Sunday, July 15

Fun With Monogamy, The Kitchen Remodeling Years

I LIKE to imagine that the one thing this blog has accomplished is bringing together thousands of people who, like me, deal everyday with the strains of a beloved spouse, a dedicated educator, who talks to them like they're just another idiot 10-year-old holding an incomplete assignment. Hey, you're not alone.

So Friday I was outside applying a third coat of paint to one of the cabinet boxes, and my Poor Wife--under the weather recently--was making a rare outdoor appearance and an impression on a deck chair ten feet away. And she says to me:
Did you wash those before you started painting?

Now, my wife is not just a painter of some artistic merit, she also once earned her living as a house painter, so I value her opinions above my own. I, on the contrary, am a mediocre hand who has learned over the years to rely on preparation and sound practices to turn out a reasonably decent product. It was I who argued, briefly, for the use of oil rather than latex paints for the cabinet, and it is I who has done the work of preparing the chosen latex to look as good and last as long as possible. So by this time (my fourth cabinet box) I had already gotten into a rhythm of 1) Coarse wash with green soap and scrub pad, and use of Goo remover and razor blade where needed; 2) Two scrubbings with environmentally-correct phosphate-free TSP substitute; 3) Wood putty; 4) Two coats of primer; and 5) Three coats of paint. It was the last of these I was applying when she asked the question.

I am, as you know, pretty much used to being spoken to as if I were an errant fifteen-year-old sneaking out of class without having cleaned up his mess. Still, I have my good days and my bad days. And so rather without thinking I replied, "Gee, I'm glad you happened to be out here, because it never would have occurred to me that something needed to be cleaned before it was painted. How could they have gotten dirty just by hanging in a kitchen for thirty years? I suppose I would have asked, but I guess I thought that wiping half the cobwebs off the things with my face as I removed them was cleaning enough."

We glared at each other for a moment. Rather, I mock-glared. I never turn on the full glare, which has been known--I swear this is the truth--to chase off snarling dogs almost instantaneously. It's a gift. I'm not sure my wife even knows about it.

I had realized as I was speaking that I'd probably gone a step too far, even for the anything-goes world of the Matrimonial Roast, so I said, in a voice that tried to avoid both sarcasm and any sign of culpability, "Yes, honey. I've washed everything twice, with TSP substitute."

She looked at me like she'd've spit if it weren't so windy.

"Is the box handy? 'Cos I need to know if it cleans up blood spatter as well as the real TSP does."


R V Dump said...

I hope you hit the nails as squarely on the head in your re-installation as you did with that column. I love my wife dearly, but not a day passes without two or three under the breath mumbles, not week without a few volleys of mildly restrained sarcasm. Are we really as stupid as the questions they ask imply? Probably so, but it rubs the wrong way when you know you've got your bases covered.

Great stuff as per usual.

Donna said...

"'Cos I need to know if it cleans up blood spatter as well as the real TSP does."

dude, you have a formidable partner there. I suspect neither of you will ever be bored with the other.

D. Sidhe said...

It's not just a teacher thing nor a man thing. My partner does the same to me on a regular basis. It's never serious, in eighteen years we've had one fight that involved bad feelings for more than ten minutes, and that was over with by bedtime and I don't even remember what the hell it was about.

But humorous threats of violence are rather the order of the day, to where we can do them in shorthand: instead of threatening to break three of my partner's favorite ribs anymore, I can just say "Pick three", and we're good to go.

My partner, meanwhile, noted that the trunk of the new car had an emergency safety release on the inside and suggested that rather than throwing people in the trunk perhaps it's better to make people ride in the front seat and pretend to be nice to them, "You know, like I'm doing with you".

Of course, there's a Nutrisystem commercial in which some young bimbo suggests that now that she's lost twenty pounds her husband "feels like he's got his wife back!" as though the twenty pounds put her into the category with the domestic livestock or hideous alien mutants. My partner and I both tend to hurl Nerf items at the TV when this comes on.

Eighteen years together. A few comical threats now and then to release any built up stress, and we're still happy and more or less entirely in sympathy and empathy, and more to the point we still keep each other entertained. Sometimes this relationship stuff works pretty good, you know?

For the record, tell your poor wife to look into a commercial grade enzyme cleaner called Vampire Blood and Protein Remover. That shit is amazing.

Anonymous said...

David Said....

Funny how life works. My wife thinks that I think she is a shrew, and I think my wife thinks I am a 12 year old. We drive each other crazy some times. We met April 19th, 1992 and have been together practically every day since. There have been many more laughs than there have been tears, and the growing pains have been minimal. I MAY be a 12 year old, and she MAY be a shrew....but it seems to be a good fit!

Celine said...

The flip side of this is all the times when you don't say anything, because you think your partner is a grownup and should be capable of remembering that himself... and then he doesn't. And then he complains because you didn't remind him about whatever it was.

One more of the many ways that you just can't win if you're female.

D. Sidhe said...

I don't know that that has much to do with the gender divide, either, though I'm possibly not in a position to have noticed.

I spent last week with cluster headaches, which are dramatically ugly, and finally Friday my partner took me to the ER for a fun filled evening of watching "Caillou". (Is it just me, or should triage dictate zombies are last in line for treatment? Never mind.)

Anyway, I come home, still stoned, and it's less than 24 hours later when my partner is eating popcorn and watching movies in which things go boom and people scream (These are migraine triggers), and the housemate is doing laundry and wafting her trademark strawberry-cough-syrup-scented shampoo into my room (ditto). These are not things these two are unaware of as triggers. And having spent a week causing them grief with the clusters, you would think they would be particularly aware of these things.

But the dynamic goes something like this: The first fifty times I reminded them, in polite but increasingly chilly tones of exasperation, the response was always "Oh, I forgot." Somewhere it flipped immediately into "Well if you're gonna harangue me like that, I'll do what I want" without ever passing through the bright, happy seas of acknowledgment-and- constructive-response.

(Admittedly I mostly don't harass my partner about this, since I'm not the one paying the mortgage, and owning the house sort of earns you the right to do more or less anything you want, and also I'm not the one who pays the ER bills the insurance company doesn't like.)

But while it may have to do with my femaleness, it clearly doesn't necessarily have to do with male passive-aggressivity.

That said, I rarely bother to remind my partner about things it's too late to solve, though I will snap about most anything in the grip of clusters.

heydave said...

Enough of this relationship crap; 3 coats of paint over 2 coats of primer???

Will this cabinet be installed on the foredeck of the dreadnought Riley?