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So, yes, mistakes were made. But luckily, Karel isn't here to make fun of me. She secretly loves it when I mess up, because she claims I never admit I've done anything wrong. Well, as I sit here popping Advil and pounding Gatorade, I'll happily own up to my many bungled plans and bad calls as a husband. (Are you listening, Karel?) Go ahead, relish this.
1. Insulting my wife when I'm trying to flatter her.
I am a huge appreciator of the female form, specifically Karel's form, but sometimes my words get in the way of expressing that appreciation. I have been known to praise Karel by telling her she looks "big" or "thick." These words do not go over well, even though I mean them as the highest form of flattery. I am a firm believer in the Sir Mix-A-Lot/Commodores aesthetic, and I love the fact that my beautiful wife is a Brick House (that's right, she's mighty mighty and has been occasionally known to let it all hang out). Karel is a full-figured, curvy woman, and that's a very, very good thing. But Karel hears those words (especiallyfull-figured) in an entirely negative way, one that I will never understand because I am not a woman and therefore have never worried about "not being skinny enough."
2. [email protected] up the laundry.
No matter how hard I try, I'm always shrinking one of Karel's tops or turning something the wrong color when I do the laundry. It's my fault that half of Karel's sweaters are no longer "work appropriate." I kind of like sweaters that aren't appropriate for work; full figures and tight sweaters are like steak and eggs, beer and whiskey — they go so well together!
3. Introducing our kids to crappy food.
Karel is a freak for healthy eating. She strongly believes that the kids should not have snacks that come from brightly colored plastic pouches or have the words "Kreemy Filling" on the label. I, on the other hand, truly believed I could introduce a little bit of junk food into their lives and teach them to think of it as a rare treat. But much like Communist Russia, I realized too late that junk food is like capitalism, and you can't let just a little bit in. Once the kids got a taste for it, there was no holding back the tides of revolution.
I knew I'd made a huge mistake the first time they mowed down cheese fries: They were like zombies feasting on fresh brains. They don't look like happy zombies when they eat the fresh tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage I grow in our garden. In fact, I've realized that the more junk food they're exposed to (urgh, by me), the more they think good stuff only comes from a box or an industrial deep fryer. Karel was right about this one, and now I have to figure out how to wean my kids off the stuff. I have a feeling withdrawal isn't going to be pretty.
4. Sharing our personal details.
At the end of Karel's first pregnancy, I announced at a party that her nipples had started leaking. In my defense, it was that stage of pregnancy when conversations about the female body become much more routine and graphic. However, I admit that there's a difference between two women having a clinical conversation about stretch marks and false contractions and my declaring that "the milk train has come choo-choo-chooing into the station!" and then going on to describe in detail why Karel had to shop for padded bras before dinner — all while happily eating tacos in a room full of flabbergasted friends and family.
5. Dropping out of college.
Originally, this mistake only affected me, because I didn't know Karel at the time. But after getting married and moving back to Philly, I discovered that without a college degree or specialized skills, the only jobs available to me were the same ones available to high school students in the summer. Minimum-wage paychecks and dicey hours made our first few years of marriage brutal. It wasn't the months of beans and rice or the inability to go out to dinner or a movie with friends that made it so tough. It was our complete lack of security — the sensation that a case of mono, or a broken arm, or a strong gust of wind could destroy us financially, and we might never get to a place where we could have a house or babies.
Even now, we talk about my going back to school to complete my bachelor's degree when the kids are older, which means we'd probably go into a lot of debt for something that I should have done — and paid for — back when I was a lot younger. Despite this, Karel has made it clear that she will support me, and that we'll do what we always do and "figure out a way to make it work." Which makes me think that mistakes can actually be valuable, because sometimes fixing them — together — shows you what your marriage is really made of.
REDBOOK columnist Aaron Traister lives in Philadelphia with his wife and two kids.
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