I had a startling choice on the fifth day of my forfeit. Having eaten more chillies than me, and completed a one thousand piece jigsaw faster, my wife had decided to teach me the meaning of female pain by exposing it to me for an entire week.
When I awoke on the Wednesday to the sound of my alarm going off at ridiculous o'clock, I remembered that I had to go into the office. My wife had told me over dinner the previous day. My boss is a woman and good friends with my wife. I had a nagging suspicion that I wasn't actually required in the office. One of the pains in my wife's life that she obviously wanted me to experience was the stress of a workday morning. Ordinarily, my workday morning is get up, shower, shave, dress while eating breakfast and drinking coffee and then leave. Grand total time between alarm and drive is thirty-minutes. I can get it down to twenty if I don't shave and skip breakfast. My wife takes ninety minutes.
I checked very carefully in the shower, but I could see no additional hairs for the first time that week. Except for those on my face and neck, but I was used to those. I couldn't see my back. I had to hope. The car park at work fills up very early. I was faced with a choice, get to work very early or walk from the alternate car park to the office. I opted for the former, which meant getting the make-up right first time and skipping breakfast. At least I didn't have to spend thirty minutes doing my hair. Perhaps my wife would appreciate a wig for her birthday. It would save her two and a half hours a week. Then again: perhaps not.
I jabbed myself in the eye with the mascara brush, adjusted the G-string so it didn't separate me from my masculinity permanently, and felt I was ready. It had taken just over an hour.
"You'll need to wear the higher heels," my wife said, with bed hair. At least she wasn't demanding sex this morning. Perhaps she was tiring.
"Why?" I asked, while adjusting my hair.
"The other shoes don't go with that outfit," she handed me an old handbag. "It's important."
Women's clothes lack pockets. Pockets are a basic essential. There should be a law requiring all clothes to have pockets. I looked in the handbag. There was a small umbrella, money, make-up and a spare set of tights. For some reason, the combined weight of these items was equivalent to a major supermarket's fire safe.
"You're enjoying this, aren't you?" I asked.
"Immensely," she said with a wicked smile. "I'll come and visit you at lunchtime. We'll do lunch. I'm sure Marie [my boss] will join us."
This was when I realised that my wife had arranged the day. I would have narrowed my eyes in suspicion, but I feared the mascara would stick my eyelids together forcing me to reapply it and waste precious extra minutes.
The drive to work is about thirty minutes. If I didn't get held up, I should make it in time to get in the car-park. I'd not been in the car on my own until now, and I absolutely could not drive in the heels. It was impossible. I had to hope that the tights would not ladder on the pedals, as that would be seriously annoying. The dress I was in kept riding up and I nearly dislocated my neck because I'd trapped my wig in the door again. Half way to work, having been cut up by a white van, I had the sudden fear I would be involved in an accident and have to go to hospital. This made me drive more cautiously. This made me miss the last spot in the car-park.
I very nearly turned around and went home, but men can take the pain women can take. We can. Honestly, I'm not just saying it to reassure myself. Okay, I am.
I parked as close as I could to the pay-and-display machine, bought a ticket and then found another space closer to the office, completely contrary to the instructions. Between me and the office was as building site. I put the shoes back on, gritted my teeth and set off.
The two inch heels had been bad enough. Four inches is a completely different ball game. It was like walking on a ship heaving in heavy weather. Before I'd gone the twenty metres out of the car-park I'd twisted my ankle and stumbled twice. A wolf-whistle came from the building site, I looked in the builder's direction, and he saw me, the second wolf whistle swallowed so quickly he nearly fell off his scaffold. That made me grin. A slight ramp and a revolving door were my next obstacles to be overcome. A ramp I have barely noticed before suddenly became a Himalayan mountain, and I didn't have a Sherpa to carry the fifteen tonne truck I had slung over one shoulder.
"I didn't expect you in this early," said my boss. At least she hadn't said: "I didn't expect you in today" or "WTF are you in drag for?"
This confirmed my belief that my wife and my boss were in cahoots.
"Cardiff's database is down. You can go home when it's up."
"So there is a real emergency," I said.
"Oh yes," she replied with a smile. I now appreciated how long that smile took to put on. "However, Julie told me all about why you're dressed like that. I'm sure the rest of the team will be most amused."
Typing in nails is hard. I must have hit the @ symbol fifty times in the first hour before I learned to hit the shift key on the opposite side of the keyboard from the capital letter I wanted. It was strange looking down on a keyboard where my fingertips were red. I could not get used to it. I also couldn't get used to having my hair fall across my face. The invention of the pony tail was a godsend. If I had any sense, I would have borrowed a scrunchy off somebody. I was constantly asked if it was dress down Friday already, or if this was my usual holiday attire. I took to telling people that I'd had a sex change. I'm also pretty sure that an email had been sent to ensure everybody in the office knew, as the number of people who needed to come into our area for completely irrelevant reasons was much higher than normal. I went past embarrassment, through annoyance and caught a train to resignation.
"Can I squeeze your boob?" was the most inventive comment I received. It came from Phil, who normally couldn't get as far up the office as tech services, normally gravitating towards the kitchen long before he got there.
"Only if you want a sexual harassment charge," I told him, which made the rest of my team laugh. I'd explained to them, so I had some sympathy. To save me from trying to carry a tray of coffee the length of the office, they even made the drinks. Although, this meant I eventually had to go to the loo, and the office was now full. I eyed the potted plant in the corner. It looked very tempting.
In the end, I had to run the gauntlet. Well stagger in an unbalanced way the gauntlet. I ignored the questions about which loo I would be using. I used the disabled loo and got half undressed, by which point I'd nearly wet myself.
I made it to noon, at which point my wife arrived. My boss and my wife collected me to take me to lunch. I believe their enjoyment of a vegetable and fruit based lunch was put on solely for my benefit. How women can concentrate through half starvation is something I now envy. At least I learned the real reason women diet: so that they can eat chocolate and drink wine.
I left work within seconds of getting my work done. My chair was probably still spinning two hours later. I am glad I am not a bricklayer.
By the time I got home, my feet hurt in ways that they have never hurt before. I added 'offer more foot massages for my wife' to my to-do list. I wasn't as tired as I had been, but I still had an early night. My wife joined me, and demanded sex. Well, who was I to argue?