1. NOT SO PREPARED. All my life I have been surrounded by brilliant women. My mother’s prodigious memory enabled her to recall every detail of moments from our family’s past that I could barely remember. My big sisters share the same razor-sharp intelligence, and in my school days I benefited from their tutoring. My wife’s profound insights into what makes people tick helps me navigate every relationship in my life. My mother-in-law’s encyclopedic knowledge of an array of topics makes her as valuable a resource as Google. So did being surrounded by so much female brainpower prepare me for the next generation of women in my life — one quick-witted daughter and another scientifically inclined one who outsmart me at every turn? Simply put: IT ABSOLUTELY DID NOT!!!
2. HAVE I UPSET YOU? As the spouse of a therapist, I’ve learned about the concept of “transference,” when your reactions to other people are filtered by the thoughts and feelings you project onto them. Apparently, my emotional “baggage” (yes, I admit I’m overly sensitive to criticism!) has caused some transference to the GPS lady in our car. Whenever I mess up her directions, and she has to keep telling me, “rerouting, rerouting,” I worry that I’ve made her angry. But then I get annoyed at her impatience because my mistakes are always unintentional. When I point to the GPS and ask my wife, “Can you believe her?” she pats my shoulder and gently reminds me, “You do realize you’re having road rage with a computerized voice, don’t you, dear?” I just shrug that nonsense off and promise myself the next time we buy a car, I’m going to make sure the dealer gives us one with a GPS that is equipped with a little more tolerance and understanding!
3. NOT I, BUT YOU. Just as the Queen employs the imperial “We,” my wife uses the equally imperial “I.” Whenever our kids make a late-night call, requesting a ride home, my wife assures them, “Don’t worry, I’ll come get you.” As soon as she hangs up the phone, of course, she turns to me and says, “Honey, you need to go get the girls.” And there is no pronoun confusion in that message.
4. FREAKY FRIDAY FOR REAL. It appears that my wife and I have been together so long that our identities are starting to cross. This week, I, the previously inveterate rules observer, parked our car across two parking-lot spaces at a haphazard angle. My wife, the formerly die-hard rules breaker, called out with alarm, “Don’t you think you’d better back up and park properly between the two lines?” She was not kidding. When I realized we were in the midst of the kind of mind-body switches that normally occur only in Hollywood movies, I became alarmed too. I deeply love my wife, but I’d prefer she keep her traits and predilections, while I hold onto mine. I’ll know we’re in trouble if the day ever comes that I order broccoli as my side dish at restaurants, while she goes for the french fries. Still, I take some reassurance in knowing that, if that day ever does arrive, I’ll undoubtedly reach across the table to steal some of those fries.
5. BACK TO REALITY. Last Saturday, we picked up the daughter from camp that I had such difficulty parting with two weeks earlier. When we arrived, she ran to us and gave us such long hugs that I had flashbacks to the way her five-year-old self greeted me every day when I returned home from work. It was a glorious long ride home as she shared every detail of camp with us. In the midst of it all, my wife received an e-mail from another couple, inviting the two of us to a picnic the following day. She and I decided to thank them for the invite, but let them know our youngest would probably want the whole weekend to reconnect with us. Of course, after we stepped through our front door, we barely saw her. Her friends descended on our house. The girls went to the mall, and our daughter even asked to sleep over one of their houses. So yeah, it was silly to think our teen would want to spend two whole days with just us, but in the moment it was marvelous to be that self-deluded.