As a good husband, I try to feign interest in my wife’s favorite passions. It’s easy when we’re talking kittens or kayaking. But the next time my wife asks, “Honey, how would you like to check out this new museum?”, if you have an ounce of compassion in you, PLEASE, for the love of God, STOP ME from spinelessly acquiescing to her heartless suggestion. It’s dangerous to my emotional well-being. The problem is that my wife and I have very different notions about what it means to “check out” a museum.
It doesn’t matter whether we’re talking a museum of paintings, cuckoo clocks, or the Wisconsin Museum of Cheese. It’s all about the approach. I like to swoop in, catch a glimpse of three or four major highlights, and get out while I still have some functioning brain cells. But my wife – she might as well sign a short-term rental agreement with the museum’s Board of Directors, because she’s planning on staying.
Last weekend, we visited the Museum of Anthropology and Natural History. Michele got excited because she learned this was the last day of their special exhibit called Fabrics Around the World. I figured, how long could this possibly take? I mean, you have cotton, polyester, and wool, the three fabrics that make up every article of clothing I’ve ever owned. We’d roll through the entire display in fifteen minutes max. I was off – by a factor of five.
My wife was fascinated by the intricate weavings found in Morocco, the brilliant colors preferred in the hilltop regions of Bhutan, and the myriad methods of felting coming from the British Isles. Meanwhile, my interest in fabrics was focused on a pizza stain I just noticed on my white t-shirt which was woven – I think you’ll find this interesting – in the Philippines, using a traditional polyester blend, made in a sweat shop by a nine-year-old boy named Danilo.
I perked up a bit when we entered the Hall of Masks of Papua New Guinea. A quick scan told me these tribal dudes would crush it at any Halloween party, because they make the scariest masks I’ve ever seen. Friday the 13th’s Jason had NOTHING on them. After scanning about ten masks, I got the gist. Ready to move on. Michele, however, had taken out her sketch pad (uh oh) and started drawing a montage of her twenty favorite masks. Technically, not even the whole masks; more like a study in mask ears – such as how one mask had huge ears, while the next one had, well, even huger ears.
After four hours fighting to stay awake through mesmerizing displays of Aboriginal Australian composting and Tahitian grass skirts, I felt I had duly served my museum sentence. My hopes for an escape were dashed, however, when my wife spotted the Pacific Coast Native Americans totem pole display. Thankfully, it was all contained in one room. Unthankfully (yes, that’s a word now), the room was approximately the area of an aircraft carrier flight deck. My wife spent 73 minutes examining the artistic intertwining of wolves, coyotes and eagles on each totem pole. I was more interested in how the carvers managed to get the beaver, raven, bear and orca all to pose on top of one another without falling over.
My suggestion about leaving to catch the Ohio State Buckeyes’ spring training game at a sports bar went over like a deflated Goodyear Blimp. What was I thinking? Of course, listening to a docent drone on about the intricacies of smelting techniques in ancient Mesoamerica was eons more riveting. Drone, drone… Hey! Maybe the next exhibit is the latest technology of drones! That would be awesome! … Ugh. No such luck. Alas, it was a 100-piece collection of Cameroon funerary urns. I’ll spare you the twenty-minute lecture on how they were made: They used clay.
As the days wore on (okay technically, it might have only been hours), I tried various subtle hints to indicate I was ready to leave, like looking at my watch, yawning, and drawing a chalk outline on the floor and lying inside it. But it was no use. My wife felt compelled to read every exhibit description like she had just discovered the original Ten Commandments tablets.
And don’t get me started about the docent’s painfully dull talk on the mating habits of Tasmanian tree snails. If you ask me, the CIA should hire that lecturer to torture terrorists into confessing. Heck, after 30 minutes, I would have confessed to colluding with the Russians in the presidential election if it would have made her stop talking.
My vision was blurry, my head was spinning, and I’d lost feeling in my lower extremities when at last, my wife agreed to call it a day. Just ahead, I could make out the most beautiful inscription I’d read all day: E X I T. I could see our car in the parking lot beckoning me. But at the last moment, my wife noticed one final alcove she just had to explore: The gift shop. “I’ll only be a minute,” she lied as she headed off in search of more morsels of cultural trivia. Somewhere there was a 400-page book about The Baskets of Borneo calling her name. I perused The Pennies of Pompeii – only $99.95 for the complete set of six replica coins.
My wife could easily have spent even more time at the museum, and by “more time” I mean the month of April. But six hours spent looking at spoons from Uganda and bridal hats from Bolivia was as much punishment as I could endure.
When we finally got home, she headed to her studio to arrange her new collection of Inuit polar bear figurines she bought at the museum gift shop. I snuck off to my man cave to soak up some quality culture: Sunday Night Baseball. The pitcher threw a no-hitter. If you ask me, that’s a thing of rare, exquisite artistry.
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