Bring out your daughters
Time was when girls would rather die than party with Mum. Not now, though. As Ann Treneman told her daughter as she dragged her kicking and screaming into the night
Tuesday 15 December 1998
My editor is not impressed. Daughters, she says, are the hot party accessory of the season. Who says? Vogue, as it turns out. "It will be fun," she tells me. "You will be just like Jerry Hall." Obviously, I say. Later I find myself saying to Gillian: "We will be just like Jerry Hall and her daughter Elizabeth." Gillian looks at me, turns on her heel, and walks into her room.
I take that as a "yes" and start organising. I suggest a literary soiree. "Salman Rushdie will be there," I say. "And maybe even Bob Geldof." Gillian looks at me, turns and walks into her room. Event after event receives this treatment. Finally I realise that only pop stars or supermodels will do. "What about the Smash Hits party?" I ask. "REALLY? YES! COOL!!!" she cries and runs into her room, only to return a minute later to ask whether she should cut all the Top Shop labels out of her clothes.
Sunday dawns, and the party mood is elusive. I have to fight the hordes at Sainsbury's as the only food in the house is a limp lettuce and some sell-by-date-expired yoghurt. Plus I have to find a Christmas tree. I wonder briefly whether it would be easier to grow one myself. After a decade, I would never have to do this again. I rush around like a loony. Gillian tells me not to be late and asks if I'm wearing nail polish. At 1pm I drag out of the car the misshapen tree, which is already losing needles. By 1.30pm I am ready for the party, which I will have to attend without nail polish. Sadly.
I've asked Gillian to keep a diary. This is her first entry: "It's the day. I'm looking forward to it even if I'm going with my mum. The first thing she said was `Will Who?' The fact that she doesn't even know who Will Smith is leads me to believe I may have to spend the party telling her who they all are. Oh well. Better go, I've just smudged my nail polish!"
On the way, Gillian tells me that I cannot call her anything other than Gillian. No "honey-bun" or "darling" or "pumpkin". I tell her that I'm sure Jerry Hall does not have to operate under such instructions. Gillian tells me that her art teacher says that we should never compare ourselves to anyone, that each one of us is unique and that competition leads to unhappiness. This shuts me up.
The London Arena is full of kids dressed for a gym work-out. Gillian says we have to go to the loo and immediately heads for the men's. "Is it normal to go to the men's?" I ask, thinking of all those theatre intervals where all of us women wait, meekly, for half an hour while the men just whip in and out of their loo. "Oh, yes," she says. "Especially if there is a queue." Amazing. This is Girl Power in action.
The Arena is a zoo inside. "I may be the oldest person here," I say to Gillian. She looks around and says: "I may be the oldest person here." We sit or, more accurately, vibrate in our seats to the stomping of zillions of teeny-boppers. Gillian stands up but doesn't jump up and down. Or scream. Thank God. She has to tell me who all the performers are. "B*Witched," she writes on my pad, rolling her eyes. "5ive," she writes. Five of what? I ask. "THEM!" she shouts in my ear. I look. It's a group. I feel dreadful. This is middle age. I am not having fun.
Gillian is. "It's begun!" she writes. "There is non-stop screaming. Warm- up guys are whipping us into a frenzy. I'm trying to stay cool. TV madness begins. Every time the overhead camera sweeps over everyone screams, including me. Mum is looking very puzzled when 5ive take the stage. I start dancing - Mum is sitting down. I promptly stop. I feel a nightmare coming on."
My next memory is of hearing a voice that I recognise. "Meatloaf!" I shout. Gillian ignores me. "My Meatloaf!" I cry, seeing the man who always looks as if he is impersonating a refrigerator on stage. Gillian says she feels as if she is in the Twilight Zone. I have no idea what she is talking about. The photographer arrives to take our photo, which I absolutely hate and which Gillian absolutely loves. She writes: "Everyone is rushing to stand next to me. Instant popularity at the flash of the button. I should always accessorise in this way. Photo-session continues while my favourite group comes on - Another Level. I nearly faint when I see Dane. How uncool am I?"
At the time I didn't realise why Gillian kept going on about going to another level. Now I know. Oh well, by this time the event had lapsed into one long screaming session. The boy groups are all wearing calf-length leather coats. Do they think they are in a James Bond movie? Or perhaps appearing with Sly and the Family Stone? One group wears all black, another all white. They walk around in a circle, their coats billowing.
Billie - whom I do recognise - is crowned the Princess of Pop. She is wearing a Heidi costume. Gillian is looking tired. I ask her if she is enjoying herself. She says that she hates Aqua-Yuck. My first thought is of toothpaste but by now I realise that this must be a band.
The party is saved when I hear a familiar tune. "Tragedy"! Seventies disco! YES! I jump out of my seat. I definitely know the hand-signals to this one. Or at least I know the hand-signals I learnt in 1979. I see from Gillian's diary that this was too much. "I am very embarrassed," she writes, "and hide it by swaying."
We head to the car. Everyone is smiling, and wearing those shoes which appear to be attached to mini-trampolines. I am not smiling, because my head hurts. Gillian can have the last word. After all, it was her party. "It's all over! Mum looks like she's been through a nightmare. Everybody is screaming at the stars leaving in their limos. I'm not a fanatical person, so I walk to the car. I point out to Mum that Jerry Hall's kids never have to sit in the back and endure Marvin Gaye all the way home."
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