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.
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.
We didn’t forget the date exactly but the old man was away at some conference pretending to be a very important international executive while I was working my butt off from Dysfunctionality House.
So aside from a couple of pathetically grovelling texts to make sure that the other didn’t think that the other had forgotten, the day kind of passed us by.
Which was actually ok. I mean we know we love each other and I’ve finally grown up and realised that ‘knowing’ can be enough; with unlimited access to the Mastercard, OBVIOUSLY.
It gets harder and harder to give our relationship the time it needs these days, with the teens around. In the old days, the kids were swaddled so tightly they couldn’t move in bed by 7pm so at least we found a few precious hours of ‘alone’ time. These days, NC, Kurt, their friends and partners are a permanent fixture in the apartment and would be horrified at the suggestion of anything more than light-hearted animosity between us; which is what they are used to.
On Saturday night we decided to go out for a meal to celebrate, nevertheless. Nothing fancy, just our favourite Japanese restaurant that does the wickedest burn-the-roof-off-your mouth Wasabi, melt-in-your mouth Sashimi, loadsacalories Tempura, orgasmic Wagu Beef and a comforting Teriyaki. I always follow the main with this wierd tea ice cream they serve because I can pretend it is a healthy dessert and I alos love watching the old man’s face turn a similar shade of green because he finds the whole concept of tea-flavoured ice-cream strangely revolting.
It’s no Cookies and Cream. And neither is marriage sometimes.
Luckily, the one thing the old man and I have always done well together is DRINKING. And when you’re tired and eating great food and have an excuse to celebrate, wine slips down the throat very easily and relaxes all those tensions that have been steadily building up over the last 21 years.
We were home by 8.30pm, which was far too early to end our private party so we foolishly opened a bottle of red this time, grabbed the furry rugs and the biggest bar of chocolate I’ve ever seen in my life and sat out on our balcony to put the world to rights. We spent those several drunken hours testing our eyesight by seeing who could read the furthest illuminated building signs and counting the number of ferries that came in and out of the harbour. We even discussed the carbon tax quite seriously at one point and then took our environmental conscience one step further and counted how many office blocks kept their lights on over the weekend.
A lot, it seems!
I don’t know how many times I mentioned how much I love living in the city. I can’t remember how many times the old man tried to bring Tiger Woods and the British Open into the conversation.
I think we even had a kiss at some point and tongues might have connected so we must have been very, very drunk to breach the no physical contact rule except on birthdays and Christmas. Well, it was our anniversary, I suppose.
It was one of those spontaneous nights where nothing was really planned but the world stood still for a short moment to remind us of what we have.
I think I AM probably one of those happy people in denial about their drinking.
The last time I went for a medical and was asked about how many units I consumed on average in a week and answered ‘thirteen’, the doctor replied ‘that’s honest of you’.
It wasn’t. I might have taken the lower end of my ‘average’.
But what was he implying by that comment?
I took it to mean that maybe I wasn’t an alcoholic after all and then persecuted myself for turning into such a lightweight.
You probably know that I’ve been trying out this new-wave dieting healthy eating and exercise fad recently. I’ve found that I have absolutely no problem with eating less but my biggest challenge is not being able to pour myself a liberal glass of wine to make everything seem better at the end of the day.
And when you torture your body with exercise for the first time since high school, it tells you in no uncertain terms that you deserve a drink a treat afterwards. And that treat isn’t a salad.
No matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to eradicate the mirage of wine completely. So instead of going Cold Turkey and being completely fucking suicidal, I have been trying to cut back to just one sad, lonely glass per night to make way for the calorific extravagance of my mega binging session at the weekend.
Because I’m responsible like that.
But my body still doth protest. It likes its 1-2 glasses a night, it’s what it’s used to, and as I can’t compensate with any culinary naughtiness either, it feels un-sated and dejected in the evening. I felt particularly defeated last night when I watched the Oscars without my customary glass of fizz strapped to my hand, because I’d foolishly used up my allowance in a ‘discussion’ with Kurt about homework.
