Isn’t It Funny How Our Priorities Change With Age?

The old man opened the vault last week. Last month was the first time he didn’t lose a ton of our money since he became an investor and it triggered un uncharacteristically generous response. Of course, I leapt at the opportunity to spend.

Photo from Sophie Elvis on Unsplash.com

I’m sure I must have mentioned that we’ve owned our current sofas for almost twenty-two years? Or that our television is so old it doesn’t fit through modern doors and has to be turned off manually? And that our dining set is from IKEA, circa 1800, and I bought it with my first pay after Kurt was born?

According to the old man’s philosophy, the money we spend is about making my life as miserable as possible “financial choices” i.e. nothing to do with an appreciation for antiques or sentimentality, although I believe that it also has something to do with the old man’s natural parsimony, his complete disinterest in what our house looks like, and my uselessness with money – as in saving money. That’s why – and I am embarrassed to admit this – I relinquished joint control of our bank account a long time ago.

I know…bad feminist!

Anyway, unsurprisingly, furniture has never featured highly on his list of priorities (unlike top-of-the-range golf clubs and wasted memberships at gyms), so the deal he offered me last week – to purchase two sofas, some dining chairs, and a new tv for him – could have knocked me down with a feather.

There were a few conditions, OBVS: I had to pick the furniture within an hour; it had to meet the practicalities he deems important ie. the color had to be a practical shade of neutral because of the Princess’s habit of wiping her bum and her spaghetti mouth on them; and I was NOT TO GO OVER BUDGET.

Sometimes, it really is like he doesn’t even know me!

And, honestly, I can’t describe to you the anticipation both of us felt as we travelled to the mall like a proper, grown up couple going furniture shopping. Although, then again, this grown up business does seem to be becoming a bit of a habit, if you remember here.

Of course, his generosity in terms of patience in the furniture stores didn’t extend as far as the family wallet. He lasted all of five minutes in the first shop before he had his first tanty and I had to send him packing to the tv store, which brought back horrible memories of Hawaii and our lifetime ban from Avis. Which left me an hour – negotiated up from half an hour – to find the furniture we will most likely wee and die on, before he changed his mind.

And I did it. The furniture had been ordered and is due to arrive before Christmas, and I am …well …not nearly as excited about it as I thought I would be, as I admitted to Tightarse the other night.

‘So if what would excite you if you could buy anything?’ he asked me, stifling a yawn.

Well… not the material stuff, anymore. We are lucky, we have everything we need. No, these days what gets me really excited is the thought of giving, having new experiences, learning about new stuff, the luxury of time (if I have the option), being a part of social change, and er…food. The prospect of taking the kids out to dinner and giving them free range to pick what they want from the menu – even dessert; shoving $50 in their hand when they need it – because I remember how much we appreciated the gesture from my in-laws when we were hard up; travel, education, and the freedom to do exactly what I want. All of those things excite me more than plush new sofas that someone will spill red wine on the minute I’ve unwrapped them – although, needless to say, I still made sure they will arrive before Christmas, in time for the family visit from the UK.

Isn’t it funny how our priorities change with age?

What excites you now?

Anxious, Middle-Aged Couple Seeks Ideas For Perfect Holiday

We’re in the early stages of marital negotiations about a possible holiday towards the end of the year. I’ve won the first round – as in the old man has finally agreed to leave Australia. However, where to go is proving more problematic.

Photo of The Big Banana at Coffs Harbour in Australia.

I am struggling to find that perfect holiday destination that offers an active, cultural experience, as well as decent resort facilities for the old man to hit a ball for most of the day. Good internet for easy access to golf and dog videos would also be a bonus.

Being a Cancer, his absolute favourite place in the whole world is obviously home – an insularity that appears to have deepened since he entered middle age – which means that I can almost see his balls shrivel up each time I bring up the idea of “new experiences”.

For him, a “new experience” is not picking the burger in a restaurant in this new, middle-aged stage of hyper-male grumpiness.

Both of us suffer from anxiety, hence the idea of simply hopping on a plane and going on an adventure is never going to happen. We need to overthink the fuck out of every minute of the two weeks that we will be away. We need to fill one suitcase with every legal medication we may need. We need to read hotel reviews and access world seismology reports to do a full risk assessment of where is safe.

Negotiating a foreign country and culture is a scary prospect, when you’re scared of your own shadow.

But whereas I refuse to give into my fear, the old man is quite comfortable to say no. And he has a point: this is the time in your life when you can and you should dig your heels in, if you feel that strongly about it.

The problem is, (as I keep reminding him), he is a married man, and our union comes with certain responsibilities – as in “in sickness and on holiday”. And since I have made two major trips back to the homeland by myself over the past couple of years, I think it’s time he took one for the team.

So, this is our brief. Ten days to two weeks in October to somewhere that won’t dent a massive hole in our dwindling savings and involves no more than a twelve-hour flight. We need the option to relax, as well as places to explore. Somewhere not too cold – because we’re pretty wussy when it comes to the cold after almost fourteen years in Oz – and it goes without saying that there can be no risk of coups, tsunamis, earthquakes or even food poisoning.

