Thursday, June 10, 2010
How to teach a new dog old tricks.
Last week I was clearing out the cupboard under the stairs (I’m not that house-proud, I just wanted to hide from the kids for a while) and I kind of lost track of time. Next thing I know, it’s 7.30 and the wife is ringing the doorbell, home from work at last. I opened the door and her face confirmed that she had had a bad day, and one look at me, covered in dirt, dust and cobwebs, had made it worse. The kids were screaming in the front room and instead of the welcoming sight and smell of dinner on the table, there was a pile of wet washing. Some may call it a bad day, I call it Wednesday.
It got me thinking that I really should try harder, not necessarily at being a better housekeeper, but maybe at least hiding most of the daily crap from her. I can remember watching my Mum putting on her lippy and perfume before dad came home every night from work, and decided to take a leaf from her book. Unfortunately my Mum has never written a book, so I had to refer to that infamous 1950s high-school, home-economics textbook, the one that drives Feminists into a moustache pulling frenzy, ‘How to Have a Happy Husband’. My idea was to take their advice and somehow try to adapt it to my way of life, hopefully cheering up the missus in the process.
THE TIP: Have dinner ready, Plan ahead, even the night before, to have a delicious meal - on time. This is a way of letting him know that you have been thinking about him and are concerned about his needs. Most men are hungry when they come home, and the prospect of a good meal is part of this warm welcome needed.
THE PLAN: I needed a meal I could throw at the kids for their dinner, and then fancy up for ours. Bolognaise was the answer. Normal spaghetti for the kids, some of that fancy Fusilli Lunghi Bucati for us.
THE OUTCOME: Turns out the fancy stuff isn’t that easy to eat. By the time I had finished slopping and slurping, it looked like Quentin Tarantino had directed the dinner. Well my side of the table did anyway.
THE TIP: Prepare yourself. Take 15 minutes to rest so that you'll be refreshed when he arrives. Touch up your makeup, put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh-looking. He has just been with a lot of work-weary people.
THE PLAN: I liked the sound of this. 15 minutes of playing Xbox, then a quick version of the three S’s (ask your husbands), and Bob’s your Uncle.
THE OUTCOME: I fired up the Xbox, and 15 minutes soon turned into 45, just me and my marines shooting the crap out of the Ruskies on Modern Warfare 2. I rushed upstairs, threw some water and then some product on my hair. I then discovered that shaving whilst sitting on the toilet is not as easy as it sounds, and I therefore opened the door with eight bloody bits of tissue stuck all over my chin.
THE TIP: Be a little gay and a little more interesting. His boring day may need a lift.
THE PLAN: I must admit, this one stumped me at first, but in for a penny in for a pound. I dug out an old flowery shirt, put on some eyeliner, put a Broadway show tunes CD on, and attached a nipple clamp for the interesting part. That should cover it.
THE OUTCOME: The shirt went well, I poked myself in the eye with a mascara brush and still have conjunctivitis a week later, and the less said about the nipple tearing and subsequent visit to Accident and Emergency the better.
THE TIP: Clear away the clutter. Make one last trip through the main part of the house just before your husband arrives gathering up school books, toys, paper, etc. Then run a dust cloth over the tables. Light a candle. Your husband will feel he has reached a haven of rest and order, and it will give you a lift, too.
THE PLAN: This sounds like the way I clean up anyway, except that it’s my main clean of the day, normally done half an hour before she comes home. I know she has some scented candles near the bath, although I’ve no idea why they are kept there? I’m also sure I’ve seen a dust cloth somewhere, they’re yellow, right?
THE OUTCOME: The clutter was picked up and thrown into the cupboard under the stairs. I ran the duster over the TV, as that’s the only place that really shows it anyway. The candles were a problem as the ones in the bathroom had worn down to nothing. Luckily I remembered we had some of those emergency power cut ones. Unluckily they were kept in the cupboard under the stairs, so I had to clutter and then de-clutter again, only for the candles to then give off a thick black oily smoke.
THE TIP: Prepare the children. Take a few minutes to wash the children's hands and faces (if they are small), comb their hair, and if necessary change their clothes. They are little treasures and he would like to see them playing the part.
