It Isn't Funny

How could anyone write a funny article about a rather conservative, extremely self-disciplined, scrupulously honest, frank to a fault, unpretentious, chemical engineer, of senior citizen vintage? Yet every time I get writers' block, my husband suggests that I write a humorous article about him. Somehow this man does not suggest to me a primary source of unabashed humor. For example:

For years, my husband's bathroom reading material has been The Readers' Digest. This gives me no problem—whatever works! But I can't understand why it is that when we are in a discussion group of our extremely literate friends, he can't refer to the original source in relating information from articles that he has recently read. Isn't it just as easy to say, "According to an article in The Wall Street Journal," or "I was reading a story in The New Yorker Magazine. . ." instead of "I read in the Readers' Digest that. . . "?

While we're on this subject, he reads all the articles in the magazines to which he subscribes, in order, cover to cover. When I say, "Why don't you read the parts that interest you the most, and then proceed with those remaining?" or "Aren't you anxious to read the article on pruning roses since you are involved in gardening right now?", his calm reply is always, "I'll read it when I come to it", or "It will still be there when I have read that far." This is not only not funny, it isn't even reasonable!

To say that Dick is a health nut is an understatement. Each morning, his bowl of cereal (called thus with some reluctance) consists of a mixture of All Bran (required ingredient), Grape-Nuts, a hand-full of raisins, a slug of buttermilk, a glob of peanut-butter, a sprinkling of granola, and fresh fruit. This, all mushed together, earned the title of "dog food" from our growing kids.

And this man is self-disciplined to a very unfunny degree. His dedication to running and exercise exceeds the mailman's commitment regarding snow, rain, sleet and hail. Although nine years my senior, his muscular triceps, biceps, and other ceps, leave me feeling somewhat akin to Jack Spratt's wife.

He ran his first Marathon at age 52, when I was a mere 43. A week before the big event, his training book mandated a 20-mile practice run. Since I was a bit nervous about his ability to sustain such extended exertion, I offered to ride along beside him on my bicycle, which he welcomed. Later in the day found his much younger wife alternating between hobbling around the house, rubbing her backside, and soaking in a warm tub (with some concern about whether she'd be able to crawl up over the side when she wanted to get out). Dick was out working in the garden, whistling the theme to "Rocky."

And you probably didn't even know that one can't open a second jar of jelly or salad dressing until the contents of the first jar are completely consumed. Variety being the spice of life doesn't hold a candle to such unrefutable reason as: "One just always finishes one jar before opening another."

His clothes are no laughing matter either. We have a routine whenever we're getting ready to go out. He says, "How are you dressing tonight?" No matter what my response, whether "party clothes", "Sunday go-to-meeting," or "sportswear", he smilingly muses, as though it's never been said before, "I think I'll go casual." The fact is that he owns only one category of clothes—casual. And I might add—very casual. And while we're on the subject of clothes—new ones are never needed short of a large hole appearing in a noticeable place. The exception, of course, is running shoes, which appear to have multiplied like rabbits, all over his closet floor. A change in style is never, no never, a reason for a new purchase.

And if that sounds pathetic, when asked why he doesn't wear a particular blazer, shirt, or

suit, which he has kept "nice" in a plastic suit-bag until it is blatantly outdated, he responds that he's saving it for his funeral. After hearing this once too often, I told him that if he is to wear all the things that he's saving for his funeral, I'll have to schedule "showings" at the funeral home, with hourly changes of costume. "If you come back at 3:30, Mrs. Jones, you can see Richard in his aqua leisure suit."

This man is a good husband. That is not the question here. He sets out my breakfast each morning, before leaving on his run; packs my lunch on days that I work; and has dinner waiting between 5:00 and 5:10 when I get home. (This adds variety to my day, not ever being sure exactly when it will be). But his question, "What would you like for lunch tomorrow? simply baffles me. Although I generally quip, "Oh chauteaubriand and chocolate mousse sounds good… or escargot with baked Alaska…whatever's convenient," I know the true options are tuna-fish and egg-salad. So why pose the question as cheerfully as the waiter at Barney's Smorgasbord?

Another thing you may not even know is that there is only one right was to fold a tent—even when you have just returned from an exhausting week of relaxation, and have emptied all the contents of the van on the driveway (to facilitate hasty putting away)—and it is beginning to sprinkle harder every minute. There is also one proper way to fold a flag… a better way to load the dishwasher…and a logical way to mow the lawn with our electric lawn-mower, to avoid hacking up the extension cord. The day I somewhat rebelliously asserted my independent selfhood, and ended up taking a generous nick out of the cord, did not produce gales of laughter.

Then there's the tennis-ball, hanging on a string from the garage rafters, so that when I pull the car into the garage and the tennis ball meets the windshield, I know that this is the exact place to stop the car. I'll probably never risk knowing what would happen if I pulled in a few inches farther or stopped a bit short of the fuzzy thud.

