UP­FRONT

Edi­tor’s Let­ter; Things We Love; Megan Ni­col Reed

Weekend Herald - Canvas - - CONTENTS - Do write. megan­ni­col­reed@gmail.com

Sun­day gone, ly­ing there at dawn’s crack (him: needed to uri­nate) in our slightly clammy sheets (me: night sweats), I had a ques­tion for my hus­band. He sighed. Can’t it wait? No, I said. I need to know what you fear me be­com­ing? Uh … I don’t know. Your mother? My mother? No, not re­ally. I love your mum. I’ll have to think about it. C’mon, I said. Just say the first thing that springs to mind. All right. Pompous. Pompous? Yeah, he said, warm­ing to his theme, one of those pompous old women. You know the kind. You al­ways see them in cafes, so en­ti­tled, think­ing ev­ery­thing re­volves around them.

He didn’t ask what I fear him be­com­ing. He didn’t need to. I tell him all the time. When he ex­am­ines his car for scratches and dings af­ter I have been driv­ing it. When he snaps at me for leav­ing cup­board doors open. When he loses his increasingly short tem­per, I tell him I’m ter­ri­fied he’s turn­ing into a grumpy old man. Like your fa­ther, I some­times add. Unkindly. Un­fairly. But truth­fully, too. Be­cause the ways our par­ents are in the world lays down the path we will most likely take. I didn’t look par­tic­u­larly hard at his par­ents when we were fall­ing in love. You don’t, do you? I was too busy look­ing at his rugged fore­arms, his shapely calves. Imag­in­ing the life of trav­el­ling and eat­ing we might have to­gether. Not­ing that with his sense of both fun and in­tegrity he would make a great fa­ther to the chil­dren I so des­per­ately wanted.

Lately cir­cum­stances have af­forded us a crys­tal ball, how­ever. He, re­cov­er­ing from hand surgery, me, at my most stressed, we have seen into our fu­ture. And it has scared us. Whether the ail­ment is merely a mis­er­able cold or some­thing life- threat­en­ing, the dy­namic of nurse/pa­tient is surely among the most chal­leng­ing for any ro­man­tic re­la­tion­ship to weather. The ten­der­ness that turns terse, the grat­i­tude that grows grouchy; re­sent­ment lurk­ing around ev­ery cor­ner. At the end of his life my fa­ther-in-law, the kind­est, most hon­or­able of men, needed help with ev­ery­thing and was ir­ri­tated by ev­ery­thing. It was im­pos­si­ble for my mother-in-law and, ex­pect­ing her re­lief, I re­mem­ber be­ing naively taken aback by how lost she was when he was gone.

The Wife, a film cur­rently at cin­e­mas (I urge you to see it), ex­cru­ci­at­ingly cap­tures the com­plex sym­bio­sis at work in a long-term part­ner­ship, both its ug­li­ness and its beauty. The open­ing sex scene is so mun­dane (“You don’t have to do any­thing — just lie there,” says Jonathan Pryce, by way of dirty talk, to his on-screen wife, bril­liantly played by Glenn Close), and yet so in­ti­mate, I could barely bring my­self to watch. What an ar­se­hole, said my friend as the cred­its rolled. She was right, but I couldn’t wholly bring my­self to agree ei­ther. Yes, he had been, and, yes, he still was, how­ever there was a level of tol­er­ance be­tween hus­band and wife, a tol­er­ance so hard to come by, that I could only ad­mire.

FOL­LOW­ING ON

I loved all your thought­ful ad­vice to the sar­to­rial ques­tion I posed last week: where is the happy medium be­tween sur­ren­der­ing to mid­dle age and fight­ing it? Hav­ing just re­turned from Paris, Gemma be­lieves she found the an­swer. “Parisian women do not con­sider age a bar­rier to beauty. There are women and then there are very old women, and noth­ing in-be­tween. They main­tain a cool fem­i­nin­ity well into old age and do not wear black for day­wear. Main­tain­ing a healthy BMI is pretty uni­ver­sal, as is a very good hand­bag and set of sun­glasses. It’s hard to es­cape the feel­ing that they place a very high pri­or­ity on looks, and it comes pos­si­bly be­fore small chil­dren, but not be­fore small dogs.” At 76 Christina reck­ons she’s got her wardrobe sorted. “My most com­fort­able win­ter wear is smooth, skinny jeans, but with the hard-to-wear waist­band cut off, and a comfy rib­bing off an old sweater sewn on. For a cute look for shop­ping I go for a short denim skirt with dark cot­ton foot­less tights ($6 at Postie Plus), warm socks and boots.” Linda pointed out that, in spite of my track­pants, the painful pro­ce­dure I un­der­went means I am, in fact, fight­ing it. “Ditch the track­ies and buy some up­mar­ket sports gear if that is your life at present. Wear that lovely un­der­wear with it. Al­ways lip­stick, some colour in your out­fit and ear­rings. And never, ever Crocs.”

The ways our par­ents are in the world lays down the path we will most likely take. I didn’t look par­tic­u­larly hard at his par­ents when we were fall­ing in love. You don’t . . .

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