Rolling the Dice, Rolling the Eyes

So, we went to our friends Dan and Toni’s 25th wedding anniversary soiree — and after the dinner was over and the celebratory drinking well under way, the talks and toasts began.  After about 30 minutes, most of us were weeping and incoherent because Dan and Toni are so wonderful and their daughters so lovely and their sense of family is so perfect.

However — and here I like to think I speak for every other married person in the room — I began to feel a little defensive and inferior after a while.  Dan and Toni are, let’s face it, perfect together.  They stared at each other adoringly.  Both of them felt they were the lucky partner in the marriage.  Over the past few years, they had each nursed the other through serious, potentially life-threatening illnesses.  If Dan and Toni ever had knockdown fights, nobody mentioned them.  Oh, and after watching them with their daughters, I’m pretty sure they were perfect parents, too.

After all of this, Dan put the cherry on the sundae by saying that Toni was the anti-eyeroll spouse.  Never once, no matter what he had said or done, had she ever rolled her eyes at him.

I jerked my head back at this compliment and looked around.  I stared at my husband, who was sitting across the table.  I tried — and failed — to get his face into focus.  What was he thinking, I wondered, this man who was married to the Eyerolling Queen?  Had I ever once, in all our years together, managed to pass a day when I didn’t roll my eyes at him at least once?  Had he ever (my own inner-narrator went on) passed through a 24-hour period when he didn’t deserve to have my eyes rolling at him?  How would he had known I was still paying attention — or, at the very least, not dead — if I didn’t roll my eyes at him?

“You know that part about anti-eyerolling?” I asked Dan after the toasts were over.  “I roll my eyes at my husband all the time.”

Dan nodded wisely.  “I thought about you when I said that,” he said.

Oh, dear.

But then, my husband and I ended up talking with another, younger couple, and she and I bonded by admitting to our status as veteran, tireless eye-rollers, convincing each other it was our duty to let our husbands know when they were out of line in the subtlest, most tactful way possible.  Our duty!  Our husbands listened to us patiently, grinning slyly; these were not two men who ever stopped doing anything, I felt sure, just because their wives’ eyes got a little exercise in an upward direction.

Oh, well.  We were back into Tolstoy territory, back into the whole every-happy-family-is-alike premise — which I’ve always felt was dead wrong and reductive.  Or maybe we were just at the end of a joyous celebration, happy to have such good friends, happy that they were happy.

“What were you thinking during the whole anti-eyeroll remark?” I asked my husband, as we walked back to the hotel.  “I couldn’t tell from your face.”

“I was just thinking about how much I love you,” he said.

We kept walking.  My eyes, I couldn’t help noticing, were staring straight in front of me, rolling not at all.

(Copyright 2009 by Ruth Pennebaker)

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7 comments… add one
  • I think you and Dan are perfect for each other.
    When my husband and talk about other people’s lives and ask, “WHY would they do that? buy that? travel there?” He’ll laugh and say, “I know. I’m so glad I married you.”
    So I roll my eyes.  So I throw in a little “oy” in there for extra punch.  The bottom line is that I’m honest with my husband on how I feel.  When he says something asinine, he’s gonna see myeyes roll.

  • Sometimes an eye roll is just an eye roll.  I’m very well acquainted with the sterling relationship that Ruth and Jamie Pennebaker share, and my remarks about the meaning of eye-rolling can’t possibly apply in their case.  Instead, I think the proper explanation is that Ruth is one of the world’s premier eye-rollers and should be proud to continue in her fabulous personal tradition.  If Jamie ever rolls his eyes, however, take note.

  • Craig Link

    Jeezus- you’ll make a pair of love birds yet

  • Cindy A Link

    That is SO funny that the subject of your story comments on your story! HA!

  • That is so sweet that your husband was thinking about how much he loved you as you were feeling inadequate in the face of your friends’ very public display of affection. I heart your husband. Does anyone really have a perfect marriage though? I think we all tell a story to the world and some people (like you and me Ruth) are more honest about our stories than other people are…

  • Steve Link

    Kudos to Jamie for the perfect answer.

    Most of the time, my spouse’s eye-roll elicits a shrug as my response. But a recent eyeroll at the dinner table lit me up, and I was compelled to offer a lengthy soliloquy on the offense I took to that particular eyeroll. It surprised both of us. We completed the meal in silence, but I took the lead later in re-engaging in conversation on a completely unrelated subject. All was well. Neither apologized, neither needed to.

  • I laughed until tears came. I no longer have a husband to roll my eyes at, but both of my sisters now have teenagers who constantly roll their eyes at their parents. Drives my sisters nuts. I simply can’t imagine why.

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