It's not about the house.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

What We've Got Here Is...

The Big Looming Problem in Johnny’s and my relationship – the one that causes all the donnybrooks (thanks, Sparkle, for the word!) and that we’ve not yet figured out how to defuse – is this: we each accuse the other of “Not listening to me!”

But the things is (and this is one huge, giant realization we’ve come to in just the past few months, so I will be expecting some measure of applause): we both do listen. Really well, in fact. We just aren’t either of us always so clear with the talking.

Things like “Do you want a cup of tea?” “Yes, please” – those we’ve got down pretty solidly by now. But things like “Do you want to go to Home Depot after work?” “Okay” can sometimes cause a row.

Take that example I just gave. In that one, the problem really boils down to his Irish sense of time (not my American one, nuh-uh – because, you see, we’re living in America. When and if we move to Dublin to fix up that other house (heaven forbid), then my Americanness will be the problem. But, for now, this one’s his fault entirely). See, when I say “after work,” he hears “sometime between work and bed, or maybe even some other day entirely.” But what I mean is “be here with your coat on, watching for me out the window, and run out when you see me pulling up.”

Okay, I’m not really quite that anal, but almost. And anyway, you see my point.

But you’d think, wouldn’t you, that, after ten years, at least one of us would start to learn? I might specify an hour on the clock, or he might sometimes at least pretend to acknowledge that he knows what country he calls home.

Ahem. Sorry. Back to rational discussion.

The truth is that we have. I do sometimes give him a specific time. And when I do, he meets it. In his own Irish way. Meaning certainly within the hour. So I sometimes lie to him about specific times, if they’re important. Plane reservations, weddings, doctors appointments. I tell him we have to be there anywhere from fifteen minutes to an hour earlier than is really necessary. This worked for a while, but the problem was: we’d get there, and he’d find out the truth. So this only reinforced his notion that time is relative and not meant to be taken literally.

(A similar time warp takes place between our house and the pub. He goes up for “a pint” then stays a couple hours. I ask him why he can’t just say he’s going for a couple hours, he says why can’t I just understand that that’s what “a pint” means? Well, because it’s not, that’s why! After ten years of this, however, I have at least figured out the following: if he’s already been there for a couple hours, and he calls to say he’ll be home in twenty minutes, all it means is “Whoops, I just looked at my watch and wanted you to know I’m still alive.” You see? I am learning. Baby steps.)

Anyway, I didn’t start out this morning to talk about the Irish/American space/time continuum. I came here to talk about the AssVac. So here’s what caused the donnybrook the other night:

For years, we have been planning – in a nebulous, “someday” sense of the word – on putting in a breakfast nook where the old cabinets used to be. It was one of very few things about this house that was suggested, I don’t even remember any more by whom, and agreed on without discussion. Of course, in retrospect, that probably should have been the tip off there was something not quite right.

You see, although I’m sure there is some official definition somewhere of what a “breakfast nook” exactly is, we each had our own interpretation of the concept. To Johnny, it meant building an actual booth into the corner, with a dividing half-wall, into which he could slide his nice red table and chairs. Like this (except for this is not to scale but I don’t feel like doing the whole thing over – the space in the middle, where I wrote the word “wall,” is actually about half that size):

To me, it meant building in a couple benches and getting (or building) the perfect-sized new table that would slide right in. Like this:

And we had never talked about it. We thought we agreed on what to do here, but had never said so much as one word about it until the other night.

To me, building his wall would mean closing off again all the space that we just opened up by pulling the old cabinets out. To him, building my benches meant getting rid of his (admittedly fabulous) table and chairs. To him, me wanting those benches meant I thought that precious open space was more important than letting him keep one of the very few possessions he’s managed to hold on to for his entire adult life.* But he never said that.

What he said was “Fine. Do what you want. I don’t care.” To which I said “Why does it have to be like that? Can we not discuss this and agree on something?” To which of course the answer was a resounding no. And we were off.

