Sampath G

How to be positively negative

In Humour, Relationships, Uncategorized on April 22, 2013 at 2:22 pm

“You’re always being negative, too negative,” the Wife said to me in the course of our scheduled Sunday fight two weeks ago.

In case you’re wondering – yes, we keep all our fights for Sunday. Except when either of us is travelling, in which case we reschedule the agenda of the missed Sunday fight to the next Sunday when both of us are in the same city (we avoid phone fights unless it’s an emergency and can’t wait).

We decided on Sundays because we’re both too busy to fight properly during the week, and Saturday is the day set aside for our respective errands. For Wife, it’s the day she buys all the vegetables I don’t like, goes to the bank five minutes after closing time (so she has a reason to go to the bank again next Saturday), and makes me feel guilty for not chauffeuring her around on wild goose chases.

Last Saturday, for instance, I was corralled into a second-hand furniture-shopping-expedition – ostensibly to buy a ‘comfortable chair’ for ‘back-achy’ me. All I got in return for five hours of standing and waiting and intermittently deploying my own bottom to wipe the dust off assorted antique chairs in a muddy corner of Lajpat Nagar were thirteen Georgian knobs for cabinets that don’t yet exist, dizziness caused by extreme hunger, and a heart throbbing with rising BP and unexpressed acrimony.

For me, Saturday is the day I sit down and prepare my weekly report on our perfect marriage, with concrete action points on how to make it even more perfect, and make the perfection sustainable in a challenging domestic environment and fast-changing emotional climate.

Restricting fights to one pre-assigned weekday has three advantages: it keeps most of the week peaceful; in the absence of an immediate trigger, you’re not adequately charged up for a full-blown emotional melt-down (which is mandatory if you have to take the fight to the next level); and fighting with your spouse isn’t much fun when it’s no longer a spontaneous outburst at a perceived injustice but a task on your to-do list.

So in this fight I spoke about, calling me ‘negative’ was Wife’s counter to my observation that she had forgotten to switch off the geyser three times in a row in one week.

“I wasn’t being negative,” I replied. “I was just stating a fact.”

“Now you’re being defensive on top of being negative,” she said.

I considered pointing out that her calling me ‘negative’, followed by her calling me ‘defensive’ – was a text book example of negativity. But on a whim, I opted for the road less travelled.

“I am sorry,” I said. “Tell me what I can do to stop being negative.”

Wife’s eyes narrowed suspiciously. “Is this supposed to be another one of your sad jokes?”

“Of course not!” I said, despite being fully aware that I was playing into her hands by answering a leading question, and thereby implicitly admitting I had made ‘sad jokes’ in the past.

“Fine,” she said, savouring her little victory. “Let me see if you can do this: whenever you find something to criticise me for, convert it into praise.”

“But how –” I began, but she cut me off.

“The moment you say ‘but’ – it’s a big sign that you’re being negative. Can’t you give me one week of no criticism and only praise?”

Put like that – as a challenge – I couldn’t not accept.

“Okay,” I said. “You got it.”

So a week went by – it was in no way different from any of the previous weeks, save in one respect: on Sunday morning, I found myself in the unique position of having a lot of ammunition but bound by an agreement to surrender all arms. And not only that, I was required to go the extra mile and convert my nuclear-tipped missiles into honey-coated flower rockets filled with Machher Jhol and tiramisu.

So this is what I said to Wife last Sunday:

“First of all, I would like to congratulate you on leaving the geyser on for altogether 33 hours this past week – this is three hours more than the previous week. I am confident that, with your consistent efforts, we will, in the next billing cycle, break all our power consumption records and surpass our previous highest electricity bill of Rs11,678 by a huge margin.

“Secondly, on Wednesday, you demonstrated tremendous courage and risk-taking ability by carrying out a comparative study of the melting point of steel and the boiling point of water. You did this by filling a steel vessel with water and waiting till all the water had evaporated and the vessel had turned black as a buffalo. By thus reminding me of my favourite animal (buffalo) and favourite colour (black), you instantly lightened my mood.

“Finally, on Saturday, you insisted on taking the Kalindi Kunj route home when I wanted to take the DND expressway, and we got stuck in a jam for two hours. Thanks to this, we spent two unexpected hours in each other’s exclusive company – two precious hours we would not had with each other if we had reached home one-and-a-half hour earlier, and I hadn’t had to cancel a crucial Skype appointment.

“So, thank you for being such a wonderful Wife – for being patriotic (boosting the national economy by increasing power consumption), inventive (improve my mood through an innovative scientific process), and really loving (willing to put self and spouse through a mega-traffic jam for the sake of quality time together).”

My little speech was received in silence.

“So?” I said. “Did I pass?”

She shook her head, and said, “Affirmative.”

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