It is not always easy living with a man of Italian descent. Sure, you get all the pasta and eggplant parmagiana you could ever want, and there's always plenty of red wine in the house, but then there's that Mediterranean temperament.
B&c will be the first to acknowledge that he is the hothead in our relationship. His natural tendency to quick anger was probably exacerbated by living alone for nearly a decade after his youngest son (who shares my temperament as well as my first name) went off to college, but he has made some progress since we started living together, so we no longer have exchanges like the following:
B&c: You should fold your underwear like I do. TED: I'd rather do it the way I'm doing it. B&c: THEN MAYBE YOU SHOULD JUST MOVE OUT!
I exaggerate, but only slightly. Anyway, while it's no longer suggested on a monthly basis that I move out, there is still some sort of minor eruption (usually him swearing at something and me ignoring him) on a daily basis and a major eruption once a quarter or so.
Sunday evening, for example, I brought YFU home from her ballet rehearsal, and b&c asked what we were going to do about dinner. This was not the eruption, of course, but it was noteworthy: b&c always insists on making dinner himself. I only get to cook when we're having guests. Anyway, I volunteered to make something. He told me that he'd already started defrosting some tomato sauce, and that I could use that. I said I'd make some pasta and heat up some of the leftover green beans from Thanksgiving.
Then he started to quiz me about how the green beans had been prepared and to complain about the manner in which I'd prepared them. I ignored him and went to the kitchen, put a pot of water on the stove to boil, got a box of ziti out of the cupboard, and emptied the sauce into a large bowl, which I then put in the microwave so that the sauce could defrost. I started to cut up some leftover turkey to add to the pasta, and b&c came into the kitchen:
B&c: You're defrosting the sauce in the bowl? I usually defrost it in the container for the first few minutes and then finish defrosting it in the bowl. TED: [What possible difference can it make?] Hmmmm. B&c: You're using that pot to boil the water for the pasta? I usually use the saucepan. TED: [My pot's bigger, and it has a pasta insert.] Hmmmm. B&c: Let me find the spaghetti. TED: I already have some ziti out. B&c: I thought you would make spaghetti. TED: [I thought when you decided that you didn't want to cook, you would sit on the couch and drink your wine and leave me the fuck alone.] Hmmmm. B&c: Are you sure you want green beans? There's a package of spinach in the freezer. TED: I'm sure. [TED takes the defrosted sauce out of the microwave, adds the chopped turkey to it and returns it to the microwave to heat through.] B&c: [Petulantly.] You didn't just put the turkey in the sauce, did you? I hate that. I want to eat pasta when I'm eating pasta and turkey when I'm eating turkey. TED: Ball and chain [I use his full name when I'm angry with him], when you make dinner, do I stand in the kitchen and micromanage you? [B&c curses quietly but audibly as -- unasked -- he gets the parmesan cheese and begins to grate it. TED decides not to mention that he hadn't planned to use the parmesan because the turkey was brined any more salt would be too much. TED goes to set the table.]
At the table, b&c put the pasta on his plate and then picked the bits of turkey out of it and piled them up separately. He ate the green beans but complained about them. (In four years, I have never once criticized anything he cooked.) YFU and I thought everything was fine.
At this point, I knew there was potential trouble ahead. I did my very best to stay out of his hair because his explosions always build on a foundation of grumpiness. Typically, he's grumpy because he hasn't been fucked in more than two days (which I presume was also the case here, since he'd spent the preceding three days at his mother's house), but it can be almost anything. Everything was fine until after I'd put YFU to bed (she had lost a tooth, and I had to put money under her pillow after she was asleep). I was in EFU's old room, doing something on the computer, and he came in.
B&c: [grumpily]Oh. You're in here. TED: What? B&c: Nothing. I was going to sleep here. TED: Is something wrong? B&c: I think we need separate bedrooms. TED: I beg your pardon? B&c: I need more space, I need more freedom. This has been coming for a long time. We can't talk about this now. TED: Are you annoyed about something? [The answer to that question is almost always yes.] B&c: I'm not annoyed about anything. I just need to be able to come and go as I please. TED: What are you talking about? Who's stopping you? B&c: I just need my own space. I'm not sleeping well. We can talk about it when YFU's not here.
