Sometimes words matter. What you say has to really be what you mean. Otherwise great confusion can ensue and people can get mad.
That’s why Kristin got mad at me. Because I didn’t say what I really meant. I would have worded it much better if I had thought about it a little more. In that case I wouldn't have just blurted it out.
She was telling me about her idea for the backyard. We have a bit of a lawn, though we let it mostly die during the summer. Something about not wanting to pour water out of the sprinklers, trying to keep the grass in a semi-arid plain alive during the warm summer months.
I don’t mind the lowered water bill either.
Besides, the grass always comes back lush and green, as it did this year after our heavy rains. And being that it is now late May, it seems to be lasting longer than usual. Which is disconcerting. I’m not paying for it from a utility standpoint, but it does require regular mowing.
I used to be responsible for that, but now that falls on my son’s capable shoulders. Thanks, Kyle! But don’t worry, it will die again at some point. Then you can go back to your little technological toys.
Kristin and I are in agreement on the point of letting the lawn die each year, by the way, so we really haven’t gotten to the crux of the problem. The words I shouldn’t have said. Or the words I might have said more judiciously.
No, I think I was right the first time. I shouldn’t have said them.
When the grass is long and green, it is also often damp, especially in the morning. I believe that is called “dew.” When Kristin wants to walk out to her free-standing hammock she does not particularly care for the mushy feeling. In a few weeks she’ll begin to have a different problem: the dead grass will be brittle and harsh. She won’t want to walk on it then, either.
What she said she wanted to do was put some stepping stones from the small circular patio outside the sliding glass door all the way to the hammock. Possibly to where the faucet and hose are as well, but mostly for the hammock.
The hammock that, being free-standing, gets dragged around a bit in order to get into or out of the sun on any given day. Depending on the needs of the user at the time. Hence, how can you put stepping stones to it? It might not be there next time!
So I said what any thoughtful, loving husband would say.
“I forbid it.”
You would have thought I’d strangled a hummingbird.
“You what?” Kristin asked.
I knew instinctively that I shouldn’t repeat the f-word. The look on her face told me so. And the tone of her voice. And the fact that I am not a complete imbecile.
“Well, you know, the hammock moves all the time. What’s the point of stepping stones to nowhere?”
Her pause frightened me. She allowed me to continue digging. The hole I was standing in wasn’t quite deep enough yet.
“It’ll be a pain to mow around them all the time.” Now Kyle was staring at me, too.
“We don’t need them,” I said with a smile. None of it was working. Apparently sometimes my charm has its limitations. “I’ll carry you out to the hammock whenever you want!” I finally screamed. I was sweating bullets.
“That’s. Not. The. Point.”
Of course it wasn’t the point. The question at hand wasn’t how Kristin would get out to the hammock. It was how one spouse could “forbid” anything to the other. I tried to convince her that I didn’t mean “forbid” in its classic sense, but more in a loving and doting husbandly way. A recommendation, maybe. Or just some sage advice from the guy who does most of the yard work (be quiet, Kyle).
Of course words matter, though. And “forbid” means what “forbid” means. I briefly tried to impugn her character by pointing out that in our twenty-five years together she has certainly forbidden me certain things, but she denied it and I couldn’t come up with any concrete details.
So I no longer forbid her to put in stepping stones to the wandering hammock. But if they are installed, I absolutely refuse to relocate them every time the hammock changes location.
And meanwhile she has forbidden me to use a certain word.
That seems unfair.