The Great Divide

I’ve made no secret of the fact that my husband and I are often at odds with each other but I am not alarmed because I note that men in general, everywhere, are at odds with most women (except the gay ones – they totally understand us, all of us!)  We seem to hit the same peaks at different times. Men are at their sexual peak in their late teens and early twenties, women don’t peak until their thirties (I think this is where God is messing with us)  

Women are hot, men are always cold. Women love to shop, men don’t  (I suspect they could be missing  a vital chromosome here) We think with our hearts, they think with……ok, we all know what they think with but let’s pretend it’s.….their ‘brains’.  Could men and women be any further apart? It’s a wonder we get along at all. So what is the attraction? Could it really be that opposites really do gravitate to each other? (Or are we just gluttons for punishment?)

I used to stress over trying to find things in common with my husband. I thought that’s what a good marriage was supposed to be about, lots of ‘together’  time. When we dated he couldn’t get enough of me, romantic evenings, dinner, long walks, and endless talking, about nothing and everything. He was enamored of me and couldn’t get enough ‘together’ time.

When we were married he couldn’t wait to get away, anywhere, golf with the boys, hockey practice, working late, even pretending to clean out the garage (like he’d recognize anything in there) Anything to get away from a tired wife and three screaming kids. No more did we walk for the sake of walking, dinner, usually leftovers, was purely functional, and when we talked it was about the kids or money, because both caused us typical stress. (this is the point when a lot of marriages break up) Times were tough but we survived, and I’m not sure if we did because we actually knew how to move past this stage or if we were just oblivious and reluctant to explore other options.

But then the kids grew up and moved out and suddenly he was ‘interested’ again. I wasn’t so tired anymore. I had time to dress a little nicer, plan more exotic meals, I ventured out more, met people, tried new things,,,,,and he came to realize that over the years I had become more interesting to be with. I was now comfortable in my own skin; confident, and I was ok with my own company …..and it no longer mattered if he wanted to spend time with me because I was ok with being with me. And this is when he started to make the effort to rejuvenate those early days before we married.

Suddenly a romantic dinner was ‘on the menu’ (ok, I cooked everything but he did the dishes) and he managed to muster up the energy to hike with me periodically (ok, he complained incessantly but when I told him he could bring his 9 iron he seemed to brighten up a little) It’s all about compromise (And women seem to be the ones to make it) I came to realize that we had come full circle,,,,and survived. Relationships aren’t easy. Compromise isn’t easy, especially when you’re stressed with mortgages, children, jobs, and aging parents. Life… isn’t easy.

Now that we’re retired we’ve finally found our groove.  I live for the rare opportunities to be alone; when he takes a shower, bathroom breaks, and the not as frequent as I’d like ‘lunch with the boys’. He doesn’t walk with me (can’t keep up) and I’m ok with that because it only matters that he wants to. (Oddly enough he struggles to get off the couch without a lot of groaning but boy tell him you booked a tee time for 5am and he leaps out of bed like Superman at 4am to polish his clubs) He has ‘rediscovered’ his libido (thanks to a host of vitamins and medications) but it no longer matters cause thanks to menopause, I’ve lost mine, so we just watch tv…..and we’re ok with that too. I still love to shop, he’s just learned to complain about it less (Finally, compromise! Was that so hard?) And I am no longer hot, YAY! Sadly he now is, or rather he craves it, and we fight over the thermostat because I refuse to live in a nursing home environment (aka, petri dish)

We are so very different and the divide has never seemed greater because over the span of a lifetime we both grew in different directions, as all relationships do. The only difference is in how you accept it or rather ‘if’ you accept it. People grow and change. Relationships are work and it’s hard. Marriage, is murder.  And if you can survive any one of the above you will have fulfilled your destiny ( And potentially spared the life of an unwitting male….. because the alternative is to kill him)

The air you breathe

Funny how scents can affect us. They conjure up memories, good or bad, tempt our palate, and distinguish us from others. I remember when I was a child my father smelled lightly of nicotine (he smoked then) and Old Spice aftershave. It was familiar and comfortable and very much ‘him’.

