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It's Never a Lie When Your Wife Tells It

Of domestic bliss, the white lie, and the almighty eyebrow.

12:00 AM, Aug 2, 2004 • By LARRY MILLER
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THE DIVINE MRS. M. went with a friend to have something done to their feet the other day. It was a Saturday afternoon, about one o'clock, and I was downstairs reading the obituaries and watching our sons build things and destroy them. (I love the obits; they're like tiny biographies of regular people, and are frequently touching.) She stuck her head down the stairs and said, "Susie just called and asked if I wanted to get a pedicure. Can Paul bring the kids by, and the two of you can watch them all together? It'll be fun. Okay?"

I think this is what is commonly known in the political trade as plausible deniability. At some future congressional hearing, or in a court of law, or at The Hague, she can always say, "But I asked you first, honey. Remember?" (By the way, I have no idea where The Hague is, but since it's always capitalized, I assume it's a city, or a zone, or a nightclub; additionally, it can only be called sloppy thinking to have anything involved with international law rhyme with "vague.")

But every woman knows that springing something on her husband like this is akin to the school bully saying, "I'm going to take your lunch money now. Okay?" It's going to happen with or without your consent, and to pretend otherwise is disingenuous.

When it comes to quick decision-making around the house, married men can best be described as dullards, and this is charitable. To ask a fast, three-part question is over-taxing a weak machine. Susie called about this, and Paul's going to do that, and everything is fine, and you'll be very happy . . . What husband ever does more than turn slowly, breath heavily, smile like an opium-eater, and mumble, "Wh--what?" (With pathological optimism, every man translates whatever his wife says as, "If you go along with things, maybe later I'll let you touch me." This is generally ill-founded.)

In any case, it's axiomatic that 25 minutes later she was gone like the dinosaurs, and Paul and I were dumbly handing a mountain of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to a bunch of boys who had long since abandoned their desire for food in favor of a far more nourishing buffet: running and screaming. We trudged back upstairs, sat down, silently munched a poorly-made wad from the platters in front of us, and then turned to each other in mid-chew, saying, "What just happened?" Neither of us knew, so we returned to working the torn, lumpy bread and sighed, each man giddily imagining the endless horizon of custodial "fun" over which he was poised.

Three-or-so hours later, the Duchess and the Baroness strolled back in yakking, which was natural enough, since they had only finished a third of the non-stop conversation begun when they'd left. They came downstairs to check the kids, and immediately hit the ceiling, which I thought was unwarranted, given that a very solid 80 percent of them were still alive. That's a good stat, and I don't care where you're from.

OKAY, things were a little messy. The den looked like a combination potato chip, Lego, and pillow-stuffing factory, which, for all I know, it may actually be. Yes, there was some blood, but not a lot, and most of it was smeared on brown furniture, anyway. Paul and I had let the chariot reins slacken a little, and were in the bar (only one room removed) on our second beer. Well, his second, my fourth, whatever. The more important thing by far was that we hadn't made the move to whiskey. After all, that would be irresponsible.

The women looked at us, we looked at them, and several seconds passed silently, which, if you took away the fear and hate in the air, would normally make the start of a good Penthouse letter. But they had bigger fish to fry, or at least bigger feet, so to speak. They smiled broadly, bent a knee, and said, "Well? What do you think? Susie got the baby blue, and I got the candy-apple red."

It's difficult to know what to say at a moment like that. Actually, it's easy to know, it's just difficult to do, especially when one of you has made the move to whiskey. (See if you can guess which one.) What we should've said is, "Girls, you look great. I've never seen prettier feet in my life, and we're glad you went. We insist you do it every week."

But that's not what came out. Instead, when my wife said, "Do you love the colors?" I said, "On a '64 Mustang? What man wouldn't?"

THERE WAS ANOTHER PAUSE NOW, during which the ladies tried to decide whether I had actually said that, or if it could've been just an auditory hallucination. At the same time, Paul whipped his head around and whispered, "Please don't."

Ah, but the Count of Monte Sarcasm was out of the tower and off of the island, and would certainly have danced a jig around the room, had not all four of us been saved by the oddest thing.

Paul and I leaned forward, blinked in puzzlement, and said, "What's wrong with your eyebrows?"