Ah, relationships. They're what make the world go round. From Adam and Eve to your crazy aunt and uncle who wear tinfoil hats in case the aliens finally come, relationships have defined our lives. Even if you think there's only you and a make believe woman you created out of an old string mop, Twizzlers, and a couple of coconuts, you're in for an awakening. You and that string mop woman are in a relationship - a weird one to be sure, and you probably need to see a professional – but a relationship none the less. And eventually, you're not going to see eye to eye.
I'm Michael Blackston and these are a few stories from my own relationship bucket - the one that pours out all over my Funny, Messy Life.
Some people have made the claim that marriage is hard, but I disagree. It's always been my opinion that marriage is not hard - and I've been married for over 20 years – but it's life that can be difficult. “Being married”, at least for me, has never been tough. In fact, having each other to lean on has been a blessing. But that doesn't mean the road we've traveled never got rocky and most of the time over stupid stuff. There was a time earlier on when we refused to make disagreements easy, but we learned over the years how to handle those moments amicably. Although ...
Once Upon A Time, We Fought.
My wife and I rarely fight anymore. Oh, we argue, like all couples do, over small things that are inconsequential in the long run.
“PLEASE put your empty clothes hangers on the empty clothes hanger rack like I’ve asked a million times. When I do the laundry, I feel like I hear the theme from Sanford & Sons in the background if I have to go to your closet!”
“I don’t have time in the morning.”
“It takes five seconds!”
“Don’t yell at me!”
“I’m not YELLING!”
“Here it comes ... this is the big one!”
I’ll let you decide for yourself who’s who in that conversation. You might be surprised if I told you.
But recently, we had an argument. That’s all it was – an argument. It in no way resembled a fight between my bride of over twenty years and me. As you’ll see, when we used to have real fights, they were epic! I say “were” because we've learned it's much better to argue than to fight. So in this recent argument, we raised our voices a tad louder than normal and clipped our sentences to make our points in a way that might be described as snippy, snide, or You-Don’t-Have-To-Bite-My-Head-Off.
I was on the road somewhere around Atlanta on my way home from a business trip and she was on her way to get our little girl from my mom’s, where she’d been staying for a few days. Our son was in the car with my wife and he later described our argument as a fight. My better half had to explain it to him. She told him that wasn’t a fight. “You’ve never seen us really fight.”
Let me tell you the story of one of those fights. And before you wave me off with a dismissive hand because what I’m about to tell you pales in comparison to the redneck fisticuffs you and your partner come to, understand that each pair is different from the next. I’m sure if we watched you and yours go at it, we’d whisper to each other, “Glad we ain’t THAT nutballs.”
The reason I’ll give you for this fight won’t necessarily be accurate because it was a long time ago and I can’t exactly remember why it happened; only that it did.
It had been a long day at the office and life had gotten on my last nerve. It was also a summer day in the deep south, so the heat was unbearable. Heat in the deep south knocks on your door first thing in the morning with brass knuckles and when you open that door, it grabs you by the head and sticks your face right into its armpit. You stay buried in the armpit of the sun all day, whether you're in air-conditioning or not. At night there's at least a little relief, depending on the humidity, when Southern Heat removes your nearly lifeless body from its armpit and places you roughly in its damp, stinky gym shoe, wrapped in the wet sock it’s been wearing all afternoon.
After the day I’d had, the night had come and I found myself struggling in Heat’s left Puma (because it doesn’t even have the decency to wear cool shoes) where it was dark and dank and smelled like old tacos.
My wife’s day hadn’t been any better, so our tempers were on a hair-trigger and since it was fairly early on in our marriage, the wisdom to think before we acted wasn’t in our wheelhouse yet.
The fight started at the grocery store. Money was tight because we liked to eat out too much and went to too many movies, so the plan was to only get the essentials we needed and food for the lizard. You heard me right – the lizard. Our green iguana, Old Deuteronomy, had gotten large and had to have special food. Okay, I’ll explain the lizard’s name real quick: We love the musical, CATS.
There. Understand now?
Anyway, her special diet consisted of fresh vegetables and leafy greens. She was partial to zucchini, yellow squash, and kale greens.
