Debating the (marital) debates

Nothing is certain in politics, but it sure looks like the November battle will be between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. The opposing campaigns are already debating the debates, outlining the rules that will govern the first TV matchup in October. I looked up the rules, and I wish Mary Ellen and I had been given some similar guidelines 35 years ago when we tied the knot.


(Direct from the presidential debate standards of conduct.)No risers or platforms allowedMy wife and I are about the same height, so in dress shoes she towers over me, giving her an unfair psychological advantage when we argue. No wonder I never win.

Presidential history is pretty clear: the taller person usually prevails. For a few years when Mary Ellen and I had a minor disagreement, I’d put on a pair of high heels. Mary Ellen commented that it was really weird, but she always added: “Not that there’s anything wrong with that.”

No props or charts

I’m not sure I agree with this one. It’s much more effective with Mary Ellen if I wave a few Macy’s bills in front of her face while I complain that we’re not sticking to the budget. On the other hand, if my wife ever finds those dry cleaning receipts for my Wrangler jeans, it will come back to haunt me.

An objective moderator

I’d pick Seth. The other people in our neighborhood seem to like my wife better than me, but Seth always borrows my snow blower, so if we have an early snowfall I’m in luck.

Two identical dressing rooms

Advantage: Mary Ellen. My wife’s bathroom has a full-length mirror, a built-in hair dryer, a spa tub, a stall shower and a walk-in closet. At least, I think so. I’ve never been allowed in there.My bathroom is pretty much a toilet and a shower. Now, for Donald and Hillary, there must be an equal playing field. One needs a good mirror and lighting in order to fix hair and makeup. Hillary deserves similar facilities.

Only rhetorical questions to your opponent

Perfect. That’s the way Mary Ellen and I argue now.“Is that any way to make a bed?”

“Is that what you call a pot roast?”

“Where does all our money go?”

“You don’t think you’re playing golf today, do you?”

The studio audience may not applaud

How am I supposed to know if I’m making a good point if there aren’t lots of people clapping? After 35 years of marriage I still have no objective way to assess my performance. After the debate, Clinton and Trump can ask their spouses who won the debate. Somehow that hasn’t worked for me.

End of the debate

Even in a contentious presidential discussion, the candidates are instructed to show respect by ending the debate with a handshake. After a little spat, Mary Ellen and I still do what we did when we first got married. Hillary and Donald, take a lesson from the Wolfsies … and give each other a high-five.