I am wise beyond my years as a husband.
Well, I told my three children, “Do you want to know a secret of happiness?”
“What?” they said.
I explained. When your mother goes to get a haircut like this afternoon, you must say you like it the first thing she walks in the door. Make a fuss; dote on her new ‘do. Look pleased and mention that you like it.
I’ve failed enough times in this endeavor to know. My oversight has led to reprimands, sulks and comments about my thoughtlessness, remarks that I only think of myself and never of her. I have learned over the years to remind myself — even pinch myself — throughout the day so that I will remember to say something when I first lay sight on her new hairdo. The best comment is how stunning it makes her look.
My two eldest children, ages 10 and 8, nodded in agreement at my secret to happiness.
The youngest? Well, the five-year-old, who is known for her brazenness, must have seen a flaw in my argument.
“Why?” she asked.
“Because it’ll make Mum feel good,” I said.
“But what if I don’t like her haircut?”
“Just say you do.”
“But that’s lying.”
“Just… well, just tell her what you think.”
That seemed to satisfy the youngest, who went off the play with the others.
That afternoon our big chance arrived. My wife called to be picked up at the subway station after returning from the hairdressers. I took the youngest and we pulled up next to her in the car. My wife opened the door and hopped in. On cue, I started to pronounce endearments about her new haircut. But even before the “how” in “how beautiful your hair is” came out of my mouth, the youngest spoke out from her booster seat in the back.
“Mummy, why did you cut your hair so short? It’s too short. I like long hair, not short hair. Why did you cut it?”
My wife’s face dropped.
I said that I’d briefed the kids that she’d be getting a haircut and that it would be good to say something nice.
“Oh, thanks,” she said, frowning further.
The youngest continued: “Oh, I know. You’re Rapunzel and the witch has cut off your long beautiful hair. And now you won’t be able to see the prince for many years. That’s what happened, isn’t it Mummy?”
My wife stared straight ahead with a scour.