Friday, January 4, 2013

Marital counseling, Hopalong Cassidy style

Once, I told my husband I cut off my leg.   

It was an experiment.  Let me just see, I said to myself.   

I told him it kept cramping, the leg, so I decided just to cut it off and hop from that point forward.  If I needed to get around, I’d just hop. 

He nodded.   

Uh oh.  Not a good sign. 

I marked the day:  We were in the car on our way to S & J Oyster Co. in South Tulsa.  It was raining.  I never expected it to arrive so soon, the day my husband tuned me out.   

In truth, he’d most likely been on AM to my FM many times before.  But now I had to know.  I couldn’t just leave it there, think about it and come back later.  Oh no.  Not me.  Communications major.  Debate coach.  

Donning my imaginary lab coat and goggles, a pretend clipboard at the ready, pen poised, I turned toward him in my seat and pressed on.     

“Sure,” I said, “it would be an adjustment, the hopping.  But I might learn to love it.  It could be fun even.  Hop, hop, hippity hop hop hop.”   

I think it was right about then that he said, “Um hmm.” 

I blinked, processing.  I must have paused.  He glanced in my direction from the driver’s seat, and said, “What Honey?” then turned back to the road. 

“No, it’s OK,” I said, reeling at the revelation.  “That’s it.  Just the hopping, that’s all.”  I leaned back in the passenger seat and turned my eyes toward the future.   

You can imagine.  Naïve astonishment.  The five stages of grief.  A young bride let go her innocence.  Big exhale.  There it is.  Just like spider veins and crow’s feet.  It sneaked up on me.  The inevitability.  The foregone conclusion.   

He’s a regular man.  And He.  Doesn’t.  Listen.  To ME! 

In the ensuing symposium, during which husband and wife reviewed the phenomenon from multiple angles, three conclusions were agreed upon: 

1.       I don’t talk too much.  Really.  I don’t. 

2.      He’s lucky.  That’s right!  He’s lucky because I consciously monitor my patter providing him with only the most scintillating vignettes.  I am very careful in this regard. 

3.      He loves my stories.  

Let me pause here and set the context.   

We were a lot younger then.  He told me I was fascinating and I fell for it.  We ended up laughing that day and after that, if I caught him drifting, I’d punch him good-naturedly and say, “Have I been hopping again!?!”  

Then he’d turn to me and fix a maniacal gaze.  Rubbing his hands together he’d cross his eyes and say, “Go ahead, Honey.  I’m mesmerized!” 

Who could resist that?  All was forgiven. 

But even so, now and then it still bugs me.  Hey!  I’m talkin’ over here! 

So here we are today, 22 years later, reliving the ump-teenth iteration of the post-hop summit during which I tell him it really bothers me when he doesn’t pay attention. 

He said he hops sometimes too and I have to admit it.  I’m not always riveted when he speaks.   

But then, and here’s the kicker, he says the difference is that whenever he notices I’m not listening, he doesn’t really care. 

OMG!  

At first I thought I should be hurt.  My husband, the love of my life, my-grow-old-together, croak-at-the-same-time guy doesn’t even care if I’m listening to him? 

But no.  It wasn’t that.  He said sometimes he realizes he doesn’t even care that much about what he’s saying!  So if I take a trip to the Bahamas in my mind, he’ll just hop ‘til I get back.  No worries. 

“But, but, but…Honey!  What you say is always…”  I couldn’t finish my own shallow half-truth.  

He picked up the thread:  “If it’s so important,” he said, “why are you on the beach in Margarita-Ville while I’m here on my pogo stick?” 

“And that doesn’t bother you?” 

“No.  Not really,” he said. 

Hmmm.  How very interesting.  I made a note of it in the category labeled:  “Women Spend More Time Wondering about What Men Are Thinking than Men Spend Thinking.”   

I’d never considered a no-ulcer approach.  Note to self:  Lighten up.