Ouch. This week I got a reminder that love really does hurt.
What’s causing my pain? No, it’s not the sting of rejection. Or even a pulled hamstring from, er, overexertion. Instead, it was the removal of an errant hair. Plucked, by my boyfriend, with zero warning or anaesthetic (ie, gin) and, boy, did it smart.
It also signalled that I have progressed to a new stage in my relationship. I’m not sure if that’s a high or a low. Depends how you look at it.
I’m calling it the ‘grooming stage’ – where you stare deeply into each other’s eyes… then notice a stray lash or a bit of sleep in the corner.
Maybe it’s just the ‘perfection blinkers’ coming off, but I prefer to think of it as a sign that our feelings of nurture and care are deepening.
It develops slowly. One morning last weekend, while lying in bed looking at my sleeping beau’s back, I progressed from admiring his muscles to thinking, ‘Has he ever had that mole checked out?’
And don’t even get me started on ingrowing hairs.
When he indicated he might have one on his neck, I couldn’t contain my excitement. I mean, the speed with which I leapt up to inspect it was verging on embarrassing.
There’s not much I love more than the challenge of ‘operating’ on one. In fact, back in my dating days my profile should have read, ‘likes sporty, emotionally intelligent men who must have a tendency to “ingrowers”.’
I think I’m a frustrated medic because at any sign of one, I’m sterilising needles and sharpening my tweezers.
Before you write me off as a deviant, grooming is actually key to bonding. Really. Scratching backs, removing soap residue from behind ears, stroking someone’s hair, removing splinters, applying sunscreen, inspecting scalps – it’s all relationship gold. The apes, with their ‘monkeying’, have got it right.
OK, for them, there is a hygiene element to their grooming (removing those pesky parasites) but, according to a BBC report, that process only requires around one per cent of their time – yet some species spend 17 per cent of it rifling through each other’s fur.
Why? Apparently primates groom to win favours and earn social standing, to de-stress and de-escalate tensions. The report talks about how monkeys are more likely to share food with another that has previously groomed it and are quicker to reconcile after a spat. Grooming promotes bonding and stimulates endorphins – relaxing and lowering the heart rate.
I think this transfers to the human world. Certainly, my boyfriend and I are closer for our monkeying. The boyfriend likes, no scratch that, loves his feet being moisturised and having his back massaged.
Not a visit goes by without him pulling out his Theragun (a handheld machine with a ball on the end that pummels tense muscles into submission) and wordlessly assuming a prostrate position. Then once started, he doesn’t so much as twitch in case I stop.
And me? I like my back scrubbed with some granular potion. Though I will concede, possibly with a gentler touch than the boyfriend metes out. There are now no flakes on me. And I’m pretty sure the top layer of my dermis is gone too.
When I was mithering about him seeing my flaws up close, the boyfriend said, ‘I love the real you, not the Instagram version.’ Which was lovely, and just as well because the next thing he said was, ‘I think you’ve got an eyelash on your neck.’
But when he tried to remove it, it didn’t budge. It didn’t budge because, we both realised at the same time, it was firmly attached. It was… a whisker.
Keeping it real, people.
Keeping it real.
Read more of Rosie Green’s columns here