It’s awkward but had to be done. No-one likes doing it, but there comes a time when it’s necessary. Yes, I told Shug the thing no-one enjoys hearing: we need to talk.
Women are supposed to relish talking, especially about relationships and all that palaver. Not me. I’d rather just get it clear once and for all: you seeing anyone else? We like each other an’ all that? Cool. Mine’s a gin and cranberry.
(Of course, the above didn’t apply with The Clown, over whom I agonised and analysed and cried out my eyes.)
So, I texted Shug to say we needed to talk and summoned him to a pub in Kelvingrove. He didn’t even ask what ‘the talk’ was about. He must know, then. Must know that it’s about his constant demand for a baby.
I find his roaring desire to impregnate me very flattering, I really do. Especially as he knows my unorthodox views on brat-rearing. When I was wee and my dad took me out, we’d go to a bookshop and he’d dump me beside the Tintin section and say ‘don’t move, pal.’ Off he’d go to leaf through biographies of glam rock stars and Rangers players. Hours later, he’d scoop me up and out we’d flounce, having both worked our way through several tomes. That’s how I want any brats of mine to behave: pipe down, sit quietly and read. If you don’t, then you’re getting adopted. This didn’t deter Shug. Despite my unsettling vision of silent, literary brats, he was still raring to fertilise me with Shuglets.
Well, enough is enough! We’ve only been dating for three months. Neither of us has said we love one another, and we don’t even live together. It’s unsettling that he seems oblivious to these usual steps in the process towards bratdom and wants to just leap ahead to the boak, the swollen ankles and the dungarees. No, I’ve simply got to tell him to shut up with his baby talk.
So, I’ve summoned him to The Big Slope and I’ll try and make this all clear without insulting or embarrassing him.
I arrive at quarter past five, but Shug’s there already. His coat is laid across a chair but he isn’t seated. He’s pacing up and down, hands shoved in pockets. He sees me coming down the steps and reaches up to clutch my hand.
‘Am I being dumped?’ he asks.
I laugh and say no. His shoulders sag with relief and he goes off to the bar to get me my usual.
I sit down and arrange myself at the table. God, I hate this kind of thing. I’d rather just text Shug and say ‘shut up about babies’ but I have too much respect for him. Such a subject merits a real discussion. Oh dear, here he comes.
He sets my drink in front of me and waits for me to begin. I have no subtlety so I can’t cleverly and delicately manoeuvre the conversation into the brat arena. Neither have I courage – not on two paltry sips of gin - so can’t grab him by the collar and tell him to quit with the baby talk. So, clumsily, and with a hot face, I stumble along, doing my best.
I can’t quite look at him as I try to bring up this delicate subject and my eyes are darting round the room, looking anywhere except at Shug. He finds this amusing and waves, saying, ‘I’m over here, Julie.’
I glare at him and start again. This time I go for it. ‘See that thing you keep talking about…you know, that thing you want to do….well I don’t really want to….well, not yet….it’s a bit soon….for that thing….’
Shug looks baffled. ‘Are you talking about the strap-on?’
This breaks any tender, awkward feeling I had. ‘No I am not, you big chump!’ I smooth my dress down and knock back some neon pink gin. ‘I’m talking about you wanting a baby. You can just shut up about it, OK?’
Shug sits back in his seat and says quietly, ‘Oh.’
I feel bad now for blurting it out like that, but his mention of the strap-on caught me off guard. There’s a silence now between us. I’d die of shame if I ran about telling a new boyfriend I wanted a baby only for him to tell me to shut up. Poor Shug.
I turn to him to try and be nice, but I’m not a ‘nice’ person, so my attempts seem false or patronising. I’m patting his arm and reassuring him that it’s just a bit soon for us when he throws me off and laughs.
‘I didn’t really want a baby anyway,’ he says.
‘You said you did! Said you wanted one by your 50th birthday.’
‘Well I don’t. I want a vintage Land Rover instead.’
There’s a proper chill in the air now. I take out my phone and start absently texting someone. He stares up at the silent Sky Sports on the TV even though he hates football.
‘Will we just go?’ he says eventually.
OK, we’ll just go.
In the weeks that followed, Shug began to put some distance between us. He was frequently ‘busy’ and when we did go out, a certain sparkle had gone from him. I couldn’t understand it. If he wants a baby so desperately that he’s now sulking and going cold on me, then he’ll never get one. What woman wants a child with someone so fickle?
I shivered at the prospect of having another ‘talk’ with Shug, but feared it was inevitable.