I’m sorry, but real women just don’t drink herbal tea after 6pm.
And science is on my side. A recent study proved that continuing to drink like a fish in middle age is good for relationships and that the relationships of couples who get shitfaced drink together have a better chance of survival.
This scientific evidence appears to have some credibility in my experience.
The old man and I have always been pissheads had a Friday night routine of drinking copiously together and putting the world (and obviously our relationship) to rights – a habit passed down from generation to generation by our own parents.
In fact, I could blame some recent turbulent patches in our relationship on the fact that in middle age, since I have acquired the alcoholic tolerance of a fly, those fabulous evenings are a rarity now. We have to synch our drinking carefully these days, stagger our start and then meet majestically like synchronised swimmers somewhere in the middle.
Another more serious consideration, which could alter the stats of other successful relationships based on alcohol, too, is that we are role models to two impressionable teenagers.
With this in mind, we always take the precaution of thanking them profusely these days when they get our wine and beer from the fridge. As responsible parents, we take the over-consumption of alcohol very seriously and know that drinking has taken a bad rap of late due to the issues with the younger generations not knowing how to handle it.
Personally, I believe that if abused correctly and with experience, alcohol can in fact benefit a relationship by distorting reality for those few precious hours in a long week.
A few glasses into the evening and once the drinking goggles are firmly back in place, the old man begins to look almost attractive again, his dad jokes sound funny and he can even look happy to be in my company.
Obviously, I didn’t mean to call him a ‘tosser’ by 8am on Valentines Day, but he knows I’m not good in the morning and frankly, he was being one.
The greatest thing about being middle-aged and married for what can sometimes feel like a life sentence, is that you don’t have to tip toe around each other anymore.
The kids have been nagging us for weeks about how we planned to celebrate Valentines Day. It was getting annoying actually – like we had to validate this commercial twaddle in some way, just so our babies didn’t get over-anxious about the status of our marriage.
At one point, I felt like changing my Facebook Status to ‘comfortably married’.
Neither of us are feeling particularly romantic at the moment. Not because we’re not in lurvvve and shit, we just have more important priorities. Wasting precious free time in search of a restaurant that hasn’t been booked up on the 14th for the last three months and doesn’t resort to tacky metallic red heart-shaped balloons and inflated prices, isn’t exactly high on our list.
Now some might determine our lack of effort as ‘dangerous’ to our relationship, but I’m far more excited about booking our annual holiday than sitting with a group of over–anxious, loved-up couples who feel the need to celebrate their love publicly.
I can imagine the torrent of sentimental slime that will fill my home page on Facebook today already.
CALL ME CYNICAL, but I don’t need a heart-shaped card or an expensive bunch of roses to a) know how the old man feels about me or b) to cement in my mind just how hopelessly unromantic he is.
There was a time when I cared, admittedly, but I think the dead Chrysanthemums from the local petrol station put an end to all that futile romantic expectation.
Anyway, the kind of love depicted by Valentine’s Day is not really how we feel about each other now. THAT love is the heart-flutter, pants-on-fire kind that is driven by desire, whereas ours has evolved into something a little different. Ours is mutual hatred a more mature love where our pants may not catch fire (probably because they’re a bit tight around the waist now) and we get more turned on by alcohol or an early night than lust. But our love is also more contained now – fewer fireworks and spontaneity, but much more depth.
Yes, we probably do take each other for granted.
But it’s nice not to be afraid in a relationship. I realised that when we were out in our local hangover-café last Sunday morning after the Pavlova night. Once we’d ordered our coffees and carbs, we sat at our table and stared blankly into the distance, silently trying to work our headaches into submission, while the younger couples all around us chatted animatedly.
I remember commenting to the old man in our twenties about how awful it was when middle-aged couples sat in cafés saying absolutely nothing to each other. And how we’d never become like that.
We are now THAT couple.
And it’s comfortable at times, to be honest; not having to make an effort all the time.
I don’t even tut when he farts in bed these days.
