It was eight years ago this week that I started dating my husband. That’s 56 years in dog years, or 12 percent of Bernie Madoff’s life sentence. Either way, it seems fitting.
In the time that we’ve been together, Rick has grown what I deem appropriately and sufficiently scared of me. It’s a cue we’ve taken from my parents’ relationship, I believe.
My dad recently returned from a grocery trip only to be promptly sent back out again by my mom to correct the perishable-food errors he made.
“You’re always sending him back out,” my older niece observed to my mom as my dad slammed the door to the garage on his way back out.
“That’s because he’s always wrong,” my mom replied.
In my dad’s defense, I think he does it on purpose — makes mistakes, that is — to get out of the house. That, and he likes to keep tabs on the latest happenings in the produce aisle. (“Did I mention the Asian pears are back!” he’s been known to exclaim to me during our daily phone calls.)
My husband does the same thing when I send him to the store. That is, he makes mistakes. And he still manages to make them even while calling me from each and every single aisle of the store to ask questions. I’d like to think he annoys me on purpose so I’ll stop asking him to shop, but there are some special kinds of ignorance that you just can’t make up. (Yes, I agree the supermarket shouldn’t sell expired milk in the first place, but who doesn’t look at the date on the carton before putting it in their cart? And P.S. — nondairy creamer is not an acceptable milk substitute if the store has run out of 1 percent and no one in your family is lactose intolerant.)
The good thing about your spouse having a healthy fear of you is that little is ever your fault. Like on Sunday when I went to take a load out of the washing machine and found a seemingly infinite amount of little chemical gel balls plastered to our daughters’ clothing.
“Did you wash a diaper?” I asked.
He looked panicked. “I didn’t think I did,” he said guiltily as I dug out and held up a soggy yet intact Dora pull-up diaper, minus its insufferable innards. “But I guess I did.”
I sighed. Loudly. Never mind that he does 95 percent of the laundry in our house (probably because he rivals our 3-year-old budding fashionista in the amount of laundry he actually generates) and receives very little credit. I suppose it’s entirely possible that I could have put the pull-up in the wash, too. But he’s happy to absorb the blame, and I’m happy to assign it. Our marriage is generally pretty happy like that.
What I really strive for is to become a kind of Greek chorus in Rick’s life, like my mom is in mine (although I aim to do it with more romance and less Monday morning quarterbacking of why I’ve yet to clear the remainder of my childhood possessions out of my parents’ home). I think it’s one of the benefits of marriage: you get to live with someone who will serve as your own figurative sideline commentator or coach while never having to worry about a literal cooler full of Gatorade being dumped on your head.
It was long ago that I started verbally closed-captioning Rick’s every move (or so he would argue). Like Statler and Waldorf from The Muppets, it’s kind of perversely pleasurable to add my two cents to everything he does. Well, it’s pleasurable for me. And since I’m always right, he just lets me nitpick. It’s what I do best, I’ve come to realize. He won’t argue that point, or at least he won’t belabor it.
Don’t be fooled, however — of course there’s something in it for him, too. Living with me makes the prospect of leaving for work — or a root canal — immensely pleasurable at all times for Rick. He practically skips out the door each morning, and while I can’t actually see it, I can feel that the moment he steps outside he’s Tebowing the fact that he gets to go somewhere for between eight and 12 hours that is free of my constant play-by-play analysis of his every move.
It’s the thing that separates marriage from everything else: the ability to incessantly criticize while simultaneously loving the one you’re with to bits and pieces. And let there be no mistake about it — if I didn’t adore Rick endlessly, I wouldn’t say a word. And because he loves me right back, he doesn’t.
Like Bernie Madoff in North Carolina’s Butner Federal Corrections Complex, Rick and I are in this for life (although thankfully we have more vending-machine privileges than Bernie).
More at www.meredithcarroll.com.