My poor, long-suffering bride triggered the deer-in-the-headlights response (that is a technical term) from me this morning while I was rushing around getting ready to come in and open the shop.
“Did you forget the one thing I asked you to do this morning?”
It is a perfectly legitimate question and one that my poor, long-suffering bride was well within her rights to ask.
It is also a question absolutely fraught with peril. There are undertows here, with momentous implications and deeply significant meanings into which the unwitting may blunder and there be impaled, forevermore, by a rash, unwise or otherwise innocent response.
Truly, it was a thing of beauty.
Let us stop for a moment here to examine the danger. If we parse the question we may more fully appreciate the awesome power wielded with so little effort by my poor, long-suffering bride (hereinafter, “PLSB”).
“Did you forget…” Obviously, the answer is "yes", otherwise the question would never have been asked in the first place. Just as obviously, one cannot just blurt out this answer, lest the battle be lost without a shot being fired (although the experienced husband will know at this point that the battle has, indeed, already been lost). But it is a signal, and most husbands who acknowledge a PLSB will immediately rise to the balls of their feet (this is known as “assuming the position”) in anticipation of what is to come.
“…the one thing…” Dear, Holy Mother of God! PLSB only asked one thing of me and I have already forgotten what it was! The wise man has already started to review every word that may have passed between him and his PLSB since the breaking of dawn. This is a natural and utterly useless attempt to reconstruct the past. Studies have shown this process to be akin to one’s life passing before one’s eyes in the moments before imminent death. It is usually accompanied by the feeling you get when you lean too far back and your chair and you almost fall over but just catch yourself at the last moment.
“…that I asked…” Read: “I do so much for you and ask so little in return and you just don’t care enough to pay attention to anything I say and what I want just makes no difference to you at all and if it doesn’t fit in with what you want to do it has no meaning at all you schmuck.” There is simply no acceptable response, verbal or non-verbal, to this. You cannot run; you cannot hide.
“…you to do…” See “…that I asked…”, above.
“…this morning?” The day has barely begun, but you might as well give up because it is all downhill from here. Accept it: you will be lucky to get dinner tonight.
All of this, of course, goes through your mind in a matter of milliseconds: weighing options, judging outcomes and playing-though various scenarios. Hence, the deer-in-the-headlights response.
In the end, of course, there is only one acceptable avenue open to you. You must let your shoulders sag, bow your head in mute acceptance of your eternal thoughtlessness, and go do the dishes. It probably isn’t what PLSB asked you to do, but it won’t hurt.
I am reminded of an episode of You Bet Your Life:
Groucho—“Are you married, Georgette?”
Georgettte—“Yes, I’ve been married to the same man for thirty-one years.”
Groucho—“Well, if he’s been married for thirty-one years, he’s not the same man.”
Oh, by the way, absolutely the LAST thing you should do is blog about it.