One evening awhile back, I was checking email, reading blogs and doing my own thing. My husband Tom was in the room with me, watching TV and doing his own thing. Companionable silence, it was nice.
Suddenly, out of the blue, he says, "Hey, I don't really like the way you have your hair right now."
I lifted my eyes from the screen and fixed my gaze upon him. I pursed my lips.
Oooh KAAAY. I'll log THAT away.
"Oh really." Do tell.
"It just makes your head look kind of boxy on top."
Diggin' a hole, buddy.
"I liked it better the other way."
Diggin' a deeper hole, pal.
Now he's talking faster, as if he's realized he's in dangerous territory. Except for my raised eyebrows, I feel I am maintaining incredible cool.
"I just saw this newscaster on TV and thought she had good hair and that reminded me that I was meaning to tell you that I liked it better when it flipped out more on the sides or something...." he trails off and mumbles incoherently.
"Well, thanks for the advice," I say. I was annoyed. Why would you bring THAT up out of nowhere?
I was still annoyed an hour later as we were getting ready to crawl in for the night. I ripped the covers over me and made a point of getting my pillows organized. Hmph. BOXY? The nerve.
Then I realized that there is probably never a good time for a man to voice a negative opinion about his wife's hair. Out of the blue is probably just as good a time as any, because it's never going to go over very well. Now, a guy might want to have a good exit strategy, like a getaway car waiting with engine running, if he values his life at all. At the very least, he ought to have a big distraction to pull off, like a fire alarm or a well-timed phone call. It's a conversation that has no good ending, just a narrow escape.
Upon reflection, I think I'm just as guilty as he is about unloading bombshells at inopportune moments. Telling him the septic tank is backed up again just as he walks in the door from work is not real smart. Bringing up the subject of the kids needing new tennis shoes and dental work might best be brought up after a nice dinner.
But nooooo. Bursting with the need to share every detail with my sweet love makes me speak first and think later.
Sometimes I do it on purpose. So what if he's had a bad day? Mine's been worse, and I want him to feel my pain. Misery enjoys company. "And by the way, we're overdrawn on our checking account, so THERE." No prelude, no nice lead-in. Then I wonder why he snaps at the kids and withdraws into silence. On second thought, misery doesn't enjoy company. It's just misery.
I'm reminded that the words we speak are just as important as the moment we choose to say them. I'm trying to make a habit of pausing for a minute before blurting out my garbage. Is now a good time? Would it be better to wait until his favorite show is over? Maybe I should just sit on it for a day and think about what I want to communicate. Or give him a heads up that there's something we need to talk about later, rather than sucker-punching him when he's not ready. It takes some self control and a lot of prayer to hold my peace rather than destroy his. It's a work in progress, let me assure you.
While still smarting over my hair, I tried to be philosophical about it. I could probably wield the curling iron around a little differently to get rid of the boxy look. Lord knows I didn't want to look like there was a UPS package sitting on top of my neck. I suppose I should have thanked him. He knows important good hair is to me, and that I can't actually SEE the top of my own head. I'm sure he thought he was doing me a favor.
But next time, perhaps a box of chocolates AND a getaway car on hand would be a good idea. At least then I could soothe my hurt feelings with candy while the curling iron heats up. I'll suggest that to him...over a nice dinner.
Today's Small Thing is to consider TIMING before uttering your words. If you are married, take the opportunity to use this task with your husband. Pause long enough to add a gentle tone or remember to add a positive spin. Kindness goes a long, long way.
POINTS: 50 for exercising self control with your tongue.