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Posts Tagged ‘being married to me is so fun’

This post is about that most controversial of marital subjects: division of chore labor.  Well, a sub-category, at least. So prepare for some boredom and talk of folding.

As the person who, for most of our relationship, works from home, I am typically the Main Laundry Person in our household. Over the years, we have developed a pretty solid laundry routine, wherein I have no trouble washing the clothing but then when it’s dry I leave it stuffed in the laundry basket or on the guest bed for months on end I fold Carla’s clothes and my own clothes, but only some of my husband’s clothing (underpants, socks) and then leave the rest of his stuff in neat piles so he can deal with it the way he wants to.

He’s not being weird. It’s just that there are specifications that I can’t meet.

For instance, he keeps all his undershirts in a specific drawer and he folds them in identical rectangles so that they all fit in the drawer.

Back when we were first married, I tried desperately to fold the shirts for him. I would go so far as to grab an already-folded shirt out of the drawer and try to use it as a folding template. Seriously. Is there anything more pathetic (or anti-feminist???) than a grown woman fretting over the perfect way to fold her spouse’s T-shirts? Picture me, setting a neatly-folded white Hanes T-shirt on the bed and then placing a recently (yes, we’ll go with recently) cleaned shirt on the same bed underneath it, and then trying to bend each sleeve into the center of the collar until the width matches the sample shirt, and then turning both shirts ninety degrees so I can then fold the bottom of the shirt up in such a way as to meet the desired depth and then triumphantly turning the newly folded shirt over to admire my obviously perfect work only to discover that I’ve somehow folded one sleeve in so far that the collar is not so much centered as all the way to the right, and the act of turning the shirt over has untucked the bottom and the finished product looks nothing like the template AT ALL, they are not in the same universe, this is a Picasso rendering of a folded shirt, maybe a raccoon wandered into the bedroom and tried to make a nest in it, it’s unclear. Certainly the raccoon could have done a better job. So I shake out the “folded” shirt in frustration and begin again. Ad infinitum.

Listen, it is no secret around here that I am terrible at things like folding. Anything that requires precision and straight lines is beyond my capabilities. Whatever. I am good at other things. I type pretty fast. I can load a dishwasher. I’m good with knots.

What I’m saying is, even though I used a template, back in those heady days of trying-to-please-my-husband-in-impossible-ways-early-marriage, the shirts would be too square or too thin or not look in any way like a shirt or whatever and my husband would end up refolding them.

I don’t really blame him. They were ridiculous. Sometimes I’d bury my worst attempts at the bottom of the pile and top them with the one shirt that looked somewhat like a folded shirt should look and less like a deflated smear of whipped cream with a “tagless” tag.  So I knew they weren’t up to his standards.

But I have to tell you something, and that is that I have my own drawer of T-shirts. T-shirts that I folded, all by myself. And they all fit in the drawer. Maybe not perfectly, maybe there’s some squashing. But my T-shirts are for exercise and sleeping, and his T-shirts are for wearing under other shirts, so an errant wrinkle here and there shouldn’t be a big deal. What I’m saying, I guess, is that while I understand his T-shirt folding preferences, I don’t think that they are necessarily any better than my own. Or… maybe they are better, but not so much better that they should require their own individualized folding process. And that maybe he should have just let me fold the shirts and be done with it.

I’m not saying that he’d chastise me or anything. He wouldn’t. Probably, in his infinite patience slash kindness he would thank me. But when he’d inevitably refold the T-shirts, I would feel such a mixture of emotions. Shame, for the horrid failure of my fingers to assemble his shirts into something resembling folded. Frustration, for spending time and energy trying to do something that he felt compelled to redo. Irritation at my husband for being so particular (as though I don’t have a specific way I fold, sort, and hang my own clothes). Wounded exasperation, because I was doing something NICE for him, and he didn’t APPRECIATE it. And despair, because certainly this was an indication that my marriage was bound for failure and also did I possibly have some sort of neurological disorder that was impairing my ability to fold.

I mean, seriously. If you go out of your way to do something nice for someone else, shouldn’t they APPRECIATE IT? So what if it isn’t perfect? It’s the THOUGHT, right? Whatever happened to not looking a Chore Horse in the mouth????? This Chore Horse is SAD!!!!!!

You may wonder why my husband continues to live in my home with me when I tell you the T-shirt thing is just one example of many. The only other example I can come up with is also laundry related: I wash the towels at regular intervals and, because I enjoy being at Towel Zero, that usually means that they are all in the wash at once. And sometimes I forget to, you know, dry the towels. Or maybe if I do dry them, I forget them in the dryer. And then my husband gets mad because he inevitably gets in the shower and then turns off the shower and realizes not only are there no towels hanging helpfully off of the towel rack but there are NO TOWELS AT ALL in the linen closet.

