Rob Taylor: Wife learns the pitfalls of husband’s Home Alone Syndrome
February 4, 2008
Like many men, Justin Nelson’s faults are too exhaustive to innumerate in this column. He has learned to embrace his humanity, often asking for forgiveness instead of permission. But, his ski buddies on the Front Range agree that he did one thing right: He “married up.”
Karli, his wife, is perfect with an asterisk. That asterisk being that she recently contracted Home Alone Syndrome, which has put a strain on the couple’s marital bliss.
Squeezed by a work deadline, she was forced to burn the midnight oil and leave Justin at home … alone. Working late was not her cup of tea, especially when it cut into her favorite time of the day: Dinnertime. Staring at the clock as it struck 7 p.m., she sighed and decided to give her husband a ring.
“Did you heat up last night’s leftovers?”
“Actually, no. I couldn’t find the dog food, so I gave the casserole to the mutt. She didn’t seem to mind that it was cold.”
“Casserole? You what?” she barked. The mutt’s dinner was last night’s main course: a labor of love composed of red jasmine rice, stuffed herbs, herbed goat cheese and exotic spices that she chased down all over town. Horrified, her mind replayed the 20 or so tedious steps required to produce the culinary masterpiece. Words escaped her as she pictured the dog wolfing it down.
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“It’s OK, honey,” he assured, detecting, but not understanding the tension in her voice.
“She really liked it. In fact, she licked the plate clean, so I just threw it in the dishwasher.”
Despite the soothing powers of his golden tongue, he had let slip the mother of all fighting words: “I threw it in the dishwasher.” Realizing his faux pas, he cringed.
“First of all, it’s not a casserole, you Neanderthal. It doesn’t take two hours toss noodles and meat in a dish and sprinkle cheese on top.”
Justin knew that she was just warming up, like a car finding its groove between second and third gear. He took it like a man and tuned her out, focusing on the hockey game on TV.
As his wife’s voice buzzed in his ear, the Avs rallied against the Red Wings, making a better comeback than he was capable of against his “better half”. Occasionally, he caught a few key phrases, like “I leave you alone for one night” and something about Rachael Ray and Italian recipes.
“Breathe, honey” he said, after a minute or two.
His interruption caught her off-guard and delayed the inevitable – the dishwasher lecture. House rules: Karli loaded the dishwasher. She became a whole new woman if anyone else dared. A trance would overtake her as she emptied it and reloaded it to perfection, putting dishes in slots that the normal mind would never conceive. Proper loading gave her the same buzz as a middle school English teacher finding a grammar mistake.
The interjection threw Karli for a loop, steering her into a new line of interrogation.
“So what did you eat for dinner?”
“I slapped some peanut butter on a rice cake. It only took a minute, and no dirty dishes, just a knife.”
“You ate rice cakes instead of stuffed herb goat cheese chicken.”
“Geez, honey. Relax. It’s only leftovers.”
During the ensuing tongue-lashing, he ruled out delivering a peanut butter rice cake to her work between the first and second period. As she rattled on, he was flabbergasted by the controversy, but was self-assured that his rice cake was justified since it wasn’t pizza: the only worthy leftover. He let the hissyfit run its course, appeasing his wife with an occasional “yeah” and “sorry.”
They made up later, but the Rice Cake Incident will never be forgotten, often used as leverage against Justin during heated arguments. Sadly, Karli now exhibits a chronic twitch when she recites – from memory – the ingredients of stuffed herb goat cheese chicken.
But life goes on. To cope, she leaves her husband a detailed “Honey Don’t List” (including an ultimatum) in her absence: “don’t load the dishwasher, don’t feed the dog ‘leftovers.’ If you dare, you’ll need an oxygen tank to help you breathe.”
Contact Rob Taylor at email@example.com
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