Here it is, Sunday evening, the Packers are playing (they just scored the first touchdown of the game), we had the obligatory pizza for supper, and our marriage is rapidly disintegrating. Lately all we do is bicker and snipe at each other. We spend way too much time together.
Swmbo (she who must be obeyed) has been riding my ass lately, giving orders and then supervising to make sure that her orders are carried out to her satisfaction. Still, even with her supervision, I can do nothing right despite following her instructions to the letter. So this is how our days bump along, jumping from one rut to the other on the uneven path we are living on.
“No, don’t put it there. I told you to put it over there.” Exasperation strained her voice.
Admittedly, I wasn’t listening when she told me where she wanted it. There was a football game on and it distracted me.
“What?! You don’t seriously expect to eat that on the couch, do you?” Incredulity caused the venom to dribble from the corner of her mouth. Not a pretty sight.
Well, yes, actually I do. And I will do my best to make a mess of it with lots of dripping, greasy pizza slop staining the couch in all the most obvious places just because it will piss you off. I was feeling particularly exasperated myself since I, anticipating her admonishment and being prepared for it, was carrying a large towel to cover my half of the couch and she had plopped herself on her half of the couch with nary a towel in sight.
I waved my towel in her face and before she could ask, told her to get her own damn towel.
“I told you to take the van. You know I just had the car washed and it’s raining.” Rain is her kryptonite when it affects her (actually our) car. She gets weak in the knees and nearly hyperventilates if there is a chance that her (actually our) car might get wet.
I was busy watching the neighbor lay new sod around his new patio in the rain when she gave me those instructions. How could she possibly expect me to pay attention to her when I was so engrossed in the sod laying process?
“How many times do I have to tell you to turn off the lights downstairs when you come up here? She pointed an accusatory finger right between my eyes so there would be no doubt to whom she was talking.
Ok, so I was in a hurry and had my hands full and something important (I forget what now) on my mind. It’s not like the power company is going to shut us off because I forgot to turn off the lights again.
“Did you put my tops (that’s “shirts” to those of the male persuasion) in the dryer again? If I’ve told you once I’ve told you a thousand times that you’re going to shrink them if you put them in the dryer. They have to be hung up to dry.”
Oh, really? If that’s the case, then all your tops would have to be sewn together to cover you adequately, since I must have dried them those thousand times you told me not to and they are now the size of postage stamps. As long as I’m doing the laundry, those tops are going in the dryer.
You can see that all the time we spend together can breed some discontent with each other at times. We never really get mad. We just verbalIy snipe at each other when we sense an opening that will score some points in the game of life we have played with each other for all these many years. We know each other so well that we know what we can say without drawing blood and what not to say to avoid falling over the edge into No-No Land.
We both have our little idiosynchrities that irritate us when used to light up the stage for the next act of Bob and Mary’s Great Adventure.
For instance, I have what my kids call my “Dad Voice”—gruff, emphatic, sometimes loud, sometimes nasty, and always with an attitude that says don’t mess with me. Swmbo (she loathes that name) hates that voice when I use it on her. It means I am always right even when I’m not, and will brook no contradiction, backtalk, sass or bullshit. The Voice is incontrovertible and really annoying. If she had The Voice on her side I would give up the argument immediately just so I wouldn’t have to listen to it for longer than it takes to draw a breath and utter the first few syllables. My two offspring have been irritrievibly scarred by hearing The Voice too often used when they were within earshot of it. I would never have used The Voice on them. That would have been child abuse and I would be in jail and we wouldn’t be having this conversation.
But she knows how to stick it to me too. If I start to get to of hand, she adopts her soothing the savage beast persona.She quietly, slowly, soothingly suggests that I take a deep breath or two and go to my happy place until I can manage to conduct myself properly to rejoin polite society. Irritates the hell out of me. It makes her all superior and holier than thou. The fact that she is almost always right when she whips that attitude adjustment bullshit on me doesn’t make it any easier to take.
Of course, with all the verbiage careening and colliding in No Mans Land between two prideful, clever, and competitive individuals thrown together on the battlefield that is marriage, there are the inevitable insults that sneak into the fray. I am much too gentlemanly to ever hurl an insult that would point out any perceived deficiency in her character or appearance or demeanor, or that might call into question her perfection in every aspect of her being.
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for her. She never hesitates to point out my character flaws. Or what she considers character flaws. Misconduct on my part, that is, what she calls misconduct, but what I call joyful living, is a favorite target for her barbed tongue. She can be quite creative and can sometimes insult me without my being aware that I have been dissed. But the subtle, sneaky, outflanking insults that at first seem innocent and harmless, that make you think before you can be sure that she got you again, are the worst. Those are the put downs that creep up on you after the words have faded away and the echo of the words is all that’s left. Those are the ones that make you wonder if she meant what she said or if you even understood her.
“Why did you cut the pizza into such big pieces,” she’ll ask. “You know I like small pieces. I like everything small.” she’ll say with a smirk and a slight emphasis on small. “ Everything.”
Ouch. I think.