Are you dangerously comfortable in your relationship?
You see she analyses every step of the dating process and usually comes to the conclusion that it’s not worth the effort.
In reality, relationships don’t involve cute little tweeting blue birds, hyperactive mice, pink ribbons and hearts, and for NC they are a challenge. Relationships involve tapping into emotions that don’t come naturally to her, to the point where she feels threatened by the intensity and helplessness created by ‘feelings’.
Obviously, because she is a teenager I am not allowed to pry ask questions about what’s going on and if I do, I get shut down quicker than an over-heated nuclear core. Instead I have to bide my time and wait like a dog for that precious morsel of food to be dropped under the table, to receive what paltry allowance of information I warrant as her mother.
She KNOWS I live vicariously through her, yet she still insists on ‘playing’ me.
I still don’t understand why she can’t just ‘share’ like I over-share with her?
But this ‘friendship’ is obviously more special than the others, so maybe it has the makings of a relationship. NC is trying to work out the ramifications of whether she can fit this boy into her in-depth rock studies, while I’ve secretly been perfecting my roast dinners and bread and butter pudding in preparation for long-awaited extended family dinners and Christmas with our new in-laws.
I have tried the tactic of feigning disinterest, but to be honest, I’m crap at it. I am as open as a book. She is a far better control freak than me – and why wouldn’t she be when she learnt from the master?
While I am the panting puppy, eager for over-stimulation, NC is Cruella de Ville.
But the poor kid is struggling not only with alien emotions that challenge her control but also with the concept of wasting sharing precious learning time with boy germs.
She is learning the strategy of ‘give and take’, something her father still struggles with.
The concept of a relationship is hard for a girl like her. No matter how scientifically she examines each stage and tries to salvage her emotions, like a science experiment she can’t actually control the outcome of her investment and that frustrates her. She detests weakness and the vulnerability these new emotions have brought to the surface.
NC thinks in black and white, she is a ‘cause and effect’ girl, who has managed to control her emotions from a young age.
When I tentatively asked her how she felt about ‘seeing someone special’, this was her response.
‘It’s a lot more work than I thought it would be,’ (sigh).
‘In what way?’ I asked (trying to appear nonchalant, praying that she won’t shut me down, lock me out or look at me in that superior ‘why so needy?’ way)
‘It’s just so time-consuming (sigh). I spend so much time preparing to see him. I have to shave my legs every day now AND take showers; I have to think about what to wear and what to say to sound interesting, and worst of all, I have to plan my workload around HIM. It was so easy before when I only had myself to think about.’
‘But what about the good stuff?’ I dared.
‘Well obviously it’s great that he can help me with my maths assignments and I do like the mini excavator he bought me for my birthday, but I find his theories on social coding in the modern relationship a little perplexing.’
I am writing to thank you for your letter which I received this week.
I would like to reiterate in our defence of your accusations that our celebratory, (I believe you described it in your letter as ‘immature’), behaviour in your hotel last weekend was not premeditated and due to the fact that we were celebrating our twentieth wedding anniversary. Although I do admit that after sitting for four hours on the Paramatta Road on the Friday night on our way down to your hotel, an inappropriate level of ‘silliness’ in attitude had unfortunately replaced our usual sense of responsibility.
Thank you also for the photographic evidence you sent from your security cameras. I can understand why ‘there is little doubt in your mind as to the identity of your ‘hooligan’ guests.’
Since our departure from your wonderful hotel and the receipt of your letter, we have obviously had time to reflect upon our actions and the example we should have been setting those fucking annoying kids who seemed to lie in wait to torture us in every area of the hotel to the younger guests.
We will of course pay for the damage incurred during our stay and apologize again wholeheartedly for the lapse(s) of judgment on our part.
As per the instructions in your letter we confirm responsibility for the following:
The score in the green baize of the snooker table which was unfortunately caused when my husband mistakenly presumed that he could still balance precariously on the edge of the table to take a difficult shot; to his dismay his lack of flexibility caused his back to lock painfully, causing him to fall into the table cue-first.
