Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Fairly Odd Couple

Originally posted on Observations of a Misfit

My husband is not a perfect man; however, I’ll concede that he is closer to perfection than I. That, in and of itself, is a flaw, as far as I’m concerned, since it can be more than a little irritating. I like to think that we somehow balance each other with our differences. Despite our contrasts, we love each other enough to overlook them. On the other hand, sometimes these differences result in experiences that makes us laugh so hard that we are certain we have ruined each other for polite society. Thus, despite and because of our different approaches to life, we are very happily stuck with each other.

Mike is a highly organized, efficient man. I’m more of an absent-minded, running-at-the-last-minute, can’t-find-anything sort of person. He’s cautious where I’m impulsive. He’s careful, while I can be a bit reckless. As a result, he has suffered far fewer embarrassing moments than I. But, every now and then the gods smile on me and something flaps the unflappable Michael. When it does it’s a beautiful thing.

Don’t get me wrong; it’s not as though I enjoy seeing him squirm. Well, maybe I enjoy it a little. Okay, I enjoy it a lot but my point is, since I have provided him with innumerable anecdotes from the train wreck of embarrassment that is my life, I don’t need to feel especially guilty for getting a little chuckle out of his rare and fleeting moments of foolishness.

For example, he still teases me about the last time we were in Vegas. I was so giddy with the novelty of being out late without a child or the need to get home to relieve a babysitter that I neglected to watch where I was going. I managed to trip and nearly fall while walking through the casino on our way to the hotel restaurant. Fortunately, I saved myself from the humiliation of falling flat on my face by grabbing the closet object I could find. The arm I grabbed to steady myself belonged to a very nice man who even helped me pick up his bucket of quarters I had caused him to spill all over the floor. Once we arrived at the restaurant, I became transfixed by the keno game going on, not to mention the view of the glittering neon of the Las Vegas strip outside. While we were eating, I was so busy gawking at all the sights and sounds, I didn’t notice that there was a straw in my glass, until I inadvertently inserted it right up my nose. Did Mike politely look away, and pretend that this was not embarrassing for me? No. He may as well have pointed and laughed. Has he refrained from mentioning the incident to others? One of those experiences that isn’t funny in retrospect to me for at least another year? Of course not. Michael shares this story with anyone who will listen, including total strangers we met in the elevator after I tried to duck out unseen in humiliation.

True to form, I followed the impaling straw performance by standing up, turning quickly, and running smack into an adjacent table, thereby knocking some unfortunate lady’s drink into her lap. I managed to escape somehow, with Michael trailing behind laughing every step of the way.

When it comes to organizational styles, we couldn’t be more opposite. This is probably most evident in our closet. (Although he would say that the checkbook is better proof of our different methods, in my defense I would like to stress that the bank did claim partial responsibility and all charges were dropped.) We have a fairly large walk-in closet, with built-in shelves and racks. One morning, Mike was selecting a tie from his color-coordinated, battery-operated tie rack, while I rummaged through several drawers hoping to find two socks in roughly the same color family. Glancing over at his side of the closet, where every item is neatly hung and arranged by form and function, I couldn’t help but feel a little sheepish. “This looks like a closet shared by Felix Unger and Oscar Madison,” I observed. Without missing a beat he came back with, “Yes, it does. And Oscar needs to quit hanging his dresses on Felix’s side.”

I never know where my keys are, I’m not always entirely sure where my credit card is, and I once went seven months without knowing where my driver’s license was. (Naturally, it turned up right after I replaced it.) Once, I even managed to leave my son at the store. I console myself with the rationale that because my mind is so brilliantly gifted, it’s much too busy to be bothered with such trivial details as the location of our car in the mall parking garage. Most men would be exasperated by this inattention to detail, and to be honest, Mike is exasperated by it. Which is why it’s so impressive, really, that he just smiles and pats me on the head before sifting through a stack of magazines in search of the mail.

Mike is seldom in embarrassing circumstances of his own making. Fortunately, I’m able to facilitate awkward situations for him that he would have trouble getting into on his own. It’s just one of those things I’m willing to do simply because I love him.

One evening during the Christmas season, we were together at a bookstore shopping for gifts. I wasn’t feeling well and the lines seemed endless. Mike, being the considerate husband he is, offered to finish shopping, then wait in line and make the purchases while I waited for him in the car. I gratefully handed over my basket, accepted the car keys from him, and headed out the door. When Mike finally got to the cashier, he became involved in the transaction and failed to notice that I had, as usual, absent-mindedly left my purse in the basket. He was gathering his purchases and preparing to leave when he saw the clerk pick up my purse and put it under the counter. “Oh wait!” Mike called, “That’s my purse!” The cashier eyed him in disbelief while Mike stuttered and tried to explain himself. “Well, it’s not my purse. No, it’s my wife’s purse.” The clerk and the other customers glanced around obviously noting the fact that Mike was alone and had in fact been in the line alone for quite some time.

“It’s your wife’s purse?” the cashier asked skeptically.

“Yes! Yes it is,” Mike assured her. Unconvinced, the clerk asked,

“And your wife is...where?”

“Oh, she’s not here. She was here but now she’s not here, as you can see, so I’m just finishing some shopping and, uh, I ended up with her purse,” he continued to explain, trying not to notice the crowd behind him as they listened in rapt fascination. In one, final, desperate attempt to explain, Mike announced, “Well, it’s obviously not my purse. See? It doesn’t even match my shoes!”

I really have to give him credit for seeing through the ordeal to the end. Many a man would have walked out and made me go back and claim the purse myself. Not my Michael. He finally convinced the clerk, whom he suspected of actually snorting at him, to return his purse. He then turned and fought his way bravely through the smirking crowd, with his shopping bag and a purse tucked under his arm that didn’t even match his shoes.

Now, that’s love.

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