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A kinder, gentler marriage.

Making a new lover out of an old hubby may work for a movie star, but for an old hubby from

Freedom, Indiana, idea isn't worth a snowball in you-know-where. How do you know when the honeymoon is over? You get a pretty good idea the morning your dear wife asks, "Before putting your shoes on, would you mind walking around right here?

-I can't find the thumbtack I just dropped."

Our romantic relationship was not strengthened a whole lot when, later that morning as I removed my one coat from the closet, the wooden pole slipped its moorings and all 18 of her coats landed in a heap on the floor. As I set a new record for closing the outside door behind me, I was left to speculate whether her parting remark had to do with my fixing the rod or something about God.

In either case, instead of stopping at Melick's on the way home for a dozen long-stemmed roses, I saved $32 by stopping at the Spencer-Owen Public Library for this book dealing with how to keep romance alive after marriage. Although the author was a movie star with only two husbands to her credit, I figured she might still have picked up a few pointers in the romance department that my dear wife and I had overlooked.

The recurring theme of the book -not finding a new lover but making a new lover out of old hubby-I can't argue with. What I do argue with is that the approach might well be feasible with the Hollywood crowd, but for the bunch in Freedom, Indiana, I'm afraid these tactics aren't worth a snowball in youknow-where.

"Wake your husband at daybreak to hear the birds sing" is one snappy sentiment. To which I reply: If my wife ever wakes me at daybreak to hear the birds sing, she'll be hearing the birds sing for the next two days. Currently she wakes me at daybreak only to tell me that the furnace hasn't come on. And that is often enough.

I did try out the next idea: "Don't eat the same food in the same way; take off for other places . . . keep an element of unpredictability between you." I took off for Spencer and told my dear wife we would be dining at McDonald's-then surprised her by going to Hardee's. Another time I actually went to McDonald's-but to the drive-in window, and we ate in the car. However, it didn't seem to do much for our romance. Next time I may light a candle on the instrument panel.

Another jim-dandy suggestion for keeping the old romancebuds alive involves serving her a glass of Perrier water when she is expecting champagne. The real surprise comes when at the bottom of the glass she finds a diamond ring. The only trouble here: our Perrier comes from a 248-foot well. I tried planting a pair of zircon earbobs in a glass of Diet Pepsi, but had it not been for my expertise with the Heimlich maneuver, the poor girl might have choked to death.

Champagne evidently plays a big role in keeping Hollywood people in a romantic state. Another idea for getting out of the marriage rut is to serve hubby the bubbly in bed. If my dear wife served me so much as coffee in bed, I'd spend the rest of the day wondering what she'd been up to.

To rejuvenate hubby's marital excitement, the romance expert advises the wife to change the color of her hair. My wife did that a number of years ago, going from brown to gray. And it didn't exactly have me doing flip-flops. The only time she tried a magic potion to change it artificially, due to an overdose or whatever, was the year we took separate vacations.

"Step out of your usual role and be someone else," to quote the pro. "Anything can be changed, even your name." Oh, yeah? For years my dear wife wanted to change her name to Mrs. Errol Flynn, but it never happened.

The author further advises her readers not to live life secondhand, but to live it firsthand. She says when you see a couple on television being romantic by fireside, "Don't just dreamily stare at the scene. Instead, be romantic by fireside." The catch here is that our heat comes from a floor register. Not too romantic at best. And if the blower should come on, forget it.

Here's another "If a man puts a red rose next to your bed or a box of chocolates on your pillow, that could give you a big lift." To which I respond, if I catch a man putting a red rose or a box of chocolates anywhere near our bed, he'll get a lift that will make my wife's lift a depression by comparison.

As you can see by now, a couple is not to live "predictable, supermarket lives, with everything prepackaged and prearranged."

The writer illustrates this best by pointing out: "Anyone who has a lawn can be a prima ballerina." What she suggests may be normal in Tinseltown, of course, but if I ever catch my dear wife dancing on the lawn, I'll have her committed. Unless, that is, she can show me where she has just been punctured by a hornet.

"Dancing," the romance adviser exp"is a way of communicating with the body." What she has in mind here is ballroom dancing. My wife and I dance occasionally, but I can't recall my body ever saying anything to hers, or vice versa. My favorite compliment for her is the old standby, "You don't sweat much for a fat girl." Whereupon she replies, "You are really light on my feet tonight." Oh, sometimes, if the lights are low and the music soft and slow, she will raise her head from my shoulder and whisper in my ear, "Ouch!" But that's about as romantic as we ever get on the dance floor.

