Sometimes you just ought to lay low

Opinion Column

Even after a quarter-century of marriage, it appears, you can still have the occasional bout with an epiphany.

“Oh, my God!” Cheryl said to me after this particular epiphany struck her dead center of the forehead, fortunately missing an eye, which would have resulted in certain blindness, rather than merely make her voice an expression that translates, roughly, to OMG to the Text Generation.

I can’t remember the exact context of the conversation we were having, but having some basic familiarity with with the Texting Language — I’m not fluent in speaking it, but I can read it with some degree of accuracy — I realized that OMG was a transitional comment likely to take me some place that I most assuredly didn’t want to go.

In this case — the bathroom.

“I just realized,” Cheryl said, “that in 26 years, you have never, ever (“ever,” by the way, was stretched out in a way that must be experienced to be truly appreciated) cleaned the bathroom.”

My initial reaction was, OK, what’s your point? But obviously this held some significance for her that, had I gotten an instruction manual on wives back in ’87, I would have been fully aware of. But I didn’t. Still, when something holds obvious significance with your significant other, you have to accept that, in some way or another, it really is significant and you should treat it significantly.

Sometimes in marriage discussions, you discuss. Other times, you argue. And you have times when you simply lay low. Which, in retrospect, probably would’ve been the best option.

“In my defense,” I said defending my record of husbanding, “our anniversary’s not till next week, so, technically, it hasn’t been 26 years.”

I got The Look. You don’t need a manual to get the drift of that.

“And I’m sure I’ve cleaned the bathroom,” I added, even though the Lay Low instinct was, uncharacteristically, shouting at me, “just maybe not all at one time.”

I figure there are maybe seven components to cleaning a bathroom, and I’m pretty sure that, at some point in the past 25 years, I’ve performed each component, which, when added up, results in a cumulative bathroom cleaning.

“Besides,” I couldn’t help myself, “I thought we had a self-cleaning bathroom.”

Even Lay Low laid low after that ill-advised comment. That’s because it brought back to mind an incident involving our youngest son, Justin, years ago when he was heading back to college in Valdosta. We were walking the aisles of a store, picking out supplies he would need. He was moving from the dorm to the TKE frat house.

We stocked up pretty heavily on disinfectant. It turned out to be a prudent move. When I went into that house, I saw beer stains that I left when I was in college. At least I thought they were ones I left. Frankly, the early ’80s are still a bit fuzzy at times.

Anyway, going down one aisle, Cheryl said Justin needed a toilet brush and toilet cleanser.

“Why do I need that?” he asked me.

“Beats me,” I said.” Y’all should get a self-cleaning toilet like we have.”

That drew The Look.

“Like our self-cleaning oven?” I tried.

And the dreaded Foot Tap.

“Get the brush, the cleanser,” I whispered in an attempt to sound fatherly, though it was mostly to try not to call any more attention to myself than I already had on this particular excursion, “and Lay Low.”

Which is what I should’ve done in regard to the whole the never-cleaned-the-bathroom-in-26-years issue. The Lay Low muse, or whatever it is, was fairly screaming now, which seems contradictory, which may be why I ignored it. Again.

“OK,” I said, thinking that was a clever opening for my salvo. “Well, you never wrapped the water pipes when it was about to freeze.”

“I could have done it,” Cheryl responded.

“Oh, yeah?” I shot back authoritatively. “Well, I could’ve cleaned the bathroom if I’d wanted to.”

Her eyebrow cocked and I felt the trap snap on my leg, almost up to my knee.

Another argument lost, which, ironically, kept another 25-or-so-year streak intact. My ineffective adviser, Lay Low, slinked away in a fit of pure disgust.

Things might have worked out better if I had gotten that mythical Instructional Manual on Wives, which somebody really should write.

On the other hand, it probably wouldn’t have helped me in the end.

After all, no Real Guy actually reads the instructions.

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