I’ve been suffering with a tooth issue which recently has been bugging me. And as with most aches in my life it emanated from the school of the absurd. I damaged my tooth biting on a baked potato skin. The dentist graced me with one of those looks that told me, in the one too many lines by his eyes that I would be part of his new dinner party repertoire even as he took an X-ray. I was dispatched to ingest pain relief (though the need for it was merely enhanced by his exploratory investigations – tell me why dentists take X-rays if they subsequently insist on percussively clattering said tooth with an unforgiving piece of steel?). And I hate taking tablets so I tend to eek them out, waiting until the discomfort is at the gripping distraction point before giving in.
Thus it was that, while taking a mouthful of ice cream during the interval of Stories, a new play in the Dorfman Theatre at the National complex that I forgot I needed to feed the cold umptiousness into the othe side of my mouth. The result? A jarring reminder and the sort of background jangle in my jaw that said, ‘yep, kiddo, that was dumb and now you’re going to suffer.’
And of course I had no tablets, not even one of those hairball saviours that sink to the botttom of my rucksack to join the little rubber doophies off earbuds, flaky dog treats, the inner workings of a self-unassembling biro and something that might once have been organic but now merely resembles a nano sized alien spleen.
All of which meant I would be clutching my jaw during the second half trying to minimise both moans and dribbles.
But it never happened. The play, set today and involving a recently single 39 year old woman desperate to have a child was funny, thought provoking, well written excellently cast and, most pertinently, engrossing. Without being preachy it explored all sort so of issues around how to chose a partner, what it’s like to be the offfpsorng of annonymised embryos, how moral is it to ask for someone’s sperm, how equal is the pain of childlessness between the sexes. It also brought home in rather clever ways that the essential feature of parenthood that holds whether you child is 9 or 39 is you want to be the analgesic. You can’t stop pain, be it physical from birth or increasingly social and psychological as children grow but you would do anything to take it away, ameliorate it. The woman at the centre of the play and her mother share a scene in which the mother describes her daughter’s life as a tragedy.
‘I don’t want my life to be a tragedy,’ laments the younger woman and you see her pain reflected and exponentillay increased in the mother ‘s reaction.
I sat and absorbed that truth, even though I’ve known it since that squelchy first moment when my son popped into the light, waved his hands and looked for food. I just hope that, as my children delve into life’s rucksack, they’ll always be a place for me, somewhere near the bottom as pain relief.
Or failing that my debit card….