What I particularly love about the holiday season is that it brings out the best traits in a truly dysfunctional family.
Not exactly what’s going down at Dysfunctionality House.
This holiday has been a strange one, where the old man and I have found ourselves on the cusp of empty-nesting, yet not quite there yet.
The house has felt very empty without the smell of burnt toast to wake us, the sight of the back of NB’s head permanently in our fridge and giggling teenage girls ringing on the doorbell at 4am, while NC rock-collects in Thailand.
Kurt, meanwhile, has taken to only venturing out of his bedroom when he needs food, money or smokes.
My son’s complexion is turning a worrying shade of beyond-sallow from too little sun and I worry that he may develop Rickets soon if he doesn’t get outside. Even more concerning was when I did manage to bribe him down to the public pool the other day and he was physically tired within 50m of our house and then sunk to the bottom of the pool to contemplate life like Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate.
Typical teenager angst, or worrying reclusive tendencies, I’m not sure?
Which has left the old man and myself in the disconcerting position of having to entertain each other, without the freedom to completely do what we want because we still have to be responsible for the white hermit that resides in our attic.
More worryingly, given the choice I think we would both secretly be happy to do our own thing. It seems that we have reached that point in our marriage of comfortably taking each other for granted, so far without regret. I could quite happily tap away at the computer most of the day, eat chocolate, drink wine, read magazines and go for the occasional dip at the local pool; the old man could happily tap away at the computer, watch the cricket and nap.
But because this is our family holiday, an innate sense of duty to do things together has guilted us into making some effort.
Which puts the pressure on.
And nowhere is that pressure more apparent than when we are in the car together, en route to some exotic destination we feel we should visit.
It is in this very situation that I have borne witness to, several times at least this holiday, a demonstration of male pride at its finest.
Perhaps men are feeling a little less secure these days after Julia’s misogyny speech and Miley’s twerking session and feel the need to regroup and exert some authority again?
Because normally in our relationship, male pride only really comes to the fore in challenges of physical strength or getting technology to work – which I obviously allow. Opening jars, biting the tops off beer bottles, taking charge of the remote control or getting the Internet to work are all valid reasons for allowing a demonstration of male pride.
Where male pride is abused is when the old man is behind the wheel of the car. As was proven the other day when like a lion needing to remind his lioness of who is King of the jungle, the old man ended up making a fool of himself while trying to park the car at the beach.
Like many couples, there is an unspoken rule in our relationship that when we go anywhere together in the car, the old man drives.
Which used to work up until recently when our lifestyle and work roles changed with our move to the city. The old man now straggles runs to work and so rarely drives these days, whereas I do a lot of driving with my job.
And the old man’s limited experience on the roads this year shows has rendered his driving skills a little questionable, whereas I have become more anally anxious confident about driving.
And I admit that sometimes, when we are together in the car these days and he takes the wheel, I can become somewhat over-critical; some might even call it ‘cocky’.
Yet the old man still refuses to admit that I am now the better driver even though the evidence is stacked up against him, since I have only recently repaired, at great expense, several dents to the rear end of my car that were caused by his poor judgment and penchant for reversing into columns in car parks.
As you are all no doubt aware, parking within walking distance of any beach in Sydney over the Christmas vacation is impossible, but when you have a pussy for a parker, it is a no-go – (just saying, but I could have parked a bus in that space).
After only the first attempt to reverse into the space, the old man ordered me to get out of the car and direct him in. I offered to park the car instead…then very quickly got out of the car. Back out he went again and started reversing back in at completely the wrong angle again (unless his aim was indeed to run me down on the pavement).
I offered to park the car a second time.
By this time we were attracting an impressive array of cars behind us, all secretly hoping that the old man wouldn’t get in the space so that they could nab it for themselves. Under pressure now, he pulled out a third time and began hurriedly trying to reverse again and then stopped. This time I walked up to the passenger window to receive a succession of expletives – apparently he couldn’t see me through the rear window – my fault, of course. Back to the rear of the car I went again and attempted to direct him into the space but the car was now aiming directly for the tree next to me and the tension really began to mount. So I walked around to his door and signalled for him to (maybe) get out of the driver’s seat. His pride would have been less wounded if I’d shot an arrow straight through his heart. His impulsive reaction was to roar something incoherently yobbish at me that included lots of F words, slam the gearstick into ‘drive’ and speed off up the hill, leaving me stranded on the road.