I love the Czarina with all my heart and soul, and that’s probably why I give her so much grief. It’s obviously an addiction to adrenaline: walking up to a black rhinoceros and slapping it in the face, giving a Komodo dragon a thorough flossing, or going to a science fiction convention and telling the assembled crowd how the only thing you loathe more than Star Wars is its fandom are easy. Nothing compares to making the right comment that ends with the last things you see for the next six hours are her elbows going for your forehead. When it’s birthday season, it’s time to double down.
Now, the Czarina is exactly three weeks short of three years younger than I am, so she starts worrying about birthday celebrations around April. A lot of this comes from her being part of a very large and very enthusiastic Texas family, where quiet birthday parties are about as alien as dressing for minus-forty temperatures. (I regularly try to describe minus-forty weather to her, having lived through far too much of it in my childhood, and it’s much like describing the concept of “plaid” to Stevie Wonder. Our nephews and nieces love the idea of ice and snow for playing and skiing, but they question the sanity of anybody willingly living in places that stay frozen for eight months out of the year. I do, too, which is why I’m in Texas instead of Ontario.) Her mother reminds her of her obligations around February, so she has six months to fret and fuss to herself over whether she’s neglecting me. Naturally, I regularly steal Bill Cosby’s comment about how his kids can’t sleep at night unless they’ve had a good beating, and this time of the year, I sleep incredibly well.
It usually starts on the weekend, when we have some free time. We both know the rules. She asks for my input while keeping control of the situation, and not giving in to completely unreasonable requests. In turn, I know that if I make completely unreasonable requests for the next hour, for things she knows I don’t really want, I can drop a good humdinger and she’ll agree to it before realizing her folly. I can then look at her, tears running down my legs and into the stormdrains, and weep “But you PROMISED!” until she realizes I’m messing with her again. This fuels the adrenaline addiction, because one slipup, such as using the words “Wyoming real estate” or “threesome,” and I’ll need years of therapy before I regain such advanced skills as color vision and bladder control. Those elbows are sharp.
The other trick is to push the edge of “How does Brundlefly eat?” territory without going over. For instance, the esteemed garden guru Billy Goodnick commented on Facebook a little while back that the best way to take care of the arguments in a marriage about leaving the toilet seat up at night is to use the sink instead. I told him “Naaah. Use the dishwasher a couple of times, and she’ll be GLAD you use the sink.” When the Czarina saw this, her first response was to impersonate her mother and sigh “Oh, PAUL!” My immediate response was “What? I was going to say ‘oven’!”
And so the bladeplay began. She asks innocently “So what do you want for your birthday?”, and before the first syllable can emerge, yelling “And NOT a crocodile monitor.”
She’s obviously learning, as it’s only taken nine years of marriage for her to pick up my opening gambit. “Well, I had something I wanted, but SOMEone wouldn’t let me haul it home.”
“If you bring up that stupid case one more time…you know it’s GONE, right?”
“Yes (sniffle), because someone wouldn’t let me get a truck to pick it up. (sob)”
“Okay. Aside from a crocodile monitor or a glass case, or the case so you can keep the crocodile monitor, what do you want for your birthday?”
That’s when I realized that I didn’t have a good answer. I mean, I have an answer, but finances won’t allow it for a while. I could have a smartaleck answer for her, and then she’d just look at me and say “Mm hm. And you got one of those when you were ten, right?”
*mope* “grumble* *scuff shoes in the dirt* “Yeah.” She’s remarkably perceptive as to the fact that it’s not 1976 any more, damn her.
“I’ll ask again, and I want an honest answer. What do you want for your birthday?”
Okay, then. I told her what I’m telling everyone else: get something for yourself. I’m serious.
To start, I can’t say enough about the intrepid crew at Bat World Sanctuary in Mineral Wells, Texas. Not only am I glad to contribute what I can to help out, but I’m still going through the kilos of bat guano they let me sweep up last year for fertilizer. (Yes, I spent the Czarina’s and my anniversary last year sweeping up bat guano, and I thanked them for the privilege.) It’s definitely time for you to adopt a bat. Every bit you chip in means a bit more guano for my dragonfruit and the Czarina’s roses, so everyone wins.
If you’re more inclined toward the floral, then get me something nice. Get a membership with the International Carnivorous Plant Society or a premium membership with the International Brugmansia and Datura Society. There’s also the North American Sarracenia Conservancy for those with a more particular bent, but all of these will work quite well.
Oh, and don’t listen to the Czarina when she mocks me about wanting a pony. She’s still ticked off at when I introduced her to the works of the exemplary author Jeffrey Somers. Specifically, he has a married life much like mine, only he refers to his wife as “the Duchess”, and she’s much shorter than he is. Otherwise, the beatings are identical. My mistake was noting that I truly fear the day that my wife and Jeff’s wife meet, because they’d probably be friends for life, and then Jeff and I would be in real trouble. I even started using an endearing nickname for the love of my life based on this observation.
Kids, take my word for it. Even in the days before Google, the Czarina would have found out what “MasterBlaster” meant sooner or later. And when the Duchess finds out, I’m going to need skin grafts on the insides of my nostrils from where the two of them yanked out my nose hair.