Sorry For Ignoring You. I’ve Been Busy Stockpiling Toilet Rolls

This morning, I asked the old man the following question: If he had his time again, would he choose to relive his fifty-three years, or would he choose the sixteen-years of a dog? We have these deeply philosophical discussions, sometimes – in those rare moments he hasn’t got his nose stuck in the latest viral golf or dog video on social media.

Photo by Anna Franques on Unsplash

He chose the dog’s life, which I totally understand if you’re a pet lucky enough to have the life of The Princess – stress-free, with a focus on food and walks; where the only thing you really has to moan about is daily smotherings of love from your family. That’s not to say that I wasn’t a little peeved that he doesn’t want to replay the past thirty-five years with me – his soulmate. But I get it. It’s hard to focus on those brief moments of joy when there’s all that other stuff going on… And as I’ve been reminded over the past few weeks, the freedom from stress of a dog’s life is a very hard thing to achieve in the real world.

It won’t surprise you to know that the last post I started and aborted was an incendiary piece about my reaction to the murders of Hannah Clarke and her children. It was another exasperated cry about my dwindling belief in a system that fails women so badly, but I had to can it when a wave of exhaustion from saying stuff that seems to fall on deaf ears got the better of me.

What’s the point, I asked myself, when nothing changes?

And since then, the news has been dominated by the Coronovirus, the move of the Sussexes, the art of toilet roll stockpiling, and the impending financial crisis. Sadly, Hannah’s death has been put to the bottom of the crisis pile along with other less newsworthy examples of abuse – although, I imagine that even the most fervent deniers of the #metoo movement felt some relief about Harvey Weinstein’s incarceration and the possibility that it might put a stop to women moaning.

The problem is, lads, there are just so many examples of gender inequality that we’re unlikely to run out of ammunition anytime soon – a strong case in point being the now senior, white man race to the Whitehouse.

Those (and stockpiling toilet rolls) are a few of the reasons I’ve kept my head down for the past few weeks. That and a ferocious last edit of my manuscript before it goes under the expert scrutiny of the national literary treasure who is Anna Spargo-Ryan. The author of books The Paper House, The Gulf, and numerous other publications on mental health, Anna sold herself short by accepting my pittance of a donation to the #authorsforfireys appeal and agreed take a look at it for me.

And then there’s my son, who continues to keep us on our toes through his stormy navigation of young adulthood, and makes it harder to remember, sometimes, that these difficult moments in history and our lives make us stronger and give us purpose – something I don’t see a great deal of in my dog when she’s chasing her tail or eating poo.

What we have to bear in mind on those days when the clouds finally part, the sun breaks through and we are given small drops of the good stuff to help us carry on, is that things change. We have to keep believing that with time and education, we can undo the wrongs caused by toxic masculinity and inequality. I have to believe that Kurt’s passage through the complexities of life will get easier – which it did this week when he managed to win six pieces off the old man in a game of Chess, and that someday my little story will reach a wider audience and help people like me who are struggling for answers.

This Is How A Middle-Aged Couple With Anxiety Books A Holiday

There are certain undeniable factors when two people with anxiety get married. 1. There will be a lot of overthinking, and 2) We can talk ourselves out of pretty much anything.

Raising a cocktail toast in front of a beautiful beach.
Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

Such has been the marital soap opera created by my decision that we go on a proper holiday this year – a decision that has at times felt like having teeth pulled without anaesthetic underneath the maskless face of a caffeine-addicted dentist.

Every possible destination was considered during our intense negotiations – including some of the great ones suggested by some of you – until eventually we managed to narrow the choice down to three – once terrorism, risk of gastro, length of flight and language had been taken into consideration.

New Zealand, Vietnam and Hawaii.

Uncharacteristically generously, I gave the old man the final choice, and after much shaking of his head and chewing on his lip, he opted for New Zealand. Too easy, I thought (misguidedly), as I launched myself into another week of unpaid work in the form of research – even procuring the services of a lovely local tour company who created the most perfect itinerary for us (that didn’t include Christchurch, due to its earthquake issues), and just about squeezed into the budget.

And somewhat foolishly, I truly believed that the holiday was done and dusted when I handed the itinerary over to my husband, chomping on the bit to get started on broadcasting the news to my fellow anxious travellers and friends on Facebook that I hate on a little bit more each time I see them downing Tequilas on another beach.

Then the old man decided that New Zealand is too cold in October.

‘Okay…’ I replied, through gritted teeth.

‘Let’s brave Vietnam,’ he said, three Whiskies into a Friday night.

‘Are you sure?’ I asked.

‘Absolutely. It’s time to push ourselves out of our comfort zone,’ he lied, in what I now recognise was a very clever delaying tactic.

