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Charlie Hatton
Brookline, MA



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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

The Dinnertime Disease Dilemma

My wife has a disease. Though not life-threatening, nor even health-endangering, it is a burden. And chronic. Even tragic, in a way.

My wife is allergic to finishing meals.

I’d better clarify that. And quickly. If she thought I was suggesting that she can’t stop eating, or she plays with the last bite of food, or throws a tantrum when its time to leave the table, she’d kill me. Plus, she’d probably reveal some of my own food-related quirks, and that’s not helping any of us.

(Hey. What I do with a turkey baster and a jar of tapioca pudding in the privacy of my own basement is none of your business. Nor would you want it to be. Trust me.)

“The last thing you want is a roomful of theater people with handy access to sharp utensils pissed off at you.”

Anyway, here’s the thing. When it’s mealtime, my wife puts food on her plate. A perfectly reasonable amount of absolutely normal food. And then she eats it — in a completely unremarkable way, just like any other person would, at exactly the right pace and chewing each bite precisely the correct number of times. (There. Happy, honey?)

And then, she sneezes.

(Also in a normal and unremarkable way. Except for the unbearably cute scrunched-up sneezing face she makes — but if I go on any further about that, she might someday read this and decide to tell you about how I eat my peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. And what the crazy straw is for. Also, the Speedos. Nobody wants that.)

Then she sneezes again. And again, and again. Sometimes ten or twelve times, maybe more. While she’s eating, she’s fine. The moment she’s done, it’s like someone sneaks in and crams a snootful of peppercorn juice up her schnozz, because all you’ll get out of her for the next five minutes is a bunch of ‘*achoo!*s and the occasional fleck of flying phlegm. Then she’s more or less peaceful again until the next plate of food shows up, and when that’s gone, it’s back to the sneezing fit. It’s quite remarkable, really. And more than a little inconvenient.

For one thing, we can never attend a performance at a dinner theater.

Not that we’ve ever been invited to attend dinner theater, mind you. Or that I’d especially want to go. But at this point, it’s clearly not an option. Halfway into the second act, my wife would finish eating, lean back to digest, and proceed with her usual after-dinner spasmodic symphony. And I don’t think there’s a playwright on the planet who could grip an audience throughout that display, even Shakespeare:

To be(*Ahhh-choo!!*), or not to (*Heh-CHOOO!!*) be, that (*Ah!*) is the ques(*Ahhh!*)tion. Whether ’tis (*CHOOOOO!!!!*) nobler to suffer the slings and (*sssssnnnnnnuuuurrrrfffff!!*)– I’m sorry, I can’t work under these conditions. ‘Hibachi night’ is bad enough, but this? I’m outta here. (*AHHH-CHOOO!!*)

That would suck. The last thing you want is a roomful of theater people with handy access to sharp utensils pissed off at you. They see murders and riots onstage all the time, and they’re not the most stable people in the world. Just pray it’s not shish kebab night, or you’re really in trouble. You might wake up with a skewered proscenium. That’d need a whole boatload of stitches.

Meanwhile, my wife persists with her sneezing problem. I’ve tried everything to help her, but to no avail. First, I tried the direct approach:

Sneezy Wife: *Ah-choo!*

Dopey Me: Stop it.

Sneezy: *Ah! Ah! CHOO!!*

Dopey: Seriously. Quit sneezing.

Sneezy: *Ah-choo! Ah-choo! Ah-choo!*

Dopey: I said, that’s plenty.

Sneezy: *AHH-CHOO!!!*

Dopey: You just never listen, do you?

Clearly, the direct approach is an idiot. So I tried the directer approach. As soon as she finished her next meal, I stretched my finger under her nose, in the universal ‘sneeze prevention’ position.

Only I neglected to tell her what I’d planned, and when she turned to see why I was lunging toward her, I wound up picking her right nostril. Quite thoroughly. I think I may have touched eyeball.

And still, she sneezed. Dammit, work with me, woman.

Next, I tried out a method that a friend once suggested as a way to prevent sneezing — just as someone is poised to blow sneeze, right in between the ‘AH!‘ and the ‘CHOO!!‘, get their attention and yell ‘Grapefruit!‘ as loud as you can. He claimed that the surprise of being unexpectedly yelled at, plus the thought of the sourness of a grapefruit, will interrupt your sneeze long enough for the nose to gain control of things again. That’s what he claimed.

Now, this isn’t the sort of thing that sounds like it would work. And, in all the time that I’ve known my friend — and the many hundreds of times he’s screamed ‘GRAPEFRUIT!!!‘ in my face when he thought he detected a pre-sneeze — I’ve never seen it work. Personally, I think it’s just a contrived excuse to randomly shout about fruit at people for no good reason.

Which sounds like loads of fun to me. So I gave it a shot.

The next time the missus and I finished a meal, I kept an eye on her from my seat. When I saw the first hint of a quivering sneezy tickle on her kisser, I sprang up and ‘GRAPEFRUIT!!!‘ed her.

She sneezed. Round one to her. But then, predictably, she tickled again. Remembering my buddy’s logic, I couldn’t grapefruit her again. The keys were ‘surprise’ and ‘sour’, assuming this nonsense was ever meant to work in the first place. Me, I just like yelling about fruit. But I also wanted to follow the rules. So I hopped on one foot in front of her and yelled: ‘LEMONS!!!

Another sneeze. Fine. I ran a circle around her, chanting ‘WATERMELON JOLLY RANCHERS!!! WATERMELON JOLLY RAN-

Again, a sneeze. So this is how we’re going to play, now, is it? Oh, it’s on, sister.

I stripped down to my skivvies and performed an impromptu dinner table lap dance, shimmying and wiggling on her while bellowing at the top of my lungs:

GREEN APPLES (*Ah-choo!*) THAT ARE MOSTLY EDIBLE (*Ah-CHOO!!*) BUT AREN’T QUITE (*Ah!!*) RIPE ENOUGH (*CHOOOO!!!*) YET TO BE (*ssssshhhhhhnnnnuuuuffff!!*)– oh, to hell with it. I can’t work under these conditions. If anyone needs me, I’ll be in the basement.(*AHHH-CHOOO!!*) With my tapioca.

So, I give up. Now we eat, and when she sneezes, I just stand by and watch. Or I leave the room. Or cram Kleenex up her nose until the fireworks are over. It’s no way to live, but if she can cope with it, then I suppose I can, too. I’m a real trooper that way.

Also, now there’s no chance that I’ll have to sit through our town’s community theater group doing Evita in the back of the local Chuck E. Cheese. So I’ve got that going for me. Not bad.

Permalink  |  2 Comments



2 Responses to “The Dinnertime Disease Dilemma”

  1. Monkey says:

    In the spirit of missing the point – I too used to have a sneezing problem. We won’t get into the details. Ahem. BUT it turns out that sneezing is low on the body’s list of priorities. Lower, say, than pain. I’m not saying sock her in the jaw (unless you’re into that, in which case I’m coming over for dinner) but a quick pinch above the elbow, a generous squeeze whereverso it may land, a derogatory remark about her outfit… sneezes be ended. VOILA, BEEEYACH!*

    *As with similar advice from random strangers on the internet, this procedure may lead to broken limbs, temporary blindness and/or divorce. Your results may vary.

  2. cynical says:

    I’m just wondering when the symptoms of her disease became apparent to you during your, uh, courtship. I’m guessing she didn’t actually agree to have dinner with you until after the engagement was official?

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