With Purim behind us and Pessah right up ahead, I thought I was being the
responsible adult when I mentioned to The Wife last week that we should get the
car cleaned before the onset of the great pre-Pessah rush at the local car
But I was wrong.
“Why do you say ‘we,’ when you really mean
‘me’ – that I should get the car washed?” she asked, rather
“Well, Honey, you know how it is. Half the country vacuums a
year’s worth of crumbs out of their cars a couple of days before Pessah, and
because everyone waits until the last minute, everyone ends up spending about
three hours in line, ready to pounce on anyone who looks even remotely like they
might jump in front of them.
Besides, the price for a car wash is always
jacked way up right before the holiday. I thought if we get it done now, we
won’t have to worry about it later.”
“But why do you say ‘we,’ when you
really mean ‘me,’” she said again, obviously missing my very well-thought-out
and considerate point.
So I repeated the point again, using other
illustrations of how there are certain things in this country – like buying
school books, purchasing a lulav and etrog, or going kayaking up north – that
everyone does at the exact same time of year, leading to an unpleasant
experience of long lines and short tempers.
“Trust me,” The Wife replied.
“I know what you‘re talking about. But don‘t say ‘we,’ because you don‘t mean
‘we.’ This isn‘t the royal we, and you‘re not Prince William. You mean me, that
I should do it. Say what you mean. Communicate. Be direct. Don‘t
The Wife then launched into a litany of times when I said
“we,” but actually meant her.
“Why do you say ‘we’ should call the new
neighbors and invite them for Shabbat, when you mean that I should do it?” she
"Why do you say ‘we’ should call the electric company to straighten
out a bill, when you mean I should do it? And why do you say ‘we’ should go
grocery shopping because we’re out of milk, when you obviously have no intention
in the world of doing it yourself?”
Hmm, interesting points those, albeit a bit
troubling. After nearly 25 years of marriage – our anniversary is in a week –
The Wife was on to me.
See what a quarter of a century can do?
I said, my eyes downcast. “I guess it’s just a manner of speaking.”
saying “dunno” instead of “don’t know” is a manner of speaking, she said. Saying
“pop” instead of “soda” is a manner of speaking. Talking with a southern accent
is a manner of speaking. What I was doing, she insisted, was bucking
Language, indeed, is a marvel: The switching of one small
pronoun provides enormous cover. “We should do the dishes” sounds so much
better, so less demanding, so less threatening, so much more magnanimous, so
much more 21st centuryhusband than “you should do the dishes.”
argued, having been married for so long, having shared so much, having raised
four children and having gone through the proverbial thick and thin, we were a
unit, flesh of one flesh and all that.
"We, me, you. What’s the
difference, really? We are one,” I said, sounding like an advertisement for the
Greater Boston Jewish Federation.
TWENTY FIVE years is, indeed, a long
time. It’s funny how one’s concept of time changes. I remember in college when
my folks celebrated their 25th anniversary thinking that 25 years was an
eternity, and wondering how it was possible to wake up to the same person for so
Those were the days when I also wondered how one could keep one job
longer than the three months of summer vacation. And then – boom – there I am on
the same playing field.
These romantic we-are-one musings, however, were
interrupted when The Wife raised an even more salient and disturbing point: How
could it be, she asked, if I professed to love her so dearly, that I would want
to dump all those little things I hated doing precisely onto her? Why indeed? I
mean, would Romeo ask Juliet to clean the balcony. Would Woody Allen ask Soon-
Yi Pervin to clean his glasses? Would Homer Simpson ask Marge Bouvier to clean
the chickens (well, he probably would).
My first instinct was to say that
this was just the way I was wired, what I picked up from my surroundings. But I
knew this deterministic explanation would not fly with The Wife, who also
happens to be a psychotherapist. No, that explanation was too easy and
superficial. I was going to have to delve deep down and comb the inner chambers
of my soul to come up with a better answer than that.
And while I was
down there delving around, she said, I should try to figure out why I do the
same thing to the sweet, unsuspecting children, like asking them to go borrow
things from the neighbors – something I loathe and adamantly refuse to
“Perhaps it’s because you, and the kids, don’t mind doing these
things as much as I do,” I spurted out, thinking of the time when we were
courting and The Wife (then The Girlfriend) said she’d do the dishes, and that
she actually liked doing the dishes because she found it relaxing.
this is going to be great,” I had thought, only to learn soon after that she
didn’t meant it, and that the things I disliked, she disliked as well – which is
actually one of the reasons we have proven to be so compatible.
perhaps,” I said, “there is a streak of selfishness that runs through us all,
and we would rather have someone else do something aggravating, in order to save
ourselves the aggravation.”
Finally, she smiled. And then she asked when
“we” were going to plan a getaway for our anniversary.
I got on it the