A man presented his wife to me the other day.
The man was of a certain age. Certainly about 63. He was actively twitching with agitation and embarrassment. His wife was a short wide-eyed figure, like a deer caught in the headlights or a child being told ‘it’s off to market for you, fat boy’.
I was in a small kiosk in a damp high street, imparting information to the people in the name of the day job. I was there to tell them of how to make the world a better place, of how to be green, of how to stay tidy.
The man wanted to ask about his bins, of which many new ones had been delivered free of charge to his home for his enjoyment.
“Good day,” I said.
“I want to know which bin we’re suppose to put her women’s items,” he barked, louder than he’d probably intended. He pointed at his wife, even though she was less than five inches from his side. “Which bin? I don’t know which bin!”
I realised swiftly that he while he was not suggesting he put his lady friend in a bin, this was exactly what he wanted to do. This was a chap who had clearly spent many, many years haunted by the knowledge that the woman living in his house had things going on each month. He didn’t understand them, he knew nothing of their work or what purpose they served. A man of his years probably grew up in a time where ladies’ matters were not only never discussed, a man had the right to shot you in the face if anyone even hinted at them. A husband had no need to know of his woman’s workings, for he had pipes and slippers and a fine pint of bitter to focus on. He could live in blissful ignorance of all things biological, hormonal and menstrual.
But here was a man who had clearly cracked. He, like most men, could not stand to know the details, but not knowing was also driving him mad. The horrible uncertainty and the lack of control, never knowing exactly when they would strike.
“It!” he seemed to be crying to me from behind his horrified face as he pointed at the lady. “What do I do with it?! It does things every month! I don’t know how it works, and I’m frightened! I don’t want it in my house, what if it interferes with the signal on the TV or gets into the linen cupboard?!!!!”
I could picture him, abandoning all sports and recreation once a month to sit rigidly in his armchair, folds of old newspaper and bleach in one hand, a single quivering eye fixed on his wife, watching for the first hint of feminine activity.
I had no other advice to offer, other than “That sort of item goes in your normal rubbish bin. You….uh….you can’t recycle that stuff.”
He did not look any happier, but a strange calm settled over his face. “Thank you,” he said, quietly. “I know what to do now.”
He turned, guiding his silent, gawping woman by the arm, and walked away.
The next day, a house burnt down in a nearby village.