When I get my driving license (whenever that may be – I have the test in a month, but I am well aware of how tricky it can be to pass, so I need to stay realistic) I do not ever want to get into breakfast discussions with colleagues, about the traffic on the way to work in the morning. I’ve just had the most mind-numbingly dull bowl of porridge, and boiled egg of my life – and these are not thrilling foodstuffs at the best of times.
This morning my breakfast companions were all male. I don’t want to engage in stereotypes about the sexes, and I am a firm believer in equal opportunity for everyone. However I have observed that there is a distinct difference in the topics of conversation over morning gruel, depending on whether you sitting with men or women.
Firstly I need to make some disclaimers about my colleagues – both male and female. All of them are married, heterosexual parents who live in the suburbs with their young families. None live in town. All drive to work from Navan or Drogheda or Skerries or Greystones or Malahide or Leixlip or Maynooth or Mullingar on a daily basis. None really have social lives outside their children’s lives (unless it involves other family members). Therefore while their existences may be fulfilling and challenging and stressful, their scope of activity outside of work is slightly limited. Suburban and child-centric is probably the most accurate description.
Therefore the morning conversations tend not to stray too far from safe, old, reliable topics.
I have stopped telling tales about my theatrical excursions and weekends away. These appear to be outside their realm of experience. I get a slight sense of jealousy and judgement from colleagues when I tell tale about my weekend in Amsterdam or my journey to the Point to see the Red Hot Chili Peppers. It seems there is an air of envy that I have a social life. Which is mixed with both pity and judgement. Because I have no experience of parenthood, my life must therefore be empty and unfulfilling? Which can’t make me happy? As only siring some crotch-fruit could possibly achieve that goal?
When the women congregate over breakfast, the conversations tend to be about their unremarkable children. I’m not passing judgement here, on either them – or their children. Recognising the mediocrity of a colleague’s child is not cruel. Most people tend towards mediocrity. Genius tends to be a lot rarer. That’s true for both adults and children.
Delusion is marvellous however. Once upon a time I remember a co-worker telling me – with a perfectly straight face – about how her eight year old son wore tracksuits designed for a twelve year old, because of how ‘sporty’ he was. Imagine my surprise when I saw a photograph of said child.
Perhaps the sport he is involved with is sumo-wrestling?
I kept my thoughts to myself in that instance. Perhaps for the best.
But the tales the women regale us with tend to revolve around Pissy Jimmy or Snotty Betty, and their journey in the world.
The men, being manly, don’t talk among themselves about womanly things like parenting. They talk about football. Or cars.
If you have endured a 45 minute delay on the M50 while getting to work, because of an accident, then why-oh-why would you spend another twenty minutes discussing whether getting off at a certain junction would have sped up your journey?
Not that it’s massively more interesting, but I’d rather talk about football. Or motherhood.
When I drive, I vow never to devote any more time to the subject of traffic than a throwaway comment. Life is too short to waste a good boiled egg on conversation about gridlock.