Dazed and Confused

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 17, 1999

By Lee Dresselhaus / L’Observateur / Febuary 17, 1999

So… I have committed the (that is, THE) cardinal error. That is, the onething, the one screw-up, the Big Mama of all mistakes, that can insure that a man will be force-fed his very private slice of the Misery Pie for the next, oh, 10 years or so.

It was Valentine’s Day and, you guessed it, I forgot.

I’m doomed.

That morning as we sat on the couch reading the paper and enjoying our morning coffee, my wife glanced at me out of the corner of her eye and asked in a casual manner just where was her Valentine? I got that instant, gut-freezing, panic reaction that all of use men know so well. That first,icy blast of realization blew through me and that Oh, NO! feeling we all know so well hit me like a Louisville slugger.

Now, I figured that I had a couple of options at this point. One was to runscreaming out the door and hide somewhere, curled in a fetal ball, and moaning softly to myself. I carefully examined the merits of this beforereluctantly rejecting it. The next option was to tell her that it was in thecar and I would go get it, then leap in the car and drive like a demented bat to the nearest Valentine’s card place, grab a card, any card, off the shelf, run by the counter in a blur tossing the correct amount of cash to the confused clerk, and get home with my lifesaving card, all in about four minutes.

For pracitical reasons, I decided I liked the first option better. Andbesides, with my luck, I would grab the wrong card off the shelf, not read it in my panicked haste, and end up proudly giving her a card that said something about my sincerist condolences on the death of someone’s cherished goat, thus exponentially compounding my error by a factor of four and totally justifying her current view of me as a thoughless baboon.

Then it hit me. Honesty. I would try the honest, sincere approach. Yeah!That would work! She would understand! I calmly looked at her and told her I was sorry, that I had been very busy this week and I had forgotten all about it, desperately hoping that honesty would be the best policy and would help me salvage at least some of the rest of my now-hopelessly miserable life.

What a moron.

She remained calm, turning a page of the paper, then told me she had gotten me a Valentine. And, to add speed to my quick reduction in size, shethen produced it. And it was a nice one, of course. By this time, I wasapproximately four inches tall. I told her in my small, squeaky voice that Iwas sorry, and she told me I had better never let his sort of transgression happen again. And she walked away.Now, any man who thinks that the issue has been addressed and is over at this point needs his tiny, pointed little head examined. Oh, she may saythings like, don’t worry about it, or it’s okay. I can say, with a reasonableamount of certainty, it’s not okay. It will never be okay. Because she willnever, ever forget this. Never. This type of fatal error actually has twoparts to it. They are:1) The immediate consequences, the symptoms of which are, a rapid, immediate drop in the surrounding temperature, followed by a dazzling display of her ability to make you feel small enough to use a bottle-top for a hat.

2) The long-term consequences. This is where they really get you. Becauseyou will not win an argument for the next six months. You can’t. No matterwhat she does. She has the tactical higher ground, and you will not be ableto dislodge her. If you decided to chastise her for, say, running overseveral nuns at a crosswalk, the conversation will run like this: You: How could you run over four nuns? Her: Hey, you forgot me on Valentine’s Day! I don’t want to hear it.

You lose and you did it yourself.

There are only two offenses grave enough than forgetting that little card on Valentine’s Day. One is forgetting her birthday. No need to go intodetail. Just shoot yourself if you do this. No, she won’t do it for you. Shewants to hear your tortured pleas for forgiveness in the weeks and months following this bonehead error. You will receive no mercy.The second is a Supreme Mistake. You must never, ever, forget youranniversary. You can forget the children at camp, you can forget your name.You can forget to breathe. But don’t forget that one all-important date inyour life because the consequences if you do, long-term and short-term, are just too horrible to contemplate.

So anyway, I screwed up, and now I have to go into the “I’ll Make It Up To You” mode that men know, oh, so well. This is for the sake of ourrelationship, not to mention my sanity. The only problem with this is thatshe finally has the means to force me to do things with a smile on my face that I only would have done at gunpoint before, like go shopping or some other girl-thing that I have industriously avoided most of the time. But,I’m the one who forgot that Valentine. I know the rules.I have to go now. I’m taking my wife to lunch.

Lee Dresselhaus is a regular columnist for L’Observateur

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