And so another intense week of research followed during which I pulled together a fantastic holiday that encompassed several days in Hanoi, a brief sejour in Sapa, and a week in Halong Bay. Indeed, so confident was I that Vietnam was our final destination, I had already checked out cooking courses, markets and hotels. But then I dropped into the conversation that the trip included an overnight train journey to Sapa…

‘What overnight train?’ the old man asked, a worried look on his face.

‘Relax,’ I said. ‘You get your own cabin and it only takes seven hours,’ I started to bluster as I tried to convince myself at the same time. ‘AND it will save us the cost of a night in a hotel.’

‘And there’s an overnight stay on a boat in Halong Bay, as well?’ he asked.

‘Maybe…’

‘On a boat?’

Needless to say, Vietnam was also quietly put on hold until we have earned our travel stripes, which left us Hawaii. However, too exhausted by this stage to think about it or to cope with the inevitable disappointment when my husband changed his mind AGAIN, I threw the ball in his court.

‘You bloody organise it,’ I said, passing him the gauntlet.

I picked the gauntlet back up a few days later and gave him a deadline of last weekend to book – otherwise all sorts of shit was going to go down in our place, I promised him, that amongst other things involved a 60/40 split of our accumulated wealth once we reached the divorce courts.

And, dear friends, we have booked a holiday, with only three months in between now and then to worry about what can possibly go wrong – ie. being approved for our visas, being forced to sleep in the same bed, driving on the wrong side of the road, whether we’re allergic to the pollen in Leis and if the timing of happy hour will work with nap time. So very soon I will be pissing you all off with my very own Photoshopped holiday snaps on my social media accounts of us topping up our Valium sipping Pina Coladas around our pool.

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?

Are Women Just As Guilty Of Disempowering Men As They Are Of Avoiding The “Emotional Labor” Of Christmas?

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

‘But you enjoy it,’ the old man retorts defensively when I moan about him not chipping in with the organization of social events, the ongoing responsibilities of our adult children, and – dare I mention it – Christmas.

You might have read in the news this week about the disparity between the practical and “emotional labor” experienced by women versus men at Christmas – as in, (for the most part, it seems), men do fuck all. Even Caitlin Moran had a moan in The Times about being the only member of her family to turn on the table lamps in her house – a gripe I can sympathize with as the only member of ours who gives a fuck about creating a relaxing ambiance.

And yet, I have a confession to make. I am one of those women who is guilty of enabling that disparity. I take ownership of pretty much every Christmas chore, from present-shopping and wrapping to the organization of the food, (most of which, admittedly, we probably don’t need Turkish Delight, anyone?), and dressing the tree.

Similarly, Laura Bates highlighted the “third shift” of responsibility that women take on in her article in The Guardian last weekend:

“There is a third shift, which is less often acknowledged. This is the mental load of planning social engagements, remembering thank-you notes and praising kind teachers, keeping track of nativity plays and Christmas pantomimes and organising the logistics of travel and sleeping arrangements.”

And before any of you men turn on me with some petty argument that women do these things because they don’t work or are working part-time – I say, BULLSHIT! – I know plenty of women that organize Christmas, do the bulk of raising the kids, and work full-time.

However, in our case, the disparity between myself and the old man has arisen as a result of our disproportionate levels of interest when it comes to the season. I love Christmas and I have certain unhealthy expectations about how we celebrate it. I would go so far as to admit that I have an inexplicable need to celebrate the tradition in a crass ‘go big or go home kind of way’ that I hold my mother responsible for – in spite of my lack of faith.

But the old man hates it. To describe him as a “humbug” or Grinch would be doing a disservice to both, but having been raised by a mother who abhorred the celebration for personal reasons, and with an inherent dislike of spending money “unnecessarily,” Christmas is an annual decadence he could easily live without.

So, while it’s all well and good during the build-up of my December rage to feel like he’s taking me for granted, I am aware that my real reason for disempowering him has more to do with my fear that Christmas lunch will turn out to be nothing more special than our normal Sunday roast.

And I won’t do that to myself the kids.

I suppose he has a point when he ridicules my insistence that we continue to buy pressies for relatives we hardly ever see and nephews and nieces who earn more than us – but in my defense, the dog loves her Christmas stocking! 

It’s not like I truly believe that we have to buy our kids’ love (much). And yet, Christmas is one of the few occasions during the year that pulls us together as a family – particularly now that the kids have left home – and if I did pull the plug on our KMart Christmas, I’m not certain we would ever see them again!

The occasion is also an excuse to reconnect with extended family since we moved to Australia, especially now that the years seem to be slipping by so quickly.

But far be it for me to belittle the emotional labor involved and the pressure such holidays cause in the (often) vain attempt to cater to different personalities, food tolerances, and diaries. And although we have yet to reach the stage where our children are forced to choose between which family to spend the day with, when that day comes, I know that I will be devastated.

