For the Neanderthal of the human species (aka the male) it's way beyond time he's learned that no means no. I consider myself more fully evolved than my fellow homo stupidus in that I even know when yes means no.
Carol is as laid back a southern Californian as you can imagine, but with her New York pedigree, it's made for some interesting comminglings when it comes to expressing her wishes, especially when those wishes encompass the negative. That I've been a quick study in discerning the “no” at the center of her various initial affirmations or accommodations is probably why she's spread around her conclusion that I am a “keeper.”
Like the time we were “discussing” whether to replace the carpet in our new home. I thought it wasn't necessary. “Let's see what we think after we've been in the house for a few days,” Carol responded charitably. Turned out the few days was merely to assemble some competitive quotes on new carpets. “We were never going to keep the old ones, were we?” I asked. She sheepishly shook her head in what was one of the last times she would ever shake it sheepishly again.
Over the few months we've lived together, I've learned to discern the “no” that lurks behind the nurturing nod or the comforting, unctuous eyebrows. I've learned that the wrinkled nose and squinty eye response to my pointing to where my comedy legends wall hangings might go actually means, “never in a million years.” The pensive, “ah, possibly,” that comes after I suggest the addition of another patio furnishing, actually means, “It's a patio, Reid, not a garage sale.”
I've come to see, too, that the closer Carol gets to uttering an actual and literal “no,” the thinner the ice I'm on, and the closer I inch to the day when she no longer feels a necessity to even consult on a matter of decorative choice. Recently, I thought I'd show my continuing interest in beautifying our new abode by offering my thoughts on a color for new curtains. Her choice, on the other hand, had arrived via UPS that same day.
What I've learned since is to simply take the fatalistic approach. In positioning the new patio heater, I looked plaintively back at Carol and said, “That's not going to go there is it.” Her sheepish smile was the only response I needed to acknowledge my marching orders.
But I know that Carol is not the domineering type, so I've taken to making suggestions I know ahead of time will hold no water. “We want to stack wood (for our chimenea) on the porch rather than the patio, right?” I asked her recently.
“Yes,” she said, the unusual affirmation beaming across her face like a meteor shower. I am learning, though, just how easy life is when the entire decision-making apparatus can be disassembled and put away in the shed as a nostalgic life relic, like a yearbook or track medal.
The other night, Carol spied me staring motionless into my closet. “What's the matter,” she asked. “I'm looking for something to wear that you won't object to.” She suggested the black turtleneck. “It'll go nicely with your sportcoat.”
The following evening we were going out again, and this time I immediately reached for the black turtleneck. “Oh, not that, Reid.”
“But it goes with the sportcoat.”
“You're not wearing the sportcoat tonight, Reid.”
It's probably no more than simply a matter of imagining what I might wear, and then imagining myself changing my mind.