by Jim Heffernan
When Sen. John McCain referred to Sen. Barack Obama as “that one” during their presidential debate on Oct. 7, it jolted me back to a time years ago when I shared a restaurant dinner table with a newlywed couple still experiencing the glow of early marital bliss.
Yes, bliss, but they’d been married long enough so that the minor stresses and strains of getting used to each other living under the same roof -- sharing the same breakfast table, sharing the same clothes hamper, sharing the same sinks and other plumbing fixtures -- were starting to show, ever so slightly.
These niggling little frustrations appeared to be affecting the Bride (we’ll call her the Bride and her new hubby the Groom to keep them straight) more than the happy Groom, who affected a benign smile throughout, not saying much, nodding quite a bit.
But the Bride, ah, she was ebullient and eager to tell the one other woman at the table all about her new husband’s odd … well, if not odd, different, if not different, strange, if not strange, bizarre, if not bizarre, perhaps unconventional, ways and habits.
In relating these homey details of the couple’s first months of marriage, the Bride continually referred to the Groom as “this one.” Sound familiar?
This one squeezes the toothpaste funny. This one doesn’t hang up his clothes. This one turns the stereo way up with boring classical music. This one leaves his shoes on when he comes in from outside, soiling the carpet. This one holds his silverware European peasant style. This one eats soft-boiled eggs out of a shot glass. This one snores like a walrus.
“This one” (aka the Groom) continued to smile benignly as his Bride prattled on listing what she regarded as his peculiar characteristics and habits, many of which I recognized in the guy who looks back at me in mirrors. Still single at the time, it made me wonder if I would ever qualify as a hubby myself; if I could pass the muster of a bride someday.
I never forgot the conversation – actually the Bride’s monologue -- as she went on and on describing her husband’s traits to the other woman, as the Groom and I affably listened, guilty-as-charged looks on our faces, sipping adult beverages. Somehow, though, the Bride repeatedly referring to her new husband as “this one” so early in the marriage, or at any time for that matter, struck me as a little impersonal, even strange, and I never forgot it.
It all came back during the McCain-Obama debate when McCain looked at the audience and referred to his opponent as “that one.” Of course, they’re not a happy couple of newlyweds, so what’s the diff?
And what of the happy couple? They’re no longer married, so what’s the diff?