Please note this post was prepared way ahead of the awful event at Westminster last week, there’s no attempt to play off any increased searching or traffic around terms related to the Houses of Parliament. I thought about not publishing this but on reflection, I hope the majority of people will not be offended. If you disagree, I am sorry.
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This is a very deep, moving and personal story that it’s taken me a lot of courage to share. I feel that it’s time. It’s a sorry tale but I hope that it will make a difference to someone out there who’s experienced something similar and help them feel less alone.
As a result of writing “that poem” I Stand Quietly and raising some money for the National Autistic Society (NAS), I got an invite to a reception at the House of Commons for the launch of their “Too Much Information” campaign (you should take a look, it’s great).
It was an honour and a once-in-a-lifetime moment, I am not the sort of girl who goes to receptions at the House of Commons. I was a bit nervous. This is the story of my trip.
As always, I got ready in a bit of a rush at the last minute. I was hanging all my hopes on a rather expensive beautifully embroidered kimono-style jacket that I had bought online literally the day before and that had only been delivered a couple of hours earlier.
When I looked in the mirror, I realised I looked completely ridiculous, farcical, like one of those terrible “I can feel a B… Was his name Bob, Burt, Brian, Brendan? No? Butcher? Baker? Didn’t he have a budgie? A border collie? Badger? Bronchitis? No? A bad back?” charlatan mediums.
It was such a horror show of a misjudged outfit, one of the dogs started to bark at me, maybe because she didn’t recognise me, maybe because I looked so damn bad.
Definitely not the kickass blogging babe that I pretend to be. My mojo completely shrivelled.
Cussing like a bandit, with very little time left until the train I needed to get otherwise I would be late, I desperately ransacked my wardrobe searching for anything even a little bit edgier than just drab and Mumsy and remembered a cheeky impulse purchase that I’d not had a chance to wear… oh yeah, swishy black dress with asymmetric frilled hem, on trend, on point, on ME.
Five minutes later, I am redressed with lovely bright tights to add a bit of a ‘pop’ with a matching bright bauble necklace, I felt TONS better. Hah! Nothing could stop me now.
I spun around 360 in front of the mirror and realised that as the dress came to rest over my bum, it beautifully enhanced every little dimple and bulge of fat and cellulite, it was like a pair of giant cauliflowers trembling in a bin bag.
I had to take a few seconds simply marvelling at what I had become. It wasn’t like the fabric was thin… I had a meteor-struck moon butt.
There was no other option, no more time, so it was tights off, Spanx-style support knickers on, tights back on. Support knickers having been purchased when I was last working, 5+ years ago…
…since when I had gained nearly 2 stone. It would be fine, FINE, I told myself.
I could compromise on oxygen intake. No matter. A price worth paying. And at least I wouldn’t be able to fart.
Finally rocking it.
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I only made it halfway from the station car park to the station building, approximately forty paces, when my tights started falling down.
Hah again! Nothing, like nothing is going to stop me! I paused and yanked them back up.
I made it another 20 steps before I had to yank them again.
Then 10 steps…
After languishing in my drawer for a number of years, the tights were weirdly perished – more chewing gum stretchy than lycra stretchy – they’d lost all the ‘snap back’ and were just growing and growing and growing.
The waistband was still around my waist but the crotch was half-way down my thighs and there were rolls and rolls of wrinkles around my ankles.
The train was imminent and there was no time to think.
I checked out the position and angle of the security cameras, and crouched down in between two parked cars, yanked my dress right up around my arm pits, gave the tights a grand old hoik back up and tucked the excess into my bra. Boom.
I didn’t even care if anyone had seen me. I just made it onto the train and sat down, slightly heady and euphoric. As South London shot past the window, I composed myself and started looking forward to things… It was going to be great.
Plus I could pull my tights up by simply reaching into my cleavage.
We arrived at London Victoria station, I stepped down onto the platform and trotted merrily to the ticket gate, beaming at the guards, sashaying through the ticket barrier…
…and then my tights twanged out of my bra and started rapidly slithering back down my legs.
I quickly grabbed a handful through my dress each side of my hips, held my head high and tried to style it out that I was just walking with a bit of a swagger, hands on hips, like the world’s shortest and widest catwalk model.
Now, for those of you who are thinking that I could just pop into a shop at the station and buy a replacement pair, I have one thing to say: piss off skinny biatches, F.Y.I. the amply-covered amongst us can’t just do that.
