Steve Bowen: ‘What’s wrong, Honey?’

Published 5:22 pm Thursday, January 12, 2017

The amazin’ blonde had carpal tunnel surgery last week, and the good news is that, by all signs, she is recuperating well. The bad news is that the nice writer of this column – whom most of you know and love, I hope – was her “nurse.” Yes, that thought always scares me, too. But our hope is that, perhaps, our story today will help some other poor husband who finds himself in such a precarious position.

To our credit, however, I have to say this time I actually heard fewer complaints than last time when she had an ankle injury and couldn’t get up and around. In fact, thinking about it, I have concluded that there may be some merit to setting the bar very low. Or it could be that I am a little older than I was then, and my hearing is, too.

On that occasion, the amazin’ blonde – who you know is not lacking in feistiness – will be glad to tell you about the time I forgot something “kind of” important in my first attempt at nursing-hood. I was still coaching at the time, and I was preoccupied with getting to school for our game. When I got back later that evening, she was still sitting where I left her, looking at me with one of those incredulous looks. Gentlemen, I think you know what I’m talking about.

The key to deflecting that moment, if you’re smart, is to try to do something positive, hoping she’ll forget whatever was behind the look. Of course, being smart isn’t necessarily a high priority for most of us husbands. You understand, I’m sure.

Instead, I walked in the door, saw the look, shrugged one of those “What have I done?” shrugs, and said, “What’s wrong?”

After 40 years of marriage, I am now a firm believer that a husband could go his whole married life without saying “What’s wrong” and be the better for it. He could be happier, less stressed, more positive, more just-about-everything simply by removing that one little two-word question from his conversation.

Just think of it: You could say, “I’m so glad to be back home,” “You sure look pretty today, honey” “Do you know how much I missed you?” or “The house smells like a fresh, sun-shiny mornin’, don’t you think?” instead of saying “What’s wrong?”

The problem with that question is that it opens up a realm of discussion that really isn’t a discussion at all. Do you know that when you pose that question, she could actually TELL you what’s wrong, which is the last thing you want to hear. All we men know there are many things wrong, and the best way to keep the peace and harmony in the atmosphere is to divert very skillfully every conversation from those areas. Here are just a few of the sample answers that you are liable to hear if you ask that question at the wrong time:

One: “What’s wrong? Are you kiddin’ me? Seriously, you want to know what’s wrong?”

Two: “Oh, I’m glad you asked that. HOW I’m glad you asked that. You asked it, so I’m goin’ to tell you. I wasn’t goin’ to go there, but since you asked it, I’ll tell ya …”

Three: “How long have we been married?” (By the way, fellas, never answer a single question in these moments.) “No, how long have we been married? I’ll tell you. We’ve been married too long, and after being married too long, you would think you would’ve learned just a little-bit of something after many, many long, hard years …”

Four: “Oh, nothing’s wrong. Everything is just hunky-dory, just fiiiine. Things have never been better.”

(Fellas, it’s all bad, but I’d say sarcasm is the last thing you want to hear. It’s almost a guarantee you’ll soon be grabbing your pillow and heading to the back room. And hopefully you’ve had the forethought to make sure the back room has a comfortable mattress.)

Five: Finally, this is the actual response the amazin’ blonde said to me when I walked in the door from the game years ago: “What’s wrong?” she said, in kind of a high-pitched voice, “What’s wrong is that you forgot to feed me supper!”

I paused and thought carefully how to respond, then responded as intelligently as I could:

“I, uh … I did what?”

I’ve always found it is better to pretend I have no idea what the amazin’ blonde is talking about, which, doesn’t work at all, in case you ever decide to use it. It just seems to be the most natural thing to do, but I don’t recommend it. I really don’t recommend anything at this point, except, maybe, grabbing your pillow.

When you act confused by saying, “I did what?” you actually compound the problem. You have two problems now, instead of one: Insensitivity – which she will gladly explain to you in a well-articulated opening argument – is worse than the original problem! Then she’ll move skillfully like a high-dollar lawyer into whatever it was you did or didn’t do.

Generally speaking, I’d say asking “I did what?” adds at least one night if not two back in the spare bedroom – and, remember, it’s the “free room, NO board” plan.

“What did you do???” the amazin’ blonde repeated. “What you did is leave and go to your game and never fed me supper. I’ve been sitting here with a bad ankle and you never thought that maybe, just maybe, I’d like to have supper. …”

I’ll close the curtain on the remainder of that scene, except to say that – should you ever get to that  point in life, and you will! – you can go into the kitchen and fix a five-course meal, including steak and potatoes; and at the end, one thing is still going to happen:

You’ll soon experience that famous “Free room, NO board” plan over in the back room.