My sainted and beloved husband is pissing me off. Blindly grinding my last nerve between his pretty white teeth with every loud, gravelly bite of whole-grain cereal. What the hell is with that horrible crunchy slurp? Is his mouth wetly flapping open while he chews? Has the sports page enraptured him so wholly that he doesn't hear himself? My god, man, just listen to it!
But then, the sum total of J is so surpassingly sweet, so heart-meltingly considerate, that I have never, ever been able to bring it to his attention. His mother likes to say that he was "good as gold," even as an infant. Never bothered anybody, never pouted, never broke anything--even a rule. How is it, then, that tiny, basically meaningless little bits of him can fill me with murderous rage? (Chomp, chomp, slurp.)
There is his driving, for one. Somehow, he didn't feel the need for a license till he was fully twenty years old, having contrived to live within walking distance of his high school and then on campus his first two years at univerity. The only reason he finally broke down and went to the DMV in his junior year was because he inherited his grandmother's VW Squareback and, well, he had to do something with it.
True to his scholarly nature, J figured that he should learn to drive by reading
about driving, which seemed much less daunting than going to a parking lot and actually driving
some. So. He studied hard and, naturally, aced every question on the written driver's exam. And, miracle of miracles, he passed the road test somehow--one of the great unsolved mysteries of our time, to be sure, right up there with the popularity of Michael Bolton--and ended up with a valid California driver's license.
However, he did not know how to drive. So he came up with his own method: go slowly and never change lanes. As you may imagine, this particular method has its disadvantages: For one, going slowly--say 45 miles an hour on Highway 101--will piss people off. Lots of people. Even elderly people in giant white Oldsmobiles who can't see over their own steering wheels. For another, being unable to change lanes makes it particularly difficult to turn, say, left, if one's in the right lane. 'Nuff said. J therefore designed his schedule around places that were easy to reach.
And then, and then...
When he was a slightly more seasoned driver of 26, J happened upon a Yahoo Personals ad that he really liked. No pictures way back then, just words, but he liked my words enough that he formed his own picture. Well, that picture--overly optimistic as it may have been--was enough to conquer the near-panic that siezed him whenever he got behind the wheel and propel him all the way from his graduate student housing in Santa Barbara to the security door of my ancient apartment in San Francisco--two hours late, after several failures to turn on city streets, but he made it nevertheless. (He may have been emboldened by hopes of romance; more realisitcally, it was probably the lure of Highway 101 being a straight shot between the two cities, minimizing the need for those upsetting turns.)
After a year or two, the Santa Barbara-SF drive became familiar to him, as he decided to visit nearly every weekend, and eventually his overall driving became somewhat calmer. Not confident, certainly, but calm. Like when we pulled up to a stoplight and he closed his eyes, lolled his head and started to snore. When I said, "Honey, the light is green," his earnest reply was, "Shhhh. I'm resting."
But I've digressed long enough. This was about the many things that drive me nuts, the things that make my voice shrill, my eyes roll, my teeth grind, and his driving is just one. A big one, but just one. For instance, there is his inability to sit up straight at my father's dinner table twice a year (elbows forever supporting his slumped torso); his inability to see dust, grime and sticky patches when cleaning; his unreasonable fear of injury to himself (J: "Do you think it's safe for me to carry in the recycling containers at night? What if there's broken glass in the tubs that I can't see?" Me: "Don't rub your hand around in the tub, then, sweetheart.") and others (J: "We can't have the drip hoses set up in the yard when R's preschoolers come to visit: they might trip in the grass and hit their heads!" Me: "Kids' heads are nice and maleable. They're meant to be fallen on. Plus, the grass is not quite as hard as, say, marble, honey."). There are others, of course: his congested snoring; the way he rubs his fungy feet on my legs; his claustrophobia in Trader Joe's; his inability to get rid of clutter; his haphazard "filing method"; his sanctimonious sermon on why I shouldn't dive into a 12-foot pool (too shallow; I'll break my neck); his fascination with minor league baseball statistics.
Oh, and his attitude about having a baby. Just a little thing, really. He just, you know, would worry
so much. His response is always, "If you want one, I guess it'll be all right. But what if we're not good at being parents? What if he runs with scissors or plays with matches or isn't a good driver? What if he falls on his head?
Hmmmm? What then?"
And then my usual answer: "Go away."