"Live a good life, and in the end, it’s not the years in the life, it’s the life in the years."

Men, women, marriage & COVID-19

By on June 22, 2020 in Columnist with 0 Comments

By Jim Brigleb

Despite COVID-19, there is still Good Life to be had. 

What do being newlyweds and “Stay Home — Stay Healthy” have in common? I know, I know. This sounds like a reach. But follow this for a minute.

When a couple first gets married, well, remember that phrase, “The honeymoon is over,”? My wife certainly does. 

She claims that during our five-year courtship, I always let her have the last bite off my plate, with a cheerful attitude. 

But, she claims, that after marriage, when she tried to do so, I held my fork in a menacing position, and said something about how I always saved my favorite bite for last, and resented the times where she deprived me of that savory bit. She’s lying, but she recounts this falsehood over and over.

The point is, after the nuptials, behaviors begin to materialize that make both parties wonder, “Did I sign up for this?” 

And now, with “Stay Home — Stay Healthy,” we enjoy the same opportunity for rediscovering many of those idiosyncratic behaviors that we distanced ourselves from due to the busyness of life, and the many distractions that put the noticing of spousal weirdness on the backburner. Quarantining has changed all that.

When in our 20s, my wife’s favorite Bible verse was “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.” I tried desperately to avoid arguments before going to bed. 

But when I failed, we’d be up until 2 or 3 a.m. working out a disagreement. In the wee hours, I’d surrender to just about anything. 

Now in our 60s, with cabin fever and whatnot, we both go to bed agitated about something or another. We talk a lot in the middle of the night again. Deja vu. 

Critical to me is the correct installation of a new roll of toilet paper. 

Assuming the household employs the use of a roller, TP can be put on one of two ways: the right way or the wrong way. The correct installation finds the loose tissues coming from the bottom of the roll; one pulls from the bottom and the top of the roll rotates toward the wall. 

The incorrect installation finds fresh sheets coming from the top, with the top of the roll rotating away from the wall. 

Critical? Yes! Because a cat, or say, a toddler will unroll countless sheets of TP that are difficult to recover — simply by using gross motor skills to slash at the roll. 

On the other hand, when installed correctly, rotating the TP roll as a cat or toddler will do — i.e. pulling down from top — will yield an entertaining continuation of the rolling, but no paper will be wasted. For the record, my wife does this incorrectly.

Next, the toilet seat. Does it remain up or down after usage? 

My wife trained me long ago that it was to be left down. And I obeyed. 

When my adult son, a boomerang child, moved back in, I instructed him in the household rule. He was incensed. “Totally arbitrary!” he complained. “Women can put it down before use just as easily as we can put it up… and then down again!” Egalitarian? Maybe. But, if your wife ends up in “the drink” well… equal rights goes out the window.

Laundry: As a modern man, I thought it important to contribute to domestic duties — inside the house. So, I made it a point to help out with the laundry. 

While my wife enjoyed this overture, there were (and still are) tensions. You see, when my wife disrobes, the clothes come off inside out. Underwear ends up entwined with the pant leggings, as she will remove both undergarment and pants simultaneously. 

If the launderer — me — returns clean clothes to said spouse inside out, with underwear still embraced within the pants, this is taken as a sign of “lack of love.” What I thought an effort to teach her how to remove her clothing, leads to me being in trouble. Take note newlyweds, this is 44 years after being happily married.

Discussions: My wife, my three daughters, granddaughters and their female friends can talk for hours. About anything. 

Me? The same conversation takes at most two minutes. 

The difference? The females in my life start from the beginning, and then commence in examining every detail. For instance, let’s say they were talking about a trip to Costco wherein toilet paper wasn’t available. In my wife’s world, one CANNOT jump to the conclusion — “Costco was out of toilet paper.” The weather, the music on the radio, the intention of the outing, the line awaiting entry, the mood within the store, the items that were indeed available, the approach to the toilet paper area, the realization, the emotions therein, the looks on eyes and eyebrows above masks of other shoppers, the mood that then resulted, the checkout, the person checking the receipt, the sad march back to the car, the drive home, the announcement to other family members and their reactions, and the consequences of not having toilet paper — all of these would be essential inclusions in the discussion. 

For me, I might say, “Costco was out of toilet paper.” That would be it, and my wife would look at me as if there was just so much more to the story, and I had really failed our marriage.

My wife is a big fan of Charlton Heston. Not because he was the greatest actor ever. But because she watched him on a talk show once, where he was asked how his marriage had withstood the peculiar pressures of Hollywood. 

Heston intoned, “I long ago learned the three most important words any man can say to his wife.” The host interjected, “I love you?” Heston smiled and responded, “No. The three words a wife wants to hear above all else are ‘I was wrong.’” 

And so my wife made me memorize the lesson that the mighty “Ben Hur” and “Moses” imparted. 

So, similar to when I was first married, “Stay Home — Stay Healthy” has served to renew our wedding vows in making us review many of the behaviors that may have been irreconcilable differences. 

I had my wife review this article. She asked, “What are the three most important words any husband can say to his wife?” 

Years ago, I would have said, “I’m always right.” But the sun is about to go down, and I want to go to sleep.

Jim Brigleb is a retired teacher living in Wenatchee who loves writing as an outlet. His books can be found on Amazon by using the search term “Brigleb.”

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