Impossible questions

I’m usually pretty good at figuring out the right answer or deflection for horribly loaded questions posed to me by my wife. Whenever she asks something like, “Does this shirt look good on me,” I mentally run through a few possible scenarios and judge which response has the best chance of preventing an Exorcist-level implosion. For instance:

  • if I say “Yes” without hesitation, she may suspect that I did not really consider the question to offer an actual opinion and that I am just saying what I think she wants to hear because I fear her and think she’s fat.
  • if I say “Yes” after pausing for exactly two seconds, she may suspect that I supressed my highly negative gut reaction and caught myself just in time to save my own skin.
  • if I say, “Not really. But it’s the shirt, not you,” she may take a quick inventory of every item of clothing she owns in a similar color and style and decide that I must hate half her wardrobe.
  • if I say, “Didn’t you wear that shirt last time?” I may avoid having to answer the question entirely as I get her trying to remember what she has worn on past occasions. A bonus is that it makes her think I notice and remember what she wears.
  • if I say, “That shirt has always looked good on you,” she will understand that I have dutifully noticed her looking good in the past, and that I have already considered the question and have reached a reasonable and acceptable conclusion. This is a good answer, but also a huge risk because it works only if the shirt is not brand new.

After I run through these possible answers in a matter of miliseconds, I choose the one that best fits the situation. Like I said, I’m usually very good at this.

About six weeks after Tater was born, I was sitting in a recliner in our living room reading a book while Mrs. Happy was getting ready for a Christmas party with some old coworkers. After a few minutes, she entered the living room with a flourish and asked, “So, do I look like I just had a baby?”

I could think of only three possible answers to this question: yes, no, and “You look beautiful.” I immediately discarded the “beautiful” answer as a transparent deflection. A transparent deflection is worse than a wrong answer in most cases. But before I could answer yes or no, I needed to figure out what she was really getting at. I thought of the possible outcomes:

  • me: Absolutely!
    she: Good. Then my stomach no longer looks like it’s housing a beach ball.
  • me: Absolutely!
    she: So I have the flabby, stretched-into-shapelessness physique of one who has recently given birth. Is that what you’re saying?
  • me: Absolutely not!
    she: Yes! I have regained my pre-pregnancy shape.
  • me: Absolutely not!
    she: So I still look like I have a whole person growing in my abdomen?

As I was trying to determine exactly what she needed to hear, three seconds elapsed. Truthfully, I thought she looked beautiful, but from her perspective I seemed to be crafting a diplomatic proclamation rather than declaring an obvious truth, which meant I thought she looked hideous.

For the record, the answer she was looking for was, “No, you don’t look like you just had a baby. You look fabulous.” But even knowing the right answer, I still get confused when I think about the question.

6 thoughts on “Impossible questions

  1. You could follow the lead of a new candybar commercial and just stuff food in your mouth whenever she asks something that can only lead you into implosion.

    I’m also working on a device that will be embedded in my palm that I can use to trigger the phone to ring when the wife puts me in that type of situation.

  2. “Oh give me a break, Freckles. You’re HOT; why even bother asking?” ::evil pause:: “Is this the point where we kiss?”

  3. I guess there are some advantages to staying single after all. :)

    I like Rey’s “Sawyer” impression, lol.

  4. This article made me chuckle, as it reminded me of a conversation that my boyfriend and I had recently, discussing our different mental states in various situations. As I phrased it, the logical part of my mind tends to put up an “Out to Lunch” sign and the remaining part simply sits back and says, “Oh bother”. He went on to say that his mind races with so many scenarios and ideas as he tries to figure out how to say something. When I read this, I had to shake my head. It must be universal. ;)