Myth of the Gesture of La-Te-Da

By: Oral Mews

Like many married men, George Power from Stephenville Crossing only pretended he was listening to his wife, so it took him three weeks to realize he could no longer hear her voice.

Tuning out the wife?

When it hit him at the kitchen table on a quiet Tuesday morning, he thought at first he’d lost his hearing, but then he heard the surf arguing with rocks and chickadees serenading apples in the trees out front, and he knew he hadn’t.

Then he thought maybe prayers were answered after all. When she left the room, he scooted next door and brought Jim back with him to find out if she’d lost her voice, but he immediately let George know he did hear her voice by answering a question she asked. 

Now that it was apparent the problem was with his hearing, he drove to the walk-in clinic in Stephenville and told the doctor what had transpired, thinking there was perhaps a pill he could take or cream he could rub over his ears to restore the audio connection with his wife of 23 years.

After an examination, the doctor – who wore the thin whiskers of a mink – told him that while the loss of ability to hear your wife’s voice was somewhat common around the bay, there were no known cures for the affliction. 

Eye to the gestures 

He assured him there was nothing to worry about though, as married couples typically have the same five conversations over and over in no particular order, and advised him to watch for his wife’s gestures as they would let him know what she was talking about. 

If she raised her hand and made a motion of throwing salt over her shoulder, that was the gesture of long ago and he would know she was talking about the past and a knowing smile and slight head nodding was all that was required of him. 

A tightening of the shoulders, stiffening of the neck and slight pursing of the lips was the gesture of la-te-da which meant she was talking about her cousin Thelma, who moved to the mainland and thought she was better than everybody on the island, to which he should agree. 

If she tapped her fingers on the tabletop, a noise he would hear, that was the gesture of what’s for supper and he should feel free to suggest fish. 

Staring out the window while shaking her head was the gesture of bad weather, a serious head nod would make that conversation complete. 

Sitting with her elbows on the table with her fingers touching was the gesture of needing work done by him and his reply would simply be to stand up and find some work to do. 

Weekly meetings 

Finally, folding her arms and staring at the kitchen ceiling was the gesture of lost children which mean she was talking about their two daughters who lived out west and his reply would be a loving tap on her shoulder as he went to bed. 

George returned home and within a week there was a noticeable improvement in their marriage, which spurred him on to start holding weekly gesture meetings with other interested husbands from nearby communities. 

Soon the group had grown in excess of 50 and the meetings had to be moved from the shed to the school gym. 

After he had coached over a hundred husbands in the art of ignoring the wife, but watching her gestures, the group felt they were ready for the next step which was to actually deafen themselves to their wives voices by inserting ear plugs that looked like hearing aids. 

Husbands from all over the west coast were soon reporting an unusual fact, since they could no longer hear what their wives were saying and answered instead to gestures, all of their marriages had improved.

Husbands of Gestures, as they came to call themselves, tried to keep news of their doings confined to the Port au Port Peninsula that stuck out from the western shoreline like a dislocated pinkie, but eventually word leaked to other parts of the island and gesture training was soon all the rage among married men. 

Every Saturday the gym in Gerry’s Nose would be as full as an egg with men practicing the gestures like they were doing Tai Chi exercises very badly 

Despite their best efforts, which included wearing blue underwear which was said to aid in silence, existence of Husbands of the Gestures was eventually made public through an online cell phone video that showed the grainy movements of a group of men in ball caps who covered the gymnasium floor where they moved in unison like the straws of a broom. 

Easily agreeable 

The wives admitted they had known of the ruse all along and had only pretended not to notice so that they could get their husbands to agree more with them. 

While doing the gesture of long ago, they’d talk instead about changing the drapes or spending a week down south with friends, or anything else the husbands would normally object to, knowing their husband would agree to whatever they said as long a they pretended to throw salt over their shoulders while they spoke.

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