They say never let the sun go down on an argument, but the flaming orb that lights the world had long sunk beneath the horizon by the time the economist got back from the pub, two hours late for dinner. As the first stars appeared and the risotto reconstituted itself to wallpaper paste, the arguing had only started.
All couples fight. Because never ever having a cross word or a disagreement over money, politics or housework is weird and creepy. Imagine living in this sort of emotionless vacuum: politeness your watch-word, fairness and reason a constant – you'd go crazy. Fighting is like farting. Don't do it, eventually you'll just explode.
We all love our Snugglebumpkins, adore their idiosyncrasies, quirks and charming eccentricities. But sometimes your Snugglebumpkins is a tool.
Everyone has a different fighting persona, and on this particular evening, the economist's was one of inebriated wonder. “I didn't know you could yell that loud,” he said, spooning up gluggy arborio with the faux relish of a human who has erred and not yet been divinely forgiven. “Mmmm. Delicious.” His hair was bunched about his ears. One eye slightly closed, the other trying to focus down his long nose, he looked like a rat-arsed wolfhound. My fighting persona is silent rage. My eyes are lethal, the eyes of a Basilisk, causing death with a single glance. Best avoided.
Of course, like anyone with a short attention span I'm never mad for long, and rarely (this was the angriest I'd been in five years; the last time I was so furious it involved a dictionary and the word 'parvenu'), but when I am, hoo-ey! Look out! I might be short of stature, but you wouldn't want to make me angry. As the Incredible Hulk's mild alter ego David Banner once said, “You wouldn't like me when I'm angry (or hungry).” I am, to continue the dog metaphor, like an enraged terrier going for your buttocks.
I have a girlfriend whose argument style involves wildly conflicted swings between logic and insanity. Black is white. Day is night and any attempt to soothe is manipulation. You can't win in the face of this deranged flip-flopping, and that's why anyone tangling with her tends to throw up their hands and concede: “Okay, okay … the Spice Girls did revolutionise feminism.”
A friend of the economist's fighting stance is utter denial. He wasn't there, he doesn't know how it happened and the burden of proof lies with you. Unfortunately this extends to his everyday interactions, making for social awkwardness:
“Your mother called.”
“Never seen that woman before in my life.”
You don't need a private detective to discover what the economist and I had experienced was 'a failure to communicate,' as Strother Martin tells Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke. It had all come down to textual incompetence. The economist has a brand spanking new smartphone, making him jiggy with the brave new world of cellular communication. Sadly, he doesn't understand text language. Receiving the message '7 ur eta?' he took it to be an enquiry as to the number of Basque separatists in the area and, looking about the tavern and finding none, thought no more of it.
You always hurt the ones you love, or you'd quite like to, because they get on your tits. Such disregard for conventional niceties or even basic manners regularly landed the economist in brutal hot water with his ex-wife, but I don't believe in using violence to get your point across. Even if I did, I couldn't on this particular occasion as the economist did not arrive home alone. Perhaps sensing a disturbance in the force, he brought a slim Indian gentlemen with him. As someone to hide behind, not ideal.
It being hard to seethe with resentment while simultaneously being a gracious hostess, dinner was nothing short of a disaster, the economist's tragic attempts at witty repartee relayed through our bemused guest from Hyderabad – while I was still irate enough to kill them both with a look, or at least set the tablecloth on fire. It was hideous.
But even hideousness can't last forever, and by 11 o'clock my wrath had wound down (tempered by flashes of all the crap things I've done and been forgiven for), the go-between had gone and the economist had fulsomely apologised. It was clear the answer to the Shirelles' 'Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?' was “Yes, of course.”
No Snugglebumpkins is perfect, which is actually great, because neither are you.