I have done my research, and come close to booking The Big Banana again!

Any ideas?

5 Brilliant TV Series For The Discerning Middle-Aged Couple

jeshoots-com-606648-unsplashThe old man and I watch a lot of detective series together. It’s the only genre that hits the sweet spot for both of us. For him, there are car chases, guns, and psychopaths  – although, sadly no dragons – and for me, there is typically a decent representation of female characters – albeit, few of them survive to the end. 

I’m not great at suspending belief for the sake of entertainment or indeed following the plot of any storyline with more than a handful of characters, so while I enjoyed Game of Thrones, my decaying brain found the magnitude of the cast and locations very confusing.

Unlike Unforgiven, which is another outstanding British series and almost on a par with the quality of Line Of Duty and Luther – although, I’m not sure that anything can come really close to Idris chasing baddies through the streets of London – which offers some gruesomely believable plotlines, a mesmerizing cast, and seriously pretty, chocolate box locations.

In fact, I only found one very minor flaw with the series. Because, is it just me, or is anyone else seriously amazed by the way that characters ‘called in to help with police inquiries,’ can remember EXACTLY where they were and what they were doing between the hours of 9pm and 12pm on February 3, sixteen years ago?

I mean…I struggle to remember what I was doing last night, and when friends reminisce about some great night we spent together three years ago, I can’t remember a damn thing about it.

Of course, I suppose that if I was a killer, I might remember burying the body of some poor woman in the middle of roadworks on the North Circular. But if not, I’m a little sceptical about being able to remember who was a guest at my party on New Year’s Eve, 2009. On the rare occasions that I feel nostalgic and drag out the family photo albums, sometimes I struggle to remember when the photos were taken, their location, or even which child I’m looking at!

Anyway, for those of you mid-lifers that are struggling to find a tv series that keeps you together and awake beyond 8pm,  Unforgiven is one of the best series we’ve watched over the past few months, and I’ve added a few other suggestions below:

Band Of Brothers – Understandably, there was only one woman in the entire series, (who is taken out by a bomb), but WOW! this is a truly amazing series, on a par with the standard of Saving Private Ryan. Starring a young Damian Lewis, this series will make you seriously think about the true meaning of ‘dark times.’

Unforgiven – Great cast, gritty storylines, and typically in-your-face realism which is what I love about good British detective series. You won’t find any perfectly-manicured cops on this show – they’re all damaged and saddled with personal baggage – but I love the way the characters’ personal relationships are woven into the storylines.

Jack Irish – We’re late to the party on this one, but what’s not to love about the self-deprecating wit and charisma of Guy Pearce? Great twists and turns in this awesome Aussie series.

Killing Eve – I’m a tad reluctant to add this to my list, but I can’t deny that this series was highly entertaining with some strong female characters that keep you on your toes all the way through. Personally, it got a wee bit silly for me towards the end, but that might be my issue with artistic license.

Better Call Saul – I haven’t finished this series yet, but the old man swears by it.

3 Reasons Not To Criticize Your Husband’s Cooking

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In my experience, men do not take criticism easily – whether it’s constructive or just plain mean – the latter being particularly relevant to the long marriage.

Which is why I have had to tread very carefully this week, while the old man had taken up the mantle of domestic slavery in our house, as I pull a six-day week of work. The deal in our house is that if I work outside of the home, he cooks – a domestic chore he despises. He is not Jamie Oliver, he has no confidence or intuition in the kitchen and when he gets in a panic, he has to be reminded constantly about what to do. I can tell that he is already buckling under the strain.

In hindsight, to criticize a man’s cooking is either a brave or incredibly stupid thing to do, for it ensures that:

1. It is unlikely to happen again.

2. The chances of finding a pubic hair in your food increase tenfold.

3. The next time he is in the kitchen, he won’t just use two-thirds of the saucepans, he will use EVERY frigging saucepan, every casserole dish, and utensil you own – even that fugly vintage Pyrex dish at the back of the cupboard that you inherited from his mother. 

However – disclaimer here – I should point out, that in spite of these risks, poking your nose in where it’s not wanted, may improve your chances of survival.

Last night, I came downstairs from my shower, starving, and in search of my dinner. As you can imagine, it was on the tip of my tongue to ask “what’s for dinner?” in that caveman grunt that most men have perfected, and yet I managed to control myself. Indeed, when I peered into the kitchen, I was heartened to see two beautiful salad accompaniments laid out on two plates on the bench top and my optimism grew. However, there was no sign of the salmon. 

So, with the diplomacy of Alan Jones, I pointed out to the old man the benefits to time management of cooking the protein whilst preparing the salads. My comment was met by an iciness more penetrative than any wind to blow through Westeros in all eight seasons of GOT, and the dog and I scuttled away from the kitchen pronto, to the sound of crashing pans in our ears.

I decided not to mention that lentils should be drained and rinsed before they go onto the salad, and ate what looked like frogspawn on my lettuce with gusto.

Who Said Marriage Was Easy?

