merchant mariner families

...a highly unusual, sometimes maddening,
but mostly comical way of life.

January 29, 2013

lena & the tiger cookies

        I'm sexist, I'll admit it.  But I try really, really hard to think like a tough, I Am Woman Hear Me Roar, Gloria Steinem type of gal 99% of the time.  That other 1%, it just happens (like using the word gal in a sentence about feminism), I can't help it.  Such was the case when Beady started working on a new ship several years back called the MV Jean Anne.  The thought never occurred to me that there would be any women on the ship with him, it just never crossed my sexist mind.  I mean, I knew there were women in the shipping industry, but because it's clearly dominated by men (for now), I didn't even think twice about who Beady would be working with.  And so it went until we showed up at a friend's party.    
    I always get a kick out of listening to Beady talk to his non-mariner friends about work, more specifically the men.  They listen intently as he begins, then slowly move closer to him, completely absorbing each and every word as if he'd unlocked the meaning of life--which he hasn't by the way in case you were wondering.  I can't even get him to courtesy flush amidst his toilet regimen, so the meaning of life is a stretch.  I know, I should be grateful he even flushes the toilet at all.  I am.
    What seems to be happening with these guys is a kind of romanticism of his life out there, as if he gets paid to simply be.  Surrounded by a beautiful and dangerous ocean on all sides, solitude, sailing by the stars, nightly strolls about the deck in which to ponder the world, this life, and love.  Aaahhh........... I'm sure it's very appealing, an escape from the drudgery of everyday life.  It even seems enticing to me, and who knows, maybe that's what does happen--but then there's the flushing thing and I can only see Beady as 'Master and Commander' of the bathroom.
     Well, it so happened one of these conversations was taking place at the party and I was gearing up to be entertained again as "New Guy" joined the discussion.  He asked the generic questions, how long have you been shipping, where do you sail, how many crew, etc.  After about five minutes of light interrogation, his eyes began to soften with that same longing I'd seen in others.  However, his next question was this, "So, do you sail with any women?"  He looked at me, winked, and we all laughed until Beady answered yes.  High fives, Atta Boys!, and clapping ensued, no one noticed I wasn't laughing anymore.  Beady proceeded to tell them there were actually two women on board and that they were sisters, Lena and Marta.  Can you guess what happened next?  Yup, starved dogs with meat.  "Oh my God, Beady!  Are they on the Swedish Bikini Team?"  "Are they twins?"  "Do they tuck you in at night?"  "Do they speak English?"  "How tall are they?"  "Hot?  Come on, they're really hot, right?"  This went on for about 5 more repulsive minutes until Beady finally looked over at me and said, "Honey, I think you'd really like Lena, she's reading the last Harry Potter, too."  In one horrifying instant all of the femininity, the mysteriousness, the sex appeal I had was ripped away!  And I stood, 10 years old again with pancake size glasses, clutching said Harry Potter book while Lena the Glamazon posed next to me in a Miller Lite Bikini.             I said the first thing that came to my mind because I'm sexist--"Oh, she can read?  That's great, Honey."  I walked away as they burst into laughter and headed for a refill of booze, attempting an air of nonchalance for the rest of the evening.   We didn't speak about it again because I wanted to be a "cool" wife, I didn't want to nag him, ask a million questions about the sisters, after all, they're professionals, co-workers.  And I was certain that bikinis weren't standard issue uniforms for the crew. 
     Life continued on in this manner for the next few years, I only had to endure one question quarterly from a few of his friends, "How are the Swedes?" I can't write what I replied.  Well, it so happened I was returning from an extremely long day at work, followed by a two-hour (instead of one) drive home in a snowstorm.  Beady was out to sea, so when I walked through the door, it was dark and cold, even the dogs stayed in bed instead of running to greet me.  I was exhausted, but hungry, so I looked through the freezer, picked the quickest looking microwave meal, and was reading the instructions when the phone rang.  It was Beady, he was in port and had some time to talk before the longshoremen got back from break.  He filled me in on his week, how things had been running, how the crew was doing, the usual, then he mentioned he'd just finished up dinner.  Because I'm a glutton for punishment, I asked him what he had and looked sadly at my frozen dinner while he described his latest food orgy.  By this time, I was starving and knew Lean Cuisine just wasn't going to cut it, so I started searching through the cupboards when he said, "Oh, yeah...and I had Tiger Cookies for dessert."  
     "Tiger Cookies?  I've never heard of those, are they new?"     
     "No, they've been around for a while.  They're my favorite, love 'em."
     "Excuse me, your favorite?" I replied, "I've never heard you speak about Tiger Cookies ever, Dessert King.  Not once.  When have you ever had them?"
     "Oh, I get them out here all the time on the ship.  It's kind of a special thing, you know, making our favorites to keep us happy."
     "Well that makes sense, that's really nice of the Steward...must be a little morale booster.  What's his name again?"
      "Oh, the Steward doesn't do it, it's the know?  We've talked about her before."     
       And I was right back there, except this time I stayed in my smelly scrubs, with my matted down hair, clutching a half-eaten box of stale Cheez-Its while Lena, the Sports Illustrated model, glided in, bikini-clad, furry Ugg Boots, and a tray of perfectly baked confections.  "Would you like to try my Tiger Cookies?"  Her accent was Scottish, why?  
       "Honey, remember I told you she was reading Harry Potter, too?  That's the one I'm talking about."  As if I'd forgotten her name, as if any of his friends would ever let me forget her name!  
       "Yeah, okay, um...why have I never heard of these Tiger Cookies before?  You've never had them at home."  
       "Well...Lena makes them the best."  Super.  Cut to Beady's funeral, there I am, catatonic, barely holding on when a mysterious women makes her way toward the open casket.  She's carrying something--I move closer to see what it could be.  She's beautiful; full, heartbroken tears roll down her face majestically as she gently lowers a small brown package into the coffin.  
        "There you go, Beady," her brogue calming, soothing.  "Can't leave without your Tiger always loved them so."  And she was gone, leaving me to ponder just who that man in the wooden box was.       
        I shared this scene with Beady.  He didn't laugh.  "What's the problem?" Irritation moving through his tone.  
        "Okay, here's the deal.  It makes me crazy to think another woman is cooking special things for you, okay?!  That's my thing, especially since you're extremely food-motivatedI can't have some other woman giving you treats for free, that will totally undo all of the hard work I've put in over the years training you."  Sexist. 
        "Very funny, but I love you anyway."  And there it was, what I didn't realize I wanted to hear even though I'd never make those cookies like Lena, or lasagna quite the way his mother does, or some sort of cheese/pimento dip thingy that looks like orange cellulite--a company up in Bangor produces it, I didn't really have a chance there either.
        "Thank you," I replied genuinely "I love you, too..."                 
        I still give Beady a hard time about the Tiger Cookies, I'll never stop, and over the years, I've learned that Lena isn't Swedish as so many of my husband's friends had hoped for.  Surprise!  Nor is she Scottish; that was a bitter pill for me to swallow.  She loves her family very much, continues to like Harry Potter, and, most importantly, takes good care of not only my husband, but the rest of the crew, with her food and her smiles.  And yes, she's gorgeous, a fact my husband politely left out of 'The Cookie Chronicles', but that's neither here nor there as my grandmother, and perhaps just in my mind, Gloria Steinem would say.        

