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home : columnists : columnists November 18, 2017

Having nightmares about a sit-down lunch

By Dick Wolfsie
Funny Bone

Now that Mary Ellen has retired and I'm significantly cutting back on work, we often end up being home together around noon. In many homes, this is called lunchtime, but Mary Ellen and I have never shared a real lunchtime. For all of our marriage, we weren't ever both home during the workweek, and on weekends I usually went to Costco and snarfed up free food samples. In 37 years of our cohabbing, I have never asked Mary Ellen, "What are we having for lunch?" Dinner is another question, although the truth is that I am not fussy. I usually say, "It doesn't matter. Whatever." Mary Ellen once threatened me. "I'm going to leave you for a man who cares what we are having for supper."

For the past few weeks, I have been home recovering from surgery and Mary Ellen was concerned I was losing weight, so she suggested that we start having a noon meal together. The blood drained out of my head. I started to perspire. A twitch developed in my right eye. I had to be careful or she was going to know that I was not happy with the suggestion.

How do you tell someone after 37 years that you really don't want to have lunch together? You see, when you are a man and you are used to eating alone, you develop a few habits that will be hard to break. And my wife, who shares a significant DNA strain with Miss Manners, would never understand. Maybe you will.

I know my Mary Ellen well. She will want have lunch at noon. Traditionally, when I was home alone, I would sit down for lunch sometime between 10:30 and 4:15. Wait, that is a total lie. I have never actually sat down for lunch at home in my adult life. I slapped a sandwich together while standing at the fridge, then ate it on the way upstairs to turn on a cable news show. No plate to wash, no fork to rinse-and by the time I got upstairs, I was pretty much done eating.

I just knew that Mary Ellen was going to want to actually sit for the meal. Like at a real table. And then, I could see it coming: we'd have to use utensils, like forks and spoons.

I even had nightmares about it. I'm sitting at the kitchen table and my wife has just asked me what we should do for a green vegetable. I know this doesn't sound like much of a nightmare, but you can't walk up a flight of stairs and eat sautéed spinach without a plate and a fork. Heaven knows, I've tried.

And the nightmare continues. She suggests we could have a conversation. I love my wife, and I love to talk to her. But not in the daylight. Not during the week. Conversations are okay at dinner; so are napkins, utensils and chairs. But not at lunch. Not starting after 37 years.

The other day, Mary Ellen did prepare a meal at noon. When I walked in the kitchen she said, "I can't believe what you are wearing. Sweats and a dirty T-shirt? You can't sit down for lunch looking like that."

Music to my ears. So I stood up, just like the good old days.

Dick Wolfsie has written 12 books and has been a television personality for 30 years. His humor column appears weekly in The Times.

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