Awkward chafing irritates

Anne Thrope (Ms)

My husband really irritates me. For a start, he insists on using talcum powder. Not just tiny conservative dustings of it but great nuclear clouds of the stuff. Walking into the bathroom after he's had a shower is like walking into Pompeii after the ash settled. I've asked him not to use it, or to restrict its use to the shower tray only, but he wilfully ignores my requests. He claims it has medicinal purposes. Apparently, it tackles "chafing". But what is chafing against what remains a mystery, thanks to the propitious arrival of my early morning lift.

His fondness for talc is an issue in our house. The kids and I think he's being idiosyncratic, that his passion for MS Woodspice is a belligerent, defiant act of grumpy middle age. There's no place for perfumed powder in the 21st century. If technology can give us laser eye surgery, electric cars and online GCSE marking then it should be able to devise a better cure for chafing than something that makes the bathroom floor look like it was used by Danniella Westbrook for chopping up lines of cocaine.

It's not just the talc, though. My partner is becoming more irascible as he gets older. I suspect this is true of all men. If you've only just got married, be warned. Whatever slightly vexing habit your partner has now will make you want to strangle him with the lawnmower lead by the time he reaches 40.

The fact that - statistically - we're more likely to get divorced than change bank accounts is, I suspect, due to men behaving outrageously as they hit middle age. When a handsome young man leaves his toenail clippings in the sink it's a sin we'll overlook. But when the culprit has an elasticated waistline, fungal nails and keeps telling you the plot of his latest James Herbert, it's a crime we won't forgive.

Among his other faults, my husband is also resistant to advice. Being a teacher, I pride myself on giving effective Assessment for Learning, so when my actor-husband performs in a new play, it's natural for me to give him notes, such as, "That was a great big steaming pile of shit," or "Why don't you get yourself a proper job?" When we were younger he'd listen; now he'd rather I gave him chlamydia than my point of view. And it's not just my advice he avoids. He seems to think that asking strangers for directions is an emasculating thing to do and will often drive around the same roundabout 33 times just to prove that he's a man.

His recalcitrance is evident in our home life, too. Getting bottom-set Year 10 lads to do their homework is a doddle compared with persuading him to tackle household jobs. If I want him to hang out the washing I'm faced with grim alternatives. Option one is to ask him: "Please hang out the washing." This is always met with the contrary response, "I'd already planned on doing that, but now you've asked me I don't want to do it." Option two - the one I usually favour - is to pop everything into the tumble dryer just as soon as I get home.

Dealing with difficult partners is like managing challenging behaviour at school. It requires patience, perseverance and a determination to succeed. Whenever my relationship hits difficulties, I remember the promise made by Gabriel Oak in Far from the Madding Crowd: "whenever you look up, there I shall be - and whenever I look up there will be you". Except we won't be able to see each other for the clouds of fucking talc.

Anne Thrope (Ms) is a secondary teacher in the north of England. @AnnethropeMs.

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Anne Thrope (Ms)

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