My friend Linda has a theory that the qualities that first attract you to a mate are the same ones that will annoy the crap out of you later. So if, for instance, it’s his mild- mannered agreeableness you first fall in love with, you can be sure that in due course you will find yourself screaming, “JUST MAKE A DECISION!” If, at the start, you admire her vegetarianism, eventually it will ruin every meal you eat together. And if you are thrilled by the extravagant way he tosses around his credit card while you’re courting, you will later feel compelled to snatch that card out of his generous little hands and snap it in two before your children’s entire college fund disappears.
By this logic, I can only surmise that my husband once found endearing my inability to close any cabinet or drawer I open. For awhile, he proved quite tolerant of this foible, following me around the kitchen closing doors behind me. But the magic wore off by the thousandth time he bonked his head, a milestone I believe we hit last week. I am not suggesting that this is my only or even my biggest shortcoming, but it is probably the most obvious one–and certainly the most hazardous. My brother once walked into our kitchen, looked down at a bank of drawers neatly arrayed like a flight of stairs and remarked, “A perfect trifecta!” Another time I was at a friend’s house and her husband came downstairs, found us and said, “I knew you were here because all the kitchen cabinets are open!”
I can offer no satisfactory explanation for this character flaw. I’m too busy? Always in a rush? I’m just going to open them again later anyway (the same justification I use for not making the bed)? Our house is so old they don’t shut all the way? The point is, despite my best intentions, I can’t seem to close a drawer. The good news is that while it does, in fact, drive Mr. 7o Percent crazy, he has mastered the art of letting it go. That’s the real story of marriage, isn’t it? Not all that embracing and accepting nonsense, but just letting things go. Mostly my husband achieves this by mocking me relentlessly–and always checking for protruding corners before he stands up.
Now, I have very few pet peeves of my own, but my children manage to fulfill most of them: wet towels on the bed, dirty socks on the floor, ketchup-caked plates on the coffee table, a TV blaring in an empty room. But since I view the kids as works in progress, I am more forgiving. After all, it’s my duty to break them of those habits, which explains my endlessly repeated mantra: “Hang up your towel. Pick up your socks. Dishes in the dishwasher. Turn off the TV.”
With my husband, I’ve given up. After 18 years of marriage, I recognize that his foibles are as ingrained as my open cabinets. In addition to leaving roughly 30 percent of every task incomplete, he possesses the uncanny ability to embark on a non-essential outing at the least convenient moment.
So I wasn’t really surprised when he came rushing into the kitchen last week, two hours before we were to host a Passover Seder for 21 people. “I need to go to Staples!” he said. He had been clearing off the dining room table, which was covered in bills and tax forms. “Why?” I asked calmly. “I need to buy some files for all those papers,” he said. I muffled a snicker: another of his foibles is the perennial quest for the ideal organizational system. It’s like he’s waiting for Godot, or searching for the holy grail: if he can just find the perfect storage bin or expandable wall file, his life will fall effortlessly into place. But because I’m practicing letting it go, I kept my mouth shut and focused on heating up the matzo ball soup. And when I opened the cabinet to take out the salt, I even remembered to close it.