Renaissance Column

OCTOBER 1999 | VOL. 3, NO. 10



CRIS COHEN

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CRIS COHEN is a staff humor columnist for Renaissance Magazine. His work is also published weekly in three California newspapers and four online humor magazines.


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Not-So-Straight Talk

CRIS COHEN

Sometimes my wife, Michele, and I just can't communicate the most basic of ideas to each other. And I'm not using euphemisms here. We're not like those couples who say that they have difficulty communicating when what they really mean is that they frequently throw sharp objects at each other and have a tendency to aim toward the head and neck region.

Those people should try to be a little more honest. I mean, don't go into full details and hour long stories about how you almost got divorced over an argument about the capitol of Paraguay. But if you're not going to outright lie and say things are fine; if you're going to throw out a small amount of honesty and say you've had some rough spots; then you might as well come out and say that you yell at each other but haven't used any weaponry yet. Because if a friend tells you she and her husband went through some rough spots, you're automatically going to assume the worst - and by worst I mean gun play. You're not going to hear the term "rough spots" and think they just had a disagreement over the color of the bath mats. You're going to assume they beat each other with the bath mats.

But that's not what happens with Michele and I. No, we will be in the middle of a conversation and suddenly spend twenty minutes trying to clear up a minor point, like whether she said "earrings" or "Herpes." Now this might seem trivial, but if you're trying find out what a friend got for her birthday, this can be very important. Although to be honest, the subject of these conversational detours usually isn't very important. It's usually along the lines of Michele explaining how someone she knew had a near death experience and me stopping her halfway through the story to ask her to clarify whether she said the person almost walked into a bread knife or a filet knife. Thankfully we usually only have these moments when we're alone. Because if this happened while a friend was riding with us in our car, he would probably opt to leave the vehicle, even if we were passing an oil tanker on the highway at the time.

What's really screwy about this is that Michele and I often read each other's thoughts. By noticing only the most minute changes in expression, she can tell if something is bothering me. Likewise I can usually tell when she finds a particular food to be really disgusting. But the point is that we're usually on the same wavelength. We understand each other really well. We are a couple. And yet the other night we spent at least five minutes in confusion over sliced cheese.

You see, we were trying this new cheese that a friend had recommended to us. This is a big thing because some kinds of cheese frighten me. For instance, Michele's mom, Carol, had arranged for a basket of food to be awaiting us where we stayed for our honeymoon. One of the items in the basket was this can of spray cheese, which I found completely disgusting and yet ate continuously for a week and a half. It's taste was just kind of addicting, but the method of delivery really scared the hell out of me. I mean, the cheese came out of a nozzle. Pressurized air was needed to remove the cheese from its packaging. And maybe it's just me, but I don't think any dairy product should be combined with thrust. NASA doesn't fire milk out of the booster rockets, why should cheese explode from a can?

So anyway, Michele and I were in the car and trying the sliced cheese, when I asked if she wanted to give me her second piece of plastic wrapping to throw away. This is because I thought she took two slices and thus had two pieces of plastic. But of course she had only taken one slice and had no idea what I was talking about. In fact she was probably wondering what kind of chemical imbalance the cheese was causing me to have.

And did we clear this simple matter up in a hurry? No, we went back and forth trying to figure out this elusive riddle. The people on the Manhattan Project didn't debate the possible side effects of a nuclear explosion this long. This discussion took us, what seemed like, the better part of Tuesday.

And once again, this is not what we're like 99% of the time. We have great discussions about politics, culture, and art all the time. It's fun. It's interesting. It's not this stupid. Sure, eventually we figured it out, but there was some serious time wasted. So if you ever ask us how our relationship is going and we say that we've had some rough spots, don't assume the worst. We probably just mean we had a lengthy discussion about cheese.

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