Pacific Northwest | September 14, 2003Pacific Northwest MagazineSeptember 14, home
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Unspeakable Devotion
A properly doting wife can say it all with her eyes
THE OTHER DAY I was watching a politician on television, and while he was speaking, his devoted wife was standing next to him, watching him with absolute love in her eyes. She looked at him like he had been in a coma for 20 years and suddenly started speaking.

"I wish you looked at me like that," I said to the Truly Unpleasant Mrs. Johnston.

"What?" Mrs. Johnston said, not looking up from the book she was reading.

I mistakenly took Mrs. Johnston's "What?" as an actual question — as in, "Whatever do you mean, my beloved?" — and not her real meaning, as in, "What are you talking about? I was reading my book, and now you are bugging me."

"Do you see how that wife looks at her husband as he denies he stole money from the taxpayers?" I said. "Even though the evidence against him is overwhelming, she still looks directly at him with sheer devotion. It's like she is reading his lips."

"What?" Mrs. Johnston said again. Apparently she wasn't reading my lips with a look of sheer devotion.

"I've been noticing this gaze on the faces of wives as they watch their husbands speak, and I find it endearing," I said. "I mean, this guy is being accused of stealing money. They have videotape of him accepting gym bags full of cash from undercover agents. Everyone knows he is lying when he denies it, but his wife stands next to him and looks at him as if he is accepting the Nobel Prize."

"What?" said Mrs. Johnston, keeping up her relentless line of questioning.

"Even when the husband is accused of having affairs with different women," I observed, "you can count on the wife to be sitting at his side, gazing at him with the utter conviction that he's being honest when he says, 'I never had sex with that woman.' The husband may have been arrested for some crime, but the devoted wife will be right there during the press conference, never taking her eyes off his rolling eyeballs and his stuttering lips," I said.

"What?" Mrs. Johnston said again. She never put down her book. If this was a ploy on her part to trick me into saying something stupid, it was working.

"I've even noticed it among people who aren't married," I went on. "I was watching the news the other night, and when the male anchor was speaking, the female anchor was watching him like she never saw a person speaking full sentences before. At least not a male person. But when the female anchor spoke, the guy just glanced at her and went back to reading his script."

"What?" Mrs. Johnston said, refusing to take the bait and actually look at me.

I knew in my heart if her gaze fell upon my handsome, rugged face, she wouldn't be able to take her eyes off me and would spend the evening gazing at me. With love in her eyes and a smile playing off her lips, of course.

"Even when the woman suspects her husband is a complete moron, she still has that look," I said. "Take Laura Bush. She stands next to her husband and looks at him the whole time he is speaking. She doesn't smile, and I've never once seen her break out laughing, unless George tells one of his jokes that no one else understands.

"Maybe that is a sign of marital happiness and pure love. A wife will stand by her man no matter what. She will listen to him talk with love in her eyes, no matter what nonsense the old boy is spouting out. Don't you agree?"

I turned to look at the Truly Unpleasant Mrs. Johnston. Her head was tilted toward me and her eyes were partly closed. I thought I detected a tear in the corner of one of her eyes. She was so overcome with love and devotion, I thought, that she couldn't look directly at me.

"Don't you agree?" I gently repeated.

"Zzzzzzzz," Mrs. Johnston said.

Steve Johnston is a retired Seattle Times reporter. His e-mail address is Paul Schmid is a Seattle Times staff artist.

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