Thursday, June 09, 2005

A humorous look at marriage from a Redding writer


Dave Meurer is a field representative for Republican Congressman Wally Herger. Last time I looked, Meurer and his wife, Dale, and their two sons, Brad and Mark, lived in Redding, peacefully going about their business. Well, almost. Seems that in the last few years Dave has been bitten by the writing bug and has published five books on family matters. These are not thick, technical, holier-than-thou tomes. These are books with such titles as "Daze of Our Wives -- A Semi-Helpful Guide to Marital Bliss" and "You Can Childproof Your Home, But They'll Still Get In."

His latest is "Good Spousekeeping: A His and Hers Guide to Couplehood" ($12.99 in paper from Life Journey). Meurer is a Christian Dave Barry who uses the 35 short chapters in the book to raise some important issues for all marriages (there is a discussion guide at the back of the book). He recommends C. S. Lewis' "Mere Christianity" and Lee Strobel's "The Case for Christ" for those who want to further explore the Christian faith; in "Spousekeeping" he's content to paint a picture of a marriage under construction, even after almost a quarter century.

Early on Meurer anticipates the kind of mail he will get about his title and offers to write the letter himself: "Dear Male-Chauvinist-Swine Author of the So-Called Book' Titled Good Spousekeeping': We hate your new book, which implies that a spouse is to be kept' by her domineering, possessive male partner. It is repressive, belching, idiot cavemen like you who are perpetuating the patriarchal, condescending, oppressive culture that enlightened persons have been working to improve. ... We haven't read the book, because the tile says it all, you fathead. Sincerely, the Entire Faculty of the Women's Issues Department, The University of Sensitivity, New York."

In his defense Meurer explains that "the title of this book does not indicate that only one gender is keeping' the other. ... I simply mean to convey that both partners are called by God to be good' to each other and to keep' their vows, thereby keeping' their marriage. Good Spousekeeping' is fundamentally about encouraging husbands and wives to understand each other, work together, and protect their marriages--and laugh more. Also, I needed a clever title, and the good ones like Gone with the Wind' and Jaws' were already taken."

Meurer admits he has anger problems sometimes but is working on it. He praises his wife for helping him become more responsible and in turn he sees that he has helped Dale become more spontaneous.

But differences remain. In "What's in a Name?" Meurer talks about his fascination with fancy sports cars with nicknames like "Fang." "Regrettably," he writes, "none of my ... cars were British convertibles. At one point, I owned an AMC Pacer, which was voted Ugliest Car of the Year' by a major automotive magazine. The Pacer looked like an enormous metal toad, and it handled with the precision and speed of a diseased buffalo. It was not the kind of car you could even name Molar,' much less Fang'." (Empathy from reviewer: I once bought a Gremlin.)

Dave's idea of naming the family's present car "Thunder Lizard" doesn't go over big with Dale, Brad or Mark. " That is the lamest thing you have ever said,' replied Brad. Why can't you act like a normal father?' asked Mark. Dave, it is a white Chrysler sedan--a recliner with a steering wheel,' Dale commented. But "Fang" was already taken,' I pointed out. Dale got that involuntary twitch in her left eye and stood up to take a nap."

Eventually Dave relents and realizes he needs to put childish things behind. But: "I am still working on convincing (Dale) to call me by my preferred nickname. I don't want to be known merely as an author'; I prefer the more noble title of Awe-Thor,' which combines reverent fear ('awe') with the name of the mythical Viking god of thunder ('Thor')." Dave, not a chance.

Other chapters take up spontaneous gift giving, Brad's medical emergency, sex ("sex within marriage is sublime ... and it even burns up extra calories! A mean God would have made sex fattening. God is nice!"), handling money, taking risks, spiritual coldness, and putting in a new sprinkler system before reading the instructions.

I laughed out loud.

Dan Barnett teaches philosophy at Butte College. To submit review copies of published books (no manuscripts please), or to make comments, please send e-mail to Copyright 2005 Chico Enterprise-Record. Used by permission.

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