The Nine of Hearts

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By Gene Weingarten
Sunday, August 28, 2005

Like most men, I dream about the ideal woman. I have exacting standards, and I've decided to finally lay them out, clearly and concisely, at considerable personal risk:

(1) I want an animal lover. But no ordinary animal lover. I require a woman whose devotion to animals is greater than my own, a devotion entailing incomprehensible personal sacrifice. Imagine, for example, a woman who is allergic to sunflower seeds, an allergy so profound that it has hospitalized her, but who would still feed wild birds, even though it means returning to the house with eyes the color of maraschino cherries, swollen to resemble aviator goggles.

(2) I want a pragmatic, levelheaded woman, but not a soulless machine. My ideal woman would have vulnerabilities, and would sometimes succumb to temptation. For example, when out of town, on business, in a cheerless hotel room, with only the drone of late-night TV for company -- an attractive female, alone, lonely, in an unfamiliar town, with certain womanly needs and desires -- she might let her better judgment slip. And I would forgive her, and love her all the more for it, even when confronted some weeks later with indisputable evidence of her misjudgment, when the Ronco® solar-powered rotisserie oven, pizza maker and shrimp de-veiner arrived in the mail. Or the jumbo dog bed made from space-age fabrics lovingly woven by blind Bahamian orphans.

(3) I require a great cook, but not one who is a slave to recipes. In culinary matters, my ideal woman would have to be spontaneous and inventive. If, for example, I did the grocery shopping and lost my list, and forgot my cell phone, and returned home with only an eggplant, coffee beans, Jujubes, two cantaloupes, canned sardines, knockwurst and a package of pita bread, my ideal woman could figure out how to turn them all into a sumptuous meal for her and me and the archbishop of Canterbury, whom, I just remembered, I invited for dinner. Because this sort of scenario is more likely than it sounds.

(4) I require a woman who knows her place, which is pretty much that of a benevolent despot, czar of everything important in our lives, owing to my spectacular incompetence. This woman would need to accept her role stoically, but with good humor, and wield her power with sensitivity and diplomacy; this would be necessary so that I would never realize just how pathetic it is, say, to be issued only a single check at a time, to be carried in my wallet and deployed only in emergencies, the way Barney Fife, the inept sheriff's deputy from the old "Andy Griffith Show," was issued only one bullet.

(5) My ideal woman would be able to drive a stick shift and maneuver a car like Andretti, but would refuse, ever, to learn how to change a tire, on the grounds that, in an emergency roadside situation, any woman who cannot induce a man to help her is not really a woman. I would never be entirely comfortable with that reasoning, but I would find it exciting, somehow.

(6) My ideal woman would appreciate elegant jewelry, but also proudly wear certain items I bought her, such as a 14-karat gold Richard Nixon pendant, or a prom-type pin personally inscribed with the date that we both got severe diarrhea together in a Mexican hotel room.

(7) My ideal woman would understand, intuitively, certain things that will forever elude me -- things that nonetheless contribute to a stable, orderly, civilized and sane existence. These things include, but are not limited to: (a) why it is necessary to make one's bed before undoing it to go to sleep; (b) why a slab of meat, consumed over the sink with root beer, is not a meal; (c) why certain colors of clothing cannot ever be worn in combination -- Yuck, ew, are you blind? -- but other colors of clothing, which look exactly the same to me, are yin and yang. And yet this woman, as solid and dependable as she is, would still retain certain endearing idiosyncrasies, such as getting dressed sock-shoe, sock-shoe.

(8) My ideal woman would know that I am not as funny as I think I am.

(9) My ideal woman would accept in me many disreputable eccentricities, resisting the wifely urge to amputate them for fear of what worse things might leak out from the surgical wound. Above all, she would not lose her sense of self, insisting -- quite reasonably -- that I never use my public platform to invade her privacy without her consent.

I'm worried about that last one, to tell you the truth. I've never before violated it, not since I married her 25 years ago today.

Gene Weingarten's e-mail address is weingarten@washpost.com.

Chat with him online Tuesdays at noon at www.washingtonpost.com.


© 2005 The Washington Post Company

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