TFTT is the thing that happens when the husband (or significant other) travels for work and you claim the evenings (and the TV remote) for your own with a primal, decidedly unlady-like grunt and victoriously tune in to utterly tasteless TV and eat non-food for dinner. In my home that usually looks like 'The Mindy Project' and cereal. And I find, to my relief and delight, that I'm not the only one!
Not that I'm otherwise a domesticated kitten who puts on a pseudo-intellectual persona along with high heels to serve home cooked meals to the Lord and Master. I'm not the least bit ashamed of my penchant for chic lit and 'Grey's Anatomy'. OK, perhaps I am a little - but I openly indulge in it anyway and I bet I'm the quickest draw this side of town when dialing for take-out. Without apology - or the need for it, honestly, as hubby doesn't want a Stepford Wife in his life anyway or he wouldn't have picked me. Also, I’m usually doing him a favor with the take-out by sparing him both, my indifferent cooking and a demand that he make dinner himself .
Yet I and many other self-identified intelligent, liberated women confess to balking at revealing to our husbands the full extent of our bewildering superficiality. Besides, if they knew just how much we secretly enjoy 'Real Housewives...' it would be a devastating blow to image and entertainment all at once, because in addition to revealing an utter lack of personal taste, who would we make fun of now?!
Actually, I'm privileged to have Bollywood on tap, by virtue of my Indian heritage. The Hindi Film industry, through the beneficence of Netflix, offers a cornucopia of mindless delights at my virtual fingertips should the mood take me. Even if it comes at a slight attrition of my overall IQ by the end of the viewing experience. Watch anything starring Katrina Kaif or Imran Khan to get my drift.
To me though, that's the point.
Those days when I've spent so many of my waking minutes scheduling our lives and running around trying to enact said schedule (‘deploy’? feels like an act of war sometimes), all I want to do at day's end is go semi-catatonic and hear individual brain cells die with small popping sounds as inane sitcoms with canned laugh tracks give me an excuse to …Just. Sit. Still. And perhaps, sip something.
Single-parenting weeks when my husband travels for work, add an unquantifiable, mixed load on top. On the one hand they are wistful and void-like, in testimony to how indispensable he is to our collective peace and well-being. On the other, they remove the unuttered pressure to be a respectable human being.
For our 7 year old, his father-less days include much sighing and planning for 'When Baba returns...' including some entertaining if impractical ideas. Like the half eaten strawberry and frosting-free (read, licked-off) cupcake he had saved for days unbeknownst to me. 'Because the strawberry was SO sweet and he missed the cobweb cupcakes at the Halloween party and that's no fair!’ Or the smashed-to-atoms toy car squirreled away in his crayon tub that apparently his father would reassemble for him 'because engineers can do that'.
For me, they involve much deep-breath-taking and spirit(s)-fortification (we go through a lot of Tequila in this house) because of the sheer logistics involved. And the humbling realization that he ordinarily covers SO much of it with nary a cuss or sigh (unlike yours truly). I like to think my roaring tendencies come from having the lions share of parenting minutiae since I handle the after-school routine. But it really comes down to personality in the end, because my husband has the unenviable task of getting son ready for school every morning (shudder!). Except for when he's travelling - when I have that dubious privilege. (It has it's rewards too as the 7 yr old is softest, cuddliest and most amenable to hugs/kisses when he's only half-awake and unable to effectively defend himself.)
Single-parenting weeks, I rush through the early morning trauma of getting ready and to school/my train (carpooling with a neighbor for it all) then work full days at the office and have the usual extra-curriculars to chauffeur a spent kid to, ensuring in the rush that snacks get eaten, homework gets done, dinner is ready, some grumpiness-deterring down-time (for him) is had and bedtime adhered to. So we can do it all over again the next day. And the next. And the next….you get the idea.
On the other hand, there's a deeper than usual exhale too on these nights come the kiddo's bedtime - when there are no witnesses for my appallingly poor taste. Once the counters are wiped down and the school bag packed for the 'morrow, on comes the TV.
My dinner replacement is usually one of the following:
1) Toast - hot, crisp and buttered-to-dripping. If my chin is not slick after a bite, I have failed and should be locked up for a month with only plain brown rice and unsugared steel-cut oats to eat.
2) Grilled-cheese sandwich - made with orange, shiny, almost-plastic individually-wrapped slices (oh, the trash!). The ones I hoard for myself by hiding in the fridge's vegetable drawer where no-one else will ever look.
3) Cereal - nothing with whole grains but anything that is 90% high-fructose corn syrup and food color. Usually packaged in large boxes with brightly colored pictures of unlikely animals wearing creepy human expressions. By the way, when the child asks why we are out of 'Lucky Charms' AGAIN when he's barely eaten any, Diversionary Tactics are in order like, say, asking if he made his bed like he was told. Typically, suspicious looks are replaced instantly by cute grins and sucking-up to ensure that screen-time privileges for the evening remain intact. Works every time.
4) Ramen noodles or Mac'n'cheese - in single-serve cups (more trash!) with plenty of hot sauce. Screw the MSG and salt concerns and live a little. At least I’m not off having an extra-marital affair or skydiving for that feeling of ‘being alive’. Playing chicken with possible high Blood pressure and cancer is how I get my kicks: deal with it!
But I've been wondering lately why I don't have more of those 'Tasty Food, Tasteless TV' nights even when hubby is in residence.
He'd munch on toast without a peep if I asked him to. If he thought it might wipe the stressed and rushed frown off my face, he'd probably bake the bread and churn the butter himself. Also - he doesn't place sole responsibility for meals on me and cooks many of them himself when he gets home in time. Without being asked. Fussing over 'home cooked' meals is entirely of my own making.
Same with TV: if I tuned in to my choice, he'd groan for the first 2 minutes, putz around on Facebook for the next 10 and then happily settle down with 'The New Yorker'. That is, if he couldn't first talk me into believing that Stephen Colbert would make for a more entertaining evening, like he does most nights. Certainly, Colbert and Jon Stewart tickle my funny bone and brain in a more lasting and edifying way (I get most of my news from them, after all) but they don’t disable my brain the way I need.
Now, I don't judge hubby for not having a heart because he chooses to use his brain when it comes to recreation - so why do I imagine he'd think the inverse if I chose to watch 'Downton Abbey'? Against all evidence too: he's a pretty non-judgemental guy and I did make that one insightful comment back in 2004 that ought to have cemented my intellectual credentials beyond a shadow of doubt.
So what is it that makes some women like me pressure ourselves with our own assumptions and self-images when the key players in our lives are happily minding their own business?
I obviously don't have a clue but this much I do know: when hubby returns from this week long trip, I'm planning to slip into my jammies, butter some toast for dinner and watch some Tasteless TV with Tasty Food.
Oyonisms: (almost 7)
Helping me scramble eggs one unusually cheerful morning-
Oyon: Can I help please? I'm really good of cooking.
Me: Sure. Here, stir this.
Oyon (chest puffed out, condescending look on face): You can give me more to do, you know. I can cook, like EVERYTHING! Lobsters, egg, rice, soda.
Me: You can cook soda?
Oyon: Yeah. It's easy. You just put some candy in a bottle of water and then shake. I can make you some spicy soda, if you'd like. I'll just add some spicy.
Me: And how would you do that?
Oyon: I'm not sure yet, but I'll figure it out.