Filling up the wine bottles in the mini bar with water and replacing the Kettle chips with Woolworths Select.
The stain on the mattress, which was in fact massage oil (and nothing as sinister as your letter suggested), which was accidentally spilt when my husband slid off me whilst reaching for the remote control in a compromising position.
The wet footprints on the wooden floor from the outdoor swimming pool were unfortunately mine, after my husband dared me to jump in the outdoor, unheated pool naked for $350.00. Please apologize on our behalf to the wedding party that happened to be in the reception area as I re-entered the hotel lobby in only a couple of hotel towels.
I believe that my husband might have been responsible for writing the C word on the white tablecloth in the ‘lounge’ restaurant after one too many whiskies and poor service.
I suggest that your staff search the gutter outside the bedroom window for the television remote control. It was unfortunate that during the weekend in question, Australia happened to play so appallingly in the Ashes.
The top stretcher of the ‘replica 16th century’ four poster bed did not simply ‘snap’ by itself, but was the unwitting victim of my husband trying to prove his manhood agility in the bedroom.
Stealing bacon and sausages from breakfast, concealing them in the bathroom to eat later for lunch and then forgetting about them, was childish.
Shouting ‘shut the fuck up’ through the wall to the lovely young couple with the newborn baby in the next room, was rude.
The mud in the bath was a result of my husband bringing only one pair of shoes with which to walk the Blue Mountains and dine in.
Throwing pieces of bread at your piano player and pretending it wasn’t us, (especially during his awful rendition of ‘New York, New York’), was, as you suggested in your letter, ‘highly immature’.
Our lack of formal attire for the dining room was selected based on the temperature of the region and without consideration for the hotel dress code. We now fully appreciate that mountain boots and balaclavas are not appropriate clothing for the purposes of dining.
I take full responsibility for the red stains on the white bed linen caused by my attempt at re-creating a romantic American Beauty red petal effect, crafted from your very own red dinner serviettes. Unfortunately my ‘petals’ combined with the spilled massage oil overnight.
Parking in the No Parking area – I hope you will understand that it was the closest space to the hotel lobby and that night it was, (I think you’ll agree), FUCKING cold.
Hooning down the pebbled drive of the estate at 3am.
Upon reflection, we obviously deeply regret the decisions we made at your beautiful Lodge and any personal embarrassment caused by my husband’s juvenile reaction to your staff calling your name.
Apparently swimming made his skin dry and boxing was a bit frightening, so his latest venture into the world of extreme sports, (in his perpetual attempt to lose weight get fit), is cycling.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not moaning. I’m all for him losing some weight couples having their own hobbies. It gets him out of the house (unlike during his Pilates phase) while he’s still grieving the loss of his weekly visits to Kimbriki tip.
Furthermore, it has reminded the whole family, during what have been difficult times recently, about the importance of being able to laugh….. quite raucously in fact…..as in almost to the point of pissing yourself, whenever he appears in his new cycling clobber.
‘NORMAL’ people, when they dip their toe into a new sport, make do with existing equipment until they are fully committed. When the old man takes up a new sporting challenge, this is his how his thought processes work:
I’ve cycled a couple of times now and I quite like it.
Maybe if I spend ludicrous amounts of money on new equipment I’ll become a really good cyclist.
The problem with cycling is that it’s actually quite tiring and people seem to find the sight of me on a bike quite amusing. I can’t understand why.
I might just take all that very expensive equipment (that I could have bought Louisa a new piece of jewellery with) to the tip (furtively) to give me space to reflect on the next load of sports equipment that I can fill the garage with and waste my money on.
During that initial first two weeks of ‘I’m going to do this until I die’ passion, (from the point where he suddenly decides that he is the next Lance Armstrong to the realization that he is not in fact a true athlete), the world stops revolving and absolutely nothing can come between him and his new hobby. Not even me.
