We're All Damaged

Monday, March 30, 2009

I Read Like a Big Boy

For some time now I’ve suspected that perhaps I tricked my wife into marrying me. I didn’t do it on purpose really, but, when I look at myself in the mirror—which I do for at least an hour a day—it’s hard not to think that I’m sort of like that house in Poltergeist. From the outside, I’m perfectly functional—lovely even—but inside there’s all sorts of crap you couldn’t have seen coming, like that creepy clown or the television that sucks children into purgatory.

OK, it’s not a perfect metaphor, but you get my point.

She repeatedly assures me that this isn’t the case and that she knew what she was doing all along. But, there are times—like when I make her feel my muscles after I’ve worked out or when I get lost on the way to the grocery store and call her crying—that I sense a certain tone, one that seems to ask, “Seriously, I’ve got 50 more years of this?”

The other day, she came home from the bookstore with a pile of books. Half of them were novels, the sort of books someone like me might read. But the other half were serious books about things that people like her read: issues and the world and whathaveyou.

“I got a book for you,” she said. “I think you might like it.” It was title Naked Economics: Undressing the Dismal Science. The words naked and undressing caught my eye immediately, and I got very excited. But then I saw all the other words, and so I threw the book onto the floor and ran out of the house.

Later, wandering the streets in my pajamas, something dawned on me. As frightening and confusing as a book like this would undoubtedly be, reading it—or even pretending to read it—might go a long way toward proving my worth as a husband. I can’t fix the drain in our bathroom sink, nor can I add the simplest of numbers in my head without fainting, but at least I’ll be the sort of person who reads about and understands the basic concepts of economics.

And so here I am, sitting in my reading chair, holding the book and looking at the words and sentences. To demonstrate that I am, in fact, reading, from time to time I’ll make a devastatingly intelligent comment. “Did you know that protectionism saves jobs in the short run, but it may ultimately slow economic growth?” Or, “Did you know that only 15% of actively managed funds have out performed the S&P 500 over the last 20 years?”

“Wow,” she says, unable to hide her disbelief. “I’m glad you like the book. And you’re reading it so fast.”

Her tone is far different now, similar to my mother’s when I was six and I’d finished eating all of my carrots. It’s a tone I like very much, one with no lurking questions—like, for example, “Oh my God, what have I done?” There is only love, and a bit of the security that comes with knowing that, all things considered, things could probably be worse.

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