Elements of Groveling

February 10, 2013 | By | Comments (8)
Illustration by Jack Unruh

Illustration by Jack Unruh

In lieu of a Valentine—or so I am told—most women would take a first-rate apology when we have done wrong. I am willing to learn. But I need your help.

I am not one of those people—you know who you are—who pretend to do right. I do not often do right. Ask anybody. I cannot even remember the last time I made a good decision. It was not so much a problem when I was single, but now I have someone to keep count.

I was recently left in charge of the dog, Woody Bo, for four days. All I had to do, my wife told me, was pick him up at the vet’s office, give him his allergy medicine twice a day in something called a Pill Pocket, which smells like old liver and chitlins, and feed, water, and love on him enough to ease his anxiety over, what, being a dog?

I made it to the vet’s office on time, to see Woody Bo bust wild-eyed through the door and into the lobby. He peed on a nice lady holding a pug dog—but just a little—and aimed at and missed a Labradoodle. In the car, he crawled across two rows of seats to sit in my lap as we drove home. He weighs 80 pounds; I could not see over his head. Back home, while my back was turned, he ate 75 Pill Pockets and lay on the floor as if dead.

This was, somehow, my fault. I was told not to get him excited, told to make him stay in the back of the car—like that dog understands reason—and told not to leave the Pill Pockets near the edge of the counter where he could get at them. But again, Dianne should have known better than to trust me. A few years ago, one Halloween, I had been told not to cook while doling out candy and dog-sitting another fine animal, Shadow, who in comparison was the best dog in the world. My wife came home to find the dog agitated and the smoke alarm in pieces on the floor. I beat the smoke alarm to death with a broom handle to get it to stop screaming—and the dog to stop barking and running in circles—after a small fire involving a grilled cheese sandwich.

So, since doing right is out of the question, I have decided to take up groveling.

I know there are puffed-up husbands right now snorting and hitching up their Sansabelt slacks and saying, “Ain’t NO woman gonna rule me!”

Yeah. Good for you, Big Man. I used to be brave, too. I have been bashed in the head with a rock, mobbed by angry teenage boys who rocked my car and shouted “Death to the infidel!” and chased by people who fired guns indiscriminately into the crowd around me. I have been teargassed in three countries, and have gone swimming with gators. You want to know what fear is? Fear is when she catches you at 2 a.m. rolling up a bag of Ruffles.

I tried denial. She just assumes I am guilty even when I am not, trusting to the law of averages. I tried bribes. There is not enough dark chocolate in this world to make up for my character. I tried charm. She is not the kind of woman who shakes her head fondly and finds me endearing. She did, once, but that was many smoke alarms and Pill Pockets ago. So I will grovel, not for affection but tolerance. The problem is, I do not know how. I need help. Please send your best groveling advice to me at:

Southern Living
c/o Groveling Editor (aka Kim Cross)
2100 Lakeshore Drive
Birmingham, AL 35209

or e-mail: rick@southernliving.com

Now I must go and pet the dog.

And that dog don’t even like me.


  1. Columnist Response: Elements of Groveling by Rick Bragg | Mrs. Raymer's AP Lang & Comp

    […] Elements of Groveling […]

    October 13, 2016 at 7:02 pm
  2. Billie Baggett

    Love your humor.

    March 3, 2016 at 7:02 am
  3. KC Martin

    There is a REASON women the world over simply swooned when Jack Nicholson said to Helen Hunt “You make me want to be a better man” (in As Good As It Gets). Its the uber-grovel, the pinnacle of prostration, the apex of the apologetic man. A man who is willing, nay, hoping, to Be Improved Which is….Catnip…. to women. We love fixer-uppers. (But for the record, I think you are perfect, keep up the good work)

    March 24, 2015 at 7:42 pm
  4. southmainmuse

    All a man has to do is use Sansabelt correctly in a sentence and all’s forgiven as far I am concernted.

    February 12, 2015 at 2:07 pm
  5. lizzy

    Put the penguin suit on and go to the symphony. I can’t remember what exactly you wrote that she likes but it is something like that. And DO NOT RUSH HER through it!!! I am sure you can find something to talk about with those people. Think about it beforehand what to say. I know it’s work. But you love her.

    March 11, 2013 at 8:59 pm
  6. isabel marant trainers

    Keep up the great work, I read few blog posts on this web site and I conceive that your blog is really interesting and contains bands of great info. [url=http://zhuangzhuangmao.com/forum.php?mod=viewthread&tid=1957218]isabel marant trainers[/url%5

    February 20, 2013 at 11:08 pm
  7. dharrison63038

    When in doubt, diamonds are never wrong. Good Luck!

    February 11, 2013 at 8:24 pm
  8. Vickie Hurst

    DUDE: You have won a Pulitzer, for God’s sake! I KNOW you can come up with an appropriately apologetic sentence that will suit your obviously incredible wife just fine! Love every single word you have ever written (that I have read so far) by the way!!! You ROCK!!

    February 10, 2013 at 7:57 pm

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s