Don’t ever ask your wife to give herself a home perm

Real Help for Real Living

by Rev. Tony Marciano

I want to speak to the men for a moment. Women, go ahead and skip down the page a bit.

Men, listen to my words. Hearken to them (that’s a word you don’t often hear, so you know I’m serious). Do not, and I repeat, do not, ever, ever, ever ask your wife, girlfriend, etc. to give herself a home perm. You will regret ever asking her to do that.

OK, welcome back, ladies.

I can still remember that fateful day as if it was yesterday. It was July 1992. I was executive director of a rescue mission in Washington, D.C., which also operated a summer camp for children. My wife was heavily involved with the day-to-day operations of the camp.

She and the wife of the camp director had become good friends. During one of those “playful” moments (that should have warned me that what I was about to say would get me in trouble) I looked at the two of them and said, “Dot, why don’t you give yourself a home perm?”

The two women smiled with glee. Men bond over football games; women over home perms. I don’t understand it, I’m just reporting on it.

The two got the box, say they read the directions and proceeded with making my wife’s hair beautiful with curls. There was only one problem: they missed one word in the instructions.

The directions said, “Once the chemical is in your hair, wrap your head in a damp towel.” The idea is the “damp” towel will contain the chemical for the 30 minutes my wife had to wait. Instead, they wrapped her hair in a “towel,” no dampness involved.

The dry towel soaked up enough of the chemical from her hair so it didn’t curl when she rinsed and dried it. Instead, it frizzed, which apparently is bad. When she came out of the bathroom, she looked at me with the look that no man ever wants to see from his wife. It was a look of, “Don’t ever ask me to do this again for the rest of my life.”

I didn’t laugh. I didn’t point out that she missed the key instruction. I just never asked her do to it again.

Sadly, many of us have “dry towels” in our lives. They are the people that drain us and leave us exhausted rather than energized from having been in their presence. Yet we continue to go back and back believing that if we just try harder, this dry towel that drains us will turn into a damp towel.

What’s a damp towel, you ask? It’s someone who brings out the best in us.

Yet, that too often doesn’t happen. We think if we just sacrifice more we can convert them through the power of our love. I’ve learned there is only one person in the world we can change and that is us.

I’m not asking you to avoid the dry towels in your life. Sometimes they’re family and we just have to grin and bear it at those “fun” holiday gatherings (you remember the fun of your Christmas family gathering last month, don’t you?).

I believe God calls us to minister to these people. Let them know you care. Build your friendships, build your “love life” and take vacations with the damp towels – those people that energize and bring out the best in you.

I’ll be back in two weeks. Until then, live well, my friend.

The Rev. Tony Marciano is executive director of the Charlotte Rescue Mission, which provides a free, long-term Christian recovery program for men and women addicted to drugs and alcohol.

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