He (Not) Said / She (Not) Said

I don’t think that the Man I Married and I are the only folks in long-term relationships who often misinterpret what the other one is saying. We have 25 years of conversations and assumptions running beneath whatever we’re saying, rather like the current that continues to trickle along the bottom of a frozen stream.

Like the other day.

I came downstairs to find one of those huge collapsing ladders sitting in our entryway hall. It had been sitting on our porch for months, so I’d gotten used to sweeping leaves around it all autumn and learning not to see it despite it blocking my view outside every morning, the way we ignore telephone wires and airplane noise. Oddly enough, I had not mentioned the ladder on the porch even once, a highly unusual tactic on my part, since any comment just might be the Breakthrough Moment When He Actually Gets It, preventing all future strife and disharmony, so why risk blowing that opportunity? Take the cow horn in my dish rack, for instance. Yes, cow horn: dish rack. That is one of those ratio or whatever they are word problems that will never compute.

Do you think I kept mum about the moo? But my comments have been a moot point, because there the cow horn remains. MIM and the Little Monster see only the positive side, since they both noted triumphantly, “Hey, it doesn’t smell so animal-y, anymore!”

Though I’d ignored the ladder on the porch, now the big ladder: small entryway was hard to miss.

I asked the Man I Married, “Are you taking this up to the pear orchard today?” He goes up to a friend’s acreage every weekend, and I knew he would be leaving shortly.

What he heard me ask was, “How long is this ladder going to be sitting in the hall? I don’t like it in the hall, it’s irritating me, and I’m hoping you’re removing it pronto.”

What I meant was, “I hope that you are not taking the ladder with you to the pear orchard, where you will climb it all alone in the middle of a bunch of trees where no one can see you, without having told anyone that you’re climbing a ladder, and you will fall, hurt yourself, and slowly die in agony, and you won’t be found for hours, until the Little Monster gets hungry and comes looking for you, and then he will be even further traumatized than he already is, and I can’t handle a re-traumatized nine-year-old if you are dead and not able to help me raise him.”

What he said was, with a note of irritation in his voice that I was (in his mind) pestering him about moving the ladder, “It’s not staying here for long. I don’t have time to move it now, but I’ll move it when I get home. Don’t worry.”

What I said was, “What I’m worried about is you climbing it today without telling anybody, like you just did upstairs.” I didn’t remind him that he’d climbed it halfway before realizing that he hadn’t properly locked it open, and I’d come running upstairs at the big thumping sound of a body falling off of a ladder. I did say, “Don’t get irritated. I don’t care if you leave it in the hall for awhile.” Just please don’t die, I didn’t add.

To which he said, “I’m not irritated.”

Long-term marriage is streamlined and efficient. You can have a 2000-word discussion in only 20 words, then you can get irritated about things that your partner hasn’t said, and then you can argue about a tone your partner hasn’t used, and then you can get a lot done because you and your partner are no longer speaking and you have a lot of misplaced energy. For instance, you can now sweep the clear porch, whisking away the leaves that cluster around the ladder-shaped outline in the mold. Then you can scrub the deck chair, sit back with a nice martini, and enjoy the miraculous view.

And when he comes out to join you, you can hold hands and say nothing, absolutely nothing at all, and know in this moment that you both understand each other perfectly. 


The Erotica Writer’s Husband & Other Stories by Jennifer D. Munro
Kindle Edition Now $0.99 at Amazon

12 humorous stories about sex and the sexes. These sensual yet comic stories offer a fresh take on literary erotic fiction, as if Anaïs Nin and Erma Bombeck met at the library to spin tales of laughter and the libido. Collected from the pages of Best American Erotica, Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica, Best Women’s Erotica, Best of Literary Mama, Clean Sheets, Zyzzyva, and others.

