Sunday, May 04, 2008

He ate her food.

Ladies and dues with boyfriends who do not co-habitate, does this sound familiar to you?

You have made dinner. With minimal help from a boy, who's flopped on the couch catching up on whatever brand of Law & Order is on. Generally, he's stretched out as far as he can be on the sofa, a hand is on the belly and shoes are off. If he helped cook noodles, have a gold star handy, you'll need it.

This is fine. You like cooking. It's relaxing. You also know you are a better cook than your boyfriend, purely because of the training your mother gave you. Maybe because she liked it, or maybe because she was used to it.

You eat the delicious fruits of your labor: sometimes something that braised for 3 hours on the stove, sometimes something that popped fresh from the toaster oven onto a plate.

And yet you get stuck with the dishes.

Perhaps you, like me, inhabit that gray area-- where this is my house, and this isn't his house. I can't expect him to be as interested as dusting as I am, but on the other hand he spends a lot of time here. I'd like to not feel like he may start expecting turn-down service when he is around. I'm not wearing an apron, after all. Not even with a touch of irony.

A friend of mine has perhaps, the most illustrious experience.

Mine is known as the "get me water" fight. I'm sure you can see where that went. Let's just make it fair to say I was not headed for the kitchen.

My friend? Her boyfriend ate her food.

Hurriedly preparing for a fun night out, she had nuked a turkey burger to inhale before a few drinks with friends. This friend of mine has effortless composure, even after a few whiskeys. She's bad-ass. It must be the burgers! Her boyfriend arrived as it was freshly plated.

She turned around after greeting him, and found him mid-bite. In her dinner. In their rush. Because he was hungry. So hungry, in fact, that he didn't have the time to ask if he could forage for a snack. He just saw food on the table, and assumed he had full access to it.

This fight generally happens in the gray area of "we have been dating for a while and you are around, but you aren't living here, so you are a guest (?)". And guests get glasses of water handed to them when they ask. And plates of food set out are often for them.

But this dude isn't a guest, he's a part of your life. And when a part of your life puts you into a box without consideration, but in part because you let him-- the line of politeness and caring constantly shifts. You want to do nice things for him, but you don't want to be walked all over. Likewise, he gets used to being too comfortable in his divet in the couch and then when you pitch a fit, he's surprised. He had no idea, that in that moment, of his hands on his belly, or wrapped around your dinner, that he is not a guest. Nor are you the harried hostess who has a dinner party 3 - 4 nights a week with no dishwasher. And a monthly grocery bill that is triple his.

People aren't moving from their parents' house right onto marriage. People don't blindly accept that because I'm a lady I take care of the inside of the house, and a boy would take care of the outside. Because I rent an apartment, and I call shenanigans on whomever takes care of our front lawn (man or woman) because it needs HELP.

I'm already a multi-tasker, and I don't have children! I can put laundry in, clean the bathroom, update my Facebook profile, and make dinner all at once. FOR ME. FOR MY HOUSEHOLD OF ONE. I've lived alone for well over a year and I like things how I like them.

This brings me to the other issue: living alone has made me particular. Also my genes, but that was sort of undeniable anyway. I used to not get it when I "did the dishes wrong" as a child, but now I totally see it as clear as day. You're a fool to wash the pots first, and there's no argument you can make to change my mind. And that's an uphill battle with my own neuroses that I battle every day. The reality of it is that I can't imagine sharing an apartment, chores or DVR space with a boy. There's barely enough room for all the Top Model reruns and hit movies of the 90's in mine.

But that's what a relationship is: choosing your battles. Building a partnership requires give and take, but if both of you are carrying your relationship around in tandem, and one of you is constantly the one walking backwards, you start to resent his view of the future. Of course it looks awesome.

Because all you see is a trail of socks and shoes from your front door. And a collection of dirty glasses on the coffee table in your dishwasher-less apartment. But he sees a great gig with a girl who's funny but sometimes inexplicably furious. Suddenly, the boy who once "broke all the rules of dating" to take you out two nights in a row is completely unable to stand up and hydrate himself. Or if you're my friend, the boy who whispered sweet nothings in your ear in a language you don't speak had blatant disregard your schedule, and above all, your hunger.

So how do you fix them? How do you undo years of their mommies mommy-ing them and then even the years of your desire to be nice to them and do it the only nurturing way you know how? More mommy-ing? Greater interest in sports? More beer chugging like one of the guys? How can you show your appreciation without sacrificing your self respect so that when it comes to making big decisions you don't let your resentment speak for your heart?

Because hearts generally are better leaders, and often lead you to the good sense to have a dishwasher. And boys, take note-- they are necessary.


Anonymous said...

I currently cohabitate, but I know exactly where you're coming from. My usual way around this is ask for HELP with the dishes. I had him wash, and I'll dry, etc. After a couple times of that, he just started taking over on his own, thank god.

And now that we live together there is the whole "clothing on the bathroom floor, WHY?!?!" thing, but it really is choosing your battles and not being confrontational about it. Plus I'm sure he's the same way about some of my things. "DOES HER MASCARA NEED TO BE RIGHT THERE?" Every time I get pissy about something I keep myself from imploding because of that simple fact that I know he's going through that same adjustment. We've been living together three months and it's gotten better. So much better.

As luck would have it, even though I'm an only child who likes things just so, we blended pretty well together. It's just a good rule of thumb that, if they're a good guy and they're screwing up, it's probably not intentional. They're simply... not mind readers.

And some guys... they just assume that if you're in a serious relationship and they're invited over, that it kind of becomes their pad too.

Cameron said...

Really May 4... REALLY?!