“Oh my God,” I hear her murmur. “Oh my God.” Her finger is moving down the list and she’s breathing fast. As I squint over, I catch a subheading:
7. IRRITABILITY AND MOODINESS.
Ha. Ha ha.
That’s my hollow laugh, in case you didn’t get that.
I mean, seriously, moodiness? Like, James Dean was a moody teenager in Rebel Without a Cause (I have the poster, best film poster ever, best movie ever, sexiest movie star ever, why, why, why did he have to die?). So James Dean must therefore have been addicted to video games? Oh, wait.
But there’s no point saying any of this to my mum, because it’s logical and my mum doesn’t believe in logic, she believes in horoscopes and green tea. Oh, and of course the Daily Mail.
THE EIGHT SIGNS MY MUM IS ADDICTED TO THE DAILY MAIL:
1. She reads it every day.
2. She believes everything it says.
3. If you try to take it out of her grasp, she pulls it back sharply and says “Leave it!” like you’re trying to kidnap her precious young.
4. When it runs a scare story about Vitamin D, she makes us all take our shirts off and “sunbathe.” (Freeze-bathe, more like.)
5. When it runs a scare story about melanoma, she makes us all put on sunscreen.
6. When it runs a story about “the face cream that really DOES work,” she orders it that moment. Like, she gets out her iPad then and there.
7. If she can’t get it on holiday, she gets major withdrawal symptoms. I mean, talk about irritability and moodiness.
8. She once tried to give it up for Lent. She lasted half a morning.
Anyway. There’s nothing I can do about my mum’s tragic dependency except hope that she doesn’t do too much damage to her life. (She’s already done major damage to our living room, after reading an “Interiors” piece about “Why not hand paint all your furniture?”)
So then Frank ambles into the kitchen, wearing his black I MOD, THEREFORE I AM T-shirt, his earphones in and his phone in his hand. Mum lowers the Daily Mail and stares at him as though the scales have fallen from her eyes.
(I’ve never understood that. Scales?
“Frank,” she says, “how many hours have you played on your computer games this week?”
“Define computer games,” Frank says, without looking up from his phone.
“What?” Mum looks at me uncertainly, and I shrug. “You know. Computer games. How many hours? FRANK!” she yells, as he makes no move to respond. “How many hours? Take those things out of your ears!”
“What?” says Frank, taking his earphones out. He blinks at her as though he didn’t hear the question. “Is this important?”
“Yes this is important!” Mum spits. “I want you to tell me how many hours you’re spending per week playing computer games. Right now. Add it up.”
“I can’t,” says Frank calmly.
“You can’t? What do you mean, you can’t?”
“I don’t know what you’re referring to,” says Frank, with elaborate patience. “Do you mean literally computer games? Or do you mean all screen games, including Xbox and PlayStation? Do you include games on my phone? Define your terms.”
Frank is such a moron. Couldn’t he see Mum was in one of her pre-rant build-ups?
“I mean anything that warps your mind!” says Mum, brandishing the Daily Mail. “Do you realize the dangers of these games? Do you realize your brain isn’t developing properly? Your BRAIN, Frank! Your most precious organ.”
Frank gives a dirty snigger, which I can’t help giggling at. Frank is actually pretty funny.
“I’ll ignore that,” says Mum stonily. “It only goes to prove what I was saying.”
“No it doesn’t,” says Frank, and opens the fridge. He takes out a carton of chocolate milk and drains it, straight from the carton, which is gross.
“Don’t do that!” I say furiously.
“There’s another carton. Relax.”
“I’m putting a limit on your playing, young man.” Mum bats the Daily Mail for emphasis. “I’ve just about had enough of this.”
Young man. That means she’s going to drag Dad into it. Any time she starts using young man or young woman, sure enough the next day there’s some ghastly family meeting, where Dad tries to back up everything Mum says, even though he can’t follow half of it.
Anyway, not my problem.
Until Mum arrives in my bedroom that evening and demands,
“Audrey, what is Land of Conquerors?”
I look up from Grazia and survey her. She looks tense. Her cheeks are pink and her right hand is all clenched, as if it’s just come off a computer mouse. She’s been Googling “computer game addiction,” I just know she has.