Are We There Yet?

Her husband is still a work in progress

Lori Clinch

If you don’t mind my saying so, I firmly believe there should be an easy-to-understand 12-step program that tells a man the proper responses to a woman’s inquiries.

Men shouldn’t be allowed to run around being flagrantly honest at all times. After all, just because a woman asks if her hair looks OK, she doesn’t really want to know if her hair looks OK. She wants to hear that her hair looks fine, great, and that if passers-by are staring her way, she wants to hear that they’re just jealous.

I knew I would have to train my husband to make suitable responses to my questions early in our relationship. This realization came to me the first time I asked him if my jeans made my derriere look big. Would you believe that the man actually considered my question for a minute? That he mulled it over? That he went so far as to take a look so that he could give an informed answer?

Once he’d gathered all of his info and compiled his data, I’ll be danged if he didn’t look me square in the eyes and say, “I don’t think it’s the jeans.”

He’s been a work in progress ever since. “How’s my hair?” I’ll ask in a practice session, just to fine-tune his response skills.

“Uh,” he’ll say as he tries to remember the right answer, “Oh! I remember. It’s great!”

“That’s good. Now tell me, what did you think of dinner?”

“You’re quite a cook.”

“Good job. Did you miss me today?”

“Yes,” he’ll respond in a programmed voice as he searches his memory banks. “Oh, I know – today was horrible without you.”

He knows he’s making it up, I know he’s making it up, yet I walk away happy and he walks away feeling like the good student that we all know he should be.

Despite the programming and in-depth instructions, he still slips up now and then. Take the other day, for instance. I had spent a great deal of time in my closet. I had been frantically trying to find something to wear. All of my pressed clothes looked shabby, my dress slacks looked casual, and I’ll be doggoned if my happy garments hadn’t switched over to the Dark Side.

I tried on this and I tried on that. Outfits that had previously looked great now looked like gunny sacks and nothing but nothing complemented my good features. (Not that I had good features, but if I did have good features I’ll tell you this, they would not have been complemented.)

Normally, I would have gone for good enough, but we were going to a fundraiser and everybody I knew would be there, and doggone it, I wanted to be cute.

I finally gave up on the clothing and went to my hair and makeup. My brown tones made me look Gothic and my pink colors made me look like a clown. To make matters worse, my hair looked like I had plugged my pointer finger into a light socket and then doused my locks with hair spray.

I left the house in total disarray. My clothes weren’t in sync, my jewelry did not coordinate, and I’ll be danged if my hairdo didn’t make me look like Cyndi Lauper with bed head.

“Look at me,” I said to my beloved spouse as we moved toward our destination at warp speed, “I’m hideous.”

“What are you talking about?” he asked, not taking his eyes off the road.

“My clothes look goofy, my socks are wrong and my hair looks like I want to be a boxing promoter for Mike Tyson.”

Although he didn’t realize it, he was about to be tested. I put it out there and the success of the evening depended fully upon his response. It was the ultimate test.

How do you suppose he did? Do you suppose that he told me that I looked great? Do you think that he reassured me with words of wisdom? Did he compliment my earrings?

Oh! Shoot no! Rather than tell me that I looked suitable or that my hair could start a new trend, rather than lie to me, Pat, my husband of many years, kept his eyes on the road and his hands on 10 and 2 and said to me without so much as a glance, “I’m sure that you’ll survive it.”

I don’t think he realized the error of his ways until he felt my stare boring a hole into the side of his skull. He swallowed hard, turned to look at me and said, “Uh, I mean, you look real pretty?”

You know, there’s just no teaching some people.

Lori Clinch is the mother of four sons and the author of the book “Are We There Yet?” You can reach her at