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Tee-Time and Me-Time

Mothers live in a permanent state of guilt. How come men don’t? Mothers are guilty not just about whether they work and how much they work and should they work and where they work. They are also guilty about what they do with the few moments they can call their own.

A classic example of the difference between men and women is spare time, quality time, what is known in the parenting business as “me-time.” As a mother, you don’t get a lot of it. What do you do with it? Maybe if you are very dedicated and have not given up entirely on the woman you used to be, you go to the gym or for a run. Maybe if you are normal, have a hot bath and watch that thing on TV that you read about. What you don’t do—unless you are very unusual—is play golf.

I had never seen the attraction of golf; the clothes, for one thing. All those pastel colors and slacks. But I was invited along and I do like to give things a go. As a woman, I also like to look the part while I am doing it. Move me to the country, and I will buy a tweed cloche and wellies; invite me to a golf club, and I will buy a pale pink golf shirt, sun visor, and one pink leather glove. (You only buy one glove for reasons that defeat me. Perhaps there are a lot of one-armed golfers?) And golf shoes of course. They are desperately fussy about the shoes you wear.

A friend said he would take me golfing; we tried but it was pouring down so we only made it as far as a drink in the clubhouse. I made the mistake in the intervening period of wearing the pink shirt. (What can I say? It was new.) This meant that when we tried to play golf again, I had a lovely stain of pasta sauce just where the baby girl rests her head when you lift her out of the high chair and carry her upstairs after dinner. I did not have time to attempt an industrial strength stain removal. Instead, I tilted my head so that my hair, which was shoulder length and frankly, badly in need of a cut, would cover the stain. It worked but I looked as if I was slightly simple or needed a neck brace.

One of the attractions of golf are the views from the courses; the one we went to has sandy beaches, pounding waves, a castle built on a basalt crag, islands off the coast, and lighthouses. All that beauty and you spend your time looking at or for a small white ball. I would stand, legs slightly apart, hands gripping the club, and I would attempt to keep my left arm straight as I swung the club, then I would bring it down in a fluid motion, entirely missing the ball. I think the damn things jump. It reminded me so much of playing rounders at school that I almost broke out in acne.

Rounders is similar to the American sport of baseball but generally played by girls. Then, I could never decide which I found more traumatic—batting or fielding. There I would be in my games skirt and my immense grey sports knickers, rounders bat gripped in my sweaty hands. I would stand sideways on. I would look at the girl about to throw the ball. I would grip the bat a little harder. I would think, this time, I am going to hit it. She would throw it. I would thrash the air with my bat and the ball would sail by into the hands of the backstop.

I hated that game. Even now, the thought of it depresses me. That must be why golf courses have those little sandy oases with the rakes: when it gets pressured, the players can unwind with some Japanese gardening. They do make life difficult for themselves though. As we walked the six holes we played, I noticed various gullies and ravines, gorse bushes, and hillocks. If they leveled the ground, they would find it so much easier to play although they seemed happy enough wandering around with their teddy bears. Or maybe that was just the chap I was playing golf with. Apparently, if you have a soft toy covering the head of your club, it shows you have a sense of humor and do not take the game too seriously. Right. That would be why they have so many rules then because they treat the game as a bit of a laugh.

They have rules for everything: Rule 1-1/4—“Player Discovers Own Ball Is in Hole After Playing Wrong Ball”; Rule 1-2/4—“Player Jumps Close to Hole to Cause Ball to Drop”; or this one, Rule 1-4/3—“Flagstick Stuck into Green Some Distance from Hole by Practical Joker,” or Rule 1-4/10—what you do in the event of a “Dangerous Situation: Rattlesnake or Bees Interfere with Play,” or my personal favorite, Rule 2-4/17—“Player in Erroneous Belief Match Is Over Shakes Opponent’s Hand and Picks Up Opponent’s Ball.”

Having trawled the rule book of around 500 pages, I guarantee lawyers like golf. But it is fair to say, despite a chronic inability to hit the ball, I enjoyed my game of golf more than I ever enjoyed a game of rounders. My friend said as we drove away: “If you want to take it up, you’d have to have lessons.” I said, “How can I do that? I’m working. I’m supposed to spend any spare time I have with the children.” He said, “Well, men do it.” I said, “Exactly.”

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