What are you thinking? (and other relationship landmines)

If I could go back and give advice to my 14-year-old self it would be this: marriage is worth the trouble but must be managed like chronic disease.

Even now you may be wondering why it is that, no matter how long two people have been together, no matter how much they think they know about one another, there are still thoughts, urges, dreams and deeds we keep secret.

Well, stop it.

While a question like “what are you thinking about right now?” seems perfectly acceptable and adorable to a young moron like yourself, it can be quite asinine and unnecessary when one is 44-and-a-half.

This one question is the cause of more arguments, resentments and divorces than any other single issue in a marriage.

Unless you live with a violent psycopath or someone who can control physical objects with mind power, the question becomes more and more moot as time goes on.

It’s just not worth asking.

Stereotypically, women seem to be the ones asking this question most. (Yes, dear, I know my evidence is anecdotal.) To be fair, the wife only asks once in a while but even then I find myself struggling for an explanation.

“What am I thinking?”

I saw a female stand-up comedian the other night who was going on and on about how men really aren’t thinking about anything. Of course, that’s not the case. The truth is we are thinking all kinds of things. We just don’t want to share most of them.

At any given time, I may be engaged in thinking of a dozen or so appointments, story ideas, work shit, chores, woes, financial obligations, desires, pains—dozens even, maybe hundreds.

The problem is I dare not share most of them for fear of embarrassment, scorn, ridicule … disgust.

Obviously I can’t think of a hundred things all at once. But, as a chronic worrier and avid daydreamer, small business owner, father, husband, writer, brother, bill-payer, household cook and fixer of broken objects, I give it a damned good try.

I have a never-ending swirling stuff-nado of thoughts and ideas that whirls in my mind, stopping at brief intervals for me to think or worry about the next thing I need to take care of or that I can’t take care of or that I wish I could do. (Note to self: Pitch “Stuff-nado” to SyFy Network.)

In addition to all the story notes, book ideas, bill reminders and other serious “dad” stuff going on in there, I have the usual slew of thoughts about urges, bodily functions, stupid jokes, nasty comments and the resignation letter I keep updating.

Oh, it’s not an employment letter of resignation, it’s a resignation letter for life. No, not a suicide note, but a “screw-you I’m outta here” letter I continually edit and have at the ready should I win the Irish sweepstakes or discover a rich uncle who’s frail enough to push down some stairs.

I detest lying but I can’t very well respond with complete honesty to such a question.

“What are you thinking about right now?” she queries.

She’s not ready for that kind of honesty.

“What are you thinking about right now?” she asks.

I can’t very well respond to my dear sweet wife of over twenty-five years by saying that, at that particular moment in time, I’d like the weather lady to feed me strawberry ice-cream while my high school bully—clad in a jester outfit and standing knee-deep in road apples—fans me with a giant feather.

Then again, maybe that’s exactly what I should do.

Maybe being completely, cringingly, horrifyingly, terribly honest would be just the thing to stop all the questions.

I can just see it now.

The wife: “So, whatcha thinkin’?”

Gohs: “My butt itches because I didn’t wipe enough.”

The wife: “W-what?”

Gohs: “I wonder if anyone’s ever peed while skydiving. I don’t mean soiled their pants. I wonder if anyone’s ever whipped it out and drizzled at 20,000 feet.”

The wife: “W-hat?”

Gohs: “You asked what I was thinking right now and that’s what I was thinking about: weather lady, bully, strawberry ice-cream, itchy butt, peeing skydivers. And that’s just a taste of the dark carnival menagerie Vincent Price double-feature going on up there.”

The wife: “I just wanted to know—”

Gohs: “What I was thinking? Yeah, and I told you. I’m also thinking about how Parmesan cheese and spaghetti sauce mixed together smells just like throw-up. I’m wondering if it might rain today and that cats hate the rain and how much I hate cats and that we owe $64.23 to the gas company and that I cannot locate the booger I fished out of my nose a few minutes ago and that your breath smells like garlic and that I want a pet pygmy goat and a hippopotamus. I’m thinking that my armpits smell like taco meat most of the time, even though I haven’t had ground beef in three years. I’m thinking that I need to call the planning commission for a quote on a story I’m doing for the paper and I’m thinking that it’s too hot in here, right now. I wonder what John Waters is doing at this exact moment, and I’m wondering—if you had enough of them—could you make an omelet out of human eggs? And what’s the deal with Greek yogurt? Is it really that delicious? Like $4.29 for a little container, delicious? But most of all I’m wondering if Sarah Palin is a good kisser and whether Chuck Norris likes pickled beets. I’m thinking that thinking about how much my armpits smell like taco meat made me hungry and now I want Taco Bell. I’m also trying to figure out how much it would cost to hire a taxi in Petoskey to order me Taco Bell and drive it all the way out here. Let’s see, 90-mile round-trip plus $12 for the food. And now I’m thinking that none of this matters because Taco Bell isn’t part of my diet plan, and that makes me sad. So, thank-you. You asking me what I’m thinking has made me sad.”

Just do this early in the relationship and she will never ever again ask what you’re thinking about.

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