Today, after 18 years of marriage, I learned the distinction between a dish towel, a dish cloth, and a dish rag. I am very excited, because this has been the closest thing to a Contentious Issue my otherwise blissfully peaceful marriage has known.
I was on the phone with my sister. My wife was sitting on the couch when I noticed some condensation on the window behind her. We have had a problem with mold in that corner, so I stepped into the bathroom, grabbed a small damp towel from its hook over the sink, and blotted the moisture from the window. My wife lurched, but did not interrupt my conversation. When I rung off, however, she was waiting with a stack of linens in her lap. “Sit down”, she said quietly. “We are going to go over this one more time.”
We had been over this umpteen times before. Somehow, I, a reasonably intelligent fellow, could not grasp the principles underlying the usage of the various linens in our household. Despite well-meaning best-intentions, I often found myself misusing a towel. Or a cloth. Or a rag.
What I learned is immaterial. You cannot benefit from the guidelines I finally grasped today, because I am certain different guidelines apply in your household. What I can share with you is this:
A. Are you the annoying spouse who can’t seem to get it right?
1) Don’t give up. If you’ve been over it umpteen times, go for Umpteen-plus-one.
2) Communicate your willingness to learn. You may feel your spouse has given up on you in this area. Bring it up, say, once a year, preferably on or near your anniversary. “Dear”, you might say, as you tie up the garbage without having been asked first, “can we go over that thing about the towels/toilet seat/clothes hamper/dish tub/shower drain just one more time? I’d really like to see if I can get it this time.”
B. Are you the annoyed spouse, married to the imbecile who, year after year, continues to pretend he/she does not comprehend your tool sorting / record album organizing / bill filing / trash hauling / child care / household maintenance / budget planning / fill-in-the-blank RULES, even when you have dumbed them down to the bare-bones-basics?
1) Re-examine the possibility that your spouse is not in fact lazy, cruel or manipulative — just dense. I’m an engineer, and it took me eighteen years to figure out why I got smacked every time I wiped off the table — or the floor — or the toilet — or the coffee cup — with the same cloth.
2) Embrace humility. Guess what? I promise you there is something about your spouse that you just don’t get, and it’s not because you are mean, or you don’t care, or you are power-tripping. It’s just because you are dense too. Like me.
I am looking forward to a very Happy New Year. The first friend I told of my new insight said “That’s wonderful. I am sure you will make your spouse very happy by using the right cloth in the future.”