IT WAS one of those small porcelain plates with proverbs and wise-cracking aphorisms printed on it, I remember it cuz it was one of the earliest puzzling things I read in the living room, circa 1970s. Paraphrasing it, it shone dust-free near the oft-used ashtray (Dad still smoked like a chimney then) :
I am the Master of this House, and I have my Wife’s permission to say so.
I never bothered to ask Dad (or Mom) what it meant, discretion wasn’t in my portfolio of 7-year old verbal and non-verbal skills yet, but common sense was, meaning I didn’t want to get stuck in Dad’s crosshairs or pick up any more kurot or pingot from Mom, who had enough on her plate.
Nevertheless, years later, I’ve got a good handle on the subtext of such witticism which in so many words means OK, the male parental unit is the acknowledged head of the family and all that he surveys, from front gate to back yard, Lord of the Realm and all that. But cross his wife and do anything not to her liking and he risks the wrath of the Power Behind The Throne. All along, that was what I and my four brothers discerned from the gung-ho and uneasy detente that prevailed in our household 😉 Dad was strong and firm but always accommodating; Mom deferred to Dad on the policy decisions but ran a tight ship and kept things running day-to-day.
Ego tells me it’s more or less the same with me and esposa hermosa, fast forward to the present day, but in reality there are some hard and fast rules hammered down in the short span of our romantic partnership, I’d like to say legislated by us jointly, but most of them her inventions:
No using of socks and underwear more than once, and shirts more than twice. I pat myself on the back on this ordinance, as I fought for the second clause tooth and nail. I know this is a no-brainer on hygienic grounds, but I like particular shirts and our work area is a no-sweat environment, literally, so no undesirable by-product of extensive (8-hour shift) use is created. No dice for E.H. though, she draws the line in doing as the Romans do (or Kiwis) when it comes to undergarments and similarly situated stuff. To show her seriousness she has augmented my intimate wardrobe at least threefold since she arrived (do I need that much?) and I have no choice but to be a Dan Carter model, give or take a few Bill Blass of fatty tissue 🙂
Selection of food during mealtimes is limited to one from each of the basic food groups. Again, I’m proud of this one, as I fought for balance and this is the result. My basic food group categories by the way are McDo french fries group (actually Wendy’s is lots better, but there are no Wendy’s in Wellington 😥 ), Burger King onion rings group, KFC chicken nuggets group, and Shakeys’ Chick N’ Chips group (again, sadly, no Shakeys in NZ). Would you believe E.H. has a different version of the groups : colorful veggies, payatot lean meats (before I met her I NEVER saw anyone trimming the fat), fueling pastas and other carbs, hydrating fruits and legumes, and you know the rest. It was paradigm shifting for me, to say the least, after being a diehard fan of Ronald McD, the King, Chuckie and Captain Shakeys, but given the fact that I’m well into middle age, EH would not tolerate any fastfood habits. Or at least, most of the time.
Brushing of teeth at least once a day, preferably before bedtime. I hope you will reserve your judgment on me, as I do my best to preserve dental hygiene, but given my carbuncly ADHD , my premature dementia, the spinning-top nature of the typical day, and plain laziness, I have to be reminded to do the most basic things. I guess I’m exaggerating, but Mahal will simply not allow me into the conjugal bed unless she is certain I have done the dental deed and emit fresh breath if I so much as even attempt to kiss her good night, much more try anything sneaky and unscheduled ( more on that, later.) Double penalty is assigned to midnight snacks and forays into the fridge, I have to brush again hu hu hu 😦
Don’t smile too much, especially at parties and in front of company. EH patiently explained to me the rationale, and I tend to believe her : First, when I show my pearly whites, I betray the fact that they’re too big, and I have an overbite (not that it matters at this late stage). Well, I aim to please. Second, things tend to get stuck between the ivories, and too-big smiles tend to get rather awkward close-up. Lastly, get too close to my smile, EH warns, and you get TMI from my brand-new dentures. On that note, I just decide to comply.
Change bed sheets and pillow cases at least once every two weeks, oftener during summer. This isn’t as obvious as it sounds. In college I actually saw people in dorms who could stand using the same sheets the whole semester. Growing up in a family without sisters, it didn’t matter too much if you used the same sheets till well, you had to change them. Women, we learned much later, are a lot different.
Getting a shower, shaving, cleaning everything possible and smelling like a baby before doing the nasty. First of all, I’m sorry for using the term doing the nasty for an activity as natural as eating and breathing, I can’t think of any euphemism without blushing, it’s probably the Catholic school upbringing. But you of course know what I mean. Well, before I think of doing anything remotely approaching what I just said, I have to be as clean and immaculate as possible (though not immaculate in thoughts), smell like the perfume section of your favorite department store, and as much as possible have as little facial hair on me, for some reason it isn’t conducive to doing the nasty for E.H. Because as mentioned earlier, I aim to please, and for doing the nasty I would do a song-and-dance wearing a Catwoman costume, being clean and sweet-smelling is something I can live with.
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Wow, so many rules. Some I understand, and some I don’t. On the whole, I am aware that living with another person is as much give-and-take and being considerate, as it is promising something as abstract as professing your love forever. It’s the day-to-day, small details that make living together tolerable, and if it means living with rules like these, I guess I can live with them. For now.
Thanks for reading !