Keillor's Law

There is almost no marital problem that can't be helped enormously by taking off your clothes. (And other autumnal advice.)

Published October 5, 2005 5:21PM (EDT)

And now it is fall. The Northern Hemisphere tilts away from the sun and the oaks turn maroon, the maples yellow. The air is like Armagnac brandy. There is firewood for sale, and pumpkins, and pontoon boats with For Sale signs taped to the sides parked at the ends of driveways, waiting for somebody in a maritime mood to plunk down the cash. That would not be me.

Today was a day that began with my car keys, glasses, billfold, and cellphone in four different locations around the house, which sometimes happens if you are in motion. You set things on a shelf or dresser, or perhaps under a pile of your child's homework, and the next morning you must track them down by tearing around and yelling quietly to yourself. "This is how my life is spent," I cried out to nobody in particular. In the time I have spent looking for car keys, I could've read all of Charles Dickens. Why does this happen? WHY CAN'T I LEAVE THINGS WHERE I CAN FIND THEM? Do I need to hire a personal valet, a small dandruffy man named Basil? Should I install Velcro strips?

(No. The answer, young people, is: Don't Change Your Clothes. Have one jacket with big pockets that you wear every day, no matter what, and keep your essentials in it. People will talk, but it'll save you about six months in your lifetime and you'll get to read "David Copperfield.")

The cruel irony of looking for your glasses when you are this nearsighted -- this is irony I don't need. But the glasses were located in the pocket of yesterday's sport coat, and the keys were on a window ledge in the bedroom near where I was going to recharge the cellphone but then it rang, and I answered, and as I talked, I walked down the hall and put the billfold in the bookcase. The wallet was in the cupboard, next to the cups and saucers.

Distracted by the exertion, I walked into the kitchen for coffee and banged my head hard on a pot hanging from the pan rack. (This sort of thing has been happening to me for 50 years. I am 6 foot 3.) There are about 20 pots and pans up there, including a couple of imported copper pans that somebody gave us for Christmas, and they will hang around for another 20 years and then my kids will pack them off to the Salvation Army so that homeless people can make soufflés too. I bonked my head on the French copper pan and said an emphatic word and felt bitter resentment well up inside me and then it struck me: Tall People cannot expect Short People to look out for us. Short People can't reach high enough to hang pots beyond danger. I have now been dinged so often, I no longer remember the Gettysburg Address, but it's my own fault.

From suffering comes wisdom, and that's today's wisdom. Keillor's Law. When you grow to a certain height, this is going to have to be your problem and nobody else's.

A corollary of this would be: Having fun is up to you; nobody else can manage it for you.

Women get broody sometimes and want to sit in front of a fire with a glass of merlot and discuss The Relationship, which is never a good idea. You know this. If you were captured by Unitarian terrorists and sat on by a fat lady and told that you absolutely must discuss your relationship, you should say no, no, no.

Never use the word "relationship." You can say "marriage" or "romance" or "partnership" or "living arrangement" or "hubba hubba ding dong," but the word "relationship" is like the hissing of vipers. If the romance or marriage needs help, the answer almost always is Have More Fun. Drop your list of grievances and go ride a roller coaster. Take a brisk walk. Dance. Take a trip to Duluth. Read Dickens. There is almost no marital problem that can't be helped enormously by taking off your clothes.

Other people can't do that for you. Yes, of course your psyche was squashed by your emotionally distant father and you face self-esteem issues, having been the middle child who wore glasses. But you're grown up now and it's time to get some fun in your life. And tall people must look out for themselves.

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(Garrison Keillor's "A Prairie Home Companion" can be heard Saturday nights on public radio stations across the country.)

© 2005 by Garrison Keillor. All rights reserved. Distributed by Tribune Media Services, Inc.

By Garrison Keillor

Garrison Keillor is the author of the Lake Wobegon novel "Liberty" (Viking) and the creator and host of the nationally syndicated radio show "A Prairie Home Companion," broadcast on more than 500 public radio stations nationwide. For more columns by Keillor, visit his column archive.

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