Tuesday 14 July 2009

Lovemonkey rules

Dinner time. I am trying to avoid catching the eye of all the others sitting around the table, for various reasons:
a) My two year old daughter is holding a floret of broccoli in front of her chin, and keeps saying "Look at my beard". I am pointedly not looking at her because every time I do, I have the overwhelming urge to snigger, which encourages her further.
b) Her sister. I am not looking at her because she is giggling uncontrollably at Little Miss Broccolibeard, and if I do it will set me off as well.
c) My wife. I am avoiding her gaze, but can feel it burning into me. This is because, not two minutes previously, I held up two florets of my own broccoli and pretended they were alien ears. My wife is thus staring hard at me, in order to wordlessly impress upon me that the ongoing 'food as a facial feature' show is both unwelcome, and entirely my fault. It is the look a wife gives her husband when he has failed to set an example. I cannot meet her gaze because she is correct on all counts, and I am clearly a worthless worm and a disastrous role model.
Fortunately, at this point, my eldest daughter make a declaration that takes the heat away from me. "Sophie at school has decided that James is her lovemonkey..." she announces.
Her mother laughs out loud, and nearly spits her drink out (a little part of me wishes she had, because that would level out the 'poor table-manners league' a bit, but sadly she has more self control and catches herself in time).
"Her what?" she asks.
"Her lovemonkey."
"Her love...monkey?
"Yes. Lovemonkey. Sophie says James is her lovemonkey."
(At this juncture I should point out that these are not the real names of the children involved- who are all in Reception class at school, and hence only five years old. There are two reasons for this: firstly, because it seems highly unfair to talk about other people's children on the Internet, and secondly because I cannot actually keep track of the majority of the names of my daughter's school friends in the first place. This is largely because they are all at knee-height to me and moving fast, so often all I see is the top of their heads, and it seems unfair to ask them to wear name badges when they visit the house. I can say that a lot of the boys names seem to start with 'J', but I think that is the case everywhere at the moment. So for the purposes of this post, I'll be randomly picking names from an Internet list of top 20 UK child names. Let's just all agree that my reason for doing this is that I am being considerate, rather than simply lazy.)
"And what is a lovemonkey, exactly?" I ask.
"I'm not sure. Sophie made the rules up. We all have to have one though."
"All of you?"
"All of the girls. I don't really know all the rules."
"The rules?"
"The rules of lovemonkeys. There are rules, but only Sophie know them all."
"And what do they do? Lovemonkeys?"
"I'm not sure. That is a part of the rules I don't know."
"Look at my moustache! It is funny!" announces her younger sister. I can see from the corner of my eye that she is now trying to balance a green bean on her lip. I resolutely continue to fail to make eye contact with my wife.
"Have you got a lovemonkey?" I ask
"Yes. My lovemonkey is Josh. I wanted Ben, but he was already taken by Emily."
"Oh. OK. Why did you want Josh?"
"He has got a guinea pig."
From across the table: "Look at me, Daddy! My moustache! It is green, Daddy! IT IS FUNNY!"
"And, are you, er, happy, with your lovemonkey?" I press on.
She shrugs. "Yes. I don't care." she says.
"And, er, is he happy to be your lovemonkey?"
"He doesn't know. We don't tell them."
"Beard and moustache!" intervenes her sister. "Both at once! Both green! Look!"
"Put your food back on your plate at once, and stop playing with it" commands her mother.
"But Daddy made ears with his..." she points out. Once again, I feel the Steely Gaze of Spousal Disappointment on me, but shrug it off.
"You don't actually tell your lovemonkey that they have been picked?" I persist.
"No. That is another rule."
"Why not?"
"I don't know. Sophie made the rules up. I don't really understand them."
I push my meal around my plate, and think: yep, that sounds about right. All the basic tenets of male/female interaction seem to be there: somebody else is in charge, only a select few ever seem to fully know what is going on while a large number of participants have no clue what they are doing or even that they are involved in any way, nobody will explain the rules, and one of the best ways to become more desirable in life is to have more guinea pigs than anybody else. These seem to be important life lessons - I am quietly impressed at how sophisticated a model of adult human behaviour it all is. All it seems to lack is having a few people bucking the system and making life difficult for everybody else....
"Sophie has three lovemonkeys. She is allowed, because she knows all the rules..." my daughter adds.
Ah, there we go - bingo.
"That seems unfair..?" I venture.
She shrugs again, genuinely unconcerned. Ah, sweetheart, I think, I hope you can stay this nonchalant and happy and unbothered by it all for as long as possible.
I finally look up at my wife. "Can I be your lovemonkey?" I ask.
"No, not any more. Not with table manners like yours."
"Make ears with your food again, Daddy!" shouts a little voice from across the table.


The bike shed said...

Ah yes, fun with food. Spaghetti is good too and also bean balancing (on head, nose chin, etc.) - always gets a smile / snarl from Mum.

Very funny as always

Anonymous said...

The first time I heard of your work, it was from my mum, this is the one she read out form an NCT leaflet thingy. It still remains to this day my favourite.

Please keep posting new stories :)