Wednesday, November 10, 2010

moving in, part II (or, organic tater tots)

(What self-respecting lesbian does not know what this is?  It's what you bring on your second date, of course.)

As you can see, we've progressed from suitcases to U-Hauls.  That means it's time to move more than just the birds.  This weekend, it's furniture time. 

The appearance of my stuff, and the reality of moving the furniture to the house, has resulted in resurgence of a more extreme version of a particular aspect of myself that I always new was in there -- Erin as domestic goddess.  Since Sunday, when we brought the non-furniture items from the apartment to the house, I have claimed ownership over the house in a way I didn't really even realize I hadn't before.  What's that, Kathy, you think you are in charge of laundry?  Think again.  I have mixed all the laundry soaps into one bottle.  Oh really, you think we should call the repair man for the thumping noise that the furnace is making?  Not so fast.  I have a plan involving home depot, masking tape, and a new filter.  I have become, suddenly, even more opinionated about all things house-related that I ever was before.  When you have an equally opinionated partner, as I do, this can be an issue.

We, as as couple, have always had an issue with relinquishing household control.  Our nanny drives us nuts on occasion, only by not doing things exactly as we would (sorry, Amber).  For example, she once bought organic tater tots.  I saw them, and said "WHAT?  ORGANIC TATER TOTS?!  If you're going to eat frozen, processed potatoes, why would you pay extra for organic?"  It's not the $0.50.  It's the principal, you see.  Ranty, ranty rant.  Then Kathy said, "But oh my god, they are so good.  So good.  So much better than the ones we buy."  She was right, they were so good.  The other thing is, we think Amber is pretty universally great.  The kids love her.  She helps them with their homework.  She communicates with us via e-mail.  She backed me up when I thought a compost bin was a great idea and Kathy was afraid it would be stinky.  And okay, now she has opened us up to the wonder that is organic tater tots.  But put a plate on the wrong shelf when you unload the dishwasher?  Watch out.  You should see what happens when we have a house cleaner come, and we can't find something.  That house cleaner is suddenly satan's long-lost cousin.  (E.g., "Why would you just throw someone's empty box away??! I had that sitting there, in the middle of the floor, full of garbage, for a reason.")  Anyway.  You get my point. 

I realize this is a rather privilege-y rant, but it's our reality.   And it's the reality of lots of dual-income families where both wage-earners have all-consuming jobs like we do.  I leave the house at 8, and stop working somewhere around 10 or 11 at night, on average (though, to be fair, often with a break to cook and eat dinner).  Kathy is the same.  And we have three kids.  And one cat.  And a house.  When, exactly, do I buy the tater tots myself during all of that?  For the record, we do not openly criticize the people who make our lifestyle a possibility for these horrible transgressions.  We mostly just mentally fume and stomp around a bit.  But think about this -- what kind of person decides to go out and get themselves that kind of job in the first place?  That's right.  A control freak.  And our house is now the full-time residence of not one control freak, but two.  It's really hard to be a control freak and hand over the running of our house to others, no matter how competent.

Our first head-butting of this sort occurred shortly after receipt of our first joint gift.  Kathy's mom bought us new bathroom towels last year for Christmas.  I loved them.  Kathy loved them.  They matched -- each other, and the bathroom.  They had not been owned by either of us during our college years.  Life was good.  Then, I noticed they were sitting on a shelf in the bathroom, not being used. 

Me:  Uh, why aren't the kids using the new towels?  We have these cute matching towels, but they are in the cupboard and those ugly fraying ones from college are on the towel bar.  Isn't the whole point that we use the cute matching ones?
Kathy:  No.  Those are for guests.  The kids will ruin them, and they'll get worn out from being washed all the time.
Me:  What?  Why would we have matching towels if they just live in the cupboard.  I want to see them on the towel bar.  Not those ugly ones from college.

Etc.  I won, temporarily.  The kids used the cute towels.  Then, I noticed that they were always (not sometimes, always) wadded up on the floor, wet, and being walked on.  They were constantly being washed, because the kids could not be convinced to use their towel more than once (because it was wet, on the floor, and had been walked on, I suspect).  I know what you're thinking -- just make the kids hang the towel up, and it will be dry, and they can use it more than once.  I know you're thinking that because I thought that as well.  But here's the thing.  We're not home at bathtime, we're at work.  There's no way to enforce it.  I mean really, what are we going to do, call home each day at 5 with a friendly reminder to hang up and re-use your towel?  I caved.  I may have won the towel battle, but Kathy ultimately won the war.  However.  The point is not the towels.  The point is that we had that conversation at all.  Have you ever met one person who cares that much about towels, let alone two?  That were a couple?  I thought not.*

However, as hard as this is for my lovely other half to believe, I have actually been holding back.  I have deferred, to a certain extent, because the house was kind of Kathy's turf.  But now that it is U-Haul time, I pulled out all the stops.  I was making decisions right and left.  So long, salad spinner, that spot in the cupboard is now home to a rice steamer.  Monday night, I poured the laundry soaps into one bottle.  I developed a detailed, organized plan for how to systematically de-clutter the house.  I threw out a foam magnet shaped like the number 2.  I could not be stopped.  It's not just me, though.  The laundry soap faux pas got a very negative reaction.  (Apparently, there was a laundry-soap scent issue, which I was aware of, and I had, in one fell swoop, taken away Kathy's ability to control the ratio of scented-to-unscented laundry soap.  I am not kidding.)  So okay.  I will spare you the gory details, but needless to say it came to a head today.  It was bound to happen. 

But then we thought of it like this:

I have moved in. This is my house, too.  Fully, equally.  On this, we can agree.  So sometimes, in exchange for me occasionally doing laundry, she is going to come down and find her soaps combined.  And sometimes, in exchange for her handling the furnace thump, I am going to find she just called someone instead of spending half a day investigating how to fix it herself. 

All of this is a very, very small price to pay in exchange for sharing a house, and a life, with an incredibly competent, wonderful, if somewhat opinionated, partner.

I should note, however, that neither one of us cares about absolutely everything, because we are starting to sound a bit wacko.  I think each of our heads would have exploded by now if we were that intense all the time.  Kathy would be content to let the yard become a jungle before doing anything about it.  I have, my entire adult life, had a chair in the bedroom that I just PILE UP WITH CRAP.  But in general, we are a bit wacko.  And boy, do we have opinions.  Lots of them.

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