About a thousand years ago or more* M and I were in discussion with another couple, our besties who we were sharing a house with. The male members of the conversation were in despair at the opinions of the females.
“You’re a freak,” the guy who was not M told his girlfriend.
M gave me exactly the same look of derisive bafflement and said,
“You’re a funny little bear.”
For years and years and years and years – the cretaceous, the neolithic, the prehistoric, the Victorian – through all the eras of our relationship, when he doesn’t understand why I’m doing what I’m doing, he refers to me as the funny little bear.
This is, arguably, kinder than calling me a freak – little bears are cute, right? Kind of soft, snuffly and obsessed with honey. A bear with little brain… a brain with little bear. Today ? Today I wanted that little bear dead.
Let me tangent a moment. Back before Pangea separated into continents I started going out with a punk rock guy – he had a big record collection and we were both equally music obsessed.
One day, he tried to tell me that his taste in music was infinitely more wide and varied than mine – he had about double the records that I did. “Right,” I said. “You have more records, but I have more variation.”
“Have you got any ambient?”
I seem to recall he spat on the ground.
“Your WHOLE ENTIRE RECORD COLLECTION IS PUNK. That’s IT. You are a single genre person who thinks they’re tastes are wide and varied. You are WRONG.”
I could actually see the realisation that he existed within a narrow musical vacuum move across his face. I need to see that same look on M. The realisation that not everyone is like him.
In the land of caricatures he is the labrador extrovert, I am the introverted British short-hair. But added to that are, of course, a multiplicity of nuances. The one that’s pissing me off right now is the “Boy’s Own Adventure” one.
Just because there is a fucking mountain near our anchorage, this does not instil in me an urge to conquer it. I am quite happy to elect to stay with the Lame Small** while M and Small Z climb the mountain.
When they, for whatever reason, call me from the peak, I do not want to hear the words:
“Where are you? Still ON THE BOAT? You haven’t been ASHORE? You’re a funny little bear.”
The fury that coalesced inside me nearly melted off my face. Not only had I been denied any time to relax by my batshit crazy tantruming one-legged six-year-old – I was now being dissed from the TOP OF A MOUNTAIN.
It was gratifying that when M made it back to Bella Luna he was utterly knackered from his climb (while Small Z continued to have boundless energy). I held my tongue as long as I could, but was unable to look him in the eye.
He eventually asked what was wrong – not “are you OK?” which I LOATHE, but “What’s wrong?” He said it in quite a loving manner too – and was therefore probably more taken aback than he ordinarily would have been when, in a strangled scream, I said;
“If you EVER call me a funny little bear again I will be SO ANGRY. I want that bear DEAD. It’s derogatory, it’s dismissive, it’s demeaning. When you said it to me today I wanted to PUNCH YOU IN THE FACE.”
“Oh…” his voice trailed off, and I presumed he was readying himself to tell me I was overreacting and did I have my period? However, he had more self-preservation than I gave him credit for.
“I’m so, so sorry,” he said.
I blinked. Assumed I had hallucinated, and kept going.
“Funny little FUCKING BEAR. You know what it means? It means that my choices are SHIT, and yours are not. But there is NOTHING wrong with not wanting to investigate our surroundings every time we stop somewhere…”
“I know! I know!!” interjected M, with an expression I rarely, rarely see. Contrition. I wanted to 3D print out a mask version of his face. “I’m sorry. I wasn’t thinking. I didn’t mean it to sound like it did. I was on top of Whitsunday Peak feeling like I was about to vomit. It was a hard walk…”
“You’re a narrow-minded git, but you think you’re so elastic…”
“I AM narrowminded. I STRUGGLE to be more elastic with my thinking. And…do you really mean that I can never say ‘funny little bear‘ ever again?”
“Quite possibly. Open the bottle of red. The bear is dead.”
* opening line lifted straight from one of the most entertaining books of my youth – “The Oath of Bad Brown Bill”.
** Lame Small being the one with the oyster shell leg laceration