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Mariella Says (in the Relationship section of The Guardian today, in response to a letter about a loveless marriage): “It’s easy to pontificate about tolerance and investment in a relationship and far harder to put it into practice. During times of difficulty it’s imperative we remember why we got hitched in the first place.”

Dear Mariella,

Prior to the old man working from home, whenever we had those marital arguments when I needed to inform him delicately about something he was or wasn’t doing that was pissing me off, I would preface it – in an attempt to soften the blow – with a genuine request that he returned the favor. I gave him free rein to constructively critique whichever parts of my behavior he deemed were speeding up our progress towards the divorce court.

However, because he’s an annoyingly, genuinely nice bloke, he always insisted that he had nothing to complain about – a strategy, I convinced myself at the time, that was a passive-aggressive way of getting even with me.

But recently, things have changed. Marriage is hard. It can stretch the patience of a saint – which I’m not – and the longer we cohabit 24/7, it seems, the more finicky my husband becomes about my living standards in comparison to his –  particularly in relation to those quirks of mine that don’t meet up to his more exacting middle-aged-man standards about tidiness.

For a man with the attention span of a five-year-old, working from home gives him an opportunity every thirty minutes or so, to wander about the house and find fault. Indeed, RULES have been imposed in relation to a whole host of trivial domestic things that I don’t give a fuck about – one example being how the dishwasher is loaded – and not being of the ilk to care unduly about the minutiae of chores that serve no real purpose other than to help me meet the domestic hygiene criteria for the purposes of my family’s safety,  I have little interest in whether the mouthwash sits on top of the vanity or beneath it.

Furthermore, his attacks pertaining to my sloppiness have brought out an unlikeable, childish side to my personality that prior to this impasse in our marriage, I had never noticed before. Hence, I find myself going out of my way to annoy him. I load the bowls on the top shelf of the dishwasher or I stand cutlery up “the wrong way”; I leave dirty coffee cups in the car and on my desk, and half-empty water bottles dotted around the house.

Honestly, for a man who in some ways is more alpha-male than the combined panel of dickheads at the Kavanaugh hearing, his tanties about domestic trivialities have become really rather annoying, and the idea of living with a nagging husband for whatever remains of our time together, much less appealing.

However, for the sake of our marriage, I have resigned myself to maintaining my oppositional stance in the face of this direct threat. I have always believed that a good relationship needs balance. And in the same way that a dash of chili makes food more interesting, I have always maintained that the minute our relationship begins to resemble a Korma, I’ll be outta here, pronto, in search of a Vindaloo.

My most unforgivable offense, I am told, is the way I stack the box of new eggs on top of the old in the fridge – a habit, I have decided, that I will never apologize for nor surrender to. In fact, I intend to provide the kids with some intense training in fridge stacking until my husband gets some purpose back into his life – or indeed, gets a life.

The Twelve Questions To Ask Yourself Before You Get Married

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We go through different phases in our marriage. Sometimes we love each other with the intensity of Jack and Rose in Titanic; sometimes he’s George and I’m Martha in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Normal, right?

It didn’t take me long to work out that marriage involves a lot of hard work and luck. There is the luck that your ambitions don’t change with time; the luck that you don’t meet your other soulmate on a chairlift at the snow after a row, and the luck that the shared moral code that bought you together in the first place doesn’t radically change during your (potentially) half-century together.

There are times when long relationships can feel as viscerally painful as someone pushing their finger into a boil – the reason, no doubt, why so many fail. But when they work, they are enlightening. 

The old man and I are in one of our quarterly sessions of testing each other’s tolerance level at the moment. It’s a game we play to keep our marriage interesting. Getting on my tits at the moment is the noise he makes when he chews on the ice cubes in his Friday night Whisky, and the way he needs to be in the exact square meterage of the kitchen as me, ALL THE TIME. Getting on his man boobs is my habit of snoring around 5am each morning, (a divorceable offense, apparently), how I leave old sweet wrappers and coffee cups in the car, and my ridiculous expectation that he leaves the house at least once a month.

The topic of what questions to ask yourself before you get married has been covered many times – most recently in Lucy Mangan’s hilarious assessment in The Guardian here. And because hers is such a great list, I’ve stolen one of her questions to kick off my own:

  1. ‘If there were a seismic event in Anglo-European politics brought about, say, by the wanton selfishness and ineptitude of a former television PR man who had unaccountably made it to the position of prime minister, which left the country riven, would you be on the same side?’
  2. Does your partner cook?
  3. Will they make you breakfast in bed, for no other reason than they love you?
  4. Will they take the bins out without argument, looks of resentment or risk of retribution?
  5. Are they against all forms of discrimination and inequality?
  6. Can they make you laugh all the time, even when you’re really cross with them?
  7. Do they have a problem with spending? Actually, allow me to rephrase that. Do they have a problem with you spending too much? And, (ahem), do you have a problem with them not wanting to spend anything at all? If you can’t agree on where your money goes, I can personally guarantee that this is a recipe for disaster that can only be overcome if they agree to 2 and 3 and 4.
  8. Do your goals match? Of course, dreams and ambitions change over time, but if your partner’s long-term goal is to travel around the globe on a yacht and you get seasick, it’s something to think about.
  9. How do you resolve disagreements? Does it really work when he shuts down like he’s on a silent retreat, while you take off like a rocket?
  10. How well do you really know each other? Do you know what your partner will order off a menu before they say it? Will it begin to annoy you when they order a burger at every meal?
  11. Level of self-centeredness. If there’s only one cube of chocolate or cookie left in the jar, will they give it to you?
  12. Do you really believe them when they swear they’ll take the kids and leave the dog should you divorce?

