Are you Tart or Sweet?

By Erika Hoffman

“Move on! You are blocking the aisle with your cart,” I said to the guy in front of me who was causing a traffic jam while he waited on the Costco lady to serve him from her warming plate at her station. She raised her hair-netted head and stared at me, the epitome of a harried shopper. She said nothing to me but arched her eyebrow.

“I’m his wife so I get to talk to him like that,” I said, as explanation. I felt slightly embarrassed. I wondered if she actually thought I’d address a stranger like that! I’d never speak to a stranger the way I do my husband of thirty-five years. And never would I be so rude to someone else out in public.

“Does she always treat you like that?” the lady with the Saran-wrapped hands asked my husband as she handed him a napkin and a speared meatball. He nodded affirmatively and plopped the steaming, savory meat chunk in his mouth. I laughed.

That night I saw advertised on Facebook an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond, and it was entitled “Be Nice” with the subtitle: “Are you nicer to strangers than you are to the person you live with?” I knew I wasn’t alone.

Why is it when I go out to dinner with another couple I listen with rapt attention to my friend’s lame stories or her husband’s even lamer tales, and yet when my own spouse launches into an anecdote that might not be any worse than those I tuned in for, I immediately search the table for the condiments and pipe up amid the punch line with an intrusive “Pass the butter!” I look toward him. “Please.”

Sometimes, I wish I could adopt the affect of Nancy Reagan who gazed at her husband as if he were perpetually standing under the mistletoe – day after day, year after year, decade after decade. Me, I sort of give my husband a passing nod even when he’s dressed handsomely in white tie and tails, and then I quip, “You forgot a haircut, didn’t you?”

Why is it the people who mean the most to us in life sometimes get our scraps of attention, the remnants of our day after we have expended our energy on other pursuits, like careers or raising a family or indulging in a hobby or just out chasing happiness by shopping, athletics or other transient activities? Often, the person who makes our world go round doesn’t know it because we fail to tell him. Or her! We feel they know. Most likely, they do. We don’t want to be the insincere type who ends every phone chat – even if it’s the recital of a grocery list – with a quick “Love ya.” That same toned ubiquitous “Luv ya” is said to almost everyone nowadays. Nor do we desire to emulate the couple who despise each other but end every conversation with blowing kisses into the receiver. Phony baloney, as-the-stomach-turns adorations we don’t seek.

And yet, “Bah! Humbug!” or its modern day equivalent seems okay. Maybe the insincerity is no worse than the rudeness that is used by monogamous couples because they are too weary, grumpy, jaded, lazy or conceited to gaze at their beloved with admiration and speak in soft loving tones and use language that is deservingly kind.

Every year I make resolutions. Usually they involve weight loss and exercise or organizing closets and making to-do lists. This year I’m changing that. Come Valentine’s Day, I’m going to treat my spouse like “a stranger in the night” across a crowded room, like the twosome in the Sinatra song. Instead of talking to him the way an exasperated animal control man might scold when corralling a bucky goat, I will speak so politely to my husband that the serving ladies at Costco will think we’d never laid eyes on each other until they spotted us groping – for the last crab dipped cracker across a crowded food cart!

About this writer

  • Erika Hoffman Erika Hoffman views most travel experiences as educational experiences and sometimes the lessons learned are revelations about oneself.

You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

One Response to “Are you Tart or Sweet?”

  1. There is much truth to this essay. My husband uses my tart mouth to his advantage when he;s at Costco. “See how she treats me?” We are very happily married and he is over fed by the Costco women who feel sorry for him.

Leave your mark with style

Comment in style

Stand out from the crowd and add some flare beside your comment.
Get your free Gravatar today!

Make it personal

avatar versus gravatar Close