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Always Never Land

Standing in the shower awhile back, I reached for my soap. I had recently unwrapped a new bar and put it in my special soap holder, the one that’s tucked up and away behind some shampoo bottles, so hopefully the Man I Married won’t grab it. As we age, we have different embarrassing issues which require different special soaps. Plus, in order to get our foster-to-adopt license, we once took a First Aid/CPR class together, in which the teacher ominously asked during the germ portion of class, “What is generally the last place a person uses their soap on when they shower?” No one would voice an answer. I for one felt like it might turn out that I was a freak if I shouted out an answer that no one else shared, humiliating myself to discover that I didn’t even take a damn shower correctly. Plus, how to say what we were most probably thinking without getting inappropriate?

She waited through the silence, and then said, couching her terms by quoting someone else, “As one of my former pupils said, ‘The Crack.’” Her point: stop sharing soap. As a liberal couple, we rarely march to the orders of authority figures, but The Crack Lecture fixed itself in my imagination. I like to feel clean and squeaky in a shower and not find myself visualizing where my bar of soap has been during someone else’s ablutions.

So our soaps, like many things in a long-term marriage, no longer mix. I bought myself a different soap holder.

But my brand new bar of soap was gone. It was my last bar out of the economy pack of twelve, so I could not even drip and dangerously slide my way over to the closet, risking hip fracture, to get another bar. I looked in MIM’s soap holder: nope, just his fragrant Costco soap that had gotten slimy on the bottom. When I got out of the shower, I looked in other likely places, like the kitchen sink. My soap was nowhere to be found.

“Did you take my soap?” I asked MIM at my first opportunity to accost him.

“Yeah.”

“But I can’t use your soap!”

“I forgot.”

Then I broke a cardinal marriage counseling rule, which is to NEVER use the words “always” and “never” during conflict. “You ALWAYS take my things!”

That got him mad. “I NEVER take your things!”

“I had to start hiding my comb, because every time I go to use it, it’s gone. Same with my toothbrush. I had to build a special holder where you wouldn’t grab it. You use my towel. I go to use it and it’s wet.” My evidence was mounting, but I changed the subject, ever so slightly. “So where’s my soap?”

“In my toolbox.”

But of course. Where else would my special soap be but in a toolbox?

Sometimes I feel like I’m in a Comedy-Romance written by Nora Ephron while she has the flu. Worse, it’s an outdated rerun that doesn’t quite stand up to the test of time. Our marriage often isn’t typical in gendered task-division or ownership of styling products (all of the stuff in the bathroom that looks like it should be mine is really his). Yet I was house-wifey hoppin’ mad that my special soap was floundering amidst the hammers and pliers.

But MIM could not find his toolbox. It wasn’t in the garage where he thought it was, nor was it in the laundry room. Finally, after a twenty minute search and a shoe change, he found it outside in the shed. With the other tools.

Should I have asked why my soap had migrated to a toolbox?

I used to always ask such questions of a man who never had an answer, but now I never bother.


Now on Kindle

The Erotica Writer’s Husband and Other Stories

by Jennifer D. Munro
Kindle Edition Now $0.99 at Amazon.com
 
PRAISE FOR JENNIFER D. MUNRO’S SHORT STORIES

“Jennifer D. Munro had me howling with [her] irony…”  —Susie Bright, Best American Erotica Editor

 “I laughed like a little maniac. I just loved it. Hilarious.”  —Mary Guterson, Gone To The Dogs

 “…poignant…”  —San Francisco Chronicle

 “…touching and funny…”  —Slowtrains.com

A Wrinkle in Laundry

The Man I Married decades ago decided that our stackable washer-dryer doors were hung the wrong way.

Rather, he decided the dryer door was hung the wrong way. So he switched the dryer door to open to the right. He was very proud not only of his sudden observation that the door was hung incorrectly according to the layout of our laundry room, but that he also managed to reverse the door.

But he didn’t switch the washer door, which opens to the left.

Now I have to contort like Gumby when I transfer a load from one to the other, squeezing myself in between the two open doors that tend to swing partially-closed. And I ain’t that skinny.

