In general, neither Diana nor I are the type of person who feels he or she needs to be right all the time – especially when it comes to the big questions and decisions in our marriage.  We’re usually pretty good about talking things out and seeing each other’s point of view… unless we’re playing what Diana calls “the Win Game.”

The whole goal of the Win Game is, of course, to win. The rules are pretty fluid except for one overarching principle: whenever Diana feels she has the upper hand, the game is over and she declares herself the winner. This is how bored old people amuse themselves when they don’t have any actual hobbies.

Today’s round of the Win Game began as I was making a list of items to get at the grocery later.

“David, when you go to the store, can you pick up a basting brush?”
“I think we have one.”
“Oh, that’s right, we have that yellow one.”
”Umm… no, it’s blue.”
“No, it’s yellow.”
”No, it’s that crappy teal blue color. Don’t you remember all those hideous teal kitchen utensils Amanda bought from Big Lots right before she got married? They matched her bridesmaids’ dresses. We still have some of them, and one of them is a basting brush.”
“No, it’s not teal, it’s yellow with a black handle.”
“Are you sure you want to play this game? You know I have a better memory than you.”
“Your superior memory didn’t seem to help you remember our anniversary this year.”
”Yeah I wondered how long it would take you to play that card. Fine: you’re better than me about remembering future events, but I own the past and you know it.”
“Not this time. The brush is yellow
“I’m afraid you’re wrong, Darling.”
”No, you’re wrong, Sweetheart.”

We stared at each other for approximately 5 seconds and then both leapt to our feet at the same time. Diana was on the long couch and had easy access to the kitchen. She stumbled out of the blocks but managed to get a hand down, got her balance back, and was off like a rocket.

I was on the love seat which is perpendicular to the kitchen, so I attempted to jump over the back of it and cut her lead. Since I am no longer twenty years old, I ended up face down on the kitchen linoleum with one leg still hanging on the back of the couch. I tried to grab Diana’s ankle as she was flying by, but she’s freakishly agile when she’s trying to prove me wrong. I just missed her ankle, and by the time I scrambled up, Diana was already digging through one of the utensil drawers. I opened a second drawer and started throwing things everywhere.

I worked my way to the back of the drawer, and suddenly I saw the basting brush: yellow with a black handle. Dammit! With my right hand, I kept moving utensils around to make cover noise, while with the left, I started easing the brush out. I decided if I couldn’t win the Win Game, I could at least not lose it. My plan was to slip  the brush up my sleeve and throw it away in the trashcan outside. Then, after exclaiming we didn’t have one after all (but still insisting the old brush WAS BLUE), I would just buy a new basting brush at the grocery. This probably sounds wasteful, but it’s worth a couple of bucks to avoid Diana ending every future debate with the phrase “Well, you were wrong about the basting brush and you’re wrong about this too.”

“I told you it was yellow. Give me that.”

Diana had been watching me out of the corner of her eye and caught me before I could David Copperfield the brush up my sleeve.

“See? I was RIGHT. Yellow and black. And that makes you….?”
”No, it makes yoooooouuuu…”
“Wrong. I was wrong.”
“Booyah! I win!”
“It’s what winners say.”

With a smug grin and wrapped in the warmth of her own genius, Diana victory-danced her way back to the couch waving the yellow brush over her head. I accepted my defeat with my usual good grace by pouting and making as much noise as possible putting all the utensils back in the drawer.

About thirty minutes later I was getting a measuring cup out of the drawer Diana had been looking in, and I noticed a just hint of teal peaking out of a pile of utensils in the back of the drawer. I dug to the back and there was the teal basting brush. I picked it up and turned to walk back to Diana in triumph. She was already looking at me and grinning a particularly evil grin.

