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Stress: marriage vs. jail term.

I have just come across a chart listing "Life's Events According to Stress." And the reason I am taking typewriter in hand (no mean trick in itself) is to complain about "Marriage" being placed way down in the No. 7 spot. That isn't the worst of it. What has really got my hackles up is that "Jail Term" has been rated No. 4, for Pete's sake!

There are husbands, I'm sure, who would go so far as to say that the two entries are synonymous. But not me, brother. I may be in enough trouble for suggesting that the questionnaire that gathered the information must have been sent to wives and bachelors only.

When it comes to the event called Marriage, I have been a participant since December 7, 1941. (Or was that the beginning of our war with Japan? I get the two dates confused.) Anyway, when it comes to stress, I have come to envy the wet bird perched on a high-tension wire and scratching out lice.

A wet bird has never had to lather its face with Cool Whip because the last of its shaving cream was used in decorating the Christmas tree.

A wet bird has never known the stress of hearing its mate call through the bathroom door, "I forgot to tell you, I painted the toilet seat!"

A wet bird has never been required to return a pound cake to the Kroger store because it weighed only 14 1/2 ounces.

A wet bird has never answered the phone to hear his mate say, "Hanlon Bros. Hardware doesn't have a two-inch socket wrench. Should I get two one-inchers?"

Much of the stress in marriage, according to other authorities, arises from money. Not money per se but the lack thereof. Of which we have plenty. Of lack, that is. The way my mate gets rid of money you'd think that it was printed by lepers. And that the quicker she can get rid of the stuff, the less risk she runs of having her skin fall off.,

Sales are one of the favorite conveniences for saving her hide. If this woman who united her plight with mine in the trough of holy wedlock, or however that goes, sees a $12.95 lobster pot reduced to $7.98, I might as well begin taking off the car door and removing the back seat, because she's going to buy it. It matters not that the nearest lobster is 900 miles from Owen County, Indiana, as long as she beat the lobster-pot retailers out of a handsome $4.97.

Another stress that has raised its ugly head at our house concerns hubby's staying home while wife, an R.N., is employed. Made all the more stressful when wife is convinced that free-lance writing and retirement are one and the same. I am equally convinced that a wife keeps a score sheet on her husband's peccadilloes when she is in charge of the housework. We're talking here of maybe leaving the cap off the toothpaste tube, hanging his pajamas on the bedroom floor, polishing his black shoes on her white cat-little things like that. Now along comes the old switcheroo: she's out of the house and he's at home. And he's going to pay. . . pay. . .PAY!

In those halcyon days when I would come home from selling pantyhose door-to-door, my dear wife would have the house so tidy I'd think company was coming. Today, she isn't home ten minutes before our joint could qualify for a federal loan as a disaster area.

The bathroom in particular is where she becomes a horse of a different color, you might say. (You might say it, but not me, brother.) The things that come out of her hair alone are enough to camouflage the lavatory top and the toilet-tank cover.

The other night I saw something wiggling in the mess and killed it with my shaving cream can. After its demise wife let me know that I had demised her one and only "switch." And she wouldn't even help me clean the shaving cream off the walls and the ceiling.

There's another little matter. Now that I am preparing the meals (or mess, as she jokingly refers to them) and she has the latest thing in dishwashers-a husband at home--wife thinks nothing of emptying the cupboards at every meal, Frankly, I don't think much of it myself.

Take breakfast alone. It's separate spoons for coffee, grapefruit, and oatmeal, a knife for scraping the toast, another for spreading the butter. What she does with a fork is beyond me, unless she uses it to scratch her head. And I never have enough dishes on the table. Don't be surprised if the next issue of the Guinness Book of World Records lists me as the only man to wear out a set of dishes by washing.

In the meantime, I am bending over backward trying to hold dirty dishes to a minimum. If I use the meat cleaver for hacking up a butternut squash, I use the cleaver for paring the potatoes and dicing the carrots. I'll admit it's not easy spreading margarine on whole-wheat bread with a meat cleaver, but it can be done. I've found it is also possible to eat your salad off a Job Squad paper towel.

Eating ice cream from the scoop, however, I can't recommend. After I got my tongue caught under that little metal ejector a few nights ago, I was obliged to can upon you-know-who to extricate me.

Another marriage stress that by no means helps the blood-pressure reading concerns her shopping for groceries on her way home from work. Her morning ritual is to crumb the last of the bread in the house for the birds, leaving me to construct my luncheon sandwich out of left-over butternut squash laminated between two soda crackers. Which is also for the birds, if she wants my opinion-which she hasn't asked for yet. The highlight of my midday dining of late has been a slab of cheese too hard for the mousetraps and a doggie bag from Ponderosa that wife forgot to feed to the dogs. And then she comes waddling in at night with a head of lettuce and a can of crushed pineapple for our dinner. Seems she is still stuffed from her cafeteria luncheon menu of beef and noodles, baked potato, creamed corn, and hot rolls, with Bavarian cream pie to fill in the chinks.

The third half of stress in our marriage (two halves can't cover it all) has to do with her laundry and the few little items I add from time to time. "Would you like to knock off washing windows and go to town with me?" was her subtle approach one Saturday morning. "I've got some laundry to do."

Since I was done with the windows anyway, except for the one in the shed and those in either end of the attic, 1, like an innocent lamb to the slaughter, let her untie the hard knot with which she had secured my rubber apron, and we drove to Spencer. There, after graciously toting her basket of clothes into the Odd Sock laundry, I sat down with a copy of the Evening World that had evidently managed somehow to survive the rinse cycle.

"Watch me now," my mate called before I'd even had time to interpret the headline. So I watched her blithely toss the clothes into the washer, gaily fling in a handful of detergent, and complacently deposit three quarters into the slot. "There, do you think you can handle that?" she triumphantly asked.

The opinion you may have already formulated of me to the contrary, I'm no dummy. Of course I could handle that. A kid could handle that. But I haven't been able to hire one to do it.

Now that I have got my feet wet (an understatement), I have found that the laundry is the social center of Spencer. More to the point, the clientele runs 98 percent to healthy young women. And they get in each other's way trying to teach me the fine points of laundering.

My next-of-tub approached me one day, wiping her face on a pillow slip, and explained that it wasn't necessary to lift the lid on my machine to peek in and see how things were going. And there was the time I left my glasses at home, hoping to look virile rather than studious, and a lovely specimen of womanhood took the trouble to inform me that I was putting oatmeal instead of detergent into my machine. It was the longest day I've ever spent.

As for Jail Term being rated three notches ahead of Marriage on that stress chart, the wives and bachelors should have been around when I surprised my dear wife one night by having her pantyhose all ironed when she came home. That would have scrambled their ratings for good. And I haven't even mentioned a wife's way with things mechanical. Nor am I about to. Our marriage has enough stress as it is.
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Author:Stoddard, Maynard Good
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Sep 1, 1987
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