I love it when I learn a new word. Sometimes I hear the word on the radio as I’m driving, and I scribble it on a napkin while revving the engine at a red light. Sometimes I run across the word while reading, just before sleep overtakes me; and I grab a highlighter from the bedside drawer to mark my new treasure, thus preventing the word from drifting off to join my forgotten dreams.
Nancy Pelosi earned sneers and eyerolls earlier this year for a word of her own, when she explained that she must pursue public policies “in keeping with the values” of Jesus Christ, “the Word Made Flesh.”
James Earl Jones, the actor perhaps best known as the voice of Darth Vader, said, “One of the hardest things in life is having words in your heart that you can’t utter.”
Today’s word, boys and girls, is “uxorious.” When I heard this melodious word roll off the tongue of an NPR broadcaster, I understood the gist of it: It had to do with great love within a marriage, the devotion—the utter smittenness—of one spouse toward the other. “That’s it!” I thought, remembering my dear husband’s kindness and gentleness and wisdom and playfulness and holiness…. “Yes, I am UXORIOUS!”
BUT I’M NOT. A spot check of my Random House Unabridged Dictionary tells me that uxoriousness is that attitude which a doting husband may have toward his wife, but not the reverse. Despite my best efforts, I’ve not found the appropriate antonym to describe a wife’s effervescent love for her husband.
So, dearest Jerry, I love many things about you: your steadfastness in things great and small; the twinkle in your eye when you tease little children; your generous pacifism when arguments arise. I even, I think, love your perfectionist tendencies, although your high standards mean that you’ll never trust me to wield a paint brush with sufficient care at the point where the tan wall intersects with the white doorframe.
You once picked me up when I fell asleep on the bus and passed my stop. You showed up with the spare keys, when I locked both the keys and the baby in the car with the motor running. Through the years you’ve balanced my checkbook, repaired the washing machine, and surprised me with that spectacular fireplace project last Christmas.
I love the way you love our children, and the way you speak gently of your own mother. I love to enter our room and find you in quiet prayer, and I know that your love for God will certainly enrich the love between the two of us. We’ve faced some big bumps along the way, but after 35 years, I love you more today than ever.
But I am a woman; and you might be a nice guy, but I am not—and will never be!– uxorious. Sorry, honey.