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 Texas : Features : Columns : "The Girl Detective's Theory of Everything"

One or Two Things I Have Learned

by Elizabeth Bussey Sowdal
Elizabeth Bussey Sowdal
I have learned a few things in my 44 years. I probably should have learned lots more than I have, but even so, there are a few things I know. I know that you are never, ever too busy to check pockets for pens and lipstick and crayons before you throw something in the wash. I know that you can't expect people to guess what you are thinking. They will always, always be wrong. I have learned that if you love somebody you must tell them. Right away. Tell them every single time it occurs to you. Nobody can be reminded often enough that they are loved, and you never know which chance will be your last chance. I have learned that if you need something you should ask for it. As a younger woman I spent a fair amount of time feeling mistreated and underappreciated. That's no fun. At some point I got tired of it. So now, if I want help with a chore I ask for help. This is nearly always met with cheerful cooperation. Just as an aside, I consider anything short of "NO! I refuse!" to be cheerful cooperation. It's all a matter of perspective.

If I'm blue and need a hug, I ask for one. Life is short and I don't have time to wait around for somebody to spontaneously hug me. My husband was born just on the edge of the Era of the Sensitive Male. The outside edge. He thinks expressing positive emotions is sissy. So sometimes I have to help him along a little. I am not too proud to tell him that I look gorgeous today, dinner was fantastic, or that he is crazy about me. I think he appreciates me taking the burden off him by helping him out with what I need to hear. I know this because sometimes when I tell him that he's crazy about me he'll answer, "Yup. I'm crazy." I choose to think that he is a man of few words and just runs out of steam before he gets to, "about you." The alternative doesn't bear thinking about.

I have learned to say what I mean. My husband thinks this is O.K. But he also thinks you don't have to say everything you mean. He thinks this is my main failing. I plan to work on that when I turn 45.

I have also learned to mean what I say, if you see the difference. I learned this lesson the hard way. Here's what happened. Christmas was coming up and I had a big surprise for my husband. I can't even remember what it was, but it seemed like a great big surprise at the time. Now, I was dying to talk about it. I wanted him to ask me for hints and try to worm the information out of me. This is not his style. He is not an information wormer. If I want to tell him something I am more than welcome to do so, and if I don't, well, he knows when Christmas is and has no problem waiting. Back to the point. In an effort to get him to try to figure out what I had for him I said, "Let's don't get each other anything this year." I think I was trying to get him to say, "But I already bought you the most fantastic present you ever imagined." I don't know. I was young. He said, "Alright." Of course, I knew, just knew, that he was pulling my leg.

I knew it right up until 9:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve. I was so excited I was ready to burst. "Don't you want to shake your present, Mike?"

"I thought," he rumbled, looking at me out from under scowling eyebrows, "that we weren't getting each other presents."

"Why in the world would you think that?" I asked, completely dumbfounded.

"Because," he said, the voice of reason, "that's what you said."

Well, he was right. Absolutely right. That is what I had said. Without a doubt. So that Christmas I received a dyed macaroni necklace, a glittery pinecone, a reindeer made out of a dog biscuits and a microwave egg poacher. And I also learned an important lesson. When it comes to Christmas around this house, it doesn't pay to be coy. If you are hoping for something particular you ought to say so. Frequently and in a loud, clear voice. But now that I don't get them anymore, I also know that some of the very best presents I ever received were lopsided and sticky and glittery.
Elizabeth Bussey Sowdal
"The Girl Detective's Theory of Everything" - April 17, 2006 Column

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