JEN­NIFER O’CON­NELL

I sighed hap­pily, and re­alised this is what passes for sex­ting in our re­la­tion­ship’

The Irish Times Magazine - - INSIDE -

The first sign, the first ob­vi­ous sign, was a con­ver­sa­tion with the hus­band. It was one of those late night, in­ti­mate con­ver­sa­tions when the kids are fi­nally in bed, the phones and lap­tops have been put away, the wine bot­tle is half empty, and there’s noth­ing much on TV. I was think­ing, I be­gan. Mm hmm, he replied ex­pec­tantly.

I was think­ing, I went on slowly, we should get one of those cord­less vac­u­ums.

He didn’t look en­tirely pleased by the di­rec­tion the con­ver­sa­tion had taken.

We could keep it on the land­ing, I went on, and then I could Hoover the stairs while I got ready for work. We could re­dis­cover the colour of the car­pet on the stairs, be­fore it got re­dec­o­rated with the hair of two black kit­tens.

The brand of Hoover I had my eye on would set us back about the same as a week in Tener­ife, he pointed out. Yes, but think of the ceil­ings free of cob­webs, I sug­gested. The clean skirt­ing boards. The stairs that no longer make you sneeze on your way to bed.

Think of a week in Tener­ife, he said, and picked up the re­mote and went off to ex­plore the lower reaches of the Sky menu in search of bet­ter en­ter­tain­ment in the form of a doc­u­men­tary about the world’s top 10 bridges.

The next day, we met on the stairs, still plushly car­peted with cat hair. He thrust his phone at me. Look at this, he said. It was an ad for the very vac­uum I’d been de­scrib­ing. The cord­less one. The Lam­borgh­ini of hoovers. It was pur­ple, and it looked like a piece of sculp­ture. I sighed hap­pily, and re­alised this is what passes for sex­ting in our re­la­tion­ship.

The point is, I didn’t look it up, he was say­ing. Th­ese ads have been stalk­ing me since our con­ver­sa­tion last night. I don’t be­lieve it, I said. I know, he replied. My phone was locked in my pocket. I’ve never in my life Googled a Hoover. The phone must have been record­ing our con­ver­sa­tion, and now it’s send­ing me ads for Hoovers.

I don’t be­lieve it, I was still say­ing. It costs way less than a week in Tener­ife.

That was the first ob­vi­ous sign that my ob­ses­sion with house­hold ap­pli­ances had reached prob­lem­atic lev­els. And also, ar­guably, that I was of­fi­cially en­ter­ing mid­dle age. But it wasn’t the first ac­tual sign. The first ac­tual sign was the Aldi gar­ment steamer.

I had gone into Aldi for a car­ton of milk and, like every­one else who has ever gone into Aldi for a car­ton of milk, emerged with a gun­metal plant pot, a pair of chil­dren’s san­dals, a set of fancy pa­per, a bumper pack of Sel­lotape, two fil­let steaks, five freshly baked pret­zels and a gar­ment steamer. And no milk.

Un­til that shop­ping trip, I had never given house­hold ap­pli­ances much thought. Like every­one else who came of age dur­ing the spendy years, I am par­tial to an over­sized fridge. I was briefly taken with a very ex­pen­sive and huge iron­ing board when I lived in Amer­ica, be­cause it had five star re­views on Ama­zon but, let’s be hon­est, mostly be­cause it cost far more than an iron­ing board had any right to. How­ever, as I never wear shirts it spent most of its time unloved in the garage. That was the ex­tent of my in­ter­est in house­hold ap­pli­ances, un­til the gar­ment steamer came along and en­tirely rev­o­lu­tionised my life, for the very rea­son­able price of ¤ 24.99.

All at once, items of cloth­ing that had been lan­guish­ing wrin­kled and unloved in the back of the wardrobe were once again within my grasp. Coats that had been wait­ing two years for a dry clean­ing were given a new lease of life and a lin­ger­ing scent of laven­der wa­ter in un­der three min­utes flat. I steamed ev­ery­thing: tow­els, blan­kets, fur­ni­ture.

I be­gan ha­rass­ing my chil­dren to let me steam their school uni­forms and soft toys. I fell out with the hus­band when he wouldn’t let me steam his shirts, in­sist­ing that iron­ing re­mained a su­pe­rior method of wrin­kle re­moval. The fool.

What I made up for in new stan­dards of groom­ing I may have lost in friends, since I bored any­one who stood still for long enough with my un­fet­tered en­thu­si­asm for the gar­ment steamer. It also kicked off a trou­ble­some process of look­ing at all house­hold ap­pli­ances with a freshly ap­prais­ing eye. The gar­ment steamer was fol­lowed by a new power washer ( rea­son­able), a bar­be­cue top pizza oven ( im­pres­sive), a home den­tal pol­ish­ing kit ( briefly looked like a solid in­vest­ment, but quickly took up res­i­dency in the back of the bath­room cup­board). But all of th­ese rep­re­sented mod­est in­vest­ments. The vac­uum, by any stan­dards, did not. I weighed it up. We didn’t ac­tu­ally need it. We re­ally did need a hol­i­day. I made the sen­si­ble de­ci­sion.

I haven’t ac­tu­ally sent the hus­band photos of our new hoover when he’s trav­el­ling for work. But it’s prob­a­bly only a mat­ter of time.

I’ve never in my life googled a hoover. The phone must have been record­ing our con­ver­sa­tion, and now it’s send­ing me ads for hoovers

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