“Diana, you saw this the whole time, didn’t you?”
“Yeah… I did. But I pushed it to the back of the drawer and tried to bury it so you wouldn’t see it.
“That’s cheating.”
”I was going to wait until you were out of the kitchen, then sneak it out and throw it away in the trashcan outside.”
”I can’t believe you would be so cutthroat that you would lie just to win. At least I have some sense of honor. I would never have done that to you. I’m so disappointed.”
”I didn’t lie, Darling, I just didn’t tell the truth. There’s a difference. I still win.”
”No, we were both right.”
“Doesn’t matter. You admitted you were wrong, so I win.”
”That was before I found this.”
“Well, that’s what you get for giving up so easily… loser.”
“I didn’t lose.”

There was a long pause, and then I heard a tiny whisper:




Date Day

Diana and I had “date day” yesterday. It’s like “date night” only with less sitting and eating and more walking, shopping, and heavy sighing on my part.

“Ooh, there’s a Sketchers outlet. I want to stop in there.”
“Did you just sigh?”
“No… Maybe… I thought we were going out to get things to make an Easter box to send to Gabe.”
”We are, but I want to look at shoes.

While there, I looked around the men’s section, poking at shoes, bending their soles back and forth as if I could actually tell anything from that, and sighing… at which point one of the employees cornered me.

“Hi, I’m Brad. Are you finding everything alright?”
“Yeah, I’m just looking, thanks, Brad.”
“Are you looking for anything in particular?”

I wasn’t, actually. But I didn’t want to have to explain to Brad that I was just killing time after having the classic “bait and switch” pulled on me by my wife.

“No, just general tennis-shoey stuff.”
“You should check out the clearance section. We really have some good deals.”

Brad had correctly pegged me as the cheap curmudgeon I am. I looked across the store. Diana was sifting through shoes, smiling away. Clearly, I had more time to kill, and he seemed like a nice kid.

“Okay, Brad. Lead the way.”

Brad disappeared into the back and returned with about five boxes of tennis shoes. None of them were actually for playing tennis, that’s just the term we southerners use to refer to any athletic shoe. He began showing them all to me, explaining the features of each.

“This pair is great for the gym. They only weigh 7.5 ounces and have a bonded anti-microbial layer for odor control.”

I tried the shoes on. They fit well and I kind of liked the thought of a built-in “stink shield.”

“They list for $90.00, and are on sale for $50.00, but I can do you $25.00 on them.”
“People ask how I know I can give them such a good price.”

I stared blankly at Brad. I think he was waiting for me to say, “Gosh, Brad, how can you give such good prices?”  Undismayed by my total lack of enthusiasm, Brad eventually smiled and pointed to the word “MANAGER” stenciled on his shirt. Brad is very proud of his position as manager. Brad has clearly practiced this shtick a lot.

“Ahhh, yeah, good one.”

I took the shoes to Diana for approval. She gave me the go-ahead, and then proceeded to pick out another pair for me.

“You’ll like these. They have memory foam.”
“HHHHhhhhhh… ”
“Will you stop that?”

By that time, Diana had found a pair she liked for herself (also with memory foam), so we took them all up to Brad at the register.

“You’re husband’s getting a really good deal on these shoes. People ask how I know I can give them such a good price.”

Diana looked at me quizzically, I returned with my “just roll with it so we can get out of here” face. Brad pointed to his shirt again.

“Ahh, yeah, good one.”
(God, I love her. Even when she’s making me shop).

Date Day continued to Garden Ridge, Zio’s Pizza, and the Easter candy section of Wal-Mart, but we eventually made it home. Good thing, too, as I had used up all of my allotted sighs for one day and had maybe two disgruntled moans left in the tank. I grilled up some hotdogs for supper and was sitting on the couch, hotdog in one hand, television remote in the other, and one shoe from each of the two new pairs on my feet, while Diana showed me the shoes she had picked out for herself.

