Men are legendarily hard to get to see a doctor. They fear strangers fiddling with their bits, worry they might like it. Some, like economist, won’t take their pants off in front of another human without a marriage licence and a non-disclosure agreement. I had to nag him for weeks before he would respond to the letter asking him to call in for a blood test and general health check-up. Eventually, I had no choice but to play dirty; reminding him of the many invasive and uncomfortable life-saving routines regularly required of women. “So, and this is the interesting thing about having a smear, first they take the speculum, a big chrome device that looks like a garlic press…” He was off like a rabbit shot up the bum.
Alas, the news wasn’t good. It wasn’t exactly bad either, in many respects he’s spot on: still got all his hair and most of his facilities, but his cholesterol is too high and his chance of a heart attack is one in 20. It should be one in 100. Worse, it seems I might be to blame.
Like my mother before me and her mother before her, I am a feeder. A high level of pet obesity runs in our family. Felines tend to be larger than the average cat door. Unable to jump much. Exhausted and surly, like Marlon Brando. I didn’t know this over-treating could extend to people.
Yes, if I love you, I will make you food. But the truth is I’ve never really been much of a cook. One teaspoon of my tahini-less hummus, one slice of baking powder-free flan − burnt on the base and raw in the middle, oozing across the cake stand − was usually enough. Boyfriends, generally skinny for this reason, have always erred on the side of caution when it comes to fare prepared with my own two hands. “Why don’t we just go out for dinner!?” they rushed to say, when it looked as if I might be donning an apron.
Not only boyfriends. Friends, my daughter, elderly relatives, mere acquaintances … don’t think I didn’t notice, “Did Lisa make this?” being secretly mouthed above the supper table at events where the invitation had read, ‘Ladies, a plate.’ Dogs being fed my pikelets and then hiding under the bed, lest it happen again.
However, as time goes by, even the biggest dullard can get the hang of cooking. It is, after all, just applying heat to food. Plus, television these days is chock-full of chefing shows and you can easily follow a recipe on your iPad and thus not forget an ingredient (although it might still turn out rubbish). Anybody can cook. Even I have improved beyond the indigested imaginations of lovers past. Some of the things I make are frankly delicious. At least, that’s what the economist says. Which is why I usually give him a double helping and a kiss on the head.
‘You can’t fatten a thoroughbred,’ they say. But you can. I have. I might even be killing him with kindness. He tried to explain it to the nurse taking his blood. “She likes the fuller-figured gentleman,” he told her, “she’s shaped me into what she prefers.” As if he were Playdoh, or a baby bird with its eyes shut and mouth open. The nurse had seen it all before. Women larding up their menfolk was nothing new.
Actually I have seen it before too, although in a much more insidious manner. If Agatha Christie had been there, she would have written a book called Murder by the Spoonful. Five years ago, in Sharjah, I witnessed what can only be described as an assassination in slow motion: a young Asian bride, an elderly and increasingly obese European husband. Hand-fed until he looked near-exploding, it wouldn’t be long before the inevitable occurred. “He loves his food!” twittered the tiny murderess, as her victim belched a cry for help. I would like to state, for the record, that this did not give me any ideas whatsoever and any similarly dead husbands are a complete coincidence.
“If I were to pop off, I’ve got a bit of money stashed away,” said the economist, like all Presbyterians, convinced he can somehow take it with him.
“Have you left it to a cat’s home?” I asked.
“Only you, my darling.”
“Another pork chop?”