Cracked (#192)

Like most couples, my husband and I divided up our chores based on our abilities. Since my husband was unable to see dirt, I cleaned. Since I was unable to see any problem with eating Kraft Mac & Cheese mixed with Hormel Chili several times a week, my horrified husband cooked. He grew vegetables in the backyard; I maintained planters of flowers in the front.

I walked and trained our rescue dogs. I cleaned the cat litter box. I fed/ vetted/ medicated/ washed all four animals. I did the laundry. I swept the patio and front steps. I mowed the lawn. I washed dishes. With 4 shedding animals, I vacuumed every other day.

Andy washed the cars.

Obviously — at least to me — chores weren’t exactly even, but since Andy made most of the money and had the health insurance, I sucked it up. I mean, yeah, I did sometimes resent Andy for sitting on his ass in the evenings and on the weekends, while I still had dishes, vacuuming, and dogs.

Also, he never thanked me without prompting – possibly because he never noticed the difference between a clean house and a dirty one. Which is understandable, I told myself. I mean, people don’t actually notice the absence of dirt or bugs in a house. But they’d certainly notice a scuttling roach or a dog fur dust bunny the size of an orange.

On the other hand, I heaped effusive praise on my husband’s fabulous cooking and clean cars. He soaked it up, but never once thought to return the favor.

He also never heard the occasional resentful muttering over the roar of the vacuum, the rumble of the dryer, or the rush of water running in the kitchen. Our questionable division of labor continued.

Until I tore my right quadriceps muscle. I was on crutches for a month.

After a week, one of my neighbors walked by and saw me sniffling as I made my way up our front steps. She hurried over. “Autumn! What happened? Does it hurt?”

“I’m fine,” I told her. “But my garden is a wreck and there’s a dog-hair based ecosystem under the dining room table and my dogs stink and the poor cats’ litter box hasn’t been cleaned in days and I’m pretty sure there’s an ant farm in the front closet, too, but I’m fine, great, even,” I insisted, as a tear trickled down my face.

My neighbor was a working mom a few decades older than me. She had a teen daughter and a retired husband. She patted me on the back and gave me a phone number, saying, “I know just how you feel, girl. This is my house cleaner. And I’ll send over my gardener when he comes by this week.”

“You have a house cleaner AND a Gardener? Really? But your husband is home all day!”

She snorted. “Yeah, and making messes in the kitchen and definitely not weeding. Outsourcing saved my sanity and my marriage. Give it a shot.”

“I don’t know. Andy hates spending money.”

“Tell him pest removal services aren’t cheap. And neither is divorce.”

But I tucked that card away, along with my feelings of failure, as I painstakingly crutched my way inside. Instead of picking up the phone, I picked up dishes and wiped down sticky counters.

I set up vinegar traps for the increasing fruit fly population around Andy’s precious compost bucket. Then I lowered myself to the floor and scooted around on my butt, scooping out the cat box and collecting dust bunnies from under the couch.

Cleaning took hours. Andy, as usual, never noticed my efforts. Instead, he grumbled when I reminded him that the dogs needed to be fed and walked. He grumbled some more when I asked him to empty the dishwasher. And when I mentioned vacuuming, he didn’t even answer.

I went to shower, then rested and elevated my leg to recover from showering. When I eventually made it to the kitchen again, the place was a mess. Dishes weren’t put away, papers covered the counter, and dirty carrots direct from the garden covered the clean tablecloth I’d just put on the table.

Andy nonchalantly sipped a beer.

“ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?!” I screamed. And because the Ashbough temper goes from 0 to Psycho in under .01 seconds, Andy didn’t have time to respond before I snatched up a plastic measuring cup and threw it across the kitchen.

No, I did not throw it at my husband.

I wish I had, though. Andy’s reflexes are excellent. He would have dodged it.

Instead, I heaved it in the opposite direction, at the corner of the room. Because my aim sucks when I’m mad, that little plastic measuring cup hit the window instead.

The glass in the window cracked.

I burst into tears, wailing, “NOOOOOO! Now that’s just one more goddamned thing I have to take care of and I did it to myself! WAAAHHHHH!”

I sank down onto the disgusting floor (you didn’t think Andy had actually vacuumed, did you?) and bawled for ten minutes. Andy gave me a wide berth as he slunk around the kitchen, belatedly tidying up as I sobbed about how hard it was to clean, and what a jerk he was for being inconsiderate, and how I’d waited on him hand and foot through two surgeries and multiple bouts of bronchitis, etc., etc.