"If in your heart of hearts you see yourself as a horsewoman, learn to ride" is another idea my soul mate wanted to try out. Even though all we have are miniature ponies, if this would put a little zing in her heartstrings, I figured it was at least worth a shot.

Little 28-inch Extract, son of Vanilla, being the liveliest male of the bunch, was selected for this romance-recycling adventure. Getting my dear wife astride the sacrificial beast required a full hour. And by the time I had pulled the little feller's legs out of the ground and helped him into the barn, I couldn't remember why I had been party to such a stunt, much less how it might have affected my wife's romance valves.

Another suggestion of comparable merit is "to swim naked at night in a warm pool." For those who have a warm pool, fine and dandy. Unfortunately, our only warm pool is the result of forgetting to let Brutus, our dog, out at night. We do have a threefoot-square shower stall with a capacity of one adult in which a misdirection in reaching for the soap will bring down the shower caddy. And it takes only one shampoo bottle landing on your foot to disperse any romantic notion you might have forthe next three days.

Moving right along: "Have an emergency kit. Candles, fizzy wine, and caviar should always be kept available to make an occasion out of an ordinary day." We have the candles, no problem there, and maybe one out of three isn't so bad. But our only occasion for lighting them is when the power goes off. As for the fizzy wine and caviar, the closest we come to it is a two-liter bottle of Diet Pepsi and a can of water-packed tuna.

Still another love link that hasn't worked out for us has to do with the advice "The few minutes of peace the two of you spend together by the sea or in the woods will help your marriage, help you to be at ease with each other." To which I say, Ha! The last time my dear wife and I went back to our woods together, we were carrying a two-man/woman crosscut saw, with intentions of cutting a fallen honey locust into wood-stove lengths.

Everything went according to Paul Bunyan for about three cooperative pulls and pushes. At which point she decided that I was jerking her off her feet on purpose. It being a woman's nature, she began trying to do the same to me. This, of course, got my dobber up to the point where the contest ended by her coming out of her boots and draping her body across the log. End of romantic interlude.

"Most of us need the right setting and circumstances to flourish," we are told, "to bring out our romantic selves. When life seems a little dull . . . take a car rideanything might happen."

I certainly can't argue with that. We have only to dredge up my dear wife's car ride of last Tuesday for proof that "'anything might happen."

Before making her emergency run into Spencer for sleeping pills for her cat, or something equally vital, she roman- tically asked if she could bring me anything. Like an idiot, I told her she '' could bring me two 12foot lengths of gutter for the barn. And for once she got exactly what I had asked for. As she was coming up the driveway, however, with one end of the gutters resting on top of the back seat and the other end sticking out the front window, the ends sticking out the front win- dow rammed into the tu- lip tree and shoved the back ends out through the rear window. This, of course, bent the gutters so they're only fit to be used on a silo. And we don't have a silo.

Was that enough romance for one day? Oh, no. Later that day I asked if she would mind moving the remains

of her car out of the drive so I could get my car past. Now her key wouldn't turn on the ignition. It had happened before. But this time no matter how hard we jerked on the steering wheel while turning the key, no go.

In desperation I called Paul Thomas, the No. 1 mechanic on our list, who wisely came out with his wrecker. "Are you sure this is the right key?" he asked. "It doesn't seem to fit the way it should.

Yes, said the dear wife. Paul hauled the car in to his garage to replace the


Upon paying the bill the next day-$72.60 incidentental to Donald Trump but certainly not

to me- Paul said the other key dear wife had given him wouldn't unlock the trunk. Something was obviously rotten in the state of Freedom Indiana.

Upon broaching the subject to you-know -who at lmy earliest opportunity, I said, "You must have another set of keys for your car."

"I just threw a set in the junk," replied y-k-w, "but I couldn't find what they wer for."

Yep. After pawing through an assortment of cat food can and dog food cans and a couple of cans for human food, I located the keys. Yep, again. One opened the trunk, and one opened the old ignition, now lying on the back floor. I tell you, romance can hit no higher plane than we enjoyed that night.

In contrast to the farout ideas this romance writer proposes, one statement I find ultraconservative. She tells the gals, "Treat marriage as an affair and after 20 years you'll still be a beautiful woman."

Twenty years indeed. Our marriage has survived for 52 years, and my wife is a beautiful woman today. So maybe we have been doing something right, after all.
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Author:Stoddard, Maynard Good
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Sep 1, 1989
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