My wife Carol and I have a strange and wonderful relationship. Iím strange and sheís wonderful.

Good evening, Mr. Contest Master, fellow Toastmasters, distinguished judges, honored guests Ė and, most especially, Carol. When I was a bachelor, my married friends kept telling me, "Mark, you need a wife!" Iíd reply, "Whose wife do I need?" In Carol I found my ideal life partner.

Our relationship had a strange and wonderful beginning. The day we met, I really fell hard for her. I tripped over her purse in a church pew.

Carol had everything I admired in a woman: beauty, character, money. I wanted to impress her so I walked up to her and introduced myself, "The nameís Bond. Letís bond." She glared at me as she replied: "The nameís ĎJoseí. No way, Jose!"

Getting a date with Carol was like trying to get milk from a bull. I always got the same answer every time I phoned her for a date: "Iíve got to wash my hair." Wash my hair, wash my hair Ė she had to have the cleanest rabbit in the city!

But I kept calling her and my perseverance paid off. Carol finally agreed to go out with me.

From then on, our relationship had a strange and wonderful development. We soon started going steady. Carol liked showing me off, especially around her girlfriends Ė as if to say, "Look what I reeled in!"

After several months of dating, we got engaged. How happy I was to hear her say, "Yes," after I popped the "big question". "Youíre paying for the wedding, right?"

We jointly planned our nuptials. Carol grimaced at some of my suggestions, such as having her bridesmaids wear matching spandex body suits. But she refused to replace the traditional wedding march with the "hokey pokey".

Before the ceremony started, the minister told Carol, "Donít be nervous. Just remember three words. AISLE: walk down the aisle. ALTAR: look at the altar. MARK: turn toward Mark." As Carol entered the church, people could hear her softly crooning, "Aisle, altar, Mark. Aisle, altar, Mark." Sheís been trying to do that ever since!

Our relationship as husband and wife has had a strange and wonderful unfolding. Benjamin Franklin, that erudite connoisseur of human nature, wrote, "Keep your eyes wide open before marriage, half shut afterwards." The old coot had a point! Married life requires the aplomb of an ambassador, the bravado of a bandit, and the creativity of a con artist.

Hereís what I mean. Some time ago, Carol went to Fantastic Samís for a permanent. Two hours and thirty dollars later, she came out with a coiffure that looked like an explosion at a steel wool factory. She came home and asked me, "Honey, do you like my hair?" If I told her the truth, Iíd have spent that night sleeping on the couch Ė if not in some hospital bed! I did what any good husband would do. I answered, "Dear, you look terrific!" That way, she was happy and I got off the hook!

Of course, Carol and I have had our share of disagreements. All couples do. Some even get married so they can argue more conveniently.

Carol and I settle our occasional squabbles in a manner befitting mature adults. In the privacy of our home, with soft music playing in the background, we sit facing each other across the dinner table. We reach out, gently clasp hands Ė and start arm wrestling! Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, until one of us yields: usually, thatís me! Our method of conflict resolution leaves no hard feelings, just sore arms!

Our strange and wonderful relationship remains a fairy tale affair --"Beauty and the Beast". Carolís magic spell continues to enchant me.

Whatís the secret of our success? Iím glad you asked!

Two rules guide our relationship/And what I say is truth, sir!

Iím the bird who rules the roost Ö But Carol rules the rooster!

Mr. Contest Master!