In Which I Am Annoyed With Mr Litlove

When loved ones suffer unexpected delays, I have to admit I am the kind of person who imagines they are dead in a ditch, rather than simply late. Of course, the degree of anxiety depends on the information available. If they are travelling from a long way away, then of course I would be much slower to react. If they only have a ten-minute journey, then worry sets in sooner. I may be anxious, but it’s generally proportional to facts.

Well, yesterday evening, at about a quarter to seven, I realised I did not know where my husband was. For many years now, Mr Litlove has had a job that allows him a pretty regular homecoming between 6 and 6.30pm. Occasionally he has to work late until 7, but if he’s going to be any later than this, he calls or sends a text. This is a system that believe it or not, we’ve worked out, as when we were first married, Mr Litlove found it difficult to organise his timetable. Some of his early jobs involved more travelling, and it was quite often the case that I would ask him where he was going, and he would tell me he’d find out when he arrived at the airport. Not that this information was unavailable to him, just that he didn’t feel the need to think about it in advance. However, I took exception, as when people asked me where my husband was, and I could only reply that I didn’t know, but out of the country somewhere, I felt it gave the wrong impression. Mr Litlove, like many a male before him, had a little issue sharing the details of his day with me, and I, as I said before, am of a nervous disposition. Over the years, we’ve figured out ways around it.

So, yesterday, and I shouldn’t even have been in myself. We bookshop girls had had a plan to meet up for more paper sculpture last night, but I’d reluctantly decided I couldn’t go. The past week has been very up and down for me, chronic fatigue-wise, but often an erratic pattern means the end of a period of ill health. I wasn’t feeling great yesterday, but I felt pretty sure that if I took good care of myself, kept calm and well rested, the end was in sight. I was very sorry to miss my friends, but in a positive and optimistic frame of mind. In fact I was planning a blog post for today in which I would tell you how optimistic I was feeling. Ah my friends, if you are to learn one thing from my errors, let it be this: never tempt fate.

At a quarter to seven, I texted him, asking where he was, but got no reply. He’d left early that morning for a meeting in London. We’d spoken about it the night before, as he had to give an hour and a half presentation and hadn’t prepared for it. But he was just introducing new recruits to the company, so we agreed it wasn’t so dreadful. Usually an early meeting means he’ll be back in the office by the afternoon. When seven o’clock came and went, I tried ringing his mobile, but it rang with no reply until it eventually switched to voice mail. I wasn’t so worried at this point. I just thought he must be held up somewhere. So I looked up his company online and rang the number for the Cambridge office. No reply. I rang the number for the London office (which I knew to be a small affair). No reply. If everyone had gone home for the day, then where was he?

I kept ringing his mobile. Same result – ringing and ringing and eventually voicemail. So maybe he’d lost his phone somewhere, or was in a place where the noise was too loud for him to hear it. Or, of course, he could be stuck on the train. I rang the station and checked: no delays today on the London-Cambridge service. If he didn’t have his phone with him, the other place he could be was on the river. Had he perhaps a practice session that I had forgotten about? I rang his rowing buddy, Roy, who was incredibly sweet and concerned, but no, there was no rowing fixed for that evening. It was now past 7.30 with no word, and Roy was worried too; he’d always found my husband very reliable in letting him know of any changes of plan.

Well, I was trying not to panic and wondering who I could ring next. Part of me couldn’t believe that anything serious had happened because my husband leads such a charmed life. On occasions, I’d heard of hold-ups and crashes in the transport system that should have affected him, only to have him saunter in at the usual time, unaware that anything had happened. On the other hand, I couldn’t think where he could be. He would surely realise he was late, and know I would be worrying. We had our agreement and we’ve kept to it for years. I was tempted to ring the hospital, but I felt sure that news of that sort would travel fast to me. Wouldn’t it? I couldn’t call any of his work colleagues as he keeps their numbers on his mobile which was with him, wherever he was. By a quarter to eight I was really concerned.

Finally, shortly before eight o’clock, he rang. He was in London still. He’d just not thought about telling me he’d be late, and he said he’d had his phone switched off because his battery had been low. Neither of us understands why his phone was ringing then, rather than moving directly to voicemail. He doesn’t know why the phone wasn’t answered at the London office. Honestly, this is the first time in our marriage that I’ve thought another woman might be involved, only in the cold light of day I feel sure a mistress would pose a logistical nightmare of such proportions that my husband could not rise to the challenge. If he can’t manage to tell me where he’s going to be, how could be possibly deal with two of us?

I have many questions which wither and die before the mysteries of the male brain. Why didn’t he tell me last night, when we were discussing the meeting, that it might go on late? How come it’s not possible to find the time to send a text saying ‘late home’ over the course of a whole day and in the light of possible mobile battery failure? How could he forget me entirely?

The thing is, I was thinking about the situation from the perspective that he would know he was late and realise I’d be worrying, and that any kind of extreme anxiety would have unfortunate consequences for my chronic fatigue.

