My life-long friend Rufus says all men lose a portion of their brain when they get married. He refers to it as that portion that controls clear, rational thinking.
It’s not that married men can’t think clearly and rationally. Of course we can. We do it all the time …well, most of the time, anyway. Occasionally, however, when faced with saying the correct thing — or even better yet, saying nothing at all — during a conversation with the wife, our clear, rational thinking gets fogged up.
It is on these times that we married men dread to hear those four little words from our wives.
Rufus is at that age where he has been married for almost three times as long as he was single, and, according to him, you would think that in all those years he would have learned when to keep his mouth from shifting into gear and uttering words that are destined to come back and haunt him. No so. Even a learned man like Rufus, wise beyond his years, slips once in a while.
Rufus and I agree that for his faults, Luvell (one of my adult role models while I was growing up in the Starr’s Mill community of rural Fayette County) was quite wise because he never succumbed to the temptation of settling down, getting married and raising a family.
Luvell just preferred to pass his weekends with single women who would whisper sweet nothings in his ear until his money ran out. He never had a steady girl that I knew of but he always had a girl whenever the occasion called for a female companion.
So, Luvell quite possibly never heard those dreaded four little words. No sir, those words are reserved for husbands. Rufus and I sure have, though.
Most men have this reputation for not asking for directions. According to some women a man will drive around for hours on end, apparently not knowing where he is, and still not stop to ask for help in getting where he is trying to go.
All of this seems to be because it supposedly hurts his male ego to admit that he can’t find his way without asking. Likely it probably goes back to the pioneer days when men made their way through the uncharted wildernesses to places unknown.
It was apparently a source of pride to know you had led the way into unexplored territory and blazed a trail for others to follow.
The story is told a tribe of Indians who wandered around for so long they forgot what tribe they were from. Then one day the chief climbed a hill, looked out across the country and posed the rhetorical question, “Where the heck are we?”
But those who heard him misunderstood and thought he said, “We’re the Heckowee.” So, the Heckowee tribe was born all because someone was too proud to ask for directions.
My lovely wife will tell I do not fall into that group. If I am unsure where I am I will stop and ask directions. I would rather be sure where I am headed than waste time going the wrong way. Often my wife will take me to task for stopping too many times during a trip to ask directions.
“You just asked how to get there about 10 miles back. Just drive a little farther and let’s see if we see something familiar,” she’ll say.
“I’m going to stop and ask again. I’d rather be sure where we are going,” I’ll answer. “Besides, it won’t take but a minute and we could lose more time than that if we’re going the wrong way.”
So, I hardly ever heard those four little words for driving around aimlessly searching fruitlessly for the right route.
Several years ago Gloria and I were traveling to South Carolina one Friday evening. I say “evening” but it was more like night by the time we crossed the state line. In fact, it was more like midnight.
I was tired. She was tired. It was dark and the only lights were the headlights on my truck and those of the vehicles we met as we traveled the dark blacktop back roads.
I had written down the directions of the place where we were headed, along with specific landmarks to look for.
As I drove along straining to see anything slightly recognizable in the dark, Gloria suddenly said, “You just passed the turnoff.”
“Couldn’t have,” I said. “There was supposed to be a big sign just before our turn and I didn’t see a sign.”
It was late and there was no place to stop and ask for directions — not even a convenience store. But a few minutes later we went through a small town and I realized I had gone too far.
I turned around and traveled back the way we came only to get back to the place where Gloria has said to turn and there it was: the sign that I had been looking for.
“Well, how about that?” I said. “It was right here all the time.”
That’s when I heard those four little words all husbands dread. “I told you so,” she said.
Kerlin’s roots go back generations in southwestern Fayette County. He’s a regular columnist for this newspaper.