Friday, November 19, 2010

Breakfast at Misery's

An ancillary consequence of marriage is the desire to murder your spouse occasionally. This is by no means a rant against the conjugal state. I am fortunate to have been married to a Grant for quite a few years, he's a good one and in general, we are quite compatible. But that doesn't mean that he doesn't want to hack me to pieces when I forget, for the 2997th time, to record a bank withdrawal or refill the gas tank.

Every relationship has them--call them hot buttons, trouble spots, raw nerves or minefields. There are areas of controversy and disagreement in even the most nauseatingly peaceful households. I am not here to stamp out these bumps in the marriage road (I couldn't if I wanted to), but rather to emphasize that Graces and Grants do not air these grievances in public.

Case in point:

We were invited to Sunday breakfast at the home of a couple we know from the gym. It was one of those times when we couldn't really say no--they've invited us several times and it was starting to look rude so we bit the bullet and accepted. While timing is not my topic of discussion for today, I feel obliged to mention that 9am on Sunday morning is not an hour to be anywhere but your own home, drinking coffee and settling in with the NY Times Magazine. Unless of course you had an adventurous Saturday night, in which case you remain in your (or some lucky other's) bed. But I digress.

We arrived, en famille, at the appointed hour, and were greeted warmly by Husband (though that is not his real name.) We entered the kitchen, where he was toiling away with pancakes, bacon and other appetizing vittles. Wife (name also changed to protect her anonymity, though she doesn't deserve it) was no where to be found, nor were their offspring, with whom my children were eager to play. After several minutes of small talk with Husband, we heard a shrill directive from above, "Husband, I hope you have started cooking because these kids are starving!". How's that for a warm welcome? Clearly she heard the doorbell, heard us enter, and was aware of our presence, but her priority was not a hearty hello to her guests but rather a harangue of beleaguered Husband. The remainder of the morning proceeded thus. She raced into the kitchen, barked at Husband for his slow culinary progress, grabbed the food and distributed it to her children (not mine) with such alarming alacrity that she appeared to be under the influence of some type of high octane amphetamine.

What's a Grace to do?

Diffuse, diffuse, diffuse. When we heard the shriek from above, we called up the stairs, "Hello, Wife. We're here!" We complimented both parties on the food, the table setting, the coffee and the beauty of their children. (Recall that White Lies are important social tools and should be used liberally in situations like this.) We encouraged Wife to tell us about herself--not that we wanted to hear it, of course, but it was less offensive than the abuse she lavished on poor Husband. We made our escape as soon as we could and made strong, boldface notes to selves not to accept further invitations from these unfortunates at any time of day or night.

It is treacherous terrain out there. The girl you befriended in Yoga could turn into Medusa when her husband or boyfriend arrives and you have no way of knowing that before you commit to a long evening with them. Safety first, Graces. The surest way to avoid the crossfire is to do a short term trial outing. Plan to meet for a drink or coffee before you launch into a full day or evening. If things go well, you can stay together for dinner or brunch--if not you have an ironclad escape hatch.

Not like the folks in the film Couples Retreat, who were shanghai'd for a week of hardcore therapy....though one might argue that our hostile hosts needed something equally drastic.

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