Why Are Men So Obsessed With Sport?

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Photo by Morgan David de Lossy on Unsplash

The old man is that breed of men that needs to hit a ball at least once a day. He delights in telling anyone who can listen to him (without falling asleep) about his childhood spent in the family garage, throwing ball after ball against its back wall. And while the sporting promise of his youth didn’t translate into a career, that need of a fix – to either hit, kick or knock a ball of any shape – hasn’t dwindled with age.

Since he began to work from home and has more flexibility with his time, his obsession has returned; which puts a lot of pressure on his most obvious opponents. Admittedly, The Princess takes some of the pressure off me by collecting and returning the hundreds of air golf balls he whacks into the back hedge of the garden, and he has made a couple of friends that play tennis with him or accompany him on silent missions around the golf course. However, I’m the unlucky sod that picks up most of the slack.

For our recent anniversary celebration in Bowral, I picked a quaint hotel with a nine-hole golf course, because, a feminist, I wanted to demonstrate that the romantic weekend was about both of us before we trawled around the main focus of the two days to the town’s mecca of interior design shops. img_8680

With a forced smile on my face, I followed him around what was a beautiful, scenic, (and thankfully) short golf course on our first day. In arctic temperatures, I searched for balls, complimented good shots, sympathized with bad, whilst maintaining a smile on my face at all times, my eye firmly on the prize of the hotel bar at the end of our two hours of hell.

The following morning, he was awake three hours before me, and when I opened my eyes to a bouncing puppy on the end of our bed, eyes pleading to let him play golf again and forgo his much-anticipated first-day cushion-shopping, I gave in.

We met up again later that morning, to play tennis – a warm-up for a grueling afternoon tour of the local wineries – and a sport that I have come to enjoy since I’ve learned to ignore his scathing comments and tantrums from the other side of the net. Nevertheless, it took some control not to laugh in his face when he suggested a game of pool that night.

Is your partner obsessed with sport?

Sharing Your Fantasies On A Middle-Aged Weekend Getaway

She luxuriated in the fresh white cotton bedlinen of their four-poster bed as she looked up at him.  He lay over her, on his haunches, a quizzical look on his face, the muscles of his arms twitching. He was still beguilingly ripped for a middle-aged man.

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She shivered as she watched him devour her body with his eyes, lifting his face back up to hers before they reached her belly. She couldn’t believe how big he looked above her, or how small she felt beneath him as the morning light bathed the room around them, highlighting the perfect angle of his beer belly.

‘Tell me what you want?’ he murmured into her ear again, before gazing back down at her body admiringly. Was that hunger in his eyes?

She turned her head to one side, feeling shy all of a sudden. As she felt her hot red cheek cool on the sheets beneath her, she thought about how to tell him.

‘Come on,’ he begged, tracing a finger from her chins down to her cleavage. ‘Tell me. I told you, this weekend is about you.’

‘I can’t,’ she admitted, coyly, still averting her eyes.  ‘It’s embarrassing.’ She bit her lip, forgetting for one moment how much that excited him. Could she really be that honest?

‘I want what you want…’ he persevered, stroking her hair with his builder’s hands.

‘Really?’ she giggled nervously, still unable to look up at him, the image in her head so naughty somehow, and yet too delicious not to share. It had been so long… and wasn’t that why they were here, she justified.

‘Of course. I’ve told you,’ he said, patiently. Whatever makes you happy makes me happy,’ he repeated, lowering his eyes to her breasts… and then lower. ‘Tell me what your fantasy is. Tell me what is going through your mind right now,’ he pushed her, licking his lips.

‘Okay, but you have to promise me not to be disappointed.’

‘How could I ever be disappointed in you, silly?’ he asked as she felt the heat of his desire push against her thigh and saw his eyes melt to liquid chocolate. She knew she had to be brave.

‘Bacon,’ she said, closing her eyes.

‘Bacon,’ he repeated slowly with a sigh, closing his eyes, his breathing suddenly heavier. Lowering his body closer to hers, she could smell last night’s three pints and Jalfrezi on his breath as he asked in a sultry voice – ‘Streaky or back?’ 

‘Back,’ she giggled, aware of the sudden warmth between her legs as she said the word. Had she really said it out loud? She began to stroke the insides of his arms as he flexed them above her.

‘What else?’ he asked, a discernible quiver in his voice, his body beginning to move rhythmically against hers.

‘Mushrooms,’ she said, losing focus on his arms as an image of the fungi exploded into her brain.

‘Grilled?’

