Monday, May 18, 2009

What a Bastard

I’ve recently been reading a book about a ‘royal bastard’ – the illegitimate son of a Prince. He has a pretty rubbish time of it, with his origins used to abuse and shame him throughout the novel.

This seems to have awoken a certain amount of reflection on my part, as I’m a bastard myself (though lacking royal blood). Of course, I use this term provocatively. We live in an era where judgments about one’s birth are muted or, indeed, nonexistent entirely.

However, as the son of an unmarried, single mother in the 1970s, it was a source of deep shame and embarrassment to me. It’s not something I like to recall often. Not because anyone was particularly cruel, but because fear of being different drove me to tell some ridiculous lies. I’m now disappointed that I wasn’t stronger and proud of who I am.

I remember I only started to feel the need to lie when my mum and I moved to Leamington Spa from Manchester. I was seven at the time. We lived in a poor neighbourhood in Manchester, where there were several other single mothers and so it wasn’t an issue with other kids in my gang at school.

However, in Leamington Spa, it was all small-town values and nuclear families. I think, even at seven, I knew that a dead father is going to get a better response than one who’s just off the scene. So, as far as any of my new friends were concerned, my dad had died. He met his demise in various interesting ways, I seem to remember, but I think the most common version was a car crash.

The other lie was that my mum’s boyfriend at the time was my uncle. I didn’t realise at the time that this was a terrible cliché, I wish I had tired harder to be original (something like “my mum is in a bizarre tree-worshipping cult and that bearded man is her guru”).

Who knows? Perhaps I saved myself a whole heap of teasing. After all, children are vindictive little shits. One classmate, whose mum had polio, was relentlessly bullied and ridiculed. Because his mum was in a wheelchair! Jesus, the Ku Klux Klan has nothing on kids.

Ultimately, however pragmatic I was, I regret not being true to my mother and my real origins. The story of how I came into the world was never shameful and is, in many ways, more interesting than my lies. But that’s a tale for another post…


Steve said...

Kids are evil... or rather they develop a taste and prediliction for cruelty once their at school and get infected by other people's kids.

God. Just read that through again. I sound very cynical. I sound like I hate kids - which I don't. Just those that belong to people that I don't know / haven't vetted.

P.S. Robin Hobb is an excellent read - I've often been tempted to recommend her to you but feared you'd find her stuff too soapy. What you're reading now is a brilliant trilogy.

Tristan said...

Yes, it's true - red in tooth and claw, kids. I remember getting into a scrap with a new kid at school, just because his family had a terrible local reputation - remember the Staceys, Steve?

Steve said...

I do, poor sods. David was lumbered with a totally specious tough guy rep before he'd even arrived in the school. Turns out he was a bit of a sensitive lad at heart and his little brother Chris was even wimpier.

Anonymous said...

Kolkata Web Design Company
One of the leading web design company of Kolkata, Acesoftech has been actively involved in web design, web development and Search Engine Optimization services. The company provides you affordable web site design, web site development and Search Engine Optimization services. While there is no chance of compromising with the quality, our prices are most competitive.