It started about ten years ago with a bottle of wine. My wife and I were at a liquor store. We didn’t have kids yet, so we were still in the drinking phase of our lives. I forget who, but one of us spotted a bottle of Jam Jar Sweet Shiraz wine on a shelf. I’m not sure why it stood out. There’s nothing remarkable about the label, really. There’s no picture or imagery on the bottle, just the wine’s name in solid lower case letters. Still, that bottle inspired a decades-long joke between my wife and myself.
It’s a joke we’ve done for so long now that it’s sincerely hard to remember who did it first. In any event, either I or my wife lowered the bottom corner of the right side of our mouth and said,“Jam Jar, Sweet Shiraz” with an air of befuddled wonderment and a slurry lisp. The other used the same voice to spit out a sentence loaded with as many “s” and “sh” sounds as possible. We kept it up until we laughed so hard we almost collapsed on the floor in front of the beer cooler.
Years later, I realized the voice sounds a little like Adam Sandler in Little Nicky. But I haven’t let that tiny detail get me down.
We’ve built a life and made a family together and that’s serious business. But we started all this because we realized we had a lot more fun together than apart.
While it’s absurd, the Jam Jar joke actually carries has a lot of meaning and use. It’s a low-key reminder of something that all too often gets forgotten when two busy people are in a long-term relationship. We’ve built a life and made a family together and that’s serious business. But we started all this because we realized we had a lot more fun together than apart.
My wife and I share a lot of jokes. When we’re talking about a meal, we’ll say we want a steak sandwich and a steak sandwich, which, as every white dude over 30 will eagerly point out, is a quote from Fletch. We’ll yell out “the little boat” in disbelief like Tom Hanks yells at Fat Jack in Splash. We’re big fans of Bill O’Reilly’s “do it live” hot mic moment, Pat O’Brien’s “don’t tell Betsy” voicemail and the Crispin Glover on just the right dose of Xanax cadence of WFMU “Wake and Bake” host Clay Pigeon.
But the Jam Jar joke is my favorite. It isn’t a quote or a reference to a movie or a show. It’s something that organically grew out of our relationship, like a hilarious weed. I don’t expect other people to find it funny. In fact, I’d be disappointed if they do — it’s our thing and I like it that way.
People say “you’d had to be there” to explain away a funny story that fails to land. To get the Jam Jar joke, you’d need to have been there for every second my wife and have spent together over the last 15 or so years.
The evening trip to the liquor store that inspired the joke wasn’t some perfect sunset on a beach moment. It was closer to our day-to-day reality, which I think is key to why we tell it so often. The joke is a reminder that while not every day we spend together has been perfect, they’ve been better because we’ve spent them together.
The joke is a reminder that while not every day we spend together has been perfect, they’ve been better because we’ve spent them together.
When we started dating, my wife and I told each other that we were best friends as often as we said that we loved each other. We didn’t go on dates so much as hung out together. And as exciting as it was to fall in love, I valued our casual buddy vibe as much as the romance.
Our relationship has changed a lot since then. There’s a lot more on the line. We have a kid and a house. We file our taxes jointly. We’re beneficiaries in each others’ wills. But at the core of our relationship, we’re still best friends. Slurring through the name of a fruity flavored wine is a quick reminder of that essential truth about how this whole thing started and is a sort of rope we can throw out there to pull the other back when life becomes, well, life.
A couple years into the Jam Jar joke, we finally tasted the namesake wine. One of my wife’s coworkers must have overheard our incessant in-joke and brought a bottle to a party. I’m pretty sure it tasted okay served over ice but I honestly don’t remember. Still, if anyone asks, I won’t hesitate to shay it’s shertainly a shplendid shiraz — as long as my wife’s around to hear me.