Once in the store, Deut’s food already found, we started trying to figure out what our “essentials” would be. An ideal selection might be a few fruits and vegetables, some canned stuff, and maybe a couple of box dinners – mostly items that could be refrigerated for a while or placed in a cabinet and forgotten until we needed to clean it out and “donate” to the church food pantry. (Isn’t that what everybody does? You donate the out of date canned food and boxes of stuff you were going to start fixing but forgot about because you still end up picking up fast food on your way home from work?)
Unfortunately, I was in no mood for “essentials”. The sweaty sock of Southern Heat was sticking to my cheeks and I’d had enough. I’d had all the day I could handle and decided I wanted Oreos and a pizza.
I told my new wife of this decision.
“No.” She said vehemently.
“Yes.” I stated it back even more vehemently and thought to myself, I do enjoy being vehement.
“No, we agreed that we were going to stop spending foolishly and live by only the essentials until we get caught up on bills.”
I made that “PLLBTTSHT!” sound that would be translated into proper English as, Oh posh, my dear. Clearly you’re not aware of my inability to retain a verbal contract.
“I want pizza and Oreos. I have had a bad day and I refuse to have anything else,” I continued with aplomb. Or maybe it was a plum. I might have eaten a plum.
“Oreos are expensive, Michael! We’re not getting Oreos.”
“We ARE TOO getting Oreos. I love them so much that in roughly twenty-ish years, I’ll start an extremely funny and charming comedy blog / podcast where I’ll frequently mention my love for the crème filled cookie!”
The argument went on throughout our time in the grocery store and we walked out without the Oreos. We also drove away without ordering a pizza.
During the ride home, very little was said and my wife could tell I was hot under the collar, not to mention under my clothes, and especially those special spots on my body where Summer Heat likes to burrow in deep. Let’s call them crevices. She could also tell because I have an acute ability to pout.
I reckon I was at DefCon 5 over that pizza and those Oreos. When we parked in the driveway, she asked me to stay in the car so we could talk it out. She didn’t want to go into the house angry and let the iguana see us not getting along. But I was in no mood for talking. The irrational butt-face of a southern summer had been having its way with me for too long and I’d gotten a tad out of sorts.
“I don’t feel like talking.”
“We need to. I won’t have Deuteronomy seeing us not getting along. She’s a tender lizard and it might upset her.”
“She’s a lizard.”
My wife gasped and put a hand to her mouth; unable to believe my cold-blooded comment about our cold-blooded reptile. “She’s our baby!”
I got out of the car silently, the bag of fresh vegetables for the lizard in my hand, only wanting to go inside and try to get over my craving. My wife was not ready to give up, though.
“You know we agreed on being frugal. You said you agreed and now you’re trying to turn it around on me.” Her statement might appear to be sad and sweet at first, but her voice and her eyes told a different story. There was anger and sharpness to her tone. Fire was in her eyes and even the Southern Heat cowered in fear.
I wasn’t phased and became angrier than before. My nerves had reached their end and I exploded. “ALL I WANTED WAS SOME &*%$$ PIZZA AND SOME #$%^ OREOS BUT NOOOOO! YOU HAD TO PUT THE OLD KYBASH ON THAT, DIDN’T YOU?! WHO CARES WHAT THE @#$%! MICHAEL WANTS?! LET’S BE FRUUUUUGGGGAAAAAALLLLLLL!!!!” (Yes, I spoke like that earlier in our marriage. No, I do not now, as I reconnected with Jesus shortly afterward.)
Dogs in the neighborhood started barking and lights in windows switched on as gawkers wondered what was going on. That might have been normal enough for the bad neighborhood we lived in and on a redneck Friday night. But unfortunately for our beloved lizard, I had flailed my arms like a madman and sent the vegetables flying out of the plastic bag and onto the neighbor’s roof.
Okay, so I actually made it a point to throw the bag of vegetables as high and as hard as I could.
We stood in silence for a few seconds, then looked at each other and started to laugh. That’s one of the things I love about us. Even if we get out of sorts, we can end the ordeal with a laugh. We went back to the store and re-purchased the food for the lizard. No mention of pizza or Oreos was made on the second trip, by the way.
