Never having given any thought to marriage, and having
no real hope of finding a good wife anyway, it probably
seems a bit unfair that I should end up with, quite
possibly, the greatest wife any man has ever had in the
entire history of marriage. I can not deny the injustice in
that, but, it really is not my doing. Despite myself, and
against all odds, I now find myself married and as happy
as a man of my particular temperament can possibly be.
I can not tell you how that came about, but I can tell you
this much, being married to the right woman is the best
thing that can happen to any man. Believe me. It just
makes so many things so much easier, it makes the
unbearable nearly bearable, and, with any luck at all it
elevates the man. It may even have elevated me a bit. I’ve
written this book in an attempt to prove that.
Unfortunately, it probably also proves that I am not the
excellent husband my truly excellent wife deserves.
Admittedly, I am merely a very very good husband.
Nonetheless, I am now a respectable guy, and that’s
sayin’ somethin’. The odds against that ever happening
were pretty good.
Because I’m an average guy, I’ve stood my ground many
a terrible time in the past, chin up, unbending, and
watched as one wonderful woman or another slipped
quietly out of my life. (Don’t worry, that won’t be your
last opportunity to sneer knowingly or snort derisively.)
Alternatively, I’ve taken those extra little steps necessary
to drive them out and, one time or two may have done
what was required to destroy things utterly (which,
strangely, was a great deal less dramatic than some of
the amiable partings).
An old wino once explained my actions to me.
I was sitting on a park bench shortly after purposefully,
methodically, dismantling an affair that had been
nothing less than a gift from Heaven, and I happened to
wonder out loud why I was such an idiot. He mumbled,
“Dog’s in, he wants out; dog’s out, he wants in.” I looked
at him startled. “It’s that simple,” he assured me. And I
had to admit, for me, it has pretty much always been
When this dog was in, he always wanted out, sometimes
secretly, sometimes desperately…but, in my mind, it
was always for her sake (of course). When this dog was
out, he inevitably found himself gazing at couples as
they strolled along together hand-in-hand under the
sheltering trees, and thought longingly about how good
that would feel…for a while, before the inevitable
grumbling about naïveté and self-deception kicked in.
After all the muttering had subsided, this dog always
wanted in again, sometimes secretly, sometimes
desperately, but always achingly. So, marriage, and the
happy stability it provides, came as a completely
unexpected twist in my otherwise tumultuous,
directionless life of love. Now that I’m a married man—by
what magic I cannot say—I have no greater desire than
to simply stay put.
I’d like to hear that old wino’s explanation for that.
Set me up so that I can spend every moment of every
day for the rest of my life in the company of my very
dear wife, and I will do that with eagerness and ever-
ascending joy. I’m pleased to report that she feels the
(Yes, I checked.)
So, I’ve changed, and continue to change, and I have
little doubt that in time I will—simply by her presence in
my life—eventually becoming the embodiment of
tranquility that my dear wife once mistakenly thought I
was. Of course, that would have come about inevitably,
and quite naturally I suppose, once I’d become just too
old and weak to maintain my normal thorny
belligerence. My theory here is that a good marriage
expedites the process. Such is the power invested in
that arrangement. It’s insidious.
I feel as though I’m being drawn to a higher level.
(Please go back and read that again,
but this time without the mocking dreamy falsetto.)
A very good friend of mind once wrote to me saying, “I
must note that you tend to idealize many women – I
think you quite fancy them, you bounder.” In this book I
will demonstrate that there is not a single aspect which I
have admired in any woman that is not embodied in my
own very dear wife. She has all that and more. My wife is
a remarkable creature who requires no idealization.
And then of course, there’s me.
How a Good Marriage Can Nudge an Unwary Man
in the Direction of Civility
Henry Edward Fool
One evening, wishing for some wine, which I drink for effect, not
affectation, I said to my very dear wife, “Pass me that small glass, por favor.”
She handed me the glass and remarked, “You don’t know how appropriate
what you just said is. This glass was made in Spain.”
I laughed and said, “I never know how appropriate anything I say is.”
But, she’s been helping me with that.
It’s part of the reason I married the woman.