Friends & Family

A Bowling Ball Named Homer, and other References that Make Up My Marriage

homerLast month, my husband and I celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary. Tenth! I’ve now officially been married longer than I’ve done just about anything else. Longer than I’ve lived in one place, longer than I’ve attended any school. Wow.

So–lately I’ve been thinking about my marriage.

My husband and I are nerds. “Geeks” might be the more precise term. As in we get really excited about odd things and get kind of obsessive about them. Most of our geekery is separate, but there’s one thing we tend to geek out on together: television. More specifically, animation. Cartoons made for grown-ups.

If you’ve ever been in a social situation with us, you’ve probably heard my husband quote Futurama, Family Guy, The Simpsons, and/or Bob’s Burgers (though the latter was probably me). Maybe you recognized the reference, maybe you didn’t. If you didn’t, and he said something you thought was particularly cute or funny, he was probably quoting something. (Not that he’s not cute and funny on his own, it’s just–no, mostly it’s TV quotes.) If I heard it, I might have quoted along with him, or quoted the next line, or perhaps cringed because he quoted it wrong.

It’s one of the quirks about our relationships: TV and movie quotes are actually one of our cornerstones. When you first meet someone, what really matters is what you like, not what you are like. Books, records, films–these things matter. Call me shallow, but it’s the truth.

Okay, so that’s a cleaned up version of a quote from High Fidelity. Which is not one of the movies my husband and I really bonded over. But still.

Many of the quotes we tossed back and forth in the beginning have been forgotten, our brains deteriorating with age and parenthood, nudged aside to make room for more important info, like the best way to change a diaper and the lyrics to the Frozen soundtrack. But some of them, you’ll hear in our house nearly every day. It’s our shared vernacular, which, for two such different people, has become an important communication tool. For example:

“A Bowling Ball Named Homer” (The Simpsons)

In one of the most classic Simpsons episodes of all time (she said with great authority), way back in season one, Homer buys a birthday present for Marge: a bowling ball with his name etched into it, and the holes drilled for his fingers. Marge is incensed. She decides, rather than letting Homer have his so-called gift, that she is going to learn how to bowl. In the process, she meets a lothario named Jacques and nearly devastates her marriage.

Now, not every “bowling ball named Homer” has the potential for home-wrecking consequences. For example, I have on more than one occasion given my husband cookbooks for Christmas, though he does not cook. I mean, the gift was really that I would cook him many delicious meals from these books, but, well. I can’t fully defend myself. I can say that my husband is incredibly hard to shop for because if he wants something, he buys it, and the things he wants are often technical and technological and if he holds off on buying it so I’ll have something to give as a gift, I almost always buy the one that comes with the wrong kind of chip or reader or thingamawhozit and then why did I buy it at all?

Most of the time, when we say to each other, “That’s a bowling ball named Homer,” we’re talking in the abstract. Something we want to believe we did selflessly, but really, we did for ourselves. Quite a few times this phrase has helped me make my husband understand my feelings, and vice versa.

“You Certainly Thought It Loudly” (Futurama)

This one comes courtesy of Professor Farnsworth. “No, no, nobody’s saying that. But I’m certainly thinking it loudly.” Do I have to explain this one? Tell you what, I won’t say that you’re smart enough to figure it out, but I’ll certainly think it loudly.

“A Smart, Strong, Sensual Woman” (Bob’s Burgers)

In a very special episode called “The Belchies” (Season Two, Episode One, Tina models herself after the heroine of a romance novel to help her ensnare Jimmy Junior’s affections. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t work. And when it comes time to help her sister out of danger, she decides to drop the damsel act and be herself: a smart, strong, sensual woman.

Now, I don’t like to admit this about myself, but I am a people pleaser, and in order to please people, I sometimes play dumb, and in the process of playing dumb, I start to believe I am dumb. And more than once, my husband has talked me out of my own self-doubt with this quote. (And he’s made me laugh, as well.)

“Except the Dave Matthews Band Doesn’t Rock” (Futurama)

Thank you, oh mighty Niblonians, for reminding us of this, and for giving us this quote to add to any conversation in which we want to add a little humor along with some reassurance.

You see, on the show, Fry has just found out that he’s the most important person in the universe–the way he feels when he’s drunk is right! To which one of the Niblonians responds, “Except the Dave Matthews Band Doesn’t Rock.” So: let’s say my husband or I needs a little pepping up. The other will remind them of all the good things and all the ways they are right or special or doing well, and then add, for giggles–well, you know.

Sorry, Dave. But I think you know it’s true.

“Oh Reginald… I disagree!” (Family Guy)

In my opinion, this is the best joke Seth MacFarlane ever made (and I never make grand, sweeping statements–EVER) and it happened in the very first episode. A drive-by argument. You have to watch it. Anyhow, sometimes my husband and I will have drive-by arguments. It’s fun for a random laugh, and it’s actually a great way to defuse a real argument. And learning how to defuse arguments, or to get over them, or to mend the wounds they’ve inflicted–we’ve found that these are key elements of marriage. We still haven’t perfected it and not everything can be fixed with a pithy quotation–when you start to get into the big, important subjects, almost nothing can–but it’s been nice, all these years, to have our little language to fall back on, our comfortable patterns, and to have them morph into memories.



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