Spousal JiuJitsu

It seems that the husband and wife are enjoying themselves at the adult party, a rare treat among their sect, parents of young children.  Unfortunately, their elation is marred by the ticking of the husband's wristwatch which the husband watches furtively, though not furtively enough that his wife does not notice.  She finds his behavior appalling since it is clear that he is not paying attention to their circle of friends as they bounce around witty remarks, but rather on some future point that will arrive at exactly the same rate, whether he watches his watch or not.  She scowls at her husband trying to silently signal her disapproval.  As always, he does not notice.  Instead, one of the other wives does and scowls at her, obviously disapproving of the wife's disapproval of her own husband.  This the wife finds extremely irritating and seethes at her husband while she smiles insincerely at the other wife.  What the wife does not know is that her husband is acutely aware of his wife's annoyance with him.  But what is even more annoying than her annoyance is that she is not concerned with the time, pushing all the responsibility off on him.  Of course, he would love to be merrily laughing away the evening with friends, but there is the matter of the children.  They must be picked up at the gymnasium at 10 which means that one of them has to leave by 9:45 which means that whoever is leaving to pick them up will need to begin saying goodbyes by 9:30.  It is already 8:45.  And they still must settle the dilemma of who will be leaving the party to pick up the children.

Earlier in the day, when the sun was out and the coffee was hot, after their stomachs were full of freshly baked scones, and the children were quietly occupying themselves in another part of house, far from the breakfast table, when the subject of the party came up while reading the morning newspaper, each spouse happily deferred to the other.  "I'm sure I'll be ready to leave the party by 9:45.  Why don't you stay, Dear," the husband had offered.  "I've had such a long week at work," replied the wife.  "And you hardly get a chance to be out.  You stay.  I'll pick up the children."  But of course, this was not a true decision since the party was still hours away and much can happen to even the most content couples in the course of a day.

There was the long forgotten lentil dish, which the husband removed from the refrigerator and left in the sink without bothering to dispose of the rotting contents.  There was the wife dropping the mail on the dining room table instead of filing it in its proper place.  There were the children, peeing in the vicinity of the toilet rather than into it.  At some point, the husband left his favorite gadget exposed in the living room where the children took the opportunity to break it.  Someone had left the closet door open and the odiferous ferret had spent the afternoon sleeping on the sweater the wife was planning to wear to the party.  The dishwasher flooded. The children drew blood while fighting over a paperclip. The grandparents called to complain that their children never call them anymore.  A large fly buzzed the kitchen table evading the swatter. Etc.

There had been worse days, though no one in the family could recall exactly when.

Dropping the children off at the gymnasium provided the wife and husband with a much needed respite from their domestic situation.  They went to their favorite restaurant.  The wife decided to look past the facts of her husband chewing too loudly and checking his phone while they were conversing. The husband ignored the facts of his wife repeating each thing she told him three times while aggressively scratching his calf with her naked toes.  The salmon was dry and the salad overdressed. Still, they had to agree, it was a lovely dinner.

But now, at the party, the husband decides to punish his wife for being so annoyed with him.  He resolves to ignore the time altogether and waits for her to take responsibility for the children.  He glares at her, becoming more and more agitated as the minutes fly by without her even once checking the time.  He refuses to believe her claim that since she is a doctor who charges by the hour, she knows what time it is without having to check her watch. But as the time ticks away and the clock hands inch toward a quarter past the hour, and the wife makes no indication that she has any idea of the urgency of the situation, pretending to be enamored with every enlightening detail a rangy and piliferous economist is imparting about some quack named Schumpeter, the husband's blood pressure rises to a dangerous level.  How he hates to interrupt. "So, who is going to pick up the kids?" he squeaks, sliding between his wife and said economist.  "Oh, I'll go," says the wife.  He is so shocked by her sincerely generous tone that all resolve to win the evenings duel dissolves.

"I'll go," he gambles.

"No, really, it's okay. I'm ready to leave."

"No. You stay.  I'll go."

"It's fine. I'm tired. You stay."

"But you are having such a good time," the husband whines.

"Oh, I don't mind at all. Really."

"No, I insist."

"That's silly."

"Why don't we both go," suggests the husband, valiantly.

"Maybe you can drop me and the kids off at home and come back," volleys the wife.


The husband hums as he drives, imagining what a great time he will have at the party, finally, absolved of all responsibility, wife and kids tucked away safely at home.  He heard rumors that there would be dancing at 11.

"So, going straight to sleep?" the husband asks as the wife and children are getting out of the car.

"Actually, I thought I might watch that documentary about the collapse of oil dependent society."

"But we were going to watch that together," the husband moans.  The wife shrugs.

The husband imagines his wife, curled up on the sofa under a blanket with a cup of hot tea. Doomsday scenarios always make her frisky.  His will crumbles.  He puts the car in park, turns off the engine, and follows his wife into the house.


  1. I LOVE this one Jojo. Made me laugh out loud several times. Is this something you witnessed or a fiction/non-fiction combo? XOXOXO
    AK Friend

  2. Lordy, lordy, I've never before laughed so loud at 7 a.m. on a Thursday morning!

  3. Last weekend, at a party (thrown by an economist), Andrew recounted for me a conversation he had just witnessed between a husband and wife, humorous because it is the same conversation we've had so many times ourselves. The husband, hearing Andrew's recounting, called it "spousal jiu jitsu." I don't even know what jiu jitsu is, but I immediately knew what an apt description that was. So I have to thank Jim, though in no way is this meant to be a description of him and his lovely wife. Though they do own a ferret.

    Thanks for reading. Glad it got some laughs. Last night, I caught Andrew reading it. He didn't even crack a smile.

  4. Yes, marvelously funny but oh so painfully close to home (long ago as a young parent)...at points I wanted to stop reading. I admire the courage of such close observation. Me, I'm sticking to the surface.
    Grandpa John

  5. I only now got a chance to read this story. What a playful, yet insightful story. I laughed out loud at times. And smiled at the ending. You have a gift of story telling, Joanna. Thank you for sharing.