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