Finally, half term comes to an end. My first half term rather took me by surprise. I looked at the week, noted the total lack of childcare and scarpered straight to Mum and Dad's (well they haven't seen enough of their grandchildren over the last few years, so I'm making up for lost time).
So I got to spend a week amoung the Yummy Mummys of SW London. The Bugaboo buggies. The powder blue cardigans. The blonde highlighted hair, falling so perfectly. Their Boden clad offspring on their Mini Micro scooters. Would be so easy to have a little dig at them, except I'm a bit of a Bugaboo evangelist myself, I deeply love my powder blue cardi and my life would be seriously negatively impacted without the Mini Micro Scooter. I'll have you know though that my hair is all my own colour and rarely falls just so and against all evidence to the contrary however much my boys look like they wear Boden, they actually wear whatever is in the box of clothes I inherit from those with older children. A sudden moment when I wondered whether, from the outside, I look like a yummy mummy? I know that I'm not, I mean I spend most of my time with unwashed hair, holes in my socks with the thought of extra French on Tuesdays giving me the giggles and you'd have to shoot me before I got into a 4x4.
But it did get me thinking about stereotypes. More particularly the way they are so often wrong, even if the appearance looks right. Take the Serbs for instance. What's your impression of a Serb? Probably something along the lines of a chain smoking, leather jacket wearing, handgun toting member of the Eastern European mafia with a suitable girlfriend, one with the tightest mini skirt ever seen, probably a Turbo Folk singer with badly dyed blonde hair?
Well, there's no doubt that there are some Serbs who are like that. But that is like saying that all Londoners run market stalls, have a heart of gold and talk in rhyming slang. I've met quite a few Serbs and I have to say that the vast majority of them are friendly, funny, fantastically generous people. You'll not meet a Serb and go home empty handed, a bottle of their home brewed sljiva, some tomatoes from their garden, something. They worry about their children, their jobs, how they'll scrape through until the economy picks up. They despair over the latest generation, can't understand their music. The women fret over their figures, the men despair at their football teams. The old lady tuts at the youngsters playing their music too loud. The mother is run into the ground by her young children. Really they are remarkably similar to the people on your street and look how varied they are.
Stereotypes are dangerous things. They allow us to make presumptions and stop us from seeing the actual people behind the tar brush approach. And these assumptions are often hurtful; people prefer to criticise, niggle and pick apart and if your group is being slandered it is hard not to feel that they are picking on you personally. It happens with nationalities, it happens with parenting choices. Either way, it is important to bear in mind that the stereotypes are built up of a whole range of people, all different. To understand them is to remember that.