Necessity being the mother of invention, I suddenly realised that I could put my support knickers OVER my errant tights…
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I came out of the station toilet cubicle to the queueing ladies looked horrified and disgusted.
Those several minutes of sweating and straining as I performed the switcheroo, bumping against the sides of the cubicle to keep my balance as I tried to keep my super loose tights, super tight knickers, bare feet, and everything else off the filthy floor, must have been a lot louder than I had realised.
Was I mortified? Was I fuck. I was late. They had no idea what stress I’d been through, as if a few sneers would faze me.
Fast forward 15 minutes and I was jumping out of a taxi at the House of Commons, feeling gorgeous, flashing my bestest smile and brandishing my invitation. Yay!
I joined a surprisingly long queue waiting to go through the security at Portcullis House, it was a sunny evening and everyone was friendly and chatting. An attractive gentleman was passing the time and making me laugh.
As I flicked back my hair attempting to laugh in a way that looked more intelligent and attractive than I actually am, the strangest sensation started moving down my tummy…
It was weirdly nice yet unnerving, like someone was trying to squeeze me like a toothpaste tube.
My knickers were starting to leisurely but purposefully roll themselves downwards.
I pressed my hands to my sides again to stop them, squeezing hard. Blinking arse holes.
Worried I might look like I was suffering digestive discomfort, I dropped one hip, stuck a leg out and turned three-quarters on, sort-of attempting that ‘celebrity on the red carpet’ pose that everyone under the age of 50, however plebeian, has mastered.
In the reflection in the window, I could see a short fat woman, looking somewhat like she was pretending to be a horsey. Hands on hips, a foot weirdly scraping the ground like a hoof, head nodding up and down, teeth bared in what might have once been a smile but now looked like she was chomping on a bit.
The nice man politely retreated, shrugging and apologising, as he answered a (probably fake) phone call.
The queue really wasn’t moving. I had no idea how long I would be stood there. I had no idea how long it would be before I could get to a toilet once I got through security, however long that took… should I jump out of the queue and look for somewhere discreet to rearrange myself? Discreet? In a crowd? I decided to stay put and wait it out.
You know, people don’t really keep their hands on their hips for extended periods of time. It looks really odd. I needed to alter my grip to something more subtle.
I stretched up my shoulders and fake-yawned a few times, then rolled my head from side to side, feigning some kind of back pain…
I repeated this a few times then leaned way over to one side…
Quickly, I let go of my hip ,shoved my hand into my jacket pocket then regrabbed a handful of dress and knickers and tights and, as I slowly stood up straight again, I carefully let my dress move through my fingers so that it didn’t pull up but hung desperately onto the knickers and tights, giving them a tug upwards at the same time.
It was epic finger gymnastics. Whilst making sure I wasn’t doing some kind of strain face.
OK. One side stabilised. I silently congratulated myself for picking a dress with an intentionally lopsided frilly hem. I could do this.
A few more shoulder shrugs and head rolls and I bent over the other way and repeated the manoeuvre. Like. A. Pro.
Another glance in the window confirmed that I was now standing almost nonchalantly with my hands in my pockets, looking fine, as long as you didn’t notice that my handbag strap had fallen off my shoulder and my bag was dragging along the pavement…
Please don’t let anyone point out that my bag is dragging along the pavement, I silently begged.
The queue moved forwards and horror crawled up my back as I watched the security procedure: I was going to have to take off my jacket, walk through a metal detector, and possibly raise my arms up to shoulder height for a pat down. It was going to go badly.
As I stepped through the metal detector, the knickers and tights slowly rolled down until they reached a narrower point under my belly and just above my bum crack, and paused.
It could have gone worse. I quickly retrieved my bag and jacket and grabbed hold of the roll on either side again.
This was OK, more like handles to hold on to… although the walk had evolved to more of a horse-sore cowboy swagger than the strut of a sexy catwalk model.
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At the Speaker’s reception, I quickly dived into the toilets and slowly unrolled everything back into place. I also pulled my tights up back into my bra as an extra measure.
I was hot, flustered, possibly a little tearful, but I was there! Carrie and David Grant were there and I was there! It was going to be OK!
I celebrated with a glass of wine.
I spoke to a few people and realised how posh and clever and important most of the guests appeared to be. I felt a bit intimidated that I was just a cauliflower-bummed Mum trying too hard to look trendy with very little of value to say.
Had a good chat with the equally incorrigible Alan Gardner (the very lovely pink haired Autistic Gardener off channel 4), and we got told off for talking when The Speaker of The House of Commons was giving his address; further confirming that I wasn’t the sort of girl who should attempt this sort of thing.