‘Fried,’ she answered in a guttural voice, her eye now firmly on the prize. ‘In butter. Yes! In butter,’ she gushed, raising her body to meet his, ‘with perhaps a pinch of Tarragon.’ 

‘Sausages?’ he suggested hoarsely, his hot breath on her face as his body searched hers, more roughly now, but touching her exactly where she needed him.

‘Yes, sausages!’ she repeated confidently before she shrank back into the pillow, her hand over her mouth. ‘Cumberland,’ she added, in a quieter voice. ‘Thick, moist… and floating in brown sauce.’ She enunciated the word moist slowly, secretly delighting in the look of pain that shot across his face. 

‘Now?’ he panted, unable to disguise the hope in his voice.

‘Not yet,’ she said, close.

‘What else?’ he asked, his voice strained as she heard him breathe in her skin.’

‘Those crispy potato things,’ she said, her voice rising with the increase in her heart rate, her brain unable to think clearly anymore. ‘What are they called?’ she asked him, her back arching, her body reaching for him impatiently. ‘WHAT ARE THEY CALLED?’ she screamed, soaring.

‘Hashbrowns?’

‘YES!  HASH. FUCKING. BROWNS! YES! YES! YES!

‘And eggs? Surely we need eggs?’ he shouted, panic in his voice as he looked down at her face for reassurance.

‘Fried!’ they shouted jubilantly, jumping out of bed to head down to breakfast.

 

 

 

 

Snoring: First-World Marital Problems In Middle Age

There’s no doubt that there are certain times in a marriage – like right now as the old man’s feelings of disdain and disappointment penetrate the bedroom wall because I am still in bed at 10am on a Saturday morning – that prove more testing than others. But if Trump thinks he’s got problems with Melania, he needs to get some proper perspective.  bed-945881_960_720

My snoring problem is dragging us towards an awkward low point in our relationship that I could never have envisaged at the altar twenty-five years ago when we carelessly promised to love each other “in sickness and in health,” without first consulting the small print.

Last night, I was awoken by the brutal sensation of something flicking at my nose, a physical abuse that the old man denies – he says I was dreaming – nevertheless, still an act of desperation on his part that I won’t be able to forgive quickly.

He has admitted (under the influence of alcohol) that there have been several occasions in the middle of the night as he has listened to my Darth Vader impression, that he has plotted my murder; and the only other time in our relationship when he came close to such impassioned feelings about my existence was when I almost killed him with food poisoning.

He has never been able to look a bacon and mushroom risotto in the eye since then.

I have no idea why I’ve suddenly started snoring, and my anxiety refuses to lead me down the terrifying route of potentially life-threatening medical reasons such as sleep apnoea – WHICH CAN KILL YOU –  but when your own husband has considered taking that option into his own hands, it gets you thinking.

Like, perhaps he should invest in some decent earplugs?

There is, of course, another option, because we are fortunate to have a spare bedroom in our current home. The problem is, neither of us is willing to contemplate it as a serious solution and move out. And probably not for the reasons you might assume, because one thing we do agree on is that the potential risk of less intimacy doesn’t come close to the importance of a good night’s sleep.

Both of us like our own bed, and particularly our (only successful joint furniture) purchase of the mattress we bought a few years back, that has since been sculpted perfectly into the shape of our three bodies. In my view, a good mattress is one of the key components to a happy life, and the mattress in the spare room is an old one that the kids and their friends have spewed, weed and no doubt done other stuff on while we’ve been away. We also NEED to have an ensuite a stone’s throw away – because middle-aged bladders – and we like the security of having the dog between us to keep us warm in winter and to bark in the middle of the night each time a leaf drops. 

Neither of us is prepared to give up the sanctuary of the master bedroom – not for the sake of our marriage or his sanity – which means our little problem has turned into something resembling a standoff, and our attempts to work this problem out in a mature way, (as in one befitting our age) – ie. nose plugs, ear plugs, medication and angry prods in the night – have confirmed, once again, that we are not mature. I think that because he is the type of unnaturally light sleeper that can hear drunks being kicked out of the local pub in the next suburb – he should be the one to move out; he thinks that because I didn’t snore when he married me, our current situation is a perfect example of misrepresentation, and the punishment should fit the crime.

First-world marital problems.

Who do you think is right?

 

 

A Postmortem Of Twenty-Five Years Of Marriage

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As we hurtle towards our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary – celebrations and condolences for which are still under negotiation – it seems to me that the timing couldn’t be more perfect for a postmortem of our relationship.

 

I’ll be honest with you, as the product of divorced parents, I never expected our marriage to last, and like many couples in long-term relationships, we have experienced our share of highs and lows. Particularly this year. Living TOGETHER, and working from home TOGETHER, have inevitably created pressure points that at times have pushed us closer to our own re-enactment of the last scene in “The Notebook”.

 

And yet, here we are, still breathing, still together, together forever – words he taunts me with when I’m grumpy – as we morph into the middle-aged stereotypes we always denied we’d become. He is the archetypal grumpy old man who shouts at the television, wears socks with sandals, and feels no guilt about excusing himself from social gatherings. I am the highly-strung, middle-aged other half, secretly more suited to life as Betty Draper, in spite of my feminist idealism. 

