At some point or another in a marriage, a wife faces a delicate dilemma: How to incorporate her husband’s deer head, bowling trophy, concert poster, stereo speakers, bar lamp or autographed sporting equipment into the home décor. In nineteen years of marriage to my Navy husband, I’ve learned that solving this domestic quandary involves compromise, diplomacy, tact, and sometimes, trickery.
After each of our eight moves, I set about making each new house our home. The vast majority of the unpacking and home decorating has been left to my discretion as the wife, and I always make a sincere effort to find spots for the treasured belongings that will provide a comfortable and secure environment for our family.
Sometimes, however, I must prioritize. After our most recent move, I was unpacking a box labeled “master bedroom” and came upon an item that my husband had purchased during our last tour of duty in Germany.
Despite the fact that he is squeamish about blood, has never hunted, and is afraid of my kitchen cutlery; he bought himself a full-sized reindeer pelt one night at a German Christmas festival. He’s not quite sure why he made the purchase, and admits that it may have been motivated by the half-dozen mugs of mulled wine he consumed that frosty winter evening. But, he insists, he must’ve had a perfectly good reason at the time.
After finding the pelt in the moving box along with our prissy floral bedroom linens, I wondered, How will this thing fit into our new bedroom’s decor?
On one hand, displaying the enormous hide might have added the Nordic charm of an igloo – all we needed was an ice machine and a dog sled to give our bedroom a real Tundra vibe. On the other hand, my husband might take the Eskimo theme a bit too far – turning the thermostat below 50, sleeping in a Caribou parka, and offering to massage me with whale blubber oil.
I shuddered at the thought and stuffed the reindeer pelt under our bed.
A few days later, I found the hide spread out in the middle of our bedroom floor like a fresh kill. The dog took a few sniffs and resolved to stay at least two feet away from the strange flattened beast in case it might suddenly attack.
A couple times, I hid the pelt from my husband in hopes that he wouldn’t notice, but he always did, and put the wild animal skin right back in the middle of our bedroom floor. If I tried to reason with him, he declared quite simply, “I like it,” and would not discuss the matter further.
While there have been many battles worth fighting in our marriage, I knew that this was not one of them. In my husband’s travels with the Navy, he has brought home countless souvenirs and memorabilia. Some items were special enough to become a permanent part of our home décor. Others had only a short time on display, before being relegated to a cardboard box in the garage.
There was the airplane propeller, the English cricket bat, the Yemeni sword, the German beer stein, the Middle Eastern vase, the Norwegian whale bone, the Korean chess set, dozens of Navy plaques and framed certificates, and scores of African items – wildebeest horns, warthog tusks, bowls, woven baskets, tribal warrior figures, Masai clubs, fertility masks, bongos, and carved wooden animals.
For husbands like mine, these items become more than just clunky, dust-gathering, tacky souvenirs. The items represent their athletic superiority, power, virility, and youth. Despite the fact that my husband has no sober memory of its purchase, that reindeer pelt is his manhood splayed out on our bedroom floor for the whole world to see.
I wouldn’t want to take away my husband’s manhood just because it doesn’t match the bedspread. And besides, the reindeer pelt reminds me a little of my husband – it doesn’t say much, lays around a lot, and sheds.
An edited version of this essay was published in the August 2012 issue of Military Spouse magazine as my new column, “Things that drive us CRAZY! ” This is the uncut original version, but if you missed the August issue, here’s my column as a PDF: MSMAugColumn
Don’t forget to pick up the September issue of Military Spouse magazine, where I am highlighted as a contributor, and my column “Things that drive us CRAZY!” tells a funny story of the challenges milspouses face when trying to find employment.