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A Course in Wife Sciences
In the game of marriage, there are players, and there are men

By Gene Weingarten
Sunday, October 17, 2004

This quiz is only for people who are married or are in any sort of live-in relationship with a Significant Other. Everyone else may proceed directly to today's Dining Guide, which is excellent.

Please answer each question before going on to the next one. You may not change an answer once you have made it.

One recent Saturday, returning to my D.C. house after running errands in Bethesda, I parked my car on the street behind my house. Carrying a load of dry cleaning and some other packages, I walked through a warren of alleys to my back door. The door was locked. This is a door that locks only from the inside.

Knowing that my wife was at home, I rapped on the door, then banged harder. No answer. My house is vertical; it was likely that she was in a remote part of it, unable to hear me. (We tend not to leave this door locked if we are home, to prevent just this sort of circumstance.) The dog heard me knocking, but, as you know, my dog is essentially a piece of meat, useless in a situation like this. There would be no barking or Dragging of Mom by Her Apron Strings. Harry thudded his tail against the floor, the universal semaphore of a dog glad to see you, but not glad enough to stir from a nap.

So, I had to walk another two blocks around the corner, schlepping some of my belongings, to get in the front door.

Question One: How did this make me feel?

(a) Really, really angry at my wife.

(b) A little annoyed with my wife.

(c) Not really all that bad, actually. Pretty good, in fact.

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The correct answer to Question One was (c), pretty good.

Question Two: Why did I feel pretty good?

(a) Because it was a nice day, and I didn't really mind the walk. Hell, I can use the exercise.

(b) Because I am not a petty person, and, besides, I love my wife so intensely that I find it really hard to blame her for anything and was simply looking forward to her company.

(c) Because I had been handed a painless yet clear-cut reason to be justifiably aggrieved, which would give me an opportunity to deliver a mild rebuke accompanied by generous and loving forgiveness -- a win-win situation in the complex but always entertaining game called marriage.

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The correct answer to Question Two was, of course, (c).

When I entered the house, I confronted my wife, and, in an extremely forgiving and charitable and good-natured, guy-type way, ever-so-gently criticized her for her thoughtlessness, while making it clear in words and/or substance that it was really no big deal, and that, considering my love and respect for her, I was quite prepared to ignore this lapse because of her many other fine qualities, including how nice her hair always smells.

As I was speaking, I noticed she was taking a quick mental inventory of everything I was carrying -- everything that I'd had to lug the extra two blocks -- which made me feel even more righteous and noble.

Then, moments after I had finished speaking -- less than a second after the last syllable had left my lips -- my wife said: "Why didn't you call me from the back door with that cell phone?"

Question Three: Who won this event?

(a) This is a marriage, not a boxing match. There was no "event."

(b) Me.

(c) My wife.

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Yes, the answer is (c).

My wife won, handily, because in an instant -- without even issuing a single declarative sentence -- she managed to invalidate any annoyance I might have felt. At the same time, she was able to use the entire episode to demonstrate my boneheadedness while not specifically making that point or pressing that advantage, thereby demonstrating her charity, a chit that could be redeemed at a future date.

Question Four: Why was my wife able to do this so effortlessly?

(a) Because she is smarter than I am.

(b) Because she is a trial lawyer.

(c) Because she is a woman.

(d) All of the above.

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Answer: I'll leave that to you.

Gene Weingarten's e-mail address is weingarten@washpost.com. Chat with him online Tuesdays at noon at www.washingtonpost.com.

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