Without wives, men flounder in wrongness

Until I was married, I didn’t know when I was wrong.

I needed someone in my life to tell me what to do. To tell me if that shirt goes with those pants. To inform me of what foods I like and which I despise.

(I still think she had it backward when it came to beets and Boston cream doughnuts. I’m positive that it was the beets that were yucky and that Boston creams do wonders for my mood.)

Now that I’m a widower, I have no one to tell me where I’m going wrong. I am a free-range disturbance one doughnut away from disaster.

Check my closet — some of my shirts hang with the front facing right, and others face left.

“You can’t do that,” Terry cried. “How do you expect to know which direction to take a shirt off a hanger if you don’t hang it the right way?”

“Like this.” I deftly de-hangered a shirt and shrugged into it.

“Really? That shirt with those pants?”

I shrugged out the shirt. So many lessons.

Did you know you must button specific buttons for a shirt to hang properly? If I recall correctly, it’s the second and the fifth. I always used the collar button until I was informed I was wrong.

Now that I once again live alone, and can’t remember exactly which way shirts face and which buttons to button, I’ve solved the problem. I drape my shirts over the back of a chair. Or drop them on the floor.

It’s like that old joke: If a man says something in the forest, and his wife isn’t there to hear him, is he still wrong? Apparently, yes.

I should have caught on before we were married and I learned that our wedding colors would be periwinkle and sunflower.



I looked. “Oh, blue and yellow!”

“No, no, no. Periwinkle is NOT blue. And sunflower is a very specific shade of yellow.”

It all had me muttering the “The Man’s Prayer” from “The Red Green Show”: “I’m a man, but I can change, if I have to, I guess.”

I tried to learn. Really, I did. I patted myself on the back for buying wheat bread. She says I crave healthy; I bought healthy.

Until that moment, I had no clue that there was fake whole wheat bread.

“That stuff is just white bread colored brown,” she said. “You might as well buy plain old white bread.”

My next mistake was to interpret that as permission to buy the loaf I wanted in the first place.

It turns out that what I wanted — even if I failed to realize it — was million-grains-and-seeds bread, a brown substance peppered with all manner of grit and gravel baked in.

I taught myself this next trick: If you layer the peanut butter about a quarter of an inch thick, and bury it under enough strawberry preserves, you almost don’t notice all those stupid healthy grains and seeds lodging between your teeth.

I also taught myself to fix my sandwiches in the garage, where I was less likely to get caught learning my own lessons.

Nine months have passed since Terry tried to civilize me. I feel myself sliding back into my previous primitive state.

I barely wash dishes or do laundry more than a couple of times a month. My bread comes in brown paper bags with a side of fries. And if I say the sky is blue, I don’t mean cornflower, turquoise, aquamarine or even periwinkle. It’s just blue. Period.

I might be wrong, but who’s to say? A man without a wife is a free-range disturbance one doughnut away from disaster.

Cole would give almost anything to hear one more lecture from Terry on how to hang his shirts. Fill the void. Send instructions to burton.w.cole@gmail.com or on the Burton W. Cole page on Facebook.


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