Gumby I Ain't

I end up hitting my head on the dryer door when I stand up from crouching in front of the washer.

Or I step back and nearly topple backwards over the washer door when I’m standing to sort things from the dryer.

I require hazard pay to do a simple load of laundry.

(Here I must protest that laundry is not simple. I seem to be the only one in the house possessing the advanced skill of not only remembering to transfer laundry from washer to dryer, but to transfer it from dryer back to place of origin, all in the space of time it takes to keep everything from wrinkling.)

Still, MIM was so proud about this door-switching feat that I hesitated to say anything. I myself would be incapable of switching a dryer door, so some level of admiration was in order. Plus, he’d spent part of his Christmas vacation making this fix (instead of doing any number of other things around the house that seemed to the ignorant and uneducated [i.e. his wife] to be more pressing, such as installing a sink in the laundry room so that he ceases to use my kitchen thusly):

I Even Helped Clean Them

Ah, now the dryer door project makes more sense, because installing a sink in the laundry room is daunting, overwhelming, and full of obstacle after obstacle. And there was the dryer door right in front of his nose, such a satisfying and quick fix that gave him a real sense of accomplishment and daring-do.

Which is, oh, kind of like writing a blog post when one is supposed to be working on a book-length manuscript.

His intentions were good, and he was proud, and who wants to mess with that? And maybe he was right, and maybe I was being close-minded. I thought the layout would be something I’d grow used to with time. But I did not. So after a month passed, I voiced my concern when he ventured into the laundry room while I was twixt and ‘tween the doors, feeling rather like a horse in a cramped stall with the top half of the stable doors open. I tried to utilize my rusty skills, dredged up from all of those marriage counseling lessons over the years. I ventured, “I feel frustrated by the dryer door and the washer door opening in different directions.” I refrained from adding, “I feel like it was a dumb idea.” We didn’t flush all of that marriage counseling money down the drain.

“But it makes more sense this way,” he said matter-of-factly.

“Then the washer door needs to switch, too.”

“I can’t. It won’t switch.”

We both paused. And paused.

“Who does all of the laundry?” I asked him.

“You do. Fine. I’ll switch it back.”

Here’s what gets me about long-term marriage. Even though he didn’t argue (much) and said he’d do what I asked, he managed to say it with a tone that implied that my request was unreasonable, and that he was being very reasonable to comply with it without (much) argument.

Further, if I said that this was his tone, he would counter that his tone had not been condescending in the least, and that it was all in my head, as usual. Such a discussion would end up sounding like this:

“Did, too.”

“Did not.”

Furthermore, I know that the door will not get switched back until I pester him again about installing a sink.

In long-term marriage, you can play out the entire argument in your head before it even happens. It’s like a boring television rerun from, like, the seventies.

So I didn’t say anything.

I just blogged about it.

Which he will never read, because I have an anti-husband-reading-my-blog tactic.

Awhile back, my cousin and friend were visiting and they both mentioned my Reader, I Awakened Him post and how much their partners had gotten a kick out of it. Unfortunately, MIM was there during the discussion. He had completely forgotten about the night I had woken him up. So while my cousin and friend were visiting, he got mad about it all over again.

“But I never wake you up,” I reminded him during our subsequent ‘discussion.’ “You always wake me up! That’s the only time I’ve woken you up in almost a quarter century!”

“I know!” he said. “That’s why I was so mad! It just wasn’t right! It’s not the way it works!”

Some days later, he surprised me by casually mentioning something I’d blogged about.

“You read my blog?” I asked him. 

“Well, I thought I’d better after that last discussion,” he said, “so I tried to. But there were just too many, and they’re all way too long, so I quit after reading part of just that one.”

So, to avoid spousal-blog-reading: be frequently long-winded, and your hot air will be ignored by those who grow weary of it and pay it no attention. Kind of like marital disagreement.

