My wife and I were in the kitchen of our three-bedroom town home when I asked her if I could go see Roger Water’s performance of The Wall. This must have been the fall of 2011, and at the time I was in graduate school and living in Mankato, Minnesota, about two hours out of the Twin Cities, where the concert was being performed.
“You know I’m a huge Pink Floyd fan, and this might be my only chance to see The Wall performed by one of the original members. Richard Wright died not too long ago and I’m afraid it’s going to cause a domino effect and wipe out the whole band.”
I told her about the theatrics of the event. How it was going to be like a rock opera, which clearly justified the nearly $200 ticket. I told her how I got a discount and advance purchasing because I was a member of the Roger Waters fan club. Basically I geeked out and hoped that she would understand.
Mel was in living room with our two-year-old, Norah, on her hip. She mindlessly nodded, eyes a little glossy, like she often did when I talk about Pink Floyd.
“When is this thing,” she asked.
“It’s on October 27th,” I said.
Mel perked up then. We discussed more of the details.
The show was the day before our 7th anniversary. It was sure to go until late in the night, and I didn’t feel comfortable driving the small two lane highway between Mankato and the Cities that late in the year because there would surely be black ice. This meant I’d have to stay at a hotel, and probably not get home until mid-day, halfway through our anniversary. The hotel would also add to the cost. Once everything was said and done, I was probably looking at spending close $400 for this once in a lifetime event. Considering we had two kids, and were living on student loans and a graduate stipend, I might as well have asked her to let me buy a Ferrari.
There were so many things wrong with what I was asking for, and yet, I felt like it was justified because I was a huge fan. There was also the fact that I was leaving her home alone over night with two young kids who still didn’t sleep through the night that well. I didn’t even ask her if she wanted to go. I just assumed that she wouldn’t because she wasn’t a Pink Floyd fan. I probably could’ve redeemed myself by finding someone to watch the kids for the night and turning this into a little Twin Cities mini vacation. Instead I had already invited my buddy Ryan, a guy I lifted weights with.
Mel looked at me with stern eyes, her mouth in a straight line. I’m not sure exactly what was going through her head. She didn’t call me self-centered, or anything. She simply said, “I will leave it up to you.”
Mel had spent a lot of years saying things like this and hoping that I would make the right decision. That I would be able to look at the situation and know that what I was trying to do was probably not the best idea for our family.
Long story short, like a dumb ass, I took her response as a yes, bought tickets for the show, made a reservation at a hotel, and attended the concert.
Mel didn’t say much to me the day of the show. Before I left I gave her a kiss. She kissed back, but just half-heartedly.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
She let out a breath, tilted her head to the side, eyes open. Her face seemed to say, “You know what’s wrong.” But I still didn’t get it. I was excited about the concert and I wasn’t thinking about much anything else.
I do that more than I should.
I went to the show, and it was awesome. I slept until almost 11 a.m. at the hotel, which was amazing. I made it home around 2 p.m. the next day. She didn’t say anything about her night, but I could tell it had been long. Mel was still in her pj’s, hair uncombed, eyes red.
I kissed her cheek and she said, “I hope you enjoyed yourself.”
She didn’t say much until later that day, when I took her out to dinner for our anniversary. And even then, it was a very surface level conversation. Neither of us laughed much, and there was a lot of uncomfortable silence.
I never told her that I was sorry for going to the concert, but thinking back, I should’ve. Most of the evening I was just trying to figure out what was wrong without asking that question because I didn’t want to get in a fight. We went to bed that night with our backs facing. At one point I kissed the back of her neck, and she shooed me away with the back of her hand.
Sometimes I will zero in on something stupid and selfish, and only in hindsight do I realize that I was making a bad decision. Thinking back, as a man, I wanted her to tell me “no.” I wanted her to give me a direct order that was clear and to the point so that there wouldn’t be any ambiguity. In contrast, I think Mel wanted me to slow down for a moment, think about what I was doing, and realize that I was being a selfish jackass. And although it seems clear now that I wasn’t making a family centered decision, at the time I didn’t understand her frustration and fell into the age-old butt-hurt assumption that my wife wants me to “read her mind.” I think this is what people mean when they say it takes a long time to learn how to communicate in marriage.
I fell asleep that night feeling angry and picked on. I assume Mel went fell asleep feeling the same.
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