Nowadays most establishments ban use of any scents; perfumes, aftershave, because too many in society are ‘sensitive’ to them. Actually, it’s not the scents they can’t handle, it’s the polluted air we live in daily that compromises respiration. Scents don’t cause it, they just aggravate an already damaged respiratory condition caused by existing bad air quality, which is too bad because there are some lovely fragrances in life to enjoy.

There’s nothing like that damp, mossy smell that heralds the arrival of spring, or the clean crisp, cool air that comes with the fall and winter. And nothing wets the appetite like the slow roasted turkey that permeates the whole house – you can almost taste it in the air.

Not all scents are pleasing; car exhaust, garbage, paint, but most can tolerate these in small doses. Sadly for some these scents spark issues. My husband is asthmatic and very sensitive to strong scents, the kind I’m oblivious to, so I don’t always understand his reaction. I put on nail polish and he asks “did you put on perfume?” (Cause my perfume smells like nail polish? Here let me dab a little nail polish remover behind my ears,,,I’m feeling frisky)  

He also struggled to breathe for the 15 years we had a dog. He was supposed to be a hypoallergenic breed (if there even is such a thing) but my husband struggled just the same. Interestingly, the dog stayed by him whenever he was home even though it was the kids and I that walked, fed and played with him (the dog, not my husband) My husband was the only person who couldn’t handle the dogs presence and it seemed like the dog purposely trailed him. (my husband kept threatening to euthanize him…..maybe he understood and applied his own revenge?)

I guess it’s easy to take the air we breathe for granted. It’s free (until someone figures out how to harness it for sale) and invisible, so why think about it…..until it’s gone. I wonder if we’ll see the day we have to buy air? It’s not so farfetched. Who ever thought we’d be buying drinking water?  71% of the world is water yet most of our freshwater resources are either unreachable or too polluted, leaving less than 1% (about 0.003% of all the water on Earth) available for human use. It’s only a matter of time.

Romance is in the air?

Valentine’s Day is here and romance is in the air. Or is it? Not if you pay attention to the animals.

A few nights ago as I was settling in to sleep I heard a commotion outside. I went to the window, opening it to hear better, and saw a pack of coyotes at the end of my driveway. I knew they were in the area, we hear them at night, but rarely have I seen them so this was unusual. There was a lot of growling followed by occasional yelping and I sensed a fight was about to ensue. I called to my husband to come see but he was dozing off and disinterested. The growling and yelping went on for several minutes, followed by sounds of aggressive attack and it was very unsettling.

I know wild animals are part of nature but to witness any form of violence, even in the animal kingdom, sickens me. They were about 100 feet away from me and there’s a large bush in front so I couldn’t focus on what was happening (I wear glasses for distance) but given the sounds I heard I fully expected to find a bloodied animal carcass at the end of my driveway the next morning. Eventually they took the fight into the woods and the next morning I was surprised to see no evidence of the fight at all.

Later in the day I was hiking with a friend and mentioned the scene outside my window and she immediately advised that the coyotes were in fact, mating. ( Sweet mother of Mary, really? Actually, I should’ve recognized the signs….my husband and I engage in a similar ritual, growling, yelping, you know foreplay, every third Thursday of the months that start with ‘J’) Apparently February is mating season for coyotes, who knew?

I later googled coyote mating rituals and sure enough, the aggression I overheard is quite natural. I’m guessing the growling is the male and the yelping is the female? ((talk about rough sex) That fact aside I could never have imagined that the coyote mating ritual was so violent (ok, maybe violent is the wrong word but what I heard was anything but consentual) On the other hand I suppose if they have to wait for the one month in the year to get lucky they’re probably pretty randy by the time it does come.