Whereas Mister Litlove was in a meeting in London and not thinking at all.

This, my friends, is why marriage is not always a bed of roses. His friend, Roy, rang me again about 10 pm (when he was not yet back) to ask if I’d tracked him down. ‘He’s fine,’ I reassured him, thanking him for his consideration. Then I thought about it. ‘But he might have a broken leg the next time you see him.’ Roy laughed and asked very politely if I could postpone any retribution until after the weekend; they have a regatta to race, apparently. Poor Mr Litlove is still somewhat in the dog house today; he’ll be very glad to have an excuse to be out of the house on the weekend, and I will know better than to worry about what time he’ll make it back.

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31 thoughts on “In Which I Am Annoyed With Mr Litlove

  1. Ahhh yes I feel your pain. In days of yore Mr C could wolf five pints in double quick time and then sit on the last 1/4 inch of pint six for hours while his phone battery ran down.
    I did tell him that I’d put the hospital on speed dial so I could notify them of his imminent arrival and describe in detail to the A and E reception the injuries I’d inflicted.
    Thankfully, he cannot handle his beer so well now.

  2. Obviously I’m very sorrry to read your story since clearly you were quite upset and worried and I understand that has bad consequences for your health. However, and you’ll know what question is coming I think, why is this a “male brain” effect? I know a number of people of both sexes who have on occasion done exactly the same “unthinking” things and I have never assumed (of found) one sex to be better, or worse, than the other in this respect.

    • Your question has a particular focus, which I’ll come to. But it’s part of a broader issue with what I suppose you’d calI gender determinism. I think it would be inaccurate to assume that we live in a society in which there are no cultural gender pressures that have a marked influence on behavioural patterns. Of course there are exceptions to any generalisation. People who have received a lot of education tend to be the most impervious to cultural pressures. But even so. In my university, some people complained that the examination system favoured men over women in my subject. There was much resistance to this also, because of the perception that we teach a lot of clever young women.. So the department conducted a 5-year study and found that men did indeed do disproportionately well in the high pressure exams. If you look at the top of the class lists, you see men and women there, of course, and not just one or two women but a fair number. But to assume there was no problem from that would be to ignore a deeper, underlying trend. So my feeling is, we believe wholeheartedly in equality at our peril.

      The problem I’m talking about in this post is quite well recognised in couples councelling. Psychological studies have been conducted in this and other issues to do with what’s been termed ‘gender rancour’ (Oliver James writes about it particularly well and backs his arguments up with various studies and statistics). In heterosexual relationships it is more likely for the man to suffer from issues of autonomy than the woman. This is thought (so far) to be due to the fact that some boys perceive their mothers as overly controlling, and so resist any attempt on the part of female partners to monitor their movements. Women are less likely to transfer issues of being controlled onto their male partners, as the tendency is to understand this as caring. Although of course it does happen. We live in a time when we are considered to be a far more equal society. But my feeling, as a mother, and a one-time female academic, is that gender issues have by no means gone away, and that the surface of society can be very misleading.

      And thank you also for your concern, that’s very kind of you!

    • Alex, give the Bears a hug from me and tell them I will use them as a very efficient future deterrant. Mr Litlove has a healthy concern for the damage Bears can do! :)

  3. Yet again, a story of yours that I know all too well. Part of what it means to live in a gendered world is that men and women have been taught to prioritize differently. Even when we try to adapt to each other, we often fail. And why is it that so often we women are still the ones left waiting and worrying?

    • MD – I should just have pointed Dark Puss to your comment. It is such a neat encapsulation of what I try to say in twenty sentences above! Thank you for expressing it so well.

  4. “His friend, Roy, rang me again about 10 pm (when he was not yet back) to ask if I’d tracked him down. ‘He’s fine,’ I reassured him, thanking him for his consideration.”

    Poor Roy, fretting by the phone for 2 hours. You really should’ve called him as soon as you knew… so thoughtless :p

      • Funny yes, Jeff, but the pedant in me feels obliged to point out the inaccuracy. If I’d gone out or left the phone off the hook, then the situations would be analogous, but Roy could ring me at any time and I was more than willing to give him any information I had. Just had to point that out for, you know, my own peace of mind.

  5. I watched an epsiode of Homeland today and there was the incident where one of the main characters, Carrie, has a manic episode (brilliantly acted by Claire Danes btw) and starts to overreact and her father who suffers from the same illness tells her to slow down and then they discuss that there is “bad gut” and “good gut” and I found that so amazingly perceptive.
    Not that I’m saying you are/were manic, just that sometimes worry/anxiety can smother the good gut feeling which tells us “Of course, nothing is wrong” and triggers a bad one which then, unfortunately tricks us into believing thinsg are really wrong. When I heard them discuss that, I knew so well what they meant. I’ve gotten much better at it but a few years ago I could get into worry mode just like you. If we could stay calm, we would feel exactly that all is well. That he should have called is another story… Bad boy!

