Some marriages are successful for what they leave out rather than what they take in. For instance, two words a husband should never say in a wife’s presence are “lap dance.” Two words a husband should never hear are “fix up.”
For me, this was one of those unspoken marital agreements. Some time back, I got chilled like a Popsicle when, totally unprovoked, my wife said, “We should fix up that other bathroom. It’d be nice to have a fresh look in there.”
A newlywed might miss the undertones. They might miss the overtones. They might even respond, “Whatever you say, Sweetie.” An experienced husband, upon hearing the words, “fix up,” will start shrieking and peel out of the drive racing to beat the contractors to the bank.
Thrust, parry, lunge. Thrust, parry, lunge. More fencing goes on in a marriage than pirates ever did in the Caribbean. It’s a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to fix up. That’s not exactly what Sir Walter Scott said, but we know he had money problems all his life, so maybe it was.
Experienced husbands know that honesty is not the best policy at all. Rather the best policy is fake enthusiasm. I countered her savage attack with a sudden feint, “Wow! You must have read my mind because I’ve wanted to do that for years!” (Note: the feint is often confused with the faint, an entirely different, yet still very effective tactic).
“Really?” she said, still clinging to faint glimmers of that man she married, “I . . . I thought you might try to hide under the sofa pillows like last time.”
“Well,” I said, drawing it out and stalling for time. Now, dear readers, help me pick out the best following line:
A. “Wouldn’t it be easier just to burn the house down?”
B. “If you need my help, I’ll be face-down at the closest bar.”
C. “Why do you hate my freedom?”
Experienced husbands know that “fixing up” is the tip of the iceberg and if we go all truculent and mulish, our wives will turn into that very same iceberg. We also know that the next thing from those sweet lips sounds like this, “Of course, if we’re fixing up, we should change out those old light fixtures at the same time.”
What follows is a condensed version of the next three months of short, one-sided conversations.
“Don’t you think the new light fixtures make the faucets look dated?”
“Don’t the new faucets make the sink look shabby?”
“Shouldn’t the color of the sink match the color of the toilet?”
“Shouldn’t the color of the tub match the sink and the toilet?”
“Doesn’t the color of new fixtures clash with the old counter top?”
“Have you noticed how old-fashioned the new counter top makes the cabinet look?”
“Doesn’t the new cabinet make that ratty old tile around the tub stand out?”
“Don’t you think the new tile on the wall would make that icky old linoleum look even more dreadful?”
“Isn’t the time to install in-floor heat when you’re putting down new floor tile?”
Finally, the bathroom remodel is finished and I’m diving for my rightful, God-given position on the sofa. Free at last, free at last. Just then a plaintive voice pierces the calm, “Don’t you think our new bathroom makes the living room feel out-of-date?”