Dear Uma: Pete left to go back to work today. I am worried about him; something is different about him, and I think I know what it is.

Dear Uma:

Pete left to go back to work today.

I am worried about him; something is different about him, and I think I know what it is. The problem may be unsolvable; I suspect it is not peculiar to Pete but may well be on its silent way to becoming pandemic.

Pete and I’d fallen into a pattern, it seems, organically (meaning naturally) designed to accommodate his two weeks in, two weeks out working schedule and, while I recognized it had some flaws, on the whole I thought it worked just fine.

It went thusly:

Day One: great joy on both our parts at being reunited (usually lasting for about eight hours and celebrated by wine).

Day Two: Pete gets up earlier than I do — much earlier — and in an effort to make the most of our first day together he brings me tea in bed and urges me to join him in a walk or a drive. He only does this on the morning of Day Two because I have become accustomed to reminding him every two weeks that I do not like a) being awakened early, b) drinking in bed.

By dinner I am thoroughly out-of-sorts and struggling to maintain a pleasant manner in keeping with happy co-habitation because I have forgotten (maybe marriage is like childbirth is reported to be: no memory of the experience between events) that Pete doesn’t use coat hangers or closets. He prefers to hang his clothes on hooks, doorknobs, furniture or over the tops of doors — any hooks, knobs, furniture or doors anywhere in the house, not just the ones in the bedroom where one might expect to see clothing and underwear hanging. It is not unusual to find his socks hanging over the back of a kitchen chair. Jeez!

He also likes to eat at the table, set with dishes and cutlery, and he likes me to eat when he does — an expectation I find (only on Days Two and Three) unreasonable to the point of downright weird.

Just before dinner on Day Two we get in an argument about something inconsequential.

Day Three: all is on the way to bliss again and we have a lovely time until…

Day Fourteen: when we part with regret, mixed with a trace of relief because we have usually had another argument about something forgettable.

This time was different. I had to work the night of Day Three, and Pete, unbeknownst to me, carefully observed and noted my pre-work ritual.

It cannot be earlier than midnight that I sit down at my desk.

There must be a large red mug of Tetley’s tea, bag in, to cool on the left hand side of the computer exactly in the middle of a tea-stained white cotton napkin.

I must be wearing the white fleece hair band, and the sweatpants that are now 11 years old and perfectly worn. The red cotton sweater, same vintage as the sweatpants, must be on inside out, with the cuffs rolled exactly three times. And, on my feet, two pairs of wool socks.

The CD player volume control is at three and plays Bent Fabric piano tunes.

A small glass bowl containing M & Ms (all red), and exactly three pieces of old and hardened black licorice are on the floor to the right of my chair — the idea being that hunger will force me to take breaks and stretch at the same time.

On the floor to the left of my chair is a white plate with mint leaves on it. I like to crush and smell them once in awhile, a habit that has developed since I quit smoking.

It’s hard to believe all this had evolved without my having any conscious knowledge of it. It was all done every work night without thinking, my mind being occupied with the work ahead.

 “At least I don’t have to write with my feet in a tub of cold water,” I yelled when he’d described what he’d seen. I was feeling embarrassed and defensive, naturally.

“I think that was a composer,” Pete replied, and the argument commenced.

When the dust had settled, Pete bravely pointed out that this, too, occurred regularly: before dinner on Day Two I would predictably “pick a fight” which meant that night and most of Day Three would see us being prickly and unaffectionate.

He wanted to know how we could break this pattern and learn to appreciate and enjoy every moment of our two weeks together.

Before I could properly wind up in furious denial, I saw the truth of what he’d said and felt obliged to acknowledge not only was he right, but he was exhibiting a new awareness and sensitivity in this attempt to make our relationship better, to work at it.

We had a quiet talk about it; we may even have “dialogued.”

I realized I did harbour some resentment at my routine being upset, even though I loved Pete and looked forward to his homecomings.

Pete confessed it’d been a worry with him from the beginning, the two weeks on, two weeks off arrangement. He knew I’d been a person who’d lived alone happily and successfully until just a few years ago and he was afraid I would find I liked a solo life better than life with him.

Uma, I don’t think Pete and I have had a discussion about “our relationship” in the four years we’ve had it. And to have it initiated by him, to learn he has even had these thoughts, these fears, these emotions, caused me some anxiety.

I recognized the symptoms.

I realized Pete is manifesting the behaviour being noticed more and more by women all over the country, and I know the root cause of these actions, this upsetting of the natural order of things.

It’s the water, that newly discovered water resource: treated wastewater recharged into drinking water.

Our drinking water has become impregnated with estrogen, a byproduct of birth control pills.

Simply put, women take the pill, piss the estrogen into the water system and men drink it.

Whether they drink water or beer, they are getting pumped full of estrogen — it’s a feminist plot of gargantuan proportions, and it is succeeding.

Uncontrolled estrogen infiltration of drinking water is leading to changes in the behaviour of men. We are looking at a paradigm shift, leading away from the dominant power base in this country.

Patriarchal advantages are being pissed away while the process of men getting in touch with their feminine side is being accelerated.

“We think it will really help men in their struggle to see it our way,” says an ultra-feminist friend of mine, who is jubilant at this turn of events.

Pete is a huntin’, fishin’, sports-watching man; when he wants to talk about our relationship it is a sure sign the water is winning. And now what? Will he want to have his chest waxed before we go to Mexico?

I have heard about metrosexuals; being a woman who often forgets to comb her hair, I have never felt even the teeniest desire to live with a man who gets manicures and pedicures regularly, or who dyes his expensively-styled hair and wears makeup.

Pete would look horrible in anything pink, or even pale yellow. And paisley would make him look fat.

It seems we’d better all get used to it; the feminization of men has been happening for some time now and has recently reached a new high with the marketing of the “Bro” — a bra for men. There is already talk of matching panties.

I am not ready for this, but we can hardly prevent the men in our lives from drinking water, and no way will we be able to persuade them that beer is bad for them.

There’s nothing to do but raise a glass with the man of our choice, trying to warn him with a toast: “Drink! And be Mary.”



Heather Bennett is a

writer who lives in Watson Lake.

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