Postures of Discontent

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I find myself in awkward situations all the time. I call these moments “postures of discontent”.

I wouldn’t mind so much if I knew I was the only one who feels them but the rest of the world seems to socially flow like soft reeds in a stream, gently caressing the water as it meanders past. I on the other hand am that shaking stick pointing backwards.

I was invited out to dinner at some new acquaintances the other night. There’s potential for friendship. I like this couple. They’re similar in age. We seem to share some values and humour. I arrived with a box of chocolates and some beers.

Should I have brought wine instead of beer? After all I will drink all of these.

Already I felt ill at ease but once inside I felt better.

To my mind the conversation was flowing. I was careful to ask questions and listen intently to the responses. I didn’t talk about myself unless invited to do so and even then kept a tight rein on it so as to not look too self-obssessed. These are tips my wife has given me due to the very many humiliations she has endured at my side.

Damn it I forgot to listen to her again. I’ll nod. Oops, I’ll frown and purse my lips. Got it!

We had some preliminary drinks and laughs on the veranda then went inside to eat. The meal was wonderful and I made sure I complimented the chef. I had a second serving to qualify my endorsement although the truth is my first loading of my plate was sparse as I didn’t want to appear too greedy.

Did I take too much avocado? Oh know it’s not ripe. Now I have to chew through eight pieces of rock.

“Brin the avocado is really unripe so just leave it.”
“No, it’s great!”

Oh no. Why did I answer with my mouth full? Now I’m choking!

I really didn’t want to be choking. There are times in my life when I quite like attention but this wasn’t one of them!

Why? Why?

There are bodily functions that refuse to be controlled; for long. Coughing is one of them.

The chef is a nurse and I would imagine that her instincts fired off as she has some 30 years of experience and has probably seen many people choke. I tried to gauge her demeanour but I couldn’t focus because my eyes were now watering. I would imagine she noticed the redness of my face and the fact that I wasn’t breathing whilst all the time appearing to remain attentive to her conversation.

I managed to ward it off until I sensed a pause in the conversation and when the cough did introduce itself its noise resembled the sound a cat makes when squeezed too hard by a loving toddler.

What the hell was that?.

Of course the body takes over at this stage and the innate need to sustain life refuses to give ground to petty social discomforts and could care less about impending embarrassment. A series of feline high-pitched explosions erupted. I frantically leaned to the left and was abruptly reminded of the leg-curl workout I had done that morning as my left hamstring went into violent cramp.

Did I just kick her or was that the table leg?

In more familiar company of course this would never have escalated as I would not have been so concerned about interrupting some cursory story to give a gentle cough followed by “What were you saying mate?”

Maybe the lesson here is to be more one ’s self however there’s danger in that and how far does one go in exposing one’s true self?

In time I recovered and the conversation continued but to my dismay the topic of what had just occurred didn’t present itself. I have witnessed this silent phenomenon before. I’m sure we’ve all heard someone pop off in unfamiliar company. This however accentuates the crime and unbearably focuses the limelight upon the perpetrator. I was asked if I would like a glass of wine now and I said yes.

On the other hand I was elated. This is a common sentiment following a near-death experience.

My host said he enjoys a glass of wine and a beer at the same time. I said “So do I.” and it looked as though we might even get a little tiddly together. Hell, a couple more wines and beers and we might even laugh at my distress earlier. I was encouraged.

Is she limping? Maybe I’m good at this social stuff now. Yes, I just told a joke and it was received really well. If they get to know me more they’ll love me for sure! I’m a great guy. I’ve left it too long to ask her if I kicked her.

“Another beer Brin?”
“Love one!”

Probably be best mates. Me, socially inept? HA! Should I ask? Will she see the humour in it?

Then the conversation stopped. No more beers or wine were offered and 3 of us sat at the table saying “Mmmmmmmm. Yes. Ha ha.”

It was all over.

If I get up from the table now my leg will cramp again but I think it’s time to leave!

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I’m Fat?

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I’m 53 years old. My body has advanced and matured.

My mind still sees me as I was at 25, six-packed and muscular. It is my belief that my mind and my eyes oppose each other at times.

