Monday, 2 July 2012

In praise of Mild Mannered Intellectual Husband

MMIH often jokes that there is a comfortingly predictable template to my blog posts. Whether I'm talking about diets, diamonds or dead playwrights, the typical structure of any piece goes something along the lines: I was thinking about X the other day and it reminded me of yet another way in which men are shite.

My 20 readers will forgive me the indulgence of devoting a brief post just to him, to put some things in context.

By the time I bumped into MMIH, or rather, shopped for him online on a highly reputable and suitably intellectual internet site, I had been 'dating' for about 20 years, as our American friends say, 15 of those in Britain.

Teenage dating in Italy was bad enough: emotionally abusive AND suicidal boyfriends and the mothers who loved them, the near-date rapes in every conceivable type of parked car (who needed kickboxing to keep fit then? Happy days..), the struggle to conform to the silent simpering girlfriend stereotype.

But it was dating in Britain that really honed my survival skills: 15 years of invisibility to men folk who did not ever make eye contact, made a pass only when staggeringly drunk, talked all over you to other men at parties.

Then it all got virtual anyway, as people stopped meeting, talking and, you know, calling, in favour of oblique texts about their expected presence at some bar 20 minutes from now.

The last five years were just brutal: sexual politics having escalated into a sort of cold war, with men deeply reluctant to even have a casual fling in case you wanted to impregnate them with a mortgage and five kids. My last boyfriend (admittedly an Italian) even refused me a bed in central London the night the of the 7/7 attack in case "I should get ideas" about our status as a couple.

That's when MMIH entered the story. A guitar playing, orc-slaying philosopher prince with a floppy fringe and a lovely smile. Loving, sincere, demonstrative, generous. Tigger-esque, Muppet-y, benign, a force for good. I have never felt lonely, neglected or unloved for a single minute since. *

We talk non-stop: mainly we discuss completely theoretical stuff: Obamacare, the chances of Labour ever returning to power, that kind of thing. Often you will find us in restaurants arguing animatedly about nuances of tone in an editorial or who actually said what in an interview - without breaking our eating stride at all.

In between we bicker incessantly about just about everything:

his illogical thinking (Reader, you be the judge: is the set of keys marked "Ines and Dan" in our kitchen drawer more likely to A) belong to Inez and Dan, next door or B) be a spare set our key which we had, at some point, intended to give to Ines and Dan for safe-keeping but have since thought the better of it? Yes, you are right, I do have the patience of a saint.), 
my irrational and debilitating fixation with bella figura, which to an Englishman translates roughly as a' hypocrite's etiquette manual',

who's doing any job in the house,

who should be doing it,

who did it last week,

where to go on a mini break

who should book the mini break,

who booked the last mini-break,

whether that lipstick/skirt makes me look like a Neapolitan stripper (it does),

whether he should buy another ukulele (he shouldn't),

why he should be throwing away socks with holes and under no circumstance wear them in places where we shall be taking our shoes off (doh?!)...

You get the gist.

Together we have travelled a good portion of the safe, clean, non war-torn, civilized world; eaten several hundred times our body weight in lovely food, spent several months hugging like hibernating moles, watched about a year of phenomenal films, walked hundreds of miles, holding hands, singing silly songs, shouting at each other, and occasionally crying. 

My nephew, the Mouse, born two years before we met, doesn't remember a time without him and I'm beginning to forget those 20 years out in the cold myself.

Yes, I've struck some sort of (forgetful, clumsy, timid) gold and it's those other men who are crap but here's the cherry on the cake: his love has made me safer and therefore louder and angrier.  

Instead of counting my blessings I look around and see the shameful way some men still treat some women (and society treats all women) and it makes me want to shout.
And he not only 'lets me' but kind of enjoys it too, a little bit.

* Exasperated yes, often.