And what happens if February comes and she’s not ‘in the mood?’ Can they defer the ‘appointment’ or is the opportunity lost until next year? (Although judging by the growling I heard I’m betting she doesn’t have much of a choice)

I guess it just startled me because I naively assumed animals would have some tenderness in their mating ritual, like humans do. You see images of deer nuzzling together, or lobsters claw in claw walking along the ocean floor. Do they toss all the niceties aside when it’s whoopie time….wham bam, thank you Mam? (I’m guessing too that the whole concept of Valentines Day is lost on the animal kingdom?) No sweet-talk, no flowers and candy, just get down to the business of procreation, belch, and move on.   I guess for animals the mating ritual is purely functional, or maybe they enjoy the aggression (some like it rough)

Witnessing nature in this way was an eye-opener for me. Not every being is warm and fuzzy. In fact, the females in the animal world are sadly deprived of romance and helpless to change it. (On the other hand, they also only have to put out once a year… you could put up with anything once a year) And in hindsight the male coyotes get off pretty easy because despite their ‘rough play’, they pretty much walk away unscathed after the deed is done. There are some animals that kill the male after mating, mmmmmm, all-in-all, not necessarily a bad idea…… (is that to ensure they don’t fool around with another?)

Whatever your ritual for love, I hope you have fun, and romance, and shower that love on another. And if you must growl and yelp, keep it to a minimum,,,,,and for heaven’s sake, don’t do it on my driveway.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Too Many Words

I really enjoy reading, especially in retirement, and more so with Covid (got a lot of time on my hands) I’m always surprised to see the volume of books published and completely perplexed at how many really bad books are out there. Story lines are weak and predictable, and too often themes are repetitive. God help me if I read one more book on the 2nd world war! After all those who lived through it recount their experiences, and the volumes and volumes of articles and books written about it, surely we have to have exhausted that topic? Apparently not, so my search for something new and interesting continues, and while I don’t love the repetition of storylines (there’s a lot of copy-cats out there) I would take that over a ‘wordy’ piece of work any day.

The most recent book I read is a good example of just that. The author goes on, and on, and on with a lot of unnecessary descriptions. This particular book is set in the English countryside, in an old manor house that is surrounded by extensive gardens. The main character loves the Azaleas  that line the property and relishes their scent when in bloom. I get it…..but clearly the author believes she needs to reinforce the vision, repeatedly for the reader because she spent two and a half pages describing their scent. I  couldn’t believe it. I literally had to go back and count it out.

Now what is her motivation here? Is it to educate the reader?………cause you’d have to be pretty stupid not to get the gist of it in a couple of short lines. They’re pretty flowers that smell nice, and since they lend nothing to the plot of the story why give them centre stage? By the time I got through those two and a half pages I’d forgotten the story line and had to skim over the previous pages to find my place. (not a book I’ll recommend)

Another pet peeve of mine are the authors who use big words unnecessarily. They use a lot of vague expressions, often incorporating little known big words. Well I have one for them – Grandiloquence“. It means “big talk” also known as “longwindedness.” If I have to reference a dictionary while reading an interest book you can bet I won’t read more than one of that authors works,,,,and I may not even finish the first. Get real, get a sense for your audience,,,,and get over yourself. You wanna preach vocabulary, become an English teacher.  Don’t write an interest novel intended for the general public and understand that too many words can often cloud a story’s true meaning, or bore your reader to death, neither of which bodes well for promoting you as an author. Get to the point,,,,because there’s a lot to be said for simplicity.

If there’s one thing this exercise has taught me, it’s to appreciate a really good writer, because there are so few of them. Dazzle me with your imagination, not your excessive knowledge of excessive words. Spin me a tale that will captivate me as a reader but don’t make me think too hard because I read for pleasure. (If I want technical knowledge I’ll read the encyclopedia) And for heavens’ sake don’t take me for stupid, i.e. assume that your reader understands that an Azalea smells good, in under 3000 words.