We’ve been in our new house for about three months and hanging washing on a rickety old clotheshorse in our living room has taken me to the point of psychomaniac and back several times, and it’s during the lull between those frequent manic episodes that I am able to formulate a plan to buy a clothesline and attach it to the exterior of our house. To do this I need two things; a wall-mounted clothesline and a drill.
Several weeks later, with the clothesline still wrapped in its box, I text Reservoir Mum: Where is your drill?
I haven’t used it since we moved in, she texts back. Check garage, or storage cupboards in laundry.
I’m elbow deep in boxes, opening sanding tools and paint-stripping tools and many other boxed tools that look almost exactly like drills, and I feel ridiculous – as if I’m trying to impersonate a real handyman, like Scott Cam, Tim the Toolman Taylor or… my father-in Law… when I get another text from RM.
If you are drilling into brickwork don’t forget to use the hammer option or you might wreck my drill bits.
All the bits are safe as long as I can’t find them, I text back. We might have lost them in the move.
Her reply is simply, Shit. You sure?
Not looking good, I text, before taking a moment to reflect on how much she loved that drill. I want her to know I share her sadness, so despite the fact that I have always hated the pictorial representation of facial expressions, I manage to text a message of support, and my first emoticon ever:
Drill – gone but not forgotten.
It’s Sunday night and the kids are in bed and I’ve just removed a load of fresh washing from the newly wall-mounted clothesline and I’m feeling kind of jazzed because even though it was my my father-in-law who actually erected the clothesline, I could still look everyone in the eye and say, ‘I am unable to use the drill’ without inferring any lack of skill on my part.
‘It’s starting,’ RM yells.
I postpone the task of sorting the clothes into their person-assigned piles and jump on the couch for the start of Episode Six of House Husbands.
‘So, are you happy Dad put the clothesline up?’ RM asks.
‘I can’t describe the relief and elation adequately,’ I say. ‘And to top it off, your missing tool gave me the opportunity to watch him mount the clothesline with his own drill, without any sense of shame.’
There’s a pause before RM says. ‘That is such a dodgy line.’
‘What… watch him mount the clothesline with his own drill?’
‘I could follow up with some lewd one-liner about you being a clothesline and me being a drill,’ I say, ‘but I won’t because a Reservoir Dad Facebook Fan – Pauline McKenzie – posted a comment on my wall only minutes ago. Here, listen,’ I say, as I pull my iPhone from my back pocket. ‘Dear RD… well, it’s Sunday night and I’m eagerly awaiting HH. It can never come soon enough. I have to say though, that you have somewhat spoiled it for me. As I watch, I am reminded that you are trying to seduce RM, as well as make notes on the show. I’d really like to watch it without that on my mind!!!’
RM laughs dismissively.
‘I feel honour bound to make the viewing of House Husbands as enjoyable as possible for every Reservoir Dad Facebook Fan,’ I tell her. ‘So there will be no overpowering seductional moves from me tonight.’
‘Oh, you will try to seduce me,’ she says, nonchalantly.
As Reservoir Mum’s leg snakes its way into my lap there’s a confronting dining table scene between Lewis and his pregnant daughter Phoebe. She’s young, and furious with everything, and while her entire family thought she was travelling in Germany she was actually living in Frankston with her boyfriend, getting pregnant. Several minutes after the dining room scene Lewis is trying to convince Phoebe to get in the car so they can go tell her Mum about the pregnancy. There’s a tense stand off between the two of them.
‘That was so well done,’ I say, at the first add-break. ‘Lewis is the typical ‘emotionally cautious’ older man. You know there’s a depth of feeling in there but he just can’t access it. He’s been conditioned to suppress feelings – or at least to not reveal them. But you could see him really trying with Phoebe…’
Reservoir Mum moves her foot in attention-grabbing circles and makes a sound that reminds me of Marylyn Monroe standing over a gusty grate. I feel myself beginning to pant and it’s getting difficult to focus on this week’s review.
As Lewis battles to find the best way to guide himself and his daughter through a very challenging time he delivers some lines that I really struggle with. He tells Phoebe he didn’t feel qualified to raise her because she was a girl, and when she confesses she doesn’t know how men work, he counsels her by saying, “Most of the time they don’t work. We just wait to be told what to do by the women we love.”
‘You’d hate that line,’ RM says.
‘Yeah,’ I say. ‘Still, that is Lewis, isn’t it? He’s the man stuck in the stereotype – but you can see its painful impact on him, and his need for something more. He’s taking on the ‘at home’ role and its forcing him to do something he’s not well practiced at – expressing emotion. When he feels out of his depth he falls back onto his narrow idea of manhood and his belief that women are superior in terms of nurturing and caring and resolving emotional issues. But you can see the potential there. He’s starting to open up…’
‘That sounds really review-y,’ RM says, using both feet on me now.
‘The point is, Gary Sweet’s character pissed me off in the first episode but I feel I know him better now. He’s doing okay. He’s softening up. Being a House Husband is allowing Lewis the chance to become a more complete man. A real human…’
As I finish that mini-rant Lewis is handing Phoebe some cabbage to put on her pregnancy-tortured breasts.
‘That reminds me of when you did the breast pad review for me,’ RM says.
‘Actually, that was mostly for my benefit,’ I say.
RM laughs as we watch Lewis and Gemma get married and I feel great that Phoebe agrees to move in with them because that means Lewis will soon have a baby in his life, and when House Husbands ends to a musical montage dance-off for the second week in a row (and as RM continues to manipulate me podiatric-ally) I daydream into a melancholic, erotically-charged wonderland.
‘Oh well, you better write your review or you’ll be up all night,’ RM says, suddenly, removing her feet and raising her eyebrow at me.
I shimmy across the couch and wrap my arms around her but my early evening plan to just cuddle her has been overwhelmed by something more urgent and even though I bite my lip and try to think of unsexy things and worry that Reservoir Dad Facebook Fans might be getting bored with the same seduction sub-plot that appears in almost every House Husbands post I write, I am stereotypically unable to resist.
‘I’ll be the drill and you be the clothesline!’ I gush. ‘Or you be the drill and I’ll be the clothesline. Just as long as there’s some mounting going on… I don’t really care.’
‘But what about Pauline McKenzie?’ she says, smiling.
‘Well, I haven’t really seduced you’, I say. ‘Technically, you just seduced me.’
‘Technically…’ she says.
‘Now,’ I say. ‘I don’t want to wreck this particular drill bit. Do you think I should use the hammer function?’
*Picture credit for Pics 3 and 4: Giovanni Lovisetto for Playmaker Media.