To paraphrase my father-in-law, women civilize men. He told me this when my husband and I announced our engagement. He wanted me to know my responsibilities in the relationship.
Surprisingly, I agree with his assessment . . . to a degree. I stop short of complete buy-in, however, because I've sat through too many family meals during which my husband and my sons descend into most uncivilized behavior. As an example, one such repast recently occurred in the Dublin, Ga., Shoney's, the six of us crammed elbow to elbow in a booth, discussing what we to do to kill time until the 12-year-old's baseball tournament resumed. "Want to go to the cage?" asked my husband to my son. I can appreciate how it sounded like a challenge, even a threat, when the man followed his first question with a second: "Got any balls?"
Across the table, our 12 year-old chewed his lips and his 14 year-old brother cut his eyes side to side. Then the younger of the two ducked his chin and grinned and said, "Yes, sir."
"I mean baseballs," his father smiled back, gleeful in their clandestine male bonding.
"Y'all are such men," I interrupted. "You," I addressed my husband, "challenging him to a cage match." I put my fingers in quotations around "cage match." "And him," I nodded at my child, "tossing out silent innuendos. As if."
"What?" they both begged innocence, which illustrates my point: the civilizing power of a woman has its limitations. The effect only goes so far and only lasts so long.
What women really do for men, a far more beneficial feature of femininity, is save them from their burping, flatulating, dirty-joking selves. We protect them from loss of life and limb. May I elucidate?
Perhaps you heard of Jonathan Metz, a single male living alone, who decided to service his furnace on Sunday, June 6th; not an unusual activity for a 31 year-old man to engage in on a weekend. Unfortunately, he accidentally wedged his arm in his furnace. The more he struggled the more trapped it became.
He spent Sunday night stuck. He spent Monday like that, and Monday night. Tuesday came and fear and infection set in, and he realized he wasn't getting loose from there and that no one was coming to his aid. Desperately, he began sawing his arm from his body. He continued the amputation on and off into Wednesday, when friends finally missed him and investigated. Rescue workers finished the surgery Mr. Metz initiated.
Regrettably, Mr. Metz could have avoided this catastrophe had he bothered to get himself civilized. A woman would have marched herself down to the basement with him and directed the furnace fixing project. We all know that (obviously), without her expert input on the mysterious inner workings of a furnace, he couldn't do any of it right. They would have engaged in a verbal altercation involving words both would want to take back by Sunday evening. Angered so deeply by his mate's lack of confidence in his handy-man skills, he would have kicked the furnace, further damaging it, and ended up calling a professional.
Later, they would have made up, each hugging the other with both arms.
So, to be clear, while God gave women the side effect of civilizing men, he really created us to save men from themselves, because even if Mr. Metz had ignored his better half and stuck his arm in the furnace anyway, out of sheer bullheadedness, she would have been right there to say, "I told you so," and to help him out of his predicament.
(Lucy Adams is a syndicated columnist, freelance writer, and author of If Mama Don't Laugh, It Ain't Funny. She lives in Thomson. E-mail Lucy at firstname.lastname@example.org.)