Hubby and I attended the prom in 1971.
Years ago, when the tall boy in my high school biology class called, I didn’t understand him at all.
Flattered, I small-talked for five minutes before realizing he hadn’t said a word. I left strategic moments for comments.
I babbled about our class’s fruit-fly genetic experiments. My subjects’ Great Escape. The school cafeteria’s subsequent fumigation —
Maybe he wasn’t the scientific type, after all.
Maybe he’d decided I wasn’t his type.
However, he soon called again.
This time, my monologue focused on literature. My English teacher didn’t understand my paper’s crucial insights touting fried chicken’s symbolism throughout Southern literature.
I continued my learned discourse —
Did this sadist call girls just to hang up on them?
Nevertheless, I had seen a glimmer of this shy guy’s meaning: I like you. Do you like me?
However, I didn’t realize he disliked fried chicken until after our wedding, four years later. I cooked my mom’s special recipe.
He refused it.
This time, he was the one attempting to break lo-o-ong silences. And translate touch-me-and-you-die assurances that I was fine. Fine.
Hubby seemed aghast that he’d married an alien whose language he’d never understand.
Nevertheless, we’d vowed to love each other.
Against impossible odds, we determined to learn each other’s language.
Hubby now understood that I, like all women, said “fine” only when I meant the opposite. We then grappled with another mysterious word: we. Only two letters, it appeared cozy — until used thusly:
He: Sure, we can feed 237 runners.
She: Yes, we will dig the new church basement.
Eventually, Hubby and I understood that if we valued our lives, we would use accurate pronouns.
Throughout the year, unequal estimates of garage wall/car distances and checkbook balances also challenged our powers of translation. But after three decades of marriage, we finally mastered each other’s languages … until our empty-nest purchase: a tandem bicycle.
Hubby’s “Ma-a-an!” didn’t soften the effects of potholes on my, er, anatomy.
My “Aaaaahhh!” meant little to him, riding in front. Fortunately, the pursuing Dobermans ate only one of my ankles.
The tandem initiated a repeat of Marriage Translation 101.
Hey, everyone needs an occasional refresher course.
If Hubby’s pondering deep theological, medical, or I.U. basketball issues, a visual reminder, such as a cartwheel, must accompany my “Dinner’s ready.”
I assume he’ll automatically finish my half-sentences, e.g., “Last month’s letter from the IRS …”
After 43 years of marriage, he should read my mind, right?
Fortunately, we aliens rarely need a translator now. Love language hasn’t taken light years to learn, after all.
Only a lifetime.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What’s your favorite mistranslation story?