Of husbands and grocery lists

23 Dec

The Husband and the Grocery List
The husband and the grocery list have a peculiar and dynamic relationship. Consciously or unconsciously, wives send husbands to grocery stores with grocery lists like popes send sinners to purgatory. It’s an attempt to have husbands work off past sins and earn the reward of reentry into the home. And don’t try to refuse the trip. The use of the word “no” here will come back to haunt you in myriad ways. Don’t bother saying you’re busy either. No excuse will satisfy her, since nothing you could possibly be doing will be considered important when you aren’t physically at work (unless you are on the roof in the rain repairing a gaping hole or under the house drowning from broken pipes, it’s all just “tinkering” or “piddling” to wives). But husbands needn’t fear. It’s a crazy deadly maze, but if played right, you can survive and extend time away from purgatory. The key is to do well enough to avoid a woman’s scorn but poorly enough to avoid making it a common occurrence. Here’s some things to remember.
First, if the grocery list is roughly five items or less, by all means, get it right the first time. Returning with the wrong or forgotten items will be considered inexcusable since “it was only five things; seriously? Five things? You can’t get just five things right? I swear…” and so on. While you are going back to fix it, she’ll be making another list that’s even worse out of spite. Getting a five-item list right will maybe get you a kiss on the cheek, but don’t worry, she won’t think it means you are competent to handle the scroll-down or fold-over variety on a regular basis.
But if she gives you a longer list — more than five things — the rules, expectations, and strategy changes considerably. With more than five things, you are certain to forget one item or get an item or two wrong. Just accept it. You are going back. You are going to forget an item because carefully and exhaustively checking a long grocery list before leaving is boring and will strike you as inefficient. You are going to get an item wrong because precisely matching items on the grocery list (which will be far too vague for husbands to understand) with the actual products on the shelves (or freezers, or bins, or endcaps or wherever) is an impossibly confusing test that Einstein would fail because his male brain isn’t wired to pass it. And that’s fine. Hopefully, you’ll end up with just enough of the list wrong or forgotten to keep her natural pity from turning into anger. To be sure, having to “go back” with your tail tucked between your legs will be bothersome but it’s better than doing so well that she becomes confident in you. Wives are different and so individual results may vary, but you should operate according to a 10-15% list-error rate. Above it, woman’s scorn. Below it, she’ll be too proud and send you more often.
Now when you get to the grocery store things are often not what they appear to be. The list will say “pork sausage” but you’ll come home with “links” when you were supposed to get “patties.” Milk, for instance, seems simple enough, but it turns out that grocers do science experiments on milk so that some milk is “evaporated” and others “condensed.” If you are lucky enough to find these chemicals, you won’t be lucky enough to get the right size. Sometimes your item will be literally buried in a sea of the same species. Beans. They’ll have 27 flavors; baked, kidney, northern (must we import everything from yankees?), butter, etc.. Oh, and “peas” are not simply the green version of beans. In fact, some beans are green, but are cut in different ways (ways that she won’t specify on the list). Or you will find that “ranch dip” is not simply ranch dressing used for dipping, but is in fact a pack filled with powder and comes in bacon, buttermilk, onion, and so on. None will say plain or original, but that’s probably the one you were supposed to get. Ground beef is actually measured out in body fat percentages. You will be scolded for buying off-brand cereal or cookies but also scolded for buying name-brand dairy products. In fact, remember that. On any given item, there is a 50% chance that getting the off-brand was the wrong choice. Yet, spending too much money is as wrong to her as spending too little. If she tells you to buy “snacks,” be aware that there is no such thing. Snacks are abstractions, a category of food, not an actual item, although it will appear as such on the list. The snack error rate is astronomical. Bread. Just go ahead and buy a loaf, it will be wrong. But remember, you are only shooting for 10%.
Often you will find yourself simply overwhelmed and lost; kinda like when a child gets lost and just stops walking altogether. You will literally come to a complete stop in the middle of an aisle and find yourself just staring at nothing in particular. If you end up doing this, whatever you do, don’t stop. And don’t bother calling or texting your wife for clarification if possible. Every call/text results in a husband demerit. Besides, help is on the way. One of these motherly-mother types, usually with an empty nest, will inevitably find you in your pitiful state (remember, they aren’t like us, they are multi-taskers seeing hearing and sensing not only what is directly in front of them but also beside and behind as well). Motherly-mother types know where absolutely every food thingy is down to the centimeter. And you are no waste of time for them; motherly-mother types live for this kind of stuff. You’ll see the desire to nurture on their faces. Just stand there with your mouth partially opened looking classically confused, and their natural compassion for helpless husbands will guide them to you. Soon you’ll hear “Honey are you lost?” or “You look really confused, what are you looking for?” or “Just show me your list and I’ll save you a trip back.” She’ll feel good about helping a stray and you’ll get all the credit. It’s really a win-win.
Don’t stay gone too long because that will mean you wanted time away from her. And don’t make the trip too short because you just rushed it, not taking her cooking seriously. Should you add stuff to the list? Yes, as a personal reward, but eat it before you get home. If she gave you a written list, accidentally lose it. If it was texted to you, don’t.
With these things in mind, a husband will not be able to avoid grocery list failures completely. It’s science or something. But he can avoid the extreme sufferings that wives are by nature entitled to bestow upon foolish husbands. “Honey, I need you to get a few items from the grocery store.” “Sure babe. How many?” And so it begins.


One Response to “Of husbands and grocery lists”

  1. thenatteringnelson December 24, 2017 at 8:40 am #

    I’m guessing Natalie doesn’t read your blog.


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