News and Tribune

December 15, 2012

DODD: Pipe down in there

Local columnist

“Television is more interesting than people. If it were not we would have people standing in the corners of the room.” — Alan Cohen

For most of our married life, Kim and I have had some reoccurring issues that from time to time resulted in one of those husband-wife exchanges that make married bliss, well, less than blissful.

You know the kind of things I am talking about if you have been married for more than, let’s say for example, a month. It’s those little idiosyncrasies that kind of drive each of you a little bit nuts but somehow you just mumble under your breath and go on with the rest of your lives.

Honestly, my theory is that marriages that don’t make it usually are not so much because of the big problems. Those really important things I find are the ones over which you bond and support each other. It’s the little annoying and nitpicky things that cause couples to really lose it with each other. I think that’s the lesson every newlywed couple has to learn to understand in the long run if they are ever truly going to have a happy household.

Such was the case with one of those little things that has been going on ever since we lost the lust and had to figure out what love is. Every gushing, gooey newlywed couple encounters this challenge after a period of time of being married, let’s say, about a month. It all revolved around a regular, almost daily at some point, routine. It involved watching television.

Everyone who watches television understands that the programming is just filler between the commercial breaks. So, every 8 to 10 minutes your pleasure watching is interrupted by a commercial. And for the last 26 years of marriage those commercials were loud, usually very much louder than the television show. That’s when it usually happened.

As a man, of course, I am in charge of the remote control. I think it must have been in our wedding vows. I was to honor, love and obey her until death do us part. She was to never try to pick up the television remote control if I was in the room.

I am not a qualified behavioral scientist but I am pretty sure that is a natural instinctive adult male behavior. I am sure they have even done some documented television remote-control studies on lab rats. They use little, tiny, teeny remote controls. I am sure that I read that such behavior might have even been hereditary in the male rat gene. I think from that same study of married rats (you would have loved the teeny, tiny little bridal gown and tuxedo) the instinctive female genetic instinctive response traits had something to do with a teeny, tiny little toilet seat and great big giant spiders.

Anyway, in our case when the loud television commercial came on it seemed to trigger in Kim an instinctive response. Now, being a woman and a wife she had one female trait that I tend to find a bit annoying. Usually, this triggered her to say something like, “Boy, that commercial sounds loud!” Now, until shortly after our honeymoon I would be very receptive and ask, “Do you want me to turn it down a little bit?”

The really nice thing about marriage is that after a couple of decades, much of the communication between man and wife is either nonverbal or often times is expressed using irritating sounds, ugly facial gestures, or in my case often a caveman-like grunting — mostly in monosyllabic tones.

So for most of the last three decades, we have had to endure the television commercial breaks with her wishing for me to instantly know that the loud sounds of the commercials bothered her while I, being a man with normal genetic responses (refer to previous lab rat experiment results above), simply didn’t have a problem until she made me aware that for the past 20-something years I was supposed to simply turn the volume down every single time the annoyingly loud commercial break occurred.

Like almost every other macho trait and manly responses I once had to life’s stimuli, I long ago lost that one as well. So for much of the last 28 years that I have either been married to or dating Kim, this has been a constant seesaw back and forth between us, with no real end in sight.

Then this week, the strangest thing happened. The Congress and the FCC passed the first law that I can remember that should directly promote and protect the sanctity of marriage. It’s something called the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Act, or as it is now to be known by the acronym, CALM. This law — which went into effect this past week — mandates that television commercials can be no louder than the regular programming.

Now they are free to address other little problems like that fiscal cliff thing.

I know this is not the answer to all of the little things that threaten an otherwise blissful relationship, but it is a start. Now when I am laying in my recliner with the remote at my side and in that near out-of-body experience men know as television viewing, I won’t have my nirvana interrupted every 8 to 10 minutes to have to turn down the television only to have to readjust the volume after a commercial break.

I mean, come on, that’s a lot to ask to keep a wife happy. Television viewing will now be a mostly hands-free activity in the Dodd house, save for that mandatory, instinctive male channel-surfing .

You know what? I probably would have been real productive as a laboratory rat.

— Lindon Dodd is a freelance writer who can be reached at