Now that the Princess has officially graduated and will soon be off to college, Duh Hubby and I have been inundated with helpful advice from friends who have already coped with a suddenly empty nest. They have bravely gone before us and forged a path, rather like a trail scout on the wagon trains of the Old West, except without all the smallpox.
“This will be the best time of your lives,” said one, winking and playfully squeezing her husband’s thigh like they were in a Cialis commercial. Did he wince?
“You will be sad for a month or so, and then you just adjust and thrive,” said another, who has coped with her own empty nest with a combination of tai chi, organic vegetable gardening, plein air painting and, God love her, macrame.
“Initially, I needed a fairly high dose of prescription narcotics to deal with the depression that set in,” said another, the one that I love the best, perhaps.
When the Princess announced plans for a two-week trip to Ecuador exactly two days after graduation, I figured this would be a good trial run.
“Ecuador?” I said, as she fanned out the student travel brochures a few months ago.
“Well, we start off in the Galapagos,” she chirped.
The Galapagos? As in the bucket list topper for just about everybody I know?
“Wow,” I said. “Things sure have changed. Our senior trip was to Raleigh.” She looked puzzled. “The state capital?” I reminded her.
“What did you do there?” she asked, simultaneously putting earbuds in place. Hmmph.
So here we are, midway through this grand empty nest experiment, and I’m deep into macrame AND prescription drugs.
Kidding! I suck at tying decorative knots.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of our empty nest clinical trial, as I like to call it (“If you or someone you know is over 50, slightly overweight and facing the leave-taking of a younger, fitter member of your household, you may be eligible … ”), has been that Duh Hubby is faring worse than I am.
“She has gone away, and she is never coming back,” he moped last night over another take-out burger.
“Put a pin in it,” I said rather unsympathetically. “She’ll only be 2 1/2 hours away. Pass the mustard.”
While I will certainly miss the Princess, I have to admit the pressure is off in some ways. I no longer feel compelled to cook “a zesty and nutritious meal” every night as memorably described by Annette Bening to her unappreciative family in the unrelentingly dark “American Beauty.”
Without teens tumbling in, I can finally stop buying jalapeno Cheetos and that nasty Nutella so loved by them all.
Duh’s plaintive “What’s for supper?” has been met mostly by me doubled over laughing at the notion that I’m going to cook a full meal for two people. He so crazy.
It’s weird, but we’ll be OK. She’ll be home in six days, 4 hours and 39 minutes. Now where did I put that kitchen?
CELIA RIVENBARK is the New York Times best-selling author of seven humor collections. Visit www.celiarivenbark.com.