I did not live with a man before I married Husband. It’s true that I shared a house with messy roommates all during my college years, and I did my fair share of complaining about living with those messy females. (My mom would just laugh when I complained. I know it’s because she thought I deserved those messy roommates because I hadn’t exactly been a tidy teenager. I know this because when I think about my boys one day complaining about their own messy roommates—if they even notice, that is—I think I’ll probably laugh with glee, too).
But those roommates were nothing compared to living with a man.
When Husband and I moved in together after our honeymoon days at Disney World, I was not prepared for all the ways we would do things differently. I guess it was good practice for raising six boys, but it sure was an awakening experience, to say the least.
He squeezed toothpaste from the bottom.
Maddening. Everyone knows that squeezing a toothpaste container from the top is what you’re supposed to do, so when you’re only left with a little bit in the tube, you can roll it up and feel much more satisfaction for getting something out of it and onto your toothbrush. If you’re constantly squeezing the tube from the bottom and roll as you go, you don’t have that same exquisite pleasure that there’s still some left and you bought yourself another day. There’s no surprise to it at all. Lame.
He didn’t hang up his clothes after laundry day.
Before we had kids, Husband and I lived in tiny little apartments with closets that were about the size of our rooms. We thought we were so lucky to have those walk-in closets—until I realized what Husband was going to use them for. That’s right. He used them for piling his clothes inside. Not hanging them up. Piling.
I couldn’t walk in a walk-in closet for years without stepping on clean clothes. “I’ll put them away tomorrow,” he always said. Tomorrow came and went. I still walked on a clothes carpet.
Over the years this has evolved. It began in our closet, and then we finally had The Talk, because I had to use the closet, too, and I didn’t like stepping over clothes all the time just to find something I could wear. I’m not the most graceful person in the world, and I was a runner. I didn’t want to sprain my ankle on something as silly as a mountain of clothes and not be able to run for six weeks. So the piles moved to a wing chair in our bedroom. And then they moved to his side of the bed, which means that come bedtime, they move to his side of the floor.
He’s the one tasked with helping the boys put away the laundry, since I do all the actual washing and folding, and all they really have to do is make sure they get their clothes in the dirty clothes hampers (which is apparently a really hard thing to do), but I’m starting to think that maybe this wasn’t the wisest plan, since most of the time all that laundry gets stacked and left out on banisters instead.
He walked out of his shoes and left them there.
If I had a dollar for every time I got up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night and tripped over one of his gigantic clodhoppers, we wouldn’t have driven an old Honda Civic for the first five years of our marriage.
He left his plate in the sink without rinsing it off.
This wouldn’t have been a huge deal. The problem was really that he liked to eat ranch dressing with everything. Have you ever smelled ranch dressing when it’s been sitting on a plate for a few hours? Disgusting. I couldn’t stand the smell, which perpetuated the problem, because once something got to where I couldn’t stand the smell, I wouldn’t rinse it off, either, which means the ranch dressing would make itself comfortable, hardening and inviting its moldy friends to come around and play.
Husband, of course, would turn a blind eye to the dishes with ranch dressing piling up on the sink, even though I’d done three loads in the dishwasher since the ranch had solidified. We used paper plates for a while after that, especially when I got pregnant with our first son and projectile vomited every time I came in contact with ranch dressing.
He put the detergent in after he started the washing machine.
Um. No. This little “master technique,” which is what he called it, left all sorts of streaks on our black clothes. He couldn’t figure out why, and then one day I watched him dump in the powder after the washing machine was filled with water. Novice error.
He didn’t close the door even in the middle of the summer if he was going “right back out.”
The problem is that “right back out” is very loosely defined in the world of a man. Husband would come in with the intent of grabbing something and going “right back out,” and then he would get distracted by something I was doing—because he’s a good guy who likes to help—and that door would stay open for ten minutes or more. Our air conditioner would try to cool the entire world, but we live in Texas, and it’s nearly impossible to cool just the house in the middle of summer.
“I’ll do it later” didn’t necessarily mean tonight.
“I’ll do it later” meant a variety of things. It could be later tonight, it could be in a week, it could be next year. Later is on a sliding scale of priority—not defined by me, but defined by Husband.
Tidying up meant stacking things into piles.
Don’t worry about putting it away, just simply stack it. Save yourself a little time and effort. It’s taken him a while to break this habit, but I did a pretty fine job helping him break it when I fell down our stairs carrying laundry while trying to dodge a pile he’d left on the third step from the bottom. I broke my foot in that fall, and he paid the price. We had six kids, and I could no longer run after them. One man down in a house of six boys is like a suicide mission.
No more piles.
All this changed, for the most part, when we had children—and not because he finally got tired of my nagging. I finally shut up. And he realized this house would be a sinking ship without his contribution.
So thanks, babe, for stepping up your game.
This is an excerpt from This Life With Boys, the third book in the Crash Test Parents series. To get access to some all-new, never-before-published humor essays in two hilarious Crash Test Parents guides, visit the Crash Test Parents Reader Library page.