 

My father describes our marriage as a life sentence, and sometimes, (as some of you will agree), it feels like it. But although marriage doesn’t get any easier, the ageing process does have a clever way of smoothing over cracks that in the past we might have left exposed. And perhaps, as well, both of us feel like we’ve passed the point of no return in our relationship. The idea of intimacy with anyone else is terrifying, we are comfortable with our silences, and unapologetic about the deterioration in our physical standards.

 

Our marriage has enriched and evolved like a fine wine. Not like those schmaltzy, finger-down-your-throat senior love matches depicted in British movies – usually set in India – no, we are more Jerry and Margo Leadbetter from “The Good Life” or Ethel and Norman Thayer from “On Golden Pond”. We have traded the fireworks for a resigned acceptance of how we should behave at our age, although secretly we keep our swords sharpened.

 

When he is loving life, I hate it. When I’m chill, he’s a stress ball. While he condemns me through his silence, I am a spitting, yapping Rottweiler. While he rarely criticizes me, I prepare a review of him each morning to contemplate throughout his day – although I have noticed some underground attempts to alter that status quo, demonstrating a worm-turning bravery in middle age that he concealed from me as a young man.

 

The other day he accused me of not putting the lid back on the toothpaste.

 

‘What lid?’ I countered, bristling as I frantically racked the wine-addled cells of my brain for a visual of our bathroom vanity and the scrunched up toothpaste tube.

 

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PETTY – I’m sure you will agree. And yet, pettiness evolves with marriage in the same way that deep love and respect do, and so: his refusal to refill the oats container, the fact that he only empties the recycling box once it has overflowed and the way he asks me what’s for dinner the day before – a cardinal sin in the universally accepted rules of marriage – have all been duly noted, and will be used in retribution, sometime in the future.

 

But he’s my best mate. I know what he’s going to say before he says it; he has steered me through more dark tunnels than I can remember, forcing his sweaty hand into mine exactly when I’ve needed it. He makes me laugh when I am determined not to, and his impression of Miguel Maestre from The Living Room has to be seen to be believed.

 

Admittedly, his close relationship with the dog is bordering on seedy, he has rarely bought me flowers, can’t cook for toffee, and is useless when it comes to DIY. And yet he can put a smile on my face even when storms rage around us.

 

The set of scales has always wavered precariously in our marriage, yet somehow, it always finds its balance in the end.

What To Watch Next? The Viewing Dilemma Faced By Every Middle-Aged Couple

bear-3145874_1920As the final episode of series 3 of The Wire reached its conclusion last night (and if I’m honest, we were no clearer about what the fuck happened during its twelve episodes), the old man and I reached another crisis of epic proportions in our marriage. What to watch next? Because what to watch on tv when you’re middle-aged, intolerant and with almost twenty-five years of marriage under your belt, is an ongoing dilemma.

 

Our parents had it so much easier back in the day. With the choice of Crossroads or Corrie in the UK, and (I imagine) Skippy or The Young Doctors here in Australia, they can’t have experienced the United Nations-style negotiations that we have to go through each time a series ends. Because, somehow, with a gazillion tv shows at our disposal, we still struggle to agree on one.

 

Perhaps, the problem is linked to gender, that is if you accept the premise that our differences are inherently linked to our sexuality, which I don’t. Because, (and without wishing to paint the old man as the Neanderthal male stereotype of Generation X that he is), he does like guns, cars and testosterone-fuelled panting from male protagonists running from creatures, villains, and epidemics, whereas I prefer something more real, more cerebral…and the rare sighting of a penis is a bonus. 

 

Have you noticed that men on tv and in movies are always running? Must be that action gene that we were diddled out of. Or perhaps they never read The Hare and the Tortoise?

 

Anyway…that means that there are few series we can watch together where one of us isn’t checking our phone every few minutes or yawning. Police series seem to be the only genre where there is some vague correlation in our tastes, although there is only so much Wallander or Hinterland I can watch before suicide becomes a more interesting alternative. 

 

We have a list now – yes, the old man has become that fucking anal about this ‘we might as well kill ourselves stage of our lives’ (his words) if they ever stop making Peaky Blinders, Homeland or Billions.  And The Wire sat on our list for a while, mainly because it is set in the eighties and nineties and I don’t like anything old, but also, as the only female protagonist is a lesbian, that dashed all my hopes of seeing a penis. Fortunately, however, one of the lead character’s, Jimmy McNulty, is a bit of a player – because he’s a panting, running MAN – so there is some bare-bum action. Ladies – sadly, we have to take what we can get.

 

Anyway, we couldn’t ignore the reviews of the series, especially as the old man is a real IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes man, and he refuses to turn the tv on for anything less than an 8.5. So, if you’re looking for a polished, gritty police drama that focuses on the drug world in Baltimore, look no further. You will, however, require an interpreter to follow the slang of the young black Americans around which the stories revolve, although we have achieved a level of fluency as we head into series 4 and ight and ya feel me have become commonly-used words/phrases in our household; sadly, to the confusion of the dog, whose sparse vocabulary of twenty words was reached with the word dickhead.

