#188 In which our hero recounts his wife’s stress and the detrimental affect it has on her.
When I was 17, I broke out into hives, brought on by stress. I was president of the senior class, and we were in the middle of the annual Sweetheart Campaign. Sweetheart week was the yearly fundraising event staged by my high school; a dramatic struggle between classes to see who could raise the most money. Everyone took it very seriously, and there was great renown to be had to the class that won.
My class had come in second during our freshman year, and had then dominated every year thereafter (our secret? Pepperoni rolls. People could not buy enough of those things). It would have been heartbreaking if we blew it our senior year. But things looked close… all more so because I had made a critical error in planning. Over the week each class conducted a bunch of different fundraising activities; spaghetti dinners, door-to-door sales, dances… anything, frankly, that might raise a buck. My critical error was the senior class car wash. Sweetheart was in the fall for, as I said, a week (Saturday-Saturday). Being that you want your car wash to be the weekend, we could have done it the first Saturday, or the last. I decided to do it the last, so we could better focus on other things.
The first Saturday of the week was beautiful. The second Saturday, it snowed.
Dedicated parents came in anyway; we scraped away the ice and snow before washing the cars. “Why didn’t you do this last Saturday?” everyone asked.
So, as we were waiting for the final money tallies to be counted, I was beside myself thinking that I had torpedoed the entire class’s efforts. It was the first and last time I ever broke out in hives.
I’ve been thinking about this incident lately because The Scientist was a basket case all last week. And the main reason for this is because she was planning a party.
My wife’s first M. (Hi Meghan! Oops, I meant “M.” Eh, fuck it, cat’s out of the bag, now) was having a significant birthday (I don’t want to give it away but it was somewhere between the ages of 38 and 42) and The Scientist thought it would be fun to throw her a surprise party. Of course, I’ve been hinting to my wife for years now that I’ve never had a surprise party and thought it would be so much fun if someone someday would hold one for me… but that hasn’t happened yet so you see where I rank…
To make it doubleplusgood fun, she decided it should be an 80’s-themed party. She got Meghan’s parents onboard, and they hooked her up with a list of Meghan’s friends, and it was party on!
And shortly thereafter, the stress began.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not very helpful in cases like this. First and foremost because I don’t see what there is to stress about. You make some plans, invite some people, order a cake, and there you have it. You can’t control if anyone actually comes or not, and stressing about something over which you have no control is a little pointless, I say.
But The Scientist doesn’t think like I do. She fretted about everything… Would people come? Would they dress up in 80’s attire like it said on the invite? How should she send out the invite? Email? Cards? What kind of food should she serve? What if people don’t like the food? Will people actually come (again with that one)? Can kids come? What if Meghan finds out ahead of time?
Thankfully, Meghan’s parents agreed to have it at their house, because I think if we had the party at our house The Scientist’s head would have exploded.
Invites went out, but then people weren’t responding quickly enough. What, is no-one going to show? What’s wrong with these people? Do I have the right addresses? Will there be enough food? How am I supposed to know how much food to get if people won’t tell me if they’re coming or not?!
As the stress ratcheted up, I tried (in my own dumb, heavy-handed fashion) to help: Honey, you can’t control if people come or not. Even if they RSVP they might not show up. You can’t control this, so why don’t you just relax?
This advice, as it turns out, was not found to be helpful.
As the date drew near, the stress skyrocketed. I have so much to do! How am I going to get it all done? In cases like this, I try to talk her down from the ledge using a technique that I call “pointing out the obvious.” It should be noted that this technique has never worked.
THE SCIENTIST: I have so much to do!Come Friday (the day before the party) stress had pretty much hit maximum levels, despite 95% of the work already being done. My sole part in all this was to make a batch of guacamole (which I did). I again tried to point out the obvious™.
ME: What do you have to do, exactly?
TS: Well, to start, I have to wrap Meghan’s present. I’m going to get a gift bag out of the basement now.
ME: Wait, so, when you say “wrap her present” you mean “put this box into a bag” ?
TS: Look, I’m stressing, so help me or butt out.
ME: Hey, if you want, I’ll take the arduous task putting stuff into a bag off your shoulders.
ME: You’re being ridiculous.Of course, the party was a big hit. Meghan was surprised, people made the effort to dress up like they did in the 80’s (even though I have to say that wearing a polo shirt and flipping up the collar isn’t much of an effort, really), cake was eaten, gifts were given… something was even broken, making it an official party. All in all, I great success.
TS: Look, I have stuff to do, so you can berate me or you can help me.
ME: Are those my only options?
TS: Yes. No! Matter of fact, you can help me or shut the fuck up.
ME: So, berating is off the table? That’s bullshit. Who decided that?
TS: I did.
ME: (drawing her in for a hug) Honey, come on. Relax. I want your party to be a success. I mean, we’ve worked so hard all week.
TS: I should kick you square in the balls.
And, as I maintained all along, nothing to stress about.