When I was in the Romantic stage of my life, that would be my youth, a hug could fix just about anything. And still it’s a good fix when everything is beyond human control. But having reached the reflective stage of my life, where romance is no longer the be-all and end-all, sometimes a hug is not the fix I need. Not if there are more practical options.
Now over the many years Hub and I have been together we have had numerous philosophical discussions. And what consistently comes to the fore is Hub’s philosophy that if a man has to be told to send flowers, to date his wife, or take her to dinner – if this is a taught and learned protocol rather than a spontaneous desire, he might as well not bother. And yes, I agree this is true.
But this week we got right down to the application of this theory and there seemed to be a problem with it. With my recent eye surgery, I’ve had my days. Days when I felt whimpy, days I felt a little down, and days when I needed spontaneous acts of reassurance from Hub.
But what I’ve come to realize, upon reaching this reflective stage of life, is that men are lacking a vital piece of thought-processing, that women have. The uncanny ability of intuitive empathy and understanding of other’s needs. It’s the thing that tells us the other half (or the kids) are not feeling up to snuff even if they don’t complain. Women know. It’s the thing that makes us seize control of the moment.
Doesn’t this all sound too familiar? “You’re looked a bit peaked this morning. I think you better stay home today. Does your head hurt? Are you in pain? What did you eat yesterday? Better let me take your temperature. Here’s a cool cloth for your forehead and let me put this warm pack on your back. You aren’t hungry? Well, you should eat something. If this doesn’t appeal to you I’ll make some broth? When did you last have a bowel movement? Do you want your pillow fluffed? Should I turn off the TV?”
So now the other day I was feeling down. Eye just a bit too uncomfortable for me to have confidence I was doing okay. And of course, what furthered my distress, was thinking how quickly doldrums can root and blossom into full-blown depression. What I needed was ‘spontaneous’ emotional support from Hub.
But, as I’ve already stated, men lack that thing so ever present in women’s psyche. They never notice if the wife is pale, or hollow-cheeked. If the eyes are worried, the face sad. How could they when they even fail to notice she cut her hair or colored it? So since Hub lacks feminine intuition, there is no point in me remaining silent. I might as well stop pulling a sad face and tell him.
So, “Hub,” I say, “Today my eye is uncomfortable. I’m feeling anxious, sad, and depressed.”
That was clear enough, don’t you think? Shouldn’t need to say more.
“Chin up,” Hub replies. “The Doctor said you need six weeks to heal so you’ll just have to wait it out.”
Now Hub already knows one thing I want. I want the color and contrast on the television minimized so that watching it will be no different than looking across the room at the bookshelf. I want my computer set the same way. But if it is going to happen, it isn’t going to happen until he finishes tweaking up the computer on the diningroom table and after he replaces a switch and a broken antenna on a two-way radio. So I told him my woes, but nothing happened. No one wiped my forehead, gave me a warm pack, or made me a cup of tea. No one adjusted the TV or suggested I relax in the big chair. When Dough-Gee dog rattled his empty waterdish and booted it down the hall, no one said, “Roberta, don’t move. I’ll get that.”
So I didn’t want to say it, the thing that can’t be learned or lectured. Yet, I needed to do something to clue this man in. So I tried an oblique approach that I hoped would not irreparably damage the wholesomeness of heartfelt spontaneity.
“Hub,” I said. “You know how often you’ve said that if the experts tell you to give the wife flowers, the gesture becomes meaningless. Well, we have that same situation here and I have no idea what to do about it. Except to tell you, you have a few dead brain cells and I can’t reactivate them without the meaning of all that is connected to spontaneous acts of kindness being destroyed.”
Hub looked at me blankly and went back to watching ‘Lone Star’ and tweaking up the computer on the diningroom table. I sat in the kitchen feeling woefully sorry for myself. Faced with a difficult quandary that obviously had no easy solution.
Later, much later, I saw Hub adjusting the contrast and brightness on the TV. Later, much later, he appeared by the big chair with a freshly-made sandwich for me. And tea. They were small steps, but admittedly they are steps in the right direction.
And amidst all this Hub would not have hesitated to give me a hug. Yes hugs are okay, they’re nice, but when you’re past the romantic stage of life, might as well reserve hugs, as I said earlier, for situations outside of human control. In the reflective stage of life, when I’m slipping into the doldrums, hugs don’t have the same impact they once did. This is not a situation beyond human control. What I need is the magic of ONE day, so seldom requested, so seldom expected, of emotional support through a servile attitude and a fresh cup of tea and a fluffed pillow.