In which there is a man about the house.

Printed 18/02/09.

Today, a man has moved into the house. It’s only barely discernable, but I’m definitely picking up the new pheromone ratio in the atmosphere, and it’s making me slightly edgy.

(Incidentally, I believe it’s a skill unique in Worthing to those who went to Davison High, to be able to sense ‘boy’ within 10 seconds at a 50m radius. Naturally it helps if the male in question, as our few boy associates generally were in those days, are liberally doused in a Lynx body spray called Angst, but I maintain this is an ability that goes beyond mere smell. The caretaker’s son, sports centre assistants, travelling actors come to do workshops on road safety – all were victims of our boydar, subjected to hours of slavish following around corridors and, more often than not, tributes in the form of song.)

It shouldn’t be a daunting prospect – we lived with Pete for two whole years, and as far as I can tell neither party suffered any lasting damage. On the contrary we like to think it made him a better, more attentive, well-informed member of the male population, tuned into such delicate nuances as pore size, chunky days, and when to hazard a comment on a new haircut. Meanwhile we awakened our maternal instincts and began to understand why half-pint cans of Heineken aren’t the sensible moderate solution they might seem, but actually a slight on one’s masculinity. Yes, overall we did mixed-gender living very well.

So on advertising for new housemates, we’ve always been keen to stress the point that despite being four girls, we are not girly. We don’t require midnight spider-removal. We don’t get squeamish about pulling hair out of the plughole (last week’s excavation amounting in a fairly accurate model of Cousin It from the Addams Family). We don’t have PMT that casts a black cloud of doom over the local area for a week, striking down with lady lightning anyone that happens to glance accidentally in the direction of our thighs. And, just to do my bit to debunk a persistent myth of man-driven media, we have never, ever, had pillow fights in our pants.

But in the end, girls moved in. Then one moved out, and another girl moved in. Then another. And in that time, just a short six months, the creeping influence of femininity seems to have worked its way over the house without us noticing. It started small, with floral crockery, fruit in the fruitbowl, air freshener in the loo instead of matches, that sort of thing. Then came the fresh flowers on the table, the village-fete bunting strung up in the kitchen, the sudden and alarming multiplying of cushions in the lounge that nobody but the hamster ever even goes in.

We started buying moisturising handwash instead of using Fairy Liquid, and had sudden urges to drape fabric over objects that don’t require fabric draping to function at their full capacity. It was the evening we spent doing decoupage on the hall table with pictures of flowers and Victorian children that I realised what we had become. We were proper, womeny women. My main fear became that soon, if we turned off the Best of Girls Aloud and stopped crocheting doilies for a second, we might be able to make out the very faint, distant ticking of four biological clocks.

But it’s all going to be ok, now we have a bloke around again. I’m hoping it will curb our girly behaviour before we reach the point of no return and have to buy a cat to dress up in bonnets. We’re going to have to modify the habits that have been allowed to flourish, unchecked by the outward influence of a scornful man.

No longer will we be able to sing Total Eclipse of the Heart into bottles of Babycham as an acceptable Friday night activity. We won’t be able to stage impromptu competitions over whose tights come up the highest, or whose legs without shaving can most quickly enter a state of official yetidom as necessary insulation for the winter.

Of course, this might seem like a lot of sacrifice, but in return we’ll be gaining new power of our own – for any time we need to exercise authority, maybe get the washing up done or scare him into a state of cowardly subservience, we need only utter the magic word. “Periods”.