Secret Men’s Busyness



This year Mr August and I will have been together for 27 years. One of the best things about being with someone for so long is how they still, sometimes, have the ability to surprise you.


Last night I was in the kitchen preparing the evening meal, and in pain. You see, the week before I’d had an altercation with a fire pit which also involved high heels and a nylon dress. Let’s just say Firepit – one, me – nil. I was in pain because I’d just had the dressings on my legs changed at the burns clinic. I won’t go into detail about this in case you are eating. Anyway, the dinner hour had rolled around, no sign of Mr A and the Lamington and I were getting hungry.


So there I was, perched on a stool, attempting to keep my legs elevated by balancing them on the oven door whilst grating cheese and chopping onions. I was just wondering how I was going to manage to drain a pan of pasta into a colander from a seated position when Mr August burst through the back door, brandishing my keyring.


“I’ve just discovered there are 4 keys on your keyring that aren’t for anything,” he announced, “So I’m going to get rid of them!”


Dear Reader, I fear I may not have greeted this triumphant announcement with the enthusiasm required.


But really, he had reached a new high in the Doing Something Useless While the Other Half Deals With Crucial Stuff department. Granted, it was a nuisance going through 12 different keys to find the right one each time I wanted to let myself in the house. And granted, he had just done something nice for me. But if he’d wanted to do something nice, he could’ve just chopped some onions and poured me a glass of wine!


I don’t know why I was surprised. Mr A does have form in this area. We are talking about the guy who spent an entire weekend making a diorama of a rock band for his man cave using the kids’ Action Man and Lords of the Rings toys (Aragorn actually makes quite a funky bass player).


This is the man who still nurses a grudge against his brother-in-law for putting the Lamington’s new bike together in 20 minutes. Apparently it robbed Mr August of a good 12 hours of quality shed time.


To be fair, Mr A is not the World Champion of DSUWOHDWCS (see above definition). I have a friend whose spouse regularly soars high in the lofty peaks of Uselessness while she gets on with Crucial Shit. He famously once took 12 hours to assemble an Ikea desk….in the wrong room. It was so big it had to be taken apart and reassembled in the correct room. Even more famously, he missed the birth of his second child because after dropping his first child off at a friend’s house, he decided to nip home for a quick coffee and while he was there, download a bit of music. Luckily, he mixes a killer margarita so they’re still together.


Or another acquaintance of mine, who was dashing out the door one overcast morning for work and said to her man, “Please can you take the washing off the line? It’s going to rain.” He took the washing off the line. He also left it sitting in the basket under the line to be rained on.


Thankfully, Mr A has more sense than this. He does have other cute and endearing habits though. During the dinner preparation hour he is often absent. One of the children is sent to fetch him about 10 minutes before mealtime. I’ve learnt that fetching him when dinner is actually ready only causes annoyance, as it takes him a good 5 minutes to appear and then another 5 to realise he needs to wash his hands. And then another couple of minutes to actually wash the hands. The meal is by then cold.


On the occasions he does visit the kitchen during dinner prep, he likes to stand directly in front of the bin with a beer in hand, firing off random complicated questions at me. The rule of thumb is, the more complex or unfamiliar the recipe I’m trying to make, the more complex and random the questions will be. And the more squarely he will position himself RIGHT IN THE WAY!


He knows how much this annoys me, of course. And he knows I know he’s doing it to torment me. Just like I do when asking him lots of random and complex questions first thing in the morning before he’s had his coffee, simply because it’s entertaining to torment your spouse. It adds spice to the day.


If my Mum were alive today, she’d no doubt point out that I can hardly complain, since I spent most of my adolescence cornering her in the kitchen while she prepared dinner in order to recite the Rime of the Ancient Mariner to her, or some lines from whatever play I was currently in, or simply to ask her “why have I still not got a boyfriend? My sister’s got 12 of them!” She’d usually just nod and make sympathetic noises, her mind busy trying to work out how long to cook the sausages in this new-fangled microwave thingy (pro tip – NOT 20 minutes).


And she’d be right. I can’t complain. Although often not about when he’s needed, because of a sudden and urgent need to catalogue his entire record collection (Alphabetical? No, autobiographical!), Mr August has always been there when I’ve really, really needed him. When I’ve begun to unravel, when it’s all been too much, he has most resolutely been there. On that fateful night when Happy Chin pulled the IV line out of his jugular vein and I was out of my mind with exhaustion and tears, he sent me off to sleep while he took the night shift beside HC’s bed. When I was in the blackest pit of post-natal depression he took me on a holiday and let his Mum feed me cups of tea, biscuits and sympathy while he looked after the kids. He never uttered a single word of reproach when I resigned from a perfectly good job without having secured another one first, plunging us into financial uncertainty…again.


So what if I can do 2 loads of washing, feed the kids and all the animals and empty the dishwasher in the time it takes him to get out of bed, scratch his arse and scroll through Facebook? So what if the answer to the question, “Where’s Dad?” in our house always has the same two answers – “In the shed” or “in the toilet.”


When we met 27 years ago, I wanted him because he looked like Billy Duffy from the Cult, and because he made me laugh, and because I knew his tattoos would piss my mum off. I’d like to think this is far more romantic than wanting someone because they’re good at housework and can remember to pick the kids up from swimming. But hey, perhaps that’s just me.


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