Let me just state for the record; I might be the dad of four daughters but I don't dress dolls, I don't like pink, and I don't carry handbags. I feel better for getting that off my chest. It's not that I am sexist you understand; I am quite happy to cry at a sad movie and do my fair share of household chores. I just feel the need to draw a line in the hormonal sand. The number of times I have been presented with a Cindy or Barbie, hair matted with hair band and arms twisted in a tribute to Twin Peaks, and asked 'Daddy can you put these trousers on my dolly?'
This is where I first learnt to shout 'I don't dress dolls!', whilst trying to force plastic legs into miniature denim. The fact that I have got five thumbs on each hand doesn't help matters but, after making my plea for mercy, I would usually give in and commit plastic grievous bodily harm.
My rejection of all things pink is probably just a bad reaction to the blancmange we were force fed at school; a dubious treat that came in a variety of unsociable colours. I sometimes wonder why I would have chosen to eat it, but then I remember that the other desserts on offer were sago, tapioca, and prunes. Enough said!
Pink, and when I say pink I mean all manner of bright colours, has been a recurring theme in my relationship with the girls. I recall needing a pen to complete a form whilst checking into a hotel. A daughter kindly rummaged through her tardis-like handbag and produced one that lit up when used, complete with a feather sticking out of the end. In my haste I hadn't noticed the glow and began to write at first unaware of the odd looks from other waiting guests. I have had similar experiences with umbrellas and key rings.
It is probably the hand bag carrying that causes me the most concern. I have always been happy to carry shopping home in plastic bags even though it has increased my carbon footprint. The problem comes when we are shopping as a family in one of those large centres where the shops look the same and there is a decided lack of chairs available for a tired dad.
On these occasions I usually assume the job of pack-horse and am steadily loaded up with merchandise during the day. The only time I am offered any relief from my lifting duties is when they need me to pay for another purchase.
Plastic bags not withstanding, I choose to draw the line at carrying their handbags (and when I say carry I mean hold because walking with one would be too much to ask). I will occasionally agree if my bride stays close by so that other shoppers will understand that the article is not mine. As soon my wife or the girls move more than two foot away I put the bag on the floor; standing over it as though I am guarding an important object.
So here I am; a male living in a female world. I take comfort in the fact that, because we have all daughters, it was always my wife who had to take them to the toilet when we were out for the day. Men’s toilets are no place for anyone of a sensitive nature. I don’t want to go into to much detail but boys, whether grown up or not, have no sense of direction.
This apart, there has still always been a tendency to draw me into their girlie world. Therefore, as an act of personal therapy, I would like to add a few other items to my original list of things that I refuse to do. I don’t untangle knotted jewellery, I don’t empty blonde hair out of the shower filter, and I don’t answer the question, ‘Does this dress suite me?’
Actually I do all of the above apart from the last one. I have learnt that it is a question far too dangerous to answer even if you are carrying a handbag.
We have been thinking about holidays again and the air is filled with talk of flights and villas, lotions and costumes. There has definitely been a progression in our household when it comes to such things. Only a few years ago, when the girls were easily fooled by the idea that being under canvas was fun, we would prepare for the summer months with thoughts a little less grand. We always tried our best to get a holiday no matter how limited our funds; some times it was fulfilled by visiting family across the Pennines and taking trips out to towns with more sand than sea. Or discovering the debatable beauty of refurbished canal walks hidden behind newly converted waterside dwellings.
Most of our holidays involved camping and as such were a strain on our tempers and our backs. I don’t know what it is about inflatable mattresses but they seem to be timed to deflate at about the same time as you manage to drop off to sleep. Cooking is not much more fun as you try to make a Sunday lunch using one pan and a Swiss army knife. The girls were mostly oblivious to such difficulties and enjoyed the different sights and sounds of outdoor life.
One of our most memorable excursions was to an event on the Lincolnshire showground along with thousands of other families. Having arrived at the site, stressed from a journey with far too many toilets stops and burger wrappers, we attempted to set up the tent. Let me warn you that tents are like Christmas tree lights; they never come out of the bag in the same neat order that you put them in the previous year. To add to this trial I had forgotten to bring the large box of tent pegs collected over our years of camping. Being Friday night on a bank holiday weekend there was little chance of replacements being available, so I was left to wander round the campsite searching for all the bent ones left by previous campers. After losing several yards of skin on my knuckles during the straightening process, we were able to use our temporary abode at the same time as the light faded in the sky.
