Do you have any of the health stuff? I ask the Secret Woman. We’re in the local, same as always, two fresh pints in front of us. — Health stuff? he says. — Yeah. — Like issues? he says. — Health issues? Is that what you mean? He knows exactly what I mean and I want to tell him to stop acting the b****x. But I don’t know if I’m allowed to say that to a man who identifies as a woman. So…
— Yeah, I say. — Issues. Do you have any?
I’ve been a bit nervous lately because of my low blood pressure. I’m getting down off my stool and I’m taking it slowly — so slowly my feet haven’t touched the floor yet. I take a gulp from my pint on the way down. I’m being a bit careful because I don’t want to faint. And I hate that.
— I’ve a few issues, says the Secret Woman. — Yeah.
— I’ve low blood pressure, myself, I tell him. — Did I tell you?
— You did, yeah.
— Did I?
— You’ve told me every night for the past week, he says. My toes have made contact with the floor tiles. I’m on solid ground.
— You were never a bitch before you decided you were a woman, I tell him. And I stride carefully to the Gents.
I’ve never been wild, and my idea of impetuous behaviour is leaving my jacket behind when I’m walking out of the house. But I hate having to be careful. I hate being told that I have to be careful. ‘Look after yourself’, ‘just be a bit careful’, ‘take it easy now’ — they’re not the words of advice an ageing man should have to hear. I used to say them to my kids when they were toddlers. Now I’m saying them to myself, and probably out loud, as I step back from the urinal.
— Cop on, Charlie, I say now. — You’re grand. And I throw open the jacks’ door.
— You survived, says the Secret Woman.
— I did, I say. — But it was touch and go.
I hop up onto my stool, so nonchalantly I nearly miss it. My pint is there, waiting. I bring it towards me. I’m Fred Astaire; the pint is Ginger Rogers.
— This stuff ’s good for the blood pressure, I say. — Full of iron or something. Pregnant women used to drink it.
— Grand, says the Secret Woman. — But were they pregnant before they started drinking it?