Some things in a marriage are non-negotiable for those who marry well past college age, say, in their 30s.
She WILL have to go to sleep with the TV on whether HE likes it or not.
He WILL have a cigar from time to time, whether she likes it or not.
She WILL insist that they, together, as a rational joint consumer unit, decide on a supermarket after careful analysis, over time, of selection, product placement, pricing, ease of traffic flow and other logical considerations.
He will go where he can find the pickled pig’s feet.
Or the sardines, or Ranch Style Beans, or Vienna sausages — or pick your own secret sin, men, you know you have one.
Most stores have me at meat.
Which is why for the past 16 years my wife has usually handled the shopping, leaving me to clandestinely, under cover of potential embarrassment to her, stalk the Man Aisles at some lesser, off-brand grocer (“off-brand” meaning “anything that is not her store”) to fill my manly gustatory requirements.
For quite awhile now, though, I’ve been encroaching on her territory, stumbling back into my bachelor shopping ways.
It all started quite innocently.
“Look, Hon, I stopped for some Viennies and thought I’d pick up this nice roast while I was at it. Save you the trouble.”
“Let me see that. … You paid that much?” she’ll say. (Price is almost always the source of tension. She’s for lower, always. I gladly pay for ease.)
Here we go. “I’ll be in the man room with a cigar,” I’ll say.
By the time the heavy aroma has dissipated enough for her to get close enough to continue her critique of my shopping skills, she’s forgotten about it. It’s not my fault that the double maduro stogey with the pungent Ecuadoran wrapper, my favorite, is affectionately known in my family as the “sheep (bleep) special.” It’s not my fault that it tastes way better than it smells to others.
Or, I’ll announce proudly “See here, Dear, I saw we were gettin’ low on canned veggies, so I thought I’d pick up some while I was restocking my sardine shelf (actually, my 6-by-4-inch spot on a shelf). See, I got some pickled beets, some sauerkraut and some succotash! And these lima beans. Oh, and Wolf Brand chili.”
And she’ll say: “Succotash! It’s got lima beans in it! And lima beans are lima beans! And chili is not a vegetable!”
Here we go. “I’ll be in the man room with a cigar!” I’ll say with a smile and a faux growl.
All of which is what makes the mostly peaceful, 75-minute, $275 run to the store we just made together an outright miracle. Neither of us threw food, had a fit or opened up a can. There was just a little friction. It was actually fun.
But then, we did go to her store.
I resisted the pig’s feet, so as to not give the checkout gal anything about which to share a knowing glance with my wife. But I did stock up on sardines and Viennas. And my vegetables.
She did not over-instruct me on the honors and benefits that come with regular shopping at her store as compared to shopping at mine.
She did indulge in one impulse buy. Ha!
Cat food. Sigh.
My lone impulse buy was a fresh, whole pineapple. I am such a sucker for them, whole coconuts and anything else that was so exotic when I was little. Like Jiffy Pop. Or Tang.
“I’ll be needin’ you to peel this thing,” I said.
Here we go. “I’ll be in the man room with a cigar ...”