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Is this normal?

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L.:
Dear Mrs Blovius

I am a newly-wedded gel who needs a little advice.  In view of your wide experience of the world I hope you can decant a little wisdom to a humble young wife.  I started along the marital road full of sparkling hope for the future, with dreams of picket fences, bouncing wee bairns and frilly aprons.

Of course I retained my virtue until after my beloved had carried me daintily over the threshold of our new cottage with the creeper round the door.

I felt the block and tackle was a smidge insensitive but was willing to forgive, for what is the holy institute of marriage if not a compromise?

Sadly, to my horror my new husband Tom has been attempting to lure me into strange practices in the marital home, involving slippery substances, rags and velcro.

What is a gel to do?  Compromise is one thing, but I am a well brought up gel from a respectable home.

Yours in distress,

Blushing Bride
The Old Midden-House
Lower Nubbin
Yorkshire

Gertrude Blovius:
Dear Blushing Bride,

As a woman you are a fine wine which time can only improve; a man sits at the banquet of life, his overabundance of testosterone having turned his better qualities to vinegar almost as soon as he has deserted the loving embrace of his mother.   

In your search for guidance on this matter you could not have chosen a more sympathetic ear. My hopes and dreams as a newly-wed were on a par with your very own. The union of Theodore and myself wasn't to be blessed with bairns; this was not for lack of bouncing, often sparked by frilly aprons, as it happens. My former husband's tastes originally ran to the domestic variety of visual aid. Before too long he developed an unquenchable desire for imported. Modern science had not yet developed velcro in those heady days – at least it hadn't yet made the trip back from the moon – but Theo's material comforts were, shall we say, less then comfortable for some.

My upbringing also left me unprepared for the 'compromises' of a robust marriage. Mater and Pater rarely entertained, especially each-other. I suspect both made full use of the servants... such tales are for another time. On meeting Theodore and consenting to be his bride, I packed my blushes in my trousseau and awaited bliss.

Surely bliss arrived. I will give Theodore his due: as a medical practitioner his geographical knowledge as gleaned from Gray's Anatomy was commendable, and I'm not just talking about the islets of Langerhans. Indeed, his stamina would have put Lance Armstrong to shame.

Unfortunately a man's attention span is not much longer than that of a dog when presented with a Shakespeare folio. 'Attention deficit disorder' had not yet entered the vocabulary of American soccer moms let alone our very English household. I knew our relationship had entered a new phase when Theodore arrived home one day with a brown paper package under his arm and a devilish gleam in his eye. That night, lying in bed, ready to thumb through that volume of Gray's again, a new door opened and I was presented with just one of the many options which married women have confronted since time immemorial. I went through that door fully aware that should I turn back the room behind me would have disappeared forever.

I do not regret that very interesting night, or the many which followed with the usual brown paper package calling card. I cannot deny that a certain weariness set in after awhile; one's willingness to be accommodating is eventually replaced by a sense of reluctance which even the male antennae, poorly tuned as it is to female needs, is able to pick up. Theodore sensed my boredom. Naturally this drilled into his pride and precipitated a kind of desperate buying spree which could only end in disappointment for both of us. It is fair to say that this was the beginning of the end of our intimate relationship, though we remained man and wife for some time after.

Your Tom is still educable. We haven't been introduced but I'm sure of it. He must be made aware that compromise isn't a one-way street. You are a spirited gel, which has to be one of the qualities which attracted him. Thus you are able to give a spirited defense of your own fortress of desires, which may not at this time include slippery substances, rags, and fabric zippers. Fortunately our sex brings with it the expectation in the male mind of a certain fickleness which is fully exploitable. You are merely keeping your options open (and may well wish to exercise them in future!). As women, that is our right.

Yours Truly,
Gertrude Blovius

L.:
Dear Mrs Blovius

Your missive has touched my heart.  At last, one who understands.  I, too, suffer with an abundance of brown paper packages arriving in the home, to be met by Tom's eager grasp as he snatches them from the postman, before retiring to the shed, crooning and with a glazed expression on his face.  The packages arrive almost daily.

Mrs Blovius, I had anticipated quiet evenings embroidering antimacassars whilst Tom listened to the Light Programme, smoking his pipe and dozing in the rocking chair, as so many evenings I remember with Mummy and Daddy in my childhood.

Instead I find myself alone, while Tom indulges his deviant needs in the shed, or vanishes for hours at a time, returning in the evening, sweaty and ... soiled ...

Only this evening he came in from the shed (he grunted something about having to fettle his rear, ugh, really), and suggested I might like to indulge alongside him with a new contraption he had in mind.  "They're specialised," he pleaded, "designed with couples in mind."  Specialised.  I ask you.

Now I am no prude.  But Daddy kept all his paraphernalia out of bounds to mummy and me, in Daddy's Hobby Room with Daddy's Special Magazines and Daddy's rubber wipeable hobby clothing.  I feel this is the way it should be.  The very idea of a well brought up gel debasing herself by becoming involved in such things is abhorrent.  Mrs Blovius I realise this is an age of emancipated women, but some things are not meant to be shared.

