If you are a married man, you’ve probably experienced this scenario. You and your wife are friends with a couple. You innocently mention to your lovely bride that you are going to have lunch, or a beer, or play golf with the male member of the couple. When you return home afterward, your spouse bombards you with questions. How is Mike’s mother adjusting to the new iron lung? Has little Elroy accepted the riflery scholarship to Duke? How is the family dealing with the mysterious, apparently voodoo-related death of the family cat?
You sheepishly admit that you didn’t talk about any of that stuff — or anything else of significance, besides. And your wife, arms crossed, fixes you with a withering glare of disbelief — causing you to shrivel inwardly with intense embarrassment, realize for the first time the full and tragic extent of your brutish insensitivity, and vow that you will finally become a decent, nurturing member of human society.
Well, we all know the last part doesn’t really happen. After your wife gives you her amazed reaction, you actually think: why would I want to talk about any of that stuff that when I’m playing golf? Still, the encounter with your wife was somewhat unpleasant, and it would be best to avoid similar occasions in the future. But how?
Here’s a suggestion. The next time, spend the first five minutes exchanging high-level family information with your friend. Nessie has been named citizen of the week at the juvenile detention facility! Sally’s aunt has developed a powerful rash of unknown origin! The Jones family had a grand time at their bullfighting camp! Seize on those drab nuggets of personal information and lock them away in the recesses of your brain, because they will be your lifeline when you get home. Then, turn to more interesting conversational areas — like sports and which episode of Seinfeld was definitive.
At home that night, when your wife asks the inevitable questions, you can retrieve and the casually throw out the stored personal information, perhaps with a little embellishment. Sure, your wife will have countless detailed follow-up questions that you can’t possibly answer. Don’t even try. Just shrug and say that Ken said he didn’t know — and then add, with a hint of sadness, that you sensed that he really didn’t want to talk about it, and you didn’t want to intrude into what might be an area of intense personal concern for him. Who knows? Your wife might actually conclude that you are making progress as a human being and now possess more sensitivity than a gnat.