Dan Savage has a very funny and oh-so-true post about the myth of finding “the one:”
…[when] you meet somebody for the first time…they’re presenting their idealized self to you… Eventually, you get to see the person who is behind that facade of their best…what’s beautiful about a long-term relationship, and what can be transformative about it, is that I pretend every day that my boyfriend is the lie that I met when I first met him. And he does that same favor to me — he pretends that I’m that better person than I actually am. Even though he knows I’m not. Even though I know he’s not. And we then are obligated to live up to the lies we told each other about who we are — we are then forced to be better people than we actually are, because it’s expected of us by each other. –“The Price of Admission,” Dan Savage
When I moved in with my Chinese-American fiancé, his façade was peeled back. It began in the bathroom.
Andy had never left to toilet seat or toilet lid up when we had been dating. He was the only guy I ever dated who seemed automatically commode considerate. But once I moved in, well, Andy “forgot” to close the toilet lid. I grumbled, and reminded him, and he forgot again…until his fateful midnight trip to the bathroom ended in a hoarse scream of “Gah! Aliens!”
I ran into the bathroom, flipped on the light, and saw my black cat twisted upside down, interrupted in mid-drink from the toilet. Andy swore that Commando Cat’s black fur disappeared into the darkness, and all he could see were Commando Cat’s eyes, floating above the toilet and reflecting the hall light as an otherworldly, freaky blue. You know. Like an alien.
Because of course if aliens do invade, their first stop won’t be the UN or the White House. No way. They are going to stock up on water in random toilet bowls everywhere.
Andy always made sure the toilet lid was down after his close encounter of the feline kind. Midnight toilet terror must be pretty effective aversion therapy. All credit to Commando Cat. (Now, kitty, never drink out of the toilet again. There’s residual chemicals in there. Also, future face nuzzling shall be banned.)
I learned that Andy had a cleanliness facade. Every time I went to his place while we were dating, it was clean and tidy. I have since learned that he does not, in fact, notice dirt and clutter, let alone clean them up. (I suspect he hired a cleaning lady.) For example, Andy drinks 3 cups of coffee as soon as he gets up, and then takes two thermoses to work. If I walk into the kitchen after he’s had coffee, I might find a puddle on the counter, droplets sliding down the cabinet, a stain on the kitchen floor, or all three things. Andy, however, never notices any of the coffee residue, nor the dark brown dunes of coffee grounds on the kitchen counter.
He doesn’t notice cat hair on the carpet, either.
But what surprised me the most was the laundry. Or rather, the lack of laundry. Back when we were dating, I had to use a laundromat. Andy had a washer and dryer in his townhouse. He took away my bags of dirty laundry on Sundays. The next Friday, a basket of clean, neatly folded laundry was returned to me.
Well, those months of laundering turned out to be the biggest lie of all. My boxes weren’t even unpacked when I discovered there would be no folding of laundry. Hell, there was no more flipping of laundry, even, from the washer to the dryer. Andy would throw in a load of laundry, add detergent, start the machine, and then he was done. He expected some laundry fairy to swoop in and take over.
Yeah. Well, this laundry fairy got irritated. Andy didn’t always communicate. Sometimes I had no idea there was a wet load sitting in the washer, mildewing. The washer would have to be run again. Turns out the laundry fairy carries a strong strain of German blood that loathes waste and inefficiency. At the time, the laundry fairy was also leaving the house before 6 AM to fight hours of LA traffic, work out, work a full day, and returned home after 8 PM.
The laundry fairy resigned. One Saturday, after vacuuming, mopping up coffee spills, and collecting clean clothes to fold, I carried the laundry basket past Andy. He sat in a chair, either reading the news or playing a computer game. Relaxed. Happy. Enjoying his free time while I CLEANED UP AFTER HIM.
I did the only logical thing. I sat down next to him, and calmly explained my feelings of resentment. I politely, rationally requested that he help with more household tasks.
Well, that’s what I should have done. But it’s not what happened. Oh, no.
I dumped the laundry on his head.
Andy stared at me in wide-mouthed shock as underwear, socks, and tee-shirts rolled down his head and fell into his lap. He put down his tablet, picked up a tee-shirt, and folded it. He picked up a pair of panties, put them on his head, and said, “You know, honey, I always dreamed that someday women would throw their panties at me. This is just, um, not quite how I imagined it.”
For the most part, since that day, neither Andy nor I sit around on our butts while the other does household chores. I don’t, because I don’t wish to look like a hypocrite.
Andy doesn’t, perhaps because he’s afraid I might throw something heavier than panties.
Dan Savage says we become better people when we strive to be the idealized self we first presented to our partner. And I believe him. But if your partner starts to forget the exact façade he first presented to you, don’t be afraid to remind him of the person he claimed to be.
And girl, you throw those panties if you have to.