THE PLAN: If I let the kids play dress up all day, then their clothes underneath would stay clean. I would then lull them into a false sense of security by offering them sweets. I could then scrub their faces with wet wipes, and maybe a brillo pad.
THE OUTCOME: The kids refused to change out of their costumes, and wouldn’t stand still no matter how many sweets I gave them. My wife was therefore greeted by a crying red faced Scooby Doo, and a hyperactive Frog from A Princess and a Frog.
THE TIP: Minimize all noise. At the time of his arrival, eliminate all noise of the washer, dryer, dishwasher or vacuum. Try to encourage the children to be quiet. Better yet, have them in bed.
THE PLAN: Eliminating all the machine noises wouldn’t be an issue, but gagging the kids would probably just upset her. Decided to skip this one as someone once told me it was bad to give the kids valium.
THE TIP: Be happy to see him. Greet him with a warm smile and be glad to see him.
THE PLAN: Easy, note to self, brush teeth first.
THE OUTCOME: A look of exasperation and an “I thought you promised you would stop drinking during the day” comment. I need to practise smiling.
THE TIP: Some don'ts: Don't greet him with problems or complaints. Don't complain if he's late for dinner. Just count this as minor compared to what he might have gone through that day.
THE PLAN: Don’t complain, are you sure? So one of the kids riding their rocking horse down the stairs, interrupting what was about to be a 5 man kill streak on Halo3 is minor? Give me a break, consider this tip scrapped.
THE TIP: Make him comfortable. Have him lean back in a comfortable chair or suggest he lie down in the bedroom.
THE PLAN: I would make sure at least one of the chairs was free of small toys, and ensured that the bed was made with extra superfluous cushions and obligatory teddy bear.
THE OUTCOME: The offer of a comfortable chair was welcomed. The offer of a lie down however, was greeted with an arched eyebrow and a ‘you must be kidding look’. The more I tried to explain that my intentions were honourable, the more the eyebrows arched.
THE TIP: Have a cool or warm drink ready for him. Arrange his pillow and offer to take off his shoes.
THE PLAN: I bought a bottle of Cava, had a spare pillow ready, and made sure that my nose would be hay fever-blocked ready for the shoe thing.
THE OUTCOME: More arched eyebrows combined with a “Getting me pissed isn’t going to help you. I’ve had a long day. When will you take no for an answer?”
THE TIP: Speak in a low, soft soothing and pleasant voice. Allow him to relax and unwind.
THE PLAN: I wasn’t sure that soft and soothing would be the sound females wanted. I figured gruff and craggy à la Sam Elliot was the way to go. I don’t smoke anymore, so smoking 60 to get the effect was not an option. Singing footy anthems as loud as I could all day, was though
THE OUTCOME: Mr Elliot would have been proud of my gruffness. Madame, however, asked me if I had been in the garden singing those awful terrace chants whilst booting footballs at the kids (I do have previous in this regard).
THE TIP: Listen to him. You may have a dozen things to tell him - the moment of his arrival is not the time. Let him talk first.
THE PLAN: My wife is half Irish Catholic, I can never get a word in edgeways anyway. This one takes care of itself.
THE TIP: Make the evening his. Never complain if he does not take you out to dinner or to other places of entertainment. Instead, try to understand his world of strain and pressure, his need to be home and relax.
THE PLAN: Great, so that means a night of Sex and the City re-runs. I bought a half bottle of Jack Daniels to hide down the side of the sofa, that’ll help.
THE OUTCOME: I can vaguely recollect saying “The ginger doesn’t deserve the barman, he’s too good for her”, before falling into a boredom/alcohol induced stupor.
THE TIP: Try to make your home a place of peace and order where your husband can renew himself in body and spirit.
THE PLAN: Seriously? Did these people not have kids? I could provide the spirit, Rum and Black ought to do it. If she drinks enough of it at least I will get some peace and quiet.
THE OUTCOME: A miserable next morning being blamed for getting her drunk on a work night.
THE GOAL: A happy marriage for him.
THE OUTCOME: No divorce lawyers yet, and as it's summer the shed isn’t that cold to sleep in.