One of the few joys of having the house to myself for a couple of days, besides being able to crack my knuckles with unscolded abandon, is the freedom to leave a copious and varied array of hairs in the bathroom sink without fear of having to talk about it later. Other than that, being here without my wife Kara is not all that exciting. Contrary to what Hollywood may tell you, staying home alone has very little to do with swinging paint cans into Joe Pesci’s head, and much more to do with wondering if anyone else in the world could possibly be enjoying this episode of “According to Jim,” because somebody must be enjoying the show or they would just stop making it. The people who keep “According to Jim” on the air must be the same people who keep the store shelves stocked with black licorice.
On normal days, when Kara is not in Atlanta whooping it up at her sister’s bachelorette party, my knuckle-cracking drives her to the brink. I never realized what a cracky person I was until I married someone who would rather listen to a pickup truck’s door slamming into the side of her Civic than the joint on my pinky finger popping. I can also crack my toes repeatedly without touching them, which is not as impressive a skill as belching on command, but it still gets quite a response if performed to the right audience.
Last week, after a particularly robust round of cracking, Kara said, “Stop cracking! Seriously. I can’t take it anymore.”
So I asked her the question that makes it impossible for someone to stay mad at you, no matter how badly they might want to: “How much do you love me? On a scale of 1 to 10, I mean.” If you’re in a serious relationship, then you already know that true love is all about quantification.
After a brief hesitation, she asked, “You mean right at this moment?”
“No, just in general,” I said.
Of course she said ten. My Jedi mind tricks were too powerful for her; it was out of her control. Also, if you ask your partner this question and the reply you get is “10,” which of course it has to be, don’t be upset that you didn’t get an eleven. Coaches and deodorant commercials have poisoned our minds to believe that we can give 110%. That’s just not possible. We all need to learn to be happy with giving and receiving 100% again. Otherwise, after accounting for expectation inflation, soon we’ll have to give 130% just to keep up. Honestly, any reasonable person should be happy to get even 95%, because you need to save at least 5% to play WarCraft later.
Left to my own remote-control devices for the past couple of days, though, I’m beginning to worry that my cracking problem is getting out of hand. There’s just nobody to enforce any discipline around here, and I’m totally taking advantage of my own leniency. The thing I fear most in life is that all of this investment in knuckle-cracking today is going to pay vast arthritic dividends in the future. And also that a yellow jacket is going to crawl into my Coke can while I’m not paying attention.
Before she left for her trip, Kara spent three says deciding whether or not to pack everything in a carry-on bag. As she stood staring at the big suitcase and the little suitcase that she’d put side-by-side on the bed, she said, “I can’t believe I’m going to be the matron of honor at Jill’s wedding. Why can’t I still be a maid? Matron makes me sound so old.”
“Aw, c’mon, you’ve earned it,” I said. “Besides, you’re, like, one of the hottest matrons I know.”
You can offer matronly advice to Mike Todd online at email@example.com.