Wrong Way, Mate

Wrong Way, Mate – An Essay

I don’t have a brother. I’m one of three girls. And my father is far from typical. He was never just one of the girls, but if he were a young father today he’d be called an early metrosexual, I guess. Or is that an outdated term now? I just don’t know. 

Emotions were expressed and discussed freely and calmly in our house growing up. You might hear one or another of us say something like, “I’m feeling hurt.” To which another one of us might say, “I understand your feelings.” We would reassure each other. Sometimes there were tears. Then hugs. Then laughter.

Then food. Always food.

“What’s say we make a cake and cheer up,” someone would say.

We would all agree, “Yay! Let’s bake!” And then we would eat carbs and be happy the rest of the day, until we weighed in the morning. And the cycle would begin again.

My husband is a man. And in many ways he’s atypical, like my father. We do talk about our feelings. And he is exceptionally polite. He writes thank you notes and has three or four recipes that he cooks without referring to the instructions. He makes delicious cornbread, which he served to me in bed when I was tired and we were dating. I love those memories and that cornbread.

My husband expresses his love, his feelings with cornbread.

Other emotions he expresses more like a macaque. And under extreme stress, like a Baboon. I know, because I did some research.

When we were first married I would become completely unhinged by his conduct. As it turns out, this is part of what men and monkeys want – they’ve been known to “fake a lunge toward you,” causing victims “to lose balance.” In fairness, monkeys are said to give you lots of warnings “before an actual fight breaks out.”

But according to an article Michelle Tsai, wrote for Slate magazine entitled, How To Fight Monkeys, “When monkeys get aggressive, it’s usually because they think you have something to eat.” Tsai says that, according to one study, about three-quarters of all aggressive interactions involve food. This has been invaluable information for me.

But how do you fight a man monkey?

First of all, “If you are holding a snack, throw it in their direction and they’ll stop bothering you,” according to Tsai. She goes on to address the obvious question: What if you don’t have any food? Tsai says, “Hold out your open palms to show you’re not carrying a tasty treat,” or she says, “back away without showing fear.” She warns that if you withhold food they may “grab at your knees and legs,” or worse, “put their mouths on you so that you can feel their teeth.”

If you’re unable to appease them with food, “you can,” she says, “try to chase them off by shaking a stick at them.” Finally she says, primatologists sometimes send a macaque warning signal called the open-mouth threat. Basically form an “O” with your mouth, lean toward them with your body and raise your eyebrows.

Airlines have cut back on snacks, even on long flights. And after a long flight to London, my husband and I began making our way through the many tasks and entanglements involved in navigating our way through customs, baggage claim and transport into the city. We were excited about our upcoming ten days of sightseeing and my husband, ever the gentleman, was juggling his luggage and mine, when we attempted to use our credit card only to receive the “declined” message on the ATM’s screen. My husband was getting tired.

And hungry.

After a long call to the bank and more baggage juggling, we were off to the trains. Us, and everyone else. It was almost 5 p.m. on a Friday, heading into London.

I like to think I’m not the frew frew kind of girl, but London is London – you do want to look nice. And I do struggle with my weight. I had to pack my clothes in my current size and the size I thought I’d be by the end of the trip. I like pub beer.

My husband struggled to keep up, towing two full-sized bags, plus my “extra” bag, his coat and a handful of credit cards, identification and the very tiny ticket the machine spit out when we purchased our ride on the train. The train tunnels were filling with rushed people, who all seemed to charge full on ahead, as if they knew the tunnels by heart. I kept pace with the footsteps around me. The echo in the tunnel made it sound like we were surrounded by an army – a big, happy, friendly army. That’s the way it seemed to me.

That’s when we got to the turnstile. The one you put your ticket in.

My hands were free and I was “in a zone.” I glanced quickly and observed carefully as a woman at the turnstile to my left easily slipped her ticket into a small slot right at wrist level. I spied an arrow indicating the direction the ticket was to be inserted. I inserted my ticket and a light turned green. I stepped forward and the bars gave way. I was quickly and easily on the other side. It was exhilarating! I was a regular, a seasoned traveler, a Londoner.

I kept moving, but hazarded a quick glance over my left shoulder to confirm that my husband was all smiles and right behind me. He was behind me. Me, several other people, and the turnstile. And all that luggage. And I knew he was hungry.

He did his best to juggle the luggage. There was no time to think. No time to grab a quick glance at another traveler. He forcefully shoved the ticket “at” the turnstile. He held up what looked like a tiny accordion and squinted at it. He looked panicked, hungry. And the crowd behind him was gathering. He tried to quickly shuffle the luggage so that he could use two hands to smooth the ruffled ticket. As he shuffled, impatient travelers began to peer around and over the crowd directly behind him. He made another attempt at jamming the ticket “at” the turnstile. It was no good.

He looked at me. It may have only been for a split second, but it felt longer. I looked back, formed an “O” with my mouth, leaned forward and raised my eyebrows. He snarled at me. His arms went over his head; and through clinched teeth; and at the top of his lungs, he said “Oh, Fuck Me!”

And in the very brief hush that followed a friendly fellow traveler quietly said, “Wrong way, Mate.” My husband looked at his ticket, took a deep breath, slowly turned the ticket 180 degrees, inserted it and watched the light turn green.

When we got into London we ate fish n chips and went to bed.

I grew up with other women in the house, but I’ve lived with my husband for years now. And food has been an issue in one way or another most of the time. I’ve been on a diet since before the wedding, but with little success. It’s frustrating and sometimes, I wish I had another woman to talk to about my feelings.

When I started this blog I weighed 155 pounds and I committed to loose six pounds a month for three months. I’ve yo-yoed a bit, but I’ve been below 155, for the most part. My lowest has been 149.9 and most days have been in the low 150s. 

Then after 21 days of dieting, I got on the scales and weighed 156 pounds. I starred at the number for a few minutes before I got off. I reset the scale and tried again, but it still registered 156. For a moment, I had overwhelming feelings of hurt and disappointment. In my head I heard the scale mocking me, “Wrong way, Mate.” I considered calling my mother or one of my sisters to talk it out and manage my feelings.

And then I just thought, “Oh, Fuck me.”

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