Man holding flowers towards someone.By Aaron Traister, REDBOOK.
This month, Aaron Traister pledged to transform himself into the man his wife deserves: thoughtful, physically fit, and sexually patient. She got two out of three - not bad!
During a recent argument, my wife, Karel, told me I needed to "grow up," so I thought I'd give it a shot. I'd spend four weeks making myself over, and I wouldn't tell Karel, just to see if she was paying attention. Among other things, I changed up my clothes and returned to my teenage wrestling workouts - because nothing says maturity like playing dress-up and trying desperately to relive high school. Here's the whole rundown.
I bought her flowers.
When Karel and I started dating, I was a bouncer at a bar in New York City. After every shift, I'd grab daisies (her favorite) from a 24-hour bodega near the bar so Karel would wake up to fresh flowers in the morning. I gradually slacked off, blaming it on the fact that our cat loves knocking things like flower vases over. But I know that's a lame excuse. So I started buying Karel flowers again and kept a close eye on our chaos-loving cat. I put the first bouquet on the dining room table in our "fancy vase," and Karel noticed immediately. She couldn't stop talking about it and kept asking me what she'd done to deserve random flowers. Clearly, this needs to happen more often.
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Karel and I hang out together every night, but I surf the Internet while I'm sitting next to her, so she gives me static about only being present physically. To be with her more completely, I scaled back my Internet time and, in my mind, was very successful: Instead of surfing mindlessly for two hours, I answered emails for 15 minutes. No dice for Karel, though. It irks her every time I touch my laptop after the kids are in bed, and maybe she's right to police my cyber habits. Next time I'll try no computer at all after 5 p.m., but only if she quits BlackBerrying after work too.
I tried not to pounce on her.
Karel complains that I never let her initiate sex. She says I seize every opportunity for action I see: a hug has to turn into sex; folding laundry has to turn into sex; getting back from the vet has to turn into sex. I don't let things develop "organically" or let her make the first move and show me how "sex-positive" she can be. So I took a step back. The first week went well: I don't know if Karel noticed my restraint, but she did take the lead. (And, by the way, organic sex doesn't feel that different from conventional or processed sex.)
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The trouble started in week two, when Karel announced she was cutting me off sexually until I finished a book proposal that should have been done a year ago. Of course, after that, I couldn't stop thinking about getting some, and the next thing I knew I was all over her, hoping to find a weak spot in the blockade. Ultimately, I finished the outline, at which point she immediately normalized relations between our two great nations. I've gotta tell you, I don't know if I learned anything from this one.
I got in shape.
I haven't really worked out since I wrestled in high school, so as part of my man makeover, I revived my ancient gym routine. Karel noticed - mainly because I'd wake her up in the morning doing jumping jacks and mountain climbers in the living room. I ran or exercised for at least half an hour every day (except two) last month. Karel complimented me on my rapidly improving physique, and I discovered that my newfound core strength paid off in other (ahem) areas of our life. But the biggest impact was on me alone: I felt healthier, stronger, more alert, and just generally better. Even if Karel hadn't noticed, I'd try to stick with this one for me… and the better sex.
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I dressed like an adult.
I wear lots of flannel, jeans, and thermals - I'm like a refugee from a 1993 Alice in Chains concert. REDBOOK's fashion director came to the rescue, sending me a box of crisp button-down shirts, fashionably slim-cut pants that most guys would probably wear on Casual Friday but for me counted as black-tie, and shoes made of something leathery with pointy tips and a bit of a heel. The fancy khakis and pointy shoes gave me away. I wore them into the kitchen one morning, and Karel asked if I was going on a job interview or appearing before a judge. She said I looked weird. Then she squealed and pointed at my crotch. I swatted frantically at myself to get whatever she was freaking out about off me. Then she told me I had to change, and that I was not allowed to take the kids outside wearing those pants.
"But why?" I asked.
"First of all, you're too scruffy to wear clothes like that, and more importantly, if you go out in those pants, the neighbors will be able to tell that you're circumcised." Upon closer inspection, I discovered that she was terrifyingly correct. I immediately changed into a pair of baggy Levis. It felt good to be back in the '90s.
After the pants fiasco, I told Karel about my makeover project for this column. With the exception of the clothes, she seemed genuinely surprised that all my new habits were staged for an assignment - and after some reflection, I could see why. I'd been meaning to make all of these changes; I just hadn't gotten around to them. I know how lucky I am to have an amazing wife and kids, and I don't want to take them for granted by treating my body like crap and checking out early, or failing to show them how much they mean to me. I sent the clothes back to REDBOOK - they just don't fit, literally and figuratively. But I'm going to keep after the other improvements, the ones I've had percolating inside me for a while now, plans for the man I'd like to become.
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Reprinted with permission of Hearst Communications, Inc.