Uh oh. When my husband told me his plans to go on a business trip to Australia, I was concerned.
He had to sell some Aussies the idea of letting his company help them build a gas pipeline. That was when my woman’s intuitive genius went into overdrive, and I knew he needed my “helpmate” hat.
A task oriented Texan, he’s a genius with engineering stuff, but awkward with people, which of course is why he needed me.
I ran to my laptop and googled “culture shock” in Australia. We had a few days to study what makes Aussies tick. I didn't think loving barbeque would be enough to make him a "good-ole-boy" in a few days.
What I read was intriguing. Evidently Aussies love to “self-deprecate”. Laughing at themselves comes naturally. They must be a “hoot” to live with, but I had to do a humor makeover quickly.
My left-brained, overly- serious, introverted husband needed to learn to be the punch line of a joke. Any joke. He actually believes he’s never funny, which makes him absolutely hilarious without him ever laughing.
In order to suceed, I needed a word picture to imagine a real Aussie who self-deprecates.
I pictured a room filled with engineers in Sydney, laughing at how funny it was their petrol pipeline sprung a leak. Naa. Too far-fetched.
I tried fantasizing Miss Australia tripping at the Miss World pageant, getting up in stitches of laughter. That word picture stuck, and energized me as his self-proclaimed "self-deprecation" coach.
How did they produce a whole culture of stand-up comediennes? Maybe it’s in the water.
Having a flashback of our engagement days almost destroyed my hope.
I'd put ice cubes down his back once on a hot summer day, to kind of loosen him up. When he actually considered ending the engagement, I learned a life lesson: self-deprecation is not taught with ice.
“What does ‘self-deprecate’ even mean?” he finally asked.
“Webster's says it's the ‘tendency to undervalue oneself and one’s abilities.’ You know, like when I tell you that because I’m a lousy cook, I just love your Sunday morning pancakes. I just self-deprecated.”
My husband, not born yesterday, replied, over his glasses, “I’d call that manipulation.”
Getting desperate, I reminded him of two great family stories when he was forced to break his pride-stride.
“Just tell them, over barbeque, the time you were caught with your pants down. “
“Like when?” His memory apparently is selective.
“Remember when you were in the bathroom stall at Barnes and Nobles on Halloween night, and some boys as a joke threw a fire-cracker in the bathroom to scare you? You made a plan to get them back by not running out but staying there. You turned out the light and hid behind the bathroom door, knowing they would come back in, and then scared them? They ran out of the store screaming.”
One of our favorite family stories.
“How is that self-deprecating? I thought it was rather clever.”
I deflated once again with his over-the-glasses glare. I hate that glare.
“Oh, I thought of another one.” His stories are implanted in my memory forever, because let’s face it, he needs them.
“Remember the time you fell through the ceiling onto our ping-pong table on Christmas Eve, when our daughters were teenagers? You were thawing out the frozen pipes in the attic with a blow-torch, and the pipes burst, scaring you enough to step backwards? We are still laughing at that…”
He looked at me again over his glasses, which I decided I need to steal. I was losing patience. His response was way too logical, a horrible trait.
“And what, my dear, if the Aussies don’t play ping-pong, or know what a blow-torch is, or understand that having three teenage girls who can’t wash their hair is an American emergency?”
I was losing this challenge. Some things in life are not possible, and this could be up there along with a rehab for chocoholics. A waste of time and money.
“Dear, a man who self-deprecates never looks over one’s glasses. That’s a sign of inner disgust over the foolishness of the rest of the human race. You do know that, right?”
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