I’m in the laundry waiting for the washing machine to click through the final part of its cycle and despite the fact that I’m listening to my self-titled playlist Reservoir Dad, I’m feeling drained by the weight of expectation.
Earlier this week one of Reservoir Mum’s employees, Casey, dropped by the house with some ‘thank you cookies’ (for god-knows-what) and because RM was out I offered Casey a glass of water and my expertise on such popular topics as baking, the hormonal profiles of sexually unresponsive men, and mastering difficult dance moves like The Cabbage Patch and The Worm.
Without much effort I commandeered the entire conversation from hello to goodbye but with surprising skill, Casey managed to say something, and it is that something that’s keeping me from my rendezvous with the couch, tonight’s episode of House Husbands Season One, and the alluring Reservoir Mum – who is currently suffering from a sore throat and general bodily unease.
‘I read your reviews of House Husbands and your ‘Wednesdays From The Womb’ series,’ Casey said.
‘Oh?’ I replied.
‘Do you really seduce RM every night?’ she asked, a raised eyebrow emphasising her doubt.
Completely floored by her blatant insinuation that I didn’t seduce RM every night, I blurted out, ‘I have an unusually enthusiastic sex drive. It’s unconditional,’ as I touched the crinkly wrapping off her home made cookies, and because I was worried I had just appeared a tad creepy, stammered, ‘I have tickets to the Rick Astley concert in November…’ But by that time all my self assurance was shot. Several days later it has still not returned.
I now face one of my greatest challenges. Just beyond the laundry door is my apparently sick wife. Despite what Casey thinks, every time I have blogged about seducing RM I have done so. Tonight however, dancing naked, manipulating her phalanges and hypnotising her with my armour-like abs will not be sufficient. Her supposed illness requires something extra from me.
‘Are you really sick?’ I say, as I burst into the living area wearing only boxer shorts and a t-shirt and carrying a basket full of lemon-scented washing. ‘Or has Casey put you up to this?’
RM is on the couch in a ball. There are tissues sticking out of her nostrils. ‘No crazy tonight,’ she says. ‘Please.’
I snort through my nose and purse my lips in her direction as I put the clotheshorse up and fight the desire to give her a cuddle. Instead I run to the bedroom and bring her our doona and a pillow. ‘If Casey ever asks how often I seduce you, say every night.’ I tell her. ‘Better yet, I don’t want you to see her anymore. She’s been leading you astray.’
‘I don’t want you to be mental. Just for tonight,’ she says.
I can only snort through my nose a second time at her skilful avoidance of the truth.
Fifteen minutes later, I have delivered RM some Strepsils, massaged her phalanges, raised my t-shirt and flexed my abs in a subtle way, searched through cupboards to find her another box of tissues, raised and lowered my arms several times to release some powerful pheromones and still she lays there all ill-like, coughing occasionally, shaking with mock fever, and resisting me so convincingly that a moment passes where I wonder if we even belong to the same species.
All the while House Husbands is playing in front of us and, damn-it-all-to-hell, it’s good. I’m into it. Abi – a cool, imperfect but caring working Mum who abandons bleeding diabetics to fire escapes to see her daughter on her birthday – is wonderful, and despite the protestations of comedian Ben Pobjie she’s real. I like her and have already screamed at her husband several times, saying, ‘Mark, stick up for her! Tell her she’s doing a good job! Tell Zoey’s Mum to get stuffed! Abi is a great Mum!’
Still, the problem remains – House Husbands ability to engage me is rendering my good lady wife unseduced.
During an ad break I Google, ‘How to seduce your wife when she’s sick’ and after navigating through several disturbing websites, settle for an article by a relationship therapist titled 3 Sexy Lessons For Seducing Your Wife. I chance a glance at RM, who convulses unconvincingly, before trying to incorporate this advice –
The third important thing to remember if you want to seduce your wife is to start making love by touching her hands, arms, face, neck, and back before you move onto her more erotic areas. Most women need to be warmed up before they like being touched in an intimate way.
While I reason that it’s true that women need to be warmed up before being touched in an intimate way I also reason that RM’s claim of running a temperature means that she’s already pretty hot and so I put my hand under the doona and go straight for her vagina.
‘Uh, no,’ she says.
In an act of pure desperation I stand in front of RM – and even thought I notice the full basket of washing still awaiting it’s hanging – I start doing some calisthenics (a form of exercise for women popularised by Catherine Beecher and Dio Lewis in the 19th century) and it’s while I’m in a full standing hamstring stretch with my glutes pointed in RM’s general direction that the House Husbands cast are attending a school function. The catchy, sexy tunes of ‘Live It Up’ by Mental As Anything lead into a night of laughter and dancing and I’m inspired. I start moving my ass in half moons, from left to right, bending skilfully at the knees.
RM’s chuckles in a husky way that reminds me of Gary Sweet’s voice and all but convinces me that she really is sick and that my chances of seducing her are all but gone. To confirm it she looks around my ass and says, ‘I can’t see.’
I park my not-quite-alluring-enough ass on the couch just as Abi and Mark are having a heart-to-heart in prison about the pressures suffered by working Mums and, even though I’d never admit it to anyone, my lower lip begins to wobble.
‘Mark reminds me of you,’ RM says, not for the first time.
I turn to her, reach for her hand and say, ‘Yeah, well you know Abi? She reminds me of me as well.’
When RM makes a face I can’t quite describe – sort of like a startled circus pony – I make a decision to end this post ambiguously so that her employees will never know if I was successful in seducing her or not.
‘Every parent feels guilty,’ I say. ‘It’s just an extension of worrying about your kids. It’s unavoidable. It’s not Mummy guilt, or Daddy guilt… it’s just never knowing if you’re doing enough for your kids… and feeling a responsibility for their every sadness.’
‘Yeah,’ RM says.
‘I love my kids so much,’ I say, but the word much is lost to the emotional constriction of my vocal chords. It strikes me that I love my kids so… sounds like a line from Anne Of Green Gables.
Abi and Mark are rolling all over each other in the marital bed and as I lean over and lay my head on RM’s hip, she flops a hand onto my shoulder. It feels nice and I am almost ready to settle for cuddles but the doubting Casey inspires me to croon, ‘Hey there you with the sad face come up to my place and live it up…’
I’m about to deliver the next line of the ‘Mental As Anything’ classic when the preview for Episode 5 of House Husbands begins. We watch in silence as it introduces childhood cancer as a subject that will most likely run through series one, and possibly into series two and three. Sexual congress is looking a grim prospect as long as dying children make the previews and so I play my final hand.
‘What are the chances of us having sex right now?’ I ask, a bit of puppy dog in my expression.
‘Fair to middling,’ she says, seductively…
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