Copyright 2011 Barbara A. Tyler
With love, to my favorite frog.
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Buried inside me is a closet romantic. I keep her locked up like a mad aunt, but every now and then I hear her tapping on the walls. She doesn’t read steamy novels or watch 10-hanky tear-jerkers on TV. She doesn’t need rose petals on the coverlet or strolling violins. When my romantic gets loose, all she really wants is quiet conversation. She doesn’t care if I kiss the frog and he becomes a prince. She’d rather I kissed the frog and he learned to stay up talking until three in the morning.
Despite my best efforts, my frog seems more devoted to snack foods and ESPN than to the art of conversation. While I’m talking about happily ever after, he’s nodding agreeably and looking for cheese in a can.
I recently peeked around my frog’s sports page. “We never talk,” I said.
“We talked yesterday,” my husband shrugged.
“Discussing what’s for dinner isn’t talking.”
“My lips were moving,” he said.
He doesn’t get it. It’s not just about talking. It’s about communicating. Connecting. Being in the same flow as another person. it’s about knowing the right words and getting them out into the air where they can breathe. It’s about love. If my frog loved me and wasn’t keeping me around just to wash his socks, wouldn’t he talk to me?
I don’t mean he never says anything. He speaks. He talks about work, sports and the kids’ next dentist appointments. He’ll name his wishes for the grocery list and bounce around the social agenda until it fits the space on the calendar. So technically, he’s speaking to me. He’s just not saying the right things.
“He’s not following the script again, eh?” my girlfriend says over the phone. Exactly.
See, my inner romantic is also a scriptwriter. She writes beautiful lines for my frog: “How awful! What happened then?” “No, I don’t think you are being whiny.” “Don’t worry, I love you anyway.” All my frog has to do is say them. Instead, he says, “Stop being silly. What’s for dinner?” This frustrates me. I know what he’s supposed to say. Why doesn’t he?
I could tell him, but it spoils the mood when I feed him his lines. And it makes him look at me funny. Besides, I want him to know what he’s supposed to say.
Girlfriend conversation isn’t like this. A girlfriend knows exactly the right words to say to console me. She will stop what she is doing to help me obsess over my thighs. And when she says she loves me, I never doubt her for a minute. Girlfriend conversation is like that. It feeds the psyche and the soul.
Frog talk feeds my neuroses.
“Honey, does your hair look like that on purpose?” my frog will ask. Or: “I smell smoke. Is dinner ready?” Or: “You said what to my mother?” These are not the things my inner romantic wants to talk about.
Determined to help my frog discover the joy and romance of conversation. I set out to create the right mood. I turned off the television. I’ve found that the glow of ESPN is distracting. It hypnotizes frogs.
“What’s up?” my frog asked.
“Just thought we’d talk.”
Panic lit his eyes.
“It’s not hard,” I reassured him. “Say anything.” My inner scriptwriter had a whole list of romantic “anythings” ready for the frog to pick up and run with . Things like compliments. Things like sweet nothings.
“Okay,” my frog said. “Honey?”
“Did you know that we’re out of cheese?”
My inner scriptwriter flung her computer at a wall and kicked her wastebasket.
“What?” my frog asked. He looked genuinely baffled.
“Never mind,” I snapped. The scriptwriter didn’t know what my frog’s next line should be. She was still stomping around in a huff. No matter. I retreated to the shower and pummeled my romantic yearnings with hot water.
When I emerged, the house was dark except for an orange glow coming from the living room. Definitely not the light of ESPN. More like the light of a room on fire. Well, that’s it. I thought. I’ve finally pushed him over the edge. He’s torching the place and getting out while the getting is good.
In reality, my frog had gathered all the candles in the house and lit them in the living room. The radio played softly in the background. And it wasn’t a sportscast.
My frog looked up from his position on the couch and smiled. He caught my hand and gave it a little squeeze. It wasn’t until I snuggled into his embrace that I realized he hadn’t said a word.
But then again, he didn’t need to.
Frog Talk originally appeared in Family Circle Magazine as: My Husband, the Frog Prince (3/9/04).