When raking, misery loves company

There are many things that can end a relationship. Money, infidelity but one of the biggest threats is leaves.

Yes, leaves. Relationship experts once again leave (har!) it to me to discuss that which seems to get overlooked by “experts.” You’d think Science would just cut me a check already.

In my experience, picking up leaves is a family activity and is not unlike a Hugh Grant movie – in that it’s made for a general audience so everyone has the opportunity to enjoy the misery. Growing up, my parents would do the majority of the raking while I would be in charge of complaining and punching the giant bags open from the inside.

Unfortunately, it appears my wife grew up in a different land – one where leaves magically fell neatly into bags by the side of the road. Needless to say there have been discussions relating to how much she should help. I prefer an even 50:50 split while she would prefer to root for me from inside.

I’ve come to understand I’m not the only one who has this familial burden thrust upon them. As such, allow me to provide a guide to getting your loved one to participate in this yearly activity (not that it’ll be any more effective).

Step 1: Announce that it’s time to rake.

Make sure you start early as this is going to take some convincing and during this time of year there’s not a lot of daylight to begin with. It might take several announcements before your wife realizes that A) she’s the only one in the room and B) you just might be directing this at her. At this point she may raise her eyebrows, giving you a look that says, “I know you’re not talking about ME.” Warning! It’s a look that can turn sand into glass so be sure you’re not some weirdo made out of sand.

Step 2: Brace yourself.

This announcement typically comes during “the worst possible time” which is characterized as “any time there are leaves on the ground and you want me to rake.” Your wife could be planning a day of staring at a duck and it would be classified as “like, the worst possible time! I’m so busy! This duck isn’t going to watch itself!”

What was once a beautifully pleasant woman will transform before your eyes, thanks to what I call invisible Hate Demons. Hate Demons can appear spontaneously, however are much more likely when men present a task that needs completing. My wife’s Hate Demon is a shark punching Dakota Fanning.

Step 3: Prepare yourself

“It’s too hard!” your wife will say in front of your window where, across the street, a 75-year-old woman can be seen hunched over a rake in front of her house, working to collect what appears to be each leaf individually. This, coming from the woman that routinely carries eight shopping bags full of groceries from the car into the house. There must be an illness where colored leaves sap women’s strength.

“It is not either,” you’ll reply, stupidly trying to insert rational thought into the conversation.

Do your best to head off all other excuses that you’ve been subjected to over the years.

“It is not gross. These are leaves, not boogers. You can borrow my gloves. No, you do not have to touch the leaves. Eat a granola bar so you don’t get hungry. It is not a ‘man’s job.’ It will not take ‘forever.’ You will not die.”

Step 4: Stay strong

Once she sees she hasn’t sucked the determination out of your face/soul, the seduction begins.

“Are you sure you don’t just want to cuddle up on the couch and watch Lord of the Rings?” she’ll say, sweetly. “Or maybe you just want to watch some football? You know, you never get to do enough of that.”

After testing to be sure this is, in fact, your wife, you must steel your resolve to this temptress. Close your eyes to avoid whatever pose she’s adopting to try and distract you from the task at hand. There’s a job to do, and by God you’re not going to be the only one suffering through it again this year.

Step 5: Let her choose her own rake

You may only have two rakes and they may be identical, but whichever one you hand her will be “the crappy one.” In her present mood, giving her the “wrong” rake is akin to saying the wrong name at your wedding and somehow provides an excuse to not rake. Don’t risk it.

Step 6: Ignore the commentary

“This is so stupid.”

“I can’t believe you’re making me do this.”

“Who put all these leaves here anyway?”

“Nature is stupid.”

This is what you would normally hear if you didn’t have your iPod on. But you know better.

Step 7: Try to be supportive

After working for 20 minutes and completing a section and two piles, you might start to think this is coming along swimmingly. You must resist the urge to see how your significant other is doing, which is slowly getting angrier and angrier and making no measurable progress. In fact, she seems to be acquiring MORE leaves, or even spreading them around. This is what’s known as “defiant raking.” It’s as if she’s figuring out what hands are for. Resist the urge to laugh. You will start to long for the raking proficiency of your elderly neighbor. Unfortunately when you visit to solicit her help, she will pretend not to hear you.

The best advice I can give is to just cut down all the trees on your property. However I have no idea how you’re going to convince your wife to help you with that. You’re on your own there, buddy.

This Classic Kelly column was originally published Nov. 20, 2011.