be make a baby with two boys at school you can't help but have a terrifying day-mare that requires a mental bleaching. I managed the laughably poor, "I don't think you want to do that." Which just led to more questions - and suddenly I was in the position of justifying why she shouldn't enter into some sort of sperm-lottery with the two boys at school (one who claims to be a Power Ranger, and one who bizarrely told me once that he wasn't frightened of being at my house that one time). At some point in all this she asked me at what age I was when I had babies.
Instead this triggered some horrible memories that seem to be inexplicably attached like a human centipede (no Google, NOOOO!). I should point out that my memory of before I was thirteen is pretty much non-existent. It's all been blocked out (coincidentally I woke up in the middle of the night around that time and I knew what the meaning of life was. When I woke up again in the morning I'd forgotten what it was. I've been infuriated since). I'd like to think my brain did a memory-dump to make room for some amazingly useful information that would help me in life. But considering I can't remember how old I am the moment someone asks me - and then I have to work it out then that's probably not true.
Rapidly - like awful sordid dominoes - three memories came spilling out. First off was a memory about when my family lived on an RAF base in Hereford. I can't remember how old I was, but my memory pictured me as an 8 or 9 year old. The memory was my first blunt-faced awkward kiss with a girl who lived down the street. I don't remember her name or anything else - but the memory did involve some sort of torrid exchange involving her kissing me, and then me giving her some Star Wars figures and letting her play with my Millennium Falcon (which I really wish was a justifiable nickname I'd earned somehow). Weirdly years later when I was about 14 - and after moving to a small town in South Wales - a seemingly familiar girl who'd just moved to the school told everyone that she remembered me from years before, and that she was the first person I'd ever kissed. Worse - that I'd, "let her play with Chewbacca" (not a nickname I would want at all).
Immediately after this memory bounced off the mental-ground a completely unrelated one appeared. It was of me in my teens working a summer job at an insulation factory. All the regular employees were still there - but they hired young whippersnappers like us to be shoved into pipes to clean out hard-to-reach spaces that clearly people shouldn't be shoved into. On day one an old bloke (who in this memory looks like my old, thin, next door neighbor - accept with a huge white handlebar mustache) wandered over to the lunch table with all the young girls who'd started that day and asked if they liked sausage and chips - a plate of which he was holding in front of him. And there - in all it's glory - was a plate of hot chips with his wanger resting right in the middle of it. Apparently it was his party piece for any new women (or in this case - teenage girls) that were hired. I can imagine the absolute uproar that would erupt if that happened in modern Britain (let alone modern America) - but it was viewed back then as cheeky silliness.
As soon as that memory faded my brain raced to the stunningly poor decision I made when I was sixteen to lose my virginity to a girl I was dating at the time. I don't actually remember anything about it. Which actually helps in some ways to make me feel better about how colossally stupid it is to have sex when you're that young. But the memory that came flooding back now was me walking three miles home in this awful Liverpool away shirt that my then girlfriend has sullied with her virginal menstrual blood. People clearly thought I'd either been stabbed or been involved in some sort of murder where I'd humped someone to death. The memory involved me getting home and my mother asking what the hell had happened - and with me coming up with amazingly shit excuse that my girlfriend and I had been cooking with beef and I'd got some on me. No really - I told someone that and thought it was a good excuse.
That awful memory shot out of my head as my daughter (in the real world) asked me if she could have a watch for her birthday. I agreed because that sounds lovely. But then she muttered something about how she will show Bob and Tom the watch. Which made it seem very wrong. Like showing some blokes at work some fancy knickers you've got. That - for some odd reason - your Dad has bought for you so that you can find the right two guys to make babies with. All of which has pretty much clarified for me that consuming this much caffeine is deeply unhealthy. So I fumbled the whole thing by saying we'd have to wait and see - what with me needing to spend some money on a new lawnmower. Which is true, and led us both mentally to thinking about gardening and innocence and not about dowries and sexual beef blood.
Of course my daughter than got ready to go look at lawnmowers (which somehow also prompted her to announce she could buy a doughnut whilst I look them over). Which I am not about to do. I am not to be trusted with making sensitive purchases without the assistance of my wife. I often think that I have weighed up the pros and cons of a purchase like this. I've reviewed it all - I know I;m buying the right thing. Only to show my wife and have her explain to me in scathing language why it is a clearly a terrible pathetic choice. And I'm not being mean - for some reason I genuinely do believe I've done due diligence - only for the curtain to fall in my wife's presence and for me to look a colossal twat. So I'll think I've bought a good lawnmower only to get home to find - once in my wife's presence - that I've actually bought a dildo and have been wandering the back yard confused with it for ten minutes already.
This was most vividly demonstrated by me once years ago - at the beginning of my relationship with my wife - when I thought it would be a good idea to buy her some porn. I am well aware how silly that is now. At the time it made some kind of sense. I actually thought that might be a romantic thing to buy someone - especially someone with no interest at all in pornography. I actually studied pornography as part of a gender history degree in an academic fashion for my BA. Especially it's societal relationships with crime. Which really is a hundred million times less-sexy than I've made that sound. I'd wager that I have an automatically different stance on the whole thing than most people. I really am the last person on earth who should have thought it was a good idea. But for some reason I did. So what I did was read reviews of what were supposed to be nice, romantic porn-ish movies designed specifically for women. Yes - I know. After I'd deliberated, cogitated and digested a bunch of reviews - I bought one. When it arrived I put it in a cupboard for about three days still unsure if what I'd done was good or completely wrong. Eventually I told her I'd bought her something - without explaining it but very vaguely dancing around the fact that I'd bought a porn for women. she slightly withdrew into the couch - braced for whatever was coming - probably terrified that she was about to be confronted with some very firm proof that all men - no matter how nice they claim to be during a wedding vow - are actually criminally ill.
That DVD was the scariest thing I've ever seen. We both sat there waiting for whatever it was to happen. Then - and I'm not making this up at all - a woman with one bionic metal arm began to tell dirty stories to a green decaying alien being kept alive in an iron lung. I'm deadly serious. I had to talk myself out of that. I don't care what challenges you've had in your relationships - you've never been through anything like that. And here we are - a decade later - and my wife seems to think I'm not only capable of looking after two children, but that I'm ready to go off and spend lots of money on a lawnmower. So who's really the mental one here?
(It's me. I thought I should clear that up for anyone not reading this properly)