Ritual banter

The dentist is always good for a blog post (especially when he uses a blow torch.) Yesterday while talking to one of my kids, he said, “Open wide. I don’t see so good,” and wide-eyed, I said, “I don’t want to hear that from someone who takes a drill to people’s mouths!”

(The poor dental hygienist tried to do damage control by saying, “He only means he can’t see if his mouth is closed!” but she doesn’t need to worry; the dentist knows I’m not serious, and I know he wasn’t serious. I hope.)

A few weeks ago, the other hygienist propped open my Patient Husband’s mouth with fifty-two different instruments, and said, “You and your wife are soul-mates.”

He said, “Hnn rrrrr mmmm uuhhhn?”

And she replied, “Yeah, I think it’s obvious.”

While I agree, I said to him later, “How can she know that? Has she ever seen us together?”

Actually, since Angelborough is so small, we realized she has seen us together  — at a school function. But still, not long enough to determine soul-mate status.

Eventually we decided it’s the banter — or more accurately, the fact that we slip into “routines” and random quotes. This works for us: we reference movies, songs, books, interviews, anything we’ve seen together. And some things we haven’t. Dinner at our house might start with a reference to Star Trek, then branch out to include references to The Tick, Mr. Putter and Tabby, Star Wars, Good Omens, Corner Gas, and Mystery Science Theater 3000. These references integrate seamlessly into our conversation, and when we’re a little on-edge (as at a school awards banquet where we don’t know many people) we’ll turn up the humor with each other.

Patient Husband: I’ve changed my mind. I don’t want to do this.
Me: Hug your destiny. Hug. It.

It’s only a problem if someone else is hearing us. Usually in those cases, we’ll tone it down so we appear human.

Because we’ve done these things a thousand times, we can anticipate one another and fling the lines at each other with blinding speed. Which probably would lead most people to think “they’re annoying,” but led this one woman (whom we didn’t even realize was listening) to think “They’re soul-mates.”

Or maybe that’s shorthand for “These two deserve each other.”

Ivy and I laughed about how it must feel to be a guardian angel newly-assigned to this household. Where the angel slips off one night to present herself before God’s Throne, and God says, “Speak, my child.”

The angel says, “Father, have I done something wrong?”

God: No, my child.
Angel: But they’re insane.
God: Yes, my child.
Angel: Can I have a book listing all these things they’re referencing?
God: Here you go.
Angel: {oof}  Um, can I have an abridged version?
God: That is the abridged version.

The upshot being, yes, we deserve each other. And it’s either funny or annoying. Or baffling. And somehow, in all these shared experiences, somehow someone concluded we were soul-mates.


  1. Pat

    Sounds exactly like me and my husband. In our case it’s more likely to be Dr. Seuss, A.A. Milne, Robert Lewis Stevenson, or the Marx Brothers. But yeah – that’s what we do.

    1. philangelus

      Does it make you soul-mates?

      It’s just fun, right? And we’ve got our share of Dr. Seuss and AA Milne quotes in the repertoire as well.

      1. Pat

        We’re soul-mates anyway. But quoting the same stuff at each other is one sign of it.

        Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane do it, too, but they are much more erudite. Part of the fun of reading Dorothy Sayers is spotting the quotes. When you’ve been reading Sayers for thirty years, as I have, you recognize more every time, which is a little ego-boost.

  2. Ken Rolph

    I think any couple who end up being together for a long time ends up like this to some degree. Jan and I are coming up to 40 years together. Many of our references are lost in the past and unavailable to younger generations, so it just goes over their heads. There are kids in Jan’s school, for example, who don’t know who Marilyn Monroe is/was.

    We also tend to perform in public, although in a low key way. The last I remember was at the checkout in the greengrocers. We always go to the same line where the checkout chick is a young girl from northern India. Jan found in her purse a 50c coin from NZ. These are round instead of 12 sided. We get a lot of coins from Pacific countries in our area. They are usually made in the same mint to the same size but have differing values. People come from the islands bringing there shrapnel to pass off in Australians shops where they get better value.

    Jan said I could have it for my coin collection. But I suggested we pass it off on some unsuspecting checkout chick or chap. So we had a conversation about how we could do this, right in front of said CC. She was amused. We didn’t pass her the coin, of course. It’s now in my collection, which could be entitled Coins of the Pacific Islands.

    Being known as a couple can have its benefits. We were in the shopping centre and Jan suffered a shopping frenzy. I lost contact with her. As I walked around looking I came past the greengrocers. It’s in a central island. I caught the eye of the aforementioned checkout chick and shrugged in the Lost Husband pose. She pointed in the direction of the fish shop, which is of course where I found Jan. So it has its benefits.