Reality struck me in the face a few years ago when I had to have an insurance physical. My BMI suggested that I was obese (bloody statisticians)! I never really accepted that diagnosis as I lean towards denial in a few aspects of my life. Besides, I’m still quite muscular and I have a disproportionately large head. I should actually be 4 inches taller according to my head circumference.  These things are bound to upset the numbers somewhat.

If I look down to my toes I have to lean slightly forward. That’s because I have good posture.

If I ride my bicycle wearing those tight bike shorts I can feel the overhang of my belly. That’s because that particular bike is designed aerodynamically which forces the rider, any rider, to lean “way” forward for optimal performance.

I recently bought a couple of shirts for work. I had to get the XXXL size but that was because they are a “slim fit” according to the label. I avoid sitting down when I wear those shirts as there’s a design flaw that forces some gaping between the buttons when I do. I noticed someone looking the other day as I sat in front of them. I didn’t need to follow their gaze but they knew I knew.

When I sit down to put my shoes on I can’t breathe very well but that’s because the shoes are really difficult to pull over my heels and it’s like a daily aerobics session. The relief once they’re on is magnificent and almost worth those spots before my eyes.

The other day my daughter said, “My God dad, you look like you’re pregnant!” In my defense, I had just eaten a huge dinner of Indian food and everyone knows that the roti bread tends to bloat. Besides, I have a very elastic stomach.

I’m fat aren’t I!

A friend of mine has started a 90-day get healthy thing. I have been inspired by him! I started my 10 day juice fast yesterday. I began the day by drinking a litre of water with a squeeze of lemon in in. I was cleansing. Then I took a juicer to work and a stack of fruit and vegetables. I juiced all day. I felt great. I have will-power.  I knocked off at 6 pm, went home and scrutinized the fruit and veggies in the kitchen with which I would juice again. Carrot, oranges, broccoli, kale, beets, dates. I had it all.

My wife took the lid off the stew she had cooked for the kids. I love stew. If I look down at my toes today I can see them quite clearly and I’m hardly leaning forward at all.

Is that a hint of curry?

 

Idioms and Monocles

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When I speak to people cleverer than I am, I get a little intimidated and nervous and try to cover it by using idioms like A bird in the hand is worth 2 in the bush. Trouble is I use them in an untimely fashion thus evoking a look from the other person. I call that look the look of realisation that he’s an idiot.

It’s because I hate it that they’re cleverer than me. And I hate that they know it and I hate that they wouldn’t know it if only i had kept my mouth shut.

” So Brin that’s my take on the current political environment in Syria. What do you think?” says John.
” Well John, he who laughs last laughs longest!” replies Brin.

This tends to go on for 2 or 3 minutes.

There’s a tipping point though where I can sense that they are noticing and rather than stop while there’s still a slim chance of redemption, I up the ante. Now I don’t only draw on more meaningless cliches but (you guessed it) I proceed to mix similar ones together!

” I must say Brin, you have a lovely place here.” exclaims Mary with a smile.
” Thanks Mary and as the crow flies it’s worth 2 in the bush.” Brin replies to a look of confusion.

Conversations with these people don’t often last long because as they’re speaking to me I’m frantically trying to think of my next idiotic pearl of wisdom. I must say that speaking with smart people is exhausting!

The pain doesn’t last long as they usually walk away. But if they stay long enough they start to notice my pattern, and their look of realisation evolves into an irritating I’m amused at this guy now smirk. It’s subtle but it’s there.

I’ve become very good at anticipating this and sometimes find myself in an empty, darkened room where I feign I had to go to urgently get something.

On one such occasion the person I was speaking to followed me into the house so I unplugged a lamp and took it outside to the bbq area.

I feel so sorry for my wife because I’m sure she thought I was really smart when we first met and over the years she seems to have become much cleverer.

Lately I’ve been detecting the look of realisation  from her also. She began a conversation with me the other day about the ramifications of the new government’s policies on immigration.

Now there’s no lamp in the dining room either.

Man Flu and Silver Linings

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Man Flu and Silver Linings

I have the man flu. I don’t get sick very often and I am calling it man flu in an attempt to beat any women reading this to naming it before me. It is however much, much more serious than that.