On the second night of our stay, at about two in the morning, I heard whispered voices on the other side of the canvas. As quick as a dad can, I scrambled out of the tent to see half a dozen teenagers about to run away. I managed to catch one by the arm and began my investigation feeling sure that they must be up to some mischief. The boy shook with a little fear as I quizzed him, 'What on earth are you up to at this time in the morning?' I asked.
'We were playing a game', he spluttered.
'A game! What kind of game?' I said, not satisfied with his response.
'I am not sure if I should tell you', he replied.
'Just tell me what the game was', I said letting go of his shirt sleeve.
'It's called Hunt the Loudest Snorer'.
I should have ended the conversation there but lack of sleep or stupidity had now kicked in.
'And...............who was the loudest snorer?' I asked uncertain of whether I wanted to hear his response.
'I am not sure if I should tell you' he repeated.
'Just say it' I said somewhat prepared for his reply.
I let him go and chuckled as I returned to my deflated airbed.
In the morning I told my wife about what had happened (she didn’t seem too interested at the time). 'At last!' she said with a sense of victory, as if now others knew of her life of suffering.
Her reply didn’t concern me and I did a victory lap around the tent; being a competitive male I take any ‘win’ as an achievement no matter how dubious. As my reward for being ‘The Camps Loudest Snorer’, I re-inflated the airbed and returned for en extra few moments practice of my new found talent.
Early morning bathroom fever used to hit our house every day, as the five females of the home all tried to mark out their territory. Mostly this involved laying claim to the hairdryer or carrying round the curly brush to make sure it was always available (I still, to this day, have to work out why, in a house of a hundred brushes, only one was good enough for all of them). Added to this was the rush for the bathroom door with each one demanding that they had a reason to take priority. I often tried to bring some logic to the arguments that raged about who should rightfully inherit the water closet first. I soon realised that my involvement was neither wanted nor useful.
Things have not always been so tense in casa Molineaux; for the first eighteen months of married life we owned a terraced house. It was advertised to us as having an ‘indoor toilet’, because at that time many older homes still only had an external ‘privy’.
In truth it was an extra cupboard built into the back box room but, because we are at a nostalgic age, we now lovingly refer to it as an en suite bedroom.
Over time we gradually increased our bedroom space to accommodate our offspring but, due to the older nature of our houses, we never quite managed extra bathrooms; meaning that queues for baths and toilets have been a regular feature.
I have tried several schemes in order to avoid such gridlock in the morning. I had a run of setting the girl’s alarms at 15 minute intervals, but it only took one daughter to sleep in to throw the whole schedule into chaos.
I have learnt over the years to spend as little time doing my own ablutions as possible in order that I might not enrage the already anxious female population of our house. When I do leave the shower, after the shortest time possible, it is to the sound of my wife complaining about the excess water on the floor; apparently I am supposed to begin the drying process whilst still in the foot and half of cubicle space.
I am not sure that the complaints are justified when you consider the obstacle course that I have to negotiate following female bath time; this after I have found my way through the haze of perfume and other noxious gases that come out of the cosmetic pots.
For me shower time is a quick event with the point of the exercise being to get clean. All our girls are unanimous in the view that it can also be good therapy to stand motionless under moving water for a very long time. If I were cruel I would try to speed up the process by turning on a downstairs hot tap in order to change the water pressure and temperature. (No! Honestly I haven’t done this).
At a moment of greatest frustration I once joined a local sports club because it had excellent showers and the queue was less than the one at home.
Things started to get a little easier as two of the girls headed for university and I hoped that my opportunity for a free bathroom might arrive when our eldest daughter got married last year. The actual result was that she now visits and brings her new husband along to join the queue.
My other main complaint is that my razor is no longer my own; after I have spent a small fortune on blades I find that they lose their sharpness within days. Apparently those designed especially for females are not as good.
I have finally fallen on an excellent idea that I am sure will solve such problems. It came to me whilst I was waiting to buy cheese at our local supermarket. I pulled the ticket from the handy machine provided and calmly waited for my number to be displayed on the electronic sign. Then it came to me; if it is good enough for shoppers wanting dairy products then it should work well with daughters wanting to start the day with a shower.