"My wife doesn’t understand me.” It’s a common complaint uttered by men sitting in bars. Of course, that’s not where I picked it up. I probably overheard it at the barber shop. My problem is that my wife does understand me. Heidi, my proofreader, is also on to me. I try so darn hard to be misunderstood, but women all have my number. I’m so clueless, I don’t even know what my own number is. How the heck did they get it?
The best example is my frequent assertion that after writing more than 1,000 humor columns, it’s time to quit. Whenever I fail to come up with a new idea for my next column, I climb the stairs from my basement office with a long face, slump into a kitchen chair, and let out a huge sigh. “I’m out of ideas,” I tell Mary Ellen. “There is nothing left to write about.” Last week I added that Dave Barry and Art Buchwald both had nervous breakdowns due to the pressure. That last part isn’t true, but my wife is not a Googler, so I may get away with it.
At this point I wanted Mary Ellen to say something like: “Dick, you are creative. Don’t let a little writer’s block get you down. Something will come to you. It always does.” But no, instead, I got: “Maybe you’re right. Just tell all the newspapers you’re quitting.
That’s not the way my mother would have handled this. When I was a kid and felt overwhelmed by Spanish or geometry, Joan would be supportive and motivating. She’d tell me I could do anything if I put my mind to it. Then she’d cook my favorite meatloaf dinner. Why can’t my wife treat me more like a child?
I can’t do what Mary Ellen’s proposing because I don’t really want to stop writing this column (and she knows that), but it would make no sense to argue with her. Remember, it was my stupid idea to begin with.
So I decided to call Heidi, my proofreader. I knew she’d be more encouraging. “Heidi, it’s Dick. I can’t write another column. I’m hanging it up. There are no more original ideas.”
“You’re right. There’s probably nothing funny left to say. It’s been pretty obvious the last few weeks.”
“Wait a second. Aren’t you going to tell me that I’m incredibly prolific and I will eventually come up with a topic, just like I always have for 20 years? You must have something else to add.”
“Oh, yeah! Don’t forget to put that last check in the mail.”
I even texted my sister in New York. Her response: “Oh well, one less thing in my inbox each week. How’s the weather out there?”
Finally, I called Bob, my best friend. He and his wife are big fans and read my stuff every week. Cathy answered the phone and I told her I had probably written my final column. After all these years, I felt I had covered every topic.
“Oh, Dick, why don’t you give it some time and something will come to you,” she said. “You have a great imagination. I know you can do it.”
“Wow, thank you, Cathy. That’s the kind of support I was looking for.”
“You’re welcome. Do you want to come over for dinner tonight? We’re having meatloaf.”