For several years now my husband has been busy at a column in this
paper called "Coming of Age" dealing, in the main, with the vicissitudes of
old age. In this column he has not scrupled to use me, whenever it served
his journalistic purpose, as a kind of foil, a "straight woman" the most
prominent member of a cast of aged characters, trotted out, whenever it
pleases him, to make a point or to serve as comic relief. In this age of
militant feminism, I feel that it behooves me to speak for myself. It is,
in short, my turn.
I did say "almost" perfect. Page's Ode to Eloise
Several years ago, in a thoughtless moment, I said in the presence of my sister and mother, "Page is almost perfect to live with." Page immediately wrote out this casual statement, had my sister and mother sign it as witnesses and subsequently had it notarized. He has made it clear that he intends to sue if I dwell excessively on the "almost" part of the affidavit.
It pains me to have to say that Page is inherently lazy. For years he has done his best to persuade me that, as "writer" and "thinker," he is hard at work as soon as his eyes are open in the morning. Indeed, he has even tried to convince me that he is at work when he is asleep, on the grounds that some of his best insights come to him in dreams.
Although he has written on the importance of a husband's participating in housework, and prides himself on having been a forerunner of the emancipated modern males, here again he is longer on theory than on practice. As he gazes distractedly around our rural abode, he manages to screen out dirt on the floor, crumbs (his) on the rug, spider webs trailing form the ceiling, windows crusted with dust stirred up by his barnyard fowls whose droppings are everywhere and who rouse me from my sleep with their crowing and honking.
He performs the most modest domestic shores as though they were the labors of Hercules. His so-called study would make a pig blush. Any effort to put it into anything approaching order is doggedly resisted on the grounds he knows "where everything is" but ask him for Aunt Carol's letter or last months Macy's bill, and the hollowness of this claim is at once apparent.
Although he is less messy than he used to be (proving I suppose, that you can teach an old dog new tricks), he still leaves much to be desired in that department. He has only the dimmest notion of the time, energy and money required to keep Scruffy Acres from getting scruffier.
When the Pacific Avenue Mall in Santa Cruz was intact, he idled away hours "working the mall," hobnobbing with an assortment of odd characters whose only common denominator, so far as I could observe, was that they, too, had time on their hands.
He still makes a stab at playing tennis, lumbering about the court like an arthritic bull elephant. By his own admission, he plays "primal scream tennis," outdoing John McEnroe in misbehavior when he misses a shot he thinks he should have made.
Football, boxing and other violent contact sports command Page's attention to a degree that I find positively bizarre. He has respectable credentials as an intellectual, yet he spends hours watching overgrown and overpaid children murdering each other.
He has written, somewhat hypocritically in my opinion about co-dependency. Yet he whines and complains whenever I leave him alone, and if I am late returning he carries on: "Why are you so late? Couldn't you have called? I thought you were in an accident or had run off with a sailor. I was worried to death." I suppose the thing that perplexes me most about my aged spouse (and other old men) is the effect on him of every pretty girl that passes by. Looking at every cookie or lollipop in the vicinity is one thing, drooling is another. Much is presently being made of female mood swings and premenstrual syndrome, but the poor male has a hormonal high 30 to 31 days of the month. Male PMS is spelled out panting male syndrome.
In a recent column Page quoted "an old age humorist" named Donald Murray who described Repetitive Fictive Imaging as "The skill that makes it possible to repeat the same story, complete with pauses, laughter and gestures, without ever changing a word or inflection." Page, it pains me to say, has mastered this skill. I often have to suppress the impulse to scream, "Not again! Please! No more, No more!"
When Page had some disparaging remarks to make about golf as the obsession of many retirees, a retirees wife wrote, "For heaven's sake, stop knocking golf. It's the only time I get my husband out of the house."
Sometimes I think a little wistfully of golf. Page does go fishing, but that's confined to the summer months. I suspect he needs to spend more time with his own kind. I think I'll try to get him interested in joining up with some Robert Bly group of drummers.
But I still adore him.
I did say "almost" perfect.
Page's Ode to Eloise