Learning from Mr and Mrs Happy

Rebecca Hagelin

10/13/2006 12:00:50 AM - Rebecca Hagelin

If, like millions of TV viewers, you start your day with “Fox & Friends,” you know how entertaining and funny co-host Steve Doocy can be. But did you know that he can even help you with your marriage and family life?

No, Steve is not a board-certified therapist, and he’s not available for housecalls. But he has written a great new book, “The Mr. & Mrs. Happy Handbook,” that I can pretty much guarantee will leave you a little wiser -- and give you a lot to laugh at along the way (which makes it a lot like “Fox & Friends,” come to think of it).

But wait, you may be saying, what qualifies Doocy to dispense marital and family advice? Believe me, he knows whereof he speaks. He’s been married to “Mrs. Happy” (a.k.a. Kathy) for 20 years, and the two of them have three children. And by the end of “The Mr. & Mrs. Happy Handbook,” you’ll see they’ve gone through more than their share of family mishaps and misadventures -- all of which, Steve points out, you can learn from.

For example: Guys, do you know how to handle that classic trick question that wives like to spring -- namely, “Do I look fat in these pants?” As Steve notes, “there is but one simple answer that will lead to a long and happy marriage: ‘No habla ingles’ (translation: ‘I don’t speak English’). By the time she translates and realizes that she’s now mad at you for not answering her question, you’re off the hook. She’s forgotten about her tight pants.”

Then there’s the age-old question of how to fight with your spouse. Steve’s been there, and he has this to say:

“Survival of the fittest is clear; if you’re in a fight, you should fight to win. However, this is not Ali versus Frazier, it’s you versus your loved one. Here’s the problem with fighting dirty. We all keep tucked away in our heads a file of embarrassingly hideous mistakes our spouse has made throughout history. As soon as we whip out one of those gems, all bets are off. That argument will disintegrate into name-calling, hurt feelings and torrents of tears. Think Hannity & Colmes, with streaked mascara.”

And if you’re buying your wife clothes? For heaven’s sake, guys, listen to Steve, who learned the hard way that you should always buy a smaller size than you think she needs:

“Once I bought my wife a winter coat for Christmas. I didn’t want to ask her what size she was in a coat, because I didn’t want to tip her off. It was really nice, and it looked like it was about her size.

“So I got her an 18.

“Turns out it was six sizes too big.

“She did not speak to me, except through the children, until Valentine’s Day.

“‘Tell your father Cupid is dead.’”

The book is peppered with short asides from Steve and Kathy, helpfully labeled “Mr. Happy’s Advice” and “Mrs. Happy’s Advice.” So you can zero in on the most crucial nuggets of wisdom -- such as Steve’s suggestion for husbands who want to tackle home-improvement projects: “My advice is to go ahead and try the easy stuff. You can paint things, replace light bulbs and mow your own lawn, I think. However, when it comes to tricky stuff like electricity, plumbing, major construction or dented doors, call somebody who needs to make a Lexus payment.”

And this “note to cheapskates” from Steve’s wife: “The life of a miser is a lonely one. Why are you saving? For retirement with that person you just berated for buying a four-dollar café mocha latte? Four bucks, big deal. When you’re retired, you can go to the early-bird special and save five -- the cost of that coffee drink. There is something called Quality of Life. So don’t make a big deal when your spouse occasionally buys something that makes her feel good. Life is short. Even if the time until the next Diners Club bill comes is shorter.”

And I haven’t even gotten to the child-rearing part of the book -- wherein we learn, among other things, why you shouldn’t let your young son sit in your lap while riding around your steep yard on a riding lawn mower, and how to handle the lukewarm gratitude your daughter will shower on you after you’ve helped her sell 307 boxes of Girl Scout cookies to your co-workers.

But as Steve notes, what really matters in the end is being able to look back and realize that, sprinkled amid the blur of daily life, were many good and happy moments -- and to be grateful for a spouse who knows you, understands you … and loves you anyway. If that’s all you take away from “The Mr. & Mrs. Happy Handbook,” then you’ll be happy indeed.