Confession: Not many years ago, when I was young, I was under the impression that the best way to ask a favor or broach a difficult subject was to sidle up to it gently. I always preferred to drop enough hints about where I was heading that the other person could a) offer the adjustment or favor of their own initiative if they were so inclined, or b) steer the conversation away if they were not. This inclination reflects both how I was raised as a Minnesotan child* and who I am as a person.
It almost made my husband crazy.
Mr. Direct Speech, whom I married by accident while marrying Mr. Handsome, Mr. Intelligent, Mr. Merciful, Mr. Good with Words, and Mr. Great Volleyball Player insisted that I say what I wanted to say, a cruel and unusual punishment, as anyone who shares my dislike of unpleasant conversations will easily see.
“Honey. Um. Honey, I feel like you’re – What is the speed limit through here? Isn’t it forty-five miles an hour? I mean, I don’t want to tell you how to drive, but the baby – !” He prefers that I drop all that and substitute this, which feel impossibly rude and impolitic: “Ryan, you’re driving like Jehu. Please slow down.”
He put a stop to “Do you know what time it is??” and “Are you hoping to get to that project today??” and “Oh shoot, I forgot the salt and pepper…??” (Double question marks in any situation are his abhorrence, and “Do you want to…?” is even worse. Um, no. He doesn’t.) He is teaching me to say, “It’s time to go” and “Would you add this to your task list?” and “Will you please bring salt and pepper to the table?”
It took years to learn. Perhaps I should say it has taken years, and it is still taking years, and it is about to have taken more years, until death do us part. But he will not give up on me.
It’s almost making me crazy.
* I had never factored geography into my makeup until I read this line: “He had been through many of these conversations. He has a calm, reassuring air and a native Minnesotan’s tendency to avoid confrontation or over-intimacy.” It cracked me right up. – Atul Gawande, Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, Metropolitan Books, 2014, p. 166.
Which brings to mind another quote: “I like that about myself, and I like myself, and I have a lot of other great qualities as well.” – Marcel the Shell