It was a scene the teenage me would have had in a nightmare; my boyfriend sprawled out on the sofa watching football, me frantically juggling crushing garlic in the kitchen behind him simultaneously timing a roasting butternut squash and cleaning tomato juice off the printed recipe page.
Shuffling over, E (AKA Number Six) seemed to consider helping me out but instead offered me an olive, picked at the salad and proceeded to f*rt loudly.
I slapped his hand away and kicked him out before pausing for a moment, knife in one hand, and some sort of herb in the other before stopping and looking around at the scene of domestic hell before me.
What was I doing?!
Somehow, I'd swapped my devil-may-care singledom and become, I would say, a domestic goddess, if not for the counter-full of confused looking ingredients. Left to my own devices, dinner consisted of Uncle Ben's microwave rice, cleaning was left to the cleaner and laundry, well, let's just say I stay away from buying anything white or delicate.
But I had a boyfriend now, and as weekly dates turned into consecutive visits, keeping up appearances was becoming increasingly difficult. To make matters worse, E was something of a traditionalist; a man's man. He likes his (usually blonde and dainty) girls in heels and skirts, refused to entertain the idea that women do their 'business' just like men, and had even stopped one girl he dated from drinking pints around him.
"What was that?" He would reply to her requests for cider "I'll get you a Smirnoff Ice."
Having been his 'mate' for five years, I was well aware of the fact I wasn't his type. I didn't possess that 'feminine mystique' that made men open doors and stand up on the tube and now that I was on the receiving end, his eccentric 'notions', far from amusing were becoming a benchmark I wasn't sure I measured up to.
Wincing at my badly out of tune rendition of Living On a Prayer he remarked that it was really unattractive when girls couldn't sing.
"Sorry," I snapped back, "I didn't realise it was 1812." But I was hurt, I didn't want him to find me unattractive. I realised that if I wanted to be up on a pedestal with the other pretty girls, I was going to have to learn to climb.
That was pretty much how I ended up groomed to perfection and cooking dinner while my boyfriend broke wind on the couch. The feminist inside me might have been screaming; "What the hell are you doing?!" But there was a part of me that was proud of my trickery and so, disguised by makeup, nail-varnish and the aroma of cooking veg, the tomboy was supressed.
"I like that you have table manners," He said to me over the weekend as I daintily sipped my soup the way I'd seen Emma do in the BBC adaptation, by dipping the spoon into the middle so it fills up instead of shovelling the still dripping utensil into my mouth.
"Oh really?" I replied; making sure I didn't slouch and that my elbows were off the table. It was another win, but the charade was exhausting, and it was only a matter of time before my carefully positioned mask of female perfection was stripped and the real me would be revealed- messy, sloppy, grumpy me. The me he'd known and didn't love.
Tired, I left the food in the oven and snuck off to redo my makeup before returning fresh faced into the living room and settling on the couch next to him. My flatmate had come back and was cooking his spag bol behind us. E turned to look at me and I smiled. I'd spent a good part of the evening pondering feminism, my identity and my feelings so when I mouthed a silent "I love you," my face looked more serious than I'd intended, making the gesture appear comical. He chuckled, mimicking my serious expression and signalled "you complete me."
I caught his Austin Powers reference and laughing, responded with a Dr Evil impression;
"Mini me, you complete me."
"You know, Jerry Maguire?" he replied, also doing a Dr. Evil
"You had me at hello. 'Tear.'"
He burst out laughing.
I fell back on the couch, snorting.
My flatmate rolled his eyes behind us.
Maybe I wasn't E's 'type'. I wasn't well groomed or polite, I said what I thought and sometimes after a big meal I might even burp, but I had something the other girls didn't, I made him laugh.
"Er, is that your food in the oven?" My flatmate said, opening the oven door and filling the room with the smell of charred squash.
At the very least I could rest assured E wasn't with me for my cooking.
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