In the 16 years we’ve been together, Chris and I have seldom had an all-out argument. In fact, I can only think of two times in our relationship where we really argued over something to where we were truly angry at each other for more than 15 minutes. Instead of fighting, we occasionally bicker. We are very, very good at bickering. I’d go as far as saying if bickering were an Olympic event, we’d be the Misty May Treanor and Kerri Walsh of the sport. If part of the event involved Chris telling me what to do while I’m driving, it would be a record-setting moment.
This past Friday, I came home to a very sick dog. Her stomach was upset and she had a couple of different kinds of accidents on the carpet. I began the cleaning process as I called my vet. Chris came home when I was in the middle of this. He stood at the edge of the family room and stared at me as I cleaned. [Chris: This is a very skewed perspective on reality. I was attempting (multiple times) to ask her who she was talking to, but she repeatedly gave me a dour look, turned around, and walked away. A-M: Note that his description does not include picking up a towel…] Because cleaning poop and vomit off a carpet is not my favorite thing in the world, I was feeling a grumpy and admittedly passive-aggressive. When one of us gets this way, we instantly turn into Todd and Margo from Christmas Vacation. I’m not proud. After I got off the phone, I looked at him standing there and grumbled, “Can you help, please?”
“What can I do?”
“Start cleaning up the poop and the vomit over there, while I take care of this part of it. Can you look and see if we have carpet cleaner?”
He came back a few minutes later with a spray bottle of something and started spraying all of the stains. He then went into the kitchen. Looking at the sprayed stains, I asked, “So, what are we supposed to do?”
“I don’t know.”
I said something particularly sarcastic, like “Can you not read a bottle?”
He growled back at me, “I don’t have it!”
“You just had it, where did you put it?”
“I don’t know!!”
Keep in mind, this is my recollection of the events. I’m sure I was much bitchier and less clear on what I needed. Maybe. [Chris: Definitely]
We looked at the instructions. Wait a few minutes, scrub, blot clean. Repeat as needed. After approximately one minute of scrub-blotting, we had a divergence in problem-solving methods. I mentioned prior to scrubbing if we couldn’t remove the stains, we’d have to replace the carpet sooner than we anticipated. Chris latched onto this concept as he scrubbed his little silver dollar-sized poop stain, and I was trying to remove a map of the Polynesian islands off of our carpet. [Chris: The area she was looking on did in fact look like the Polynesian islands, but I wasn’t working on something the size of a silver dollar. It was closer in size to a saucer plate (A-M: for a doll), though interesting it did remind me of the shape of Hawaii] He abandoned Easter Island and came back a few minutes later. As I’m on my knees scrubbing, I see a yellow tape measure jut out in front of me. “Let’s see…” he said, in that controlled, super volcano beneath a calm forest kind of way I find particularly unsettling. I continued to scrub, silently watching him as he measured out dimensions. He noticed me looking at him and stated simply, “if it’s under x dollars, we’re getting a new floor.” [Chris: Fixed the newel post]
I looked at what was left to clean and sighed. “I’ll finish cleaning. I don’t think it’s going to stain.” He continued to research flooring as I scrubbed. My thoughts stewed a bit during this time. Why do I always wind up cleaning up? We clearly had two different approaches to solving a problem; mine was totally right.
He came back to give me a cost on the new floor. I shook my head. “I’ve almost got it out. Don’t worry about it.”
I finished cleaning and went on my computer. He came back and looked in the kitchen. Because he can’t read my mind to know I’ve been stewing for several minutes, he asked innocently “What are we doing for dinner?”
I growled at him again, a lightning rod for passive-aggressiveness. “I would like to sit down for a few minutes before I make you your dinner!”
He put his hands up, exasperated. “I wasn’t telling you to make me dinner, I was asking what you wanted to do for dinner!”
“Rar!” (I don’t remember what I actually said, but it really was just the equivalent of “rar!”).
We ate our dinner, and went about our separate ways for the night. As I worked on my laptop, Chris walked up to me and asked casually, “Don’t ask why, but how would you go about cutting a circular hole in carpet?”
I looked up suspiciously. “Why?”
“It doesn’t matter; how would you do it?”
I told him I had no idea how one would go about cutting a hole in carpet. A few minutes later, he came back. “I’ll be back in a few; I need to get a drill that can drill into cement so I can bolt my safe down.”
My eyes narrowed. He quietly left the house, returning a while later armed with an impact drill. Upon hearing the first headache-inducing WHIIIRRRRRRRATATATATATATATATATATAT, I decided to retreat to my office/reading room (aka the Woman Cave) with a glass of Malbec, headphones, and my laptop. As I sat down on my ottoman, I spilled some of the Malbec on my floor, thankfully avoiding my ottoman. “Shit,” I grumbled as I got back up to grab paper towels and wipe the wine off the Pergo flooring. As I started wiping and inspecting the ottoman to make sure I didn’t spill anything on it, I heard him call for me. “Hon? Get me a sznaaaawh.” Chris has a tendency to call out to me and or talk to me at the worst possible time, and/or when I’m at the opposite end of the house and can’t hear him clearly. I called back. “I’m busy!” Since I didn’t hear him move from his office, after cleaning up the wine, I walked over to him. His head was in the safe, fully engaged in his new project. “Do you still need something?”
“A saw, you said?”
“No, a straw.”
“A straw? Like, a drinking straw?”
Why a straw? [Chris: OK, it didn’t have to be a straw. It could have a been a small stick, or a very long toothpick. It just had to be something small enough to easily make sure the holes in the safe were lined up with the holes in the foundation so I could thread the lag bolts correctly] Why must he drill holes into our foundation? Why can’t he use this energy to clean poop off the carpet? I had no more questions I felt like asking. I handed him a drinking straw, chugged my glass of wine, and found my happy place watching Beastie Boys videos on You Tube in the Woman Cave. As the WHIIRRRRRATATATATATAT started up again, I turned up the volume to “Body Movin’” and found joy in Ad-Rock/MCA sword-fighting over fondue.
In this long, long relationship we’ve had, there are a few things we’ve learned about handling these Todd-and-Margo moments. Our first effort is usually to attempt to diffuse the situation with humor, specifically by quoting “And why is the floor all wet, Todd?” If the other responds “I don’t KNOW, Margo!” We know we are in a good place. If humor isn’t employed, the next step is to attempt to communicate what specifically is bothering us. Barring that? Just let the bickering happen, give yourselves a 15-20 minute separation that involves something enjoyable (like watching Beastie videos, or installing a freaking safe [Chris: Not necessarily enjoyable, but absolutely necessary to protect our data and valuables from thieving alien mutant zombies][<—geek. -A-M]), do your best to avoid further aggravation (for example, using an impact drill after a bickerfest is generally ill-advised), and let time sort out the little things. Because despite poop-cleaning and impact drilling? This is still a pretty good thing. Plus? If you were alone, you’d have no one to argue over stupid little things with.