For anyone out there who doesn’t know what the Tough Mudder is, I’ll define in the way I’ve come to know it: a thirteen mile, four hour sadistic Survivor obstacle course. Running, climbing, crab-crawling under barbed wire, swimming, sloshing through mud. And if that isn’t fun enough–or proof that you are strong, powerful, and above any other mortal who cringes at the Mudder–you get to dodge electrocution as you cross the finish line. Even people who just want to stand there and cheer their Mudders on have to sign a death waiver. That’s why I bailed in the eleventh hour. The death waiver. Well, that, and getting up at seven in the morning, driving two hours and spending the next six on my feet in the dirt with other Team Mudders. And the $20 fee. Don’t forget the $20 to watch people run past you. And the parking fee. I hosted some Mudders; a selfless contribution to the madness, um, the cause.
Okay, so the hosting had little to do with me. Here’s the Real Steel deal; Arty Party’s longtime friend Crouching Tiger (let’s refer to him now as “C-Tig”) came to Tampa to visit us last May. He brought pictures and stories of his participation in the Tough Mudder held in the Poconos. He said there was one in Tampa that he and his buddies were casing out in December. AP said, “You should. And why don’t all of you stay here?” Okay. I was a little shocked, but I was not about to say no to four men sharing my home for a week. So when C-Tig looked at me and asked, “Are you guys sure?” I just nodded and smiled. Yes. Why not?
They’re slated for arrival November 28. November 7-25 AP and I are out of town for the holidays and promoting our business. So when we get back to Tampa I am doing non-stop laundry and cleaning. The boys arrive Thursday as planned. C-Tig gets the guest room, two of them crash on the couches in the living room, the married one of the bunch sets up his air mattress in the gym. For dinner we crowd around the kitchen table and eat McDonald’s and Taco Bell. One of them speaks of making a pot roast one night and having a red wine and red meat night. One talks about grilling burgers one night. I see myself sitting poolside, stuffed with Mt. Dew and hot dogs. Take that any way you want to.
So, without going into private matters or pointing fingers, let me tell you the important fact you need to know about each of them: one is AP’s best male friend, one is very cheap, one is involved with a psycho and one AP and I were crushing on in a very non-obvious kind of way. Given these facts, we all go out to dinner (the one and only time this will happen while they are here) to Bella’s, one of Tampa’s best Italian restaurants. Another male joins us, so it’s me and AP and five gents. And at the end of the meal we all get separate checks. I am the only one who is man enough to pay for someone besides me. You’re welcome for the Friday night date, AP. C-Tig leans into AP and apologizes for five men making two women–who are putting them up for six days–pay for themselves. Whatever. There’s still meat on the barbie, a pot roast and red wine nights ahead. Right? Right?
Let me say that what happened on the way home wasn’t planned, but somehow my innate woman-ness took over and caused me to torture the four men in the car following us back to our house from Bella’s, especially the cheap one. Most of the time when the boys went somewhere there was a little discussion over whether or not to take the toll roads. We took the toll roads to Bella’s, and considering they had to run the Mudder the following day and wanted to get home and in bed as quickly as possible, they’d have to take the hit for the $2.25 in tolls. On the ride AP and I were talking in the car. The topic of conversation made me drive right by our exit. After expressing to her several times that these men were going to strangle me with my blonde hair, AP calls C-Tig to explain what happened and they follow us off the next exit, $.50 in the basket. We get back on the highway in the opposite direction, $.50 more in the basket. I see they are far behind us as I pull away from the toll booth. C-Tig calls AP to tell her they have no change. One of them comes running up to our car for a quarter. We give and he asks if there are any more tolls. I swear there aren’t. God, how I thought there wasn’t. But as we get off our real exit, I see the dreaded unmanned toll booth with the blasted basket. Right now AP and I are laughing so hard I can’t see straight. I am crying, I am gagging, I cannot breathe. I pay and see in my rear view they are stuck at the booth. They weren’t kidding when they said they had no change. I am backing up towards the booth, a different one runs up to the car for his $.50 and we finally get back to the house 30 minutes later than we should have.
