Relationships are complicated matters. They exist between men and women, mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, old and young, Republicans and Democrats (I didn’t say all relationships were good), and various other sorts. Many experts claim the art of a good relationship of any incarnation is really the art of compromise – give and take; find a balance; share.
But what about relationships where no compromise is needed? Find your opposite, and the relationship will flourish, at least in culinary matters.
Take Jack Sprat and his wife. They were early experts in this sort of thing. Since Jack could not eat fat and his wife could not eat lean, they saved money on expensive meat and nothing was wasted – pure gold in this economy! No one was upset that the other got the bigger half, both were quite satisfied, and no one complained that there were poor children starving in Somalia that would do anything for a morsel of the leftovers.
However, there may have been problems in this seemingly perfect relationships. Like what happens when Jack’s wife asks him how she looks in her new dress?
“Does this dress make me look fat?” she asks.
“Well, that’s all you eat,” he replies.
Poor Jack. He obviously missed the course in college on Interpretations of the Female Mind. Suddenly he finds himself on the receiving end of the Silent Treatment, so he does what most guys would do.
“What’s wrong?” he asks, really wondering what the big deal is.
“Nothing,” she says, when she really means, “Everything you emaciated fool!”
Actually, any guy reading this should take note: If a woman ever answers “Nothing” to that question or says “I’m fine” when asked if she’s okay, you know the answer is definitely not nothing and she is definitely not fine. Ever.
“Okay then,” says Jack. “I’m going to watch the game.”
Now Jack is in big trouble. His first mistake came in believing that nothing is wrong. His second was saying he was going to watch the basketball game. He might have redeemed himself a little bit if he said he was going to mow the lawn or finally fix the garbage disposal, but he had to say he was going to watch the stupid game.
There will be tension-filled moments (maybe hours), until Jack’s wife finally reads her latest issue of Cosmopolitan. “136 Ways to Communicate Better with Your Man” will tell her that she should tell him what is on her mind and that “nothing” is the worst possible answer she could give.
Mrs. Sprat will dry her tears and walk into the living room. She is ready to tell Jack what is wrong, but she decides to do it with 1.3 seconds left in the game. The score is tied and Jack’s team is dribbling down the court. The ball is in the team’s best 3-point shooter’s hands, and just as he throws the ball up, Mrs. Sprat grabs the remote and turns off the television. Jack lets out a painful moan, something along the lines of “NOOOooooooooooo!” as if he were on television himself and his life were set to slow motion for emphasis, and Mrs. Sprat is completely confused. Now she’s the one who doesn’t know what’s wrong. Back in college while Jack was skipping Interpretations of the Female Mind, she was skipping her Male Values class. She finally realizes her error, but instead of turning the television on, she says, “Can’t you just watch the highlights on SportsCenter tonight?”
Of course he can. He can watch it twelve times a day if he wants, with added episodes now that it’s the middle of the tournament. But it is just not the same as watching it happen in the moment. Obviously, Cosmo forgot to tell Mrs. Sprat the importance of picking the most opportune moment for communicating with your man. At this point Jack’s cell phone has buzzed six times with various forms of “Dude! Did you see that! He hit the buzzer-beater from half-court! Instant classic!” and “We won! Beers later!” and Jack further annoys Mrs. Sprat by checking them every time they come through.
What is a couple to do? Both have committed errors due to apparently innate misunderstandings of the opposite sex. Mrs. Sprat ran to the kitchen to find the chocolate she has been hiding for just such occurrences. Jack fumbles with the remote in the hopes that he can catch some of the highlights before ESPN moves onto the next game. He doesn’t feel like waiting for the next episode of SportsCenter, and at this point something in his gut tells him it may not be a good idea to watch any more basketball tonight.
Suddently the couple is mirroring their culinary cooperation. Nothing has been shared. Nothing has been truly communicated. But both seem to have found a way to satisfy themselves.
So now what happens? They eat dinner in silence. Thankfully they don’t have to share anything, nor do they have to ask the other to pass a dish. They go to bed in silence. Mrs. Sprat lets out a few exaggerated sighs, but Jack fails to notice. He is sound asleep and snoring before she can dramatically turn her back to him in the bed, pulling all of the covers with her. The next morning she wakes up, still holding a grudge against Jack, but he has forgotten all about their spat. He is still excited that his team won on a great play by his favorite player (that he snuck down to watch on SportsCenter at 3am).
As Jack eats his RaisinBran with water, he notices Mrs. Sprat is unusually quiet.
“What’s the matter, darling” he asks.
Will he ever learn?