The next morning, there were bits of yellow squash, zucchini, and kale greens all over the yard; leftovers the squirrels didn’t want.
We talk about the “Vegetable” fight to this day - it’s our own little Veggie Tale - and we’re thankful that after twenty years, we’re past acting like that.
And now my wife has texted me to request that I pick her up a sausage biscuit before I come home. I will do that because I can afford to now.
But not before I run by a place that sells Oreos.
Sometimes it helps to have side skills when it comes to working out the kinks in a relationship. I learned early on that my wife is a sucker for certain accents from other areas of the world. When we first met, I could talk to her like an Australian and she’d melt. She also gets weak in the knees when a Scottish man speaks. I think, though, that most guys have a universal tool at their disposal if they'll just learn to use it. I believe it's entirely possible to …
Get Out Of Jams With A British Accent
WIFE. “Don’t give me that look!”
ME. “What look?”
WIFE. “That look you just gave me. I don’t appreciate it.”
ME. “I didn’t give you a look. I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
WIFE. (Getting hostile) “Yes you do. You looked at me like I’m stupid. That was embarrassing.”
ME. (Raising my own voice) “I don’t know what look you thought you saw, but I’m tired of you accusing me of a look when I didn’t give you a look!”
WIFE. (Really angry now - nostrils flaring) “THAT ONE! THE ONE YOU’RE GIVING ME RIGHT NOW! THAT’S THE LOOK!”
ME. (Standing my ground) “I LOOK LIKE THIS! I CAN’T HELP THE WAY MY FACE IS SHAPED! YOU KNOW MY FACE NATURALLY LOOKS LIKE SOMEBODY JUST CUT THE CHEESE. I’M VERY, VERY HAPPY!”
WIFE. “Forget it. You’ll never admit you gave me a look.”
ME. (In a British accent) “I would never look upon you in such a way as to raise your ire, my dear. What you mistook for disdain, love, was, in fact, only the face of one with the deepest of desire for you. Let us not fight.”
WIFE. (With sincere delight) “I’m sorry. I love you.”
I believe I’ve found the holy grail of argument enders. Men, learn to deliver a decent British accent. Women love it.
It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done, you can douse the fire by speaking with the voice of a debonair English gent. What you heard before is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to weaseling out from under your screw-ups, but I’m warning you. This is a power that has to be handled with care. A wise man once said, “With great power comes great skills that enable you to wear spandex and get away with it.”
You’ve got to be careful not to over-use this new knowledge and understand that it’s not enough to be kind of sort of okay and sound a little like a guy who might have visited London once.
You need to study the dialects and know what to use and when to use it. If you’re trying to get out of a situation where you have, under a moment of intense stupidity, asked a woman who is not pregnant when she’s due and would like to get back into her good graces, it might be a smart idea to break out your 007 voice. It might come out something like, “I beg your pardon. I was mistaking the glow your presence has given this room as that of the bearer of miracles. I stand corrected. Your beauty is simply a radiance you emit everywhere you go. Forgive me.”
What you might NOT want to do is dial up your drunken Cockney accent.
“OY! I wan’t meanin’ t’cull ye fat, dearie. It’s clear t’me yer sufferin’ from sump’n glandular!”
As you can see, that wouldn’t be your best option. It’s important to know when to be an Aristocrat and when to be the British version of Larry the Cable Guy.
Years ago, I found myself in a similar situation at a restaurant. Our waitress, who we’d gotten to know over the months was once again serving our table. We’d never known her to be what you’d call “small” and because I’m a man and an unobservant idiot, I didn’t catch on to her clues. One night while laying down a delicious basket of garlic cheese biscuits, she announced she’d recently delivered her baby. Being Captain Tactful, I replied, “Congratulations! This whole time, I hadn’t realized you were pregnant.” Innocent enough on my part; I was telling the truth. But in my innocence, - or idiocy - I didn’t realize that by my comment I was letting her know that I hadn’t been able to tell the difference between regular her or pregnant her. It would have been nice to be able come back with something in a british accent, but how? I wasn’t ready, so I knew I needed to come up with something to keep me prepared at all times in case my mouth starts dripping with stupid.
