Marriage 101: Constructive criticism

Having been married for quite a few years, I feel it’s my civic duty to give a pointer now and then about relationships to all three of my regular readers.  The marital status of you loyal fans is irrelevant, as I’m offering free advice for free, so stop whining.

I had written the first draft of my homage to St. Patty’s Day, and asked my wife to give it a read and see what she thought of it.  This woman is no stranger to me (obviously) and certainly no stranger to reading.  She plows through books constantly in what most would consider to be a thinly veiled attempt at avoiding having to speak with me any more often than absolutely necessary. She seemed like the perfect person for the job.  Plus, she was sitting right over there.

Hey Honey? As long as you're over there hanging that art on the fridge, why not whip me up a little something to eat? (Image from Good Housekeeping 1948)

My standard way of writing these masterpieces is to just spew every word and thought I have out onto this virtual paper.  Then I go back and filter through it, taking out redundancies and dead sentences and trying to make it flow.  My St. Patty’s Day piece was created in much the same way.  I had put it through the distillation process several times (alcohol-related pun intended – I’m just so clever) and thought that it was ready for a critical eye.

My expectation was that my wife would read it, stopping only to chuckle or dab the tears of laughter out of her beautiful eyes.  She would finish it, shaking her head in amazement at my creativity and savvy with the word-thingies.  She would pronounce it hysterical and ready for print.

She did read it, but there wasn’t a single guffaw the whole way through.  She did shake her head, but it was in more of a dismissive “I can’t believe you made me read that crap!” kind of way.  She proclaimed it “wordy” and suggested I cut out at least half of it.

I’m sure she meant well, but it still hurt.

If your child showed you a picture they drew, would you tell them that they need to work on their shading and composition?  Of course not!  You’d praise their incredible talent and put that hideous mess of crayon and marker right up on the fridge with the rest of their body of work.  If your wife asked whether a particular outfit made her ass look fat, would you say yes?  Of course not!  You’d tell her that the garment which is capable of making her ass look fat has yet to be invented, then you’d politely ask her to move her tiny derriere out from in front of the TV, as it looks like the Ducks might be going for it on 4th down.

So, when your ruggedly handsome, hard-working husband finally stops playing poker on the computer and looking at smut, deciding to write a blog instead, be thankful.  Then, when he asks you your opinion of what he’s written, try one of the following:

1) I LOVE IT!

2)You’re a genius!

3) Don’t quit your job to do this full time, it just wouldn’t be fair to those poor authors who don’t have the other marketable job skills that you possess.

4) Did you steal this from David Sedaris?!  It’s just so witty!

5) I think it’s great, Sweetie.  I’m going to put it right here on the fridge next to your drawings!

That wasn’t so hard now was it?

My Life As A Wise-Ass

I’m a wise-ass from way back.  I have the natural inclination to look at things through the cynical, mischevious eyes of a true ball buster.  If there are no balls available for busting, I’ll look for something smart-alecky to say about whatever’s handy.

Hats off to my orthodontist! Those Invisaligns worked wonders!

If you’re lecturing me in a seminar, please don’t have on a bad toupee or speak with a goofy accent – I won’t be able to focus on a damn thing you’re saying.  If you’re going to say something which could unintentionally send 13 year old boys into fits of snorting laughter, try not to say it in front of me (think Beavis and Butthead with careers and mortgages).  I have just enough self-control to keep from snickering, but I also have the rotten impulse to make my fellow audience members start cracking up if at all possible.  If I can’t find a willing audience member to listen to my side-splitting commentary, I’ll text someone.

It’s not that I’m a bad person, I’m just a firm believer in laughter being the best medicine.  The way the world presents me with crap to poke fun at, the people who surround me could quite possibly live to be 150 years old.  The thing is, I won’t likely be joining them.  I don’t actually laugh all that often.  I’m more of a pusher-man of laughter than an actual user.

