Before I got married, I was always fascinated with the fact that OMC’s (Old Married Couples) warned me that marriage was incredibly hard work. “Stick at it!” they would tell me while wagging a finger in my face. “The first twenty years are the hardest and then it starts to get a little easier.”
I couldn’t understand it. What on earth could be hard work?
Seven years down the line and one daughter later – I get it! Marriage is unbelievably difficult – if you are married to a man whose sole ambition in life is to embarrass his wife.
Oh, don’t get me wrong – the signs were all there before we were even engaged. But somehow, I always thought I could change him, mould him, make him more – well, NORMAL, to be honest.
And I thought I had! For some reason, becoming a father changed Stephen into a completely different man. He traded his car in for a family car, took out life insurance policies, made a Will, joined the gym – he even began reading books that were not about wizards!
I thought I was getting somewhere.
Until two weeks ago. When I realised that nothing had changed. It was just in hiding.
There we were, casually strolling through Hyde Park, when Stephen began walking in a rather strange manner.
“What’s wrong with you?” I asked in what I hoped was a rather concerned manner. “Why are you limping?”
“I’ve got something in my shoe,” Stephen moaned, while shaking his foot rather vigorously.
“Well, take it out!” I pouted. “You look funny walking like that!”
“Really?” Stephen beamed. “Cool!”
He then proceeded to walk with an exaggerated limp with the inside of his left shoe dragging behind him on the floor.
“Stop it!” I hissed, my eyes darting frantically from side to side. “You are embarrassing me!”
“Even better!” Stephen grinned before proceeding with his completely over-the-top limp. “You are so much fun to tease!”
“You are so childish!” I muttered before walking off and leaving him behind me. If he couldn’t behave like an adult, then I would finish spending all of his money on my own.
“My baby, wait!” Stephen pleaded, frantically limping behind me with one arm outstretched as if to try and stop me. “I can’t keep up!”
I paid no attention, and just kept walking, trying very hard not to look at the open-mouthed stares of my fellow shoppers who were completely gob-smacked at the sight of a very disabled man trying to keep up with his selfish wife.
“Shame!” mentioned one of the security guards. “You must wait for your husband. He is battling to walk.”
“Oh, just ignore him,” I muttered while waiting for Stephen to catch up. “He is just looking for attention.”
“Eish!” he exclaimed, before turning to the woman next to him and saying something in his native language. They both then shook their heads and looked at Stephen with enormous pity, while he continued with his Hunchback of Notre Dame impersonation, his features now rearranged into a long-suffering look of someone with enormous burdens to bear.
Could the day get any worse?
Apparently it could! Because just then, I heard an excited “Shelli!” followed by an enormous hug. On extricating myself from a very tight grip, I found that I was face-to-face with an old university friend that I hadn’t seen for years.
“Let me introduce you to my husband,” I beamed. “Greg, this is my husband, Stephen. Stephen, this is an old friend of mine, Greg.”
And then I waited.
Because, Stephen now had a choice to make. Did he continue with the limp and let my old (rather gorgeous) friend Greg think that he had some physical ailment? Or did he walk normally and let the staff of Woolworths know that he was no longer worthy of being the object of their pity?
He chose to go with the limp.
An interesting decision, under the circumstances. Because, not only did he have to limp around the Woolworths Food Hall, with Greg chatting happily at our sides, but he then had to limp around Exclusive Books while the three of us went for coffee and a bit of a browse. And then a very long limp to the parking lot when Greg offered to help us carry our groceries to the car. It was a VERY long day for him!
Later that night, when Stephen was finally talking to me again and when I had stopped collapsing into a fit of laughter at the mere thought of Stephen limping along, trying frantically to remember which leg was supposed to be his “good” leg, I offered to give my poor man a foot rub to compensate for his terrible afternoon.
“There is a moral to this story,” I smiled while he sat in a bit of a huff. “Never think you have the upper hand with a woman. We always win eventually…”
“Is that right?” he asked with one eyebrow raised. “I don’t think so….”
And how right he was. Because, that weekend, he proceeded to give my rather stunned mother and younger sister a demonstration of his version of the ballet we had seen a few weeks before.
While I sat with my head in my hands, thinking that marriage IS indeed hard work. And that Till Death Do Us Part is a very very very long time indeed…