When we go down to India, especially for my brother’s wedding, we have an unspoken understanding that the Viking will handle the kids while I shop, organize and socialize. In case you think I mean the pleasant “meeting-long-lost-friend” kind of socialising – no.
I refer to wedding socialising which involves greeting and spending a certain amount of time with all the invited guests. A little more than a cursory hi and hello. It is not an unpleasant task by any means since most of the invitees are dear family and friends and this is a wonderful chance to catch up with everyone. But demanding nonetheless – not to mention draining, in the humid heat of Kerala, when you just want to dunk yourself in a tub of cooling water and curl up like a foetus.
During the parties and ceremonies, the Viking dutifully handled the boys, made sure they were fed, nappies changed on time and he let me be.
It took about two minutes before the comments started to rush in. What a wonderful father the Viking was. How well he was looking after the kids. HOW MUCH he did. Cousins playfully teased that I needed to keep my husband away from their wives because they would not hear the end of complaints otherwise. Our new in-laws gushed over this wonderful firang who was such a nurturing father.
It would not fricking stop.
After the first couple of times, I had to fight to keep my irritation from getting the upper hand. Choice retorts like
So? He should be more than just a sperm donor!
Jeez! Give him his bloody gold medal already! Why is this such a big deal?
Oh, screw you. I am alone with these kids for weeks at a time with absolutely no help at all, and just in these couple of days he is milk of frikkin’ human kindness?
did spring to mind, but were not articulated. And just as well really because it gave me the pause I needed to see that it was not about him, my irritation was about me. Or more correctly, I was bristling at being judged because I am so familiar with the drill – the tilt of the head, the intonation – where the other side of the shiny coin of “What a great dad!” is “Why are you shabby at it?”.
Or that could have been me being as sensitive and prickly as a cactus, just wanting to enjoy a holiday without being in the headlights waiting to get hit.
The instant gratification of a mean comeback would have been incredibly satisfying. The downside of that though would be hurting the one person I did not want to hurt – my husband – who was basically being a decent human being. Did I really want to be like that loud asshole at parties who would exclaim loudly about “Women these days needing to know their place?” or “Its her job anyway. What do I care?” If I had ever overheard him making that kind of comment about me, dotted lines would be signed while the dinner was still hot.
It is completely and utterly inappropriate for a man in this day and age to say something so blatantly sexist. Why should it be okay for a woman to be as disrespectful? Does this new millenium’s feminism mean that WE ARE THE NEW BOORS IN PRETTY HEELS? Wow.
So here is my retort.
Gosh! You are right. He is a terrific father and husband and ever-supportive and loving. We are extremely fortunate that he takes such good care of us and y’know what? I could not have swapped spit with a better guy. I know that this is killing you and you really want me to feel inadequate, but I have really never felt as blessed. See? Here is your proof that good people happen to the err… shaky ones too.
It was at this point that I ran out of grace and straight into a glass of martini.
Edited to add: The Viking completed another trip around the sun yesterday and matures like the smelliest, yummiest cheese and deepest, most excellent wine. Happy happies to a good ‘un!