Since I’m still recovering from the latest iteration of the plague and writing ain’t comin’ easy, today’s Quick Hits will be supplanted by chapter from my upcoming second book ‘The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Life.”
And you’re in for a real treat because this chapter includes a passage from my favorite female curmudgeon, Sharry Lynn Blazier of Elgin. Enjoy!
Love, n. A temporary insanity curable by marriage. – Ambrose Bierce,
“Wait a minute, Mr. Ward! I distinctly recall you saying something about a wife in the last chapter! What self-respecting curmudgeon would ever consider sharing his or her domicile with another human being, and worse yet, what kind of obviously mentally ill woman would ever consider cohabitating with the likes of you?”
You know, it’s real a pain in the ass having such smart-ass readers. Perhaps I’ll go work for Fox News. But I digress!
The first thing you have to understand about curmudgeonliness is that it takes time to fully develop. Sure! The signs are there from an early age, but with so many erstwhile folks trying to fix us, it could take years of therapy to reverse all that damage and finally come into our own.
For example, it was only after writing that first newspaper column at the ripe old age of 44 that I truly started to realize my curmudgeonly potential.
But before we fully develop, we come across as the quiet and unassuming type which some men and women find utterly irresistible. The problem with those marriages, however is, when the curmudgeon’s true colors rear their glorious head, the spouse who didn’t sign on for that level of intensity tends to move on.
But there’s an even more insidious form of mixed marriage in which the husband is almost always the curmudgeon.
Considering our sparkling personalities and infinite capacity to play well with others, it’s hard to believe any woman would want anything to do with us. Ah! But there is a plurality of planetary females who see us as a challenge, and they proceed to administer their feminine wiles in an effort to trap and “fix” us.
Women can be such spiteful creatures.
Lured by the prospect of nuptial delights (and we’re quite adept at it, by the way) and by someone who coyly bats their eyelashes and giggles at our jokes and daily rants, like a hapless moth drawn to a big backyard bug zapper, we inexplicably ignore our finely tuned intuition, abandon our curmudgeonly roots, start believing the whole relationship thing was our idea, and then we become charming enough to seal the deal.
Even I have my moments, but thankfully, they quickly pass.
Once those “I dos” are exchanged, the charade abruptly ends, and things change faster than a hormonal teenage girl’s mind, because it’s at that very moment your brand-new wife starts executing “Operation Transmogrification.”
Oh! It’s subtle at first. She’ll say simple stuff like, “You know, you look really good in that [ridiculous article of clothing],” “You look much better with a goatee than a full beard,” and “Please don’t drink the tequila straight out of the bottle!”
Since we’re still getting regular sex, like a praying mantis oblivious to his impending doom at the hands of his hungry mate, we figure it’s such a small price to pay, we’ll go along with it just to make her happy.
So, we wear the ugly sweater, we shave a little bit more, and we stop drinking tequila out of the bottle – when she’s not around. But then, like the Starship Enterprise carelessly drifting into the grasp of a giant space amoeba, with her trap fully set, it gets worse – much worse.
The first sign of real trouble is your favorite articles of clothing mysteriously disappear. So, what if those jeans had holes in the seat? It took years to break them in. And if you ask me, buying new underwear once a decade is more than reasonable.
Then it’s the event scheduling and vacations. Despite her clearly comprehending curmudgeons hate going anywhere, especially if it involves new and obnoxious people, she’ll say things like, “C’mon! It will be fun,” as she gives that not-so-coy look that means you might get lucky if you just go along with the program.
Of course, it’s never something like a Cubs game or a strip club. Nope! It’s gotta be some sort of silly opera featuring a morbidly obese woman who insists upon caterwauling in a foreign tongue while everyone around her dies a gruesome death.
Apparently, those 18th Century Italians were a real hoot!
And who knew those uppity ushers (and your wife) would get kinda cranky when you rip open that bag of peanuts you snuck in smack dab in the middle of an aria. And who knew you weren’t supposed to spit shells on the floor? C’mon! If it’s good enough for Texas Roadhouse…
Then, irked by the whole peanut thing and the exceptionally loud snoring, she refuses to speak to you the entire way home – which would generally be a good thing – because it can take some time to recover from all that incessant shrieking.
So, you’re feeling pretty good about surviving the whole ordeal until you realize her silence means that sitting through a 4-hour snooze-fest just to get lucky later aint’ gonna work. Then you have to spend the rest of the week apologizing just for being you, which won’t get you very far because she knows you’re not really sorry and you’re not going to change.