Gentlemen, in order to help you to be ready - not if, but when - the time arrives to transform your persona into that of a rugged, yet charming Englishman, I’ve created the following four-question test. You have two choices in each scenario, so think it through. If you fail, the only way for you to learn your lesson fully will be to punish you by forcing you to listen to an endless loop of Pat Boone’s cover of Crazy Train. Good luck. The correct answers will be given at the end of the quiz.
The flight attendant on your plane traveling from Atlanta to New York is UUUUUU-GLY! You can’t help but stare at the way her unibrow doesn’t just connect points A and B, but does a funky little high-five number in the middle. Her personality is spot on and she doesn’t even mind you constantly asking her to bring you ginger ale to settle your stomach. After her twelfth trip to pacify you with a smile so your whining doesn’t upset the other passengers, you make an innocent comment.
“I like the way your eyebrows meet in the middle and flip up to do a little celebration like somebody just scored a touchdown.”
Which of the following positions should you take after you realize you’re a moron and she replies, “You’re no prize, yourself. At least you can see my eyebrows, you albino!”
Do you say:
A: (With the voice of Dr. Strange actor, Beandip Curlicue) I’ve upset you. My words were certainly meant as a compliment. My auntie Grace had the same beautiful unibrow - a singular stretch of nurturing fur that reminded me of a puppet - and I was simply remembering her face as she sang me to sleep on a summer evening.”
B: (With the voice of Mssr. Thenardier from the London cast of Les Miserables) I’m sorry, Madam. I’s just tryin’ t’save yer fore-edd from what oy thot was wunna them great big poison cattuh-pilluhs, oy was!”
The lady sitting next to you in the movie theatre – a complete stranger - absent-mindedly forgets who is sitting where and plunges her hand into your popcorn bucket. You've noticed earlier that under her fingernails, there appears to reside the remnants of thirty years of digging through garbage. Obviously, you can no longer eat any popcorn from the bucket and you scream at her like a mad man. “What’s wrong with you?! At least have a Haz-Mat team look at your fingernails before you go all Rambo into a dude’s popcorn bucket!”
Which of the following replies should you make once she turns your direction and you realize she’s blind and is wearing an I Plant Flowers For The Poor pin on her shirt?
Do you say:
A: “Ello? Wat’re doin’ in this ‘ere movie anyway? Ye can’t see nuffin’!”
B: “Alas, I drive the nail into a coffin of my own making. Would that I have thought before behaving so poorly, good woman. Here, allow me to straighten your pin and wipe that smudge from the face of it.”
You’re at a family reunion you didn’t want to go to in the first place. Your old aunt Grace makes a B-line the moment she sees you and you only make sense of it all after she’s planted a sloppy kiss right on your cheek.
Which of the following reactions ought you to adopt?
B: (In the style of the loveable, Mr. Bean, you say nothing, but look alarmed whereas you cock one eyebrow, lick your lips, then turn around and walk face first into the door, knocking yourself blissfully out so you don’t have to look at that eyebrow anymore.) Who knew aunt grace was a flight attendant?
You've been invited to the White House for dinner with the President and the First Lady. You are asked to remain standing until they’ve arrived and have been seated first. Once they come in and are sitting at the table, you’re shown to your seat and the dinner begins. You say, “So where’s the REAL president?”
Realizing you’ve just insulted him, how should you recover?
A: (In your best Winston Churchill) “Oh dear, I’ve spoken ill. Oh well, they say there’s a kernel of truth in everything, do they not?”
B: (In your best Capt. Jack Sparrow) “Oh dear, I’ve spoken ill. Oh well, they say there’s a kernel of truth in everything, do they not?”
For your scoring, the correct answers were:
A, B, B, A
You’ll notice they spell ABBA, a wonderful musical group from the 70s who have nothing to do with this story, yet here they are.
The point is that while not all of the situations above present an argument, they do offer an uncomfortable situation where you might, in applying the proper British accent, escape by the skin of your tooth.
