But: I'm fond of Dear Prudence, a regular feature on Slate magazine, an American on-line magazine. The questions are heartfelt, and the answers often wise and erudite. But it strikes me that a good 80% of them start of "I'm married / seeing a wonderful guy. He's warm, witty, loving, funny, handsome, and a great lover. But...' Now, I know that men don't feel as comfortable airing their concerns about their emotional and sexual partners as women do. I think it's about time we did. The ladies, it seems, are happy telling the world they want perfection in their partner. They want a man who has everything, and flosses as well. Is it that we men aren't as fussy, or are more forgiving of the little peccadilloes that make up an individual? I really don't know.
Incidentally: One of the rare "Dear Prudence" manly questions came from a chap who didn't phrase his question with a "but"... he was asking about the sanitary habits of women. Namely, in the bra-wearing department. His lady apparently wore her bra for seven days running before chnaging it. he wondered whether this was normal. The answer came "Yes, it is. a lady's bra doesn't get as grubby or sweaty as a man's underpants do, so it'll still be clean and fresh even after five days. Well, pretty well every woman I've ever known has changed her bra on a daily basis. I know that's not a truly representative selection - but even so, I do get the feeling that - provinding Prudence was accurate in her review of American women's laundry habits - NZ women are maybe a little more hygienic than their sisters in the States.
READING: The Librarian. Good value.
LISTENING TO: Clair Martin, "Perfect Alibi". Sublime.
WORD OF THE DAY: Basterd. Yes, Jenny and I are going to the movies, to see Tarantino's badly spelled movie.
It took me two years to do my degree up in Auckland, and I did far too many drugs and shagged too many faceless men and listened to too much crap before coming back home to Northridge.
And in that time Chutty had worked his buns off and started his own business. Twenty three years old, and he employed three men, and owned four bloody great huge yellow pieces of machinery and he was a by god and by gravy contractor. Well, the bank owned everything, but Chutty never put a foot wrong.
He’d bought a house on Talbot Terrace – worst house on a pretty average street – and was doing it up. The first rooms he’d done were the kids’ rooms.
Treen’s room was done up in pinks and lemons, and little bunny rabbits. Russell’s room was all footy posters and Chutty’s old league jersey on the wall, and when I finally came home and saw it I sneered and crushed a cigarette butt into the carpet and Mum slapped my face.
It was the best thing she could have ever done.
Treen’s hair is an unmanageable black curly mess, like her Dad’s. Her eyes are bright blue, like her Dad’s. She can swear a blue streak, like her Dad. She’s stocky, like her Dad, and has an irrepressible sense of humour – like her Dad. She is, I swear, the greatest kid that anyone could ever hope to know.
Chutty and I often lie in bed at night, holding each other, holding hands, holding hope, and talking about the kids. He disagrees with me about Treen. He reckons Russell’s the greatest kid anyone could ever hope to know. I often wonder whether he’s over compensating, but then I see the pair of them, under the bonnet of some old clapped-out old car that Russell’s found, or some old motorbike that Chutty’s resurrected from the back of a barn somewhere, and I wonder about nature and nurture.
Frankly, Russell’s natural Father’s a dick, and wouldn’t know a mineral oil from a synthetic one. He wouldn’t even know which hole you poured the oil into.
Back to Treen: like me, she’s been a precocious student. She’s breezed through everything, gaining good marks at whatever she’s taken on. She loves playing word games, and reckons she’ll get one over me one of these days.
She has no idea what’s coming up later on today. That’s something that’ll rattle her dags, I can tell you.
So, here she is: a bright, cheerful, over-achieving kid. As Chutty says, “Where did we go wrong?” And I really don’t know what I’ve done to deserve it. Christ, if she’d given me half the trouble I gave my Mum, I’d be in my coffin by now.
“Mum,” she says, as she comes through the door. “There’s a basic flaw in your thinking today.”
“You’re up and out of bed early and you’ve gotten me and Russco up, and you’ve cooked our breakfasts, and I think you’ve even made our lunches.”
“Yes – all that shows that I’m a caring and sharing and loving Mum, who you don’t deserve. What’s your point, kiddo?”
“Well, it’s this: what day is it?” She says it with a grin, and I know I’m in trouble.
“What do you mean, ‘what day is it?’” I’m the queen of the snappy comeback.
“Mu-um! It’s not even a school-day! It’s Saturday, and I wanted to lie-in.”
Saturday. Well, this demands a bit of a rethink. I thought the programme on the radio sounded a bit odd. But when you’re a wee bit distracted, sometimes you make tiny mistakes.
“Mum?” She’s sounding worried, and I look at her. She puts a hand up to my face, and it comes away wet. “Mum? You all right?”
“I’m sorry, dear. It’s nothing. I’m just a little doo-lally today, that’s all. Look – sorry. I don’t know where my head was at.”
She gives me The Look, which we both know means “don’t bullshit me, lady” but nods her acceptance.
“Look, you can still get Useless up anyway. He’ll have footy today, and –‘
“No, he won’t. Didn’t he tell you? The coach has benched him today. He’s not playing. Given him the day off.”
“Oh. Oh, yes. He did mention it last night.”