Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Curbing My Enthusiasm, Part Two
Actress Marlo Thomas recalled how annoyed she would get when her husband, TV perennial Phil Donahue, would walk into their bedroom and demand in his resonant on-air voice, “Honey, where are my shoes?”
What annoyed her the most, Thomas recalled, was not her husband interrupting her with this childish demand, but that she always knew exactly where he had left his size-12 wingtips.
Apparently even celebrity wives are used to playing mommy to childish husbands, used to being interrupted with self-centered, impatient, even infantile demands—“Find my shoes,” “Tie my tie,” “Sew my button,” “What happened to my leftover pepperoni slice?”
It’s true, our wives do know everything, including where we left our wallet, our shoes, our car keys, our cell phone. But barging in on the wife with me-first demands, derailing her train of thought, not respecting whatever activity, or inactivity, she may be engaged in, is emphatically not courtship behavior.
Knocking on Heaven’s Door
So knock it off, guys! But do knock—if you do need to speak to her and she has closed the bedroom door. Never barge in, Lord of the Manor-style.
In many wife-led marriages, this is pretty standard protocol, as per this message board sequence (on which I have altered names):
George: “Do other guys have to knock on the bedroom door, before they are allowed in? My wife now insists that I knock before I can enter. Recently on holiday in a villa we rented with the rest of the family I didn't knock and she wanted to know why. I said I didn't want anyone to know I had to knock first, and she replied that she didn't care and I was to knock in future. Sometimes she lets me in and other times she refuses until she finishes changing. I have to wait at the door until it's my turn to change. This makes me feel how much she is in control."
Wife No. 1: “I agree, you shouldn’t automatically enter when you feel like it. I don't much like being interrupted unexpectedly either. It also places you in a ‘asking' mindset before barging in. It tells you that you are NOT in control in the bedroom, SHE is! If others ask you about it, you can say, 'My wife asked me to not unexpectedly open the door with other people in the villa, and I respect her wishes.' Then you sound like the most thoughtful man around.”
Wife No. 2: “You sound very thoughtful - Keep up the good service. Just knock in all situations and neither one of you will have to give it much thought.”
Wife No. 3: “Of course you should knock on her bedroom door, George. When my sweet hubby brings me my morning tea, or at other times he wishes to enter, he always knocks first and does not enter until I say so.”
George: “Thank you for replying, ladies. I'm glad I am not alone.”
One More Step
Not interrupting one’s spouse is a good first step in wife worship. But some husbands, practicing perpetual courtship, take it a step farther… letting themselves be interrupted by their wives.
As I wrote in my book (Chapter 6, “Daring to Be Known by Her”): “If this seems a bit extreme, remember, I’m trying to alter lifelong habits, and it’s not easy. And, anyway, isn’t this the kind of attention that a spouse deserves?... Most important, isn’t this the way you listen to someone you’re madly in love with?”
The answer is emphatically “Yes!”—at least according to this “Amen Chorus” of dutiful husbands:
“Allow yourself to be interrupted.”
“When she speaks now, or asks for my attention for something she wants to tell me, or even off-handedly, I don’t give her half an ear.”
“Whenever your wife says something to you, stop what you’re doing and listen up. Don’t overdo, don’t be servile, but pay careful attention.”
“I might be reading a book or doing whatever, but when my wife speaks, I immediately attend to her.”
“I really, really want to pay attention to her every word. When she does make a request of me, I treat it as a command. I have no sense of a mental debate in my mind like I have in the past.”
“My wife isn't all that bossy but when she has something to say, I listen, and when she even hints at something for me to do, I do it.”
In some female-led households, of course, the wife is encouraged to be more than a bit bossy. One such matriarchal wife instituted the following conversational rule for her mate: “If I speak, you must be silent, even if you are speaking first.”