Rene’s face is turning purple right in front of your eyes, contorting into a grotesque mask. Now comes the big sigh as she releases the air from her lungs in great heaves of fire-breathing fury. That same air gets frosty in a millisecond as her eyes narrow.
Her normally beautiful bow strung lips are drawn tightly together as she strikes the battered shopping list with her well-manicured, red nails and hisses, “It was a simple task. It was nothing. Any four-year-old could complete it. I needed . . . zzz zzz zzz . . . This list has only six things on it, and you managed to get the wrong item once, and the wrong brand three times. THREE TIMES! Any village idiot could have gotten what I wanted!”ii
You allow the voice of your wife to drone on into the background, see-sawing up and down to signify aggravation, but you know she is not saying too much more than the basic few words, over and over again, hammering against your brain. She expects the repeated words to slap you, as always, and she is pleased by your cowed expression. Your wife has a need to make sure you understand the gravity of your offense. She is uniquely qualified to point out your mistakes because, according to her, she doesn’t do stupid stuff.
Right now she is particularly livid because she has invited twenty-five people to your house for a surprise party for her best friend. She sent you to the store as a time-saving necessity because she had several last-minute things to do to prepare for her guests. She handed you the list reluctantly, knowing there was a probability of failure.
You tune in for the next few seconds, wondering where she is in her pounding spiel. She is letting you know for the thousandth time that choosing substitutes for items on the list instead of going to another store is simply unacceptable, and she is assuring you that if the purchase of six things can be screwed up, you will be the one to do it.
You offer to go to another store and find the three missing items, but she will not hear of it. If you messed up simple instructions once, what made you think that you could be trusted again? Suddenly you hear the rattle of car keys. You realize that at least three of your wife’s friends have witnessed this apoplectic tirade. Rene’s number two BFF Kristin is out the door without even looking at the list. She appears instinctively to know what you should have purchased.
Your wife is no longer looking at you, but instead, with a pained look at the empty doorway where Kristin had just disappeared. You stand there as if you’d been frozen to this special spot of disdain by the queen of the castle. She is complaining to her two remaining friends about how ridiculous it was that you had gotten your teenage daughter’s birthday mixed up with your son’s and had paid Gumbo the Clown to do juvenile little clown tricks for what was supposed to be Victoria’s special sweet sixteen. She loudly proclaims that may have been enough evidence to prove what her mother had been telling her all along. She had married someone who was not the sharpest tool in the box.
This proof was further evidenced by the fact that last May, no matter how many times she had led you to exactly the right wedding anniversary band at Francino’s Jewelry, you had the nerve to purchase for her instead a microscopic set of ruby earrings from who knows where, and how embarrassing it had been on Sunday when she had to show her friends at church this grand prize instead of the two carats of hot rocks she had been expecting. She felt that she deserved a better gift for having to suffer the indignity of being married to you for all these years. But what else could she expect from a pencil-pushing civil servant?
It appears that she has lost interest in a direct assault on your person and has begun to talk to her friends as though you are not even in the room. You hurriedly excuse yourself, saying that you will be in your home office if you’re needed for anything.
It would be better if you shut the office door when you reach its relative sanctuary, but you don’t. You can still hear her laughing bitterly about all the stupid things she perceives you have done over the multitude of years that she has been married to you. Next comes a conversation among the girls about which wine is the best for the drowning of marital sorrows and you hear the tell-tale tinkling of the heirloom wine glasses that your mother had given you for a wedding present. It appears that those glasses that you love and treasure, and that you associate with Nana, are going to be used to disrespect you.
You know that as the wine flows, Rene’s tongue will loosen. She is now laughing about your asking for a space in the house just for you and your friends to kick back and watch a game every now and then. Just one room in a two-story house that you had purchased together fifteen years before.
“Maybe later dear. As if . . . in his dreams.” You can hear her cackling.
A growing group of women are steadily invading your house forming a larger audience for Rene to regale.
It doesn’t surprise you when your wife and her friends get around to discussing the expected comparison in their husbands’ wages. Allison’s husband, Rob, makes $300,000 a year. Madison’s husband, Greer, with benefits makes about $225,000 a year. Your wife makes a big deal about not even daring to place you in the spectrum with these two money-making dynamos. Your wife is definitely letting the party know that she got the short end of the stick when she married you.
This launches them into another conversation about whether size matters.
Your wife is not the only one cackling now. The short end of the stick turned into her telling her friends that you are packed light in the manhood department. You hear that Rob is hung so big that he has to buy two jock straps to carry it around with him. Greer has a pole he could fish with. You, on the other hand, definitely got the short end of the stick and everyone is laughing uproariously at your expense.
You can hear one more clear thing before you finally move to close the door. She is laughing so hard she can barely get the words out. “If he dies, I’m going to cash in his life insurance policy and donate his body to science. He is . . . he is, after all, a freak . . . a freak of nature! Why waste money on a funeral!”
You walk over to your chair and sit behind your cluttered desk. It’s just an average day in your house. You are glad to be in this little broom closet that she has allowed you to turn into an office. You realize that you try to spend most of your time either here or downtown in the little space that the government carved out for you.
It is pure survival instinct that moves you through your daily routine.
Your daughter, who was the apple of your eye when she was two years old, is now sixteen and barely speaks to you. Every waking moment she has her phone in her hand, texting 800 times a day. Your son, the same, except for him it is video games in the darkened confines of his room. He can barely be summoned forth to have meals. no golf lessons for him, but the kid plays a mean game of Call of Duty.
