Whew! That was that a close call. There was a point earlier this week when I thought I might never see my kids again. Worse yet, I feared that my final blog post might be last week’s lame rant about Sarah Palin. How humiliating. I live in Seattle, and for the past ten days, the entire city has been hunkered down in the grips of an arctic blast so bone-chillingly cold that most of us wondered if we’d ever again be able to venture outdoors in December in flip flops and shorts.
You see, normally the high temperature in Seattle is required by law never to dip below 45 degrees any day from November through May. That’s because of the nearly permanent cloud cover that acts like a thermal blanket to keep us from ever needing to put on gloves or a scarf – which we still do anyway because we Seattleites are extremely fashion-conscious. Oh sure, we might have the occasional fleeting cold front that dips the high temp to 43. But we are a hardy stock. We’ve been known to weather conditions as low as 41 with only mild bouts of panic.
All of that changed last week when suddenly, freakishly, the clouds mysteriously parted. Temperatures plummeted to the low 30s by day and – I kid you not – into the teens at night. It was excruciating. It was chaos. And the only way to survive the brutal blast of frigid air was to put on, say, a Burberry overcoat and matching scarf, and perhaps a pair of J. Crew cashmere-lined suede leather gloves, accented by some Uggs. Now that I think of it, staying indoors might have worked too.
I love my wife. Don’t get me wrong. She’s a great life partner, but she’s a lousy sports partner. The problem is she is utterly clueless about sports. Like any patriotic American, I’m a huge sports fan: baseball, football, Australian rules lawn bowling, you name it. But my wife is, how can I put this delicately – an artist.
My wife could no more tell you the number of points in a touchdown than the location of home plate in baseball. Oh sure, she’ll tell you she likes sports. But to her, sports consists of backpacking through the woods or climbing a rock face. Those aren’t sports. As any red-blooded sports fanatic knows, sports require two essential elements: a high def flat panel 56” TV and a large cheese-stuffed, meat-lover’s pizza.
I first suspected my wife wasn’t into sports early in our marriage. One evening, I had to work late so I missed the Monday Night Football game. I called home to ask her the score. After five minutes trying to convince her that pro football indeed could be played on a day other than Sunday, she checked the TV and reported: I have no idea. But I think they’re in extra innings. Seriously, I’d have better luck finding the score in the credits of Breaking Bad than by asking my wife.
My wife will happily tell any random stranger she meets that her husband is far from perfect. On a scale of 1 – 5, I think she’d probably rate me a 2.4.
Okay, so I’m not perfect. When it comes to my looks, I’d give myself maybe a 6 out of 10. My taste in clothes? Perhaps a 4 – although my wife would score me a 1.5 if we’re talking about ties. (What’s wrong with a paisley tie adorning a Lacoste shirt anyway?) My humor writing ability? Hmmm. Are we grading on a curve?
My point is I have plenty of shortcomings, but if you ask my wife, she’ll tell you – especially if you’re a complete stranger – that my most irritating personality quirk is my compulsive need to rank…everything.
For example, in writing this week’s post, I chose Arial 9 point because it’s always been one of my five favorite fonts (right after Comic Sans and just ahead of Garamond). Okay, I admit it. I do have a tendency to rate and rank stuff. I can’t resist asking other people to rank things too. For me, it’s an ice breaker. I’ll often start a conversation with, say, a waitress at a BBQ ribs restaurant, with, “Hi, Carla. Nice rack you got there. Quick question: Which three states would you least like to live in?”
Great news for all of you who have passed the big 50 milestone and are depressed that the best part of life may have passed you by. It has, of course, but be patient. In just 19 years you’ll feel happy again. That’s the findings of a recent study by the London School of Economics. The study determined that 23 and 69 are the two ages at which people are the most satisfied with their lives. And every age in between pretty much sucks.
According to the study’s findings, we experience several up and down periods, peaking at age 23 before dipping in a long, slow decline of satisfaction with our lives by our mid-50s, after which age our happiness rebounds, peaking again just before age 70. After that, for most of us, there really is no point to go on living. So if you’re planning on having a mid-life crisis, the study suggests 55 is the perfect age to plan on having your world shatter into a million meaningless pieces.
Why 23 and 69? Because they’re prime numbers? Good guess but no. (And to those of you who just got out your calculators and figured out that 69 is not a prime number, congratulations.) According to the study, at 23 you are confidently picturing an optimistic future of wealth and career success, probably with an attractive life partner and 2.5 well-behaved kids who get into Princeton on a full-ride merit scholarship. Perhaps you’re already envisioning that second home in the Hamptons or on Cape Cod.
[This week, Tim Jones turns the keys to his blog over to Tuxedo, a 23-pound spokescat representing the views of household cats everywhere.]
Hey, owner. This is your cat. There appears to be a little confusion as to just exactly who’s in charge here. I know, I know. You pay the electric bill, pay the insurance (whatever that is), and you buy all the food. That does not make you king of my castle. I’m afraid I’m going to have to go over the ground rules one more time if I’m going to allow you to stay here.
I think we can both agree that I am pretty low maintenance. Heck, I sleep 20 hours a day, so the least you can do during the other four hours is drop what you’re doing and pay full attention to me – starting with my meals. I have to say a monotonous diet of Meow Mix day after day is not exactly my idea of haute cuisine. And what’s with the dry food pellets? Do I look like a rabbit? Please have your chef start preparing more interesting entrées for me. Might I suggest steak tartare or perhaps Lobster Newburg?
