"Hey, Madeleine," my husband Mark recently said. "How would you like to convert?"
"What?" I said, immediately suspicious.
"We've been Jewish for a whole lotta years," Mark said. "I thought it might be time for a change."
"Did you have any particular religion in mind?"
"Well, they all have their good points. But I was leaning towards Baptist."
Mark's suggestion took me by surprise, After all, he's a reasonably religious man, and I'm a devout member of a tiny Jewish sect known as "So Reform You Don't Even Have To Show Up."
I tried to stall by offering to take his conversion idea "under advisement." I figure this approach works for judges; why shouldn't it work for me? And it's served me well throughout our marriage -- I've had his suggestion that we go white water rafting under advisement for a dozen years.
But this time Mark refused to take "under advisement" for an answer. "If you were a good wife, you'd graciously submit and convert. And you'd do it right away."
"Do you have a fever?" I asked, becoming seriously concerned. "Maybe we should get you to a doctor."
"Oh forget it," Mark said.
At least I think that's what he said. He's hard to understand with a thermometer in his mouth.
But he was a healthy 98.6, so I couldn't blame his odd behavior on a fever.
Puzzled, and remembering that I'm supposed to be a journalist, I decided to investigate.
"Has your husband been acting strange lately?" I asked several friends.
"You mean more than usual?" three responded. The fourth demanded to know if I was wearing a wire.
These women were tough. But by using interrogation techniques I learned in Humor High, I finally pieced together the terrifying truth: My husband, my friends' husbands, and countless others had succumbed to the influence of an evangelical group that preys on men who married feminists and who for years have been pretending not to mind.
I was stunned and bewildered. How could this happen? Could I have done something to prevent it? Was there some warning sign I missed?
Come to think of it, Mark had been acting strange lately. Out of the blue, he began opening doors for me and refused to let me carry anything that weighed more than a pound. And twice, in what I foolishly assumed was a playful imitation of Alexander Haig, he said "I'm in charge here."
Worst of all, when I criticized President Clinton, he said, "Don't bother your pretty little head about that. Foreign policy is my domain."
Mark's under treatment now, and I'm guardedly optimistic. He hasn't mentioned converting in a week. And once, when he was carrying several clumsy packages, he even let me open the door.
But his recovery is slow with frequent relapses. Yesterday he ordered me to quit my job and stay home with the kids.
When he's better, I'll have to remind him -- we don't have any kids.