Eight Things I Used to Hate About You
 
Six months before my wedding day an older man tapped my shoulder in the post office and offered some free advice. “Ramona’s a lovely girl who deserves a good husband,” he said. “Marry her before she finds one.”

 

Before Ramona agreed to marry me, she sat me down after church, placed my hands on a Bible and asked me the usual questions: “You are pretty good at basketball, Phil, but have you ever tried hitting a laundry hamper? “Will you refrain from using phrases like ‘I told you so,’ and ‘is there anything to eat around here?’” I kissed her deeply and agreed to work on these things.

 

Before long we stood at an altar (picture: Aug. 28, 1982) as my ordained father peppered me with more questions: “Wilt thou take this woman to be thy lawfully wedded wife, Phil? Wilt thou rinse the sink when thou shavest and make the bed when thou are the last one out of it? Wilt thou affirm, admire, and accept her—and quit eating chicken wings with a fork, so long as you both shall live?” I kissed her deeply and agreed to work on these things.

 

In the receiving line, the same man from the post office whispered some more advice: “You want a happy marriage? When the things that attracted you to her start to drive you apart, find a way to reverse the process.”

 

I’ve been thinking about the old man’s advice for 24 years now, and it’s finally starting to make sense. Allow me to explain.

 

When Ramona and I were dating I was attracted to her many attributes, including the way she took life slowly. I was constantly running. She taught me to stop and taste the strawberries. Three weeks after our honeymoon, the lack of speed with which she approached life made my adrenaline race.

 

During our first year of marriage, I wanted to follow Martin Luther’s example and nail a list of irritations to the bathroom door. I couldn’t quite come up with ninety-five theses, but eight came to mind:

1. Your sense of humor is warped, my dear. The funniest thing I did this week was hit my head on a cupboard door. You laughed as if I were Peter Sellers. This was not funny. Please do not laugh when you read this.

2. A vow of silence is fine for a monk. Our late-night “fights” are as one-sided as a Chicago Cubs game. You grow quiet during arguments. Silence can be a virtue, but it can also be maddening.

3. You are kind to telemarketers. On our first anniversary a phone call interrupted a candlelight dinner I had prepared. You talked for upwards of two minutes with a complete stranger because you were too polite to hang up.

4. Generosity isn’t always a virtue. Last week you made four pies and gave away three. You gave ten dollars to the Girl Scouts and the cookies weren’t that great.

5. What’s next, pickled ice cream? On Wednesday you made banana meatloaf. What other recipes do you have? Can we go through them together?

6. You throw things away. I love to hang onto things, but last week my wool sweater went missing. The one I got for my seventh birthday.

7. Necking won’t fit on the calendar. I love to do things we haven’t planned. Like quick trips to the city, surprise purchases, or necking on a back road to nowhere. You like the necking, but you like to plan for it.

8. I am from Switzerland; you are from Zimbabwe. I love to be on time. You do not. Is this a cultural difference? Meet me in the living room at 8 p.m. sharp and we’ll talk about it.

 

Thankfully I refrained from nailing the list to our bathroom door. Twenty-four years in the University of Diversity have taught me that if we were the same we’d be in trouble. If we were both spenders, we’d be bankrupt. If we were both spontaneous, we’d never get anything done. If we kept all my wool sweaters we’d need 13 U-Hauls each time we moved.

 

The Bible describes marriage as two becoming one. Ideally it is a partnership of two distinctly different individuals who are stronger together than apart. But this won’t happen until we swallow our pride, praise each other’s uniqueness, and encourage each other’s strengths. Though Ramona’s silence caused me grief at first, I’m learning to wait until she’s ready to talk and to remind myself that those who say the most do not always have the most to say. When book sales brought in unexpected abundance, it was her generosity that helped us respond as Christ would, giving away what we didn’t need. Her kindness to phone salesmen was the same kindness that first drew me to her. Thankfully it has tempered with time. She now offers a polite “No thanks,” followed by a click. Or she says, “My husband would love to talk to you,” and hands the phone to me.

 

I’ve asked her to meet me in the living room at 8 p.m. sharp to talk about this.

 

Read more of Phil's articles...

Read fascinating interviews...

 

Like to see Phil's article syndicated in your magazine or newspaper? Email us for info. Copyright © 2012 Phil Callaway. Read more of Phil's articles.