Metro-East Living

A columnist’s quandary — husband hates being in column. She loves writing about him.

Michelle and Mark Shrader
Michelle and Mark Shrader Provided

My husband, Mark, is not a fan of my columns. Well, he likes some of my columns, just not the ones that mention him — which means he doesn’t like many.

“Don’t do it, Michelle,” he says. “Don’t write about me again.”

“But you are the Ricky to my Lucy,” I tell him. “The Napoleon to my Josephine. The Yin to my Yang.”

“And you are…” he says, raising his eyebrows. “Well, I don’t know what you are.”

Oh, he knows. He just tries to forget.

When Mark and I first met, I was the bubbly, blonde newspaper reporter who wore slinky, white dresses and ate chocolate for breakfast. I’m less slinky these days but I still wear white and eat chocolate.

So what changed?

We got married, that’s what.

Five years later, we co-produced our only son, Sam. Like his father, Sam makes occasional appearances in my columns. Unlike his father, he doesn’t complain. I gave Sam life. He gives me copy.

His dad just gives me a hard time.

“Why do you have to write about our family?” Mark asks. “Why can’t you write about strangers like you did in the old days?”

“Well, there was a time YOU were that stranger,” I remind him. “Have you forgotten how we met?”

I interviewed Mark for an eligible bachelor story back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth. He didn’t mind it then, though he may regret it now. FYI: All regrets are futile.

So are all attempts for me to write my column covertly. The problem is, I hum when I type. I didn’t do it when I was younger. But somewhere along the line, I picked up the habit of humming in tempo with my writing. Most of the time, I don’t even realize I’m doing it. But Mark does. And his ears perk up.

“You’re humming,” he says. “What are you writing about?”

“Nothing you’d want to read,” I tell him. “But other people? Now they’ll want to read it.”

I’ve had complete strangers stop me in Aldi and say: “I love it when you write about your husband.”

His sisters, Marilyn and Martha, have confided: “You’ve really got Mark pegged.”

And a few of his friends have told me, “You make him sound better than he is!”

Better than he is? I don’t think that’s possible. My husband is a super hero and his super power is putting up with me.

Which brings us back to this column.

“Here’s the thing,” I tell him. “I’m experiencing writer’s block. If I don’t write about you, well, I’m all out of ideas.”

“Write about the dogs.”

“I have.”

“The weather.”

“Be serious.”

“You wrote about our kitchen last month so maybe write about our living room?”

And so it goes until I wear him down. A good writer writes what she knows — and I know my husband. He eventually shrugs and says: “OK. You can put me in your column. But this is the absolute LAST time, Michelle.”

He leaves the room and I start humming.

Don’t worry. There will be a next time.

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