In most respects, my 11th wedding anniversary yesterday was like any other Sunday. Being a non-milestone anniversary, there were no family members from afar to help me celebrate, no status update on facebook to let the world know I was marking the occasion, not even a bunch of flowers from my husband who had woken before me, to play with Amanda’s Ipad.
I moseyed out of out bed at the regular time for a Sunday to find a text on my mobile from my parents, congratulating me on the occasion. Minutes later, while spying on friends over facebook, I received another text; this one from someone responding to my ad in gumtree for a small side table I had for sale. We exchanged a couple more texts and it was agreed that this person – whoever he or she is – would turn up at noon to claim the table.
I made His Royal Highness a bowl of instant oats and sat down to eat a whole chopped up pink grapefruit sprinkled with salty plum powder, before going to ready myself for the day. Employing my mother’s mantra of always looking presentable, I’ve taken care of my appearance for the past 11 years of marriage. So why should today be any different?
Very early in our marriage, His Royal Highness had remarked, “My aunt only wears make-up and dresses up for special occasions.”
With no disrespect to his Aunt, the woman who’d raised him alongside his grandmother, in place of his largely absent parents, I’d asked, “Are you married to your aunt?”
Subconsciously or otherwise, men expect their wives to be like their mothers. Women, brought up by other women, other mothers (if not we’d have incest), obviously have other ideas. It’s these other ideas that husbands and their families should be mindful of when welcoming a woman into the family. I felt that His Royal Highness and his family were out to impose their ideas on me; given I’m more stubborn than the average mule and was relatively young when we married, they were met with barely-concealed hostility.
We now get along a lot better, but it’s lot like we’re pally. The great part about having been married this long is that you’ve established that you’re no fly-by-night bimbo floozy their son/ brother/ nephew is seeing. If at all you’re a bimbo floozy, you’re his bimbo floozy. It wouldn’t do anyone any favours, least of all your in-laws, to be forgetting that.
As expected, someone turned up at noon to claim the small table we’d used for sitting the TV in our bedroom on. His Royal Highness gave me a hand with lifting the thing off, so I could grab the table from underneath. The person gave me $50 and left with his purchase. After that His Royal Highness, Amanda and I left the apartment in search of lunch.
“So what do you want to eat?” asked His Royal Highness.
“What I want to eat, you cannot eat,” I said.
He’d been having diarrhea for the past 3 days. In those 3 days, he had said more about the vicissitudes of his misbehaving bowel than I did of pain during the whole of childbirth. Even when I had food-poisoning for 6 days after consuming the leftover shrimp from Amanda’s 5th birthday party, where I made Vietnamese cold-rolls to mark the occasion, he had heard nary a word about my reddened bottom. Here he was like the sick man of Asia, Australia and Europe combined. If I were to make him take me to my favourite Indonesian restaurant near Amanda’s school, I’d never hear the end of it. He glared at me when I suggested he chop out his own goddamn bowel if it was giving him such strife.
“How about fish and chips at that shop,” he said.
That shop serves one of the best, if not the best, fish and chips in the whole of Brisbane. You don’t get much change from $40 for two people and you leave feeling half-full.
“You asked what I wanted. I don’t want fish and chips on my 11th wedding anniversary. Look, Indo was my first choice, African my second. Chicken Rice, which you complain about having to drive all the way to Sunnybank for, is my third.”
“But it just feels like I’m working all the time.”
“It’s your wedding anniversary mate. Chicken Rice and a bowl of soup is hardly a luxurious meal.”
On the contrary, I’d argue that Chicken Rice is the antithesis of luxury. It’s what we have most weekends when feeling homesick. Don’t even let me get started about the lack of flowers or a present.
“Fine, fine,” he said, driving us to Sunnybank.
After lunch, instead of driving us straight home, he took us to Orleigh Park, where he proceeded to relax while I had to accompany Amanda, first to the loo, and then to the playground. When we returned, he thoughtfully gave up his camping chair for me to sit on. He had a lie on the grass and soon, Amanda and I were begging to be taken home.
“But don’t you like this place?” he said.
“I do. But we just came last week.”
“Imogen. It was her birthday.”
“Amanda’s friend from school. This park here is where we come to for birthdays all the time.”
He seemed disappointed. “I thought it was special.”
“It is but…”
How do you tell your spouse the place is kid party special and not wedding anniversary special? It’s nigh impossible to be romantic with a seven year old there; even harder when you are in a field full of strangers eating hotdogs, talking and strumming guitars.
“Let’s go home,” he said.
At home, Amanda harassed me for a swim. It was a lovely day for it but I was too tired from the heat and lunch.
“Ask your father,” I told her.
He said, “Not today. Papa and Mama are celebrating their anniversary.”
He had her Ipad on his belly and I was half-way to siesta-land. Being a typical only child who is used to getting her way, she turned on the waterworks; sobbing first, then howling.
“Don’t make so much noise, Amanda,” I said. No way was I taking anyone swimming today.
She curled up beside me and continued whimpering until I don’t know when. I fell into a fitful sleep after that. When we rose hours later, she had that look that says, “We wasted a whole afternoon.”
She was right. This was certainly one of our less event-filled Sundays. Usually she and I take a stroll down to Southbank where we visit the market. Last month, His Royal Highness, Amanda and I had explored 7 of Brisbane’s 15 major bridges. Today was a nothing sort of day. I was anticipating another nothing sort of meal.
I really should stop whining. People in Africa are starving. Some are being recruited as child soldiers. My biggest gripe about the day was that this was a non-event event.
“Where do you want to go for dinner?” asked His Royal Highness.
“Anywhere is fine,” I said. The point for special had long since passed.
“Let’s go to Southbank since it’s a special event.”
We ended up at this Shanghainese restaurant His Royal Highness enjoys frequenting. We’d been there so many times that it felt like just another eatery to me. The food was all right but it didn’t shout celebration. He paid the bill and we went home to watch “Cello“, a Korean horror movie on my laptop. Amanda took her father’s laptop and went into the next room.
After “Cello”, I found us yet another Korean flick with English subtitles. This one was entitled “Invasion of the Alien Bikinis”. We watched for 10 minutes before deciding it was one of the most absurd movies we had ever seen, and we have seen lots.
I ran a search on youtube and came up with another Korean movie – 2006’s “Seducing Mr Perfect“, starring the infinitely delectable Daniel Henney. His Royal Highness got miffed at the crazy smile I had plastered on my face watching so left me with my laptop, while he cozied up to Amanda’s Ipad in bed. By the time Amanda and I went to join in him, it was 2am – he’d since turned in for the night.
That folks, is 11 years of marriage for you. Perhaps it is not representative of everyone’s marriages but I dare say, most long-married people have a story very similar to mine.