I remember once discovering that a friend did her husband’s holiday packing for him. The toothbrush, the pants, the shaving foam, the extra-strength anti-perspirant. The works.
I was shocked. It seemed both controlling and subservient to be taking over such a basic adult task. My friend seemed to be infantalising her husband and belittling her own time to take over what is a boring but essential task. Yes she was in control of what went into his case, but how did that reflect their roles in the wider world?
Then I realised that I do something perhaps far worse. While she is only in control of the practical necessities of the holiday, I’ve commandeered the intellectual. I pack my husband’s holiday reading.
We’ve just passed the season of book round-ups and recommendations, which I find useful to file away for my book splurges come July. I’m particularly keen on the crossover book – a novel or non-fiction title that I know we’ll both enjoy (in the main our reading tastes to stray towards the gender specific. I know, for example, that he’ll never read the Cazalet Chronicles. I, on the other hand, hate Kingsley Amis so it’s a fair trade).
Books like David Nicholls’ One Day (Languedoc, 2009) are a good bet – the ‘girly’ subject mitigated by the male author. The reverse is true – a thriller written by a woman (Gone Girl, Andalusia 2011).
Then there’s always room in the case for the pop science and economics books. We love a bit of that on holiday. Malcolm Gladwell started it, and it’s useful to have some contemporary commentary to fill any conversational gaps that the long-together couple might have on those long summer evenings.
There’s another genre that perfectly meets our joint holiday reads – the ‘serious’ sports book. It’s an odd thing, but I find myself much preferring to read about sport than watch it. Never in my life have I watch a full La Liga match, even in my three years living in Spain, but I’m already excited about Sid Lowe’s Fear and Loathing in La Liga. Quite frankly I’d happily have any of the shortlist for last year’s William Hill Sports Book to take with us.
We used to have such different tastes that our venn diagram of holiday reading would have no overlap. We had separate suitcases and separate piles, compiled without consultation. Does the fact that we can now plough happily through our joint stock say something terrible about the ways that couples can lose their identities? Or is more reflective of RyanAir’s exorbitant luggage costs?
And what happens when we finally both succumb to the Kindle?