One of my favorite things about being married to Jim Fortune is this thing he does with his face whenever the two of us are standing around talking to someone, and we are both thinking that what this person is saying is so ridiculous (or so wrong or so one of our pet peeves). And we both know the other person is thinking it, and then Jim’s face does this thing that says: Wife, I will be making a joke later about this conversation when you least expect it, and you might hyperventilate because you will laugh that hard.
I am the only person who can see this thing happen to Jim’s face. To other people, it looks as if he is attentively listening, with the occasional lingering glance at his wife to confirm that she is also attentively listening. And perhaps to admire her beauty.
But I know better, dear reader. I. Know. Better.
Is this nice behavior? Probably not. I mean, definitely not. But guess what? I don’t care. Because it is hilarious and, in the grand scheme of things, pretty harmless. It’s just for us. And stuff that is just for us is the best stuff there is.
Well, I guess now you know about it. So maybe that’s a technical change in the definition of “just for us.” But look, I can guarantee that even now that you know about it, you still would not know it was happening, even if it happened right in front of your very eyes. So no harm, no foul.
Lots of these dumb little inside jokes are at the expense of people we like a great deal, or at least have to talk to regularly, so I cannot share them with you here. One of those people could be you! But I will explain one of these dumb little inside jokes that is broad enough that it could be practically anyone. You may have even done this to me, and it makes Jim Fortune make that face every single time.
Hey, have you always wanted to be a writer? SURE YOU HAVE. Do you know how I know that? Because when I meet people and they ask me what I do and I tell them I’m a writer, they say this: You know, I have always wanted to be a writer. And then they tell me why they never did any actual writing: Not enough time. I don’t understand punctuation. I couldn’t find a pen.
And then OH YOU GUYS Jim’s face starts to do the thing. THE THING.
Because, y’all, let me share a little secret with you about writing: If you want to be a writer, all you have to do is write. And if you had always wanted to be a writer, you’d be one. I mean, you pretty much just write and then BAM you’re a writer. It’s like freaking magic.
Also, the subtext of that statement makes me insane. You would be a writer if only you understood punctuation? If you just had more time? If you had a really nice pen? Really?
No. Here is what you need to know: If you wanted to be a writer, you would be one because you would have no choice. You would be compelled to write all the time. You would be enslaved by the desire to write, and to incessantly read the work of other writers, and to nearly die of envy when one of them wrote something you wish you had written, and that would just make you write EVEN MORE.
It wouldn’t even matter whether anyone ever read what you wrote. You would never stop thinking about writing. Every time anything happened to you, you would be figuring out how to work it into your writing and then, while your family was watching TV or clamoring selfishly for your attention or urging you to flee the burning house, you would say, “Leave me alone can’t you see that IAMWRITING?”
You would have majored in English and minored in communication with NO PLAN for how to support yourself, and then you would have lived in your parents’ basement until you were 25 years old because you HAD to be a writer and your first job paid $15,000 a year but HOLYSHIT you were getting paid to write!
That’s what your life would be like if you wanted to be a writer. Like THAT.
So, no. I’m sorry, but you did not always want to be a writer, person-at-every-party-I’ve-ever-gone-to-who-says-Hey-I’ve-always-wanted-to-be-a-writer. You did not always want to be a writer any more than I always wanted to be a prima ballerina because one time I had a tutu and every morning of first grade I wanted to wear it to school. Not the same thing. At all.
For the record, I never say these things out loud to anyone but Jim Fortune. I am not a complete sociopath. When I get into one of these conversations, I just nod and smile and say SO POLITELY, “If you’ve always wanted to write, you really should! Everyone has a story to tell.”
But if Jim Fortune is standing there with me while this happens, his face will do that thing. And I will be trying so hard not to choke on my drink. And then later, when we’re alone, he’ll slip his arms around me and put his lips to my ear and whisper, “Honey, you know what I’ve always wanted to be? A writer.”
And I will die from laughing, you guys. DIE FROM IT.
It honestly almost makes me HOPE someone will say this dumb thing to me – this dumb thing that makes me crazy and irrational – just because Jim and I have turned it into this funny thing that only we know about.
Well, now you know about it, too. Which is OK, because we also have about 2,487,507 other dumb inside jokes I am not going to tell you about. So you can have that one. You’re welcome.
A couple of years ago, there was this time when Jim and I almost killed our marriage. Just beat it nearly to death. So that was a terrible year, and I’m glad it’s over, but here is the way I really knew we were in trouble: He never made that face at me anymore. Ever.
And the way I knew we were going to be OK, that we were us again, was that he started making that face at me again.
So, apparently, our shared delight in privately making fun of other people is one of the ways I can reliably gauge the health of our marriage at any given time. That may mean we are terrible people. But I’m not too worried about it because if we are terrible, at least we are terrible together, and in very similar ways.
Besides, I know other people make fun of us, too. How could they not? We are ridiculous. Jim, for example, is so obsessed with recycling that he takes trash home from parties. I swear to god, he honestly goes home with bags of empty cans and bottles. Like a goddamned hobo.
But do you know, he has never, ever wanted to be a writer, not even a little? I really love that about him.
|This Jim Fortune face is somewhat like the face, but it's not |
exactly the face. I can't show you the face exactly because
it's kind of a secret. Trust me, you would laugh.