My wife, Ellen, describes our relationship as very similar to Bert and Ernie’s. And she’s absolutely right.
I’m Bert. While I have never considered collecting bottlecaps or becoming a pigeon fancier, I do have a rather large collection of Nixon political buttons and own two pet rats. Like Bert, I am also a fussbudget who likes things to be in their proper place.
Another similarity: Bert is the kind of guy who, without Ernie by his side, would live the life of a hermit, emerging from his house only to buy food and confiscate the Frisbees that accidentally land on his lawn. His death would be noticed only after the neighbors started to complain about the smell. Without Ellen, I could see myself moving in this direction. I wouldn’t necessarily be happy about it, but is seems like something I might do if left to my own devices.
Ellen is Ernie. She’s disorganized, peppy, sociable, friendly, and has an easy laugh. Also, she, like her Muppet alter ego, takes giddy delight in getting her Bert’s goat.
But when night falls, things change. After the lights are turned off and the house becomes quiet, Ellen and I experience a sort of role reversal. Night is when the silly ideas start to fill my brain and I, like Ernie, have an insatiable desire to share.
“Ellen,” I whisper. “Are you asleep?”
“Mm,” she replies into her pillow.
“I just made up parody lyrics to the song ‘The Candy Man.’ The song from the Willy Wonka movie. The lousy one with Gene Wilder.”
“The Pickle Man.”
“Stop right there!”
But I have a song in my heart, so I sing: “Who can make the sun shiiiine, with cucumbers and briiiiine…”
Or I might want to discuss why Act II of The Music Man isn’t nearly as good as Act I. Or quote extensively from Wallace and Gromit. Or think up some titles for the most inappropriate children’s book ever. (My personal favorite: The Sluttiest Mennonite.)
Ellen, like Bert, is less than thrilled by all of this.
“I will kill you,” she says.
I also come up with ideas that I can use, too. Good ones. My best ones. I share those, too.
I don’t mean to be a pest, it’s just when I lie there in the dark, my mind becomes so very fertile. This is why I love quiet moments. This is why, during the day, I become Bert the loner. And it is also why, at night, I come dangerously close to becoming Ernie the murder victim.
So! Let’s open up the comments section. Here’s a prompt: Which Muppet is your alter ego?