As it is, this year Kurt is working on Christmas Day, and it has taken every ounce of my willpower not to march up to his boss and tell him how personally responsible he is for wrecking our family Christmas – even though the shift is an invaluable step in Kurt’s journey to independence and I couldn’t be prouder of him for doing it.

So, as I open my pressie from the old man this year –  and disguise my bitterness that it was (no doubt) me who chose it and wrapped it in the dregs of the Christmas paper – I know that I will only have myself to blame. The truth is that the old man would share the load if I asked him. Begrudgingly, perhaps, and with the kind of unforgivable rookie mistakes that it would take the remainder of our marriage for me to forgive him for the request of a detailed manual and specification of exactly what to do and where to go.

But the simple fact of the matter is, that Christmas just wouldn’t be the same.

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.

Is This Year’s “Bachelor” Helping Us Think Beyond The Stereotypes?

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I’ve been sucked into The Bachelor again. No excuse really, other than it’s the perfect wind-down tv that gives me an added connection to NC and something to comment about on Twitter.

While this season has some disconcerting constancies about it – that include Osher’s perfect hair, the gaudiness of the mansion and it’s general “whiteness” – it is much more interesting than the preceding few because the producers have given us a “Bachie” with personality this time.

I’ll admit that it’s refreshing to meet a man who doesn’t rely on his Ken doll looks and sculpted body to attract women; a man who is actually prepared to make an effort to talk to the women and even crack the odd self-deprecating joke; a man whose vocabulary extends beyond ‘I like to go to the gym’ – even when it is quite evident that he does like the gym…praise be.

For those of you that have no intention of watching it, this year’s “Bachelor” is thirty-year-old Nick Cummins, an ex-Wallaby star – which I understand is an Australian rugby union player – also known as The Honey Badger, and for his career modeling boxer shorts. Don’t worry, I fact-checked this on your behalf.

Seemingly, from a salt-of-the-earth and genuine Aussie family that doesn’t mince its words and just wants their boy to be happy, Nick is the boy next door – although you do require a dictionary to translate his ockerisms.

To be honest, it’s hard not to like him. He appears to be comfortable in his own skin and exudes a level of confidence in the company of women that never comes close to arrogance. And I want to believe that in spite of his rumored playboy antics on the Northern Beaches, he is ready to settle down. I’m not as sure how well he’d fare as a Trivia Pursuit partner – although, who am I to judge? – but for a rugger bugger, he seems quite tuned into his female side and genuinely interested in finding his soul mate.

Of course, the success of this show relies on the recording of fly-on-the-wall bitching sessions in the house, during which the women are witch-hunted to hoist up the ratings.  And this year’s bunch of beauties don’t disappoint. As each week passes, their resemblance to an undersexed pack of rabid dogs as each of them fights for a piece of Nick’s flesh (or one of his off-the-cuff one-liners – that none of them really get), is becoming more and more uncanny.

I don’t like to knock my own gender, but there are a handful of “Princesses” in the house that are about as suited to Nick as Dutton is to immigration, and who have been carefully selected to keep the entertainment factor of the show pumping. Their role is to rouse the pack to a state of near blood-curdling cannibalism, because the camera loves nothing more than a group of fighting, bitchy women, to the point that sometimes I honestly fear for Nick’s life.

Funny really, because in The Bachelorette series, the men are always portrayed as mild-mannered besties, who would give up their lives for their best bro over the supposed object of their affection; whose main ambition in the competition (it appears) is a prolonged male bonding session at the expense of Ten.

And perhaps there’s an element of truth in that and how differently competition plays out between the genders. Women are (generally) better communicators than men and if you’re brave enough to expose yourself on the dating “Hunger Games”, you’re unlikely to be phased by a few minor confrontations about how much time you spend with your prey.

Men, on the other hand, are often blind to what’s in front of them until it slaps them in the face.  Evolution, toxic masculinity and saving the world have kept them far too busy to develop that much emotional dexterity, and for many of them, a comment such as ‘We need to talk’ can be a peril worse than canal root surgery –  obviously, I’m stereotyping here and that may just be MY husband.

So while it’s refreshing to have a bloke who doesn’t take himself too seriously, let’s not knock these girls – whatever their real reasons for going on the show. Give them their five minutes of fame. Who knows how hard they’ve had to work to look that good in a cocktail dress. After all, men are consistently patted on the back for their ambition, while we’re always accused of not being forthright enough – a no-win situation, in my view. Let’s not shame our gender’s proclivity to dissect, analyze and strategize, but rather embrace their humor and commend them for getting up there to have a go.

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.

 

This… image1 (1)

 

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.