I’m sure all of you armchair psychoanalysts out there will see my comedic stylings as a sad attempt at making myself popular. It’s likely rooted in my being shunned as a child due to my eczema and pathetic inability to keep from crying for no particular reason. My derisive comments are clearly a desperate cry for acceptance. Perhaps I use my barbs to build a wall around my soft inner core, like a partially frozen Three Musketeers Bar.  Good for you Sigmund, but let’s talk about your wacky accent;  you sound like the kindly old shepherd caught in a cheap motel with a cute little lamb from your flock.  The two of you look so cozy, smoking cigarettes and watching Animal Planet on cable as you lay in the tangled sheets.  Get yourself some help, you sicko!

In most workplaces, my humor tends to be more subversive. In one particular job, my boss was an aging hippy named David (Never Dave – like me, always David – like me when I’m in trouble).  I guess he was more “new age” than hippy.  He would have these meetings and I couldn’t focus on anything he said because he was such a screwball.  I began to think that irrespective of the topic of discussion, it was only an elaborate scheme to eventually try to convince everyone in the meeting to become vegans.  I started sharing this theory with my buddies in the office.  Since people are fundamentally bored in meetings anyway, the concept of us being pawns in the clandestine recruitment program of radical vegetarians caught on.  We got to the point where no one could really focus on anything the guy said.  We would all just cast smirking glances at one another whenever David would stroll into the meeting in his funny looking, leather-free shoes and carrying a platter of edamame hummus.

For reasons which probably had nothing to do with people not listening to what he said in meetings, David moved on and was replaced by another manager, named Michael.  Michael was quite different than David.  He was an old-school businessman and looked like he might be having a stroke at anytime.  He spoke with a distinctive accent which I quickly pegged as being nearly identical to that of William Daniels, playing the voice of Kit the Car in Knight Rider.  If you could get Michael to say his own name you’d swear you were sitting right there in the passenger seat next to Hasselhoff (say it with me now – My-kull).  True to form, I wasted no time in pointing out this similarity to my colleagues.  Michael’s meetings soon provided us with endless hours of amusement.  It didn’t hurt that Michael was fond of using some really bizarre phrases.  Imagine this one in William Daniels’ voice, emanating from the flashing dashboard of a Trans-Am “..well, if they don’t like it, that’s just hard cheese“.   I’m not kidding, he’d actually say that.

I moved on to bigger and better things.  Their laying me off proved to be a blessing in disguise.

I left those lofty, professional ranks for the position of bartender – worse hours, better pay.  There may be no career better suited for the terminal wise-ass than bartending, except perhaps morning-drive disc jockey or United States Congressman.  People don’t normally enjoy being mocked, but in the world of alcohol consumption, it’s close to an honor.  For an accomplished wit such as myself, mocking the booze-addled clientele was like shooting tipsy fish in a barrel full of vodka.  If you’re a regular at a given bar, the staff, particularly the bartenders, should point out any of your flaws on an hourly basis, or even more often if you’re a good tipper.  If, as a customer, you’re greeted by a demeaning nickname despite repeatedly asking not to be called that, then you are officially bar royalty.

Despite being so well suited for the career, I was smart enough to see the lack of long-term potential in bartending.  Besides, I kept getting canned.

The years have flown by since those halcyon bartending days.  I’d love to tell you that my wisenheimer ways have mellowed with the years, but no one I know seems to think so.  I like to believe that my taste has improved to the point where I’ll wait for the best opportunity to lay out a primo snappy remark, rather than forcing my humor wherever I can cram it.  These days, the amount of ridicule I heap upon my superiors is tempered by the delicious smell of money and the comforting arms of job security.  I end up relegating my mocking and busting of chops for the select few who I know to be able to take a joke and those clueless enough not to realize that they are the brunt of one.

I remember hearing in an art history lecture about an artist who went to be with his mother as she lay on her death bed.  He was frustrated with himself because though he was at her side, he couldn’t help but study the light and shadow on her face.  I would tell you who the artist was, but I was almost certainly too busy coming up with something funny to say to pay sufficient attention to learn that part of the story.  With that story in mind, I know that when I’m laying on my own deathbed, with some clergyman trying to give me last rites, I’ll be listening to his words and hoping I get a chance to crack wise before I croak.  You want to leave them laughing.