For the second time in three years my corporate spouse has been weighed in the balance sheet and found wanting. Mene mene tekel PNC. Two other times she barely survived takeovers. As the perennially crumb-pecking but nonetheless still-employed sole proprietor hereabouts, I find these transitions unnerving.
“Do you really enjoy this?” I said. “How about going on your own this time?”
“No way!” Marsha snorted, as though I’d suggested becoming a hooker. “The benefits are too good. Besides, I could use some time just to work around the house.”
Uh-huh. I’ve heard this one before.
My wife persistently hoodwinks herself into believing she could be a stay-at-home mom, a housewife of the sort that existed before they got Desperate. As though in some water pipe dream she pictures herself skipping in billowing crinolines to meet the school bus, making chocolate Eiffel Towers, stumping for school levies with a bullhorn. She certainly has the brio for it. Underway, she’s a runaway train. But without a boss to set goals for her and shunt her toward them, she’s like Tootle in the eponymous kid’s book, jumping the rails and playing among the hollyhocks.
So instead of preparing succulent meals of poached cactus wren with saguaro salsa, and chaperoning field trips to Rigoletto, three months into her job hiatus my Flying Scotswoman is, shall we say, losing steam.
With her job chakras blocked, Marsha’s chi has started channeling in strangely obsessive ways, such as needing to find the exact-hued headband before going for a walk, and making up for Walgreen’s as if for an Oval Office visit. One morning I found her whaling away at a waffle iron with a spatula as though hollowing a canoe from a tree trunk, chunks of crusty batter flying like locusts.
Accompanying this new OCD is a harrowing narrowing of interests. Usually ranging from jewelry- and pottery-making to Manhattan Transfer, Marsha’s intellectual scope has suddenly shrunk to a rectangular object spewing fluff.
Full disclosure: American Masters has never loomed large on her TV agenda. Over the years I’ve been subjected to my share of the E! channel and Fashion Police. So I wasn’t especially concerned when, night after night, Vicki and her fellow table-toppling housewives of Orange County, New York, New Jersey, and Atlanta, Bridezillas, or even the Kardashians populated our living room. But then mornings became devoted to Cash Cab marathons, and one evening, instead of the Joe Strummer doc I’d planned on us watching---
“Come here, you have to see this!” Marsha beckoned from the couch. Approaching the sacred video altar, I watched as a man operating a wheeled sling the length of half a telephone pole hurled a round object hundreds of yards into a field of corn stubble, where it exploded.
“Punkin Chunkin?!” I queried.
“It’s really interesting from an engineering standpoint,” she gurgled, eyes glued raptly to the tube.
This is the art history major who swooned with me over Turner’s canvases at the National Gallery in London, and threatened to divorce me if I didn’t promise to visit Giotto’s Brancacci Chapel frescoes in Florence with her one day.
I knew things had reached critical mass, though, when I found myself living with a distaff version of Doctor Dolittle.
Marsha’s family has always taken an anthropomorphic approach to the animal world, treating pets as people and running a veritable soup kitchen for feral creatures. But not even my meshuga mother-in-law talks to her dog the way my wife now does to our cats.
Nicknames--- Figgie, Jazzy, Finny, Nevey, which literally get sung: “Nevey-EVEY!” Talk that would curl Raffi’s lip on Sesame Street: “Time for a snick-snack!” I keep wondering who the hell else is in the house. Finnegan--- aka Popeye, from his habit of squinting--- narrows his eye at me as if to say, “Better sleep with the light on, dude.”
Monster.com, here we come.