He had never even shopped on-line before he got this new cycling bug – now he’s ordering cycle caboodle left, right and centre and the house has suddenly taken on the appearance of the back storeroom of Cycling World.
Have you seen what middle-aged men look like in cycling shorts? It’s not pretty. Lycra doesn’t leave much to the imagination, least of all the kilo or ten that the old man knows he should really lose off his beer belly.
The teens are mortified by the sight of their father in his little fluorescent orange runners, skin-tight top (that emphasizes his man-boobs saggy pecs) and my faux Rayban women’s sunglasses in their new city neighbourhood, just as they are trying to fit in. His lycra cycling vest is that tight that we’re all convinced he must have ordered it from the children’s section.
That’s the worrying thing – that he obviously has to cycle in public.
He is now cycling to and from work, OVER SYDNEY HARBOUR BRIDGE, which I suppose is quite generous of him, providing free entertainment to tourists and his colleagues at the office.
Maybe it’s just another in a long line of Midlife Crises, but he seems to veer from one craze to another these days, although unfortunately I am never the recipient of his attention. The old man is far more interested in bicycles than me at the moment.
Evening conversation revolves around pumps, gears and tyres, helmets and shafts these days – so much double-entendre – it’s enough to drive a girl mad with longing.
So I decided that if the mountain won’t come to Muhammed, Muhammed must go to the mountain. If it’s bicycles he wants, then that’s what he’ll get.
So I decided to use his new fetish as foreplay and began sexting him like this:
And role-playing too, waddling walking around in my old cycling shorts, provocatively, saying things like’ so when can I mount your bike?’ or ‘shall we pump it up right now?’ or ‘how hard shall I grip your handlebar?’
And I swear I’ve seen the suggestion of a far-off glimmer of interest in his eyes.
Sad but true – when you’re middle-aged and been married for a b*tch of a long time, you’ve got to use what you can.
That’s this month’s sexpert advice on how to improve your sex life with a bicycle.
Will and Kate may just have celebrated their first wedding anniversary, but more excitingly we too have a major wedding anniversary looming. One that could test the very foundations of our marriage, as inevitably we share very different views about how best to celebrate it.
It’s not that I’m worried about the old man remembering the date – he only has to look at the massive tattoo on his chest inscribed with the words ‘17th JULY’ – my gift to him on our first anniversary.
I just know innately that I’m going to be disappointed. I can’t decide whether to accept that for what it is, suck it up, and focus on all the things he is wonderful at.
I think that ‘hoping’ is where I always go wrong. Hope is dangerous and a little foolish after twenty years together. Logically, leopards do not generally change their spots.
But, I argue in my head, this anniversary is more special than the others, so maybe….
My argument is that we need to celebrate that I have put up with him for twenty years and lived to tell the tale. It’s an achievement that needs to be celebrated with more than a bottle of sparkling white wine, a curry and a quickie.
His arguments are characterically, ‘cost’, and some bullshit about ‘not needing to prove his love with false public demonstrations of love.’
It’s not like I’m expecting anything REALLY special, like friends of ours who set the bar unrealistically high by flying to New York and doing romantic stuff like ‘spending time together’. (You know who you are!). Just a step up from a Chicken Korma and a kiss on the cheek, say.
I’ve bandied around the idea of a weekend on Hayman Island, which was met with what I can only describe as a guffaw from the old man’s camp. Is that a positive reaction or am I reading too much into it?
I foolishly thought that if I aimed high, he might actually ‘read the cue’ that I’m serious about him treating this anniversary with a little more than the usual skepticism.
But there is a fundamental problem with us going to Hayman Island, (were there even the remote chance in a billion that he would ever to take my suggestion seriously), in that I am terrified of the ocean. I’ve always had difficulties with the whole breathing technique of snorkeling and usually end up a spluttering mess on a bed of those hideous-looking Sea Cucumber things at the bottom of the ocean – (Ever question God’s choices when he decided what to create?). Frankly, I can only tolerate living fish if they stay in their own zone or are in tanks.