   And you can click here to read Callie's interview with Lena!  

                                   Copyright 2013 Callie's Mariner


  1. Sometimes hubs works with women, I wrote a couple of posts about it, too!

  2. Would love to read them! What are they called?

  3. I was that woman. The who wives and girlfriends detested. I had my son and my partner and had plenty of time to be part of my ship family but they were like brothers and cousins uncles and always a dad there too.
    But they were my family from home and the wives and girlfriends may have hatedo r distrusted me but I was one of the boys. Part of a crew ( as was proven when my shipmates looked after me after another ships crew tried to buy me! long story odd)
    Girls onboard generally have enough prejudice from old timers and we know the better halfs often are unhappy with us being there. But we also work minimum 70 hour weeks more normally and time to sit down and read is a luxury. But I have heard of us female seafarers are being sex pest harpies.
    My door was always open for the broken hearted/ homesick to share or or just a daily chat. I had by best friends onboard the ones who you shared yhe daily highs and lows. But I have my home family my crew brothers supported me when I missed first day at shool or birthday and we compared kids photos wedding plans.
    We all have a role on a ship and girls on the whole want to work get on and the most important go home to the loves of our lives who we left at home. On the whole we do marry other seafarers but I met my husband at college. Most of my seafaring girls are the same no one was poached. You have to have high moral standing onboard you are never respected once you get the name that you sleep around. The only thing you have at sea is respect of the crew for your competence ability to do your job and depending your role onboard you need them to respect you if you in the worst moments need to take charge to save lives at a fire team leader or boat commander.

    1. Alex, thank you for writing absolutely ALL of that! It's so important to really understand and give voice to the opposite side of the coin, to not minimize for instance what "Lena", yourself, or the Nautiemermate do out there. In writing this particular piece, the goal was to expose my ridiculous insecurities, to make fun of myself and this imagination I carry around with me! If I reveal these things, I'm hoping that perhaps other spouses/significant others will see the silliness in it, and maybe themselves, for feeling that way because it's wasted anxiety. And after interviewing "Lena" (I'll be posting it on Tuesday) I'm so glad to know she's out there with Beady, if that makes sense, to know that kind of person is sailing with him. I wish I could give you a hug because I was so excited when I saw your post and so grateful that you took the time to write it. I think the more we (spouses/significant others) see of that, the better, so thank you very much!