You meet someone at age twelve, decide to shack up, and then seventy-five years later, suddenly realize YOU’RE IN A RELATIONSHIP.
Am I really going to talk about this? Why not? Previously I’ve stepped on politics, religion, and all sorts of stuff that would separate conjoined twins. So why even bring this subject up? I’m bringing this up because I’ve been sleeping in the carport for a year now, anyway. Why not?
The marriage ceremony. It’s safe to say that no man has ever had any say in their wedding ceremony. Sure, we all mouth words like “big,” “formal,” Justice of the Peace,” whatever. Since God created Adam, no man has offered an opinion on the marriage ceremony that was actually heard. My wife and I got married when we were eighteen. Her aunt began planning our wedding ceremony twenty-five years earlier. Everything was preordained. The location, the flowers, and the number of people in the bridal party. If there are more than three bridesmaids, you better quickly run out and get more friends. Men typically only have three friends.
In the state of Washington’s Cascades National Park, there is the Hoh rainforest. The Hoh gets twelve feet of rain every year. That’s a lot of rain! If some young bride wants to host their outdoor wedding in the Hoh, even God can’t make it rain that day. Men get no vote in the wedding ceremony.
The honeymoon. Did you honeymoon in Fiji or Bali or ride on the Orient Express? Maybe you just slept in the parking lot of the local Texaco gas station. It doesn’t matter. Honeymoons are all the same. Sure, your dreams are of jet-skiing in some aqua-blue paradise. But in reality, your little brain just wants her to wear that special garment you saw at the mall but pretended not to notice. Your nerves are shot, and adrenalin is causing your heart to play the William Tell overture. Oh, the buildup, the excitement. You’ve planned this for years. Secretly, she has too. In her mind, she googles the word frolic. Men don’t use the word frolic. I’ve never used the word frolic in a sentence. Women dream of frolicking on some Polynesian island. Men just want to play Tarzan.
Honeymoons all end the same. You wake up after your big wedding day, and the Chilian Sea Bass marinated in white wine and sprinkled in moth dust you had for dinner doesn’t sit quite right. She’s fast asleep. The gentle cooing that rocked you to sleep the night before is now a klaxon beckoning your attention. She’s out. She’s exhausted. The planning, the pressure, and her mother all took their toll. You smile. You think it was you. Don’t kid yourself, King Kong. She was asleep before you came to bed. Suddenly your stomach flips inside out. There’s leakage. You get up, rush to the bathroom, and close the door. You turn on the fan. Thank goodness there’s a fan. And for the next seventy-two hours, you sit there.
You sit on the throne, hoping the sounds coming out of your body are muffled by the fan. Hoping she doesn’t wake up. If women were honest, which none of them are, they always wake up. Finally, you emerge. You open the bathroom door, but the cloud you produced doesn’t need an open door. The cloud has already filled your honeymoon suite. You look at her. She smiles and pretends not to notice. The room smells like the dairy farm on I-10, west of El Paso. She smiles, but her eyes give it away. The cloud has glued her eyes shut.
After the honeymoon and for the next seven hundred years, she’ll smile and just see your nose hairs. Honeymoons are all the same.
Men are in charge. All men enter a relationship believing they’re in control. In all relationships, this lasts all of twenty-seven minutes. If you’re lucky, men think they’re in charge. Some women tell them they are. ‘You’re so tall and handsome,’ they say. Women lie. They don’t want to bruise our delicate egos. Men are so fragile. Women protect us wimps by telling us we’re in charge. Women are geniuses at making us believe we’re in charge.
We don’t actually make any decisions, either. Nope, we don’t even get a vote. Sure, you hold the remote. You flip through the channels. Women allow this. They know some of man’s strangest behaviors are revealed when they think they have control. When did you last sit down after dinner with your wife and watch a documentary on the Peloponnesian war? I rest my case.
Stuff. Why is your stuff her stuff, but her stuff is her stuff? Over the years, I’ve watched my stuff and my tools migrate into her junk drawer. I have exactly eight months to figure out it’s gone before she claims it, writes her name on it, and I never see that screwdriver again. You know your relationship has reached the next level when you find your wife cleaning the bathroom shower grout with your toothbrush. Men in relationships don’t have any stuff.
Compatibility. In our house (please reread the previous chapter). In our house, there were a lot of adjustments we each needed to make to remain compatible. I mean, I had to make. When I was growing up, I never made my bed. I was told to, but I just assumed my mother was talking to my brother. In basic training, I never made my bed either. I was in the Air Force, and we had the Army to do that. Cap on toothpaste? Even how you squeezed the darn tube was all wrong. My life is random chaos. Lillian’s life is orderly, organized, and all planned out. Everything goes in a drawer. If I get a bunch of stuff out to work on a project, I better not get distracted and go to another room. If I do, everything is back in a drawer when I return. No couple in a relationship is genuinely compatible. That’s why you see all those car bumper stickers that say, ‘Coexist.’
Flowers. Never buy a woman flowers. Or chocolate, for that matter. First, women will think you did something wrong. You’re always guilty. You just don’t know what you did. Hence, if you buy a woman flowers, you’ll sleep in the carport again. On the off chance she doesn’t think you did something wrong, she’ll think you want something. Hence, you’ll be sleeping in the carport again. Never, never ever buy a woman flowers.
Pregnancy. When Lillian and I were much younger and, according to her, time to have babies, I took it upon myself to comfort all our pregnant friends. I watched the women around us go from a shoe size of 4AA to a 3.5EEE. I also watched as life around me expanded at an astonishing rate. When one woman gets pregnant, all her friends also get the affliction. Furthermore, back in my day, women were advised to give up smoking and drinking. This made no sense to me. No sense because it was smoking and drinking that got them pregnant in the first place.
Wanting to be helpful but having zero homemaking skills, I did the only thing I could. I offered to drink and smoke for the pregnant women we knew. It was a service I provided out of empathy. Empathy for their condition and stuff. I’d offer to smoke whatever cigarette they enjoyed, even those slim minty ones. I volunteered to drink any alcoholic beverage they craved: bourbon, gin, red wine, even those silly umbrella drinks. My compassion knew no limit.
By the time our second child arrived, I was drinking and smoking professionally. Finally, I had to quit. I decided the pregnant women around me needed a change. For the good of my health, I came up with what I considered a brilliant idea. Pregnant women should spend their nine months of cravings, cramps, and complaints on ‘Pregnancy Island.’ This would be a tropical isle similar to the TV series ‘Fantasy Island.’ Shirtless Fabios’ would rub the women’s feet and feed them grapes. If women would spend their pregnancies on Pregnancy Island, I could stay home and get some rest.
Children. Have them, don’t have them. It’s all good. If you don’t have them, consider that like your boss just gave you a big raise. Even if you have wonderful children—you know the kind I mean. Wonderful children are self-sufficient by age five. They got a job, paid for college, and solved world hunger. Yes, children are wonderful. If you have wonderful children, there is something none of those silly parenting books will ever tell you. Even the loveliest child wakes up in the middle of the night. They get out of bed in some demonic trance and then flush all your money down the toilet. If you have children, They’re lovely, they’re wonderful. If you don’t, give yourself a raise.
Relationships. I’ve been in a relationship for seven hundred and fifty-two years. Most of them were very good. Some of them spent apart with me doing something I thought was important. But, looking back, those years were just lost time. Time we’ll never get back. Being old and being married since Adam and Eve, I’m sometimes asked, “What’s your advice for a healthy and lasting relationship?”
My answer is always the same, “I don’t have a clue.”