It appears as though I truly am part of the gaggle now, and some of the mother geese are taking me under their protective wings. As a group they have decided it’s high time I got back into shape and our three walks a week at pre-schooler pace are simply not doing the trick. One afternoon at school drop off I noticed some gaggle members talking in whispered tones as I walked towards them. Secretly I was hoping they were talking about Sarah’s extra-curricular activities. It was alarming the speed at which I have become adept at Snobsville’s favourite sport – gossip mongering.
As I approached the whispers stopped and the pretence of friendly smiles were suddenly plastered across their facades. They were talking about me?
A few short months ago I would have expected it, relished it even, as the ever outcast misfit observing the gaggle from a far. I was immune to being the subject of gossip. But now, I was surprised at how fragile my new found confidence was. Too late to pretend I hadn’t seen them, too late to catch the teacher’s eye for a quick conference from a seemingly over involved parent. I doubt I could pull either off anyway. So nursing a few hurt feelings and sheltering my exposed insecurity, I braced myself and went into battle.
“Okay, what is it? Your subterfuge is slipping ladies. What have I done to deserve such in depth discussion?”
Linda was only too eager to answer. “Seem there are a few things slipping around here dear.”
Caroline jumped in. “What Linda means dear, is that we’ve noticed, now that Layla is getting a bit older, it might be time to, uh…”
“You know what a gym is don’t you darling? I thought you used to work in one?” Linda again.
I tried to laugh it off – body image after having a baby is a deeply personal thing, and I wasn’t sure I was ready to let the gaggle in just yet. “What is this, an intervention?” I giggled nervously but their stony faces remained unchanged.
“Oh my God – it IS an intervention?”
Elizabeth smiled. “Well, dear, we know you’re not working – of course, Layla is such a good reason to be at home! But the gyms near here have fabulous creche’s. Some of them even teach Japanese or offer extra tutoring. Anyway, this IS kind of your job now, honey. To look after yourself.”
This was serious. Aside from Linda, the witty repartee had been restrained and the gaggle were being…nice? In kind of a backhanded way, I grant you, but the pitiful smiles around the circle were genuinely, (though certainly misguidedly), designed to be of comfort.
Brita, bright as ever, had a solution. “Girls, why don’t we start a walking group? It will be fun! I have hand weights which you can put water in. and a stack of pedometers, and we can go shopping for new tracksuits!”
“Uh, okay, I suppose that sounds good.” In a sense I was deflated. I honestly hadn’t considered my appearance since giving birth, and had assumed the previous comments directed at my waistline were mere ammunition in a game of one upmanship rather than a serious criticism. But on the other hand, if I was on the outside looking in, they would merely talk about me behind my back, and would not be bothered to offer what they considered to be helpful advice. I would be a passing joke. For I moment, I wasn’t sure which was worse.
“For you, Marley anything.” Elizabeth smiled again. “But seriously dear, check out the crèche at the Snobsville Fitness Centre. It’s fabulous. Layla can learn ballet!”
“You know she’s only a few months old, right?”
“Oh, it’s never too young to start enriching their young lives is it?”
Before I could roll my eyes in response, the ever loyal Caroline spoke up. “Yes, I’m in. You can never get too much exercise, right Marley?”
“So, the first week we’ll start at your place Caroline. In South Snobsville.” It was said with a deliberateness I hadn’t expected.
“Brita, Caroline is barely in South Snobsville. More Snobsville adjacent.” Caroline sneered at Linda. Even when they were trying to be nice they were competing.
Brita was running away with herself now. Ignoring Linda, she continued on. “Exactly Carolione! Oh, and the first week, I’ll organise a nutritionist to visit us to give us some cooking tips to pass onto the nannies. And maybe each week we can have one of them cook us a delicious, healthy lunch for afterwards. With a glass of bubbles.”
The irony had not occurred to her that champagne was empty calories. I dared not mention it would be me that would be cooking when it came to be my “nanny’s” turn.
“Well, actually, champagne has a lot of calories in it – “
She cut me off. “Well we’ll do half guava juice then! Juice is good, right? It will be like our own personal detox. You’ve got to keep a positive attitude Marley, it will all be okay really soon. I promise. We’ll get you back in shape, even if it takes a year!” I was a little speechless at this point, and felt more and more exposed in my size twelve jeans. Linda kindly picked up the reins where Brita left off.
“Well, ladies, though that does sound soooo delightful, I think I’ve got my body under control. Marley, you should try the cleanse I’ve been on. Of course, you would have to eat a lot less to make it count.” She was eyeing the lunch stains on my shirt. I’m embarrassed to say Layla has not started solids yet. I was just so tired I missed my mouth a few times.
She wasn’t done. “Oh, and don’t bother asking Sarah. She’s getting quite enough exercise with her tennis coach.”
And with that she was off in a puff of Chanel No. 5, dragging her perfectly behaved gifted child behind her into her immaculately clean and sparkling black SUV, barely a hair out of place or a crease in her perfectly casual white t shirt which sat exactly as it should under a colourful silk scarf. Why did I envy such an unpleasant woman?
We began the walking group a few days later. I was hesitant at first, but enjoyed the thought that I would be able to spend some time with the gaggle away from Linda, whose company I enjoyed less and less. Plus maybe the other girls would share some juicy stories about her.
And that is how I ended up in a walking group with three friends – all of us wearing a pink valeur Lorna Jane track suit, with completely non-functioning, very expensive matching pink sand shoes and carrying two flouro pink water bottles which doubled as pretty ineffectual hand weights. Sure, part of me hated myself. I was the exact cliché I had laughed inwardly at as a trainer. But the rest of me loved being part of the walking gaggle.