 

So, as you can imagine, neither of us said anything at the closing music last night, but we were both thinking it. What the fuck do we watch now?

 

Any suggestions that meet the above criteria will be gratefully received. There will be bonus points for any penis sightings.

 

 

My Husband Seems To Have Forgotten This Year That Valentine’s Day Is A Competition

I choose not to remind the old man about special events during the year, such as our anniversary, my birthday and Valentine’s Day because it makes our relationship so much more interesting.

I know that many people frown upon the commerciality of Valentine’s Day, but personally, I have always lapped up the opportunity to receive the only bunch of dead flowers from the petrol station I’m likely to receive in any given year as well as a meal out – nothing too expensive, mind you, because as a friend reminded me today, then they think they deserve sex.

In the old days, the old man used to cook for me on Valentine’s night, a mistake that I soon realized wasn’t romantic at all when I had to stand over him the whole time and interpret the methodology into a language he understood, then had to clear up his mess afterwards.

In our forties, when we thought we were rich, (before being rudely reminded about the cost of care homes and healthcare), we progressed to dinner out – generally not on the night itself due to the sacrilege of increased pricing that the old man couldn’t quite stomach – but the sickening sight of young couples, and particularly men, squirming in their seats, praying not to fuck the night up, (albeit highly entertaining), wasn’t how we wanted to celebrate our own special love.

So our current Valentine status is that we pretend we just don’t care are pretty chilled about the whole thing, even though, deep down we both know that there is still a competition going on. Generally, there is a reluctant exchange of cards with a few lovey-dovey words that convey that although we hate each other most of the time, VERY, VERY deep down, there is obviously something deep and meaningful there. And perhaps we’ll treat ourselves to a pizza.

This year, however, I had been somewhat out of sorts after a virus knocked me sideways, increased my intolerance to wine and gave me a cold sore as its finale. Added to which, he-that-rhymes-with-Burt has been stretching every last ounce of my patience since Xmas as he continues to deny my rights to retire from parenting. So, I have been lethargic, bad-tempered and meaner this past week than normal. Everything is the old man’s fault, including the length and debilitation caused by my illness, because he made me play tennis when I was literally still on my death bed.

I am of the belief that if you try hard enough, it is possible to blame your husband/partner for just about everything.

So I was not feeling particularly amorous when I spotted the first red cards in the shops, and perhaps it had nothing to do with the virus at all, and the reason Cupid has been on an extended holiday from our house is because we work from home together, hence get on each other’s nerves 24/7. Anyway, call me bitchy, but I knew that the old man would have no idea what month we were in without a reminder as salient as billboards in our street when I decided to surprise him with my card.

You get where I’m coming from, Ladies?

Unfortunately, however, last week was one of the rare occasions that the old man left the house over the past year and he too spotted the red balloons and the heart-shaped stickers and didn’t wonder whose birthday it was. Something resonated, and because he has no respect for my privacy and is the type that raids my in-tray and text messages regularly – he says, to check which bills I’ve forgotten to pay and what library books I’ve forgotten to return; I say, to see if I have a lover, because deep down I like the idea that he thinks that I could get a lover – he found my Valentine’s card to him and hotfooted it down to the petrol station to buy one for me that was no-way near as offensive as mine – in fact it was downright romantic – and so this year, I suppose, he wins in the game of love.

But where exactly are my dead flowers, ass-hole?

Hiking, And How To Unhinge An Already Rocky Marriage

It may surprise you to know that the old man and I are not adventurers. We will never jump out of a plane, never consider it personally fulfilling to scale the Himalayas or even camp locally, so it was with some trepidation that we set off on an adventure last weekend.

 

My arty shots – it’s obvious why the old man had to carry the backpack and that he took the first, blurred photo

 

I had decided in my wisdom that we needed a team-building exercise. Working together from home, in the same space, at different stages of our individual mid-life crises, means that sometimes we forget that there is a world outside and our mutual respect for one another gets lost in the cyberspace of real life and its drudgery. Although we are fortunate to have a beach at the end of the road, I decided that what better way to rekindle the spark of our working partnership than with a challenging hike.

So on Saturday, we bravely left the safety zone of our suburb to head to the Australian bush, in search of paradise – a walking track in the Kuringai National Park that leads to a beach called Flint and Steel. We’ve walked the track before – around seven years ago – when we were younger, fitter, our marriage was stronger, and I imagine it wasn’t thirty degrees in the shade.

I was responsible for making the packed lunch and packing the backpack, while the old man mooched around the house searching for his sunglasses for about an hour. As this was a team-building exercise, on this occasion I didn’t argue with him when he instructed me not to pack for a two-week holiday – mainly because somehow, (and I still don’t know how), I had coerced him to carry the bag so that I could take arty photos (chortle, chortle). So in went a single bottle of water (huge mistake), snake anti-venom, flares, spider anti-venom, a British flag – so that I would remember to “stay calm” in the event of dire straits – and a splint because you can never be too careful in this country. Mentally, I had also allocated the old man’s towel as our ligature and his lunch and water as my rations should we get lost.