The more time you spend away from your family the more repaired your self-esteem seems to be. Work doesn’t mean work to you. It provides a relief. A cessation of hostilities for a finite period of time.
At night you know better than to reach for that chick to scratch an itch. No chance. You have finally realized that the rush to marry her when you were so young was premature. Your brains were squishy with love. She was so beautiful. Your friends thought you were so lucky. At your wedding you felt like the biggest stud. She was built beautifully. Small, long waist, high, tight, pert breasts. You could hardly keep your hands off her. How long did that last? She put up with your advances for only two more years. Probably because she felt sorry for you.
You had plenty of warnings that all would not be well before you married. You had chosen to ignore the signs of a self-absorbed woman and not look too closely.
You decided that you would marry her and no one could talk you out of it.
Your mother telling you that Rene treated you like crap infuriated you. You didn’t want to listen to all of the reasons why Mom couldn’t stand her.
At your wedding it seemed odd that you couldn’t get Rene’s attention. After all, you had a co-starring role that day. But no matter, you had become wallpaper as she flitted like a frantic, glowing swan in her dream bridal dress from guest to guest until by the end of the evening your dewy dove was exhausted and could barely look your way.
You would be the first to admit that you did not really understand the Princess-Finally-Gets-Her-Wedding-Day-At-The-Castle crap. She had been totally goal-oriented from the beginning. And so had you. You got yourself a trophy wife. She expected that you would do far better financially than you had. And she told you over and over again how disappointing that bitter pill was to swallow.
At night, when you wake up at the smallest noise, you look at Rene’s sleeping profile. She’s still beautiful after seventeen years, but it’s faded. What’s left is a ghost of the past. In love’s first blush you tolerated the bitterness and irritation that she had constantly turned on you, and excused her behavior because it was thinly hidden behind the softness of her youth. It is a sad fact that you had married a woman who was cold and hard and mean. The worst thing about this was your absolute knowledge that she had always been that way.
Those were the moments when you wondered if you should have stayed a bachelor or married your mother’s choice instead. Maggie had not been quite as beautiful as Rene, but she had a fantastic sense of humor. You could talk to her under the stars for hours about your hopes and dreams and about a whole lot of nothing, really. Your friends had liked her, but they had not acted like she was a prize movie star. Rene was Va-Va-Voom. Maggie had been more like one of their little sisters. What you wouldn’t trade to have her lying next you in bed at night. To actually be married to someone who is your best friend seems hardly imaginable.
Instead, you have a woman who all the men had been fighting over in her youth, now talking to her best friends about the length of your Willie, and comparing that to the other husbands’ Willies, then laughing in front of God and everyone about the fact that genetics had short-changed yours.
You realize that you would gladly give Rene to the first man who tried to take her from you all those years ago and now. Seventeen years ago you should have turned around and walk away and save yourself from years of misery.
You could have married Maggie, had a couple of kids that would camp and fish with you . . maybe a cool dog, like a Great Dane. You should have settled for a small life with a lot of love and a lot of laughter.
You should have.
But you didn’t.
Instead, you made the stupidest, godawful mistake of your life. And now, at the risk of being “Short End Willie” for the rest of your non-marital bliss, you realize that you will have to rectify this problem immediately, no matter how painful the situation proves to be.
After all, you got yourself into this mess, and you are going to get yourself out. No matter what the financial or emotional cost.
Come hell or high water.
Freedom isn’t free.
I am not advocating violence against anyone. I am very much in favor of passive resistance in the vein of Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. Hopefully you are familiar with this term. If you aren’t, do yourself a favor and Google this term. Passive resistance is not to be confused with passive aggressive behavior.
A few years ago, a friend of mine told me that when she got angry with her husband she would lace his burrito with too much hot pepper sauce so he would not be able to eat the lunch she packed for him.
I never forgot that.
That is passive aggressive behavior. The dutiful wife packs the necessary lunch because, if she doesn’t, she will not be doing her job, but she makes sure he can’t eat the food because she is pissed. Wow! Don’t trap yourself in this type of nonsense. This is warfare without two victims and no victor.
If I were premeditated enough to pack burritos that were too hot for my husband because I was pissed, and I needed to make a silent statement, he would divorce me. He would find a nice girl who would pack him a burrito with kinder hands. If I’m pissed about something, any statement that I make will be vocal and immediate.
Using passive resistance, you don’t need violence to achieve your goals. You need patience and fortitude. You must be brave to the death.
I am not unmindful that both of the great men that I mentioned above were both assassinated for their passive, peaceful resistance. I am also mindful that both of these great men took the world into their hands and shook it. And the world has never been the same since their lives and deaths.
Put this important fact into your pea brain: No one has the right to do whatever they want to do with you at any time without your consent.
If someone points a gun at you and says, “Come with me now, or I’m going to shoot you.”
You have two choices. Go, and use your leg power to assist in your kidnapping and demise, or say, “No.” Use the weight of your body to drop to the ground. You are harder to move as a dead weight. Don’t you know that? You don’t have to go anywhere. If that dumb bastard succeeds in getting you from Point A to Point B, there is no telling what is going to happen to you.
Is it possible as a dead weight, falling to the ground, that the guy with the gun is going to shoot you right there on the spot? Yes. But that’s all he can do to you right at that moment.
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