On this, the week of my wedding anniversary, I would like to take this opportunity to explain why my opinion no longer matters (if it ever really did in the first place).
My wife and I had been craving a little couple time, so we decided to take an overnight trip to remind ourselves that we continue to like each other when not yelling at our kids to finish their college applications (or, more accurately, when they’re not yelling at us).
My wife took the lead in planning. This is not shocking.
The evening before our anniversary, she opened her laptop and asked for my attention. “Take a look at these two restaurants”, she said, “and let me know which one you think we should choose.”
The first one, which for the purposes of this illustration we’ll call Farm-To-Table Hotspot For Hipsters, is a farm-to-table hotspot for hipsters. The second (let’s call it The Delicious Restaurant Of My Dreams) is a more classic upscale restaurant with a larger menu that did not include smoked carrots or serve their food in mason jars.
I perused the menu for each. But sensing an opportunity for chivalry, I waited. “They both look great, why don’t you pick what you’d like.”
She looked annoyed. “I don’t want to pick. I want you to pick.”
Granted this momentary authority, I took a closer look. In the end, I decided the second restaurant would be more fun and would probably make a better cocktail, and let her know that I chose that one. “Great”, my wife replied, and went about her business.
The next day arrived, and as we put on our jackets to leave for our celebration, my wife looked my way. “By the way,” she said with classic nonchalance, “I decided we’re going to the Hipster Hotspot.” She walked out the door with no further comment (or chance to respond).
And, of course, I knew that would happen.
After decades together, my wife and I have an easy routine when it comes to decision-making. Her role is to research meticulously, declare herself incapable of making a choice without input, and to provide me with a maximum of three choices. That’s a deliberate number. Any more than three possibilities would increase the likelihood that I would become distracted and check my phone to see how my fantasy football teams are doing.
My role is ostensibly to serve as a kind of tie-breaker, expressing my opinion by choosing one of the options in front of me and giving the strong impression that I have been consulted on any and all major decisions.
This role is a myth.
My real role is to try to figure out which of the three choices placed in front of me is the one my wife really wants. And after so many years, I have identified a trio of “tells” that allow me to determine which choice she is really looking for:
- THE ORDER: the one she wants usually comes first. Or sometimes third. NEVER in the middle.
- THE BOUNCING EYEBROWS: if I discuss the merits of a choice that she doesn’t truly prefer, her eyebrows will begin to bounce up and down rapidly in disapproval. This is usually accompanied by a kind of shoulder shrug if she’s not being careful.
- THE PITCH: when discussing the choice that she favors, the pitch in my wife’s voice is raised ever so slightly. This is very subtle, and only the dog and I can pick it up. If the dog’s head tilts slightly while she presents an option, that’s the one she wants. Really, she should just ask the dog.
This process needs to be conducted carefully and without attracting attention. It is imperative to maintain the internal narrative that my wife, while excellent at finding options, lacks the fortitude to make important decisions.
In reality, she knows exactly what she wants. And I know that she knows. But does she know that I know that she knows? I don’t know.
But what I do know is this: my opinion, while welcomed, does not really matter. Or it matters…just not to her, because she usually thinks I’m an idiot. And perhaps she’s right.
In truth, I’m completely fine with this scenario. I’ve come to the realization that I mentioned at the beginning of this essay. It is my formal opinion that I’m likely better off not really having one, at least not at home. And if you really think about it, my lack of household input saves me a heck of a lot of time and energy, save for the initial appearance of strained and concentrated effort during “deliberations”.
Even better, it’s clearly a conscious choice I’m making not to make any choices. And it’s a choice I’m proud to have made, all on my own.