Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Beware, Oh Beware Of What You Wish For

["Let Inga Tell You," La Jolla Light, published January 26, 2012]  © 2012

I couldn’t help but notice that Olof and I seem to have completely switched roles from our first marriages. 

 In Olof’s first marriage, his one misgiving about his wife is that she came from a background where communication was never done directly.  Trying to figure out what she wanted always felt like a jigsaw puzzle to which he seemed to be perpetually missing the edge pieces, and the big flower piece in the middle as well.  Over time, he learned to read cues, pick up on nuances, and fine tune his intuitive skills. 

 After they divorced, he told himself that if he ever married again it would be with someone with more direct communication skills.

 Come back wife with poor communication skills. All is forgiven.

 Olof, who is never ever mean, has occasionally suggested in the nicest possible way that he has not a single teeny weeny doubt about how I ever feel about anything, including and especially about him. 

 Fortunately, 99% of what I feel about him is hugely positive.  He’s just the funniest, kindest, most generous guy you can imagine.   It’s his insane death-defying work hours that keep him from a 100% approval rating.  “Olof,” I keep saying, “No one our age, which is to say, your age, can work the hours you do and hope to live to retirement.”  He does seem slow to get this message. 

 Olof, for his part, says that it is too frightening to imagine that I was considered the neat one in my former marriage.  And equally incomprehensible to imagine me as the quieter one.  I don’t want to start any fights with my former husband who lives locally and with whom I get along well.  But my ex could be a taddy bit directive (and by his own admission, a total slob, although he preferred the word “casual”); he genuinely wanted to help me realize my potential.  Olof, on the other hand, has always assumed I was as good as I was ever going to get. 

 In Olof’s and my marriage, ironically, I’m usually the one trying to figure what Olof is thinking.  He will never offer an opinion about anything personal unless asked.  Nay, begged.  No, implored.  He’s never said so but I think from his viewpoint, offering solicited or unsolicited opinions about any aspect of a wife is a mine field to be avoided at all costs.  He can visualize the grenades imploding on the serenity of his personal life, the conflagration of hard-earned husband points, even though I maintain I am never ever vindictive. (Well, not towards him, anyway.) 

 He, the former communicative one, confesses he has a hard time seeing himself as the less communicative one.  And as for me being the “neat” one in my former marriage, he says if he were our former cleaning lady, he would have shot himself. (The kids sometimes try to maintain that they grew up in poverty.  Olof demurs, adding, “but you did grow up in squalor.”)

 I have endlessly tried to assure him that I wouldn’t ask his opinion if I didn’t really want to hear it.  I value his opinion more than anyone’s so if I ask him if I screwed up in a certain situation I genuinely want to know his view.  Even if it is totally wrong.   Even if any sane individual could see that I was right and the other party was an irrational numnut. 

 Olof denies it, but there are times I could swear I hear him muttering under his breath: “Beware of what you wish for.” 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Yes, You ARE Contagious!

["Let Inga Tell You," La Jolla Light, published January 12, 2012] © 2012

We’re all familiar with the common fibs people tell – “It’s in the mail,”  “I only had one,” and “No, I haven’t had a face lift, I’m just really relaxed.”  But this time of year, the one that really gets me is “I’m not contagious.”   The speaker invariably has a hacking cough reminiscent of Greta Garbo dying of consumption in the last scenes of Camille. 

Let me say up front that I am hardly a germaphobe.   (One look at my house would convince you.)  But some of the worst illnesses I’ve ever caught have been from people who “weren’t contagious.”  Fortunately, neither Olof nor I get sick all that often but when we do, we tend to get afflictions that take up residence in our obviously weak lungs and refuse to be evicted. So we do our best to avoid them.

There are no lack of virulent organisms floating around this time of year.  Everything you touch is a source of some pathogen (including and especially the keypad at your local pharmacy) but other than washing your hands a lot, you just have to hope your immune system is up to the challenge.  But why dare it by inviting plague into your house? 

Several weeks ago, some friends we hadn’t seen in a long time arrived for dinner, the husband recently returned from a trip through what I call the ebola airline hubs in Europe where the world’s grodiest germs have a chance to mix and match.  The first thing I noticed was that he was exhibiting the Green Snot Sign.  There are few microbes I hate more than green snot microbes which from my personal experience are pernicious and have a door knob life span of decades.  Further, the Manual of Mom Medicine, paragraph six, article two, clearly states that yellow snot is your standard basic cold but green snot requires antibiotics.  As if on cue, our guest croaked from his severely laryngitic throat that he had started antibiotics approximately five seconds before so not to worry, he was “not contagious.” 

I immediately considered letting this guy eat alone out on our uncovered patio in the rain where his illness might progress to pneumonia to which he would hopefully succumb before I had to let him back in.  Olof, a frequent business traveler, has come back from those same airports with some seriously nasty stuff. (Green snot from an ebola airport probably IS ebola.)   But I was overruled by my kinder gentler Other Half, who thinks it’s not polite to be mean to people one has invited over even if they are attempting to kill us. 

Our guest not only coughed and sneezed pretty much non-stop but kept repeating, probably in response to my cringing looks every time he blew Snot Verde across my dinner table, that his doctor told him that once he started taking antibiotics he wasn’t contagious.  He said they’d thought of cancelling but didn’t want to disappoint us.

Please.  Disappoint us.

Let me just say I have no medical background whatsoever, other than having been previously married to a physician, including the medical school years, which makes me among the most medically dangerous people on the planet.  But I would still like to officially challenge every law of contagion ever put out there.  According to the Dr. Inga School of Unsubstantiated Medical Facts, if you are even remotely sick, you are contagious.    So when you say “my doctor says I’m not contagious” (like I believe you, or him), I think it’s only fair to ask for his or her number because I think he or she ought to be willing to treat me for free when I get sick from you.  I’d also like affidavits of non-contagability, lab results not more than two hours old indicating the absence of a single shedding rhinovirus, recent articles from The New England Journal citing conclusive evidence that contagiousness can even be quantified, and a Hazmat suit for the guest (and maybe even the host) to wear.  Let no one say I am unreasonable.

But meanwhile, while the flu season lasts, I’m hoping you’ll give me a head(cold)'s up.  My aging immune system thanks you.