I had another glass of wine and felt awkward. I decided to stroll around casually looking pensive and informed.
As I did a nonchalant little sidestep to move out of the way of one of the waiters, my tights twanged back out of my bra and the force started my knickers on their downwards roll again but this time with the determined speed and force of a tsunami.
Before I could swallow my mouthful of wine and ditch my glass to free up my hand, the whole lot shot past my bottom, giving me a thick immovable roll of elasticated fabric hovering just a few inches above the hem of my dress.
My bum was completely liberated. I looked down and my ankles were draped in swathes of tights. I realised I could not part my thighs.
Right then, the very dashingly lovely Campaigns bloke from the National Autistic Society came over and introduced me to the (ruggedly handsome and rather talented, successful, well connected, confident, charming) Peter Bowker, author and TV bloke, who wrote The A Word.
Someone who I’d normally be quite thrilled to meet and talk to, I don’t remember what I said or what he said, I was mentally and physically frozen, like the proverbial rabbit in the headlights, trapped, awaiting an impending unavoidable doom. I just remember sweating and thinking “You have no idea that I have a bare bum right now”.
After he moved on – fortunately quite fast, I must’ve been such a total distracted dullard – I made a very slow, very very slow, careful shuffle to the toilets, disguising my erratic progress as rapt interest in the exquisite decoration of the rooms, particularly the ceilings and carpet to avoid any eye contact.
Back in the loos, I screamed silently for a few minutes and sorted myself out again.
And so the evening progressed.
I stood still a lot, drank the free drinks a lot.
Felt the rollercoaster stomach churn as my knickers rolled down again a lot.
Did the “such nice drapes” slow shuffle off to the toilet a lot.
A combination of maniacal laughter and the song “Walk like an Egyptian” was now on repeat play in my head and I was becoming increasingly paranoid that the staff member by the toilet door thought I was stealing things.
I was in a surreal otherworldly place, chatting to Lords and Ladies about autism knowing I had my big bare butt out under my flimsy floaty dress, listening to the increasingly maniacal laughing in my head and a shrieking inner voice now repeating “You have no idea that I have a bare bum right now” over and over and over.
Never in my wildest dreams. My heart was racing: if anyone opened another window and the breeze changed, if anyone brushed past me too vigorously… exposing yourself, however unintentionally, in the House of Commons has to be a serious criminal offence?
As I write this, and reflect on it, I have no idea why I didn’t just leave. I was contributing nothing to the event and in danger of temporarily losing my sanity.
I suppose at first I just didn’t know HOW I would leave and then some twisted logic compelled me to stay: if I stuck it out it would make it all OK, cancel out the shameful secret, how could that lady be standing there conversing so gaily with her pants down?
I even went for a post-event drink at a pub with the team from the National Autistic Society… guys – I am so so sorry that you have to read this – I am so so so weird, I know…
Unbelievable but true.
And so that’s it really. By home time, I was tipsy enough not to care about desperately gripping my pants through my dress. I left the pub looking like a mad woman who had just robbed a slot machine and was making a slow, conspicuous getaway attempt holding onto her pockets full of coins.
Fell into a cab, pretty much duck walked to the train, fell into another cab at the other end; and as I finally put my keys in the front door, the evil knicker-tights combo finally shot all the way down to my ankles and I literally fell into my hall.
I lay there, legs pinned together, mooning at the moon, thinking that whenever I try to be something more serious than I naturally am, it always goes wrong or gets awkward. I don’t know why comedy things regularly happen to me but they do.
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Why am I sharing this now?
It’s World Autism Awareness Week 2017. I’m attempting to fundraise without lifting my arse from my bed again… but I’m also attempting to not write about autism. I’m just as passionate as ever but I think writing about autism is best left to the experts (autistic people).
So, this is my unique equivalent of the shaved head, raffle or sponsored slim. If you laughed at all during this post, please click here to make a donation to the National Autistic Society.
In a world where we pay a fiver for a posh coffee, and even more for beer: laugh, giggle, snort, chuckle, smile or even a slight wheeze = donate for the pleasure you got.
It really doesn’t have to be a lot…
The saddest thing about ‘I Stand Quietly‘ is that if everyone who read it had just taken the time to donate £1, a negligible amount for most, I would nearly be at £1 million raised.
Thank you xxxx
Photo Credit: Rob Bertholf Flickr via Compfight cc