The Trouble With Men!
“All men are bastards”, stated Blanche although she did look around at her captive audience for confirmation. Captive in the fact that all eight ladies were sat round a large circular table in a rather crowded restaurant.
It seemed the other seven ladies were in agreement though some, perhaps, more convinced than others.
“Well”, she continued, “Perhaps I should have said they are an extremely annoying species. The ones that drive us mad have to be got rid of – divorce I mean”, she added quickly seeing nervous Mavis look horrified. Whilst the ones that are not too bad, and that we can cope with, leave us by dying. Of course, I suppose I should mention the ones who we’re really into but decide we irritate them, so they beggar off as well. That covers all of us I think”, she glanced around at the other seven faces. They all nodded in agreement except one, Sandra. Blanche just about heard the low, resigned sigh coming from the direction of said Sandra and immediately felt contrite. “Sorry, old thing, I didn’t mean to leave you out. You’re the poor sod that no man wanted aren’t you?”
Oh dear, she really wasn’t very diplomatic or, perhaps, she was just thoughtless, but she did get carried away when she got on her band wagon. However, this time the collective gasps were easily audible. “Oops, I’ve done it again haven’t I? Put my big foot in it. I really am sorry Sandy, you know I love you and would never hurt you. Of course, you would have come under the “widow” category if your poor fiancée hadn’t done a runner at the wedding with that sexy bridesmaid, only for them both to come to a sticky end when they hit the runaway horse on the A1 on their way to Gretna Green. Ironic really that a runaway couple should brought to a sticky end by a runaway horse!”. This time nobody laughed, and she was unaware that the hole she was digging was getting bigger by the minute.
At that point the waiter came for their order, giving everyone a chance to breathe out and regroup.
They were all single ladies of a certain age, still attractive and with plenty of life in them, who had small private pensions, and so came out to lunch a couple of times a month. They decided to call themselves ‘The Crazy Gang’ when putting meeting dates on their calendars. After all it sounded better than ‘Silly Singletons’ and, as they hadn’t all experienced divorce or widowhood, they decided against ‘Dizzy Divorcees’ or ‘Merry Widows’!
Today they had decided to make a do of it by having lunch first and then driving to a nearby town for an afternoon tea dance at the Community Centre. Even if there weren’t any suitable men – which was highly likely, there were eight of them so could easily pair up with each other and go around the floor like Joyce Grenfell’s “two stately galleons”.
Between mouthfuls of food, Blanche managed to get back on her soap box regarding men. She always professed annoyance with, and having no need for, men. True she had been hurt in her life or rather let down by a “few” husbands, but she really had loved Bernard who, unfortunately she had found too late in life to have more than three years with him, before he was suddenly taken.
Now, because she knew nobody could ever take his place, she bluffed her way along, being disparaging of men, not wanting to reveal her inconsolable grief at his loss and, anyway, sarcasm usually got a laugh. In the same way that they all wrinkled their noses up at the mention of sex – “Ugh can’t be bothered with that, give me chocolate anytime” was their usual retort, including hers. However, she knew she was lying and suspected some of the others might be as well. Why couldn’t they just admit they had enjoyed, and missed, love (when it was there) and sex with their partners – even the scoundrels who got away!
“So ladies”. Blanch brought them to heel. They stopped their chattering and looked expectantly at her. “Just for a bit of fun, let’s go around the table and tell all on our irritating other halves, except yours Sandy as he was perfect until his getaway!”
Sandy managed a wry grin. “That’s what everybody thought, but Simon wasn’t perfect, came the reply. “He never really seemed to listen to me, or if he did he didn’t answer as if he had. I might explain something to him in great detail and he would just answer with a “hmmm” which meant I didn’t know whether he had heard me or not, or even understood what I was saying. They say about being a man of few words don’t they? Well he was that man and it drove me mad!”
They were surprised to hear Sandy speak up against her long-lost love, to the extent that Mavis, who was sitting next to her, put a comforting arm around her shoulders.
“Typical”, piped up Joanna, who had been rather quiet up until then. “Joe just couldn’t see the point in having a dog and barking himself – not that he ever called me a dog, but you know what I mean”, she laughed. “He thought the “house” was a woman’s domain, even though I went out to work. However, as it was only part time he still assumed I could do everything around the place. No that’s not quite true, he did the “manly” jobs – DIY, looking after the car etc, but he could never tidy anything away as he always knew I’d go along clearing up behind him! He would walk past the bin and leave his rubbish on the side, or try to throw it in and miss completely, leaving it where it fell. He would walk past the sink to put a dirty plate on the worktop instead of just leaving it in the sink!”
“Perhaps he thought that was getting too close to actually washing it up”, interjected Liz.
“That’s definitely a man thing as Larry was the same with putting dirty dishes next to the dishwasher and not in it. He would also leave empty wrappers from cakes and biscuits in the tins – again, like Joe, the bin was just another action too far”. Mind you he always blamed the kids but I didn’t believe him.”
“Duncan’s faults were all upstairs,” at last Daphne got her turn. “It was the usual you know – toilet seat left up and even toothpaste left on his toothbrush. He couldn’t close any door or drawer he opened, and no dirty clothes ever made it to the linen basket. After his shower the wet towel would be dropped on the bedroom floor until I picked it up. And as for asking him to wipe the shower screen down after he’d finished – I might just as well have been talking to a brick wall. He always blamed it on forgetfulness. Of course, as he then went on to develop dementia he might actually have been right!”
The ladies weren’t sure whether they should acknowledge Daphne’s attempt at humour – if indeed it was. But when they realised the sides of her mouth were turning up into a smile they allowed themselves to chuckle along with her.
