Mary Wakefield Mary Wakefield

Diary – 18 February 2012

We are not made incrementally aware of things that happen incrementally. Though something may have been changing for a while, the realisation comes all at once in a swoop, usually when it’s far too late. I realised that I had become a ‘madam’ last weekend, in the butcher’s. We had a bit of a joke, the butcher and I, over the severed limbs, then as he handed me my bag, he said: ‘There you go, madam.’ Madam? Madam? Madam? What happened to babe? I’m sure I was babe last week. Since the butcher opened my ears, life has become a terrible cacophony of madams: ‘£3.50 please, madam,’ ‘sorry, madam,’ ‘thank you, madam.’ Whilst I was buying mince, my girlhood slipped away.

•••

Once a woman’s had her ‘madam moment’, there’s no turning back. Each ‘madam’ has a madamising effect: I feel more staid, less flippant; my feet flatter on the floor. Yesterday I impulse-bought Carmen rollers online. There’s some consolation to be had from the thought that men suffer too. Few notice, I guess, the slow steady loss of hair. All at once there’s a new pink patch in the changing room’s angled mirror; a tonsure in some photo tagged on Facebook. But you can hide a bald spot, boys, though your trembling fingers return to touch your tender head. There’s no hiding from the ‘madams’. Unless, I suppose, I live on takeaways, shop online and never take a taxi or buy a ticket for anything ever again. Which is a thought.

•••

Every day, except when it’s raining, I cycle to work through Trafalgar Square and pause to gaze at the ship in a big plastic bottle on the fourth plinth. What makes it so horrid? The ship is a scale model of Nelson’s Victory with sails made of an African print and I’m told it symbolises the triumph of ethnic diversity over pallid, monocultural imperial Britain.

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