The Odd Couple

Advice and insight from a professional poet.

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I think my wife is losing her mind. She kept calling me by the wrong name all weekend, and when we were out yesterday, she dug through the garbage can near the bus stop and double-checked all the discarded lottery tickets. And she recently started doing other odd things (alphabetizing our books and DVDs, ordering take out from a Mexican restaurant when she hates Mexican food). What should I do?

– V.D.

I’m afraid I need a little more information here. If she’s at the target age for senility, then maybe this is something you should tell her doctor. If she’s middle-aged, she may be having a mild mid-life crisis. If she’s pregnant, pregnancy forgetfulness and the nesting instinct may be kicking in. But I have to say that these things seem pretty innocuous to me. I mean, my husband keeps an eye out for discarded lottery tickets, too. I think it’s pretty nasty that he touches them, but that’s his way of playing the lottery without wasting money on a ticket. And yesterday I went to a graduation ceremony and called a friend by the wrong name. I screamed, “Hey, Beth! Beth, congratulations! Hey, Beth, look at me! I’m trying to tell you congratulations!” Her name was not Beth. I do that sort of thing all the time — I know that your status as husband is more significant but it’s the same principal at work. My point is that all people deviate from “normal” behavior — that’s what makes us people. If we followed the same routine every day, we’d be pretty boring:

“Our Square of Lawn”

From the parrot’s perch

the view is always Hello.

We try not to greet one

another. When the boys come

after school I shout

“You are not cameras”

at them & they run away.

Fact will muzzle anything.

I look at myself in

a spoon & I am just

a head. Never learned

how to make ringlets—

was always too literal.

The trees are covered

with tiny dead bouquets.

The ducks have been eating

grass with chemicals on it,

ignoring the signs. At night,

from our glass-fronted box

we watch them glow.

It is the closest we come

to dreaming.

(Matthea Harvey)

So, be on the lookout for any escalating atypical behavior, particularly if it’s dangerous, but for now, your wife seems to be acting within normal range to me. Maybe she’s trying to get you to be a little less parrot-like and literal. I think you should encourage her gastronomic experiments, and likely you yourself need to be a little more spontaneous. Buy matching sombreros! Put your mouth over the faucet and take a drink straight from the tap! Write a poem! • 24 May 2010