I don’t understand how women think. It’s been a mystery to me all my life and I expect it will continue to confound me ‘til the day I die.
I had a perfectly reasonable idea for how our family should spend the holidays this year.
It was practical, do-able and would have saved us a lot of money. In short, the ideal solution for what has often been a predicament in the past.
Rather than me going on like this, however, why don’t I set out the discussion my wife, Donna, and I had exactly as it transpired.
Then you can decide who was in the right.
DONNA: No you don’t. You’re not going to pull that crap again like you did last year.
ME: What do you mean? We all had a great time. Surely, you can’t deny it.
DONNA: Don’t call me Shirley. (It’s an old joke between us. Sadly, it’s become less funny since my memory has become more spotty.)
ME: Okay, Sweetie (which is my way of getting around all concerns about what my wife, my kids and our pets are named). I had fun on that trip. And I’m pretty sure everyone else did too.
DONNA: No we did not. That’s not how we wanted to see New York, taking a virtual tour by way of Google maps.
ME (adopting an expression of mystification): Well I’m sorry to disagree, but I thought it was terrific. We drove around Times Square. Saw the Statue of Liberty. Took a few moments to absorb the majesty of the Brooklyn Bridge. All while staying comfortable in our living room.
DONNA: I want to go to Paris this year. Actually travel there. Not see the sights through satellite images on a computer.
ME: But then you’d have to get your hair done.
DONNA: I want to get my hair done.
ME: You’d have to buy new clothes.
DONNA: I want to buy new clothes.
ME: You’d have to learn French.
DONNA: No I wouldn’t. My co-worker Rachel and her husband, Armand, went to France last year and she said they got along fine without knowing any French.
ME (recalling Armand from a Christmas office party): Sure. That’s because he looks like Jerry Lewis. The French love Jerry Lewis. They probably got royal treatment over there.
DONNA: That’s not true. Armand doesn’t look anything like Jerry Lewis. (She stopped to consider the matter.) Does he? You really think so?
ME (spotting the smallest of cracks in my wife’s armor): Absolutely. He’s the spitting image.
DONNA: Anyway, Rachel said she did most of the negotiating. She didn’t find it hard. She knew enough of the language to get by and the people they met were passably good in English.
ME: She’s just saying that. I know the real reason she was able to pull it off.
ME (in a mumble): You’re not going to like this.
DONNA: Go on.
ME: Well you have to admit she does bear a more than passing resemblance to Charles De Gaulle. I’ve been saying that for years. She has a formidable physique. (I flexed my biceps.) He was a national hero.
DONNA (outraged): What a terrible thing to say. You’ll go to any lengths to win your case. Rachel is a lovely woman. There’s real character in her face.
ME (mumbling some more): Or Gerard Depardieu. She could be Gerard Depardieu’s twin sister. You know, the actor who played Cyrano de Bergerac in the movie.
DONNA: Stop it. You do this all the time. You hijack our arguments with some crazy point and then you get your way. Not this time, buster.
ME (changing tack): I love logging onto Google maps. You can see anything and go anywhere. It’s so neat.
DONNA: Yes, that’s true. But I want to actually sit in a café on the Champs Elysees. It’s been my fondest dream all my life.
ME: I want to visit Paris too, but in a better way.
DONNA: You’ve already been there, old-fashioned style. I know it’s not as high a priority for you. It was part of your European tour one summer while you were in university.
ME: Exactly. And I remember some things you wouldn’t like.
DONNA: Such as?
ME: There were rude waiters. Lots and lots of rude waiters.
DONNA: Like we haven’t encountered that right here at home, often because you’ve stiffed them on the tip.
ME: They’ll insult us in French over there.
DONNA: So let me get this straight. I won’t understand what they’re saying. But they’ll be gesturing with Gallic flare. (A smile lit up her face.) Sounds romantic to me.
ME (conceding the point and moving on): We’d all have to get medical shots. There are savages in Paris.
DONNA: No way.
ME: And pestilence. Big, big mosquitoes. Trés grandes mosquitoes.
DONNA: Again, no way, monsieur. You’re making this stuff up.
ME: Better to view the sights from our own couch.
DONNA: Uh-uh. The kids need the culture. They can see the Mona Lisa in the Louvre. The works of the impressionists in the Musée d’Orsay.
ME: We can look them up on-line.
DONNA: They can walk under the Arc de Triomphe. Visit Napoleon’s tomb. Stroll the boulevards. Sit in the Tuileries Gardens.
ME: How do you know all this stuff? (My wife can be awesome when she sets her mind to a challenge. That’s why I have to be nimble on my mental feet. Mental feet? Does that sound in any way correct?)
DONNA: I’ve done my research. On-line, I might add. That’s what you use the Internet for. Not to go on some pretend trip.
ME (changing tack once again): Remember when you wanted to go back to your old homestead in Saskatchewan and see how much things had changed?
DONNA: Yes. I do. That was another fiasco.
ME: How can you say that? We looked up the address on Google’s search engine and went for a make-believe drive.
Donna was starting to appear really upset. I knew I was on thin ice, but kept skating anyway.
ME: We headed down the street you used to take when you walked home from school. Then there it was – the site of your old house. Now it’s just an empty lot. Think back to how disappointed you were.
DONNA: I can’t believe I’m saying this, but you’re right.
ME: Imagine if we’d gone there in person. It would have been so much more of a shock.
DONNA: Where are you taking this?
ME: Well it’s the same with Paris. We’ll get packed. Hop on a plane. Find a hotel room. Put on our walking shoes. And then we’ll discover the Eiffel Tower’s been replaced by a Walmart.
DONNA (giving me one of her disgusted looks): Don’t be ridiculous. That would never happen.
ME: They have a Disneyland over there, you know. I’m not entirely sure, but I think I heard it was built on the site of Notre Dame Cathedral.
DONNA: What nonsense. You pull this stunt and the kids will sit around the computer looking surly as can be.
ME: Are you kidding me? They’re teenagers. We could go halfway around the world and they’d still look surly most of the time. At least my way, we’ll save thousands of dollars.
DONNA: Ah-hah! Now we’re coming to the crux of the matter. This is all about money. You’re so cheap, you don’t want to pay for this trip.
ME: I’m just thinking of the family. There are so many better ways we could spend our incomes. Like on golf lessons. (A pause to appreciate how bad that sounded.) For you and the kids, I mean.
DONNA: Listen up, Mister Miser. We’re going on this trip, whether you like the idea or not. So get out your credit card and let’s go online. But not for any lame vacation in cyberspace. Rather to book an airline and a hotel.
ME: Really? Do we have to?
DONNA: Yes we have to. And there’ll be a whole lot more inconvenience for you and me and the kids before we’re finished.
ME (looking truly apprehensive): I know. There’s the time spent in airports and taxi cabs. Plus the days away from my job. I’m very busy at work these days, you know.
DONNA: Oh for goodness sakes, you need a holiday. You’re not Iron Man.
She had a point. Lately I’ve been feeling less like Iron Man and more like Putty Man.
DONNA: Plus don’t leave out the strange food. And the time difference. But it will be fantastic just the same.
I was looking more and more appalled.
DONNA: Being your wife and nurturing this family has taught me many wonderful things. I believe I’ve become a zen master on the subject of the human condition.
My discomfort was stacking up like pommes frites. I was becoming the croissant smothered under fromage.
DONNA: And do you know what the most important lesson of all is?
ME: No. Do tell.
DONNA (with mischief in her eyes): That most of the time in this life you have to be miserable to be happy.
There’s more scintillating dialogue, never mind more obstinacy, to be found in My Dentist and I Argue over Oral Hygiene.