I can remember a few days ago at work sneezing a lot. I remember thinking, “That’s strange.”
Then it hit me. I have now had 2 days off and am bored out of my skull.

I often find myself preaching. I will say things to people like,”There’s always a silver lining.” Or “The flu is a sign that you’re body is fighting well.” My body is fighting alright! The silver lining? Well let me list them in no particular order or level of importance.

1. I know exactly how many channels I have on pay TV. I am paying for many unnecessarily.
2. If I turn the TV on at 630am and watch Discovery Turbo, American Chopper is on.
3. If I have the ceiling fan on in the bedroom I can follow one blade during its revolution if it’s set at number 2. (I quickly stopped that as my eyes hurt to move).
4. I swear the carved turtle I have sitting on the shelf is watching me and does “stuff” when my back is turned but stops doing anything when it senses I am about to quickly turn around to “catch” it out.
5. I must have plenty of gas left in the cylinder after all as I left the oven on all night last night and it was still burning this morning.
6. I have reaffirmed the inkling that my daughter is a hoarder as I felt good enough today to attempt a short poke around in her room to pack more of her things to take home at Christmas. I walked back out of her room bewildered but firm in my conviction to lie to her face later.
7. I clearly need to make more friends that I can text with meaningless messages during times like this. Why do we not consider a grape to be a berry?
8. I look better naked in the mirror first thing in the morning than I do as the day progresses. (This is either because my eyes are cloudy first thing or I shrink under the forces of gravity throughout the day and therefore am beautifully stretched after the evening’s slumber).
9. I possibly look in the mirror too much.
10. People don’t post on facebook nearly often enough.
11. Watching Tammy Baker on the Church channel is some of the best entertainment I have ever had. What was wrong with her followers? How can a nation be so gullible?
12. The “Cami Shaper”as advertised, eliminates back fat, belly bulge and love handles, there are a number of ways to get rock-hard abs, some of them at only 5 minutes a day and there may still be a chance I can get my hair back.

As I write this I can feel myself getting better. No doubt tomorrow will find me back to normal life which is a shame really. Surely there’s more to learn!

Was that turtle facing that way last night?

FINGER-LICKIN” GOOD?

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FINGER-LICKIN

This is to be a short, yet shocking story.

Now I’m not all that squeamish really. I’ll gut a fish. I’ve changed hundreds of my children’s nappies. The sight of blood doesn’t make be feel weak. Hell I’ve even dissected cadavers at university. BUT THIS!!!

I had a comfortable half hour before I had to board the plane back to Honiara. Fast food in the Solomons doesn’t include Red Rooster. So I sat down in anticipation of enjoying a chicken strip wrap, chips and coke.

It was delicious although I wasn’t hungry in the first place. I scanned the other patrons to silently share their communal delight.

The man was about 60ish years old. A delightful fella with a twinkle in his eye and an obvious affinity for the exact meal I was devouring. A kindred spirit. A stranger I took a liking to immediately.

I’m a people watcher. If I could make a living out of speaking to nobody and silently watching people in airports all day I’d do it. I watch beautiful women. I watch teenagers getting their parents riled up. I love watching people late for a flight. I pride myself on being able to evaluate people-situations.

I watched this man.

He was so very fond of his caesar wrap that he embarked on a quite furious licking of his fingers.

I couldn’t help but watch. It was fascinating how much he loved his food. Endearing really. Lovely old guy! I liked his youthfulness. I am a good judge of character.

At that point I stopped chewing and did something I don’t believe I have ever done before. I left half of my food uneaten. Why?

He wasn’t licking his fingers. He had extracted his false teeth and was passionately licking THEM clean instead. Very clean. Top and bottom plates.

I may have misjudged him.

Tight-ropes, Sex-appeal and Insecurity

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Six feet tall.

Lightly tanned olive skin.

Broad-shouldered and sculpted

Full lips hinting of a ready and irresistible smile

Thick, wavy brown hair alive with an unencumbered and cheeky spring to it.

His entry into the lift at Princess Margaret Hospital for Children was as untimely as it was exciting. Untimely due to the emotional time-bomb ticking away in me and exciting, I know, for my wife standing  behind me just shy of my peripheral vision.

