Wednesday 3 October 2007

A litany of shoddy behaviour

Regular readers (unbelievably this weekly tirade of nonsense somehow attracts regular readers) will no doubt be shocked to learn that, on occasion, I say or do things that my wife finds, well...less than ideal. "Surely not!" I hear you cry, mouth hanging open in disbelief, "How can the kind, sensitive, and above all tolerant man you have shown yourself to be ever do anything that causes the saintly Natasha distress? You are clearly perfectly compatible, and treat her like a princess..." (Supporting evidence: flower purchases, shared interests, shared sense of humour, relatively small list of minor character flaws, etc)
Well, yeah: I hear you. And yet, sadly, it is the case: as my wife informs me on a regular basis, even after nearly ten years together I still have much to learn about how to maintain marital harmony. A review of recent complaints (luckily for us all, she keeps a comprehensive mental list) all seem to stem from the same basic character flaw - which is that, on some primal level, I think pretty much any behaviour is excusable if somebody laughs - even it's only me, quietly, to myself. She does not share this view. In fact, she generally tends to find things far less amusing: "You don't actually have an audience, you know!" is a common rebuke, along with "This is real life, not some laddish sitcom!" and "You are 36 years old, not 12!"
She is of course, completely correct, and I should know better. So as a selfless act of public contrition, let's examine some of my more recent failings, and the lessons that we can all learn from them:
  1. If your wife thoughtfully plans a menu for the household each week, which she then attaches to the front of the fridge so that she knows what shopping we need to buy, it is NOT funny to then go back at the end of the week and add a mark out of ten for each meal. It is, in fact, as has now been explained to me: "the work of an arse". It is even less funny, and simply compounds the monstrous error you have already made, to suggest that you have only done so "as constructive criticism so that you can improve". Least humorous of all is to mark the 'Italian sausage on a bed of spiced lentils' dish that she made on Tuesday (and clearly loved) with a score of just 4/10 and then draw a sad face next to it, with a speech balloon saying "Yuk". Please, people, learn from my mistakes: this is the kind of behaviour can lead to you eating tinned soup on your own every evening.
  2. If your wife snuggles up close to you on the sofa with a playfully raised eyebrow and an amorous look, and then whispers in your ear the suggestion that the pair of you have a shower and go to bed early, because "something nice might happen", do NOT reply "Why, who else have you invited over?", even though you are very, very clearly joking. You might think it funny at the time, but she won't. This is the kind of behaviour that can lead to you sleeping alone on the sofa, as you will have been barred from both the bedroom and the spare room on the basis that you are no longer allowed upstairs.
  3. Do NOT deliberately teach your small children street slang. It is not actually that endearing when a three-year old holds out a tiny fist to you and asks, in the manner of a drug dealer greeting their homeys, that you "Punch it in, Daddy". Teaching them things like that it will only ultimately lead to the same daughter refusing to have her hair brushed before nursery school because "That's not how we roll", and when that happens, your wife will not find it remotely funny. This is the kind of mistake that can lead to you having to raise your hand to get your spouses permission before you can speak in your own house.
  4. If your wife is enraged at the general childishness of your behaviour, and wonders aloud in her exasperation what it is she actually still sees in you, do NOT point at your crotch and say "I think we both know the answer to that, baby" in a fake Barry White voice. This will (surprisingly) not bring her to her senses in a rush of gratitude but will either anger her further, or worse, trigger some mocking laughter.
  5. Do NOT publicly list your recent failings in way that initially suggests repentance, and that you are sorry for the distress you have caused - but which on closer inspection seem to glorify your poor behaviour and reveals that you have, in fact, learnt nothing. (Further, do not think that listing this fake act of confession as 'mistake number 5' in the list will in any way absolve you from punishment)
Ah, that was carthartic - it's good to clear the air. I feel like a new man (and doubtless Nini often feels the same way).
She did mention something recently that is probably relevant to close with:
"I was thinking about you the other day", she said, "and I realised that one of the things I love most about you is that you are very good-humoured - you are very quick to laugh..."
There was pause, and a cloud seemed to pass over her face.
"'s just a pity that so much of the time it's at entirely the wrong things."

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