Mutter Day. They leave at eight in the morning. At quarter til twelve C-Tig texts AP and tells her to steer clear of Sarasota, where they are holding the Mudder. The boys are still stuck in traffic, it’s going to be a long day, forget the day we planned meeting up at the Daiquiri Deck for drinks and coconut shrimp and a walk on Siesta Key Beach. They’ll see us for dinner. Ok. AP and I go shopping, have lunch and take naps so we’ll be awake and fresh when they get home. C-Tig texts AP around seven-thirty and says they’re coming home, it was a great day, woo hoo! When they get here they are laden with grocery bags, steaks and fresh vegetables . . . and that friend who joined us at Bella’s. Oh. Ok. AP goes in the kitchen to help them cut and saute the vegetables. When she rejoins me in the living room she tells me there are only five steaks. Hmmm. Five? But there are seven of us. Now they know AP doesn’t eat steak but where are the baked potatoes and veggies we discussed the last time we talked about red meat/grill night? To answer your question, oh yes, dear readers, it is exactly what you think it is. Those five men used my kitchen and my grill and my dishes and my dining room–my frigging house–to cook steaks for themselves and chow down, acting as if AP and I weren’t even there. Oh wait, I’m wrong; one of them asked AP if she wouldn’t mind keeping an eye on the green peppers sauteing in my frying pan.
For dinner AP and I go to a diner. Oh, we are pissed. We are hurt. We feel used. We feel like asses. We get home and hole up in her bedroom, talking about them and watching crappy CW shows on the DVR. C-Tig comes up, knowing something is wrong, and we don’t mince any words when we call him and his friends douchebags.
“Who does that?” I ask. “What if it was your mother and sister? What if your mother and sister put your friends up for a week? Would they go in her kitchen and cook themselves dinner and not even offer her a bite? Who raised you people?”
For her part, AP told him she had never been treated so crappily before by a bunch of men. I said, “If I go to the fridge for a bottle of water I ask if someone wants anything while I’m up. What kind of men treat women like this?”
Of course C-Tig is so ashamed of himself. He says they’re all just caught up in the macho-ness of it all. It’s a boys club thing that isn’t right, but he understands what happened. He says he’ll make it up to us. We tell him he can’t. The damage is done, it goes to character and these men have jack with a side of squat. We won’t make him or his friends feel uncomfortable, but the love affair is over and his friend can stick his pot roast where the sun don’t shine, I refuse to eat it.
The next morning one of them makes us pancakes, eggs and bacon while the other brews coffee. They serve us in the living room. They grill us hot dogs for lunch. They go to the movies and ask us to join them. We have work to do, but when they come back they fix us dinner. They wash and dry and put away all the dishes. C-Tig goes out and buys us a six pack of Mt. Dew. Monday one of them gets up at eight in the morning to prepare and simmer the pot roast. We hang around the house and pool. C-Tig helps AP paint a table we want to put in the foyer. They watch our shows with us, even Grey’s Anatomy. What I’m trying to say is, it’s Wednesday and I’m still eating the pot roast I refused to touch.
So are they douchebags? Are we bitches? They’re men, and we’re women, and we don’t go about things the same way, but the feeling and result is the same. Before their arrival, AP and I bought them water, orange juice, coffee cream. We cleaned the pillows and blankets and comforters and toilets and towels. I put the very manly Irish Spring liquid soap into the shower. When they came we encouraged them to treat the house like home. We didn’t need someone to tell us this. We just did it. They were equally as accommodating, but only after they were told, so to speak. They didn’t understand that being boys would hurt the women. After they got it; we all came together. We treated them like kings, and they treated us like fabulous princesses. And even if that’s some shit, at least it’s not tough.