Thursday, July 28, 2016

Marriage Fantasy Camp

Darlene and I have been husband and wife for a decade. The past 9 years and 11 months have been such a disaster that if a writer ever got wind of our marriage, they would have no trouble adapting it into a horror movie franchise or a Donald Trump foreign policy speech.

It was becoming patently clear that our relationship was on the brink of a monumental collapse the likes of which had not been seen since June, 1964, when my overly-industrious and psychotically frugal Aunt Edna embarked on a do-it-yourself facelift.

But just as we were about to tumble off the conjugal cliff, a miracle happened. One morning, instead of waking up angry, Darlene and I woke up to the fact that we had tied the knot for the wrong reason. We had been dumped by our respective mates and mistakenly believed that we were meant for each other because, in a fit of pique, we both committed to a one-year subscription to “Affordable Hitmen Monthly.”

The strange thing is that this revelation actually brought us closer together. It made us want to seek help to repair the damage and give ourselves a second chance at, if not love, then the restraint to throw fewer good dishes at each other.

However, getting there was going to be anything but easy. Indeed, it was a veritable Herculean task, not unlike attempting to scale Mt. Everest without proper equipment or attempting to define Herculean without

At first we tried couples counseling, which, besides being insanely expensive, was a complete joke. Literally. Our therapist, who came highly recommended on Yelp by “Crazy Pete,” was a former ventriloquist who spent most of our sessions drinking a glass of water while his Sigmund Freud dummy sang “Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime.”

From there, we made our way to a couples’ yoga meditation retreat. Sadly, it was equally useless. While very sweet, the instructor was under the impression that every marital problem could be solved by her overpriced merchandise, which included $300 yoga pants imprinted with a Hindu yogi in the lotus position wearing a Yogi Berra T-shirt featuring the quote: “It ain’t over till it’s over.”

We also invested in a couples’ Tea Party weekend that seemed promising on paper but in reality was akin to a flood insurance PowerPoint presentation. The death knell for us came in the person of keynote speaker Ted Cruz who spoke passionately for twenty minutes about the sanctity of marriage and how its importance ranks just below God, country, and repealing Obamacare.

Darlene and I had all but given up hope when a glossy, six-page brochure arrived in the mail touting the salutary benefits of Marriage Fantasy Camp. As an inveterate baseball fan, I was instantly intrigued. I had once attended Baseball Fantasy Camp where I suited up in a Minnesota Twins uniform for five days while Hall of Famer Rod Carew provided us with invaluable inside tips on everything from hitting and fielding to adjusting your cup on national television without giggling.

Marriage Fantasy Camp, which takes place at the Hampton Inn in Boynton Beach, Florida, every August during the height of prickly heat season, is based on the same principle. Highlights include:

  • Wedding Vow Calisthenics.” Major League Baseball conditioning coaches exhort couples to pledge their love for each other while doing 600 squat thrusts. This is a vital reminder that at the heart of all marriages is a verbal commitment and stomach cramps.

  • Picking Up the Signs.” Couples are schooled by Dr. Phil in detecting unhealthy communication patterns, such as not making eye contact while talking to each other and texting during sex.

  • Close Calls.” All interactions will be videotaped and any conflicts will be settled by former Major League umpire Ed Montague via replay review. If either party disagrees with his decision, they can challenge it. The penalty for a denied challenge is 600 more squat thrusts.

Before we even finished reading about the Lou Piniella workshop, “How to Express Anger through Words, Not Kicking Dirt on Each Other,” Darlene and I knew this was just what the doctor ordered. We signed on the dotted line, ponied up enough cash to finance a six-year Bolivian revolution, and headed down to Boynton Beach. It was a glorious week. Our love for each was reaffirmed and we were on the road to renewed connubial bliss.

Until we weren’t.

Shortly after we returned, I decided to surprise Darlene by coming home early from work one day with a bottle of Champagne and a case of cocktail franks. I entered our bedroom and found her under the covers next to a ventriloquist dummy. At first I thought she was trying to spice up our sex life. What I heard coming from the bathroom quickly quashed that idea—a Viennese rendition of “Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime.”

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