I eventually apologized for losing my shit. Very profusely.

Andy apologized for not cleaning. Very perfunctorily.

“Bullshit,” I sniffled. “You can’t even see all the carrot dirt on the table and you just think I’m insane. Which I am, I broke the window, how could a tiny plastic cup even do that, WAAAAAHHHHH!”

“C’mon, honey, let’s get you some tissues,” Andy said, hoisting me up and handing me my crutches.

“Don’t need tissues,” I told him. I put my head on his shoulder and wiped my snotty face on his shirt. “See?”

Andy rolled his eyes. “Yeah. I see.”

“Really? You can see snot but not carrot dirt? How is that even possible?!”

“It’s a gift.”

“Your gift is my curse, damn it.”

*****

The next day, I called my neighbor’s house cleaner. She was at our house in days, vacuuming and mopping.

By the following week, we had gardeners, too. They came every week to mow the grass and blow the leaves off our patio and front steps.

And the cracked window? Well, it turned out to be a special, expensive window, made with privacy glass and argon gas. It was also the largest window in the house. Months passed before we could afford a replacement. But that was okay. Every day, that glass reminded me not to let resentment fester and explode, lest I put cracks in something more precious than glass.

Andy never told me what he thought about the broken window. Maybe, like dirt, the crack didn’t bother him. He left it to me to explain to guests and eventually replace. Shockingly, my frugal husband never said a word about the cost of the new window.

Or a housecleaner or gardener, either.

Published by

Autumn Ashbough

WF writing about the humorous perils of life with Chinese-American significant other.

28 thoughts on “Cracked (#192)”

  1. If you can in any way afford it, hiring help is the way to go. We are both retired and I retained my cleaning people when I retired. My husband likes to mow but if he doesn’t we’ll have to hire because there is no way I am adding more chores on my schedule. I am amazed you lasted as long as you did without blowing up before. I know, he does cook an excellent meal. But still…..
    BTW My hub can’t see dirt either or hairballs. He did find a dead mouse this week and disposed of it right away.

    1. Andy definitely draws the line at dead animals. And since he can see those, disposing of them is his job. When he’s home. But he’s not always home…

      I think I lasted 2 years. It was still mortifying to have a tantrum, though. 🙂

  2. Smart man. Smart woman.

    My boyfriend is, to be perfectly frank, a slob. Our housecleaner, Lucy, is a superwoman and my relationship would definitely die without her.

    1. Let’s hear it for Lucy, then!

      Do you ever think of what goes into the making of a slob? Is it strictly genetics? Upbringing? I know Andy doesn’t see dirt — or even worry about the broken window — because he got used to that sort of environment as he grew up.

      1. I was actually just thinking about that this morning. I’m really not sure, although slobbishness does seem to be a trait in Ray’s family. He takes it to new levels though – oftentimes he doesn’t remember to put on different clothes before going to work in the morning – he wears the same clothes he slept in.

          1. I am a slob who is married to a slob and did not grow up with slobs. I do believe it is partly genetic and partly gender-based. My husband wasn’t a huge slob when we met, but he easily slipped into slobdom with me – that’s the part I think is gender. Because he doesn’t see it as his responsibility, and because he knows I’m the one who is judged more harshly when people see our house, he can mostly look the other way. But not seeing dirt in the first place is, for me, an inborn trait. I think it has to do with a certain visual sensitivity – I also can barely dress myself in any sort of outfit that looks deliberately chosen, my house lacks any sense of having been decorated (it’s just an assortment of random stuff), and it takes about a day for my mind to not notice that something was “left out on the coffee table” and instead see something that “just lives on the coffee table.” I have been like this as long as I can remember. Hired help is wonderful for real cleaning but will do nothing for the day-to-day messiness of a real slob.

  3. You lasted two years?? Wow what patience. 😉 seriously hiring cleaning help is the way to go, if you can afford it. I have someone come in twice a month to clean (I clean on the off weeks) and a yard service monthly to do the heavy lifting. Definitely worth it as I’m way too busy working to add a long list of chores as well.