“Very nice, Darling.”
“Yes, and I got these just in time.”
“Just in time for what?”
“I can’t wear my other work shoes.”
“Why not? You’ve only had them a few months. In fact, they look just like your new pair.”
“No. These are cloth. The other pairs are suede.”
“The weather is warming up. You can only wear suede when it’s cold.”
“So you go outside every morning, look at the John Deere thermometer, and then pick out what shoes you’re going to wear based on the temperature?”
“No, but you can only wear suede after it starts cooling down in the fall until it starts warming up in the spring.
“Says who?”
“It’s a rule.”
“Whose rule?”
“Look. It’s just the rules I grew up with. I don’t know where they come from, but I follow them.”
“Well, who would really know if you didn’t?”
“Other women.”
“That’s stupid.”
“It’s not stupid. Rules are important. They’re what separate us from the animals.”

Diana then began telling me a bunch of other “rules”… something about wearing white after Labor Day, but it was at that moment that I noticed a big blob of mustard had somehow gotten on both my hand and the side of the remote. Since I still had a hotdog in the other hand, I solved the problem in the most expedient manner available to me.

“… although you could probably get away with wearing violet suede up until Easter… Oh my GOD. Did you just lick mustard off the remote?”
“Men have their rules, too.”
“Men have rules about mustard?”
“We have rules about everything. But, unlike woman rules, man rules usually serve an actual purpose or need.”
“But your rules don’t separate you from the animals.”
“It’s not a requirement, no.”


At about 2:00 a.m. on Monday morning, I woke up unable to bend at the waist. This phenomenon occurs maybe once a year, and usually results from spending too much time bent over some project (like the basement sink I was fixing on Sunday). I don’t mind the pain, but I hate the gymnastics I am forced to perform just to roll out of a sitting or laying position and get to my feet without bending my back. I know if I just give it a few days, my back muscles will loosen up, and I’ll be able to move again. But I’m a busy man. I have things to do, and I hate walking around like I have a stick up my butt. I decided to head into the ER to see if they could help me out.

Since Sunday was Diana’s only day off, and she was scheduled to work on Monday, I snuck out of the house and drove myself to the hospital. It was snowing like crazy, but I was the only one on the road. I was also the only patient in the ER. They put me in an exam room and took my vitals. They had one of those automatic sphigmom… sphygmoma… blood-pressure cuffs. It kept tightening and loosening, tightening and loosening.

“We’re having a hard time getting your blood pressure.”
“Am I dead?”
“Nope. Your resting pulse is 106, which is pretty high for a dead guy. Let me readjust the cuff.”

After several tries, they finally got a reading. My blood pressure was very high. Go figure. The doctor came in, poked and prodded for awhile.

“Yes, your lower back muscles are locked up tight. I think we can loosen them up a bit.”

Doc left, and was replaced by a nurse:

“Okay, I’m going to give you an IV with three drugs. The first is to combat the nausea you might get from the second drug, which is for pain. The third is an antispasmodic. Do you have a preference for which arm you want it in?”
“Either is fine.”
“Wow, you have nice veins.”
“Thank you, you have nice earrings.”
“Thank you.”

The nurse painlessly inserted the IV into the crook of my arm and administered the cocktail.

“You should start feeling some relief soon.”
“How long does it normally take to… Hooooooooly crap.”

The nurse smiled.

“Feeling better?”
“I’m falling. Why am I falling?”
“You’re not falling. That’s just the Dilaudid kicking in.”
“Dilaudid. It’s for moderate to severe pain.”
“Like the cry-ee face on your wonderful wall-chart-of-pain?”
“Yes. Just like that. How is the pain now?”
“I am fairly certain the pain is still there, however, it is no longer of grave concern to me. You may consider me the smiley face on your chart.”
“You’re not from Nebraska are you?”

It is a curious fact that when under the influence of certain mind-altering substances, my accent reverts back to a natural hybrid Mississippi/Kentucky drawl. When this happens, I tend to overcompensate by dropping my contractions and using 19th century vocabulary whenever possible in an attempt to sound more lucid and less like a complete hillbilly. The result, apparently, is a sort of stilted Foghorn Leghorn.