So I was hoping that he might come up with a counter-suggestion along the lines of a weekend in Noosa or Port Douglas maybe, even Melbourne, or worst case scenario, some fancy-schmantzy hotel in the city. But I haven’t spotted him furtively researching any holiday or hotel websites recently and I’ve checked his search history and there’s nothing there apart from questionable bodily function symptoms.
I made him promise years ago that for my fiftieth birthday we would go on a tour of Italy together and he’s even having second thoughts about that now. Last night he offered me a change of plan and suggested that I go (with a few girlfriends) on an all-expenses-paid trip (by him) around North Korea.
So it doesn’t bode well.
My husband has many talents but organization and ‘giving’ are not two of them. He has surprised me once during our marriage – at our wedding reception, when he introduced my speech to our guests – the one that I had no idea I was making and had to deliver after at least eight glasses of Champagne.
The other problem we face, of course, is that we are not sure if we can leave Kurt Cobain (the ADHDer), the Spoodle and Nerd Child on their own and in the same house, for a whole night.
Nerd Child has been having a bit of a crisis as a result of Kurt’s recent antics at Darling Harbour. She has come to the conclusion that our house is a mental asylum and I admit that I have noticed that she stays at friends’ houses more and more regularly as Kurt becomes more and more sociopathic. I’m envisaging more therapy bills for the old man to tut about.
In fairness, she has offered to ‘babysit’ our sixteen year old for vast sums of money, but these are the conditions:
Kurt is not allowed to walk around the house naked
He is not to emit his Tourettes-like howls before 8am in the morning
He is not to steal money from her purse to buy cigarettes
He is not to climb out onto his roof to smoke them
He is not to wake her up in the middle of the night, singing
He is not to take the television apart
He is not to play his electric guitar at full volume using his Big Muff distortion pedal before 8am
He is not to wear his bunny onesie or Thunderbird costume in public
He is not to terrorise the Spoodle by any of the following means: a) the blanket game b) the bladder game or c) dressing up in aforementioned onesie.
Unfortunately, Kurt will not agree to conditions 1 and 8, so it looks like we could be back at Blue Ginger’s curry house for our 20th wedding anniversary after all.
What did you do to celebrate your 20th Wedding Anniversary?
It was a seminal moment. I did mean to celebrate the event in my blog, but to be honest I was too busy worrying about the more serious implications; the bigger picture of how old her birthday made me.
I may as well have just stuck a sign on my forehead saying ‘old bird.’
But it did make me stop and think about the evolution of our mother/daughter relationship over that eighteen years.
You see there were many times during that eighteen years when I didn’t think we’d ever reach this point in our relationship; alive and still liking each other.
I mean, she wasn’t to know when she arrived into our world, that we were complete newbies at parenting, and that she was a sort of experiment; our ‘guinea pig’, for want of a better word.
I learned my parenting ropes on my daughter; then I completely screwed them up with my son. But that’s another story.
We are polar opposites, Nerd Child and I. She is the old man in a female shell. While she is super-intelligent, analytical, doesn’t suffer fools, frustratingly untidy and has a horror of crowds, I, on the other hand, pretend to know what I’m talking about all the time, am energized in the company of people, love fools and am made anxious by mess. Yet somehow we have found a common ground.
What I have discovered through this rearing experience is that parenting is not something you inherit a talent for; it’s a role that you adapt to over time. And Nerd Child and I have adapted to each other, in spite of our differences, although I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t made any mistakes in the process.
‘Regrets….I’ve had a few’.
Here are some of the more memorable ones:
1. The old man and I both regret that we do not have the perfect birth story to recount to our first born. I so wish I could reminisce about a more organic, sugar and spice and all things nice event with pink balloons, a birthing pool and no need for any pain relief other than a water spray; but it wasn’t quite like that.