Finally, finally, finally – after dishes had been slammed and water and glasses (okay, one glass) had been thrown around the room; after donnybrooks had dissipated and we'd both slept on it and nursed our bruises (figurative bruises, sheesh!) – I understood what he was really mad about. And last night, thanks to a therapy session on the phone with My One Friend, we came up with what we all agree (at least, I think we really do) is a workable solution.

But I can’t tell you right now what it is. Because I’m American, and I’ve got a schedule to keep.

*Seriously, the rest of his stuff from before we met fits in a steamer trunk. This is mostly because he tends to trust the wrong people with his things, and then both things and people disappear. Which is really his own fault. Even after being burned repeatedly for almost fifty years, he still believes that man’s basically good. This is one of the reasons that I love him. I only wish he’d find a Good Man to entrust with some of the junk he’s accumulated in the attic and basement since we moved here.


Khurston said...

Sucker. my reply when it degenerates to 'i don't care do what you want' is 'great thanks!'
now if we could just agree i'm always right, it'd be a lot easier.
ps - have you decided to make a torn up kitchen a st patricks day tradition?

Anonymous said...

A half wall would still give the appearance of space and keep the kitchen open.

Jenni said...

I didn't know the Irish and the Greeks had that same since of time.
It must be an... Old World.. kind of thing.
Chris (who's dad is Greek) always says "in a little bit" which could mean.. 2 seconds from now or next year. And after work for him, means, 8-9:00. Now he usually gets off at 5-5:30.
If we have an certain time to be somewhere, I tell him 30 minutes sooner.

Amalie said...

We SOOOO acted out this scenario a few days ago. As we continue unpacking, I imagine it will be happening over and over and over again...

cake said...

Unfortunately, my Irish ancestry must bleed through on the whole "going to the pub for a pint" me, it means staying for a couple of hours and having nice conversation and at least two pints, nachos, and a cup of tea.

To Mr. Cake, it generally means a single pint, something to eat, and then home again.

We're working on it. Heh. said...

No wall, no benches, table & chairs stay.

At our house the Fiance has no sense of time. Last night at 10pm he wanted to take a nap before we finished up cleaning after the mouse incident. I said "WTF? Are we finishing this at 2AM!?!?!?" and he said "umm, ok, did you want to do it now?".

Hells Mutha Yes Now.

Ladyscot said...

That wayward sense of time is a man thing! My Scottish upbringing has me agreeing with Johnny on the "pint". And I think you should compromise on the breakfast nook. Put the bench on the wall, sit the table in front of it and the chairs on the outside...just my opinion. (No clue on the half wall - depends how things fit)

EGE said...

Khurston -- Dang, you have got this whole marriage thing DOWN!

Bob -- we're working on the plan. I'll probably write about it here on Saturday.

Jenni -- Yup. And Turks and French and all of South America. Not the Swiss, though. If the Swiss tell you a time, you'd better be there, dammit!

Amalie -- Aha! I KNEW it was not just us.

Cake -- Oh, no, I don't have a problem with the staying all night (especially if I'm there, too), just the insisting every time that that is not the plan! We're working on it, too. Heh, too.

ILU -- How about no wall, ONE bench, table & chairs stay? Good compromise? Hells mutha yes good!

Ladyscot -- Hm. You could have something there about the time-sense being a "man" thing. It does seem all the folks sympathizing with me here are women, talking about their boys...

Chris said...

Wife says;
"Sucker. my reply when it degenerates to 'i don't care do what you want' is 'great thanks!'

Now I know the code!! I repeat

Amalie said...

And let us not forget 4H...

Yeah. So, you don't go and die, either, ok?

Amalie said...

HA! Posted my last comment on the wrong post. Sigh.

Friday. End of week. Need beer...

theotherbear said...

I'm just trying to figure out how you use the stairs with a fridge in the way.

EGE said...

You use the doors, silly!