Shazia Mirza: Diary of a disappointing daughter

My dad communicates with his children via newspapers.

Every time I go home, there are cuttings on the kitchen table circled with black marker and with headlines such as Spinsters Are On The Rise, Mixed Marriages Don’t Work and, the latest one, There’s No Life For Women Over Thirty.

Sometimes, when things are urgent, he’ll post them to me, with no cover note.

He even reads the agony aunt columns and circles their advice for me.

Most of his conversations these days start with, “Where did we go wrong?” and end with, “Well, there’s still hope.”

My mother is similar – tactlessly direct but always hopeful.Last week she called to ask if I’d be visiting soon.

“No, Mum, I’m going to Thailand.”

“Oh, that’s nice – how long are you going for?”

“Ten days, Mum.”

“Who are you going with?”

“A friend.”

“Is it for work?”

“No, it’s just a holiday.”

“Oh, OK… Well, have a good time”

She calls back 20 minutes later.

“You know Thailand is a dangerous place.There are drugs and people get caught smuggling them.

“I say, “Mum, I’m not a drug dealer.”

She says, “OK, but don’t let your friend pack your suitcase for you.”

She calls back 10 minutes later. “Are you going with a man?” she asks.

“No,” I say, “I’m going with a woman.”

She says, “OK then, but keep a lookout for one.”