He even wants me to dress up.  In padded undergarments. 

It is all too much.

Is there any way that my fine wine and Tom's vinegar can combine to make something delectable?  Or should I resign myself to a life of solitary crochet?

Yours in sorrow

Weeping Wife
The Old Midden-House
Lower Nubbin
Yorkshire

Gertrude Blovius:
Dear Weeping Wife,

Your conversion from blushing to weeping in such short order has me on full emotional rescue alert. Let the salty tears flow, my dear. They scour; they cleanse; they do not corrode. The human heart, particularly the female incarnation of that trusty metronome, is made of stern stuff, though at times it seems to be not much stronger than the tissues we use to wipe our eyes.

Your Tom is only deviant in the sense that all men are deviant. This is the way God made them and we must accept them. My own beloved Pater had an unnatural fondness for a Brooks saddle which he spent years, nay decades, "breaking in". Suffice it to say he was buried with it. Mater held her tongue until she herself passed, at which point she requested (a request I reluctantly granted, believing that the dead should bury the dead) a delicately chiseled addendum to the usual epitaph on her grave-marker:

Loving wife of Harold
Who desired his Brooks to ride
Its leather grain he much preferred
To the contours of his bride

Whilst the marital bed does not have room for three, the marital shed (it may be Tom's domain, but your relationship brings with it a mutual leasehold on such properties) will serve as a therapy room with myself as gentle interlocutor. What I'm suggesting, Weeping Wife, is that you consider allowing Tom into our conversation – not by posting in this Room, which is itself a sacred precinct where your confidences would never be betrayed – but by introducing him more fully with your remarkable powers of description. At the moment he is rapidly emerging as a character with whom I would find myself at odds. Yet I am certain this would be a disservice to your companion. After all, you chose him; there must be good in him which ever struggles to overcome the crippling Y chromosome. The very fact that he is purchasing items "designed with couples in mind" is cause for hope.

Vinegar mixed with wine debases the latter but does no great harm to the former. This is why men tend to fare better in matrimony than women and there is so much solitary crochet in the world. Put down your needles and once again pick up your pen. There is much work to be done.

Yours Truly,
Gertrude Blovius

L.:
Dear Mrs Blovius

I am surprised you wish to probe Tom's character.  The important partner in this marriage is me.  Me, I tell you.  However, if you believe it will help, so be it.

To summarise Tom's character:  when first I set eyes upon him outside The Frigate Inn, it was easy to see he needed to be taken in hand by a strong woman.  There he lounged in the sun, pint by his side, surrounded by the riff-raff he called his 'friends'.  Daddy led me over to this group of layabouts and introduced Tom as his newest employee. 

Mrs Blovius, my heart leapt as we shook hands and our eyes met.  Such potential does not come along every day.  It was obvious that with only a little tweaking, this could be "the one".  Young gels today aspire to worldly success; my values are those of a purer, simpler time when men and women knew they were different, and vive-d la difference. Breadwinning is the lot of the male; the running of the household and the supervision of servants is quite enough for any young wife to cope with.  Tom was amply suited for winning bread, with his aptitude for Daddy's line of business.

I suggested attending the " precious moments" art exhibition together.  Tom seemed a little taken aback but an encouraging cough from Daddy was all it took to spur him into accepting.  It is understandable that he was intimidated by a gel such as I; he probably thought I was out of his "league" as it is popularly termed.

Daddy did everything he could to encourage our romance.  Surmising early on how Tom needed me to sort him out, a little manipulation (purely for Tom's long term benefit you understand) was in order.  Daddy organised the "incident" at the factory, the anonymous letters were posted, and Daddy had Tom in for a little chat.

Then we booked the church.

And so we began our married life.  I overhauled Tom's wardrobe first. Clearly Gap attire and training shoes could not be countenanced; tweed, corduroy and some nice hats revolutionised my husband's image.  Indeed, every detail of Tom's life was organised by me; every moment accounted for.  What man could ask for more from a wife?  He no longer needed his "friends", when he had a buxom wife at home so I asked Daddy to arrange a visit from his minder, and the problem was solved.  They would only hold Tom back after all, there were petunias to be planted and picket fences to paint, a career in hazardous waste camouflage to pursue. Remnants of his old life would only serve to distract him from a glittering future as Daddy's protege.

Finally Tom came to me and, in a whisper, asked if he could have a shed for his very own.  As befits a wife, I hold the purse strings; men are sometimes profligate as I am sure you are aware Mrs Blovius.  A shed was a marvellous idea, he needed somewhere to keep his tools after all; I had no objection.  I am a reasonable woman after all.

Then he wheedled a weekly allowance from me, ostensibly for household maintenance materials.  Mrs Blovius I fear I have been deceived.  Does "Wiggle" sound like a garden centre to you?

Mrs Blovius I am losing control of my husband and know not what to do.  Please help.

Yours in desperation,

Sobbing spouse.

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