Wednesday, April 18, 2012


Much of family life is managing shared responsibilities  and chores.  The result of that mandate is that much of family life is getting out of responsibilities and chores.   My husband, although he never says so directly, thinks I should do more of the household tasks since he makes more money than I do , and works longer hours.  Yikes, now that I am writing this, I suddenly realize he may have a point. Anyway, best not to put too much energy into  that epiphany! I mean let's face it, a trained gopher makes more money than a writer, and sometimes I don't look like I am working, when I am reading the New Yorker, but, hey, I have to get ideas and keep up with the current zeitgeist.

Let's face it, if a wife and mother of three sons didn't have her guard up, she would be doing all the work.  Hint number one. Men never feel guilty when they see you doing more than your share of household tasks. So don't do what I did  many years ago and  assume  that since they were watching you do more of your share, they would feel guilty and pitch in.  In  actuality, they feel relaxed and somewhat thrilled that they are being taken care of.

 There are a few sentences that are  red flags. There are several key words that let you know a request is immanent.  They let you know that a task is coming along the pike and it is coming right at you.  One of these is when your husband says, "You know what we should do? " The word we is a misnomer.  He waits for you to say , 'Oh, isn't that  a good idea.'  Then the we  disappears and he says, "Great so you'll do it this week?  Now with years of experience, I just say, Who is we?  Do you have a mouse in your pocket?

 Another one is when your husband says "You know what you're really good at?  You fall for it, thinking it is a compliment. ( You have to learn to control your vanity on this one, believe me.)  It always turns out to be a chore. He follows that compliment  with the line, "You are so good at stick-handling  with companies, please call the car dealership and tell them that they have to honour the warrantee on my car.

In the event that you are unclear how to deflect  what is perceived to be your responsibility, an  example with a step -by-step instruction kit . It will show you how to take deflection into action.   It has worked for forty years so I think for the sake of the sisterhood it is time to share.  You have to have strategies for family survival.


Husband comes home and says he doesn't understand, since I am home all day 'writing' ( always in quotes), why I can't take some time to start a dinner or at least buy some food.   Now there are several ways to go with this 'accusation'. You can say I have been working for eight hours writing a crucial scene.  I am tired. let's go out. That works about 90% of the time.  However, occasionally things can escalate and get dark.  He could say, 'There is a wonderful technician at work and she brings in all of my favourite dishes. She says she enjoys seeing how much I enjoy her home made sausage.  (Where he works they treat him like gold-- bad for the wife at home who does not want to make a homemade spicy sausage and then dry it in her basement like said technician.) Over the years I have tried rational discourse mentioned above.  Now, after forty years I just cut to the chase.  I simply say,   'I wish you had married a sausage maker. You would have been so much happier.  Actually, I have news for you.  You are lucky to have married me. Anyone can make and buy food. I am a comedian.  How hard is that to find?  You can eat in a restaurant, but where can you find fun every day of your life?" At this point his shoulders slump and he walks up the stairs to change his clothes.  In the event that he is going to say something snide over his shoulder, I yell up the stairs, " Well, I hope when I die, ( It helps to be 64 when you say this) and you remarry a really good cook, you can say to her, "My first wife,Cathy, was so much fun. Why don't you ever say anything amusing? Then you can both eat your home made food in glum silence, big guy!"  At this point he usually yells down the stairs, 'Oy, Oy, o.k. pick a restaurant. '

After years of marriage a you have to learn that you never win a popularity contest with male family members. ( Are you going to argue? No you are outvoted and they can each bring in  reinforcements. Just fold, leave the room and read a book.) Why work your fingers to the bone? It is best to make yourself happy. In the end it helps marriage  to endure.  I have a few  friends who have had husbands and sons and they met everyone's needs and then one day they just walked out the door with no forwarding address. If you don't want that to happen-- know when to hold and when to fold.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

April Fools

April Fools is as old as the Middle ages. It even predates Chaucer who discussed it in one of his tales. The holiday is actually celebrated it all over the world.  The rituals are really strange in some countries, but the custom has hung on for hundreds of years.

Whatever happened to April Fools in the last decade? Has it gone the way of the dodo?  When I was a kid in the 50's I used to look forward to April Fools and I had long elaborate hoaxes planned for everyone I knew from teachers to customers in my father's store.  It was a break from the rational world where you had to be reasonable,  honest and good in order not to be thought of as a psychopath or just a regular, not an April Fool.  The best part is that people had to forgive you since it was a day of hoax. My theory is that the April Fool  should be flattered that you put a little levity in their lives.

I have had a few good April Fools under my belt--mostly played on my husband who has for forty years forgotten that April 1st follows March 31st which is my birthday.  One of my best was about twenty-five years ago. We had twin boys and a boy another year older. We started out with three boys under three and then it just progressed. Just when the boys reached their teenage years, the apex of horror,  I decided to tell my husband I was pregnant with another set of twins as an April fools caper. I had the radiologist next door to us send an ultra sound saying that I was five months pregnant with  another set of  identical twin boys.  When my husband opened the envelope, he fell on the floor and began screaming , "Help God Take my Kishkas, ( yiddish for guts). Take me! I can't go on."  He was purple and the baby sitter took pity on him and said it was 'just' April Fools.

I just did another one this weekend. Our children are all grown up and doing well and now we get to travel and read and go to our farm on the weekends and do adult things like have cocktails. My husband has a bad habit of donating to charities that he knows little about. I have tried to break him of the habit, but  part of his charm is his  unbridled generosity.  One of his donations was to the Big Brother's association.( honestly a great organization)  On April Fools I warned him that he had not only donated to the association but had inadvertintly  signed up to be a big brother. I said the mother of the boy called and he would be at our farm tomorrow morning and the first Saturday of the month forever after. His name was Matthew, he was eleven and he didn't like school but adored sports. My husband likes school related activities and does not like sports.  I knew that my husband would never want to be a big brother since he already raised three boys and this was his first break; however I  also knew that he was kind and and would  not want to  disappoint anyone. He again started screaming 'Ive had enough responsibility for a life time  and I need a break.'  and said he was leaving the farm that instant and got in the  car.    I had to block him on the road and say 'April Fools!'  He wasn't happy but knowing it was April Fools he had to see some humour in it.

When I told people about my April Fools' they thought it was really weird  and a tad untoward. They didn't say that but I could tell by their faces. When I was at a big party yesterday I found out that no one there had concocted  an April Fools caper. What is up with that? They said that not even their children do them.  One woman said she thought they were 'mean'. A teacher told me it is discouraged at school as is bullying. I understand  banning bullying, but what is wrong with a little hoax as a day-off from rationality and adult responsibility one day a year for five minutes?  Haven't we carried this whole empathy,  earnest number  way too far? We worry about being politically correct or sensitive to the point that we are tyrannized by it.

I know people think I am weird  and 'over the top' but I am going to keep up April Fools even if I am the last person on earth doing it. When they cart me away in a white straight jacket screaming, 'but wait it was April Fools! I can refer them to this blog for some historical context.