It’s not quite 4 p.m. on a typical suburban stay-at-home-mom day, and in the last eight hours my husband and sons have asked me to find the following items: a pair of socks, the ketchup (twice), GI Joe’s football helmet, an adult baseball mitt, Advil, car keys (twice) and a 20-year-old set of plastic poker chips.
The logical question is, "Why does she spend her time hiding these things?" Before you judge me hopelessly insane, here is where the lost stuff was "hidden": in the sock drawer, in the refrigerator (twice), in Joe’s locker, with the garage sports equipment, in the medicine cabinet and in a jacket pocket (twice). As for the poker chips, they’re 20 years old—who the heck knows where they are?
From now on when I’m asked, "What do you do all day?" by people whose jobs don’t include driving 100 miles a day in a circle around a Target store (the real reason they call it Target), I can confidently say, "I detect mysteriously missing items in our home, while attempting to apprehend and then punish the horrible perpetrators."
I know you’re thinking that I must have encouraged this behavior. I’ve adversely trained my males by always rescuing them when their possessions are lost.
Having experienced the male species since birth (twice), I believe I’ve found a genetic, behavioral explanation: male visual perception frustration theory. It goes like this: A male’s ability to find a given item in front of his face = the closeness of any related female person times the need for the item minus the height of the male in question.
In other words, the more obvious and important the find, the less they’ll look. And it gets worse as they get older. Example A: Last Saturday, my husband spent an entire afternoon looking for a 20-year-old, mismatched set of poker chips. And he had no immediate plans to play poker. Theory proved.
From the typical way my males ask about the missing items, I’ll again be entering the "Sadistic Wife and Mother of the Year" contest (don’t compete; I’ll win). The way I usually get a request for help is, "WHAT DID YOU DO WITH MY … ?"
In seven words, this question manages to communicate: 1) absolutely no responsibility on the part of the male in question (or as my fourth-grader said, "I never had socks!") and 2) the truly perverse pleasure I take in making their lives miserable by hiding their "really important stuff."
I admit, it’s understandable that I may have something to do with certain items’ disappearances, as in: "Honey, what did you do with the Advil?" Answer: "Gee honey, it’s permanently clenched in my fist."
But does it strike only me as ridiculous for a mostly frazzled 45-year-old woman to be asked, "What did you do with my Batman underwear?" or "What did you do with the ketchup?" or "What did you do with my 20-year-old plastic poker chips?"
Just now it occurs to me that somewhere there is a woman who puts on size 4T Batman underwear, gets loaded on ketchup and plays Texas Hold ’em by herself once the kids go off to school. And she would be my hero.
It’s a simple matter to find historical proof of male visual perception frustration theory: Atlantis, Noah’s Ark, Blackbeard’s Treasure and the Holy Grail. This extremely short list of legendary REALLY IMPORTANT LOST STUFF was "researched" while folding socks (I’m now off to hide them in the drawers). In each and every case, the item was last seen by a male. OK, there’s Amelia Earhart, but really, she lost herself, which doesn’t count.
My alternative hypothesis—women under stress are attracted to island vacations theory—is that Amelia found herself on a remote island with people who thought she was a sky goddess. Logically, she decided that being a goddess was infinitely preferable to being in the Guinness Book of World Records. More island boys. Less stress. Case closed.
To prove male visual perception frustration theory for all time, I submit Example B: A proposal for a reality show called "Essential Lost and Found." Three mothers get six weeks (mostly for margaritas, pedicures and pleasure travel) to find all of history’s REALLY IMPORTANT LOST STUFF. To create tension, we’ll include a panel of male experts intermittently screaming at the contestants that the items in question are "REALLY, REALLY LOST." Add a grand prize of continuous shoulder massages for a year and I guarantee that before the end of the first season every single one of history’s great, lost treasures would be miraculously found.
"See, dear? Here’s the Holy Grail, right next to your 20-year-old plastic poker chips."
Barb Rosenstock tries to write every day when she isn’t searching the house for the Holy Grail. She lives in the northwest suburbs with her camera-shy husband, Marc; two sons, Danny and Jeff; and Abby the poodle. Her grown stepdaughter, Jessica, has recently escaped to Milwaukee.