Cheetos and Chipmunks
Married life is all it’s cracked up to be. For which I am very grateful since my sweetheart became my wife four years ago on 10/10/10. Next year, for our fifth anniversary, we’ll have a huge party: the two of us, our cat, our dog and maybe a bag of Cheetos.
Better make that two bags of Cheetos; she likes the puffs and I like the crunchies. The dog will eat both and the cat will lick either to death. Marriage is a mix of compromise, clarity, cooperation, communication, comedy, and cuddling, among other pleasures.
A first step in any marriage is communication. Examples follow.
Before dinner she says, “I don’t feel like cooking.” Translation: We’re having pizza tonight.
At any time, “Honey, are you working?” Translation: The dog needs to go out.
Or, “I thought the dog was with you.” Translation: The dog peed on the floor again.
Toward the end of the week, “Honey, are you doing laundry today?” Translation: I‘m almost out of underwear.
At dinnertime, when the frozen pizzas are ready to eat. “Honey, you know how we love wood-fired pizza? Well, consider this one wood-fired.” Translation: I burned the pizza.
Then there are the follies of misinterpretation, when what we hear seldom has anything to do with what either of us think we’ve actually said.
After a haircut, “Your hair is so short!” Interpretation: She hates it, she’s going to leave me. Real message: I can’t wait to get home so I can play with your hair.
“Are you getting up today?” Interpretation: She thinks I stayed up too late again, she disapproves. Real message: If you’re sleeping a while longer, I’d love to nap with you.
“Let’s go for a walk on the beach!” Interpretation: She thinks I’m too fat and need exercise. Real message: I want to walk on the beach today.
“What do you want for dinner tonight?” Interpretation: She doesn’t want to cook. Real message: I want pizza.
Cooperation and comedy often go hand in hand and we at times act like a couple of keystone cops. Take for example the day we saved the chipmunk. The cat was sunning on her catio. She is very quick, so we use various means to encourage the birds to bypass her lair. The local chipmunks, however, are unshaken in their conviction that they, and they alone, have unlimited access across the catio as they go about their exceedingly urgent chores and errands. More than once we’ve heard a commotion and raced to the screen door to pluck our hunter indoors.
On this particular day, my sweetheart shouted my name an octave higher than humanly possible. The kitty had captured a chipmunk and brought it through the cat door. When the kitty dropped the chipmunk, mayhem erupted: the live chipmunk took off running. Biggest chipmunk I ever saw. We totally lost our cool running this way and that in panic.
As the little critter scampered under furniture, I yelled, among other things, “Grab the cat! Grab the cat!” and “Open the front door! Open the front door!” Sweetheart yelled, “KICK IT! KICK IT! (which I assumed meant I should kick the furniture, not the animal). Sure enough, the petrified invader shot out of the house like a comet. The door never closed so quickly. My sweetheart called me a hero, and later bought a musical card that plays the theme for Indiana Jones. Now she plays it when I pick up the dog poop. I play it when she doesn’t burn the pizza (she very seldom burns it).
At other times, I’ll have an idea, my sweetheart will thank me for it, then do things her way. Or, the reverse happens. We are cooperatively bullheaded.
Cuddling happens when I think the sky is falling. No matter how often my worries get the best of me, my sweetheart can tell. She puts her arms around me and I’m fixed. When something bad happens to her, like losing her phone or trouble at work, I get to be Cuddler in Chief and do what I can to comfort her. Best are our congratulatory cuddles, like when she solves a complex logistical problem and is all pumped and pleased, or when I finish a first draft after being certain I never would.
We’re still working on clarity. My sweetheart usually speaks perfectly clearly, but I don’t hear consonants very well so, lest I become too annoying, I try to come up with variations on the question, “What?” We’re both from the New York City metro area. That makes us very compatible in some ways, but we all know those accents can turn speech to slush. To make things more difficult, I come from a family of mumblers. My mother was always telling my father, brother, and I to speak up; we never learned how. In her last years we’d go out for a ride and she would insist that my 72 year-old brother and I sit in the front seats so we could talk. We’d mutter to each other mile after mile while our mother shouted “Speak up!” from the back seat.
Those are the six “C”s of marriage: compromise, clarity, cooperation, comedy, communication, and cuddling. Of course there are more, like love, but that doesn’t start with a “C.” Consistency is pretty good for a marriage too.