Marital Meekness and Aircraft Carrier Shopping

Atchison, Kansas, (Zenit.org) Dr. Edward Mulholland | 1854 hits

Pope Francis’ words this week resolved an 18-year-old argument about shopping.

I began noticing major differences between boys and girls in 3rd or 4th grade. I have still not gotten to the bottom of it.

When Valerie and I did marriage prep 18 years ago, we had a rather amusing session about how women are gatherers and men are hunters.

Women notice things, have a wide angle lens, say that they are shopping for shoes but eventually wander into Crate and Barrel “just to see what’s out there.” This will presumably save time the next time round. But when housewares are needed, the same excuse will be used to wander into a shoe store.

Men are hunters, and we have cross-hairs etched into our pupils. Identify item. Pick out item. Kill and drag item home. Online shopping is great for men because it is pretty much a video game, where, alas, the points amassed are dollars spent.

Not a few shopping excursions have occasioned arguments over the years. I either get frustrated from the endless wandering into establishments with no clear purpose, or just tire like a bear shot with a tranquilizer because there is no adrenaline rush if there is no pre-picked out prey. Sorry, hunters don’t really like going along to gather berries for companionship. We do it, but we get whiny.

But a recent shopping trip may have provided a solution two decades in the making. And the mental shift occurred from reflecting on Pope Francis’ words last week to a group of Japanese middle-schoolers.

When I lived in Rome, I thought the constant flow of groups of Japanese tourists was part of a government program to keep population on the islands manageable. Every year or so each Japanese citizen got a letter in the mail telling him or her to report to the airport for a trip somewhere. Like jury duty. I never checked that hypothesis, but I think I was wrong.

The Holy Father spoke about dialogue and about learning from other cultures as an aid to peace.  He told them:  “All wars, all struggles, all problems that are not resolved, which we face, are due to a lack of dialogue.” And the key to dialogue is meekness. The ability to listen and then to speak, truly to encounter others. “But why do you think the way you do? Why does this culture do things this way? To listen to others first and then to speak. Listen first, then speak. All of this is meekness.”

Yes. I had an unresolved problem. I have been trying to win an argument for 18 years, to prove that my way of shopping is better. Well, as our 18th anniversary approaches, she will find out as she reads this that I have given that one up. I have listened first (to Pope Francis and to my bride) and I’m ready to say something that I think works.

This afternoon we went food shopping. I usually dread that. There’s a list, but then we go up and down every aisle anyway.  I try to put on my best berry-gathering face.

But this time, with admirable insight, she sent me on little missions. While she patrolled the fruits and veggies, I was making incursions deep into frozen foods. I was running sorties to pick up isolated items that stood no chance against me. When my mission failed ("This isn’t real cheese. Look here, it clearly says in a 2 point microfont that it’s 'cheese food.'") I boldly struck out again into the white-linoleum-ed yonder.

The cart was my base, the aircraft carrier, ably handled by its captain on patrol, gathering intel, radar always alert, coupons churning.  Gathering berries … not my thing. Launching from an aircraft carrier? I can get into that.

I was taking off with my sights locked on frozen burgers (store brand, at least 85% lean, roger that.) I was returning happy. Our aircraft carrier cart filled up with the results of her aisle by aisle cruising as well as my short range search-and-destroy strikes.

If any marriages out there have had this similar problem, I suggest aircraft carrier shopping. It capitalizes on each of our strengths rather than the old argument in which we try to convince each other that the-only-way-you-can-see-the-world is somehow a weakness.

I used to think strength was the only way to overcome a weakness. Pope Francis says you win wars by meekness, because you learn not to have them in the first place.

With a few more weeks of training, we may be able to negotiate more complex maneuvers. I secretly think she may be readying me for a real deployment, with live ammo. Christmas is coming, after all, and there will be a trip to a mall…