Marriage stinks.

Last night, my husband told me that I stink.

Not as in, “you stink at geometry” (true) or “you stink at being a wife and mother” (debatable.)  But as in, “your person smells offensive.”

I think what he was trying to say was:  I stink.  I stank.  I stunk.  I smelled bad.

We were all lounging on my bed after a long night of violin lessons, swim practice, and Pack Meeting (wherein my nine-year old received his Bear Badge, thankyouverymuch.)  I was reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban to said nine-year old while my thirteen-year old lollygagged around the covers, as she is wont to do this time of night.  She was stretching her legs and waving her bare feet in my face (as she is wont to do this time of night), and I made an innocuous comment about how her feet stank.  She laughed and said,

“Actually Mom, you’re the one who stinks tonight.”  I laughed back and played along.

“Nope–it’s you, Ms. Stinky Nasty Feet.  Get those things away from me.”  I was sure she was just messing with me until my husband, who was brushing his teeth in our adjoining bathroom, dropped the bomb.

“Actually, Jen, I hate to tell you, but you did smell kind of weird tonight.”

Um.  What?

“What are you talking about?  What do you mean, I smelled weird?  Like weird bad?”

“Yeah.”  This was stated matter-of-factly.

“Like what kind of bad?”  My voice rose with each word, so that bad rang out in falsetto.

“Oh, I don’t know…”  His voice was muffled through the towel he dried his face with.  “It was kind of…medicinal.”



“What does that mean?”

My thirteen-year old chimed in.  “Yeah, Mom, you did smell kind of bad tonight.”  Why was she smiling?

“What do you mean, bad?  What do you mean, medicinal?  And why didn’t somebody tell me?!” Father and daughter both shrugged while son artfully employed my absence from the book to snag my phone and start a video game.  Let him, I thought.  I had bigger fish to fry.

“So what you are saying is that I actually smelled tonight—smelled bad—and I sat through that whole pack meeting with a million other parents, smelling me-dic-inal, and you didn’t tell me about it til now?  Is that what you’re saying?

“I didn’t want to make you feel bad.”

“Feel bad?  Feel bad? How about SMELL BAD!?”  I was stunned.  Here I’d spent the evening beaming as my son received his Den Advancement—I’d even gone up to the front so he could “pin” me, dangit—and the entire time, rather than admiring me (as I’d assumed), the other moms were simply smiling at me as they craned their necks away, pretending to look for someone over their shoulder in an attempt to distance themselves from my fumes.  Medicinal fumes.  (Did that mean I smelled like Benadryl or Ben Gay?  I was still confused.)


“I don’t understand.  I still don’t understand how I smelled bad.  Tell me.”  My husband shook his head as he stared at the mirror and slid a razor over his chin.

“I can’t explain it.”

“But I washed my hair today.”

“That’s nice.  But you still smelled bad tonight.  I’m sorry.”

“This cannot be happening.  I’ve never smelled bad before.  I am not that person!”

“I know you aren’t.  It was just…”—AND THIS IS A DIRECT QUOTE—“unfortunate.”

Unfortunate?  Unfortunate?  No.  I was not born to be one of the “unfortunates.” How could I, of all people, smell?  I shower daily: I wear Powder-Fresh deodorant and Moonlit Path body lotion.  I wash my clothes (regularly!) and use Downy (name brand!) in every load.  I brush, I floss, I chew Orbit Cinnamint gum, I use (semi) professional hair products.  But all of this was nothing compared to the fact that I had always seen myself as one of the clean, smiley, socially aware members of society.  was supposed to be the person who displayed genteel forbearance when somebody else smelled.  (Poor thing, I’d judge silently.  They just don’t know.)  I was the person in control of my breath, my body odor, my life.

Wasn’t I?

And though I cringe to think how my odiferous ignorance may have affected my fan base friendships over the years, even more frightening is the prospect of other “unfortunate” offenses that I never knew I’d given.  Perhaps some of the personal habits I’d always felt so confident about—like my frequently Spanxed-up derriere and even more frequent applications of sunless tanner (who doesn’t like a little glow in January?)—weren’t fooling anyone.  Maybe my “highlighted” (fake) blond hair and “whitened” (bleached) front teeth were merely cheap perfumes splashed over a medicinally-scented body.  Maybe all those times I thought someone was turning their nose up at me (it happens) (kind of a lot), they were really just turning their nose away from me.  Maybe I belonged with The Unfortunates after all, destined to interpret other people’s kindness as approval when really it was just pity.

The only consolation here is that a medicinal body odor often settles (as we’ve all witnessed) on persons of a certain age.  So it might be that I have been a lovely-scented girl my whole life and this new stink is only arriving as part of the general decay of my body.  It’s a twisted condolence, but I’ll take it.  Better to have old-man smell than frumpy-housewife smell.  At least with the former, some wisdom and money are usually attached.  (Which is more than I can say for the latter.)


24 is back

So the word on the street is that 24, the Kiefer Sutherland drama that rocked the nation five years ago, is coming back.  And I’m scared.  Not of the terrorists that Jack Bauer will be facing, but of the emotional upheaval that will soon visit my husband and, by extension, our marriage.

I’ve talked often about Derrick’s all-or-nothing personality, and nowhere does that apply more than to his television watching.  You should know that my husband watches maybe an hour of tv a month—if at all.  He simply doesn’t have the time.  But every now and then, maybe every few years, he’ll come across something on Netflix that catches his fancy and then somehow–usually between the hours of 10 pm and 2 am–the time will be made.

