Mid-Life Baking Soda

You know, there’s something to be said for a certain lack of self-esteem. Yeah, yeah, I know. Statements like that fly in the face of a century of research into the human psyche. They fly in the face of what good parents want for their offspring. They fly in the wallets of millions of psychologists. I’m walking on dangerous ground, but hear me out.

I am married to a man with a great self-image. He’s very healthy, psychologically. It’s refreshing and unique to find that in someone nowadays.

He drives me nuts.

I do believe most women want a man with a good self-image; someone who can handle a little constructive criticism; someone who truly is not bothered if other people don’t agree with them; someone who responds to a hormone-induced tirade with: “You seem a little stressed. Why don’t you go relax while I cook dinner?” I mean, we’re talking about a right down the line fantasy man here. That’s my husband.

So what’s to be driven nuts about?

Well. A few years ago we got this new neighbor, right? And the guy was an Adonis—not that I noticed, as a happily married woman. His abs were a taught, two percent body-fat six-pack, and his chest and shoulders were as broad as a barn. When this man mowed his lawn on Saturdays, his shirt came off at precisely 9:32 a.m. and women started dropping like flies. I myself—who as I believe I have mentioned, was very happily married to a man with perfect self-esteem—began to find his biceps and triceps intruding on my Saturday cleaning in a manner which was totally unexpected. I’d been married eleven years and never, in all that time, had using baking soda, with that silly little . . . muscular . . . arm-and-hammer insignia bothered me as it did then. It was unnerving. I dealt with it by keeping any contact with the neighbor down to the occasional wave, and throwing away all the baking soda.

So what happened? I had an encounter with Mr. Adonis that prompted a very interesting discussion between Mr. Self-Esteem and me. (Before I elaborate let me point out that I’ve done a bit of community theater in my life, and my husband has never been remotely bothered when I’ve been cast in parts that required me to be kissed by the leading man. What normal woman wouldn’t be bugged by that?)

One Saturday morning I left the house for a jog at about 10:45, figuring I was safe because I’d missed the 9:32 showing by a pretty wide margin. Well, just as I was passing the Adonis house, who should turn the corner but the Boy Wonder himself. Yep. Johnny Socko and his Flying Physique. I didn’t know what had happened. The man had his shirt off and his lawn mower revved-up. He was late! I wasn’t prepared for that.

I was trying to decide if I could get away with putting on “Jogger’s Face,” as though I was well into my stride and couldn’t stop (even though I wasn’t twenty feet from my door), when he saw me. I tried just waving at him, but he hit me with a blue-eyed, tooth-filled, chiseled-cheeked, dimple-dotted, sun-bronzed-god-smile, and said, “Hey! How are you?”

I had to stop, of course. And so, wanting to appear intelligent, nonchalant, and totally unaffected by the washboard abs staring me in the face, I put on a smile and answered brightly, 


He continued, “Great, great. How is the family?”


“Fantastic. You must have a lot going on this summer.”


“Well, see you ‘round.”

“Glat blug.”

Very smooth. The guy put out the most effective pheromone offensive I had ever seen. No woman I knew had been able to stand her ground under its assault. I actually did better than most. I managed to utter several consonants consecutively. Most females I’d seen come in contact with The Neighbor fell instantly into a slack-jawed, glassy-eyed trance and stayed like that for several days.

Needless to say, my silly little school-reaction to Mr. A bugged the heck out of me. And most people would think it would have bugged the heck out of my husband. But no. Not my husband. I walked around for two days riddled with guilt until I couldn’t take it anymore. Finally, I ran down to the basement where hubby was oiling an old saddle of his, prostrated myself on the floor and confessed the whole thing.

He didn’t look up. He didn’t so much as pause. “You know, a guy shouldn’t go around with his shirt off that much. He could get skin cancer.”

I was stunned. “Excuse me?”

“Greenhouse effect. There’s this guy at work who . . .”

I grabbed my husband’s hand to stop his incessant saddle-polishing and said, “Wait a minute. I just told you I had a palpitation over our neighbor’s very fit, and may I add, very young chestal region. Doesn’t that bother you?”

He looked up, eyes as wide as a baby’s and filled with half the guile, “Why should it bother me?” He honestly couldn’t see it.

“I’m not married to his chest. I’m married to yours.”

He gave me a quick kiss and smiled, “Yeah I know. Aren’t I lucky?” Then he went back to polishing. He even started to whistle.

I was speechless, for like thirty complete seconds. And then, “Well, Mister Over-Confident, aren’t you just a little worried that this could lead to something torrid?”

Polish, polish, polish. “Nope. I trust you.”

I was starting to feel the estrogen drain from my body leaving me with very little defense against a hormone attack. I had to fight to keep my tone even.

“Okay fine. But what about him? How do you know I’m safe from him?”

My husband just smiled and patted my arm. “Could you hand me that rag?”

Nothing. Not even a twinge of jealousy. What’s a wife to do? I handed him the rag.

Do you see my problem? I mean, don’t get me wrong. I’d much rather be married to a confident man than to someone with major insecurities. But is it asking too much for him to act just a little jealous? Once? It sure as heck wouldn’t hurt my self-esteem any.
There didn’t seem to be a whole lot to do about it on that particular day, so I went back upstairs and puttered around aimlessly for a while. Finally I decided to go get some groceries. What was it I was out of? Let’s see . . . Oh yes. Baking soda.

About Janiel 433 Articles
I have managed to keep the same husband for nearly three decades, and the same four children for almost that long - although one or two of them say it has been much longer. I have been writing since I learned to hold a pencil, and trying to make people laugh even longer. I hope to do some good in the world before I go the way of it. And if not, I'd better at least get to visit Ireland.


  1. I totally get it. And I'm right there with you. Your man sounds a LOT like my John. If you figure out how to get him to act just a twinge jealous, let me know…


1 Trackback / Pingback

  1. On Meeting Famous People and Becoming a Dork | Life in Bits

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.