While we’re on the subject of dining preferences, need I remind you that the toilet is mine? Its primary function, we both know, is as the receptacle for my drinking water. I’m willing to let you share, but for God’s sake please make sure little Princess Sarah remembers to flush after she tinkles. It’s gross. You don’t see me taking a pee in her sippy cup, do you?
Over the past few years, I’ve noticed I’ve begun to put on a few pounds. I noticed this primarily because my wife kept saying, “Hey, you’ve put on a few pounds. When are you going to do something about it?”
In my younger years, I used to treat my body like a temple. But lately my body has become more of a Temple of Doom. So I’ve decided to do something about it.
I tried various fad diets: the Nothing-but-fruit diet, the Everything-but-fruit diet, the Mango & Salmon milk shake diet, the “All-You-Can-Eat-Just-So-Long-As-It’s-Cabbage” diet. None of them worked, in part because I usually gave up after about 40 minutes.
I recently discovered – much to my chagrin – that there are no short cuts to fitness and good health. So I came up with eight very simple daily commitments in the areas of fitness and nutrition. I once raced in the New York Marathon. (Okay, meandered might be more accurate description of my pace.) Heck, by comparison, this should be a piece of cake. Drat! Now I’m craving a piece of cake.
I’m not proud that for most of my adult life, I have tended to play it safe. I’ve always obeyed the rules and did what I was told. I’ve always used my turn signals, always separated the white from the dark laundry. I’ve always followed a predictable routine. If it’s 6:15 am, I’m hopping on the exercycle. If it’s 6:20 am, I’m in the bathroom flossing. A boringly predictable life.
But not anymore. I’ve decided life’s too short. I’m not going to be a conformist sheep following the herd anymore. I’m going to zig when they expect me to zag. I’ve decided to shake up my button-down life – starting by unbuttoning my collar. Hell, I just might not even wear a tie for work tomorrow. And there’s not a damn thing my boss can do about it (since I’m working from home tomorrow).
Lately I’ve turned into a rebel. It feels so liberating. My natural hair color is coffee brown. But last week, feeling in a dangerous mood, I dyed it mocha brown. I feel months younger. And look closely at my hair. I’ve started wearing my left sideburn an eighth of an inch lower than my right one – my silent protest to The Man that I will not conform to society’s rules anymore.
At sporting events, I now do the wave two seconds after the rest of my section. Sure it pisses off some fans. I’m living life on the edge.
This weekend I have the whole house to myself. Our elder daughter Rachel is a college freshman and our younger daughter Emily (who apparently really admires her dad – who knew?) is with my wife this weekend, visiting the college she’ll be enrolling in next fall. For the past few days, it’s been eerily quiet in the house – and eerily tidy. It’s weird to walk into my bathroom and not see my daughter’s curling iron, dirty towels and jars of makeup, eye liner, and moisturizing creams piled up in my sink. I barely recognize the kitchen now because there are no stacks of dirty dishes covering every square inch of the counter.
This got me to thinking about next fall, when for the first time in 19 years, there will be no kids in our house. We’ll be joining the ranks of a rapidly growing demographic: Happy People (otherwise known as “Empty Nesters”). Many couples look forward to this phase of life. But for me, it’s going to be a difficult adjustment. So I took time this weekend to look at old photo albums and watch old family videos. It brought back wonderful memories of many happy times with our daughters.
Like the 1,284 times I changed our daughters’ diapers when they were young (which, according to my rough estimate, is approximately 1,284 more times than my father changed his own kids’ diapers when we were young).
If you’re like my wife, then after you’ve been married for about two years you probably realize your decision to get married was a serious mistake. Marriage is difficult, especially if your husband is a humor writer or if you have kids. If both of those conditions apply to you, then may God have mercy on your soul.
My wife Michele (who prefers not to be mentioned by name in my columns, so will henceforth be referred to as “the woman who prefers not to be mentioned as Michele”) and I have been married for 26 years. Like any married couple, we’ve had our ups and downs. We’ve squabbled over trivial disagreements like why I always pull all the covers over to my side of the bed at night, what was I thinking the time I taught our 9- and 8-year-old daughters how to hitchhike, and my minor lapse of judgment when I hired a police officer stripper for a surprise party for my wife’s 40th birthday. Turns out my wife was not quite as impressed by Officer Cinnamon’s sexy pole dancing skills as my poker buddies and I were.
So yes, we’ve endured our fair share of marital misunderstandings. But there is one issue which for years has caused more heartache and strife than any couple should have to endure. That’s right. I’m talking about the differences in how we load the dishwasher. It is still painful to talk about in public.
[This message brought to you by the Greater Seattle Tourist Information Bureau.]
Greetings, visitor. Welcome to Seattle. If this is your first time to the Emerald City, we’d like to share some fun facts about our great city to help you plan your trip.
Hey, did you ever wonder why they call it the Emerald City? It’s because everything here is always green. And that’s because it rains in Seattle 342 days a year. Isn’t that fascinating? So bring your bumbershoot and get ready for some fun out of the sun!
When packing for a trip to Seattle, don’t worry about packing your sunglasses – because you won’t need ‘em!
FUN FACT: Many Seattle residents live their entire lives without ever seeing the sun.
Some Seattleites believe the existence of the sun is a myth, sort of like Mount Olympus of ancient Greek legend. (Ironically, there actually is a Mount Olympus in Washington State – but thanks to the clouds no one from Seattle has ever seen it.)