Things I Used to Hate About You
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.
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
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.”
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
What’s next, pickled ice cream? On Wednesday you made banana
meatloaf. What other recipes do you have? Can we go through them together?
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.
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.
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.
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
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
asked her to meet me in the living room at 8 p.m. sharp to talk about