Like father, like son - why do men become so obsessed with their hobbies?

Ellen's son in his monkey suit

Ellen's son in his monkey suit - Credit: Archant

Ellen Widdup’s 2.4 Children

I found my son eating his breakfast with his feet this morning.

He has got rather good at gripping the spoon between his toes and shovelling cornflakes into his mouth.

In recent weeks he has also mastered the art of swinging off the banister with one hand and letting out a howl so loud it sets the neighbour’s dog barking.

“Use your cutlery in an appropriate manner,” I said, tutting.

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He responded by sticking out his bottom lip and rocking his head back and forth.

“What on earth are you doing?” my daughter asked him, rolling her eyes.

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“This is what monkeys do when they are cross,” he replied. “You are lucky I don’t pee on you. Male squirrel monkeys pee on their subordinates to put them in their place.”

He has become quite an expert on the behaviour of primates since a trip to Colchester Zoo last summer.

In fact the obsession has become quite alarming.

Every morning he climbs into bed with me and starts inspecting my hair for nits.

“This is what monkeys do to show each other love,” he tells me.

He doesn’t walk up the stairs like a normal four-year-old boy. He swings from step to step, resting on his forearms.

The number of bananas being consumed in our household has now reached epic proportions.

“Yum,” says my son, peeling his fruit and stuffing chunks into his bulging cheeks. He doesn’t swallow immediately. He stores it there until he is dribbling.

“We monkeys like to conserve food,” he tells me, with his mouth full.

My daughter has never had any great fixations. Neither have I (except for a brief flirtation with Take That at age 11).

But – so I am told – the male brain is wired differently to the female.

“Men don’t have feelings,” one of my friends announced after a bitter divorce. “They have hobbies instead.”

Admittedly her husband had rather driven a wedge between them with his unrivalled love for Manchester United.

And when she tried to talk to him about their relationship and their future he just looked at her blankly.

My husband, who has known this man a long time, argued that this wasn’t because he had a problem being “in touch with his feelings”.

“I know exactly what his feelings are. His fears, his anxieties, his hopes, his passions,” he told me. “The truth is, what he really feels, deep down, is a devastating sense of abandonment since Sir Alex left, confusion about Van Gaal’s persistence with playing three at the back and hope that the next Eric Cantona will reignite the Theatre of Dreams.”

No women I know have pastimes which are all-consuming.

But every single man in my life seems to.

My husband is the worst offender.

Currently he is obsessed with working on his core.

So much so that for Christmas he asked for a kettle bell, a medicine ball and a large tub of protein powder.

Every single week he disappears off for a date with Hayley, his personal trainer at Abs Toning, a power plate centre in Martlesham.

He returns home an hour later, sweaty and dishevelled, and stands naked in front of the full-length mirror, admiring his torso.

“If I didn’t know better I would say you were having an affair,” I told him.

“I simply haven’t the time,” he says, dropping to the floor for some extra press-ups.

You can forget infidelity. Addictive hobbies are also among the top 10 reasons why relationships fail.

I suppose I could be jealous of the level of dedication and commitment my other half puts into his own body.

But he has history. And I learnt to live with it a long time ago.

When we first met it was all about Morrissey. He had all the albums – Smiths and solo, quoted the lyrics at every opportunity and styled his hair in a quiff.

In the early days of our courtship he also had a weird ability to memorise irrelevant facts.

“The average person is about a quarter of an inch taller at night,” he told me on our first date.

“The first known contraceptive was crocodile dung, used by Egyptians in 2000 BC,” was his romantic declaration on our first Valentine’s Day.

“Donald Duck comics were banned from Finland because he doesn’t wear pants,” he told my parents – randomly – on their introduction.

“So he’s a little eccentric,” I consoled myself. “It could be worse.”

It did get worse.

Shortly after we moved in together I uncovered his notebooks.

They contained lists of crowd attendances for football matches, charted the songs played by John Peel on Radio One and, in the most recent set, recorded the top news story of the day.

Believe it or not, he has never been diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder, partly because he has the ability to switch obsessions almost overnight.

There was cricket. Then there was running. Now there is American football.

The other week, he booked Monday off work. Not to help me pack up the house for our impending move and not to help me juggle the kids while I caught up on work.

He took the time off because he planned to stay up all Sunday night, watching the NFL Superbowl.

“It’s game day,” he kept bellowing in a ridiculous American accent.

“It is clearly all your fault that our son has developed his ludicrous obsession with monkeys,” I told him after finding bite marks in my wooden table. Apparently my son had been sharpening his incisors.

“Maybe,” he replied. “But it’s just a boy thing.”

He slouched on the sofa next to my son, who was chewing on another banana.

They bumped fists.

“Monkey see, monkey do,” my son said, grinning.

Find me on Twitter @EllenWiddupSee more from Ellen Widdup here

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