Negative Capability

No ads, no compromises, no kidding

Negative Capability

No ads, no compromises, no kidding

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Confidently Incorrect

My wife and I need each other. She is super organized, driven, smart, capable and has a work ethic that leaves me in awe. I am relaxed, funny and have a brain that is insanely sticky. We have been inseparable since we met in 1994. The longest periods we have been apart were work trips where she had to spend a lot of time on site and it was miserable for both of us. Since the pandemic, if anything, we spend too much time together. Once you took away school for the kids, her commute and my gym closed, there was a lot of togetherness. Instead of putting on a strain on us, we've actually gotten closer as a family and have learned a lot about each other and our selves.

However, my wife seems to have some gauzy filter over her memories because she can see the thing she is talking about in her head, but she just can’t pull together enough actual information to help anyone decipher the clues. I have told my wife that when I die (there’s an outside chance I’ll outlive her but I think mentally it’s easier for her to imagine moving on without me than the reverse) she will have no one to translate her ramblings into coherent descriptions. Sometimes I will enlist the help of my oldest son but a lot of her references are what they call “deep cuts,” meaning that it’s old or too obscure. The title comes from a great subreddit of the same name. My wife is always confident but she is funniest when she is confidently incorrect.

Everything I’ve ever written is awash in pop cultural references but my brain has the ability to drill down to the origin, examine the context and then drop a reference in a way that is mentally satisfying to anyone who gets it. With my wife, she just rambles and I have to use all of my mental abilities to spin her useless straw into shiny gold (it’s not very often that my pop culture references go back to the Brothers Grimm, but here we are).

My wife still rants from time to time but now they are mostly so inside baseball that no one but me would find them funny, so I’m trying a different approach. The premise here is that my wife sees something or wants to reference something but she cannot even come close to what she wants to convey. She gets flustered and annoyed and will often repeat the same useless clues until I am able to guess correctly and put her mind at ease.

My wife saw a very old Carole King at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony and said, “She could be one of the Witches of Eastwick.” I laughed so hard because in that movie, the witches of Eastwick were Michelle Pfeiffer, Cher and Susan Sarandon, who were pretty hot at the time. Instead, I knew that she was talking about a different movie about witches, Hocus Pocus with Kathy Najimy, Sarah Jessica Parker and Bette Midler who all fell out of the fuckable zone when I was a kid.

"You know that guy, the skinny pale guy? He was on Survivor.” This was all the information she had. The guy she was talking about is a well known actor and screenwriter who was one of the stars (and the writer) of School of Rock. There was one season of Survivor where he was a contestant and I don’t think she ever cared enough about him to learn his name, even though I said, “Hey, that’s the guy from School of Rock, and he wrote a movie about him stalking an old friend and his name is Mike White, he’s gay and out, etc., etc.” The only thing my wife remembered was “skinny pale guy.” And I guessed it.

“And that other guy that did that banana dance and was on TV.” I had no idea for this one, so we had to look up banana dance on YouTube and we found an old Letterman clip featuring Chris Elliot.

“I saw that guy from American Gods with the rat face.” I know she has never seen an episode of American Gods because I barely got through a season before bailing. I had to think about this because I knew she was saying American Gods as a stand-in for everything Neil Gaiman has ever written. Then I had to think about an adaptation that she may have seen. It took me a good minute but I finally guessed that she meant the actor Michael Sheen who was in Good Omens, another show based on a Neil Gaiman book that she never saw.

She was telling me about a band she had heard. “They sound like that lady that sounds like a goat and Christine? McGee? Is that her name? Tell me.” She knew that I knew who she was talking about but I wouldn’t tell her. I made her guess a few times. There was an episode of South Park where they have to take a goat to Africa while at the same time the USO is putting on a show for the troops featuring Stevie Nicks. The running joke is that the soldiers see the boys with the goat and say, “Oh my god, Miss Nicks, Miss Nicks, can I get an autograph?” I asked her, “Do you mean the band that Stevie Nicks was in?” She said yes. I said, “The same band as Lindsey Buckingham, Mick Fleetwood and Christine McVie? “Yes, tell me the name!” Sure, honey, you’re thinking of Fleetwood Mac.

"She looks like that woman, upper west side woman with Jewish hair, horse mouth, would talk about events on NY1." This one goes back to when we were both working and would watch a local cable channel called New York 1, on channel one, naturally. Everyone on the network was kind of lovably amateurish and it was as if a network had just hired college kids to run it. The only person on the entire network that we didn’t like was this loudmouth yenta who would come on and do a 5-10 minute segment about some upcoming kid-friendly activity. We didn’t have kids at the time so we tuned it out. We haven’t seen NY1 or this woman in at least 15 years, but she made the reference and my first guess was correct, Shelley Goldberg.

We saw a pretty girl on the trashy Netflix series Sexy Beast and she said, “She looks like the girl who was married to ‘winner winner chicken dinner.’” I guessed Denise Richards, who was married to Charlie Sheen, who once said, “Winner winner, chicken dinner,” while high on drugs. Re-reading that last sentence, I realize that it's not clear if it was Charlie or me who was on drugs and I'm fine with that.

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