Such was the case with 24.  He caught the train near the end of its run, so he rented the previous seasons at Blockbuster (how funny does that sound now?) and that was the last I saw of my love for the next two months.  Because when he does get into a tv show, Derrick approaches it like he does all of his New Phases:  with heedless gusto.  He will not be satisfied with his viewing experience until every plotline is exhausted, every possible outcome examined, every twist undone.  He will employ his raging self-discipline to lie in front of the tv for hours, ignoring his sleep, his wife, and his adult responsibilities to ensure that his man Jack accomplishes his mission.  At around hour twenty of this obsession, I gently suggested that he take a break and get some sleep for a few nights; the episodes would be waiting for him when he returned.  His response?  “Jack needs me.”  I don’t think he was kidding.

Somehow, our marriage survived.  (I like to think it was because I, as the superior spouse, held up hearth and home while my husband played out this sad little fantasy of his through the small screen.)  But after hours—and hours and hours—of late nights and groggy mornings, the discs were finally viewed and the mission finally accomplished.  And my husband came back to me, and has been back ever since.  We have not had a repeat of the 24 experience in our home since it’s finale aired in 2010, and call me a stiff, but I think that’s good thing.

With the finale of 24, I sighed in relief and thought “well–that’s that.”  I thought it might be beneficial for Derrick to spend those four hours a night sleeping  instead of watching people try to kill each other.  I thought that perhaps my husband was a little, um, old to be gaping at a modern-day cops-and-robbers show like Mike Teevee on Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.  (I almost bought him a toy gun that Christmas, but couldn’t find one that looked like Jack’s.  I didn’t want to offend Derrick with something childish.)  I thought that, now that he’d had his last vicarious hurrah, my husband could face forward and step into middle age content with the occasional History Channel special and Food Network smackdown.  I thought that the dark days of addiction were behind us, the sunlit days of freedom ahead.  I thought Jack Bauer was out of our lives—gone, dead, rest in peace, forever.  I thought, I oh-so-naively thought.  And then yesterday, perusing the magazine rack while Ethan was getting his hair cut, I saw this:

You can’t kill Jack.  I should have known.  But that doesn’t mean I can’t try.  (“No, honey, I haven’t seen the remote…”)

Grandpa Arnie

Derrick has shared a special bond with his Grandpa Arnie since he was a child.  Some say it’s because they have similar personalities and interests, but I think it’s because Derrick was born with the mindset of a fifty-year old, so they’ve basically been the same age their entire lives.  (The running joke is that Derrick was mentally forty when I married him, so he’s finally starting to act his age now that he is, in actuality, forty.  When he was twenty, he was a massive geezer compared to the carefree boys he roomed with in college.  He had a job at an architectural firm by the time he was a sophomore; like, a for real one that he had to get up early for every day.  Who does that?)  At any rate.  Derrick loves his Grandpa Arnie, and had the rare chance to spend three days with him down in St. George, Utah last weekend.  They had a grand time together, compadres that they are.  Here are a few things that Derrick and Arnie have in common:

  • Same age (see above)
  • Engineering careers
  • Love of dogs
  • Meticulously well-groomed (see:  engineer)
  • Inexplicably stylish silver hair (aka: “silver fox”)
  • Inexplicably long-winded story telling (don’t let Derrick’s reserve fool you; get him warmed up, and he can take awhile)
  • Self-proclaimed “wit” (it’s debatable)
  • Bubbling enthusiasm for life
  • Master of the windbreaker and sneakers look
  • A love for Grandpa’s fully restored, 1931 Ford Roadster

This car is Grandpa’s pride and joy, and it shows.  It’s immaculate–pristine, in fact–and yet he’s generous with it.  He belongs to the local Motor Club and is often called on to drive young brides and grooms through town on their wedding day—a common occurrence in the LDS community of St. George.  Last year he was asked to drive in the local Days of ’47 parade, which celebrates the arrival of the Mormon pioneers into the Salt Lake Valley.  Grandpa Arnie (who is not a Mormon himself) was asked to drive a man dressed in a nineteenth century suit and long beard at the head of the parade.  They were met with loud cheers and roaring applause through the town, so Arnie naturally thought, “Wow–they really like my car!”  He was driving pretty proud until a little later when he realized the sobering truth:  the crowd was actually cheering for his passenger, one well-costumed Brigham Young.  Arnie thought that was pretty funny.

Grandpa Ford (1)

Check out this bad boy.  The car’s nice, too.

Front Quarter2

Grandpa Driving

How many 87-year olds cruise around town in their souped up convertible and Ralph Lauren cap?  And just look at that silver swath of hair sticking out the bottom, refusing to be contained.  I have that to look forward to in my own husband (especially if the last few years are any indicator) and I can’t wait.  That’s a classy man’s crop of hair.

And Grandpa Arnie is a classy guy.  He is bright and energetic and warm and fun.  Being around him is a shot of pure joy, and I wish we got to do it more often.  Derrick was in heaven, spending three whole days with his childhood hero.  He may have gotten a bit carried away, however, when he sent me a text with the above photos, asking me if he could buy the car:

I want to buy Grandpa’s car.  I’m not kidding.

R u serious?


I can’t tell if ur really serious.  Seriously, r u kidding?


U seriously want to buy his car?

Yes.  Maybe.

How much is it?

[no reply]

How much is it?

[no reply]

Derrick?  U there??

[no reply]

The text thread ended there, but I suspect this conversation has not.  So if you see a silver fox in a windbreaker and sneakers cruising around Kennewick in a fully restored 1931 Ford Roadster, don’t be mistaken–it’s not Grandpa Arnie.  Just his protege of a grandson who, evidently, finally wore his wife down.

Do you have a cool grandpa?