If there is one thing we have successfully passed on to our daughter, it is that hindsight is a wonderful thing. I freely admit now that it was a poor judgment call to go to that nightclub and for the old man to drink that irresponsible quantity of alcohol so close to my due date. I regret that I had to drive myself to the hospital twice (the second time to pick up the baby bag which I forgot the first time) because the old man was so shitfaced tired. I also know that he regrets not being able to give her a blow by blow account of what actually happened during my labour, any video footage or even a photo of her until she was three days old.
I also regret exposing her innocent little body to every form of pain relief known to man (even when it was at the expense of her own health) and to a dictionary of the most obscene swear words that even the most experienced midwives had heard screamed at them.
2. I regret that she began life as ‘Florence’ and was the laughing stock of my entire antenatal group. Thankfully, we noticed.
3. When she landed badly on that trampoline when she was three and did in fact break her leg in two places, I regret now not consulting a doctor for the first twenty-four hours, and believing that frozen peas would dull the pain.
4. I regret that her pinkie is permanently crooked because I naively believed that there was nothing you could do about broken fingers.
5. When she had pneumonia, I regret sending her to school on a sports day.
6. When she put all that weight on when she was fourteen (and she really was quite porky), I still deny that I used the ‘f’ word, but I do admit to introducing her to the idea of exercise quite forcibly.
7. When her boob tube fell down during that dance performance, I admit that it was in fact me cackling like a hyena at the back if the audience.
8. I know that when my eyes glaze over when she tries to discuss geophysics and quantum physics with me, she is really disappointed in me. I am interested in what she is learning; it’s just that sometimes older people need to rest their eyes to think, like I have to often in Q and A.
9. I admit that it was me who borrowed her black suede platform shoes and scuffed the toes really badly when I face-planted in the driveway as I was leaving the party.
10. I regret hoarding that bag of ‘herbs’ in the cake section of my kitchen cupboards and getting angry when she showed it to her grandparents on Australia Day; because it wasn’t in fact a bag of ‘herbs’.
11. I regret that I have ridiculed all the boys that she has dared bring home to introduce to the family, (especially the red-haired boy). But none of them have been good enough for her and I am merely trying to save her the pain of finding that out.
12. I love the fact that our relationship is strong enough now for her to want to share my passion for clothes shopping but I’m not sure how much longer my self-esteem can handle sharing a changing room with her.
13. I am sorry for mocking her singing since her solo as the angel Gabriel at the kindy Christmas play, and how we have continued to ridicule her every time she sings. Luckily she has a lot of other talents to rely on and a very thick skin.
14. I regret not being able to sit through, rather than sleep through, her choices of ‘fantasy’ films at the movies.
15. I realize that it is selfish of me to resent her drinking my rations of ‘good’ wine, but I couldn’t afford to drink $20 plus bottles until I was over forty.
16. I admit that it was was me who replied to that letter she wrote to the fairies, and ate the biscuit she left out for them. There was no advice on handling ‘fairy situations’ in my parenting manuals and I panicked, but I truly didn’t expect a child of her maturity and intelligence to continue the communication, and so I continued to feed the lie. Eventually, that fairy had to stop replying to her (incredibly gullible) daughter because there’s only so much neediness she can cope with and the biscuits were converting to kilos.
17. I so regret embarrassing her recently at her university open day when I responded to the Sydney University media question of, ‘what do you hope your daughter will gain from her time at university?’ with the off-the-cuff comment ‘a tolerance to alcohol.’ (Got My Degree In Alcoholic Tolerance) She was right – it just wasn’t funny or clever.
‘I’ve been raking all my life,’ was the old man’s pathetic justification as we fought physically, tooth and nail, over the garden rake last Saturday.
Selling your house can do that. It has the power to trigger marital warfare and make a couple regress back to the behaviour of two toddlers in a ballpark.
Selling your house is apparently one of the most stressful events in marriage; or even life.
We’d been calling it ‘teamwork’, before last Saturday.
For in the relentless pursuit to make our house look as appealing as those properties in makeover shows at our weekly open for inspections, we spend EVERY WEEKEND fluffing and titifying. Last Saturday, it was the straw that broke the camel’s back, and for a moment we forgot that we were the A team.