The craggy track down to the beach is only about a kilometer, but as you can imagine, the ascent back up is a bitch – think climbing a massive sand dune in Dubai, on your period, and you might get the picture – it is the sort of climb in which it is impossible to carry enough water to keep your wilting body hydrated as  the sun beats unforgivably down on you. Eventually, with your heart ricocheting inside your rib cage and your lungs drained of oxygen, you forget the mechanics of how to breathe completely and death becomes a more favorable option.

The old man scoffed at me when I insisted we take our small beach umbrella – because unfortunately, there are no toilets, coffee shops and very little shade in paradise – although one couple did manage to lug a whole fucking gazebo down with them.

‘Well, you’re carrying it then,’ the old man said, begrudgingly, straight after the row about his baggage allowance and his earlier sarcastic comment, ‘Are you sure you don’t want to get into the backpack as well?’

‘Well, if you don’t mind?’ I had replied before I realized that it was one of his funnier dad jokes.

As I mentioned, the old man is every bit as grumpy, mean and begrudging as I am these days, and he can’t blame menopause. Frankly, I worry about taking him anywhere in public at the moment. Two fifteen-year-olds nearly beat the crap out of him on the tennis court the other day after he accused them (very undiplomatically) of going over into our court time – heaven forbid – and an app to warn cyclists when he is out on the road would definitely be in their interest. Suffice it to say, I spend a lot of my day apologizing for my husband’s behavior and researching male HRT.

It turns out that there is nothing better than a relentless, hot, uphill climb with dangerously-low water supplies to truly unhinge one’s marriage, and it is amazing just how quickly one can forget what was definitely one of life’s moments only minutes before. For in that mountain climb back to civilization, I completely forgot about the clear water of the ocean, the gentle crash of waves and the sand between my toes, set against nature’s background music of mating cicadas and the sway of palm trees in the breeze. How easy it was to forget how smug and grateful to be alive I had felt as I lay on that un-spoilt piece of paradise, where not even the biting ants on my towel or the motor boats with their spluttering engines and squealing, entitled spawn on inflatable donuts, could spoil it for me. No, all I could think about on that walk back up was my miserable AF husband screaming at me to get a move on before we died of sunstroke.

Maudie, Self-Care and The Simplicity of Love

One pearl of wisdom you finally discover in middle age is the answer to that all-consuming question of “what the fuck is it all about?”.  And that it is “love”, of course.

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And trust me, you couldn’t find a better demonstration of that than the movie I saw yesterday when Louisa-No-Mates dragged herself along to the movies by herself for some TLS, or tender, loving self-care.

 

The rediscovery of simple things you enjoyed doing in the past is a little tip I picked up in the most recent self-help book I have read on self-love, and as it had been a while since I was brave enough to admit publicly that I have no friends, left the house or got dressed, I decided a trip to the movies would be a good starting point.

 

I rarely to the movies these days, probably due to my warped penchant for sad movies -something that is not shared by anyone else in the family… or anyone really. NC, the logician of the family, can’t bear to watch any movie that attempts to locate her heart strings, doesn’t have dragons, robots or star troopers, while Kurt and the old man – stereotypes for emotionally under-developed males – barely stray from violence or superhero nonsense.

 

Conversely, I like to give my mind and heart a full workout during a movie, and I am drawn to those thought-provoking little gems that usually have fuck-all budget. I like to see characters bare their souls and evolve in stories of personal triumph over tragedy. 

 

Maudie, the movie I saw yesterday, is based on the true story of Canadian artist, Maude Lewis, and her husband Everett. It is set in Nova Scotia, on the edge of a small town that has the appeal and climate extremes of all seven kingdoms of the Game of Thrones combined, and is the story of Maude, a woman physically disabled by arthritis and rejected by her family, who is left no other choice than to work as a housemaid for Everett, who is, in the words of Bridget Jones’ mother, ‘a very cruel man.’

 

In truth, the meat of this story is not the amazing tale of  Maude’s rise to fame to become a successful folk painter, but rather the simple and unlikely romance that develops between her and Everett, a man also starved of love as a child, and the way in which she successfully unlocks his unyielding heart.

 

‘The world didn’t give this woman much, but then, not much was required to make her happy.’ (Bob Mondello)

 

For while her painting fulfills her need for creative expression, Maude’s main goal in life is to be loved and to achieve happiness. Her poor start has made her more determined to find someone to love her, and although Everett is hardly Romeo material, (nor very much of a talker), when he demonstrates his developing love for her through small acts of kindness – albeit without grace – these are enough to give Maude the hope she needs to stay with him. 

 

‘I have been loved,’ Maude tells him when the light globe of Everett’s emotional intelligence finally switches on and he comprehends what she truly means to him.

 

‘It’s a story of pain and difficulty and cold, and also of happiness.’ (Glenn Kenny)

 

It is a story about the fabric of life and love.