Mary Ellen passed along some comments she had heard about me at her book club.
“Kathy says your newspaper column makes her laugh, and Cara, our hostess, told me she thinks you’re quite amusing on TV.”
“Wow, thanks for sharing that!”
“But Dick, I have to ask you this: How come you’re not so funny at home? People keep telling me how humorous you are and how much fun it must be to live with you, but I don’t see it. Maybe you leave it all in the basement where you write your column, or at the remote locations where you do your TV segments?”
“I’m that dull, huh?”
“Oh, don’t get me wrong. We’ve had a great marriage for 38 years and I’ve been perfectly happy. It’s just not been the laugh riot everyone else assumes it is.”
It was a startling observation—and not an unfair one. When we are out with other couples we all laugh. Waiters love to trade jabs with me. The UPS guy and I always yuck it up on my porch. I never leave the dry cleaners without exchanging a few jokes with the clerk. But apparently, I save nothing for my relationship with my wife. I only have so much to give, and maybe I give it all at the office.
“Mary Ellen, this is your fault. I can’t kid about your cooking: it’s outstanding. You dress impeccably, you have perfect hair and you are very intelligent. I need some material to work with.”
“I must admit, Dick, you are making a convincing argument.”
I was determined to make things right. We sat across from each other at the dinner table that evening.
“Dick, you are trying way too hard. The red foam clown nose is not original. And you keep kicking me with those giant shoes.”
When a slight grin appeared on my wife’s face, I knew I was making progress.
“I could try some snappy repartee at dinner every night. I know I could be as funny at home as I am at work.”
“Oh, please,” Mary Ellen said, “don’t make me laugh.”