And when he gets annoyed at me, I get petulant. I WASHED THE TOWELS, MAN. Is that not enough for you? (I mean, I also apologize and go get him a towel. Obviously. Am not a sadist.)

Well.

When I get beyond the stage of exasperation, I completely understand where he is coming from. I am not so morally superior that I don’t have preferences for how I do or like certain things. I can’t think of any examples now, of course, because that would cede too much ground, but I am sure they exist. And I do, really truly, understand the rage that comes from exiting a shower, cold and wet and shivery and possibly late for work, and finding that all your towels are placidly soaking in OxiClean for the twenty-third consecutive hour. Let’s be honest. It’s a wonder he hasn’t divorced me and taken all the towels.

What I’m trying to say is that I get where he’s coming from.

And he is, or at least has been on multiple occasions, right that sometimes there just is a BEST way to do things.  The towels, right. I mean, obviously the Best Way is to dry them and put them back in the closet and maybe even hang one on the towel rack for easy post-shower access.

And, why not, let’s talk MORE about towels. For years, my husband would refold the towels that I’d just folded. Shame, frustration, irritation, wounded exasperation, despair. He claimed there was a Best Way. I maintained that my way got them done and folded and in the closet, therefore it was Good Enough. But then he taught me how to fold them (somehow what I cannot achieve with undershirts, I excel at with towels) and he is right: when a stack of towels is folded exactly the same way, it fits better in the closet and it’s easier to fetch down a new towel when you need one! And the rest of the towels don’t slump all over the shelves in desperation! So I acknowledge that there is a Best Way to do some things. Maybe many things. But not all. NOT ALL. Sometimes DONE is good enough.

Have I established that I understand a) there can actually be a best way to do some things and b) when I don’t/am incapable of the best way, my husband is justified in being irritated?

Okay. So let’s go back to my frustration. The frustration of doing something – perhaps not best but done – and having it rejected.

At what point do you say, I love this person and will exhaust my body and soul trying to execute a task to his exact specifications and when do you say, Spouse, love of my life, accept it the admittedly inferior way I do it as Good Enough, or do it your frogspam self?

The towel thing is something I have to work through; it’s mean, to leave a person dripping and towelless with no recourse. Doing towel laundry half way is most definitely NOT the Best Way OR Good Enough.

As I mentioned above, we have evolved a workaround for the shirts issue. I just don’t fold them. I don’t like it, because it makes the task seem unfinished. And it reminds me of my Folding Weakness, and no one wants that shoved in their face week after week. But it works. I don’t have to not-fold his shirts for endless hours. He doesn’t have to refold the Dadaist art I’ve presented to him as a pile of folded laundry. And his shirts are all meticulously rectangled and fitted into their drawer. Everyone wins.

But there are probably oodles of OTHER things where the specificity of the end result is less critical. Like the loading of the dishwasher. Does it really matter that my husband insists on putting the bowls on the top rack of the dishwasher when I would put them on the bottom rack? No, not really, as long as they get clean and don’t prevent other dishes from being included in the wash cycle.

Does it really matter that I leave a puddle of water on the counter next to the sink, when that space is reserved SOLELY for dirty dishes, and when it is washed each night before bed anyway? No, not really.

Does it really matter that I believe the washer can, as it claims to, hold laundry up to the “top row of holes” while my husband believes I am overfilling it and preventing it from agitating properly? (I ask you, when have I ever prevented something, including my own self, from agitating properly???) Since neither of us has ever unloaded the dryer and found a still-dirty item of clothing, not really, no.

My personal opinion is that there is very rarely a Best Way to complete a chore. The person doing the chore should, within reason, have freedom to complete it in his or her individual way. Complete it being the key term; I would be the first to agree that washing a towel and then NOT DRYING IT is not “completing” that particular chore. And if someone is kind enough to do a chore – by it’s very nature a thing that few people actually want to spend their time doing – the other person should be grateful and not nit-picky. And if doing it in some perceived Best Way is such a big deal to the other person, well then, he or she can take it on him- or herself for the future.

This is where I want to hear what egregious errors your own partners have made under the auspices of Doing A Chore. And I want to hear your examples of which things have a clear Best Way and those that can be completed successfully in many ways. And your squabbles about Best vs. Good Enough. Tell me all of them!

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