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Who is the real wimp, Amy Chua or her husband?

In today’s New York Times, David Brooks makes a great point about Amy Chua’s wrong-headed parenting choices.

When the Tiger Mother starts chewing her cubs, the larger question is why doesn’t the father of the house step in to restore sanity? What sort of father today cedes all child-rearing authority to his wife?

“Extreme parenting” is tyranny and madness. Crushed under the regime of an Amy Chua, a smart child who is well-grounded and self-protective would run away from home.

Even in a happy household, it is every husband’s sacred obligation to protect his children from momentary mood swings of the motherly variety.

Just before dinner when everyone including the dog seems to need a stiff one, Mr. Henry will on rare occasions hear Mrs. Henry carping at Little Henry about some minor transgression normally involving a small sin of omission like not putting something away in its proper place.

In order to reestablish family harmony at these critical junctures, Mr. Henry steps into the breach. First he tells Little Henry to run upstairs and hide until dinner is ready. Then he suggest to Mrs. Henry that a little bite of hors d’oeuvres might hit the spot. Then – and this is key – he refuses to engage in a fight with her no matter what.

Once dinner has begun to work its magic and conversation begins to wander merrily, all will be well.

Pat-down, ma’am

In this Western ski village where the skies are not cloudy all day (sometimes there is snow, too), Mr. Henry has been having fun teasing his adored consort each time the ski-bum waiter addresses her as “ma’am.”

But today the little dude-boy addressed Mr. Henry as “sir” –  not once, but three times. Cheek!

Riding the ski lift chair, Mrs. Henry struck up conversation with a teen girl from a prairie state. “Because of my knee injury last year,” said Mrs. Henry, “this year we’re taking it easy and staying on the green runs.”

“Oh,” replied the precious young thing, “I think you’re doing real good. My granner and granpa can’t even get out the house anymore!”

Such kind words. Such generosity of spirit. Aren’t the holidays wonderful?

Somehow Mrs. Henry survived the holidays and her milestone birthday with her amour propre intact and, importantly, with her girlish figure intact, too. After much hand-wringing over the appropriate gift, Mr. Henry chose a camel-colored (“heather acorn”) cashmere cardigan from J. Crew. (Something to wear against the skin seemed to be the right choice.) Inside the sweater he hid a Michelin map of the Benelux countries – a promised trip to Bruges, Ghent, and Antwerp. She loved it.

Mr. Henry finally decided what he wants for Christmas – a TSA uniform. Wearing it he can command Mrs. Henry to stand perfectly still for a pat-down. Federal regulations, ma’am.

That special thing for her

A milestone birthday is imminent for Mrs. Henry. At her last milestone, Mr. Henry conspired with 80 people to throw her a surprise party. It was successful, that is, Mrs. Henry arrived in baggy sweatpants and torn T-shirt. But the enormous effort, secrecy, lies, whispers, lies and more lies were not worth the pay-off.

From this experience Mr. Henry learned the bitter life lesson that, while it may be possible to cheat on your wife, the effort required to get away scot-free is honestly too great.

This time he intends to buy her a special gift, a cherished memento of the day, something particularly suitable to her taste (like Shari’s Berries), her sense of self, and our matrimonially-entwined budget. It cannot be a promise of a trip to Bruges, a renovation to the bathroom, or even a week at the Chiang Mai Four Seasons Hotel which no mere mortal can afford.

It must be a thing wrapped up in a pretty box presented lovingly at the birthday dinner. But what? Failure looks inevitable.

Things not to get your sweetie:

1. Scanty panties. They convey expectations of limitless pleasure – but not necessarily for her.

2. Diamonds. They convey the wrong impression about the appropriate use of one’s limited means and, by the way, they are horrible investment vehicles.

3. Power tools. They convey imputations of hard work left undone.

4. Promises such as:

a.     trips abroad
b.     home renovations
c.     weight loss diets
d.     cello lessons

Mr. Henry needs help soon. He entreats your suggestions.

Face or figure?

According to reporting in today’s New York Times, men looking for short-term thrills with a woman pay more attention to her figure than to her face, and men looking for long-term commitment pay more attention to face than figure.

Does this constitute news? Guys looking for a roll in the hay valuing wiggle more than wink?

More surprising, the study concludes that women valued face and body equally in their decision-making . What? Mr. Henry would have assumed women to have more sense than that.

Go figure.

In the case of Angie Dickinson, for example, Mr. Henry says “yes” to both questions.

Mr. Henry believes the more interesting question is at what point in a boy’s life he stops focusing on breasts and starts paying closer attention to legs and where they come from.

The Playboy Man’s obsession with bazoongas is decidedly, incontestably infantile.

Grow up, dude.

Marry for conversation, not for sex, they say. Why? Because the sex becomes an extension of the conversation, and vice versa. It’s a lifelong path leading to the best of both.

Ballad of a Thin Man

Last month as recompense for a year of toil and strain Mr. Henry went shopping. The time had come to buy himself a present, and a new line of super-120 wool at J. Crew were cut perfectly for Mr. Henry’s eye. Unfortunately they were not cut perfectly for his seat. Five extraneous pounds of winter fat preserved around Mr. Henry’s central section barred his admission into the skinny urbane world of the millennium’s second decade.

Did he walk away in despair? Not at all. With courage, hope, and full faith in a slim future, he bought pants that were too tight.

Of course, he did not share this little affair with Mrs. Henry. She would not have understood the complex series of decisions leading up to a decision, seemingly rash, which turned out to be a battlefield command of remarkable vision and precision. How else could he have forced himself to endure the sufferings of self-control necessary to shed five pounds?

Today, after a month of swimming, walking, and dinnertime deprivation, those pants fit just fine (so long as Mr. Henry does not wear them out to a big dinner). Once again Mr. Henry may sidle down the sidewalk dressed in his new super-120’s and looking like the metropolitan mondain he truly is.

Master and Commander

Descending the staircase long after Mr. Henry and his noble hound Pepper have risen, like a Prius on a downhill glide Mrs. Henry gains momentum silently. By the time the kitchen floorboards meet her little feet, she is captain in command of the bridge, issuing morning orders, sharp and firm.

Should Mr. Henry have neglected to water a plant or deposit a check, taking as examples two recently cited violations, Mrs. Henry may be forced to narrow her gaze and deliver her prepared remarks in clipped, crisp military tones.

Like any commander, her leadership apparatus seems to enjoy these little jolts. Once in a while when she looks a little sluggish, Mr. Henry will deliberately leave something in the wrong place or otherwise violate well-established rules. On cue, she erupts.

One good grouse in the morning and she’s right as rain for the whole day.


During the skirmish Little Henry heads directly for the front door, foregoing the covert gulp of Dad’s coffee. With sure survival instinct Pepper takes a defensive position under the dining room table.

In high-risk engagements like these, Mr. Henry’s finds his best course of action is not to engage. His fallback tactic is to feign deafness. Of course, this doesn’t really work, and perhaps never did, but it always buys a little time, perhaps enough to change the subject or be stricken by what insurance underwriters call “an act of God.”

After years of battlefield experience he knows better than to ask a question. Each question of his will be met by a question of hers slightly off subject. Another round of question-meeting-question leads the discussion deeper into a thicket. When she draws attention to her sainted forbearance and long-suffering patience, Mr. Henry may be tempted to toss off an Oscar Wildean witticism about how remarkably short her long-suffering can be. But he refrains. He hopes to live a long and fruitful life, thanks to having found his rightful place in the chain of command.

And did he mention that she is an angel in human form? Well, he can be neglectful.