I am in the hospital where my daughter had been admitted some days prior after experiencing a serious, bone-breaking car accident and I’m extremely worried and upset for her. I’m on a tight-rope! I found her at the scene of the accident along with her three cousins and her best friend.

My emotions are all but spent. I’m sleep-deprived and ragged. I’m unkempt and in the same clothes as the day before and the day before that.

On top of that I’ve been questioning my attributes as a husband for some months now with a wife I am failing to please.  And worst of all, I have just been in the bathroom where a glimpse of myself in the mirror lends credence to the fact that this same wife had lied to me all those years with a seemingly innocent, albeit considerate “yes” each time I  asked her if I was better looking than the handsome actor before us on TV.

It’s amazing how much sediment boils its way to the surface at times like this. Jealousies re-ignite. Trivial emotions burst like boils. Suddenly I hate all my wife’s old boyfriends (and they’re nice guys) and memories, once benign, fester, crackle and metastasize. What did she really mean last year when she nonchalantly said, “Guys look better with their clothes on than off!”

At the time I confidently laughed with her whilst conveniently (and naively) changing her words in my head to, Other guys look better with their clothes on than off!”

Feeling like a defeated fighter after a twelve-round cage fight, I slouched against the wall of the elevator, haggard and gelded to await the next round of tears and anguish with my daughter as it approached ward 17 when suddenly a “ding” above signaled the impending arrival of another passenger. His entrance through the sliding doors was akin to a fresh fighter entering the cage to thump me all over again. He was beautiful. He was the picture I never was and had no hope of ever becoming and  as I fixed my sorry eyes upon him I knew with a defeated sigh that standing behind me my wife would be lovingly caressing him with her beautiful eyes but with an entirely different set of emotions and unwittingly making a lie of her clothing statement.

Then to add insult to injury his already gleaming list of gifts grew to include making his nurse’s uniform look sexy, remaining  casually and irresistibly aloof while he studied his clipboard, being just boy-next-door enough to be straight  and obviously loving kids as he worked in a hospital for children for God’s sake!

I didn’t look at my wife while we continued our journey to the ward. I was void of the strength needed to endure her attempt to hide what she couldn’t.

She has never mentioned him to me. Her considered silence; my fears confirmed!

 

 

Croc Advice and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

I like to swim in the Pacific. Unfortunately there have been recent crocodile sightings near my favourite playground so swimming there is frowned upon. I mentioned this to one of my Solomon friends who insisted on giving me the advice that (according to him) had worked for generations in his village. A sound “tradition” if you like! He told me that if I was to throw a 20 cent piece into the water prior to swimming, no crocodile would ever harm me. He insisted that it had to be a 20 cent piece, “not a 10 or 50 cent piece…only a 20.” 

Knowing my mind, I politely thanked him and continued with my day pondering one question after another as they manifested themselves. 

“That’s ridiculous….isn’t it?”

“He did say none of the children in his village were ever taken….coincidence?”

“Did his village have a large jar of 20 cent pieces strategically located at the swimming hole?”

“Was he joking (whilst playing with my life)?”

The most powerful question that developed however was “When were 20 cent pieces introduced to this developing country and how much tradition was actually linked to his claims?”

In the mean time I decided to go for a swim anyhow. Bugger it. A man cannot let fear rule his life, so I went to Kakambona beach, pulled my 20 cent piece from my pocket and threw it in with an eerie “plop”. 

As it flew through the air, I knew that this one small action was a mistake. Not because I didn’t believe the tradition; not because I had found out that coins were only introduced in 1977; not even because I knew there were crocs around but because I know that if I doodle on paper, I MUST balance that doodle left to right. I know that if I scratch my left thumb, I MUST scratch the right. I know that if one of my kids pushes the hair on my arms the wrong way I MUST smooth it down the other way (then do the same to the other arm). I cannot rest until it is done. Until now not many people know about my mild yet frustrating OCD affliction. And now? For the rest of my time swimming in Pacific waters, I must precede each plunge with an eerie, yet relatively cheap “plop.”Image