Elements of Groveling

In lieu of a Valentine—or so I am told—most women would take a first-rate apology when we have done wrong. I am willing to learn. But I need your help.

I am not one of those people—you know who you are—who pretend to do right. I do not often do right. Ask anybody. I cannot even remember the last time I made a good decision. It was not so much a problem when I was single, but now I have someone to keep count.

I was recently left in charge of the dog, Woody Bo, for four days. All I had to do, my wife told me, was pick him up at the vet's office, give him his allergy medicine twice a day in something called a Pill Pocket, which smells like old liver and chitlins, and feed, water, and love on him enough to ease his anxiety over, what, being a dog?

I made it to the vet's office on time, to see Woody Bo bust wild-eyed through the door and into the lobby. He peed on a nice lady holding a pug dog—but just a little—and aimed at and missed a Labradoodle. In the car, he crawled across two rows of seats to sit in my lap as we drove home. He weighs 80 pounds; I could not see over his head. Back home, while my back was turned, he ate 75 Pill Pockets and lay on the floor as if dead.

This was, somehow, my fault. I was told not to get him excited, told to make him stay in the back of the car—like that dog understands reason—and told not to leave the Pill Pockets near the edge of the counter where he could get at them. But again, Dianne should have known better than to trust me. A few years ago, one Halloween, I had been told not to cook while doling out candy and dog-sitting another fine animal, Shadow, who in comparison was the best dog in the world. My wife came home to find the dog agitated and the smoke alarm in pieces on the floor. I beat the smoke alarm to death with a broom handle to get it to stop screaming—and the dog to stop barking and running in circles—after a small fire involving a grilled cheese sandwich.

So, since doing right is out of the question, I have decided to take up groveling.

I know there are puffed-up husbands right now snorting and hitching up their Sansabelt slacks and saying, "Ain't NO woman gonna rule me!"

Yeah. Good for you, Big Man. I used to be brave, too. I have been bashed in the head with a rock, mobbed by angry teenage boys who rocked my car and shouted "Death to the infidel!" and chased by people who fired guns indiscriminately into the crowd around me. I have been teargassed in three countries, and have gone swimming with gators. You want to know what fear is? Fear is when she catches you at 2 a.m. rolling up a bag of Ruffles.

I tried denial. She just assumes I am guilty even when I am not, trusting to the law of averages. I tried bribes. There is not enough dark chocolate in this world to make up for my character. I tried charm. She is not the kind of woman who shakes her head fondly and finds me endearing. She did, once, but that was many smoke alarms and Pill Pockets ago. So I will grovel, not for affection but tolerance. The problem is, I do not know how. I need help. Please send your best groveling advice to me at:

Southern Living c/o Groveling Editor (aka Kim Cross) 2100 Lakeshore Drive Birmingham, AL 35209

or e-mail: rick@southernliving.com

Now I must go and pet the dog.

And that dog don't even like me.

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