Crime And Punishment (Marital Edition)

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Erich Segal said love means never having to say you’re sorry. Either he was wrong or I’m not in love, for I am constantly saying I’m sorry. But get this. In law, sentences for intentional crimes are more severe than for crimes of negligence. Why not in marriage? I don’t intend the thoughtless things I do. That’s why they’re called thoughtless. But do I ever get off with a slap on the wrist? Have I just once tasted that sweet, sweet community service type of sentence? Heavens, no. Like a can of Chunky Beef soup dropped on my lap while I doze peacefully in a recliner, justice is delivered swiftly and without mercy.

But don’t take my word for it, you be the judge. Did I intend to set my wife’s purse on fire when I graciously brought it in from the car? Of course not. I only intended to get back to the couch in time to see the training montage in Rocky IV. The stove was just where her purse happened to land. So what if I’ve seen Rocky IV a hundred times — if you owned a Picasso, would you gaze upon it only once? Whose side are you on, anyway?

And now I’m committed to doing couples yoga? The punishment hardly fits the crime. Will my sentence be enhanced if I involuntarily say something inappropriate during Downward Dog, like Now you’re cooking with bear fat? Almost certainly. I’m not saying that I won’t say something like that and I’m not saying that I will, I’m just saying that I will. Plus I did some internet sleuthing at work to prepare for class, only to find myself on a site that can’t possibly be what you have in mind. One mustn’t confuse Hot Yoga with Hot, Steamy Yoga. Now Tewksbury in Human Resources wants to see me first thing in the morning.

No, my plan wasn’t to forget to hit the ATM and withdraw Tooth Fairy money on the way home from work. My plan was simply to show “The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys” the respect it deserves when it comes on the radio, and sing along with Steve Winwood. Blowing past the ATM just kind of happened. Besides, it’s not like our kid doesn’t believe in the Tooth Fairy now. She just thinks he’s full of sh*t.

And now it’s my responsibility to make sure our little gap-toothed Patrick Henry can deliver every line of “Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Death” in the school recital? Can’t I just serve one of those shame sentences I’ve read about, maybe wear a sandwich board that reads Selfish around the town square for a couple of hours? Pleasant, no, but over in time for 30 For 30? You bet. 

Guilty as charged. I may have faded a little at dinner with Chris and Brenda and not followed every nuance of the conversation. By “nuance” I mean who was talking to whom, for how long, about what, etc. But look at things from my perspective: usually it’s riskless to go to my happy place when Brenda goes strong to the hole with Alaskan cruise stories. I intended no harm, my mind just drifted. As I recall, here was the progression: I heard Carefree Highway in the restaurant. This made me think that it would be (1) ironic to get in an argument while driving on the Carefree Highway, (2) even more ironic if this happened while Carefree Highway was playing on the radio and (3) downright weird if after arguing we picked up a hitchhiker — Gordon Lightfoot — who stole our car and, changing the station as he drove off, yelled “I was always more an Eagles man.” So you can see why I giggled at the table.

Truth? I don’t do these things to torment you. I genuinely forget that you don’t want to debate whether having a rainbow wig cemented to your head or a novelty foam finger glued to your hand would be worse. Of course I intended to buy the pet bird that the kids wanted for Christmas, which yes, clearly should have been exotic rather than erotic. (Still, you have to admit that the thing Mr. Feathers does with his hips is hilarious.) You don’t care whether in his prime Mike Wallace could throw a better deep ball than Seneca Wallace could run a political interview – I get it. Everything’s clearer in hindsight.

So here’s my ask: cut me some slack the next time I make an absolute dumpster fire of things. Even though you’ve got me dead to rights, let me off with a warning. For if I can change, and you can change, everybody can change. Or so said Sylvester Stallone in Rocky IV.

Michael C. Kerrigan