“I am not from around here, no. Why do you ask?”
“Well, you kinda sound like that rooster on the Bugs Bunny cartoons.”
“My Dear, I am inclined to be offended.”
“Oh no. I like it. It’s different.”
“Then I withdraw my previous statement and declare us the best of friends as ever there were.”
“I’m going to let you rest while the muscle relaxer does its work. I’ll put the rails up so you don’t fall out of bed.”
“I am forever in your debt.”
“Yeah, I get that a lot.”

Some time later, my pulse was back to 64, I was dressed, and I had tearfully and repeatedly thanked the hospital staff for their care and dedication to making the world a better place for humanity. I then called Diana at about the time her alarm would have normally gone off:

“Good morning, Darling. I require your services as chauffeur, friend, and soul mate.”
“Where are you?”
“It’s square and my shoes are here… no… yes, there they are… my shoes.”
“You’re at the hospital.”
“I am indeed. How did you know?”
“You’re talking like Foghorn Leghorn.”
“I woke up this morning unable to move.”
“Honey, why on Earth didn’t you wake me up so I could drive you?”
“As you did not wake up when I fell out of bed and knocked over the night stand, I assumed you were very tired. I did not wish to disturb your repose.”
“I am so mad at you.”
“I am so in love at you. You are beautiful and sweet and kind to people and beautiful… and sweet. I do not deserve you.”
“What in the world did they give you?”
“Get a prescription.”

Trust Issues

I was minding my own business, catching up on some DVRed (yes, it’s a verb) episodes of Tosh.0, when Diana came downstairs and instituted her usual hostile takeover of the evening’s viewing:

“Are you watching this?”

I don’t know if it’s standard for all passive-agressives to couch their demands in the form of a question, but it’s Diana’s modus operandi:

“Are you watching this?” = “This sucks; I’m turning the channel.”
“Did you check the mail? = “Go get the mail; I’m expecting a bill.”
“Are you going upstairs?” = “I’m thirsty; bring me a Coke.”
“Are there any Reeses left? = “Bring me candy, and live another day.”
“Are you going to turn left on Corn Husker?” = “You’re in the wrong lane. You don’t know how to drive.”
“Are those the pants you’re wearing?” = “You dress yourself like a color-blind chimpanzee who only vaguely understands the concept of clothing by trying to imitate humans. We’re not leaving the house until you change.”
“Do you have plans for Sunday?” = “I need someone to make awkward and ultimately disappointing love to me. Bring your A-game.”

Of course I was watching the show.

“Objection. Your Honor, my client’s face was clearly turned toward the television screen at the time. He was engaged in no other activity. Additionally, he had to actively push several buttons on the DVR remote to get the recorded show to play. That goes to intent and premeditation.”
“Overruled. The jury will disregard the defendant’s entire testimony as he is dressed like a color-blind chimpanzee.”

But, as Diana’s happiness is my happiness, I acquiesced using my own standard code:

“No, it was just on when I turned the TV on. You can watch whatever you want.”

Diana looked at the television.

“What’s that guy doing?”
“Random trust falls with strangers.”
“That’s stupid.”
“Well, yeah, with strangers. But you’d do a trust fall with me, right?”
“Are you kidding?”
“Why not?”

Now, I have a pretty phenomenal memory. I can still remember my third birthday in Libya. I know the words to every 1960s and 1970s cartoon theme song. I can spout useless trivia all day long on a variety of topics. But Diana’s memory is positively photographic when it comes to the times I have screwed up.

