In Suburban Recovery

Cranky grew up in the suburbs. It was a place full of scary women running around in golf outfits doing their marketing. (Which at the time, meant grocery shopping.)

There were giant bottles of gin at every social gathering. A division between men and women. The men took the Stamford local into “the city” every day. The women shopped and hid the clothes in the back of the closet. Irony was king. Women did whatever it took to be constantly persistently perky. Every medicine cabinet had a plethora of diet pills. We nick named one friend’s mother Abba Dabba because she was so hyper that every sentence out of her mouth was preceded by, “Abba dabba abba dabba abba dabba Midge….” There was a women’s club. I was fortunate enough to go one night to hear a talk on marriage. Here is a transcription of the notes I secretly took during the meeting:

“Hello. I’d like to introduce myself, I’m Lucienne Brown, and I’ve been a member here at the Manor Club for eighteen years. I’m here today to give advice to our junior members. My talk is called “Tips for Newlywed Gals.” Oh, and I’d like to thank Becky Porterfield) for her invitation, it was she who said to me, “If you know so much about marriage, why don’t you give a seminar on it. Becky, thank you, thank you. What a great idea!

Well dears, lets face it, the first year is the absolute worst – when you’re faced for the first time with the horrible reality of it all with absolutely no tools to deal with it.

I’ve always thought, that instead of marriage vows, they should read Miranda Rights, so that a married woman would at least have the same rights as an arrested criminal. YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO REMAIN SILENT. If he brings up the budget at one a.m. and you don’t want to talk about it, you’re not avoiding the topic; you’re just too damned tired.

And remember, ANYTHING YOU SAY MIGHT BE HELD AGAINST YOU. The statement, “I ran into Michele in Saks the other day”, can turn into a conversation, not about Michele, but about what the hell you were doing in Saks in the first place when we just decided to turn over a new leaf and stop spending money.

So, sift through topics through your mind for their explosive possibilities before speaking.
Ok, first, TRAINING. A good husband must be cultivated, like a vegetable, they are not found like precious truffles. You have to grow you own husband.

All men feel they are the center of the universe and entitled to anything, so we have to learn when and how to draw the line. A recent cover of “Time Magazine” asked the question, “How Apes Became Human?” That’s easy – someone married them, and spent ten years training them not to dribble food down their chest, and to pick up after themselves.

Next, RESEARCH. A few good books are a big help in running a household. My favorite is “The Household Encyclopedia”. I think it is very telling that directly following hydrangeas is hysteria. There are times when your home will turn into just that: hydrangeas on the outside, hysteria on the inside. Just remember, you’re not alone. Many a viciously fighting couple will open the door for their guests and act like they are absolutely agog over each other. Don’t be fooled. Looking perpetually happy is a social requirement, not an absolute truth.

On to TELEPHONE STRATEGY. Get your own phone line. The only time to talk on the phone when he’s around is when he’s also on the phone. Otherwise your conversations will be interrupted with constant questions, dirty looks and moans and groans. Or, your husband will try to turn you into Charlie McCarthy and say: “Tell them I said this” and “Tell them I said that” –“ What did they say?” Irritating to you and a good way to lose friends. So, when he’s home, the minute the phone rings for him – make those calls girls.

And of course, THE KITCHEN, the source of many an argument. Everybody has their own way of doing things and they all think everybody else’s way stinks. If you don’t want someone turning your flames up and down and telling you how they always did it, cook alone.

Sadly, there are many activities that when done together lead to fights. So a good marriage strategy to adopt is: DO AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE TOGETHER, THUS AVOIDING BLOW UPS.

Now, DECORATING. If there’s something you really want to do for the home, just do it and stand your ground. If he hates it, insist it’s the latest thing and absolutely fabulous and he will doubt his taste and succumb. Decorating by committee takes entirely too long and most men want everything black and gray and lots of metal – if he buys anything that looks like that, tell him how nice it will look in his office!

And then there are VACATIONS, they are no panacea either, believe me. You have a choice of one, the country, a non-convenience area full of bugs. Or two: there is Europe, where you’ll be pounding the pavement all day looking at churches. Or three: the Caribbean, where you’ll roast all day and drop a bundle on terrible food, which you’ll eat a ton of because you’re so bored that you’ll end up by the end of the week looking like a balloon in a bikini. The whole thing is awful.

If you’re catching a plane, good luck. My husband will be “checking things” in the house while the car is outside honking. And, once at the airport, he refuses to walk fast even if the plane is leaving in ten minutes. The slow walk, fast walk argument is a tricky one. The more frenzied you look, the more he starts dragging his feet and looking casual. Don’t ask me why. If you walk on ahead of him, then you look like the rude one. Just abdicate responsibility in your mind.

SO, WHEN YOU GO ON ANY VACATION YOU SHOULD EXPECT TO SUFFER THE WHOLE TIME. That way, if any moments turn out to be pleasant, it’s a nice surprise.

Then we have the issue a WEEKENDS, a 48-hour marathon of togetherness. Don’t ask why Saturday’s are so dead boring. Just get used to it. They consist of one long meal in front of the television set, the beautiful day outside reflected on the screen. To my husband, daylight is an annoyance that gets in the way of his TV, computer screen and blackberry viewing pleasure. The only way to get him outside is the possibility of buying yet another mysterious electronic device.
Sometimes, on a Saturday, I’ll finally get him out of the house at maybe 1:30 and I’ll see a couple who is all dressed up and look like they’ve been out for hours. They’ve been to farmers markets, stores, they’re wearing blazers and khaki’s. Oh please, the only way they could be that way is if I they are trying to change they’re lives and “do things on the weekends”, and by next week they’ll be back living like the rest of us.

And yes, we have to talk about it, SEX. I read somewhere that Deborah Kerr used to belly dance for her husband. I thought, what is wrong with me? On a good night my husband comes home to a wife in sweats and fuzzy slippers standing over a pot of boiling pasta which is slated for dinner. Belly dance for him? Of course, Deborah Kerr probably didn’t have to pay bills, clean toilets, run out of Tide after she had put the laundry in the machine, or have the dog throw up and have diarrhea the minute we moved into a place with wall to wall carpeting after begging the landlord to let our perfect dog live there.

guess she could go gleefully belly dancing around the house because she could pay people to clean up the dog diarrhea. But, dancing Debbie did have a point there. Sex is on the top of the list of your husband’s priorities. Too many women get bogged down with tidying up and let their sex lives go. Does your husband care how neat everything is? If you don’t keep up your end in this area, he’ll lash out about all sorts of ridiculous things that are unrelated. “You paid three dollars for a soy milk!” really means, “ “I’m frustrated and I’m going to find things wrong with you!”

So, prioritize gals; sex first, clean later. Virtual pets have a checklist of their needs, so does your husband. Feed him, talk to him, pet him, fuck him – check them off if you have to!

Well, good night ladies, don’t give up the ship. Stay in the driver’s seat! Bon soir!”

I’m still in recovery from my childhood in “the burbs”. It’s been a long road. I’ve discovered the amazing fact that men are people too. Not just ATM’s in suits. If given the chance, they will talk even. Especially about computers and inanimate stuff like that. How nice.

2 Responses to “In Suburban Recovery”

  1. 1 senior Pathwords Partner April 7, 2009 at 2:53 am

    Where do I sign up for this, this marriage thing?

  2. 2 lisa nicotra April 6, 2009 at 4:38 pm

    Love it!

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