Say What?

***image1***Sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, I counted to myself. On ‘nineteen,’ it happened.

A young mother said, "Oh, look at this baby bunting. Isn’t it cute?"

We were at Doodlebugs, selecting a birthday gift for our granddaughter, Kara. On the way in, I had predicted to my lovely wife, Grace, we would hear the word ‘cute’ within half a minute. The utterance of ‘cute,’ often accompanied by gushes of ‘precious’ and ‘darling,’ is a sure bet in a children’s clothing store.

"Bingo!" I proclaimed. Grace gave me a ‘Put a bootie in it’ look.

Driving home, however, she asked, "What was that ‘bingo’ nonsense all about?"

I recounted my prognostication and offered the premise that there is a high correlation between baby clothing and the word ‘cute.’

"What’s wrong with cute?" Grace asked. "It’s a nice word, and those jumpers and sweaters were, well, cute."

"I’m not saying cute is a bad word. It’s just a ladies’ word," I boasted, and then added, "I’ll wager one hundred dollars you won’t hear a man describe anything as cute."

Grace replayed our conversation to Aunt Toogie over dinner. The two of them began to gang up on me and the discussion descended into a heated debate about things said exclusively by men or by women.

"How about all those lines from the movie, Caddyshack?" Grace challenged.

"Such as?"

"None of my girlfriends would ever use silly banter about the Dalai Lama in a conversation."

"Oh, you mean," I quickly jumped in, launching into, "Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know. And he says, oh, uh, there won’t be any money, but on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness. So I got that goin’ for me, which is nice."

"I rest my case," Grace remarked to Toogie, holding both palms up.

"Well, here’s a ladies’ choice for you two," I countered. "Why is it women always identify any species of reptile or insect as male?"

"What do you mean?" Grace inquired.

I described how she will say something like, "There is a dead Palmetto Bug in the living room. Can the daddy pick him up?" It gets more intense if the critter is more dozing than dead and flips off its back and makes a scamper for safety. Grace will then shriek, "Get him! Get him! Get him!"

Once, I even held one up, snug in a tissue, and challenged Grace to explain precisely how she identified it as male and to show me the gender pointer, so to speak.

Grace and Toogie were silent for a moment.

Then Grace piped up, "What about ‘Pull my finger?’ You never hear a woman say such a thing!"

"Yeah," chipped in Toogie. "And a lady would never say, ‘I’m going to see a man about a horse’ unless, of course, she were actually planning to buy a horse."

I deflected their bombardment with the aplomb of a slick politician.

The dispute drifted, back and forth, late into the evening. Grace and Toogie claimed men only talk about sports, wine or sex. I objected, recalling a recent discussion about televised poker. The ladies alleged it fell under the sports category. I responded that only women can have an extended discussion about the differences in colors among cream, ivory and ecru shoes on sale at Bob Ellis. I thought I landed a knockout punch with my suggestion that the world needed a female-to-male translation devise. A man could hold it up to his ear to accurately decipher. For example, when a woman said something like, "Do you want to go for a pizza?" or "Do you think we should go to Mother’s for Christmas?" it would translate: Hey, I want a pizza or In case you weren’t listening, we’re going to Mother’s house for Christmas. Yet, the ladies would not acknowledge these were declarative statements and never intended to be questions, and even had the gall to tell me I needed a big dose of Dr. Phil.

We retired for the night without any validation or victor. The next morning, sensing Grace was still smarting from our sparring, I offered to help with the chores.

"Do you think we should plant the pansies?" she asked.

Imagining my female-to-male decoder was in use, I translated: Hey, Jocko, let’s get these flowers in the ground!

So, Grace and I took up trowels and tackled the task as Toogie kept us fortified with warm muffins and coffee. It was a tad tedious, but we made progress. Little was said among the toilers, a testament to the tussle of the previous evening. About an hour into the job our neighbors, Patty and Marvin, strolled by on a morning walk with their new dog, Toby.

"Your flowers look great," Patty offered.

"Thanks," Grace responded. "I am particularly fond of the magenta ones."

I stood up, wiping the dirt from my hands, only to meet Marvin’s gaze. He looked at me, glanced down at the pansies, then back at me and, arching an eyebrow, said in a falsetto voice, "Cute."

"Bingo!" cried Grace.

I didn’t even give her the satisfaction of glancing in her direction.

Immediately after finishing the fall planting, Grace claimed the one hundred dollar prize, cleaned up and, with Toogie, high-tailed it to the mall for an afternoon of lunch and holiday shopping. Hearing them return a few hours later, I quickly turned off the poker tournament I was watching on ESPN and hollered, "Did you find anything?"

"We bought Christmas presents for all the grandchildren," Grace replied, poking her head into the den.

Toogie appeared next to her and added, "Everything is, what’s the word I’m looking for here, Grace?"


"Yes, cute!" Toogie declared.

"It’s beyond cute," Grace bubbled. "It’s too cute!"

As they meandered toward the kitchen, I could hear them giggling. I’m pretty sure I heard Toogie say, "I have noticed you only accept a bet from Dalton when you know you can win." And, I’d wager a bottle of wine I heard Grace reply, "Gambling is illegal at Bushwood, Sir."

Daniel Island Publishing

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Unit 108
Daniel Island, SC 29492 

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