Then English

If you live in Doha, you’ve just had a baby, your husband is English, and he arrives home with new sleepwear in the next couple of days – I need you to know how gorgeous he was in Debenhams yesterday. You just need to know this.

Yesterday I was having what some may refer to as a Doha day. My lack of Arabic proving the biggest frustration. And while I was prepared to try and communicate in the universal language of hand gestures, pictures and interpretive dance,  the woman I was communicating with refused to participate in my literal charade. She was having none of it.

“No English” she said turning away from me to talk to a group of local women.

“Please, please, when English?” I sounded pathetic, Oliver Twist in the search of a bowl of recognizable vocabulary.

“Three. You. Three. Then English.” she waved me off, pointing to the door.

Any parent of school age children knows that 3pm is kind of a deal breaker. At three I would be volunteering at the school, I had a date with a box of t-shirts and a table at the high school gate. At 3.30 I would begin my first courier service, dropping children to another destination at rapid speed to get back in time for 4pm. It was then that I would collect the next child and run at boob jiggling speed to a softball field to deliver a forgotten glove. We were going to be there until 5.30. No, three wasn’t going to work.

“6.30? Will there be English at 6.30?”

“Yes, English at 6.30”

Having driven through Armageddon style traffic for nothing I decided to make it worth my while. I stopped at Debenhams to pick up new stockings for an event we have on tomorrow. I was a walking grey cloud, I didn’t want to have to come back again. I was internally berating myself for a series of events that had got me to where I was. Disappointed that I’d lived here now for 4 years and still didn’t have enough Arabic to communicate at a basic level. Disappointed that I’d left it to the last minute to find Henry Hotdog a brown shirt for his dinosaur concert today that I knew wasn’t right, he was going to complain. I had a deadline looming, emails to answer, work that I needed to be in a quiet room with a laptop to finish.

And then I saw him.

He was roaming aimlessly through the nighties, bra and briefs section. He looked confused, a man in a woman’s world. He read the sizing chart like Robert Langdon trying to crack the Da Vinci code. An assistant came to put him out of his misery.

“Did you find something for her?”

“No, I think I’m going to have to go home and do some detective work. I think she’s a 12 but maybe a 14? I can’t be sure?” He was English, polite. “I won’t risk getting the wrong ones.”

Another assistant came to hover, both of them from the Philippines, they had big smiles and seemed to find his predicament humorous.

I couldn’t see if it was a bra or knickers that they were holding up.

“Maybe she like this one? This one very sexy.” said one of the girls.

“Oh, oh no – I don’t think she’s ready for sexy. She’s just had a baby, I’m not sure if sexy is what she wants right now.”

I loved him immediately.

“I think they would make her feel self conscious right now, I think maybe she’s looking for something comfortable, something that, you know, well, something that makes her feel good.”

I was hiding behind the spanx display. I’d looked over when I heard him say not ready for sexy just in time to see the pride on his face when he told them she’d just had a baby.

I thought about G and our babies. The hospital trips made in four different countries. That same look of dismay and pride. How underwear shopping takes a different turn. Like beautiful human chrysalis’, the bodies of lovers become the bodies of mothers. And while it’s a thing of beauty, there’s a period of time where everyone has to adjust. In the words of Robbie Williams after watching the birth of his first child “It was like watching my favourite pub burn down”.

Robbie went on to say how much he adored and loved his wife, how beautiful she had become to him. I couldn’t help but think that the Englishman in Debenhams had a similar look in his eye. Complete adoration.

So to the woman who’s just had a baby and is about to be presented with underwear from Debenhams, please know your husband spent a lot of time agonizing over what to get you. It’s highly possible that he’s ballsed it up completely, but the genuine intention was to find “something that makes her feel good.”

He completely brightened my day.

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