Mixed Messages

We live in a culture of contradictions. We are constantly bombarded with conflicting statements, and not just from politicians. We are told to be considerate, but look out for “number one.” We say $3.00 a gallon is too much for gasoline while we happily pay almost $8.00 a gallon at the same station for bottled water. Clearly, everyone is capable of confusing themselves and others with mixed messages.

Politicians often offer the most blatant examples, but there are plenty of others. Local news stations in particular tend assault their viewers with a veritable cornucopia of disconsonant statements. The worst offenders are meteorologists who, when they’re not telling you how great their radar is, often admonish the public during severe weather.

“Now remember, this is a dangerous storm that has already produced two confirmed tornadoes. Do not go outside and try to see the storm or get pictures of it. Get to safety immediately. Here are some viewer submitted images of a funnel cloud a couple of minutes ago. If you see this, do not try to take a picture of it, get to shelter. Remember, you can always submit pictures to us at . . .”

Really? Don’t take pictures? Maybe, just maybe, you shouldn’t put viewer pictures on the air if you don’t want us taking them. Just a thought.

Sometimes it’s more subtle, such as two commonly uttered Southern phrases. It’s accepted that you can claim the most horrible things about another human being as long as you immediately follow the statement with “bless her heart.” It’s like a get out of jail free card tacked on to the end of a drawled sentence. The other is even more annoying. I can;t count the number of times I’ve heard someone say, “I’m not be one to say,” and you know what’s coming, “but . . . ” They claim “not to be one to say,” but always follow it with exactly what they claim not to say. You know what? If you say it, even after saying it’s not the sort of thing you usually say, then you are one to say. It’s kind of the, you know,  definition of “one to say.”

Still, probably no greater quantity of mixed messages exist elsewhere than in a marriage. At least that’s true in mine anyway. Many a morning has begun like so:

“Honey,” Chrisie asks, “what do you think of this outfit?”

“Why are you asking me?” I say without looking up, “You’re just going to ignore me and change at least twice more anyway.”

“No I won’t. I want your opinion.”



“It looks good. I like it. You should definitely wear it today.”

“You think it looks good on me?”


“Are you sure?”

“It’s why I said, ‘it looks good on you.’ That wasn’t a trick answer.”

“I don’t like it. I’m going to change.”

“Big surprise.”


“Nothing, Dear.”

I wait, patiently, while she changes for the next question.

“How about this one?” she asks.

“I like it as well.”

“How can you like both of them?”

“Men are simple.”

“So what do you like about it?”

“What am I? A fashion expert?”

“No, just tell me why you like it.”

“Well,” I start as I consider, “the classic styling suggest a return to traditional values but the more modern lines indicate a strong, capable woman ready to take on the world.”

“You just made that up.”

“Yes, I did. I don’t even know what it means.”

We go back and forth a bit until she settles on an outfit. Then I get ready and invariably the woman who insisted I comment on every wardrobe change and offer an opinion says, “You’re not going to wear that are you? Honestly, you have no fashion sense.”

“Then please explain to me why I had to offer fashion advice for the last half hour.”



My absolute favorite mixed message, though, is when my sweet, loving, wonderful wife asks me to fetch some random item from another room. It should be easy, but it never, never is.

See, when a husband asks his wife to get something, he uses a degree of ridiculous specificity. For example, “Honey, can you get my screwdriver, please? The slotted one with the green and black handle with the red paint splotch on it in my room on the back shelf by the stack of comic books. Fantastic Four is on top of the stack with Ben Grimm, you know, the Thing, the orange rock guy on the cover.”

She will then bring the slotted screwdriver with the blue and black handle. Purely hypothetical of course.

I won’t speak about all wives, but Chrisie often asks for something generally when she really wants something specific.

“Honey?” she asked one night as when bathed our son, “Could you get me a towel?”

“Sure. Which one?”

“Just get any towel from the other bathroom.”

“Sure thing.” I went to other bathroom, opened the linen closet and grabbed any towel. I took it back to the kids’ bathroom and laid it on the closed toilet lid.

“Oh,” she said as she eyed the towel, “not the blue one. That’s my towel. Get one of the green towels.”

“Get one of the green towels,” I repeated.


I picked up the blue towel I clearly was supposed to realize was not covered in the “any” category and went back to the other bathroom where I grabbed one of the green towels, hoping the shade wasn’t important. I brought it back and stood in the doorway.

“No, not that one,” she joked. Very funny. She reached out, but I didn’t give her the towel.

“If you don’t want me to get the blue towel, maybe you should, I don’t know, ask for any towel other than the blue one. Or you could ask for any green towel, or . . .”

“Just give me the towel!” I gave her the towel.

Fortunately, while we both give each other mixed messages on occasion, there is one message we give and receive loud and clear every single night.

“I love you.”

We never mix that one up.

© Leighton Brown and Stories Now Told, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from Leighton Brown is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Leighton Brown and Stories Now Told with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. For more information, please see the Copyright page.

About leighton

I could be considered a true Renaissance Man after having a long and storied (seriously, people actually tell stories about it) college experience and varied careers. I am also a shameless self-promoter (who did you think was writing this anyway?) who is prone to flights of fancy, an abundance of passion on any given subject, ,obsessive behavior, spontaneous storytelling (whether anyone listens or not), and making parenthetical references. I would also be thrilled if I heard someone use the word "raconteur" to describe me.
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2 Responses to Mixed Messages

  1. Pingback: Come Again? | Stories Now Told

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