'I've got serious concerns about your temper.'
This was the frosty text Shug sent after our big fight. There’d been tension between us since the baby talk and it was inevitable it would spark up into a tremendous row.
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I’d embarrassed him by saying there was no chance of a baby by his 50th, but what else could I have done? I couldn’t have misled him about something so important; I had to tell him straight, and he’d been cold with me ever since.
I thought the explosion, when it came, would be sparked by his shaky ego, his mid-life crisis, the uncertain future before us, but it wasn’t. Knowing Shug, I should’ve guessed it’d be caused by nothing other than a big frilly dress.
We had tickets for the Club Noir burlesque night and had arranged to go as Scarlett and Rhett. I’d be a vampish Southern belle whilst he’d don a white suit and Panama hat, with a cigar clenched between his teeth.
I found the perfect Scarlett dress online: a replica of the tumbling, flouncing thing she wears in the opening scene of the film.
I did some quick sums to see whether I could afford the dress and still eat. It seems I couldn’t, but didn’t care. The expensive dress was ordered, along with a massive hat, lace gloves and a crimson parasol.
On the morning of Club Noir I went to get my hair done in dashing Southern Belle curls. The stylist worked her magic while I sipped my complimentary fizz and babbled on about my costume. The dress, I told her, was layer upon frothy layer of crisp white taffeta, nipped in at the waist with a black velvet belt.
I had red velvet slippers to peep out beneath the frills, I said, and a tiny parasol to twirl. I might take a fan: maybe that’s too much, but then you can’t be too much at Club Noir, can you?
My daft chatter was interrupted by a text from Shug. I wonder what he’s saying? Maybe he can’t tie his silk cravat? Maybe his hat won’t sit at the right jaunty angle? I opened his text: Changed my mind. Going as The Village People instead.
I still went to Club Noir with him that night. I could have snapped and told him to forget it and raged and stamped, but that would just have meant that I spent Saturday night alone, all dressed up with nowhere to go, whilst he strutted his stuff in his cowboy hat and Rimmel eyeliner.
No. If I throw a tantrum then Shug wins. So, I applauded his sartorial decision and went home to throw on an old corset and some feathers. I had a good time that night, but underneath the feathers a slow rage was rising. How dare he? He knew the money I’d spent on that ridiculous dress. He knew how I was looking forward to it. To have it all trashed, at the last minute, for The Village People?
And he had all the togs ready so must have planned this in advance. You don’t just wake up one morning, yawn, stretch and go ‘Know what? Think I’ll dress up as The Village People?’ He must have sneakily ordered those mirrored shades, those handcuffs and that Indian head-dress. He must have arranged it all, and then waited till the very morning of Club Noir to deliver his wee coup de grace.
And why? To punish me for humiliating him; for refusing him a slabbering baby; for failing to defuse his mid-life crisis. He whipped away something I wanted, just as I whipped away his chance of a baby by his 50th. He has settled a score. He just happens to be settling it in tight leather chaps.
So, I swallowed my temper and didn’t tell him what I thought of his shabby trick. No, I won’t get annoyed. It’s OK that I can’t return the dress as it was ordered from South Carolina, and it’s OK that I’m on Asda Value noodles for the rest of the month.
No, don’t get angry. Don’t log on to Facebook and see photos of him cavorting in his Village People gear. No, no, don’t get angry. God damn him, that’s it!
I grabbed my phone and rang him. God help him when he answers! Enough of his sulking! Enough petty behaviour! It went to voicemail. I spat out a message filled with pent-up rage and hard observations about his character and how leather chaps do not flatter his frame.
Then, the maddeningly calm text appeared from him: I’ve got some serious concerns about your temper.
We met up a few times after that, but it all felt washed-out and futile. Ever since the baby talk, he had gone cold on me. I could understand how he may have felt slighted, but I couldn’t accept his childish reaction and allowing me to spend a fortune on that dress while, all along, knowing he had no intention of being Rhett to my Scarlett.
I told him it was over. I felt sorry for him: now he’ll never get that baby, but maybe he’ll still get the vintage Land Rover.