“Remember? You came home from work, the kids were playing quietly in their room, I had made a nice supper, and the minute you walked in the door I came running down the hall to jump into your arms.”
“Oh crap.”
“I was so happy and so in love with you. It had been one of those wonderful days, and I was just waiting for you to get home. I had visions of jumping into your arms and you catching me, and holding me, and kissing me.”
“Uhhh…. yeah.”
“And what did you do?”
“I…. ummm… I jumped out of the way.”
“You jumped out of the way… and I landed right on my tail bone and probably broke it.”
“Yeah, I remember the neighbors downstairs asking the next day if we had been moving furniture around.”
“You were supposed to catch me.”
“I thought you were attacking me.”
“I was SMILING!”
“So do chimps right before they tear your arms off and beat you to death with them.”
“David, I trust you to take care of me. I trust you to run into a burning building or throw yourself in front of a grizzly bear to save me. But I do not trust you to catch me if I fall on you.”
“Don’t be too sure about that grizzly thing either.”
“You’d save me.”
“At least I wouldn’t hear about it for the next 30 years if I didn’t.”
“Excuse me?”
“I said, ‘I think Judge Judy has finally started running new episodes and that we should watch one.'”
“That’s a great idea… were you going upstairs before we start it?”
“Yes… yes, I was.”



After work last night, Diana attended a visitation for a colleague’s husband, who, by all accounts, was a wonderful person and taken far too early. When she got home, she seemed subdued.

“You okay?”
“Yes. It was kind of sad and happy at the same time.”
“How so?”
“Well, during the visitation they ran a montage of pictures of them on a screen. They were smiling and just looked so happy together. You can tell they really loved each other.”
“And I got to thinking…”
(Oh, crap.)
“…You don’t ever smile in our pictures.”
“Sometimes I do.”
“Rarely… and only after I nag you to do it. And even then, it’s only a half-smile. And now I’m worried that I’ll be standing there at your visitation, with all these frowny pictures of you scrolling on a screen in the background, and everyone will think you were miserable with me.”

Over the years, I have learned that normally when Diana unburdens herself or brings some problem to my attention, she is not necessarily looking for a solution from me. Mostly because she is smarter than me and doesn’t need my help. No, usually, she just wants to sound the problem out. My job is to nod and reassure her, but not try to fix whatever is wrong (because then I get irritated when she doesn’t take my perfectly good advice). But her eyes were getting all teary, and I could tell, in this one instance, she was looking for a solution.

“Diana, I promise that will never, ever happen to you.”

She looked up and began to grin.

“Because you’re going to start smiling in our pictures?”
“No, because I plan on outliving you by at least three years.”

Well, that made her cry and laugh at the same time, which I suppose is better than just crying.

“Do you promise?”
“I promise.”
“Wait a second…”
(Oh, crap).
“… If it’s my visitation and people don’t see your smile in our pictures, how will they know we were in love and happy together?”
“Because they’ll see your smile in the pictures… and they’ll know.”

Trick Question

Diana came home from work on Friday and started to tell me about her day:

“I was reviewing video footage of this suspicious customer, so I would recognize her later if I needed to, when I saw myself with my back to the camera and said, ‘Oh my GOD, when did my butt get so big?'”

Then she turned and looked at me.

Now, there are three things you all should understand:

1. I think Diana is perfect.

2. This is exactly the sort of dangerous situation I regularly practice for throughout the year – like a doomsday prepper running bug-out drills for the apocalypse. I stand in front of a mirror making sure my facial expression, vocal inflection, and carefully-chosen words are exactly correct for any verbal trap in which Diana might try to ensnare me:

“You’re beautiful, Darling.”
“I don’t think I could love you any more than I do right now.”
“You could probably stand to gain a few pounds.”
“That’s a nice purse, and you really got a good deal on it.”
“No, I love your toes.”
“Of course I don’t mind if you change channels to the Hallmark Channel. I wasn’t really watching this very interesting documentary on the Pharaoh Akhenaten anyway.”

3. When you suffer from Chronic Wise-Ass Syndrome (CWAS – it’s in my medical records), you have absolutely no control over the smart-mouthed responses that initially pop into your head that you find completely hilarious.

So, when I heard, “When did my butt get so big?” I opened my mouth to give a loving, comforting response. However, what popped, unbidden, into my brain was, “When Nabisco started putting double stuff in their Oreos.”

