THE WHOLE THING started when she went on a diet, thus commencing as unsettling a period as we have experienced in 13 years of marriage.
The diet itself is actually going quite well. She has lost 12 pounds. She looks terrific. And I am very happy for her. Except that there are times when I . . . I want to lock her in the hall closet because she's driving me crazy.
One problem with her diet is that there is no longer anything worth eating around the house.
Our meals these days consist of chicken (usually broiled) and vegetables and fruit, a diet eeriely similar to that of the coyote.
In fact, our meals have become so sickeningly healthy that I get weak-kneed just thinking about them.
If you really want to go wild in my house and eat something sinful, you might find a rye crisp. Or a low-cal bread stick.
The other day, as a change of pace, I offered to throw some hamburgers on the grill for dinner. She looked at me as if I'd suggested cooking up some squirrels.
The other problem with this diet is the peevish behavior it has produced in my wife, as evidenced by the incident with the meatball Parmesan sandwich.
It began innocently enough. Emotionally drained from too many dishes centered around broccoli, I stopped in a deli one evening to buy a pack of gum.
Anyway, as I was paying the cashier, my eyes fixed on a glorious sight.
Hanging from the ceiling were row after row of sausage and pepperoni. A huge basket overflowed with fresh Italian bread. Spicy tomato sauce simmered in a pot. The smell of onion and garlic was everywhere.
Apparently, I entered a trance-like state when, I don't know, something snapped inside me.
All I remember after that is waving a fistful of bills at the startled guy behind the counter and shrieking: "MEATBALL PARMESAN! MEATBALL PARMESAN!"
The guy was understandably jittery, perhaps fearing that this madman in the tan raincoat was carrying a hidden weapon. I threw some money at him, grabbed the sandwich and sprinted out to the car.
So now I get home with this nice hot meatball Parmesan sub, which was about the size of a filing cabinet. And who's the first person I run into but Little Miss Weight-Watcher herself.
You could almost hear the bell for Round 1.
"What's that?" she asked as I pulled the sandwich out of the bag.
Apparently it had been so long since she had seen real food that she was now having trouble recognizing it.
"It's boiled spinach," I mumbled between bites.
"THAT'S A MEATBALL SUB!" she screamed. "YOU'RE EATING THAT IN FRONT OF ME?!"
"You're right," I said. "Maybe you should wait upstairs until this is over."
So we had a big fight about that. She accused me of being "insensitive."
"Insensitive?!" I said. "Look who's talking! Do you realize that because of your stupid diet, I almost killed someone tonight?!"
Which was true. That guy back at the deli nearly had a heart attack when I started jumping up and down and screaming a sandwich order at him.
To me, it was further evidence of the bizarre behavior that dieting can produce.
About eight years ago, I myself went on a diet and managed to lose 20 pounds. I did this in the traditional way, by whining, moaning and starving myself to death.
At first, people were always asking: "How did you lose the weight?"
And I was only too happy to regale them with story after story of my incredible will-power and dedication to the attainment of zero fat content in my food.
Eventually, however, people were so sick of hearing me prattle on about my diet that if they spotted me on the sidewalk, they'd cross the street to avoid me.
Or they would lunge at me with a length of pipe whenever I launched into another soliloquy about which foods I ate and which I avoided.
The point is, it didn't take long to realize that just because I was on a diet, the rest of the world didn't have to suffer, too.
Not that I'm pointing any fingers.