Using a Cock as a Doorstop

The decorators have nearly finished. ‘Two weeks’ has turned into six, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. Almost a year since the leak started (the day we moved in), about nine months since we realised, and worked out why the floor was coming up. Then some struggles with finding workmen, dealing with insurance etc, while we tripped up over floorboards. For over a month we’ve been living in a building site; there is filth everywhere, the whole of downstairs is largely out of commission, and the best I can hope for  (since the owners had given the place a lick of paint before selling) is that the level of decor is no worse than when we started this whole sorry saga.

The kitchen door bangs against the wall. I used to keep a rock there to stop the handle doing further damage. So one of the decorators – the short one with those massive rings making his earlobes into portholes – says to me ‘would you like a doorstop?’ and I think ‘ooh! this is where I get better than like-for-like! Something in return for their having smashed all my serving platters and ruined my curtains and cushions and been massively inconvenient, loud and dirty for a month, and for my £500 excess.’ So we discuss what kind of doorstop I would like and agree that – how unlike the me of earlier renovations – I really don’t care; anything will do. Job done.

Later, the other guy, the better looking, rather rakish one, slightly in love with himself, comes and asks me what kind I would like (didn’t he get the message?), and hands me his phone. I can see a doorstop, which is a brushed metal cylinder, with a black rubber knob on the end. He tells me I can swipe for more examples, and I swipe. There’s one of the springy ones. I swipe again. I am looking at a photo of an enormous erect penis. I hand it back to him as though it’s on fire: ‘that’s not a doorstop!

One of my friends, on being told, asked ‘Was he embarrassed? Or being extremely forward?’ Er, embarrassed, I think, but not very! And this morning I was forced out of my bed because they arrived early. He walked past me and put the kettle on! I do ask myself if he would have done that if I were a man. He then asked me if I would like a cup of tea and although it occurred to me to say something else I meekly said ‘yes please’.

Later on, one of them had used the loo, and though obviously I can’t very well ask them not to do that, or not to make a horrible smell, there were streaks of shit in the bowl. I did not clean it. Nor did I go and ask them to. I simply seethed ineffectually. Brilliant.

Now, what is this? Is it me being shy? Unassertive? Yes, but why? Is it me – post discussion of Trump’s menacing behaviour, hovering over Hillary etc – being aware that I have two men in my house? From whom I want work decorating? Is it just wanting not to make trouble? Or is it not wanting to make trouble because I am a woman and they are men? Because I am afraid of them?  Or because what I fear is simply not being ladylike?  This is not as simple as where we were today, but how did we get there?

I came across a blog post recently titled “The most insidious forms of patriarchy pass through the mother.” It was written by someone called Bethany Webster, and roaming around I came across ‘The Mother Wound’. Not a concept I have heard before, but I have been thinking about it a lot since. And realising the extent of my part in this. Not happy about it. Not happy at all. Feel somewhat guilty. So what’s new?  I think if I wrote down everything any of my friends ever said to me and sorted them into piles, ‘don’t beat yourself up so much’ would be the biggest. But I do feel guilty about this and so many other things. Need to come back to it. As a daughter and as a mother. But a piece about a painter’s cock is probably not the place for it.

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Florence Feynman

I am a middle aged, middle class woman, thinking.

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