I said my wife’s age at the table over Christmas dinner, and ever since then our house has been so frigid, you’d think we lived in Michigan with the windows open. Any advice on how to rectify the situation?
–Out in the Cold
We could debate all day whether a woman’s age should be publicly discussed. Some would be offended at the outdated notion! Others might remember times they were treated differently for being older or younger and therefore support age secrecy at all costs! Still others just wish you would hurry up and pass the mashed potatoes!
I, myself, came mightily close to falling into this trap. A-l-m-o-s-t did I write a response focused on the benefits of embracing one’s age. Of marching forward with wisdom gained during the years as both armor and sword, ready to fight off any less-enlightened judgments or commentary with a mere flip of the gray hair and the power that exudes from the casting of an educated eye.
But then I thought back to my own Christmas dinner, when someone at the table became miffed in a similar way by a different disclosure. And then I recalled a recent incident that had nothing at all to do with dinner, but everything to do with a trust violation from someone I care about. And that’s when I realized this: The true issue is not age disclosure, but confidence broken.
Ahem, what I mean to say is that I sheathed meself in me armor and raised me sword because herein lieth a conundrum not of ye beloved’s age, but of her confidences most privy.
The thing is, Out in the Cold, all of us humans possess our own strange makeups, idiosyncrasies, imperfections and unique perfections. Maybe those words all sorta mean the same thing, or maybe they don’t, but however you want to label the things that make us tick, your wife has handed you her entire load, and the reason you’re about to lose your pinky toe to frostbite is that you didn’t pull out your own sword to guard what she entrusted to you.
Begin with an apology. Then repair the damage by showing her you shall not shirk your post again, that you have no intention of ever forgetting what she holds precious or sharing what she would want you to keep close to the blade.
That should get you on a pretty steady path to defrostation. In the meantime, I recommend wool socks and a long mitten for ye sword-fighting hand.
My best friend and I resolved to do a new workout plan for January. Now that the month is finished, I’m ready to hang up my spandex, but she loves it and wants to continue. She’s laying on the guilt pretty thick, and I suspect if I quit she’ll be mad at me. Any advice?
–Sick of Spandex
In my 20s I went through what could objectively be classified as a terrible, no-good, awful breakup. Today I see it was a gift in disguise, but at the time I was quite sure the good times were done. Finito. Finished. When I did finally get back on my feet, it was because my best friend dragged me there. She took me shopping to find clothes that felt new and exciting and worthy of a fresh, single life. She sat in wine bars with me as we shared long talks about my worth and value. And then, thankfully, she walked me out of those wine bars so we could have those talks with the regenerative power of sunshine on our faces.
But eventually the time for my friend to walk me through the world came to an end. There was a whole mix of emotions — I was happy for how far I’d come, but scared to go on alone. There were moments of being mad, which was probably just fear masquerading in a more attention-getting suit. As my days found their new and more permanent rhythm, one emotion rose to the top. Today it’s the only one that remains: gratitude.
If your friend’s new exercise routine is going to stick, eventually she’ll have to do it on her own. Should you feel anger from her in that process, perhaps her fear is playing dress-up too. Because what if she gives up on this new thing she loves? What if she can’t hack it? Isn’t that what we all wonder when we go from what is safe and secure to what is unknown?
So here’s another what if: What if you sit her down in a place where she will be able to feel the regenerative power of sunshine on her face and you tell her the four words in the English language that can do more transformation than a year of clocking into a gym: “I believe in you.”
I don’t have any ideas for Valentine’s Day gifts, do you?
I don’t have any problem with a box of chocolates, do you? Once you get underneath the smooth and shiny exterior there are going to be moments of ho-hum routine. Then, of course, there are always the one or two squares that you bite into only to discover you’re in the middle of a small, very personal and pungent hell, and only through firm resolve are you able to chew to the bitter end. But there is also the joy of finding just what you wanted in a couple of those chocolates. And though it’s never guaranteed, there are those among us whose box of chocolates will provide holy grail moments of deeply satisfied bliss. Come to think of it, Giftless, the ups and downs of a box of chocolates are very similar to the ups and downs of a relationship. Maybe that Forrest Gump was really on to something.