It’s 7AM and I’ve been up for an hour and fifteen minutes when Reservoir Mum wanders into the kitchen. Her baggy aqua-blue PJ’s are complimented by the cutest of accessories – our 11 month old baby, Maki. I’m wearing my red and green chequered pyjama pants but I’ve decided to hold out on a t-shirt this morning because I’ve been working out like a demon, my abs are peaking, and I want RM to see.
‘You pull the waistband of your pants back like this,’ I say to her, as she turns off the central heating and shakes her head. ‘If you see penis and testicles you’re a man. Whatever you decide to do with your life, whatever role you take on, won’t change that fact.’
‘Are we talking about Mark from House Husbands again?’
‘We’re talking about his father in law,’ I say, returning my attention to the school lunches. ‘His comment – as long as you can wake up in the morning feeling like a man – pissed me off. But I thought Rhys Muldoon’s response was perfect – I feel pretty masculine first thing in the morning. And most of the day actually.’
‘You should call Rhys Muldoon by his character’s name otherwise it gets confusing,’ she says, handing over Maki.
‘I can call him Rhys now,’ I say, slightly affronted. ‘We’re Twitter mates. He replied to one of my witty comments this week with a really clever emoticon.’
‘He has about 15,000 followers,’ she says, slapping me on the arse. ‘He’s not really that into you.’
Archie’s kicking a lightweight plastic ball around the kitchen and Tyson is running after him, screaming for his turn. RM heads back down the hall to get ready for work as I realise two important things – Maki is still feeling hot and RM didn’t notice my abs. I pull some Nurofen from the kitchen cupboard, dose Maki, and after placing him in the high chair for some breakfast, wriggle my PJ bottoms down a tad, to expose my V-lines for her return.
Twenty minutes later, the school and kinder bags are packed, Maki is recovering and cruising from couch to TV cabinet and back again and Lewis is lining up his new Army Men set on the island bench. I’ve just asked Archie to do his teeth for the twelfth time, when RM walks back into the kitchen dressed all corporate and sexy.
I stand up from under the kitchen table with a cloth full of spilt Nutri-Grains and walk to the kitchen sink flexing my entire mid-section, curling my hips forward slightly for maximum affect.
I try not to sound breathy and strained as I say. ‘Speaking of naming issues, it’s a pain in the ass that Gary Sweet’s character is named Lewis. How can I talk about our five year old son Lewis, and Gary Sweet’s House Husbands character Lewis in the same post?’
‘You just have to call the House Husbands Lewis, Gary Sweet,’ she says.
‘But won’t that get confusing?’ I ask.
‘It’ll be less confusing than having two Lewis’s,’ she says.
With my back turned I release my abs, take a big breath, and then flex again as I face her. ‘I was thinking… that if they ever want to do flashbacks into Gary Sweet’s past, I could easily play his younger self because I’m bald and that makes us almost identical.’
‘Is that why you’re talking all gruff like that?’ she asks, fixing herself some breakfast.
‘Um… yes,’ I say, as I fart and blame one of the kids. ‘So, in this week’s review I’d really like to focus on the relationship between Gary Sweet and Julia Morris’s character Gemma.’
‘Sounds good,’ RM says.
Archie finally heads off to do his teeth and I yell out for him to also find his shoes just as I spot Tyson banging Maki repeatedly on the head with the plastic ball. By the time I’ve scooped Maki up, walked Tyson to the Time Out mat, and headed back to the kitchen, I’ve forgotten all about my abs and the effort required to harden them like armour.
‘I was really warming to Gary Sweet’s character last week,’ I continue. ‘But now I feel wary of him again. I get that he’s new to stay-at-home-dadding and that he’s struggling a bit. But in episode three we saw him ditch his daughter at her concert, flirt with a female Real Estate Agent, skirt around significant relationship issues, and respond to Gemma’s genuine anguish and doubt with corny one liners…’
‘Yeah,’ RM says. ‘He was a little bit sleazy… if he’d been threatening me with jumping from a balcony, like he did in the proposal scene at the end, I would have just said, go for it. It’s not like he’d really jump.’
‘And then Gemma accepts his proposal!’ I say.
Tyson runs down the hall yelling, ‘Toilet, Daddy!’ several times. RM follows as I head down to assist.
‘So we have this man behaving very badly, incredibly self-centered and being rewarded for crazy, sleazy behaviour. First, all is forgiven because he folds three towels and then he wins the hand of his supposedly hard to impress wife by threatening to commit suicide.’
I help Tyson down from the toilet and set him free to his favourite past time of havoc-causing and as I watch RM head down to the study to gather some things I wonder if maybe she’s seen my abs but has simply not commented on their impressive condition because I’ve been talking so much. And then I wonder why I don’t just say, ‘Hey, what do you think of my abs, RM? I’ve been working out a lot. Aren’t they impressive?’ And then I get hit in the back of the head with the plastic ball and hear three of my four boys laughing. After mock-chase-murdering them for a few minutes I tell them the TV can be turned on. While using my free arm to make my pre school run coffee I settle on a funny thing about relationships – sometimes the thing that needs to be said is really hard to say.
‘I think I’m possibly being hyper-critical,’ I say, as I feel RM’s arms snake around my waist. ‘I mean, I’m not really sure… but what I do like about Gary Sweet and Gemma’s relationship is that they’re suffering a tension that almost every couple has experienced at one time or another.’
‘What’s that?’ RM says, rubbing a hand up and down my stomach, slowly.
I tense again, encouraged. ‘They’re both desperate to make up – to be happy – but too reluctant to take that first decisive step; to say I’m sorry, I’m scared, I’m not sure I can do this, I’m not sure how to make this work. And now they’ve dodged the issues by stumbling into an engagement. Mark my words, RM; Gary Sweet and Gemma are nowhere close to sorting out their issues.’
‘Words marked,’ she says. ‘I better get to work. Text me?’
‘Hey,’ I say, stopping her as she heads over to say goodbye to the boys. ‘I really want you to notice my abs… I’ve been working out… no one ever sees them but you so I’m kind of reliant on your… acknowledgment.’
‘They look great,’ she says. ‘I’ve been noticing them, don’t worry.’
My stomach muscles shudder as I am overwhelmed with relief. ‘If you could use one word to describe them what would it be?’
‘Armour,’ she says. ‘And you can stop doing the Gary Sweet voice now.’