A two-pizza order delivers a friend from divorce

Mike Royko

March 31, 1992|By Mike Royko | Mike Royko,Tribune Media Services

They had always seemed like such a happy couple. Not ideal, of course. But to those of us, their friends, it looked like a solid, affectionate marriage.

So when he asked to meet for a drink and broke the unhappy news, I was shocked.

"When I go home tonight," he said, "it will be for the very last time. I will pack a bag and be gone."

I asked how that could be. The last time we had been together, a week ago, they had seemed so happy.

"Yes, but there are some things a man can't put up with, and she finally pushed me too far. So I'm walking. Adios, sayonara."

He stared into his drink for a long moment. "It wasn't the first time she did it. Been going on for years. At first I tried to convince myself that it wasn't happening. I guess they call that denial.

"Then I couldn't take it anymore, and I confronted her. She promised to stop, said it wouldn't happen again.

"That was just talk. It started up again. And when I finally said I couldn't tolerate it, she just laughed at me. That's right, she just sat there laughing like I was a fool."

He lapsed into a brooding silence. So I asked if there wasn't some way to resolve the problem, whatever it was, and not sacrifice those years together.

"Why don't I tell you the whole story, all the details," he said. "Then you decide if we can ..." He paused and drew the words out "resolve the problem."

He talked for 20 minutes in a dull monotone.

When he finished, he said: "Well, now you know it all. So am I wrong?"

Because we are both males, some will say that men tend to stick together. But after he told me the story, all I could say was: "If you need a place to stay, you are welcome in my home for as long as you like."

It was a familiar problem, one that has shattered many a relationship. I'll tell it in his words.

"We ordered out for a pizza, as we do about once a week. And we were sitting there watching a movie on TV.

"Then she did it. I tried not to look, but it was impossible to ignore. She reached out and took a piece of pizza and began pulling it toward herself.

"I could see what was happening. By dragging the slice that way, she was pulling the topping off the next slice. I started to say something, but it was too late. She kind of twisted it and gave it a yank.

"And sure enough, the strands of cheese from her slice just tore the topping off the next slice. All the cheese slid off, the sausage, the onions, the green pepper, lying there on the cardboard.

"I guess I shouted. 'Why can't you eat pizza in a civilized way? Why must you always mutilate the next piece? I've asked you a thousand times.'

"And I have. I always bring out the spatula, which can be used to neatly separate a piece. I bring out a sharp knife for the same purpose. But she refuses to use them. I even went to a specialty store and bought one of those round pizza slicers. But she puts it at the bottom of a kitchen drawer, where it can't be found.

"Do you know what she said? Nothing. She just picked up the topping from the mutilated piece and slapped it back on the crust. As if that could undo the damage.

"Then she did it again. I couldn't believe it. She grabbed another piece, gave it a yank, and this time it was even worse. She dragged the topping off the pizza, across the pizza board, and the whole thing landed on the TV zapper.

"I grabbed the spatula and waved it at her and said: 'Look what you've done. You're trying to drive me mad.'

"She didn't say a word. She just picked up the topping and put it back on the dough. And I flipped out.

"I was shouting. 'My God, you have put the TV zapper between the topping and the crust.'

"That's when she started laughing. And at that moment, I understood why so many homicides occur in the home. It was then that I decided we could not go on this way. I could see myself in my old age, watching helplessly and feebly from my wheelchair, as she drags the entire pizza across the table and lets it plop on the floor. So I am going to try to salvage something from the remnants of my life."

We sat and talked about other things for a while. Then I asked if it wasn't possible that she didn't know any better, that this might have been the result of the way she was raised.

He thought about that, then said: "Maybe you're right. It could be her family. They're Swedes. And I can't think of anyone who knows less about the proper way to eat pizza than a Swede, unless it is a Norwegian."

And, I reminded him, she is a woman. Women are notorious for the way they mistreat a pizza. Studies have shown that 90 percent of them yank the topping off the next piece compared with only 27 percent of men. Something to do with hand-eye coordination.

Then I told him that he isn't the first man to go through this. And I speak from experience.

His eyes grew wide. "You mean you ... no, not the same thing ..."

I nodded. Even the zapper. Twice.

"But you've never said anything. Is it still going on? You somehow live with it?"

L I smiled. No, there is a solution, and I found it years ago.

"Then tell me, what is it? If there is a way, I have to think about the kids."

Yes, there is a way. Instead of one large, order two medium. Then let her wallow in her own mess. A shower and she's as good as new.

He looked stunned. "Two mediums. So simple. Yes, I'll do it. You have saved my marriage."

There was a bounce in his step as he headed for home. And the last thing he said was:

"And at last, I can have anchovies."

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