I’ve thought about hanging myself.
With the clothesline. But I’d probably do it wrong. An alternative would be to garrotte my wife with it. But I’d probably do that wrong, too.
As I wrung her neck her final gasp would be: “No, no; you don’t do it like that.”
‘Twas ever thus.
I don’t mean to suggest my wife is unreasonable or obsessive compulsive or that she’s on a mission to drive me insane. In my experience she’s no different to any woman anywhere in the world. Women, that is, who consider clothes-lines-and-the-pegging-of-washing-on to be a part of the gender war.
Not that I mind a bit of matrimonial warfare occasionally, so long as they fight fair, but they don’t.
Thirty-two years ago, when I first hung washing – my washing – on a line in the company of my wife she said: “Silly old you; you don’t do it like that.” And she took a shirt from me and showed me the right way.
I forget how I was hanging it up, but it certainly wasn’t by the bottom edge of the yoke – that bit at the top of the back that makes the shape for the shoulders. But that, apparently was the correct place.
Oh, how we laughed! And thereafter I hung my shirts up by the yoke, a better and wiser man.
It must have been about 15 years later that, once again, my wife watched me hang up a shirt. By the yoke.
She sighed in that world-weary way that comes with 16 years of marriage. “That’s not the way to hang up shirts,” she said. And she grabbed it, and hung it up by the shirt tails.
“But you told me to hang them up by the yoke!”
The reaction was not dissimilar to the reaction I would have got if I’d said I secretly wore her clothes when she wasn’t looking.
Horror and a certain revulsion. “Of course I didn’t! Why would I tell you that when it’s wrong?”
“Why would I hang it up that way unless you’d told me!”
“Because you’re a man?”
I let it go. It was only a shirt. It could have been worse. At least I must’ve been hanging up my underwear properly. And my socks. She never made any comment about them.
Now it’s 2009. For 17 years I have hung up my shirts by the shirt tails. I am well trained and entirely docile.
“Great God, don’t you know anything! You’re supposed to hang up shirts by the collar.”
“But you said–”
“And while we’re at it, the reason you’re underpants always look like a screwed up handkerchief is because you hang ’em up with one peg. And your socks don’t need to be hung up individually. You can hang ’em up in pairs. With one peg.”
I’m not exaggerating. Nor I am alone. I’ve compared notes with friends and neighbours. Some of the poor bastards even have to be sure to use colour-coordinated pegs unless they want to risk the evils of cold bum, tongue pie and copper stick; but it hasn’t come to that yet, with us.
Nor is it likely to. The only unanswered question is whether a clothesline will take my weight. I’m sure my wife will know.
When I’m standing on the stool, and throwing one end over a handy branch, she’ll come bustling out and say: “No, no, no; that won’t work. Do it like this.”