I should have seen it coming. I was deeply engrossed in a book (Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals, about Lincoln’s cabinet) and wasn’t paying close attention to what Mary was saying. She said something about showing me what she bought that day. That should have raised a bunch of red flags in my consciousness, but my consciousness was preoccupied with that book. Then when she entered the room wearing what she bought that day, I was caught like that deer in the headlights you always hear about.
“Isn’t this nice? I bought it for the wedding. What do you think?”
And then the question that every man dreads.
“It doesn’t make me look fat, does it?”
Every guy knows that there is no good answer to that question. No matter what you say she will twist it into something that makes you look like the most insensitive, insulting bonehead ever to walk the earth.
“No, of course not. You look great.”
“You mean it hides my fat?
“No, no, that’s not what I meant. It doesn’t hide your fat. I mean, you don’t have to hide anything. I like the dress. You look wonderful in it. It’s perfect.”
“ You think I’m fat and ugly and this dress hides how hideous I am, don’t you?”
“You’re not hideous. The dress doesn’t hide anything. I mean there is nothing to hide.”
“Oh, so you think I have a terrible body that I shouldn’t even try to cover up because no one would look at me anyway, right?”
At this point I am trying to edge toward the door with the intention of taking a long walk on our short pier and falling into the lake and drowning myself. But she has blocked the door with her hands-on- hips stance, effectively daring me to make a move. I thought about maybe faking a heart attack, but she would probably just let me die at that point. I settled for a coughing fit brought on by a big gulp from my wine glass. She didn’t try to help me with a slap on the back or make any kind of helpful gesture. I figured she was waiting for me to turn at least a little blue before deciding what to do with me. When I didn’t choke completely, she turned on a naked heel and stormed into the bedroom only to reappear a moment later to hurl my pillow and a token blanket on to the couch. No explanation was necessary.
The sad part is, she did look great in that dress. She’s not the least bit fat. She always dresses wonderfully. I just haven’t figured out the right words to say in the right order to avoid a repeat of that scene the next time it occurs. I’m left thinking that she was really just yanking my chain to watch me squirm a bit. After all, she did leave the bedroom door open as a sort of invitation back into her good graces.