If I could give one piece of advice to every teenager in the world, it would be this: when you move away from home, move far, far away, and never look back. My biggest mistake? I didn’t move far enough. In fact, I only moved three houses down the road. The perfect distance for my mother to interfere in my life, even more than she did when I lived under her own roof.
“Mackenzie, your curtains aren’t even straight,” Mum complains from her place on our sofa. “I don’t know how you can put up with such a mess.”
“How can curtains not be straight, Mum?”
“There’s at least six inches more to the left than to the right, and the join in the middle is wonky.”
Dan rolls his eyes and gets up from his armchair with a groan.
I know how he feels.
“Don’t be long, Daniel, you’ll miss Eastenders,” Mum calls after him.
“Sir, yes sir,” Dan mutters, doing an army salute behind her back.
In all fairness to my mum, maybe my announcement that I was moving in with Dan came as a bit of a shock to her. After all, we’d been dating for a year, but my mum had only known him for six of those months. I was a bit reluctant to introduce them, especially after the incident with an ex-boyfriend—the first and, up to that point, only boyfriend to ever meet my mum—where she’d nearly run him over with a wheelie bin (accidentally) and then put a brick through his car window (she was killing a wasp).
“Can’t you get him to brush his hair once in a while?” Mum asks when Dan has left the room. “He makes the place look untidy. And don’t even get me started on that shirt.”
“Leave him alone, Mum,” I warn her. “And stop your bloody dog peeing in my houseplant again, it’s dying.”
“Oh, Mackenzie, you’ll never guess what happened to me today,” Mum says animatedly. “Go on, guess.”
“I have no idea, Mum.”
“I almost got a criminal record. Can you believe that? Me! With a criminal record!”
“I’m honestly scared to ask, but how on earth did you manage that?”
“I nearly got arrested in the park!” She says excitedly.
Only my mother could be excited about getting arrested. “What happened?”
“You know Baby’s crocodile outfit, right? I did a really good job of making it, didn’t I? I made it look really realistic?”
“Baby was off his lead in the park, doing his business, you know, as dogs do. And suddenly all these police surround us. Two animal control vans pull up, there’s a helicopter overhead, there are even a couple of men with tranquilizer dart guns poised and ready to shoot.”
I rub my hand over my eyes. “Why?”
“Well, it turns out that someone had seen Baby in the park and thought he was a real crocodile. She’d called the police in case he ate the children.”
“Oh, Mum, really?” I groan.
“It was so exciting! I think I might even be on the news tonight!”
She thinks this is exciting? Embarrassing would be my preferred term. Very, very embarrassing. “So what happened?”
“The police quickly realised their mistake. But one of them did take me aside and ask if I could not bring Baby to the park in that attire again. Then he gave us a lift home in his police car. He was ever so nice about it.”
“I’m sure he was.”
“How anyone could mistake my Baby for a crocodile is beyond me. He’s hardly crocodile size, is he? The woman must have been blind as a bat.”
“Well, you do insist on dressing him up as potentially dangerous animals. And walking him. In public. It’s really quite disturbing.”
“Oh, nonsense. I like trying out the sewing patterns I find on the internet. It keeps me busy.”
Something has to, I suppose.
“Come here, Baby.” Mum pats the sofa and the Yorkshire terrier, which is practically surgically attached to her, comes running over. “Don’t listen to that big, mean lady. She loves you really.”
Baby is currently dressed as a ladybird. No, really. Mum’s hobby of making these outfits for him is getting out of hand. He jumps onto the sofa and sinks his teeth into one of my twenty quid cushions.
“These cushions were expensive.” I yank them out of his way.
“He likes the tassels,” Mum responds.
This is our nightly routine now.
On our one-year anniversary, Dan had proposed that we move in together. My mum wasn’t overly thrilled by the turn of events, until she’d found a little house available to rent and paid the deposit without even asking us. The house happened to be three doors away from her place.
We should have known better.
Dan was indifferent to the fact that my mum had decided where we were going to live and paid a deposit without even telling us. It was one less thing that he had to do. And I couldn’t really be mad at her, she was only doing it out of the goodness of her heart. Presumptuous, yes, but ultimately only trying to be helpful. We’d signed a one-year lease two days later.
Since then, Dan has been a gem. Not many men would put up with my mother being an almost permanent third wheel. Not many men would run her cat, Pussy (no, really), down to the emergency vet at three o’clock in the morning because it looked a bit peaky. It was fine. A screeching woman yelling that it looked off-colour had just woken it up from its sleep. I look peaky at that time of day too. Dan had offered his car as transport and we’d roared off down the road at breakneck speed, scaring the poor cat half to death. Then Dan and I had sat in the parking lot for half an hour, while the vet determined that there was absolutely nothing whatsoever wrong with Pussy.
The house being so near had softened the blow of me moving out and leaving Mum with only her yappy little dog and not-sick cat for company.
“You can pop in anytime you want,” I’d told her.
I had no idea that translated into “come over every night and bring the dog and cat with you” in mum language.
The night we moved in, just as we’d settled down together on our new sofa with a glass of wine each and switched on our newly installed satellite TV, my mum’s special knock-knockknock-knock on the door reverberated through the living room. We looked at each other with dread and Dan groaned.
My mum came in, took her shoes off, sat down on the sofa, helped herself to a glass of wine and put on Coronation Street. She didn’t actually watch Corrie, but proceeded to criticise our carpets, our uncomfortable sofa (it wasn’t) the colour of the walls, the way the walls clashed with the curtains (they didn’t) the heat in the room (it was too hot) and the shirt Dan was wearing (I’d always quite liked him in it). Within three minutes, Baby had peed on my new plant. I don’t have the best of luck with plants anyway, but I’m sure the dog pee didn’t help the plant’s life expectancy.
This routine has continued almost every night in the three months since we moved in. In comes my mum, on goes Emmerdale, Corrie or Eastenders, and out comes Mum’s opinion of everything from the wattage of our light bulbs to the colour of Dan’s socks.