Graphing and charting on the computer is a "fun time" for this man of mine. He makes elaborate graphs of everything, from his daily weight, percentage of body fat, number of arm curls and leg extensions, to fluctuation in stock values. Gains or losses appear only on paper since he doesn't engage in frequent buying and selling. Yet he loves to say, on any given day, "Well, Hon, we lost $12,000 yesterday" or "Guess what? We made $14,000 today." When the latter is the case, I usually suggest that we go out for dinner to celebrate.

One of his unfunniest times is when we go on a trip. No matter that the airlines allow two checked bag and one carry-on, this man sees virtue in taking the least number of pieces and the smallest possible of these leasts. His one small suitcase is packed and repacked, arranged and fitted, his wardrobe planned according to what will fit best in this microscopic valise. What is worse is the look on his face when I appear with my oversized Pullman, swollen sided dress-bag, a very forgiving soft-sided carryon, and one generous shoulder-damaging pocketbook. But what really gripes me is when I have finished reading a book, mid-flight,and am struggling to free my bulging bag from under the seat where it seems to have permanently attached itself, he graciously offers to put the book in his bag where "there is still a little room left." No, this is not a funny man.

How does someone who always notices when a cupboard door isn't completely shut, or when a tool hasn't been returned to its exact "right place" with the cord wrapped "properly", and who can tell when I've used the pastry shears to cut that one little lock of hair that just wouldn't lay right—fail to see inch high dust on the coffee table, even if guests are expected? "Dust doesn't harm the glass table," he explains, "but tools and mechanical things have to be used for their intended purpose and handled and maintained properly."

My husband attended a Men's Retreat awhile back. With a camp full of men, doing men's things, discussing men's issues, my man was found in the kitchen with the only woman in camp. This may disappoint you, but they were discussing pie-crusts. Having complimented the cook on her pie at lunch and asking how she made the crust so flakey, she offered to show him. Thus he spent the afternoon perfecting his Crisco-cutting, lattice-making, and fluted edging techniques. He ended up making a whole pie, and then brought his perfect creation home to share with me. And he's regularly seen at church potlucks being asked to swap recipes, and exchanging baking hints with the ladies, while I, feeling largely discounted in the culinary field, creep away to engage in discussing philosophical concepts and other truly important things.

Although his flexibility in male/female roles is obvious, and sharing of household duties demonstrates his lack of sexism, he loves nothing better than to "pull the chain" of some of our ultra-feminist friends. During a discussion describing the historically subservient role of Japanese women or some other example of "keeping women in their place", he loves to say, "Well, that's the way it ought to be", quickly adding with a very serious expression, "All the trouble started with giving them the vote."

As if the computer graphs and charts weren't enough, he also keeps a daily record in his Runners' Log. Notations are made of Miles Run, Minutes on the Ski Trainer, and a long list of physical exercises including push-ups, lunges, and chin-ups. He usually notes weather conditions, his weight (checked daily), and other important facts. Recently while flipping thorugh his Log, for reasons unfathomable to myself, I noted an * beside a number of dates. My curiosity forced me to note how frequently they occurred and to attempt to decipher what mysterious statistic this code represented. After some pondering, noting the number of * per week, and further seeing the increase of * during vacation trips away from the stresses of home and work, the truth began to dawn. It was with a measure of disbelief that I realized that I played a role in this tally. It was not without further shock that I saw, on one date when I recalled an especially romantic trip to a plush coastal resort, that one of the * was circled.

Sundays are probably the most unhumorous day of the week for me. At least since our church has incorporated inclusive language in all that we do. Though not a sexist himself, my husband is a traditionalist, and needs convincing arguments to make changes. Therefore, when everyone else is saying, "Our God, who art in heaven", he continues to pray, "Our Father. . . " And during the doxology, compensating with volume for lack of melody, he ignores the suggested "Creator, Christ, and Holy Ghost", while sounding out his praise to "Father, Son, and Holy Ghost." And as if this weren't enough to tarnish a peaceful Sabbath, because he finds the logo of our demonination unesthetic, I have witnessed the shudder of the Saints when he refers to the symbolic reproduction, on the altar table, as "the abomination."

I really didn't intend to go on and on. I think I'll just take these examples into my husband and he can see for himself why I've never chosen to do his oft-requested article. I see by the clock that he should be in his "throne room" about now…well worn corduroys at half-mast, sitting there with his favorite literary reference in one hand, and just two squares of toilet tissue, carefully separated at the perforated lines, in the other. Maybe when he gets a hand free, he'll read what I've written. Then I can get on with deciding what I really want to write about. If still nothing comes to mind… well, there are other creative outlets besides writing… like seeing if I can make another * appear in his Log book. Wonder what it would take to get it circled?