(Medical Note: The French Government have asked us to emphasis that this ailment normally only inflicts those who have retired, moved to Aquitaine in France and bought a crumbling pile of rocks that the locals sensibly disdain.)
You know the look,
Middle sixties, retired, nervous, furtive demeanour, hang dog expression.
He’s suffering from the new scourge of the French Aquitaine region Dadaistic Spouse Syndrome or DSS.
The symptoms usually manifest themselves shortly after retirement and are especially severe in victims who have just bought old French houses to restore.
The first indication is a fantasy that early each morning a disembodied stentorian voice is ringing in the patient’s head repeating the mantra “What are you doing today”.
“What do you mean”, they ask themselves, “ I have only just retired to a life of freedom and luxury and find that I’ve given up one boss to find another ringing in my head”.
Some report finding autonomic writing, with lists of tasks that get longer with the passing of each, increasingly guilt-ridden, day. Feelings of inadequacy are re-enforced by the imagined inability to deal with the apparently ever-increasing workload. Sufferers become confused and disorientated because their illusory perception of increasing work pressure is at odds with their concept of retirement as a halcyon period of pleasure and relaxation. Often they hear accusing voices castigating the lengthening of the lists.
Serious cases experience cognitive dissonance and cannot operate without permanent alcoholic sedation.
A few individuals have even attempted to confront their demons by actually doing the tasks in the hope that the lists will disappear as they strike off each job as ‘done’.
But, like the Lernaean Hydra's heads , the labours double with each attack. Unfortunately most DSS victims are no Hercules and they have many more than twelve labours.
The next manifestation is a paranoid feeling of being watched. Any move towards the car stimulates a censorious articulation “Where are you going”.
Serious cases experience feelings of freedom deprivation as though serving a sentence with no understanding of their crime and no apparent release date in sight. Alas here the virtual prison is not full like in John Reid's lands.
Periods spent hiding in the loo prompt hallucinatory incorporeal inquisitions concerning the longevity of their stay in that haven. The sufferer is often so debilitated that his wife fears for his safety and insists on accompanying him on every outing, creating a vicious cycle that increases his obsession of being imprisoned and guarded.
Most experience a severe spousal déjà non-vue phenomena. In this delusion they dream of waking up soon after retirement and finding that their wife is a different person to the one they knew all those working years.
The quiet well mannered being, who sorted the house and only had to be given consideration for a few hours between work and sleep; is suddenly transmogrified in a raging harridan who demands attention 24/7 .
Not only that she has developed a sadistic impulse to jab him with a sharp tongue with an alacrity that would make Dante’s demons profesionally envious. This psychotic state is so powerful that many sufferers imagine that this nightmare is reality and have taken drastic steps, like turning off their hearing aid.
There is no cure for DSS other than a radical misogamy, but solitary distance from the matrimonial house seems to temporarily relieve the symptoms and many sufferers can lead a relatively normal life with appropriate support. Temporary spousal absence therapy is also known to have beneficial results.
Naturally victims living in urban environments have a better chance of moderating the symptoms than those in rural areas. Often climbing through a ground floor window before going over the garden fence en route to the local Bistro is all that is required.
For the isolated rural inhabitant more extreme actions are needed. It is for that reason that the Aquitaine DSS self help group (ADSSSHG) has been inaugurated see www.pottingshed.gon . As well as giving advice ADSSSHG provide technical kits, training sessions and practical support.
The technical kits offer a number of props, which allow husbands to escape the matrimonial home with a reduced risk of molestation. These include Sunday Papers with the centre pages missing, necessitating a return trip to the newsagent next to the pub. A recorded message that says one of your friends has broken down near the Bistro.
A favourite is the almost authentic note from the Marie asking for you to call by the dégustation office. We have particular expectations of a ‘flyer’ announcing the opening of a new dress shop in Bordeaux with specially discounted prices, this will hopefully relieve the sufferer of his warder for at least 16 hours.
Our training sessions include; excuse development, the study of work incapacitating maladies and selective deafness up to advanced level.
Practical support embraces the setting up of special lads luncheon clubs, spurious French courses and joining the local ‘chasse’. The special projects committee are also investigating a rota to call up warders, eh! partners, saying that their elderly parent(s) need them in England or even China!. When successful all the members can enjoy a spouse free environment for few days until the ‘error’ is discovered.
Although serious, the effects of DSS can be controlled. Unfortunately like malaria it has been shown to be episodic.
Some with the disability who took the courageous and serious step of operational marital annulment, to effect a cure, have been known to relapse with a new “significant other” after only a few months, bringing on a renewed and often more serious onset of the symptoms.
It therefore behoves all of us to be vigilant and help fellow sufferers whenever we can.