MAN’S WORLD: What’s it going to be boy? Yes or no?

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This simply has to stop.

I’ll have to speak to her. My wife just cannot go on sending me explicit sex texts when I’m at work.

“Don’t forget cat biscuits. And remember to get that stuff to unblock the sink.”

After twenty years of marriage, eh? The raunchy little devil…

What? You can’t see the hidden meaning? I’m imagining it? What about this one then…

“Meeting has been cancelled. I won’t be going to Harrogate.”

I resisted the obvious reply and settled for: “OK. Does that mean you can collect Ben from school?”

“Yes.”

“There should be some leftovers for his tea. Your chowder or my chilli.”

As soon I’d pressed send I realised the enormity of the text.

I’d presented our son with a simple, stark, black and white choice:

It was the classic dilemma. Him or me? Guilty or Innocent? Dead or Alive?

But this choice was far more important. My chilli – of your mum’s chowder.

To quote the mighty Meatloaf, What’s it Gonna Be, Boy? Yes or No?

But Ben wouldn’t get chance to sleep on it – he’d have to decide as soon as he walked through the front door.

Of course, it wasn’t really a choice. My chilli – fresh minced beef, lovingly chopped onions, a bit of blood if the knife had slipped, tomato, kidney beans, just the right amount of chilli.

And always better the day after it had been made. #NomNom, as the hashtag so aptly puts it.

I could barely restrain myself from a few mouthfuls to keep me going…

And in the blue corner, my wife’s chowder.

Now my wife is a wonderful woman. She makes a fine chowder. Remarkably fine. Chicken, sweetcorn, little cubes of potato.

It’s soothing and warming and makes you feel good on a winter’s night.

But it ain’t my chilli, and the question wasn’t really “yes or no” or any of the others. The question was “how do we let Jane down gently?”

How does Ben break the news to his mum that yes, well, he loves her and he loves her chowder, but nothing compares to dad’s chilli.

Hmmm… A tough one. But on reflection, a good chance for me to pass on yet more of my wisdom. Because there’ll be plenty of times in his life when Ben has to deliver bad news. “I’m sorry, Katie, it’s over.” “There’s no easy way to say this, Edward. We’re letting you go.”

Yep, that’s exactly how it should be when your son is 15. Not so much a dad, more a mentor.

I’d grab him as soon as he came through the door; take him up to his bedroom. Explain how to let his mum down gently. “Your chowder’s fantastic, mum. I really like it, but…”

What was that noise? They were back. Quickly, as soon as he’s through the door.

“Hi, Ben, how was your day? Just come upstairs a minute, I need to talk to you.”

“Can’t it wait? I’m starving to death. School dinner was non-existent.”

“No, this is important. I need to talk to you about mum. About not upsettingher…”

“Are you all right, dad? You’re acting a bit strangely. Anyway it’ll have to wait. I’m having some chowder.”

“It’ll only take five - ” What? What did he say? Was I starting to have hearing problems as I got older?

“OK, if you want to eat first I’ll warm the chilli up. But I do need to talk to you.”

“I’m having chowder, dad. Can you put it on?”

“But there’s my chilli...”

“It’s all right, dad, you can eat the chilli. Or you could give it to the dog…”