Everything is kind of backwards in our household. M. is a fearless cockroach slayer while I shriek and hide at the sight of those hideous creatures. I weep like a schoolgirl during sad movies. Like that Naomi Watts tsunami film last year. I couldn’t stop crying. M. is also a highly skilled navigator. She has an intuitive sense of direction that leads me to suspect that she is part Bedouin. I get lost on a daily basis. Even with Waze. Even five minutes away from our apartment. It’s sad and it’s pathetic. But I’ve come to terms with my shortcomings. I’ve learned to accept them. I’ll never be the stereotypical macho man that fixes cars (or anything really) and M. loves me (or so I hope) regardless of the fact that I pluck my eyebrows (my Frida Kahlo unibrow) and complain incessantly about how fat I look and how nothing fits me anymore.
For me dinner is always the most important meal of the day. I know what they say. Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper. I get it. It makes sense. But I like to cook. I get home from work, pour myself a glass of wine, put on some Louis Armstrong or Etta James and start chopping vegetables, marinating the salmon or roasting the potatoes. I sometimes wear an apron that my friend P. brought back from Paris. I set the table meticulously. Sometimes I light candles. By the time M. walks in the whole meal is steaming hot and waiting for her on the table. She kicks off her heels and sits on the couch as D. runs and gives her a hug. I ask her how her day was. She is too tired to answer and grunts an “OK.”.
Sometimes on Friday afternoon we’ll go to M.’s grandmother’s house in the southeast part of Tel Aviv. She is the archetypal Moroccan grandmother that always has rice and beans and meat or stuffed peppers on the stove, the comfort food that my wife grew up with and that I’ve learned to love in the years that I’ve been with her. She has six children, dozens of grandchildren and a few great grandchildren. My brother in law is usually there on Fridays drinking Arak and smoking cigarettes with a few of the other male in-laws. I tried sitting with them once but I felt like an impostor. I know nothing about the premier football league in this country let alone that of Spain or Italy. The cigarette smoke made me cough and the blaring Middle Eastern Mizrahi music from channel 24 gave me a splitting headache. I often find myself wandering into the kitchen and helping with the dishes or talking to savta (grandma, as I call her since both mine have passed) about her myriad adventures in the shuk or at synagogue.
On Saturday mornings I try to let M. sleep in. She loves to sleep. If I have the requisite amount of guilt from eating too much the night before I’ll go out for a jog and watch the sunrise over Napoleon Hill, a wonderful little mound overlooking the Yarkon River that the famous short Frenchman once stood on with his armies when he lay siege on Jaffa. D. usually hears me coming in and wakes up. He looks at me all groggy and tired and shakes his head before doing his zombie walk to our bed and nestling in with M. And I’ll proceed to wash the dishes or fold the laundry that’s been hanging on the line. When M. finally wakes up she’ll have a lukewarm cup of Nescafe waiting for her just the way she likes it.
My mother in law comes over every Monday afternoon at 4 pm. Don’t ask me why Monday but it’s been that way ever since we’ve been in Ramat Gan. We talk about her favorite show on television. “Revenge”. Personally I can’t stand the show. It’s a poorly acted and poorly scripted soap opera, but without it we’d have two hours of dead air between us. So we’ll talk about the ridiculous plot twists and the cliff hanger of an ending and as we’re chatting I’ll make the startling realization that I’m wearing an apron, drinking wine and discussing a telenovela in the middle of the day.
We have one good friend, P., who comes over our house regularly on Tuesdays. He is divorced and in his early fifties. He doesn’t like to drink wine so I’ll make him a shandy (a mixed drink that is equal parts beer and equal parts Sprite) and he’ll start drinking and gossiping about all our friends. Y. is cheating on his wife. T. lost his job and has to work nights at the shawarma place. His own daughter hasn’t called him in weeks. He’ll then issue a stern warning about spoiling D. “Don’t make the same mistakes I did.” He’ll say over and over again. We’ll then take D. for a walk to the park and feed the ducks like a gay couple and their son. For good measure I’ll set my phone’s ring tone to Right Said Fred’s “I’m too sexy”.
I have let myself go these past few years. I like to blame my job (I sit on my ass for hours every day watching TV) and my son (it’s stressful raising a kid and stress adds weight) but the truth is I’ve just gotten kind of lazy. As a result I’ve developed serious man boobs (or “moobs”). Lately I’ve become much more self conscious about it thanks to an incident at the playground. Kids can be so darn cruel. As D. was climbing up the slide a snotty six year old asked me point blank if I was a man or a woman. It took me by surprise. What do you think? He scratched his head, thought about it and asked me why I had boobs. He was either being a total brat or genuinely confused by my androgyny. Either way it sent me into an emotional tailspin. Thankfully M. was there to hold me and tell me how sexy she thought her man was, moobs and all.
Everything is kind of backwards and upside down in the world these days and even though it gets confusing at times, I think it makes our lives much more interesting.