“I’m sick of this,” said the Mother, mostly to herself.
“I’ve lost count of the number of bloody application forms I’ve filled out. Plus these days, you don’t even get a rejection letter. You have to phone them to find out you didn’t get an interview.”
The Mother had just got off the phone after speaking to the Immaculate Conception Church of England Primary School, and it wasn’t good news. Her sense of failure was compounded by hearing the news over the phone, more precisely, her mobile phone.
“The problem is,” thought the Mother, “that when you got bad news in the good old days, you also got to slam the phone down in a temper.” Now, you pressed a tiny button to end a call; it just wasn’t the same.
She missed that great big lump of green plastic her mum had rented from BT for 20 years. It might have taken 15 minutes to make a phone call, but you could not beat it for the satisfaction of cutting someone off. So in the absence of a heavy-duty piece of dated technology, she continued with her rant.
“Maybe they think I’m too bloody old; yep, I think that’s what’s holding me back. No, no, I bet it’s that they want a bloke for the job. There’s so few men in primary education, they’re desperate for ’em. It’s because I’m a woman. I bet if I had balls, I’d get an interview.” Her son casually walked into the room. Despite the fact that he was busy on his phone, it happened to be one of those rare occasions when he was listening to her.
“Check your privilege, Mum,” he snorted.
“What?!” The Mother replied, more loudly than she’d intended.
“Check your privilege,” he repeated dryly.
“What the hell does that mean?”
“Don’t you know?” he answered smugly, then continued with, “Well, you’re a white, middle-class woman moaning about barriers to employment and…”
“Middle class? I’m not middle class.”
“Yes, you are.”
“How am I middle class, Aaron? We live in social housing.”
“Yeah, but you went to university, and you got a degree.”
“Yep, and I still owe 10 grand in student loans for the privilege.”
“Well, what about your parents? I mean your mum and your stepdad.”
“What about them?”
“They own their own home!”
“Jesus, Aaron, they bought their home in the ’80s, it was Thatcher’s dream – everyone, and their dog bought their council home if they could.”
“Well, what about your mum? She worked for the government.”
“She worked for the bloody DSS, and she was made redundant, and don’t even get me started on my real dad. He still has tinnitus from working in a metalwork factory for 40 years, and he left school at…”
“At 14 – yeah, yeah, I know all that. But, Mum, you have to admit you are a bit middle class.”
“How, Aaron? I’m not being funny, but look at me. I’m sitting here in a pair of Primark tracksuit bottoms, wearing a Sleaford Mods T-shirt. Plus I’m drinking a cup of… no, no, a mug of tea. Jesus, I’m the epitome of working class.”
But Aaron wasn’t going to give up that easily and continued to speak with all the confidence, sarcasm and cockiness of a teenager who knows it all.
“Well, you love the theatre!”
“So?! The theatre isn’t the preserve of the middle and upper classes, working-class people should be exposed to the arts.”
There was a pause as both parties took a breath. Aaron gave her a look which said, “Fucking hell, Mum. ‘The arts?’ Really?”
But the Mother hadn’t finished.
“And anyway, yeah, I like the theatre, Aaron, but I can never actually afford to go.”
“Well, that’s a lie; for a start, you went last Christmas.”
“What? I went to the pantomime, Aaron, that’s not quite the same!”
She had actually recently been to see a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Royal Albert Hall. Aaron seemed to have forgotten about that, but in her defence she hadn’t understood a single word of it!
Aaron sighed as the Mother became increasingly self-righteous and defensive. For Aaron, this was just sparring, but he could hold his own in a debate; that was for sure. Finally, he piped up, “Well, you like John Lewis.”
“Oh, come on, Aaron, that doesn’t mean anything; everyone likes John Lewis.”
His phone binged: he had a message, someone had Snapchatted him or something, and he left both the debate and the room as quickly as he had entered.
“Middle class,” he shouted mockingly.
“Yeah, well, I’m still a bloody woman.”
“Yes,” said Aaron, “but your hardly Sojourner Truth, are you?”
“Yeah, whatever,” replied the Mother.
He was right, of course. An oppressed slave with 10 children, she was not.
She was, however, still technically unemployed, and that was a kind of oppression. So, with a heavy heart, she began searching once again. But this time, she started by typing in, “Jobs for women”.
Instantly, the top 15 best-paid jobs for women came up. Number one was a chief executive.
“Well, I’ve never been one of those before, maybe I’ll give that a go.”