by Kent Sterling
Just finished an online episode of “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” with Jerry Seinfeld, and at the very end, Jerry tells a one line story about marriage that he finds a perfect representation of a happy marriage. The wife says, “I thought it was a wonderful joke, and I’m sure everyone else did too.”
Seinfeld’s takes on that line is that the joke the husband told was awful, but the wife isn’t going to beat the husband up over it. Guest Sarah Silverman says, “That’s what love is.”
It better not be.
My wife and I were on vacation over the weekend in Florida with some friends, and while getting lunch one of the 10 people in our party asked if any of us had a dietary condition that would require a special consideration for dinners. I was among some old friends and others I had just met. A smart person would have inferred from the question that one of the people I was not acquainted with has a food allergy.
Not me. When the questioners eyes met mine, I said loudly and clearly, “All my food must be gluten free!”
The college student I had just met raised her hand to give me a high five, and said, “Hey, I’m gluten free too.” I explained that if anything I have a Tourette’s Syndrome derivative that causes me to blurt out ridiculous untruths around strangers, and am in fact very pro-gluten.
Later, I may have overcorrected by talking with this very kind and decent girl about friends who are pro-gluten and asking about her challenges. This portion of the program was far too similar to the behavior of outed bigots of the 1970s excusing their offending comments by saying, “It’s okay, I have a lot of friends who are …”
The next time my wife and I were alone, she sternly asked that I stop saying things that are potentially off-putting until we know people for more than 90 seconds. It was certainly not a, “Hey, honey, I thought the ‘gluten-free’ riff was very funny, and it seemed to amuse everyone.”
If she had, I would have wondered if an anvil had fallen on my wife’s head. Love isn’t about fortifying courage needed to offend others and okaying the acts of a buffoon, but doing the tough work necessary to stay in our lanes. I have no need for additional encouragement to cross the line, and Julie is most helpful with occasional glances and comments that bring me back to center.
Love is about honesty, not the avoidance of conflict. As long as both a husband and wife are comfortable with the knowledge that they sport a few flaws, smooth sailing should ensue. For prickly, sensitive, and/or heavily armed spouses, I would go with Seinfeld’s plan.
As for me, I’m better about knowing when I am about to say something potentially offensive, but still lacking in the impulse control to keep the noise where it belongs – in my own brain – out of reach of strangers. I’m talking less and less at large tables filled with people, but still have a long way to go. With Julie’s help, I may somehow eliminate feet from my diet by 2047.