Maybe it's just me, but "We should have separate bedrooms" is one of those things that I would probably not bring up unless I were prepared to discuss it right when I brought it up.
I reckon I should know by now that when b&c does something like this, I shouldn't take it too seriously. But what if he means it seriously? How would I know? My response is always to feel very insecure about my living situation until I can get back to the office, take a look at my budget, take a look at condominium prices, run a tax projection, and reassure myself that, if necessary, I could swing buying a place of my own and still have enough left over to give the amount I've agreed to give to EFU for her tuition. After that I relax some.
Anyway, last night I went home, and b&c was getting used clothing ready for a Purple Heart pickup that was coming the next day. He asked me if I had any, and I said I thought so. Then I went and took a shower, went through the closet, pulled out some suits that were too big for me (I only wear suits at funerals any more, anyway), tried on a pair of jeans to make sure they still fit, and went to look for b&c, who had mysteriously disappeared:
TED: B&c? B&c: [from downstairs] Yeah? TED: Are we having sex now? B&c: Oh. Yeah. TED: I mean, I know we're not having sex right now, but can we have sex in the very immediate future? B&c: I know what you mean. I'll be upstairs in half a minute. TED: Verb tense is very important to me.
Sometimes I wonder whether I'm the wife in our relationship. I'm not trying to promulgate gender stereotypes here. God knows that in my parents' relationship, my mother was the one who threw things and my father was the even-tempered, oil-the-waters spouse. But when things have been tense in our household, I'm the one who keeps quiet and who tries to restore calm, generally by making sure that when we finally get around to the buttsex, I pound away for a few minutes longer than usual before I give up the semen. Then, in the aftermath, when b&c is in a much better mood, I calmly try to bring up what's bothering him. My initial reaction is to tell him to stop being such a fucking baby. I mean, really, who loses his shit over having some turkey in the freaking ziti? But throwing gasoline on a fire is not what I do, especially when it's over three bucks a gallon. I don't especially mind being the soothing one; on the other hand, if I'm going to be the wife, I should really get to stay home all day, prepare the meals, and bone the UPS guy. Life is so unfair.
Anyway, when we were at the dinner table having some wine and waiting for the casserole (he decided to try something new; most of it was dreadful; I did not complain) to cook through, I waded in. Apparently, he felt that there were too many restrictions on his freedom. I reminded him that he'd spent almost the entire summer abroad. I reminded him that he has anywhere from ten to eighteen hours a day when I'm at work and he can do whatever and whomever he wants. I reminded him that I'm perfectly capable of fending for myself (as evidenced by the several months when he was away) and that he cooks every night because he hates doing the dishes. And then I asked him to compare his free time with my free time. I also told him that I'd be perfectly happy sleeping in a different room, as long as I could still have morning sex on demand. But it turned out that the different rooms thing had been a canard. That's too bad, really. I like sleeping with b&c just fine, but I need a much darker room and a much softer bed than he does, and we only cuddle when we're awake. I'd be thrilled to sleep alone. Again, provided the morning-sex-on-demand condition is met. Which shouldn't be that hard to do: I'd have to pass by his bed on my way to and from the bathroom, so I could just climb in after a shower or a piss.
Anyway, calm settled once again over the household. The next time he's due to erupt is during tax season, when I'll be too busy to notice. He'll probably just fly off to Europe for a week instead. After dinner we had a much more pleasant conversation:
B&c: You really need to go on Silverdaddies. TED: Please. I'm 43. B&c: Uh huh. TED: We've been through this before. 43. B&c: It doesn't matter, there are a ton of twenty-year-old bottoms on there who are looking for, um, forty-three-year olds. TED: Twenty-year-olds bore me. You should be finding me wealthy older bottoms who are willing to pay for the pleasure of my company. I could use the revenue stream. B&c: Uh huh. What's in it for me? TED: The house gets thirty-five percent. B&c: Hmmmm. How much should I charge? TED: Dude. Pricing is a management decision. I'm labor, here. B&c: You know I've always been very pro-labor. TED: Yeah, yeah. Remind me to stick it to the man sometime in gratitude.