    • Caroline, yes, that’s it exactly, I know exactly what you mean. Part of me could not believe that anything bad had happened to him, but another part felt extremely anxious and responsible, and like I should DO something in case he needed my help. That worry was relentless, and kept pushing itself forward despite my best attempts to stop it. But he should have called, shouldn’t he! :)

  6. ‘He’s fine … But he might have a broken leg the next time you see him.’ Ah litlove, I was going to be sympathetic but am too busy laughing still at this and mrs carmichael’s comment.

    I hope the penitent Mister litlove is plying you with tea, flowers and fresh paperbacks today, and that you are feeling better.

    • Dear Helen – he’s out at his regatta!! I would love to be plyed with nice treats. Alas, Mr Litlove will think that time spent in the doghouse is payment enough. But I DO feel better thank you, and Mr Litlove bears no scars….. ;)

  7. Bad Mr. Litlove! Bad! Since he is in the doghouse did you spank his bottom with a rolled up newspaper too? ;) I understand your worry, I would have been beside myself too and I’m not a worrier in general. I hope he does something nice to try and make up.

    • Lol! I feel rather vindicated if you would have worried too, as I know you’re not really an anxious person. The gender divide on these comments is amusing me though – the men resist, the women sympathise… ;)

  8. Glad to hear that Mr. Litlove was safe and sound. I’ve gone through similar things but try to remind myself that my anxious brain always leads me to a place a catastrophic thinking and I have to put the breaks on that as much as possible. It’s so hard to do and simple scenarios like the one you’ve described would have me worrying the same way!

    • Kathleen, I know all too well that I can fall prey to catastrophic thinking and do try not to. The problem was that I’d given my husband the benefit of the doubt. I thought he would never let me worry – now that I know he can, I will certainly bear it in mind next time! :)

  9. I bet he doesn’t forget to call next time! :) I found this to be true when I was married, too. My husband was so bad as to just leave when I was home and not even think of telling me (as if I need to know these things?), but I would never have been able to get away with doing the same without getting a little grief out of it all. I don’t miss this, I must say…. Sorry to hear you were so worried, but I have an active imagination and would have been thinking the same. Not fun.

    • Lol! I think he’ll be extra careful for a while, anyway! I am not at all surprised that you do not miss the one-rule-for-one-and-not-the-other sort of behaviour. That is not at all admirable! I do sometimes think that having dependents is overrated…. there’s an awful lot of worry that seems to go with it! Thank you so much for the solidarity. It really helps!

  10. I have felt your irritation! I’ve never had that experience with a man, but I’ve felt it before with friends and family. The problem is that I’ve picked up my mother’s nasty habit of over-worrying about anything in life that steps out of line – mostly involving people not being home when they should be. It’s probably come from years of her badgering me when I went off to college and those once-in-a-blue-moon occasions she couldn’t get a hold of me because I was in the shower, say, or out with friends at a noisy bar.

    • Oh I’m sure it gets passed down in families – mine are all worriers. Although interestingly enough, my husband and his siblings are very non-anxious types, but my mother-in-law often tells me the story of the one occasion her husband came home significantly late from work without warning her and, I think, never ever did it again! Worry is inevitably a form of love, and alas, often an irritating one for the person out having a good time who doesn’t mean to be missing in action!

  11. Ah Litlove, I feel your pain! I share your capacity to read much into a moment of thoughtlessness or inattention.

    I was interested in your thoughts on the different perceptions of care and control. My husband doesn’t even have a mobile phone, so if he’s running late I just have to assume everything’s OK.

    The talk of bears and A&E made me smile.

    • Karen – there have been some very funny comments on this thread! The gender rancour stuff is actually very interesting. I think it’s Oliver James’ book Britain on the Couch where he goes into it (I lent my copy to a friend and never got it back so can’t check). It’s an interesting book anyway, though.

  12. I suggest attaching a GPS collar before he leaves the house and then you won’t be dependent on him letting you know if he’s going to be late.

  13. Oh, I was anxious about Mr. Litlove while reading it, never mind being you waiting for him. I have had that experience myself but never thought of Mrs. C’s solution. I do think that speed-dial idea is brilliant.

    • Lilian – the speed dial is still making me laugh, and Jane’s suggestion of a GPS tracker is wonderful! But thank you also for the solidarity. It’s very nice to know I’m not alone.

  14. I just thought of this post last night, waiting for my husband to come home 3 hours after he left for an hour long gym session… (he had gone to the pub afterwards). I have a tendency to catastrophise too. The worst time was when I got a call from the police (!) asking if this person was my husband, and for my car registration, without any context. I got so terrified of car accidents etc, but it turned out there was just a glitch in the police database about our car registration, my husband had been pulled over and since the car was in my name they were just checking everything was legitimate. But it took a while to calm down after that! So belated sympathies. :)

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