At that point my mouth was open, but the only sound coming out was a kind of choking, gurgling noise. I could feel my face going red, the veins in my forehead starting to throb, and internal organs beginning to rupture as I tried to keep a straight face. Diana’s brow started to crease, and I could tell she knew I was about to self-destruct, so I jumped up and ran to the bathroom and closed the door.

After a couple of minutes there was a knock at the door.

“Honey, are you okay?”
“Yeah, I had to poop.”
“Mmm Hmm. What were going to say?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Darling, I know you. Just tell me what you were going to say.”
//Long pause//
“I was going to say, ‘When Nabisco started putting double stuff in their Oreos,’ but I wasn’t actually going to say it. I think you’re butt is just right.”
“Yeah… too late. But you can come out. You’re not in trouble.”

Once we were back on the couch, Diana grabbed the remote.

“That wasn’t funny.”
“I know.”
“Do you mind if I change the channel to Judge Judy?”

With great relief (and a straight face), I said, “Of course I don’t mind if you change the channel to Judge Judy. I wasn’t really watching this very interesting documentary on the Battle of Gettysburg anyway.”

I Become a Gentleman… and Possibly Gay

Diana needed to make a run to Sam’s Club last night to pick up some items for her work. I went along because those items included at least 18 giant bags of candy for some upcoming parade. In the Midwest, parades are merely an excuse to ride in the back of your business-logoed truck and pelt kids with Tootsie Rolls without getting ticketed for it. Anyway, I was only along for the heavy lifting.

After Sam’s, we went to Super Target (like regular Target only with more unmanned checkout registers) to try to find Pixie Stix for a different bank promotion. We came up empty at Target. Of the hundreds of varieties of Halloween candy on offer, Pixie Stix were not among them. As we walked out to Diana’s car, I forgot I was driving, started to walk around to the passenger side, checked myself, and then went back to the driver’s side.

“Awww what?”
“For a minute there, I thought you were going around to open my door for me.”
“Yeah? How’d that work out for you?”
“Not too well. You know, when I was in Salt Lake City, Greg and Thom opened the car door for me every time.”
“Well, that’s not fair. Greg and Thom are gay. They also dress impeccably. That level of politeness and fashion sense is coded into their genetic material.”
“No, they’re just gentlemen.”
“Well, I’ve got over 40 years of vague stereotypes that says differently. Plus, I’m sure there’s clinical research out there somewhere that supports my argument.”
“Daddy always dresses nicely, and he opens the car door for Mom.”
“Apples and oranges. That’s a different generation. You’re mom also always has supper waiting on your Dad when he comes in.”
“But I get home from work later than you.”
“… AND she also works from sunup to sundown keeping the house clean, doing the laundry, weeding the garden, mowing, and taking lunches to the men in the field. How many of those squares have you filled in the last six months?”
“Well… uhhh… that’s a different generation.”
“Exactly. Darling, it has taken me 31 years to learn how to hold your hand in public, vacuum, wash dishes, fold a fitted sheet, and notice when you’ve been to the beauty shop or are wearing a new outfit (and, let’s be honest, most of the time I’m just guessing on those last two and hoping I’m right). That wasn’t easy. A lot of good men died teaching me those skills. And now you want to add something new to the mix? You can’t have it all, Honey.”
“But, I want it all. Still, I guess I should just be thankful for what I have.”
“Yes… you should.”

The topic turned to other matters as we continued on to Wal-Mart, hoping against hope they had the straw-based sugar delivery system we were looking for. We drew a blank at Wal-Mart also, but found an alternative Diana thought would work. As I loaded up the trunk of the car, Diana took the shopping cart back to the store as there were no cart racks anywhere near us. I closed the trunk, walked around to the passenger side of the car…

…. and waited.

Diana came out of store, saw me, broke into a huge grin, and practically skipped the whole way back to the car like a 14-year-old in love. I opened the door for her, and then closed it again after she was settled. Then I got in on the driver’s side. Diana leaned over and kissed me on the cheek.

“Thank you. See? I can have it all.”
“I’m not gay.”
“No, but you’re the next best thing.”