“That is not how this house works”

February 20, 2020

Not this…

One afternoon Carol spotted the little frying pan and spatula that I use for breakfast on the stove. “Did you fry something for lunch?” she asked.

Quickly wanting to head off any suggestion that I was eating fried food for lunch (the easy over egg for breakfast already slamming against her firewall of healthy eating), I replied gallantly, “no, I washed and dried them earlier.” Without thinking it through, I added, “I’m leaving them there, since I’ll be using them again for breakfast tomorrow.”

“That is not how this house works,” Carol said, more in the tone of Austen rather than Dickens.

…this

Unwittingly, or more likely obliviously, I had stumbled upon one of the newer firewalls governing Carol’s ongoing, noble experiment aimed at creating the well-trained man. In this instance, the clash pits a fine-tuned sense of tidiness and order against the more or less anarchy of what I expansively call convenience, and what Carol diminutively refers to as clutter. In other words, the frying pan and spatula belong put away after washing and drying. (Note, there were no points offered – or delegates awarded – for my having washed and dried the utensils without having been asked or directed… Just an observation.)

During my time as a single man (what, The Wilderness, Outback, Pale of Settlement?) certain habits and routines had begun to take root (or gather moss). I would note, for example, that a frying pan and spatula left on the burner after use one morning would be at the ready for the following morning. Since its contents had been thoroughly cooked, and would so again the following day, it was not viewed that a wash and dry would be called for until, say, the weekend. Same strategy for not making the bed (you’re going to be in it again, sometimes in less than twelve hours), as well as (neatly) piling your clothes on the floor next to the bed (since you’re going to be in the same clothes again the next morning and until the weekend, when it will be time to change and wash that pesky frying pan and spatula).

And definitely not this

These practical, labor-saving techniques simply do not travel well into a cohabiting arrangement, as I’ve quickly had to learn, especially when the cohabitor had been president and CEO of a successful household for more than forty-five years. You might not be able to teach an old dog new tricks, but that old dog better relearn some of the old ones if he doesn’t want a one-way trip to the rescue shelter.

Just no

Of course, I’m exaggerating the Sturm and Drang of two people learning to live together. I can see the advantages of pulling down the sheets and covers of a well-made bed every night, as if you’re sleeping in it for the first time. Or retrieving again the bottle of water from the fridge that you had left on your bedside that morning so it would be there when you got into bed that night. Or plopping down on the couch before realizing that the phone you’d left on the end table the last time you were there was now back on its charger. Or the sandals that you wear every day are consistently stored in your closet, instead of by the front door where they’re actually needed. Or, finally, that your favorite jogging shirt and pants that you’d (dutifully!) hung up on the wall hook had already been whisked away to the washer, even though it wasn’t Saturday yet.

But there’s a bright side to all this order and neatness, and I know what it is. I know where everything is at all times, whenever it’s not on me or laying where I need it when I need it. That goes for the shirts I’m no longer allowed to wear out in public, and the jeans that make me look like an old man.

It’s actually an easy life, when you step back and think about it. Also, it’s occurred to me that this is how big people behave.

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