 

Now on Kindle

The Erotica Writer’s Husband and Other Stories by Jennifer D. Munro
Kindle Edition Now $0.99 at Amazon.com

PRAISE FOR JENNIFER D. MUNRO’S SHORT STORIES

“Jennifer D. Munro had me howling with [her] irony…”  —Susie Bright, Best American Erotica Editor

“[I] was fixated. I really laughed out loud (by myself)…”  —Bobbi, Literary Mama Reader

“…marvelously refreshing…”  —CleanSheets

“Munro writes with an honesty and rawness… a brilliant piece of writing…”  —Innsmouth Free Press

Weighing in with my Advice to Brides

In 2012 I will have spent a quarter century–more than half my life–with the Man I Married. As I look back upon my youthful folly, here is my only suggestion to engaged ladies:

Do not lose weight before your wedding like I did.

Gain weight before the wedding. Lots of weight. Then lose it (for your health) after the wedding. Who cares about the photos? Photoshop them. Airbrush the extra chin out. What matters is how much you eat in the marriage that follows the wedding. Don’t give yourself an unrealistic number on the scale that you will battle for the entire duration of your marriage.

I lost eleven pounds between meeting my husband and stupidly marrying him a year later. I say stupidly because I was twenty-two when I met him. I thought my time was running out so I’d better get hitched right quick before I became Emily Dickinson or Jane Austen or Charlotte Bronte—I had the obsessive scribbling part down, so I needed to head spinster off at the pass. So it was a gunshot wedding, only there was no ammunition, just duds. Sort of a nerf-gun wedding. No pregnancy but a whole lot of bladder infections.

I think the reason I went through with the wedding was because I was at the gym all the time instead of getting to know my boyfriend better. Then he went and had a Traumatic Brain Injury (by doing something stupid–twice), so whenever I got home from epic bouts on the Stairmaster (a fancy pants new piece of equipment on the market at that time) he was asleep, beginning a long recuperation that has lasted twenty-five years. So we never got to know each other well enough to call it all off. In fact, at the seven-year marriage point, he blinked, and his eyes came into focus as he said to our marriage counselor (our second of four), “Hey! I never really agreed to getting married. I was fresh out of a coma!”

To which I cried, “You proposed! You gave me an engagement ring on Valentine’s Day!”

To which he responded, “It was your grandmother’s ring! How did I get it? You must have given it to me in order to give it to you.”

So busted!

He agreed to remain married, which in retrospect doesn’t surprise me, since at the time I was the only one with a paycheck. Plus, you know, I’m a bit of a catch now, even if I was desperate way back when. He’s not so bad himself. He reinvents himself every few years, so it’s like I’m Liz Taylor (unfortantely in more ways than one, and I’m not talking jewelry collection), married eight times but never having to go through all the nasty divorce paperwork.

I intended to dye my wedding dress so that I could wear it later to…well, I’m not sure where, because this was the eighties, and with its freakishly huge bow, the only place I could wear it would be a Cyndi Lauper concert. But I never had to figure out a venue, because I couldn’t fit into it three days into the honeymoon.

I gained back the eleven pounds plus some (the “some” amount varies, depending on how much I’m stress-eating because my husband is driving me bonkers with whatever new plan he’s hatched, maybe sailing around the world today, starting a hard cider business tomorrow, while yesterday it was running a treehouse campground).

Now if I proudly say, “I’m only five pounds heavier than the day I met you,” he says, “Yeah, but fifteen pounds more than on our wedding day.”

It’s odd that he does this, because, as long as we’re having sex, he doesn’t care what I weigh. He calls me gorgeous no matter what size my jeans are. I think it’s one of those male “just the facts ma’am” things that’s not intended to be a hurtful dig.

