Learning through Laughter

Bob Owen, Humorist

Brenda and I have been married nearly 42 years.  That doesn’t give me any real bragging rights, because a lot of our friends have been married at least that long.  But, it does play into this tale, a bit.

When we first were married, we went through the “dance” of learning each other’s likes and dislikes.  So many times, we would do something and the other one would say, “I wish you hadn’t done that…” and share the reasons at length.  The actions ranged anywhere from “why did you mow the lawn Saturday morning at 6:30 a.m. since I was in bed” to “you’re not wearing THAT are you!”  The process of living together meant we had to learn the “druthers” of our spouse.  “Please do not put sugar in the oatmeal,” or worse yet, “No I will NOT sit and watch you put sugar in your grits.”  There are some things that are sacred.

Over the years, we began to fit each other like comfortable gloves.  We became a good team and knew what the other was up to without a need for detailed conversation.  When I was president of the Jaycees all those years ago, Brenda knew my attention span sometimes kept me from remembering names of people I didn’t know that well.  Whenever we were out together in public, she immediately introduced herself to someone approaching us to keep me from having to “do” introductions.

Throughout the years, marital shorthand developed, and we seemed to acquire a system of signals as communication between us.  Pulling one ear lobe meant “please get the children away from me RIGHT NOW,” and they wouldn’t know they were so near death.  In a crowded room at a party, a quick movement of the eyes without gesturing or actually moving the head meant there was someone approaching from that direction that our spouse didn’t want to see. The list of subtle signals grew long over the years.  And, of course, that doesn’t include the not-so-subtle signal such as Brenda’s favorite - when she takes the forefinger of her right hand and moves it quickly across her throat, that means that if I don’t shut up at that very instant, my life as I know will cease to exist.  It’s akin to her signal of kicking me under the table while giving me THE LOOK.

If you’ve been married more than 30 minutes, you and your spouse have signals.  If you’re not aware of them, all that means is just what I said – you’re not aware of them.  They exist anyway.

So what’s this all about?  The older we get, the more we approach the beginning stages of our marriage.  Remember?  The period when we didn’t have signals?

We definitely still have the signals.  The problem now is that we don’t remember what they mean – OR even more probable, the meanings have changed.

The grandchildren were over a while back, and I had both with me on the porch.  Brenda had this emergency expression on her face and came out and rounded them up and directed their attention in another room.  She came back and asked, “You OK?”  “I’m fine,” I replied.  “Why did you rush the kids away?”  “You gave me the signal,” she answered.  “You pulled your ear lobe!”  "No I didn’t!” I said.  “I was checking to see if I had ear hair.  It makes me look so old.”

Last week we were at a party, and I saw someone heading Brenda’s direction that I knew she preferred not to talk to, so I did the “eye thing.”  She immediately whispered in my ear.  “What are you doing?  You look cross-eyed.”

Even though we’ve changed, there is still some consistency in our signals.  When she does the “slit throat” movement, I stop.  Whatever I’m doing.  That gesture means the same thing it always has – “Unless you want a big funeral today, you might want to stop doing that.”

Date of Blog Story: 
April 28, 2010

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