She was folding my shirts all wrong. Instead of folding both sleeves back and then folding the shirt in half at the torso, she halved the thing longways like folding a paper airplane. And it wasn’t just my shirts, either. She folded my pants all wacky, too, not along the creases in the legs. Hell, I even took exception to the way she balled up my socks. Didn’t she know that when you ball them up, it stretches out the top so eventually the sock won’t hold on anymore and just slinks down your ankle, limp, useless, and irritating like a lasagna noodle?
Fourteen years ago, when the Puddinette and I were but wide-eyed, rosy-cheeked newlyweds, the method of her folding my clothes sticks in my mind as one of the first times I got really irked with my new bride.
Not surprisingly, this led to a, um, verbal expression of our joint displeasure at that moment. Because having ridiculous arguments about laundry is the kind of thing you do in the first of your marriage.
Well, if you’re lucky.
Of course, in retrospect, from a guy who had spent the previous five years of his life taking clean socks out of the dryer on a weekly basis because actually folding the laundry was not a task he often deigned to set aside time for, complaining about his new wife’s folding customs seems a little…gigantically jerkface?
Actually, I can think of twenty different expressions to describe the arrogance in action there, but most of them I wouldn’t use around my kids, so I suppose I probably shouldn’t post them here either.
That’s not to say I was the only one with the occasionally irrational expectation when it came to learning to live together. It probably wasn’t more than a week or two of the Puddinette and I sharing a home before she threaten to claw my eyes out with a ice cream scoop and a dirty garden trowel if I didn’t close the lid on my contact solution bottle. Apparently, just knowing the bottle of solution was typically left sitting on the counter with the pop top open and mocking her was enough to bring a red tinge haze of murderous intent to her eyes.
Never mind that not once in the history of all mankind has a life or home been endangered or otherwise harmed by an open bottle of contact lens solution.
Sometimes we all just need the bottles closed and the creases in our pants to line up.
Today, fourteen years to the day since she and I promised to take care of each other for all the days of our lives, I make sure to snap the bottle shut every time I use it. And while she still folds everyone else’s laundry her way, she pins the sleeves of my shirts back and folds them over at the torso. My pants get hung up with the creases just where they should be, all lined up like soldiers.
Now, there will be people who read that and cluck their tongues and shake their heads. “Changing yourself is no way to be married. You got to be true to you first, before you can be good for anybody else. He should just fold is own damned pants.”
I would not disagree. But see, making sure that the cap of the contact lens bottle is snapped shut isn’t exactly what I’d consider changing myself. Marriage—at least, a successful one—doesn’t mean rerouting your internal wiring to please another person. Because, yes, that way lies madness. Possibly ruin. Also, yoga pants, due to the consumption of excessive numbers of Oreo Double Stufs, because, hey, the Oreos will always love you for who and what you are.
Oreos never judge. Even for the yoga pants.
What it is, though, is an intentional effort to see the world through someone else’s eyes when going through your day-to-day. Have I become a “neat” and/or “clean” person? Sweets drops of kryptonite soup, no. As I’m constantly reminded, if left to my own (pathetically slothful) devices, I’d probably wallow in a dumphole of my own filth for weeks before the EPA sent a hazmat-swaddled team out to assess environmental damage and force a clean up operation.
But I do try to cap bottles when I find them open. And because I attempt to see the family room as the Puddinette will see it every morning when she gets up, I do what I can to straighten it enough that there’s no visible evidence of Hurricane Family. Am I always successful? Nope. No more than she always succeeds in putting the tupperware away the way I like it, stacked symmetrically and stored at right angles (because if it’s not a right angle it’s a wrong angle).
We do our best at these things for each other not because we’re trying to be someone else, but because marriage, real marriage—the kind you have to work at a little—means making one life out of two personalities. And, sure, we fail on occasion, since it’s like seeing the world through a lens. Sometimes lenses just don’t do the job well enough (or we forget to put them on at all).
But it’s the trying the counts. The intention that proves there’s more to the life together than just the sum of your two respective parts.
As I’ve said before, and again, and even again, on this day, on our fourteenth anniversary, I’m the luckiest guy alive. I’m blessed to have the Puddinette, a wife who somehow manages to tolerate the snoring, the stinky, the maturity of a thirteen year-old (at best), the overall buffoonery, and the utter, total, complete inability to ever get something truly clean.
I may never make things perfect, but I will always try to make you happy, to put a smile on your face. Because you put on my mine, and returning it only seems fair.
Happy anniversary, Querida. Te amo con todo mi corazon. Te amo mas que tango las palabras.