He, she, it

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Indy Lifestyle Online
ARABELLA

Roland and I are moving towards a relationship crisis point as I find it more and more difficult to tolerate the irritating things he does. Were women conceived solely to clear up the mess that men make? And are men maddening by instinct to keep women in their lowly biological places, being eaten up with suppressed rage, unable to do anything other than hoover and grind their teeth? How does the rest of the world co-habit without killing each other?

Most of the women I know are on Prozac. I'm not, which is why I've become such an ill-tempered "unreasonable" 28-year-old hag.

Yesterday evening, for instance, one of my oldest and blondest girlfriends - we went to Pony Club together - rang from Patagonia. I haven't seen her since an Easter Solstice barbecue at Pant Perthog, and she's not one of those people with a permanent address.

I carefully wrote down her current number on a piece of paper which I Blu-tacked to the front of the telephone, promising to ring her back after 6pm when it was cheaper. But in the 10 minutes or so while I was having a bath to use up the time, Roland made a couple of calls and "accidentally" doodled on the paper, turning Racine's number into a drawing of a harassed mother and a line of 11 children. Completely illegible, and, of course, she hasn't rang back.

I made a most unnatural fuss, diagnosed as female hormone imbalance - eat more fish - and nothing to do with the recent barrage of male behavioural disorder. A random sample from last week: fluff removed from inside drawer and placed in careful pyramidal heap on bedside cupboard, football boot partially cleaned with laundered table napkin, grease mark patterns from nose-tip on clean window.

Over the last few months, I've been keeping a written list of causes of argument, in case Roland agrees to see a cohabitage counsellor. The list might be useful on another count: I am expecting my Great Aunt to leave me what used to be called "a tidy sum", ie about pounds 20,000. As Roland and I have lived in the same house for about six years, it would be very annoying if he were legally entitled to half the money.

This is not paranoia, but a pre-emptive stand against the horrendous backlash of sexual equality in this country. English newspapers are always tittering about pre-nuptial contract stringency between Hollywood superstars, but there are plenty of ghastly bronzed Adonis-type creatures demanding - and getting - large sums from rich old women under the heading of "Palimony".

Not that Roland qualifies. He's older and fatter, and is still pretending to be an intellectual, ie drinking Vermouth and discussing Somerset Maugham long-distance with his friends on our telephone bill.

And while I think of it, faint pencil-marks at drink level on a bottle of Noilly Prat is the height of meanness - and just encourages one to top it up with water.

ROLAND

Stupid woman. I was just sitting there, making a quiet telephone call and trying to pick off the Blu-tacky mess she'd made on the wall when Arabella flounced in draped in a tent-sized bath towel and suddenly started screaming at me. It must be the time of the month, though any date between the first and the thirty-first seems an appropriate time for her to explode in a rage.

I think it's probably guilt that makes her go off the handle. I must see if there's anything in the psychological literature about Blu-tak induced self-recrimination syndrome. It took me the first 18 months of our relationship to wean her off drawing pins, but they make such ugly holes in the wall, and they're against the tenancy agreement anyway. I've nothing against Blu-tak per se, it's re-using the stuff that is so objectionable. Belly always seems to pick the dustiest pieces to re-use, and by the time she's softened them in her mucky fingers, they're guaranteed to leave an ugly mark on the wall.

I admit that the wall isn't exactly beautiful at the best of times. I've never denied that the paint I used to cover over the drawing pin holes wasn't a perfect match, and there are a few stripes where I had to pick out some stray hairs from the moulting paintbrush, but such imperfections give the kitchen a certain charm that is not enhanced by grubby marks.

I'm still not sure what she was so upset about. There were a lot of "stupid"s and "how-could-you"s and "inconsiderate bastard"s in her tirade, but she never explains herself very well when she's emotional. I know she's been a bit worried about her weight recently. I suppose my calling her "Belly" doesn't help, but I've told her often enough that it's just a colloquially aphetic form of her name used as a term of endearment and implies no criticism of her abdominal region. Surely she can understand that. She seemed to be particularly offended by a doodle I'd drawn. Rather a clever little sketch, I thought. I'd managed to turn an old telephone number into a picture of a mother with 11 children. The eights and zeroes were easy enough, but the fours required considerable ingenuity.

Oh it all adds up, I suppose. Belly plus children equals pregnancy. She's obviously getting broody again, but we're certainly not ready to have kids. By the time she's added pregnancy cravings and post-natal depression to her self-recrimination syndrome, the whole wall would be covered with Blu-tak.

If she hasn't calmed down by the morning, I suppose I'd better buy her a box of chocolates or something tomorrow. No, not chocolates. They'd only make her even fatter. Arabellier, one might say. I'll get her a bunch of flowers. Or a smaller towel. God, she looks gorgeous straight out of the bath.

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