Leslie wanted to know how I did it. How I could possibly look my
husband in the eye, tell him some horribly insulting thing and still
"For instance," she said, "if I were to say to My
Man, 'Your teeth are so small, they look like corn nuggets,' he would
divorce me. But that's something you say to your husband all the time."
I also tell him he has more forehead than face. And, in my more loving moods, I call him my "hairy monkey."
say these things because they are true, because they make me laugh and
because, if I didn't say them – or if I didn't feel as though I had the
space in my marriage to say them – I would lose my mind.
inner workings of other people's relationships will always be shrouded
in mystery. But I honestly can't understand how couples who don'tengage in marital mockery stay together.
So asked one of them.
and Jean not only seem to always be doting on one another (seriously,
it's kinda nauseating), but they draw their swords whenever someone
makes a move to rib the other.
"We've learned that, in public, we
present a united front," Chris explained. "We've done the thing where
you dig at each other in public; it can lead to real ugliness and hurt
feelings, and you don't always know when the other is joking. Plus,
when there is an audience there is always the temptation to play to the
Of course there is! What is marriage, if not a
lifelong contract for your own traveling variety show? I can't tell you
how jealous I was when Brill and Eric figured out a way to parlay their
ball-and-chain bon mots into a weekly podcast (
www.brillandericwatchtv.com). Why didn't we think of that?
Chris assured me that however lovey-dovey their public life was, their private one has a healthy dose of teasing.
have to be able to laugh at your spouse. That's what marriage is for.
They're supposed to point out when you're being an idiot," Chris said.
almost believed him, until he included the qualifier: "But we never do
it in a mean-spirited away. And we're always allowed with each other
and say 'Too mean.' "
When we began dating,
Hubby said, "You know, you could carve both your breasts out of your
butt and still have a butt left over." That, I believe, would qualify
as "too mean" in the Chris-and-Jean household.
me, the insult was both jaw-dropping, and – I'm sorry to say – true.
But it was also an opening salvo to what would become a lifelong battle
It's not that we never say nice things to each other.
Hubby has lovely green eyes, and I always compliment his cooking and
parenting skills. He tells me I'm beautiful – even with my
proportionately enormous rear.
But we save some of our kinder
compliments for behind closed doors. (Not for nothing, Kevin once
correctly noted that I only called Hubby "Sweetie" when I am mad at
him.) Instead, we speak in a language of rapid-fire ridicule – some of
which I'd share, if this weren't a family newspaper.
attributes our divergent attitudes to the ways our different
relationships started: "We didn't have the Hepburn-Tracy thing you guys
had when you first started dating."
That's an awfully politic way
of putting it, but I think he does have a point. At the end of the day,
couples who mock each other publicly either 1) not-so-secretly hate
each other, or 2) love nothing more than to make the other person laugh.
still don't know what to make of couples that don't exchange witty
rejoinders; I'm just glad I'm not in one of them. Because, really, when
I tell Hubby that his son looks just like him – except cute – I can
count on that cracking him up.
And nothing brightens my day more than making Hubby smile – and show off those little corn nuggets.
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