In clear, carry-across-the-shop-to-the-other-side piping tones, the little girl said, 'Mummy, Mummy. Which bra are you wearing today?'
The mother was cool personified. She bent down to the child, whispering, 'It's the green one, darling. Now, sssh.' Then the mother turned to the assistant and said, 'That was a bit embarrassing. Sorry.'
'I was only checking,' said the child, who sounded most peeved to be shushed. I bet she was thinking, 'Next time, I'll ask about the knickers and see how she likes that.'
Of course, being British, every one of us - sales assistants and customers alike - looked straight ahead, searched in our pockets or checked our phones to prove we hadn't heard. That's why I'm writing about it here. That kind of suppression isn't healthy.
It reminded me of several incidents when I was a young mother.
1. I was at a wedding once, with a young breastfeeding baby son and my three year old daughter. I was trying to be discreet, feeding my son in a corner, my top half, and him, covered in enough scarf to lay across the Pennines. My daughter peered under the scarf, then announced to the whole gathering, 'Mummy, you've got BIG breasts and I've only got little breast pads.'
2. Talking of breast pads, which for the uninitiated are circles of soft material one tucks inside a bra to absorb any leaking breast milk, on another occasion I was at home, breastfeeding as discreetly as possible as we had guests round. I'd placed the breast pad on the table next to me. When I next looked, one of the male guests had put a mug of coffee on it, mistaking it for a coaster. I dared not ask for it back.
|Very comfortable inside bras|
|Not so comfortable|
3. Let's steer away from breasts, which I'm sure you're glad to do, but stay on the topic of embarrassing children. I took the same daughter with me when I visited the doctor's surgery. She was five years old. One of the doctor's first questions was 'And how's your weight at the moment, Mrs Hill?' 'Oh,' said my daughter, eager to be helpful. 'Not very good. Mummy's grown out of her diet.'
And if you're thinking Number 3 sounds just like the kind of thing that gets published as Star Letter on the Letters page of a women's magazine, it was, and I won a cracking set of expensive cosmetics that lasted me years.
That will tell you how long ago it was. These days I think you win a tube of toothpaste or a dishcloth, which is no compensation at all for having children who strip you of dignity in public.