As the laughter died down Kate stepped in with “my pet hate was the way Kevin always felt the need to be master of the car even when I was driving. When I was the passenger, I did the navigating and let him get on with diving…….. well until he did something silly and then I might just point it out!”
Kate waited while an understanding giggle echoed around the table.
“The thing that bugged me was his need to acknowledge another driver, even though I was capable of doing it for myself. For example, on one holiday, while I was driving down a narrow country lane, a bloke driving a huge macho piece of farm machinery all but trampled over the hedgerow pulling in to let me pass – so I waved to thank him. Kevin also waved, and it felt like he was saying ‘thanks, old boy, for letting the little lady through, she’s doing ok but this might have unnerved her and she might forget to wave’. Is this just my feminist feathers being ruffled?” She could sense they weren’t all on her side, but it used to irritate her and that’s all that mattered as far as this conversation was concerned!”
Frances was the next to air her grievances, “Fred used to sit there all day but the minute I started to do something he would immediately look up with a surprised look and say ‘oh I was just going to do that,’ yeah right! Then when he did do something I’m sure a thank you wasn’t enough – he would have liked a round of applause or a medal!”
“I had the reverse of that.” Interrupted Liz remembering Larry’s other annoying habits. “Every time I might just remind him of something he’d not got around to doing, he’d always say he was going to do it in a minute. Obviously, he had no conception of time or how long a minute was! And he was always asking me to sort my stuff out as it wasn’t enough for him that he had the whole garage, the drive, three covered areas outside, two sheds and part of the loft for his use, he still wanted me to clear out my stuff to give him even more space for his paraphernalia!”
As Liz stopped to draw breath Frances coughed, ready to carry on, as all eyes turned to her. “When the children were tiny, and I’d had them all day, I’d get them to bed before Larry got home (he did work long hours), the meal would be ready, and I would finally sit down to watch tv while he showered and changed. It really got to me when he then parked himself on the sofa, took the control and changed the channel. When I’d say excuse me I was watching that, his answer was that I’d had all day to watch tv…….……as if!
To be fair though, on his days off he would get up with the children, so I could have a lie in. Suited him as he could then watch anything he wanted, golf, footie or whatever, without having to put up with my grumbling! So we at least managed to compromise on something. Though I think it was weighted in his favour as I lost my tv but got a lie in and he got all the tv he wanted!” She could see that the others agreed but, hey ho, it was all water under the bridge now.
Mavis, looking nervous as usual, realised it was her turn and then they’d be back to Blanche, so she started by saying quietly “Malcolm really got on my nerves when he ate. He was so noisy. He had had an accident to his jaw in his youth that left him with a bit of a click when he ate. Also the minute he put food in his mouth he felt the need to say something and I got a full view of what he was eating. Made me feel sick. Crisps weren’t good either and as for Crunchy Cornflakes – I used to wish they’d never been invented!” The rest of the ladies laughed, surprised at Mavis coming out with something humorous. She was usually so quiet and mousy, probably because Malcolm had been so dominating towards her. She carried on “sometimes he’d put scary films on tv and then fall asleep. I know he didn’t really like me going to bed before him, so I used to have to sit through them, sometimes scared stiff.” She bowed her head remembering and the mood at the table dropped.
So it was back to Blanche to finish. She couldn’t really think of anything suitable to lighten the atmosphere so just said “My second husband once told me he was putting a remote start on my car as a Christmas present. I was so excited. I waited and waited. Two months after Christmas I asked him about it. He said that he had just told me that so I’d think I was getting something. At first it really hurt me but then I got mad and knew that it was just another reason why I didn’t want someone like that in my life. Phew we certainly opened a can of worms there ladies. How about we go and enjoy some music?”
There were quite a few other people enjoying the tea dance when the ladies arrived. They made quite an entrance, coming in laughing and joking, having lightened their spirits on the drive there. They glanced around, saw a nice circle of chairs by a bay window and made straight for it. Having got settled with their cups of tea, they looked around as they waited for a suitable dance to get up on to the floor for.
Suddenly Blanche whispered, “omg ladies, straight ahead”. They couldn’t believe their eyes. Across the room was a group of very nice-looking gentlemen. They were all ‘fit’ as they say nowadays – not that the ladies were looking for that having spent the last few hours thinking about all the things they didn’t like about men – and surely all men would be the same anyway!
As the tallest, most handsome, man came towards them Blanche added under her breath, “hell – I now know what today’s young ladies mean by fanny flutters!” Needless to say a few cups of tea were choked on causing hot tea to spray all over the table, followed by gales of knowing, feminine laughter.
The tall gentleman headed towards Blanche. He held out his hand to introduce himself “Andrew” he said shaking hands with Blanche who was, by now, standing “Hello, Blanche, nice to meet you Andrew” she answered.
At this point other members of his party wandered across the room to join the ladies. He explained that they were all from a Probus club about 30 miles away. As they were the only unattached members of the club they had decided to have a “boys’ day out” and thought a tea dance would be something different to do.
Blanche, along with her friends, was more than happy with that decision and said as much as he guided her on to the dance floor. Wow, she thought, it’s a long time since I’ve been held in a man’s arms, and I’d forgotten how good it feels. It felt even better as they waltzed around the floor in complete harmony as if they’d been doing it for years. She glanced at her friends, now also paired off, noticing they seemed equally happy. She allowed herself to relax and leant slightly against his firm body only to feel his strong arms tightening even more around her waist.
“Mmmmmm perhaps there are still some good men around after all,” she murmured softly into his shoulder, knowing, in her heart, that Bernard would be happy for her if that was so.