Another Wedding Vow

The economy is tanking. I learned that at a dinner we just went to. While I stood in the line for drinks, three men exchanged remarks about the price of gold, the decline in the dollar and the mounting deficit. They shook their heads, they told me to buy silver, they said a friend advised them to take their money out of the market. That would be the same friend who warned them to get out before the 2008 market freefall.

By then, I was staggering. I hate hearing rumors like this. They make me worry that my own investment philosophy of benign neglect may not be smart. They make me think about money. I hate thinking about money, especially after 5 p.m.

“I think this woman needs a double,” one of the men told the bartender. Amen, brother.

From there, I slunk into the dining room, where I sat next to a lovely young man. Flushed with pride and excitement, he told me about the software company he works for. Growing like crazy! Taking on Microsoft! Just acquired some new outfit!

Halfway into this, I noticed my husband slipping into a chair across the table. The young man offered to change seats with him. I said no. Neither of us is exactly the kind of person who will die, just die, if we are deprived of the other’s company for an hour or so. (On the whole, I tend to wonder about couples like that.)

“It’s OK,” I told the young man. “We’ve been married 38 years. I think we can manage.”

He went on talking about his company, which is involved in “The Cloud.” Oh, yes. I’d heard of The Cloud. I wasn’t entirely a moron. I should probably be investing in his company, since I knew so much about it.

In the meantime, my husband was sitting next to a guy who boomed out, “I’m sitting next to a psychologist! Can you tell me,” he asked my husband, “why my wife doesn’t understand me?”

“It’s probably your own damned fault,” my husband said.

I talked to the women next to me, I talked to the young man, I talked to the wife who didn’t understand her husband, and I occasionally eavesdropped on my husband and his conversations. I decided it was interesting to watch him and listen from a bit of a distance. We’d both have interesting conversations that we could tell each other about on our walk back. By then, I’d know all kinds of new things about The Cloud.

Then the presentation began. It went from bad to boring and stayed there. I watched my husband, who was sitting directly in front of the speaker. His chin sank onto his chest. He jerked awake and blinked his eyes.

The speaker talked on. He used a Power Point that repeated everything he said. He talked about horizontal analysis, he talked about vertical analysis. My husband’s chin sank lower. It wouldn’t have been so bad if he hadn’t been two feet away from the speaker, in front of most of the audience.

I considered writing a note to the woman next to my husband, asking her to elbow him every time he nodded off. It occurred to me that maybe you have to be married to administer that sort of discipline. Fortunately, the speaker finally finished and the applause woke my husband up.

One evening, three warnings of economic collapse, one stock tip. I wasn’t considering changing my investment strategy from benign neglect; I was considering changing my dinner-seating strategy.

Maybe couples insist on sitting together because they know something my husband and I don’t know. Maybe they’re sitting together so they can keep each other awake.

(Copyright 2011 by Ruth Pennebaker)

Read the Ballad of the Sick Husband

14 comments… add one
  • I think you streak your hair the color of money, commit to drinking only doubles, invest in a tablecloth manufacturing corporation, then sit back and see if your husband learns about any of this via the electronic grapevine. You will learn the true pulse of the nation.

  • Correction:

    …you SHOULD streak…

  • Cindy D. Link

    I think I got that same tip about investing in silver. Hell, I’m glad to be able to invest in HEB each week. Some of my “New Age” friends tell me if I’d get over my “poverty mentality” I’d be able to think and grow rich. I have a Ph.D. so I’ve done a lot of thinking but it hasn’t made me rich yet, hmmmm. The greatest line in this post is “We’d both have interesting conversations that we could tell each other about on our walk back. ” That’s why you moved downtown!

  • Yes, but if they kept each other awake, there wouldn’t be any funny stories to share.

    I’ve been alerted. I’m depending on you now for my investment strategy, Ruth!

  • That was an interesting evening. I have to stay close to my husband b/c he does not remember anyone’s name, ever. I remember everyone’s name, so I am his person memory jogger.

  • Cindy A Link

    Boy, wish your husband had been my marriage counselor. Could have saved thousands of dollars!

  • Having been married 38 years also, I can relate. Sounds like you would have enjoyed your husband’s company more. But we need variety.

    Those guys in line taking about the economy have not learned what I have learned; to keep my mouth shut, at least in public about things like that and Never give advice.

  • When I visit my son (who works for Microsoft), I flutter my hands in the air, and refer vaguely to my email archive “in the sky”. He humours me for a while then gently nudges me to call it “the cloud”. We have different agendas. I am practising being old and difficult. When I say “in the sky”, I am only just warming up.

    Meanwhile, I need to buy some dollars for my annual Roth IRA contribution. If I’d known that Obama would catch Osama I would have bought my dollars on Friday. That snatch has probably cost me a couple of dozen lattes.

  • It all reminds me why I try to avoid these scenarios (events where I have to sit next to people and talk, especially about the economy). I’d rather just stay home and make some money.

  • It used to matter where we sat but no more. Conversation was always difficult in a crowd at dinner parties, especially because most of them took place in France, in French, in my case. We have simply stopped going to dinner parties. My husband refuses to wear his hearing aids. My hearing is lousy, too. I have learned to keep the numbers down when we receive folks.

  • Urgh, I hate presentations confined in PowerPoint. But your experience reminds me of something my hubby and I did this past weekend. We were invited by another couple to a Disco fever night. Yeah, usually not my thing. It was entertaining. But to be honest I had more fun giggling on the way home over some of the…uh…dancing we saw, then actually dancing with each other.

  • Sheryl Link

    Events like this take so much energy, don’t they? I usually suffer through them and then leave and let out a huge sigh of relief, go home and just collapse.

  • Merr Link

    We are going out to a party tonight and I am going to observe our mingling habits. I try to not discuss the economy or politics or religion or anything too controversial at “fun” events. Make the small talk easier – and smaller.

  • “It’s OK,” I told the young man. “We’ve been married 38 years. I think we can manage.”

    Ha! I tell people some form of this all the damn time. I mean, I’m eventually going home with my husband, where we’ll eventually adjourn to the bed we’ve been sharing for the past 5 years. I think we can handle a couple hours where we’re not seated directly next to each other.

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