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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!

Terms of Undearment

It might surprise you to know that underneath my rugged, tough, take-no-prisoners, devilishly handsome, hardbody stuntman rock star exterior, I’m really just a big softy.

(What? I said ‘might‘. Hey, anything’s possible.)

You may find it somewhat less surprising — especially if this isn’t your first post-go-round at the old Charlie Playground — to learn that I wind up with my foot in my mouth quite a lot. The combination of a defective brain-to-mouth filter, overeager yammering and a propensity to make up my own words when I’m tired of real ones tends to land me in hot water now and again. As dear old Dean Wormer might have advised me, ‘Ill-considered, blurty and nonsensical is no way to go through life, son.

“As dear old Dean Wormer might have advised me, ‘Ill-considered, blurty and nonsensical is no way to go through life, son.

(Though I’m pretty sure ‘blurty’ isn’t a word. It seems the dean shares my affliction. How flaccipointing.)

With these twin afflictions hacking at my psyche day and night, you might think it safest if I were to live alone, in some sort of hermitlike state of solitude. The better to stay out of trouble. Your logic is sound, young padawan.

In reality, though, I cohabitate with two others — a drooling furry idiot dog, and my wife. Who’s far less furry, and smart as a whip.

(Occasionally, she drools. Mostly while she’s sleeping, or when there’s tiramisu nearby. But I’m not supposed to notice. So ssshhhhhhh.)

Let’s start with the dog. Big softy that I am, I like to talk to the dog. She can’t understand, of course. Oh, she gets a few words, I suppose. She knows “sit” and “down”. She sort of understands “stay” — which seems to mean “come” in her ass-backwards language — and “stop that!”, which loosely translates to “continue exactly what you’re doing, but wag your tail like a crack-addled maniac while you’re at it”.

And “treat”. Lord, if there’s one word she knows, it’s “treat”. She probably just heard me type it. If the dog ever learns some semblance of real language and decides to communicate, that’ll be her first word — and probably only — word. She’d have us up at three every morning with her semaphore flags, waving, ‘TREAT! TREAT! TREAT!‘ all freaking night.

Meanwhile, I talk to her. She looks at me and drools and wags that methadone wag of hers, angling for a Snausage. But what I say usually has nothing to do with Snausages. In fact, I’ve noticed recently that it’s often stopped being coherent at all, thanks to my two soft spots — the little one in my heart, and the big one in my head.

I want to be clear here — I don’t baby talk the dog. I’m not a baby myself, don’t own a baby, have never even considered renting a baby. So I don’t speak the lingo, and I’m not about to practice on my mutt when it comes to cooing and gaga noises. My wife, maybe. The bartender at my local watering hole, late on a weekend night, possibly. The dog? Sorry. No speaky the infant.

But I do love the little furry lug, so I find I’ve developed pet names for her. That seems perfectly reasonable — she’s my pet, after all. They’re pet names. I’m not so good with the arithmetics, but that looks a lot like two plus two to me.

The problem is, those little pet names tend to morph themselves into monikers that are less sweet and adorable, and more icky and frightening. It’s just my way, I suppose. Take an innocent first attempt — when I’m not calling the dog by her name, I’ll usually refer to her as ‘the puppy’.

Now, the dog’s nine years old. She’s sprouting more gray on her muzzle than I am. And at this point, she’s about as likely to play fetch or scamper around the house as Stephen Hawking is to dance the lambada on Dancing with the Stargazers. But the name stuck while she was still a young whipperdrooler, so ‘the puppy’ it is.

At least, it was. A long time ago. But somewhere along the way, ‘puppy’ changed, and began to mutate. It was innocuous enough at first — the occasional ‘puppers’, or ‘pupster’, or even ‘pupperoni’. But that was just the beginning. I started referring to her as ‘Puppy Brewster’. I’d ask my wife, ‘Where did George Puppadopoulos get off to now?‘ But I knew I was in real trouble when I called the dog, in public, ‘Pupper Rain’. If there were mental health care providers who’d touch a ridiculous case like mine, I’d seek professional help.