    1. I wish I was more patient. A patient person doesn’t throw stuff.

      The problem with having a cleaning person is that you still have to tidy up before they show up, they don’t generally do litter boxes, and several people I know have been robbed of jewelry or small valuables, but didn’t realize it until weeks later. As for gardeners, Andy complains that they mess up his drip system and once they cut back the blackberry bushes he was cultivating. Sometimes they weed the freesia and not the weeds, too. I tell Andy he can fire the gardeners any time and take over…

  4. My wife is like Andy, she can cook like a star but cleaning…seems dust doesn’t exist in her vocabulary. So I end up doing all the cleaning in the household (laundry as well) while my wife does not even have to cook anymore as either MIL is cooking or we eat at my parents.
    However my wife can do some intensive cleaning in case we have visitors coming. Then she is like a mad women cleaning every corner in the apartment for hours. But once the guests are gone it all goes back into the not-seeing-any-dust-mode

    1. So your wife can only see dirt if she thinks other people might see it? Like dirt empathy or something. Well, that’s better than my husband.

      Maybe you can schedule regular visitors.

      Also, how is it, eating all the MIL’s cooking?

  5. I think my husband and I were about the same: fairly neat and clean and a little bit sloppy. He didn’t do his paperwork though. He gave that job to me the first week of our marriage. He opened envelopes, looked at what was inside, and then put it right back in the envelope. You’d think throwing away the envelope would be easier than putting the letter or bill back inside.

    Your story, though, reminds me of my oldest daughter and her husband. They both work, so their original plan was to split the work right down the middle. His cooking, though, was distinctly unimaginative, and he insisted that he shouldn’t be required to clean until the house got dirty enough to bother him–which it never did. My daughter is not a neat freak, but, you know, she wanted the house to be reasonably clean, so she did it all. After about five years of this, she was starting to get annoyed. Her younger sister told her to hire someone to clean. She waited another year or so and finally did. She grew up with maids in the Philippines, so you’d think it wouldn’t be hard for her. I think she wanted to be independent and do things for herself, even though both she and her husband were making good money and could afford to hire help.

  6. I was going to say “What a shitty glass, how come a plastic cup cracked it?” but then I remembered you are She-Hulk 😛

    I’m not super pissed by dust. We have a cleaning lady that comes once a week and she also does the laundry. If there are too many clothes piling up in the middle of the week it’s usually me the one taking care of them, but C. vacuums the dog hairs. Cooking, it’s pretty much evenly split. So for the moment we have no problems there. But if we didn’t have the cleaning lady and I had to mop floors and clean the toilet, I would have probably yelled at him by now.

    1. The cleaning lady is the great equalizer! Whose idea was she? Mine doesn’t do laundry, alas. Or wash dogs.

      I don’t think I’m that strong…I just hit the glass exactly wrong.

      1. We hired her when I went to Shanghai to work, because we didn’t want to spend the weekends cleaning.

        We don’t wash the dog ourselves either, we take her to the pet store, where they are professionals and have a huge hair dryer xD

  7. Hahahhaa. I feel better knowing I’m not alone. I suppose if I wanted to (and I have, trust me) I can tally up the unequal household chores and duties. BF is the same way as Ray and Andy, he doesn’t see it and our standards are *ahem* very different.

    Maybe I should consider a cleaner…hmmm. One day…

    😀

    Hope you’re all healed up now!

    1. Oh, my torn quad was all better fast — or at least much faster than the window. Now it’s my broken finger that’s impeding cleaning and brining back delightful dynamics. Haven’t thrown anything this time.

      Maybe I’m more patient.

      Or maybe because it’s my hand instead of my leg.

  8. You poor thing! All I can say is: MEN. Why are they such slobs? Do you think it’s because their moms just baby them so much? The only clean man I met is a Japanese man, and I think that’s cause they force the kids to clean the school everyday, haha. When I went to my fiancee’s place in Santa Rosa to help him move I was shocked at how filthy it was (I hadn’t lived with him for 7 months)…. when a woman is gone man, everything goes to hell.

    I also go from calm to psycho in 0.1 seconds, I’ve been known to throw stuff and slam doors… I think I need a cracked window to teach me patience as well!

    Poor Autumn! I hope you’re feeling better!

    1. I think some of it is learned — I had girlfriends bitch about husbands who would drop their pants right next to the clothes hamper without a second thought. Like that little extra effort to put dirty clothes in the actual hamper was too much. Usually those guys were wealthy and had maids tidying up after them or moms who did everything.

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