There comes a time in every marriage when your wife is going to want to go walking, and you’re going to want to go to sleep. That time is Friday night. What are you gonna do, right?
No, literally. What are you actually going to do?
On the surface, this doesn’t sound like a conflict of interests. If she wants to walk, let her walk. You’re not the boss of her! If you want to sleep, you can sleep.
They should make adult strollers. That lean back.
For some reason, as soon as the seudah is over on Friday nights — and sometimes during the seudah if it takes long enough — you’re going to crash. Sometimes mayim acharonim is just a netilas yadayim so you can bentch. You just want to get under a warm blanket and fall asleep with a sefer on your lap until your wife wakes you up to remind you to go to bed. You don’t want to walk out in the cold and freeze your chin off in a Shabbos coat that is for some reason not as effective as your weekday coat even though on Shabbos you have to walk everywhere, while during the week, if it’s cold enough you just drive.
Who designed these Shabbos coats? “Yeah, let’s have a big open neckline so everyone can see his belt buckle!” Is this their way of keeping the scarf industry alive? I never feel the need to cover my throat with six feet of wool during the week. Why, so it can get stuck in the car door and merrily bounce alongside the car?
On the other hand, if you care about your wife at all, you will at least be a little uncomfortable about letting her walk the streets alone at night. So you’ll be there physically, but mentally you’ll be asleep. Hopefully, she doesn’t expect too much in the way of intellectual conversation. The streets on Friday nights are littered with wives dragging around half-asleep husbands who are hoping they don’t run into anyone they have to talk to. I do not have enough brainpower to adapt to random people I run into and make small talk with them, especially considering the number of people who expect me to be funny every time they see me. I barely have enough change in the meter to talk to my wife.
“Did you know that Mordechai Schmutter’s not so funny in person? I met him once on a Friday night with his wife. He might have been sleepwalking.”
Then your wife says, “See? They’re out walking.”
That’s the kind of conversations she wants to have with you.
She also apparently wants to accidentally turn on motion sensitive lights all over town.
“No! We did it again!”
“We should really write down the location of all the houses that have these lights.”
“OK … When?”
It’s entirely possible that she specifically wants to spend time with you, because you’re working the rest of the week. You don’t have time to go walk around town and turn on random motion lights. Plus she already fell asleep on the couch with a magazine while you were in shul, so she’s wide awake.
Not that you’ll be any good in a dangerous situation either. She’s there to protect you. It was her idea to be out there. This is what you’re going to explain to the muggers, chas v’shalom. It’s not like you’re going to be able to think of anything else to say.
YOU: “We don’t have anything on us.”
MUGGER: “How is that possible?”
Great. I don’t have the energy to teach this guy about Shabbos.
YOU: “OK, once upon a time—before time was created, actually—the world was a formless void…”
MUGGER: “What? I don’t have time for stories, man. I’m going.”
YOU: “Can you go that way? I need to see if there are lights.”
WIFE: “You forgot to ask if his mother was Jewish.”
YOU: “I’m not awake! I don’t know why you couldn’t talk.”
The worst is when she drags you to a shalom zachor of someone she knows but you don’t. She’s in the kitchen with the women, taking a turn holding the newborn, and she’s not going to put him down so soon, because he’s asleep. Which is exactly what you’d like to be doing. This isn’t fair. The kid didn’t work all week. He has zero responsibilities. Why is he so tired? Did he have to put together a shalom zachor?
Meanwhile you sit out in the front and eat yet another meal so you don’t have to make that much conversation with strangers.
“Oh, are you Mordechai Schmutter?”
Sure, I suppose there are some wives who are content to let their husbands sit in their living room after the meal and instead have deep, meaningful conversations with him about whether he’s asleep.
“You were asleep just now.”
“No, I was resting my eyes.”
“You were snoring.”
“I was breathing.”
“If you don’t know that you were snoring, you were obviously asleep.”
“I don’t know what you’re saying.”
“That’s because you’re aslee — Hello? Great.”
Maybe the walk is to guarantee that you’ll be awake through the conversation. Or at least that you won’t be snoring over it.
For the rest of us, the question isn’t whether to walk with her. The question is how to convince her not to want to walk. Especially when she comes back at you with an argument about how healthy it is to walk after a big meal. She’s doing this for you. Sure, she can ask one of the kids to come along, but she wants you to be healthy, not them. It’s so healthy to walk after a big meal, she says, that it’s worth having a big meal just so you can walk afterward. What do the non-Jews even do? Walk twice a year? Though I do want to point out that it’s mostly non-Jewish scientists who say that it’s healthy, yet on their holidays, you don’t exactly see them walking in pairs after their big seudos.
So one option here is to specifically have Shabbos guests. Particularly ones with little kids. Your wife isn’t going to pick up after the seudah and leave your guests sitting around in the living room. Most guests, at least in our experience, don’t want to go for Friday-night walks. They did not go away for Shabbos so they could do unexpected exercise.
You have to choose your guests carefully. For example, when my in-laws come for Shabbos, my wife waits until they go to bed (they go pretty early) and then we have to take our walk. When I’m even more tired. When I was growing up, I waited until my parents went to bed so I could raid the fridge. My wife waits until her parents go to bed so we can do aerobics. You’d think by now I’d know to try to beat them to bed.
“Does anyone know why Mordechai raced up the stairs right after bentching?”
What if it’s too late to invite Shabbos guests? You might think, “What’s the big deal? We can invite guests just for the seudah!” Nice try. Then you’re walking them home.
One way to get out of a long walk at least is to suggest a close walking destination—a neighbor you know your wife can talk to for a reasonably long stretch of time until she feels like your walk has been long enough. In the meantime, you can sit on their couch and fall asleep next to the husband (“Do you guys have a second Sh’mos?”), secure in the knowledge that no one can take a picture of this, and that no one will ever know for sure who the snores are coming from. If you fall asleep on your own couch after the seudah, you’re inconsiderate, but if you fall asleep on someone else’s couch, your wife will thank you for coming out with her.
This plan can backfire. You can end up at a shalom zachor, and you can’t exactly lie back and go to sleep there.
“Who’s the guy sleeping?”
“That’s the baby.”
“No, the guy on the couch.”
“Oh. We don’t know. He came with his wife.”
There are some men who want to walk on Friday nights. I know this because we run into you, and in those cases, I’m expected to carry the conversation. Those men are walking alone, because if a husband says he wants to walk and his wife says she doesn’t, the wife doesn’t then say, “Well, I’d better walk with him because it’s dangerous to go alone.” At best, she asks him to take a kid, I guess so he’ll at least have someone with him who’s wide awake and short enough not to set off the motion sensors.
Realistically, your best chance at avoiding a walk and also avoiding an argument about it is if it happens to be raining outside, baruch Hashem. I think this is why Chazal say that rain on Friday nights is a berachah. Chazal knew. They were married.
Mordechai Schmutter is a weekly humor columnist for Hamodia and is the author of seven books, published by Israel Book Shop. He also does freelance writing for hire. You can send any questions, comments, or ideas to MSchmutter@gmail.com.