If you’re here looking for an article about Terri Hatcher, murder and intrigue or even the impossibly glam world of fake tan & eyebrows in Liverpool then you’re going to be disappointed. This isn’t about the drama Desperate Housewives or the reality show Desperate Scousewives. It’s much duller than that. It’s about what happens when the dream life you wanted (and the dream relationship) falls into a rut and you become a housewife – a desperate one.
It’s 6pm on Saturday night. I am freshly showered, coiffed and perfumed, sitting at my dresser in a clean, fluffy dressing gown, waxed, manicured, stinking of Lush and contemplating the best neckline to show off my new collar tonight. My bloke’s in the lounge, hair gelled, shirt ironed (you’re welcome babe), and checking the patio door in preparation for when the taxi gets here to take us to town.
Except he’s not, and I’m not.
I showered 12 hours ago at 6am; my hair smells like fried chicken and my fingers of the red onion I was slicing at lunchtime. I am wearing a dressing gown, however it’s not clean and fluffy – like my hair, it smells like fried chicken. And I’m not at my dresser contemplating accessory combos, I’m sitting on the sofa, contemplating the ingrown hairs on my calf as my husband whistles and farts carefree to himself in the kitchen, filling the snack bowls with sustenance for the next five hours of HBO overkill.
I know I’m lucky. I know this the ‘best things in life are free’, and I know I have that ‘happily-ever-after’ that the girls with tonight’s outfit dilemmas are hoping to end up with after meeting their prince charming later this evening. It’s certainly what I always wanted. I just didn’t think it would get so boring.
I didn’t think I’d ever be yearning to feel that appetite-quashing, nervous anxiety of a first date or a night out ever again. Mainly because, over the years, it became a prelude to a somewhat sad anti-climax: returning home, the painstakingly chosen outfit not having made half as big an impact on the guy of the moment as anticipated, and falling asleep, secretly jealous of the women who, despite not being showered, coiffed and perfumed, were in the arms of men who loved them. It wasn’t great for the ego – putting in so much effort only to feel beaten in life by the greasy haired and the stubbly.
What I didn’t realise at the time is that those unkempt women also once had their belle-époque when they’d leave their house on a Saturday night – with clean hair and free of stubble, of course – in the hope of finding someone to give them a reason to not have to leave their house on a Saturday night. I wonder where these women are now. In fact, I wonder where they were then. Were they happy back when they had everything I was dreaming of, or were they niggled by the loss of their life outside of the lounge? And if so, did their itchy restlessness finally boil over to visible, audible frustration and convert their domestic, Yankee-candle-scented, sanctuary into a tense minefield? What has happened to their poor, good blokes? The ones you only ever thought were a myth, who’d take a rain check on a night out with the lads to stay sofa-bound with you in your Primark PJs, greasy top knot and chipped Shellac, watching GoggleBox and going through three tubes of Pringles (each). Perhaps initially baffled by the change of atmosphere, did these blokes eventually feel the injustice that their haven, their contentment, was lost to their bird’s premature mid-life meltdown?
I ask these questions because it’s how I see my own relationship going if I don’t soon manage to scratch this itch. My only sibling, a half-sister, never lived with me so I was brought up pretty much as an only child, something which shows in the most predictable of ways: I’m used to having things how I like and having to compromise makes me sulk. So whilst my husband – an easy-going, one of five – thinks he’s being the good guy by braving the freezing kitchen to go get our snacks, I am on the sofa, manically picking at my ingrown hairs, blaming him, his love of boxsets and his damn complacency for what we’ve become.
Of course, I’ve suggested – pleaded – that we go out many a time but his answers tends to be pretty much verbatim of something I caught Homer Simpson saying on one of our other sofa nights: ‘what’s the point of going out? We’re just gonna wind up back here anyway’. And whilst there have been a few times I have managed to convince him to brave a night out in town, it’s been clear he wasn’t having any fun whatsoever. And because having my way would mean that he is having fun I’ll get angry and snappy at him for not enjoying himself, despite him sweetly trying to pretend that he’s having the time of his life, making small talk with my mate’s new bloke (who doesn’t like football, doesn’t own a console and has never seen any of the telly shows that my husband lives for).
So if I can’t forcibly change his dislike of being more than ten metres from his sofa, what can I do? Suck it up and be grateful? Remember I have finally got what I always wanted and be ‘thankful’? I really, really can’t. I am 31, I’m starting to get fine lines and the onset of my jowled genetic destiny is imminent. Each Saturday night I have to spend watching back-to-back episodes of the latest award winning series feels like I’m letting the last of my good years pass me by. Doesn’t my husband see that we have our forties, fifties and hopefully sixties, seventies, eighties and nineties to catch up on our Netflix backlog?
My work-in-progress solution so far – and what I recommend to all the other restless wives, girlfriends and partners – is to write, as I’ve begun to do, or in fact do anything constructive – sign up to zumba, actually go the gym, apply for new jobs, have a go at photography (just don’t post too many of your ‘arty’ photos on Facebook and clog up our newsfeeds if you do – it’s kind of boring seeing shot after shot of lonely trees and country paths)… Because whilst these things may not be half as fun or as glam as preparing for a heady night sipping cocktails and dancing ’til dawn, they do provide an adrenaline rush: like the Saturday night preening, there can be heart-breaking disappointment when our efforts don’t pay off, an addictive, exhilaration when they do, and an uncomfortable – but thrilling – anxiety in the meantime, waiting for the result. So far it’s working for me and, I promise you, I am the most bratty of brats when bored. Yes, I still have to deal with our weekly telly and pizza fests and, yes, they still get to me a bit (especially as Bates Motel series three is turning out to be utter shite), but having done something constructive in the day and having balls in the air, wheels in motion, irons in the fire – or whatever else it is you want to call the hope of better things to come – I get that hit of uncertainty that I’ve been looking for and, as an alternative to a mid-life crisis at 31, I couldn’t recommend it enough.
So stop pouting, unclench that jaw and kiss and make up with your bloke – it’s not him, it’s you. Done? Now choose a project, take control of your boredom and go scratch that itch (and no, I don’t mean your ingrown hair)!
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