As a veteran husband, I have discovered through trial and error that the secret to marital bliss is listening carefully to your spouse when she is trying to share her innermost feelings.
This is especially true when she is advising you on what manner of thoughtful gift she would appreciate you buying for her -- and which gifts she would not appreciate -- to commemorate upcoming special occasions.
I was thinking about this last week while waiting for my buddy Bob to pick me up so we could go to the annual men-only evening at our favourite Italian restaurant. This evening is intended for guys of our gender who are clueless about what to buy their significant others for Valentine's Day.
Along with tables groaning with Italian food and a "tasteful" lingerie fashion show, the evening includes a variety of local retailers offering hapless male shoppers a chance to buy the "perfect gift" to demonstrate to their beloved the depth of their feelings.
"You're allowed to buy me chocolate!" is what my wife advised as I waited for Bob to show up. "I do NOT want a stretchy dress or cheesy jewelry. Just chocolate!"
As it turned out, Bob was under the same marching orders, so when we arrived at the restaurant and obtained refreshing beverages, we immediately began an intense quest for things covered in chocolate.
Which is precisely what we were doing when a lovely young woman approached us and asked whether we wanted to buy tickets for a chance to win the evening's special gift basket.
"It will probably be filled with chocolate," is what I told Bob as we each bought an arm's-length of tickets, before parking ourselves at a table with a bunch of other guys to eat and enjoy the evening's entertainment.
Speaking of which, the first performer was a real eye-opener in the sense it was a incredibly talented belly dancer who, while spinning wildly like a car on an ice-covered stretch of highway, balanced a huge razor-sharp sword on its edge on top of her head.
"I hope that sword does not come flying off her head, because that could take somebody's eye out," I warned Bob as the belly dancer, gyrating like a five-speed blender, spun perilously close to our table.
Fortunately, we escaped uninjured and, before long, a woman clad in lingerie -- of the sort I was expressly forbidden to purchase -- and a pair of terrifyingly tall high heels tottered up to announce the winner of the, quote, "Passion Party Gift Basket."
I did not have a clue what a gift basket of this nature would contain, but I was about to find out, because after the winning number was read, Bob scanned our tickets and, with actual tears of laughter running down his manly cheeks, snorted: "HA HA HA! YOU WON!"
If you are curious about the contents of the "passion" basket, I can only say it contained an impressive variety of items that I cannot accurately describe in a family newspaper. Along with what appears to be a sort of riding crop called the "Love Tap," there was an assortment of exotic creams and lotions, including "Frosting Shimmer Lotion," which is "light-reflective," so I assume it would come in handy if you spent much time walking down busy highways without your clothes on, which is something I rarely do.
It also contained three devices that were -- How can I describe these items? -- the size and shape of flashlights and operated by batteries but would definitely not help you see in the dark, if you catch my general X-rated drift. One of these items was hidden in a fuzzy red slipcover of the sort you would put on your golf clubs, and if you left this object on a coffee table, you might be able to convince innocent visitors it was a piece of abstract art.
"Your wife is really going to get a kick out of that," is what the other guys at the restaurant chortled, slapping me on the back.
As you have no doubt already guessed, these guys were idiots. When I got home, I left the basket on the table at the front door. In the morning, my wife ripped it open and sorted through its contents, then left for work without saying a word to me.
What with being a marriage expert, I suspect I will be buying a lot more chocolate than normal this year.