And you can’t duck out to escape that dire dynamic because going out with your buddies will only aggravate her further. You see, it’s no fun for women to ignore you if you enjoy the fact you’re being ignored. With nowhere left to turn, you start playing Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall – 25th Anniversary Edition’ over and over again until she stops ignoring you long enough to shout, “turn that s**t down.”
It’s as we slowly twist the volume knob counterclockwise that we suddenly realize the full extent of our horrific mistake. But divorce isn’t an option because then she’d walk away with half of your 33 guitars, your 60 superhero statues, and your comic book collection, which would be a tragedy of epic proportion.
No self-respecting male curmudgeon would ever resort to cheating, either, because the thought of having to cater to the emotional needs of two irrational women is even more terrifying than going to Disney World, Branson, Missouri or, God forbid, sitting through your wife’s book club
So, you attempt to make some strategic compromises, but that falls flat because once you’ve fallen through a black hole’s event horizon, there’s no escape – she won’t be happy until she completely remakes you in her image.
Emboldened by the emerging signs of resignation in your eyes, she starts buying all of your clothes, tells you when to get a haircut, makes you go to movie theatres, forces you to shave your back, insists you get dressed up to go out, and – the icing on the cake – she expects you to be nice to her crazy younger sister.
Finally, after years of heaping on this horrific abuse, one of two things will happen.
The first is, the curmudgeon re-bursts forth in all his righteous glory to reclaim his rightful legacy. He makes it abundantly clear that things are gonna be different from now on as he rips off the absurd sweater, puts on the pair of ratty old pair of underwear he hid in the toolbox in the basement , and grabs the pasta server to finally get relief from the incoming back hair.
Faced with the dismal failure of Operation Transmogrification, the wife typically bursts into tears and runs to her mother’s to explain exactly what a scurrilous cad you’ve been as if she’s the one who had to endure all that unspeakable torture.
And just like the shampoo bottle says, rinse, lather and repeat until the messy divorce is on.
But it’s the second possibility that’s the truly tragic one. Worn down by years of unrepentant harassment, the curmudgeon finally capitulates and becomes exactly the man his “loving spouse” always dreamed he’d be.
But then a funny thing happens! Utterly unhappy with her handiwork, she gets more and more dissatisfied with every “yes dear,” and then she meets a new guy at church (curmudgeons don’t go to church) who requires even more repair work. Enamored of the possibility of converting yet another victim, she starts having an affair and eventually leaves you for the new guy, who ends up treating her like crap.
The truly tragic thing is, once a curmudgeon completely capitulates, like a honeybee that just stung an interloper, there’s no going back. It’s a slow slide into oblivion as the former curmudgeon fervently prays for a quick death.
Either way, marriage almost always ends badly for the curmudgeon. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a curmudgeon to curmudgeon marriage, but I’m convinced that kind of thing could only lead to a double homicide or a civilization ending epic conflagration.
So, while it’s too late for me, there’s still time for my single male curmudgeonly compatriots to save themselves. No good can come from marriage in general, and that’s especially true if a curmudgeon is involved.
“But Jeff! If married life is so miserable, why do single men have shorter lifespans?” That’s because all animals live longer in captivity. And if you’ve ever been to a bachelor’s funeral, you will quickly observe that the corpse is always smiling.
Ah! But there is a kind of curmudgeon marriage that can work. If a non-curmudgeon male runs into a female curmudgeon, like stalking the elusive North American wilderness elk, if he can behave just long enough to con her into thinking he doesn’t completely suck, he won’t be disappointed.
To wit, this is my eminently curmudgeonly feminine friend Sharry Blazier’s response to this particular chapter:
“Having never been married, I feel unqualified to critique this. But, a cherished aspect of my curmudgeonliness is my certainty that I definitely would not, could not, have been a wife like those described. I wouldn’t care what he wore. I don’t wanna go to Branson, but wherever I wanted to go, I wouldn’t drag someone uninterested. I like Pink Floyd. I’d have viewed marriage, most especially to a fellow curmudgeon, as a shared shelter from all those annoying … PEOPLE out there. I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t have killed each other. But you may be right. In which case, just one more thing to feel curmudgeonly about. Marriage, bah humbug.
They’re low maintenance, they refuse to play the “if you don’t know why I’m unhappy then I’m not going to tell you” game, they don’t like to go to silly places, they don’t like sappy chick flicks, they like sports (not fake s**t like golf, figure skating, or synchronized swimming), and they tend to drink semi-heavily and become quite funny and entertaining as a result.
What’s not to like?