Friday, October 23, 2009

"Mr. and Mrs. Excitement"

By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate

I don’t want to bore you with tales of my marital exploits, although I don’t see why this column should be different from any other one, but my wife, Sue, and I are anything but boring. In 31 years of wedded bliss, we have led the most exciting lives that two people who haven’t done much can possibly lead. This includes puttering around the house, sending out for pizza and, the high point of any boomer couple’s thrill-packed day, trying to stay awake for the 11 o’clock news.

So when I read a recent study on avoiding boredom in marriage, I fell asleep in a rocking chair in front of the TV and woke up when the news was over. Then I woke up Sue, who was snoozing in an easy chair, and we both went to bed.

The next morning, I went to see the co-author of the study, Dr. Arthur Aron, a professor of psychology at Stony Brook University on Long Island, N.Y.

For Aron, who worked on the study with Irene Tsapelas of Stony Brook and Terri Orbuch of the University of Michigan, this was his latest scientific triumph. His previous study, conducted last year, showed that brain activity in longtime spouses who are still in love is the same as the brain activity in MRIs of newly romantic couples.

"You could take an MRI of my brain," I told Aron, "but you probably wouldn’t find any activity."

"That would mean you are still out of your head in love with your wife," he suggested.

It goes without saying, but I will say it anyway, that Aron is brilliant. He proved it in the boredom study, which was published in Psychological Science, by finding that "couples need to make their lives together more exciting."

Aron knows what he’s talking about because he has been married for 35 years to Dr. Elaine Aron, a psychotherapist who is the author of several books, including "The Highly Sensitive Person."

"I’m not bored in my marriage because my wife and I like to go out on little dates," said Aron. "We enjoy doing different things, like finding new places to eat."

"My wife and I do, too," I said.

"Maybe," Aron replied, "my wife and I will run into you and your wife some Saturday night."

If they do, it will probably be at the burger joint that Sue and I recently found. It’s actually a neighborhood bar called Reese’s 1900 Pub, which is a few miles from another neighborhood bar we also frequent, Billie’s 1890 Saloon.

Finding a new place to have delicious burgers and cold beer has added considerable excitement to our marriage. Just the thought of deciding whether to have fried onions or bacon as toppings, or whether to go with cheddar or Swiss cheese, is enough to make us giddy with the spark of first love. Then again, it could be the beer.

Still, like many empty nesters, Sue and I have discovered that it’s the little things that prevent boredom from creeping into a marriage. That’s because, after putting both of our daughters through college and marrying one of them off, we don’t have enough money left for the big things.

True, we went to Barbados last year for our 30th anniversary, the first time we had been away together, just the two of us, to a place with postcards and palm trees, since our honeymoon in Hawaii. We vowed to go back this year but ended up staying home and going to a local beach that did not, I regret to say, have postcards or palm trees, although it did have a snack bar.

Now that the weather is cooler, Sue and I spend our exciting Saturday nights either at home watching rented movies and trying to stay awake to the end or going out on little dates for burgers and beer. And if we should happen to run into Arthur and Elaine Aron, the first round is on them.

Copyright 2009 by Jerry Zezima

Friday, October 2, 2009

"Identity Crisis"

By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate

At the risk of being sued by Popeye, I am what I am. Unfortunately, what I am can’t be printed in a family newspaper. I don’t even know who I am anymore. That’s because my identity was recently stolen.

I never thought this would happen because you’d have to be crazy to want to be me. Even if you were caught and went to trial, you could easily get off, either by pleading insanity or by claiming the cops had the wrong man. Then I’d get arrested.

In contrast to the old Sammy Davis Jr. song "I’ve Gotta Be Me," I don’t want to be myself. It’s a terrible predicament, but there’s nothing I can do about it.

Despite the prospect of being married to someone richer and a lot more interesting, my wife, Sue, decided to do something about it when she noticed charges on my debit card for $1.13.

"Is that all I’m worth?" I asked. "What an insult!"

"There are three charges," Sue pointed out, "so you’re worth $3.39."

That made me feel a little better, but I still couldn’t understand why anyone would want to steal my identity, especially since I had to take a vow of poverty when I went into journalism.

In fact, my life is lived in increments of $20 because I use my debit card almost exclusively at the ATM, which in my case stands for Abominable Transaction Machine. I usually withdraw $20 so I can put enough gas in my car to go to work so I can earn enough money to put gas in my car to go to work. At least I have a job. Then again, if I didn’t, I wouldn’t have to put gas in my car.

At any rate, Sue called the bank to find out what was going on and spoke with a very nice customer representative named Renee, who wanted to speak with me because those little charges were being put on my card.

"Someone is probably downloading songs on an iPod," Renee said.

"I don’t have an iPod or iTunes, although I do have iTeeth," I told her. "I’m not technologically advanced."

"Neither am I," said Renee, adding that she would put a block on my card but that I would have to go to a bank branch to get a new one.

A little while later, Sue and I were sitting in the office of Friday McGraw, a small-business specialist who is as terrific as his name.

"Identity theft is a big problem," said Friday, which also happened to be the day we were there. "I’ve already done three this morning." Then he handed me a pair of scissors and asked if I wanted to cut up my card.

"I’ve always been a cutup, so why not?" I said. Friday looked on as I snipped away. "Wow!" I chirped. "I’m literally performing plastic surgery!"

"I guess you don’t do that for a living," Friday commented. "You’re too excited." He also said that identity thieves typically put small charges on a card at first. If the card holder doesn’t do anything about it, the thieves will then put on charges that could total thousands of dollars.

In trying to figure out where the theft might have occurred, Friday asked, "Where was the last place you ate?"

"My parents’ house," I replied, explaining that we had stayed overnight.

"If your identity got stolen there, you’re in trouble," said Friday, who has helped my parents with their banking and knows they’re honest people.

"Still," I wondered, "why would anyone want it?"

"I guess there’s at least one idiot out there," Friday answered with a smile. He issued me a temporary card, changed the number on our checking account, arranged for me to get a new debit card and new checks, and otherwise handled the whole transaction with great professionalism and good humor.

"Now you can be you again," he said.

"It’s small consolation," I replied. "But at least I can put gas in my car."

Copyright 2009 by Jerry Zezima