But they won’t. So I’m stuck with “Pup Tent” and “Pup Up the Volume” and “Pup-poh! Spaghetti-Os!” I’m pretty sure if this gets out, the ASPCA is allowed to just come and take her back. No questions asked. They’ll just write “owner mildly retarded; probable Tourette’s case” on the paperwork, and that’ll be that. I’ll never see my dear ‘Two Girls, One Pup’ again.

But that’s not the bad part.

(Okay, the ‘Two Girls, One Pup’ is probably the bad part. Just try not to think about it too hard. I can tell you from experience that you definitely don’t want to think about it too hard.)

The bad part is that I can’t seem to stop myself from concocting these goofy pet names when there’s a real life, sentient and tremendously-but-apparently-not-infinitely-patient mammal involved. Namely, my wife.

Because if I have a soft spot for the dog, then I have an entire TempurPedic™ brand mattress for the missus. We’re wedlocked, after all, so of course my penchant for pet names extends in her general direction. Much as she often wishes it wouldn’t.

Oh, she didn’t mind years back, when I called her “honey pie”. That’s sweet. She liked that. But somewhere along the way, I got tired of plain old “honey pie”. So it became “hungry pie”, which she wasn’t so sure she liked as much. Then “honky pie”, which she was certain she wasn’t as fond of, and later “horny pie”, which I was really fond of, but which failed to have any predictive value whatsoever on days that I called her that.

It was somewhere around then that she asked, exasperatedly, “Well, what would you say if I ran around calling you ‘hunky pie’?”

I told her I failed to see how she’d possibly pull that off with a straight face. But if she could manage it, then more power to her. I’m game if she is.

(Turned out she wasn’t game. She was just trying to make a point. That’s my girl, always looking for ways to help educate me. She’s a real keeper, that hickey pie of mine.)

At this point, we’ve been together for more than eighteen years. So pretty much anything normal that I may have called her at one point is out the window; we’re well beyond that sort of mundanity now. Instead, she’s ‘treated’ to pet names like “tardy bear” and “cuticle pie” and “curdle bug”. I recently flagged her down in a crowded mall by shouting, “Over here, sweaty muffins!

(That last one got me into a fair bit of trouble. I tried to reason with her. I said, “Honey, look, it’s just a figure of speech. I’m not actually making any kind of commentary — your muffins are perfect, just exactly as sweaty as they usually are.

I was banished to sleep on the couch for a week — one night for the “sweaty muffins”, and six for the explanation. I should really request to have my counsel present before I open my mouth in these sorts of situations.)

What’ll it be tomorrow, or a week or a month from now? Who the hell knows? I’m sure some new ill-advised and borderline offensive nonsense will leap out of my mouth the next time I let my guard down. I just hope I’m talking to the mutt and not the missus, or I’ll wind up sharing a doghouse with the former.

And I may love that raggedy little Puppy LePew, but I’ve got zero interest in bunking with her. I don’t care how sweaty her muffins are.

Permalink  |  6 Comments

6 Responses to “Terms of Undearment”

  1. kerry says:

    tsk. if i had been her, i think i would have left you stranded at the mall. before the explanation.

  2. kerry says:

    i also have to tell you that every time i see the title in my google reader, i keep reading it as “terms of underarment”.

  3. Charlie says:

    Kerry, I think if I ‘underarmed’ my wife, it’d be even worse. If such a thing is possible.

    Yeah. It probably isn’t.

  4. kerry says:

    sounds pretty kinky.

  5. I know you’ve done standup (I actaully sat one afternoon and watched them), but you really need to reconsider getting back into it. Or just cutting to the chase and getting your own TV show. Every single post, I laugh out loud.

    On this one, I’m in agreement, I don’t even want to rent a baby, our cat’s enough for us…and you have to be careful with the pet names, my friend. I’ve only been married 12 years, but even I know that. ;)

  6. Charlie says:

    Ah, Rambler, thanks for the kind words. Flattery will get you… well, what is it you’d want, exactly? Twenty bucks? A ham sandwich? We should negotiate; in the meantime, I really appreciate the compliment.

    More than my wife appreciates the pet names, that’s for sure. You’d think my little porky pie would cut me a break by now.

    You’d be mistaken. *sigh*

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