Saturday, 7 August 2010

The Elephant Woman and Other Squabbles.

It's at weekends that I realise that, while I spend every working day sorting out other people's problems, I am completely incompetent when it comes to dealing with my own. I don't know what on earth is going on with Max and me. If anything's going on. We've been living like this for years, putting our relationship last, giving it only cursory attention, and still muddling along - so why does everything feel as if it's suddenly heading towards disaster? Is it just me? Has Max even noticed?

I think he might have been up for a shag last night. No idea whether this was due to The Boss' intervention or not, but anyway, Max was definitely making an effort when we got home from the party. He put the kettle on to make a coffee, and then started cuddling me, while making appreciative noises. I told myself to go along with it, even though all I really wanted to do was to go to bed as quickly as possible, and try and forget about Andrew's disconcerting comments.

But when the hug turned into a kiss on the neck, I suddenly had a flashback of him moving in on Annoying Ellen's neck and that was it. Ten minutes later we were having an all-out slanging match. Of the kind where he pretends disbelief that his actions have merited my fury, and I get more and more angry at the pretence. Then he fell back on the old chestnut:

"Well, if you don't trust me after all these years, then I - just - don't - know." He did that infuriating head-shaking thing at the same time. That's always a red rag to a bull.

There must be something the matter with me. I can't ever react like a normal, drunken person and just yell abuse, somewhat incoherently, during an argument with Max. Something in me flips and I turn into a forensic detective, picking through the evidence, presenting it, and then daring him to contradict me. I even frighten myself with how cold and articulate I become. It's just like when I have to deal with a particularly offensive or mad constituent. But much less satisfying.

After I have listed every time that I have had to give Max the benefit of the doubt during our marriage, and enumerated every single occasion on which he has humiliated me, he then says, right on cue:

"You're like a f*cking elephant. You never bloody forget anything. " I hate the weary way he says that.

"Well, maybe if you recalled any of it, you wouldn't keep on bloody repeating the same things over and over again, and then acting surprised when I object."

I've climbed up onto the kitchen counter by now and am sitting cross-legged, settled in for the long-haul. He must have noticed this familiar manoeuvre, as he just slams the kettle down, turns away and walks off. Now it's time for his other standard line.

"I'm going to bed. There's no talking to you when you're in this mood. You're so bloody unreasonable."

There it is. I am so bloody unreasonable. And there was me thinking that he was the one who'd acted like a prize shit.

Being in the right does not make for a good night's sleep, unfortunately. Being in the wrong seems to act as a tranquilliser, which is bloody typical - Max sleeps like a snoring baby, and is full of energy today. He's staying out of my way by mending the shed door; while I am knackered, and can't be bothered to do anything. Then Connie decides to make matters worse.

"Bloody, bloody hell," she says. "Why are we so poor?"


"I'm the only one out of the girls from my course who's not on holiday abroad. Again. Every vacation off they all go, and poor muggins here has to work instead."

"Well, how on earth can they afford to do that?"

"Because their parents pay all their accommodation fees. So their student loans are just spending money."

"Oh, bloody hell, Connie. You know we can't afford to do that."

"I know! I'm just saying. Why can't you and Dad get proper jobs, though?"

Why indeed. It's ironic, isn't it? When anyone finds out what I do for a living, there's always a moment during which they look both unnerved, and really impressed. I always have to swear a lot at parties, and make fun of myself, just to put people at their ease - but it's bloody ridiculous, really. I probably make less money than almost everyone we know. A lot less, and I only wield power on behalf of someone else. What little power a backbench MP can be said to have anyway.

That was the thing that shocked me the most when I first started working in politics, during the euphoria after the 1997 General Election. I really thought the party could change the world, and that I was going to be on the inside track, helping The Boss use his power to improve things for the people of Northwick. I think that's probably what Andrew thought, too. It didn't take either of us long to work out how little power MPs really have, except to make female constituents go weak at the knees and lose their brains - in Andrew's case. My being caught in his reflected glory has never had the same effect on men, much to my disappointment.

Now I'm thoroughly depressed, and almost wishing I was at work today. I am a crap parent, an unreasonable wife, a low-paid worker in a dull and mindless job, (if some people are to be believed), and I may even be about to get another stepmother who looks barely older than Connie.

To make things worse, Connie has inherited my lack of awareness (according to Max) of when to shut up. She continues to moan about having been born into poverty, and having to work all summer just to earn enough to get through the next academic year. Until I lose it.

"Con, I am not in the mood. If you don't like it, then phone Social Services and report us for being inadequate parents."

See? Unreasonable. And, today, I don't even care.

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