It was a dozy Saturday mid-morning and Boyface and I were standing in our kitchen, chatting easily about what to make for dinner that evening.
‘We could have lasagna…?’
‘Nah…’, I sighed.
‘What about fish…?’
‘Nah….nothing sounds good!’ I whined.
Saturday dinners were supposed to be special, but yet chill and laid back. Like the Sunday Roast’s slightly poorer cousin. Extravagant, but looks like it was thrown together without a thought at the last minute.
‘I know!’ I exclaimed, excitedly, ‘Chicken wings.’
I waited anxiously for Boyface’s reaction. He loves hot wings, and I had recently perfected a recipe that suited us both to a tangy and fiery T.
‘Yeah, we could have chicken wings,’ he replied.
I felt let down at the lack of enthusiasm. Chicken wings are the thing! Chicken wings are great! What husband out there doesn’t wish he had a wife who would make him a bucket full of mouth-watering, hot wings and a cold beer for dinner? WHO DOESN’T WANT THAT?!
‘How hard would it be,’ he asked, ‘to make jalapeño poppers?’
Now we’re talking! I thought. ‘I could look up a recipe right now!’ I sounded over-eager, but I saw this as the opportunity to reclaim the anticlimax of The Chicken Wing Suggestion.
I began my online search, narrowing it down to just poppers which could be cooked in the oven, since we don’t have a fryer (and likely never will), and I detest smoking up the entire house trying to fry anything in the extra-large wok.
I found a recipe by Emeril and I scanned over the ingredients. ‘We have almost everything already,’ I mentioned and Boyface peered at the recipe over my shoulder.
‘What’s “Essence”?’ he asked.
‘It’s probably some spice mix of Emeril’s,’ I replied.
He stared at me blankly.
‘You know….BAM! Let’s kick it up a notch!‘ I said, mimicking the famous chef’s tagline.
His eyes began to glaze over. Clearly, this Scot had never heard of the American chef. While I explained about Emeril’s background, his tagline, the over-acting American Celebrity Chef model of the Food Network, he nodded, giving me a crazy side-eye.
We decided that a walk in the sunshine to the supermarket to get supplies together would be just the thing for a Saturday afternoon. (And actually, that was only the secondary reason to the ‘I’m pregnant and can’t carry all of that myself’ reason, which wins every single time.)
After a tiny debate about which supermarket to choose, we decided to walk a little further to Waitrose, rather than going around the corner to our local, disappointing corner supermarket, whose only selection of chicken wings would be of the breaded and frozen variety, rather than the actually fresh poultry kind I was looking for.
(Somewhere in here is a pun for ‘a poultry selection’ or ‘paltry’ selection, or something equally as cringe-worthy, but I hesitate to sully this post with such a base joke. Or maybe just to cover the embarrassment that I can’t quite think of what it could be.)
Waitrose on a Saturday afternoon is what I imagine a posh and polite ground-war would look like. Instead of bombs and gun fire, people shoot each other piercing glances and audible sighs. A couple with a trolly stops in the middle of the aisle, blocking everyone behind them so that they can argue the merits of clotted cream or fresh double cream. They seem oblivious to the sighing behind them, which, in a real motorway traffic would be translated into horns, V’s and a growl of ‘Fuck sake‘ between gritted teeth.
Knowing of Boyface’s hatred for crowds and particularly the self-serving crowds of a middle-class supermarché, I warned him gently before we entered.
‘I know,‘ he replied and first thing through the door a woman stopped right in front of us while she contemplated taking the handheld basket to her left or a trolley to her right. Boyface swerved around her, and I thought I heard him utter ‘Fuck sake‘, but couldn’t be sure.
We seemed quite lively on our feet during our visit, with last minute sidestepping and hairpin-cornering with the trolley to avoid the humanoid diversions in our path, like some live-action 2-D video game. PacMan, but with humans instead of ghosts.
Nearly finished with our shopping, we realised we’d missed butter on our shopping list, and as it was located back at the beginning of the middle-class maze, Boyface started to sigh and I jumped in quickly, ‘I’ll go back and get it real quick’.
He made no argument against it, and I stepped quickly, trolley-free and agile, sweeping around the crowds.
On my way, I got a bump-stare. A bump-stare is when some stranger notices that I’m carrying a lot of weight up front and they stare directly at it, like they’ve never had manners in their entire life. It could be a stare of ‘Oh wow, she’s pregnant, how wonderful!’ or ‘Is she pregnant or fat?’.
This far along in my pregnancy, I’m pretty sure that it’s more obvious that I’m pregnant, rather than overweight, so I imagine that this bump stare was the former.
He was a middle-aged man, with long grey hair and a grey beard, wearing a black t-shirt, which I couldn’t quite read, but was sure it was either of some old timer’s band like ‘The Grateful Dead’ or perhaps a tribute band ‘The Fateful Fred’. Anyway, he stared. I walked past with my bump and his eyes followed.
I decided not to tell Boyface about the bump stare until after we were a good 300 yards from the supermarket.
‘I got a proper bump-stare when we were in there.’ I eased out.
Boyface growled, ‘Fucking better not stare at my baby in there.’
I giggled. ‘And that’s why I didn’t tell you until now. Just wait until strangers start trying to touch the bump.’ Friends had warned me that this would happen, including one friend who recalled a horrific story about how some man grabbed her bump from behind while she was reaching for milk in the supermarket.
I could feel Boyface bristle next to me as we crossed the street. ‘I’d punch their fucking face in, if anyone touched you.’ he threatened, protectively.
‘Not if I get to them first!’ I exclaimed excitedly, and Boyface smiled. ‘It’s assault, right? They assault me, then I can assault them back!’. I realised I sounded almost gleeful at the prospect and decided to dial it back. After all, I hadn’t hit another human being since Matt Downey in the 3rd grade who had called me ‘pee pee pants’ at gym class.
In reality, I’m dreading any possible bump-touching. Bump-staring is ok; there’s nothing I can do about that, and I’m happy to show off my pregnancy. But, touching? No thanks.
I don’t understand why there is a desire to touch a stranger’s pregnant belly. Is it some sick satisfaction of touching another human? The prospect of feeling a growing human underneath? Maybe checking to see if we all do wear pants that come up to our boobs? (Yes. We do.)
What is the appeal?
As much as I was posturing to Boyface that I would react violently, the truth is that I don’t know how I would react. Probably the gentle British way of turning away from the person whilst giving them The Piercing Glare. I don’t know. I don’t think I’d actually hit anyone unless it got really out of hand (like following me around, hand outstretched to try to cop another feel). Would I get someone else involved, like security or police? I don’t know.
But I’m dreading if it ever happens. The whole idea of it feels really uncomfortable to me. Like any mother, I imagine I will be as protective as I need to be to keep anyone/thing from harming my child. Maybe I’ll just roar like a bear. That should do it.
Later that evening, as we finally sat down to our hot wings and BAM! jalapeño poppers, I sipped on my alcohol-free beer, and thought quietly about how much I loved being the good wife who makes the best wings. And if I can be the good mother, too, then that would make life even more complete.
Husband, child and hot wings.
Tick, tick, tick.