(In an English accent) I do hope this has helped to further the cause of idiot men who have no filter between their heads and their mouths. By applying these techniques, you can be a winner in the long run. And as we all know, the winner takes it all.
One thing I've learned from a couple of decades of chewing on the matrimonial croutons of my life salad is that once a couple has spent enough time with each other, they tend to break from the mold of the world's traditions and create their own. Even anniversaries have specific precious items that mark the years spent together. 25 years is the “Silver Anniversary”. 50 years is the “Gold Anniversary”. I think 70th is “Comfy Coffin.” For my wife and I, the traditions don't mean much and that tends to confuse people. Take Valentine's Day …
The Fakest Day Of The Year
My wife doesn’t care a bit for Valentine's Day and I love the crap out of her for it. I know that sounds like such a man thing to say, but it's true and you're not the first person to think that I'm kidding myself. The reason is because my wife has the keen ability to spot bull hockey. (If you need to dive further into the definition of the word “hockey”, listen again to the last story from episode 3 called, I Can't Work In These Conditions. It means what you think it means, by the way.)
This ability was sparked in my wife at a young age and it made her a skeptic that doesn't believe you. That's not an incomplete sentence. She doesn't believe anybody about anything without having every fact available and I think she's better for it. We have no Ginsu Knives or anything else bought off late night TV for three easy installments of $19.95. She knows what she knows and once she knows it, she knows to know that she knows it and that's all that matters. In other words, my wife is a No-Nonsense kind of gal.
On top of that, she's not mysterious. She tells me exactly what she wants and she doesn’t veil it in riddles no normal man can figure out.
Early on in our marriage, we came to a mutual decision that gifts were to be things given due to a truly emotional desire to make the other one happy and in a manner and time that it's clear the gift isn't being given because we're “supposed to.” That agreement has made things incredibly easy throughout the years. As long as I'm thinking about her and showing my love for her in both tangible ways - flowers just because, her favorite candy if I pass it in the grocery store, or “I love you” written in the soap scum and mildew on the shower wall, she’s fine. Also the intangibles – like holding down a job, walking on the sidewalk between her and the road so I’m the one that gets sprayed by passing cars or splattered by a texting driver, or lighting a candle if my bathroom visit is longer than it takes to read the sports section. Just don't tell us when we “have” to give gifts or show our affection. The world isn't the boss of us and with that idea in mind, we're perfect for each other.
Enter Valentine's Day. We appreciate that it’s a day set aside for making that extra effort to show the one you love that you care. We just don't buy into it, nor do we need to. I verbally tell my wife “I love you” at least five times a day, sometimes more, and she does the same thing for me. Add to that the fact that we do things for each other to show it throughout the day, and there's no need for cardboard hearts full of chocolate.
We don't buy it because we see it for what it’s become – a day for dudes to cram into a department store because they waited until the last minute to buy the flowers, candy, cards, jewelry, perfume, bath salts, spa sessions, etc. Thanks, but no thanks. We've decided to actively protest Valentine's Day. We schedule a dinner on the weekend before or after and if I need to be out of town on the fourteenth of February, I go. People don't believe me when they ask what I'm doing for my wife for Valentine's Day and I reply with a haughty I'm-Better-Than-You look on my face, “I'm providing a dang home.”
“What are you REALLY doing?”
“Yeah, but what at you getting for Kayla for Valentine's Day.”
“You heard me, Bacon. I'm bringin' it home, buddy.”
And the beautiful things is, she's good with that. Together, we thrust our middle fingers upward at the world's expectations and shout, “Take that and drive all the way to Valentown!” If we get those little heart shaped sugar candies with words on them, we try to spell out “Kiss it, V-Day!”
Every day is Valentine's Day for me and my wife and if you don't believe us? We don't care. If you think we're missing something in our marriage, we might listen - and I emphasize the word “might” - if you've got more years of happy wedded squishiness under your belt than we do. But, if you don't, we'll just tell you to shove it up yer Valentush before we plant a big ol' kiss on each other and connect our fingers in a tangle that's as natural and real as the love that no holiday could ever dictate.
Relationships are a part of life and it's up to each individual to decide how strong one will become.
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