I then continue to set facts straight, without any intent of a hurtful dig whatsoever, no sirree bob, by pointing out that he weighs a hell of a lot more now than I do over meeting or wedding point. This is true, because he was a spindly twig at the time. He was a vegetarian, which meant that he ate peanut butter. That’s it. Peanut butter and Diet 7-Up. I sniff peanut butter and loosen my belt a notch.

After this calm, rational, emotionless, and quiet discussion about how fat the other one is now, we pop open an imperial stout and break out the cheese. (We’d have makeup sex, but by then we’re too full and tired.)

Brides, I suggest you do the same, now, before your Big Day. Have some brie with your peanut butter. Do you want to never ever again look as bony as you did when you marched down the aisle? And believe me, you’re marching, because you’re hungry and you want to get to the damn cake. Who cares that everyone is staring at your ass that day? Just plant a big bow on your bustle like Fergie did and shake your booty.

The Famous Fergie of My Day

(She’s another one who lost weight before her wedding, and look where it got her in the long run.)

Just think. In a couple of decades you could take your dress in and dye it so that you can go see the Justin Bieber Comeback Tour (it happened with one-hit cutie Rick Springfield in my day, so I’m placing bets on a bald Justin touring in 2032).

Wouldn’t you rather have your husband introduce you like this at parties when you’re 35, or 47, or 59: “Look at how great she looks! She weighs less than the day we were married! C’mere, gorgeous, lay one on me.”

Here’s the thing: The Man I Married got rid of his wedding pants the second they didn’t fit. Which I think gives him a psychic freedom, the freedom to dream. He’s thinking about motorcycling to Tierra del Fuego while I’m tracking my weight. I’ve hauled my dress in a hermetically-sealed box from Hawaii to Seattle, from Seattle to New Orleans, and back to Seattle again. Do you really want a dress that you never wear taking up psychological and literal closet space for the rest of your life?

Also, like all men I know, the Man I Married freely and publicly divulges his weight no matter how fat or thin he is. Perhaps we women would have more space to dream if we weren’t trying so hard to keep our number on the scale a secret. As if no one can tell what size we are?

The sad fact is that I’ll only fit into my wedding dress again someday if I am seriously ill. And, what? Like the first thing I’m going to do when I hit 123 again after perhaps facing death is put on an old dress? At my age I’m going to wear sequins? Honey, if I survive a wasting disease and am thin again for the span of three minutes, I’m marching my shrunken rump and my charge card straight to the mall.

All I know is this, if that day comes, I’ll be glad it’s the Man I Married who’s at my side. I know he’ll still be there, because we’ve made it this far: through two severe head injuries, seven miscarriages, 483 bladder infections, an earthquake, a blizzard, the first difficult year of the Little Monster, and the nine-page UnaMomber Manifesto I composed about my mother-in-law and mailed to all living relatives. I might be bald and scarred, but he’ll still love me. As long as we start having sex again once I feel better, but that’s as important to me as it is to him.

It’s doubtful I’ll even weigh again what I did the day I met the Man I Married. How I wish I’d known at that tender young age that I was perfect that day, before I lost eleven more pounds. Beautiful and perfect. Blessed enough in health to still be walking this planet at a brisk pace a quarter century later. And gorgeous enough for someone to fall in love with me (with the help of a whack on his head).


Now on Kindle

The Erotica Writer’s Husband and Other Stories by Jennifer D. Munro

Kindle Edition $2.99 at Amazon.com
 
PRAISE FOR JENNIFER D. MUNRO’S SHORT STORIES

“Jennifer D. Munro had me howling with [her] irony…”  —Susie Bright, Best American Erotica Editor

 “At turns heartbreaking and hilarious, Jennifer D. Munro’s writing crackles with wit and hard-earned wisdom. Her prose is snappy and eloquent, and often laugh-out-loud funny about the most unfunny things…”  —Janna Cawrse Esarey, The Motion Of The Ocean

 “I laughed like a little maniac. I just loved it. Hilarious.”  —Mary Guterson, Gone To The Dogs and We Are All Fine Here