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The Prolonged Beautification Of Joe

By objects in wedding picture may be fatter than they appear, Tom "aluminum anniversary" Waters
February 1 , 2004

As near as I can figure, my brother has been married for six years. And, like any successful marriage (I suppose), I can't tell where his personality ends and hers begins. Since I tore into him last, he's gotten a great new job, a better house, and a dog, which is the closest thing I'm getting to a nephew. He's getting soft and comfortable in his old age, as well as around the waist line. What scares me beyond the point of sanity is the fact that this will all happen to me some day. Every time I visit it's like looking into a crystal ball.

Most weekends Joe sits around the house swilling cheap beer and putting another notch into the couch in front of his gargantuan TV set watching informative television. I've seen him watch hysterectomy operations while eating elbow noodles with spaghetti sauce. Why people try to watch anything educational in television is incomprehensible to me. Television isn't made for the dissemination of useful knowledge, it's there to turn your brain off and let the world tell you what to think. But with Joe, f it's not the surgical malpractice station, it's the history channel, or the weather channel, or the news stations, or the stock report. The kind of programming that would put even Quentin Tarantino to sleep for a few hours. It's a disgrace to his beautiful television set - it's got home theater settings, cathedral settings, stadium settings, and five million other complicated programs designed to get you to sit on your ass watching television, and he rarely raises the volume above the church mouse setting lest he upset the Mrs. What is the point of getting three thousand dollars worth of television set if you're not going to shatter the eardrums of your entire neighborhood watching Clint Eastwood-style blood baths and raucous, saucy comedies with scantily clad women prancing around in their underthings during adult situations? It boggles the mind.

I can't have a decent conversation with him anymore because his brain has been sucked out of his head and replaced with house and garden magazines. If approached with politics, religion, or popular culture, he's apt to prognosticate the finer points of stained wood decks versus, say, other decks. I don't know from decks! I don't have a goddamned deck! What sane person sits around talking about decks?! When he's allowed out of his house without supervision he comments on architecture, lawn upkeep, and color schemes. If he wasn't married, I'd swear he was gay. Again, who sits around and compares drape texture, color and fashion placement within the context of the rest of the house? I know people who obsess on their houses, I just never thought it would hit me where I live. He wears pastel sweaters that Mr.Rogers would either burn or hide in his garage as a trick shammy. Nothing in my life matches and that's the way it's going to stay. If my shirt matches with my pants, it's a minor miracle. I don't have motifs or rooms designated in a Sahara desert fashion or a jungle room or any of that other shit. This leads us to what the dream he refers to as 'Man Town'. 'Man Town' is like Babylon, Zanzibar, and the Bermuda triangle all in one. It's Joe's imaginary paradise which is going up in his basement. It's a place where men are allowed to be men without delayed punishment or the suspension of sexual privileges. 'Man Town' will have comfortable couches, large tvs, pool tables, cigars, and a built in ventilator fan. 'Man Town' is basically what Joe's entire house would look like if he were allowed to retain the use of his genitals. 'Man Town' is a paradise that one will have to navigate through the kitchen and past the tea cozies and well groomed spider plants to reach.

Nowadays, he's 'eating right' and doing things for his 'cholesterol'. If you know what cholesterol is, don't tell me, because I don't wanna know. It has something to do with eating sodium free cottage cheese and baby carrots. He's purchased a treadmill. We got more exercise lugging the damned thing upstairs than he will probably ever get using it. If he exercised a little bit more moderation in the past, he wouldn't need to worry about this so-called 'cholesterol' business. Joe has a uniform for the weekends that showcases his cholesterol. Baggy gray sweatpants and a button down flannel shirt. Now I'm no fashion maven, this much has been established, but I'm pretty sure that flannels don't match with pants that feature an elastic waistband. He gets this from my father, who wears flannels with baggy fluorescent green sweat pants, which he refers to as 'snuggies'. I vow that as long as I live, I will never employ or equip sweatpants, and that this is the only time you will hear me call sweatpants 'snuggies'. Please pause while I shudder.

He and my father can talk finance and grocery coupons until the end of the known universe and beyond. It's agonizing, exhausting, excruciating small talk that I'd rather not be in the same room for, but what family gathering conversations aren't, now that I think about it? Stocks, options, retirement funds, living wills, bonds, and so forth. When it's not that, it's where you can find the cheapest ground chuck, the freshest produce, or the most reasonable steamed clams. If there wasn't a meal in the works during these little point/counterpoints, I would find a ladder, climb up onto the roof, and jump off. This is one thing that my sister-in-law Jill and I have in common. We don't roll pennies for fun and we don't talk about groceries and mutual funds. We talk about cartoons and how good we are at ordering people around at our respective jobs.

There was a time when I blamed what happened to my brother on his wife. I can't make that claim anymore, and find it unfair that I ever did. He is on permanent auto-whip, and the other settings on his instrument panel are so corroded with the passage of time that I'm not sure if he has any other functional settings. I like my sister in law a lot. She's fantastic, and I can see why they're such a great match. She rescues him from being a square every day of the week. It's not her fault that his nut sac fell off through some evolutionary process, she just happened to be around at the time.

Marriage is a tricky prospect. Few people take it s eriously and even few hang in there through the tough bits. My working theory is that a woman looks at a man and thinks, "This guy is a total mess, but I can work with that. I'll turn him into something that can stand upright and swallow his food before yelling." In turn, guys look at girls and think, "I'm not ashamed to show this girl off to my friends and family. Plus she lets me do stuff to her. I'm a happy camper." Jill's done a great job with my brother. Not only can he walk on his hind legs, but he can pick out a tile scheme from a book full of color swatches or swathes or whatever in god's name their called and somehow tie his whole kitchen together to match with the Easter decorations. As well as his sweatpants.

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