I RECENTLY had the painful experience of "baching" for two weeks. Yes, my family somehow managed to tear themselves away from me and go overseas on holiday.
This forced me to ponder the complex question: Does absence make the heart beat fonder because you miss your loved ones? Or faster, due to gloriously poor lifestyle choices available while they're gone?
As creatures of habit, it's interesting to note what happens to domesticated man (DM) when routine is disrupted like this.
The rogue male, so noble, so trained, so under the thumb for so long, is suddenly master of his domain.
It can be confusing. Things so programmed before seem suddenly not so pre-ordained. The normalcy of normality is up for discussion. And in a one-way conversation, where it's my way or the highway, you're suddenly king of the road. Yeah baby.
These were significant realisations domesticated man struggled with, for at least a minute, after being left forlorn by his planet-gallivanting other halves and quarters.
And, yes that's supposed to sound wounded because, hey, domesticated man, was the one staying at home financing the trip.
And if that sounds a tad bitter then good, because grabbing high moral ground is key to any loving relationship. Particularly where notions of "separation anxiety" turn on concern said loved ones may not actually separate. But more of that later.
Domesticated man would never want to sound complacent about what he stood to lose. But accurately so, he figured he'd get it all back in a fortnight - so cape diem. Cape fortnight actually.
Not that it was Hangover IV or anything. Mike Tyson didn't drop by with his tiger and there was no road trip, except to and from work each day. But domesticated man did spend much quality time with his cat watching nearly every minute of the tennis.
And that was fantastic because not once did the cat suggest he change channels. And that's because cats love tennis nearly as much as they love pawing DM's gut.
"Alone but not lonely" would be one way to describe it. Pig in mud, another.
It had been pretty hectic actually, getting the fam down to the airport. Like I said, there had been concern they may not actually go, due to a last-minute illness. Horrifying thought, and not just because we'd paid for everything.
Then there'd been the added element of a hyperthyroided cat, as documented in this column a fortnight ago. That had left an aromatic signature on not only the car, but also the farewells.
And then there was that time-honoured question of the airport goodbye: do you stay or do you go after dropping off? Next time I'll go as there really is no point watching 17 planes take off if you don't know which one your loved ones are on.
Turned out they were in the air 15 minutes before I gave up.
Ultimately, my pining was for nothing because, and they told me this, once they disappeared behind departure door, they forgot about me.
Well they tried. I kept texting, which by all accounts was annoying. Which in turn was good because they were the ones flying overseas remember.
I just had to accept they wouldn't want me to suffer. So I raced back to Newcastle to begin two weeks of much anticipated degeneration into slovenliness.
All By Myself may be one of the most melancholy tunes to ever come out of the 1970s, but it sounded real perky watching Superman IV: The Quest for Peace that first night home alone.
Wikipedia notes that Superman IV was neither a commercial nor critical success, but I gave it an Oscar because it marked the end of my personal quest for some peace.
If David Attenborough had been narrating, he would have noted that "domesticated man no longer cooks".
And it's true, the moment they left I started taking on the behavioural patterns, and indeed appearance, of an Amazonian Tapir, or perhaps a wombat.
Neither of them cook either.
They sniff around their habitat day and night, foraging for food, like cheese, and salami, and two-minute noodles.
And when those are eaten down, they move on to ice-cream and ultimately takeaway. Lots of takeaway.
Attenborough would have noted tapirs and wombats don't make new year's resolutions about giving up beer either, so that went by the wayside early on too.
After the wine ran out.
Nor do tapirs and wombats worry much about laundry, sweeping or turning the dishwasher on.
I boasted about that on Skype, mainly because there was several thousand kilometres of ocean between me and disapproval.
They weren't exactly struggling on the other side of the ditch either, judging by the daily restaurant reviews. But when it was declared that on return a home-cooked meal was expected, I was alarmed.
Cook? Recipe? There were gaps in knowledge and motivation.
Still, all good, I mean bad, things come to an end. And so they came home.
Attenborough would have noted the hissing and marking of territory upon reunification. Not unlike Tassie devils disputing over a carcass . . . of love.
It takes time for old habits to be re-established . . . hisssss!!!
Ultimately absence did make the heart beat fonder, but it was probably the cholesterol that made it beat faster.