The ‘straw’ was probably the rain, but then again it might equally have been the hangover.
Then there were the leaves.
It has rained every weekend since the house went on the market, (in spite of reaching the high twenties Monday to Friday), so getting up at 7am to drive the hour to the old house to ‘fluff’, is not really the best start to the weekend.
Even so, generally we’re a good team on these trips, quickly slotting into our house and gardening responsibilities as soon as we get there. We share the raking and leaf collection and the old man cleans the pool while I beautify the interiors; removing any tell-tale signs of mould, cockroaches and rising damp. We work together like one of those go-getting teams off The Block, perhaps a bit older, a little slower, unarguably less enthusiastic and certainly more intolerant of each other.
Deadlines are never good for stress.
Of course, if the house wasn’t located in its own Arctic micro-climate and wind tunnel, I think that our weekly makeover would be a breeze. But the combination of special climactic conditions, and the forest of deciduous trees that inhabit both gardens, creates more raking than Fall in Central Park.
The leaves have been a key factor in our decision to sell the house. We have spent more money on upgrading leaf blowers than all the renovations put together and there have been several occasions in our local DIY store where I have had to tell the old man to, ‘PUT THE ELECTRIC SAW AND NIGHT GOGGLES DOWN, NOW!’. If you illegally cut a tree down in our area, you can be fined up to $20,000. At times, we have considered that the crime might actually be worth the fine.
So what bought about that little outburst this morning? Why did the old man finally reach his ‘leaf’ tipping point?
Rain affects the old man.
This is a man who has moved half way around the world in search of sunshine, and spends Monday to Friday in a constricting suit and air conditioning.
So when we arrived at the ‘property from hell’ to be greeted by a bed of leaves the height of Kilimanjaro AND it was pissing down, the ‘team’ floundered. There were so many f*cking leaves, you couldn’t see the lawn, let alone the intricate sandstone landscaping. It was the fallout from yet another freaky cyclonic weather pattern sent down from Zeus up north.
And we were late. And we had a deadline.
The ADHDer had dropped the bombshell on us at breakfast that morning that he was intending to go to his first ‘proper’ (drink and drugs) party that night and I had wasted far too much time trying to convince him not to; resorting to lengthy scaremongering tactics about mixing drinks with his medication, dangerous Sydney suburbs, date rape and loose women. I then spent the hour drive to Armagheddon hyperventilating in the car.
By 10 O’block, the pressure to dress the house in time (and con some poor buyer that by some miraculous trick of nature, our deciduous trees do not shed their leaves), was really on.
It was pouring, and the old man had won the paper, rock, and scissor competition on the way to wear the only raincoat we own. This was no shower either. Rain was pouring down the back of my trousers via the crack of my ass and seeping into my undies as I raked and collected, raked and collected; while the old man, snug as a bug in his raincoat was farting around with the connections on the hose.
I asked him politely what he was doing. ‘What the f*ck are YOU doing exactly?’ I squealed like a Banshee, as he stood watching me pour my millionth armful of soggy, decaying leaves into the garden bag.
He picked up on my questioning tone, immediately. ‘Why don’t I rake the front?’ he suggested, attempting to dampen my anger, (like I wasn’t damp enough already), while trying to extricate the precious rake out of my red, calloused hands.
He pulled; I pulled.
‘I’M raking,’ I argued, pushing him away. ‘I’m a much better raker than you. You rake the same space over and over again, wasting time. I’m much more accurate than you.’ I went on, realising just how lame and petty I was beginning to sound.
But he persevered childishly, a look of grim determination on his dry face, forcefully trying to prise the rake out of my hands, pulling each of my fingers off the shaft one at a time, while I clamped them back forcefully on the handle even more tightly, refusing to let go.
‘For f*ck’s sake, Lou, just grow up, will you?’ he dared. ‘LET GO OF THE BLOODY RAKE. (wait for it) You know I’VE been raking my whole life….’
How proud he must be.
I suppose you could call it a seminal moment in our marriage.