Wednesday, July 20, 2011

On opposites

Opposites attract, right? Because it’s a saying, and a song too, and Paula Abdul wouldn't lie to us about being attracted to an animated cat who steals the covers.

As I was cleaning up the piles of books purged from my husband’s book hoard, including travel guides from the 80’s and roughly 300 back-of-the-toilet books about cats, I found myself contemplating opposites. He hoards. I purge. It’s one of the realities of our relationship, one of the domains in which we used to clash, but a difference we have come simply to accept with humor and just a tinge of eye rolling. But this dichotomy between us, is it even really true? (Dichotomies rarely are, after all.) I mean, I have something like 100 pairs of shoes, many of which haven’t fit me properly since my pregnancy. I do love to purge stuff and get belongings out of my house and out of my life forever. And I can be truly ruthless about it. But I am not by any means the world’s best purger. I hold on to things for sentimental reasons as much as the next person, unless the next person is my husband. He’s not a true hoarder like on TV. He just has a sentimental attachment to objects at a level I find mystifying.

Here’s another example. Married to anyone else, I suspect I would be the ooey-gooey parent. I am a firm believer in the “choose your battles” approach to parenting, and I don’t choose a whole lot of battles. No biting or hitting. Absolutely no whining. No eating junk if you haven’t eaten something that looks like real food. And go to sleep so I can watch The Bachelorette in peace. That’s pretty much it. Not really, but pretty much. If they want to jump on the couch or dump out the matchbox car bin, whatever. I’ll make them separate meals from us if we’re eating something they don’t like or don’t know whether they like. I don’t care. They have to try a bite of what we’re eating, but I’d rather they eat some rotisserie chicken from the grocery store and a bunch of raw fruits and veggies than fight to make them eat a taco. I don’t threaten big punishments like “We won’t go to the birthday party,” because I don’t want to have to follow through on that, so things never get more serious than a time out around here.

We joke, when the kids won’t sleep, about which of us will go in to “beat them.” (We have never hit our kids, not even a little slap. The “beat them” is purely a joke between us, and we never say it in front of the kids.) “Pause Tivo, please, so I can go in and beat them,” I’ll say when the sounds of giggling and bed-jumping get loud enough to detract from DVR'd episodes of The Voice. Here’s what “beating them” looks like. I go in, use my stern-Mommy voice, and tell them it’s bedtime. I vaguely threaten to take toys out of their bed if I have to come in again. Then, if it’s before 10pm or so, I probably kiss or hug them before leaving. Yeah, I know, my kids have it rough.

And I’m the heavy.

My husband will go in to “beat them,” and I will come in 15 minutes later, bored of playing scrabble on my phone, to find him in the recliner with a kid or two gleefully snuggled in his lap.

So I’m the disciplinarian and he’s the softy. Opposites, I guess. Because someone has to be the disciplinarian. Someone has to be the purger or we would end up on an episode of Hoarders. Someone has to be the social director. Someone has to be responsible with the money. Oh wait, crap, neither of us has actually stepped up to that one. Well I’m not doing it. I have to be the disciplinarian, so I’m not being the purse string holder too. Both of those jobs suck.

So what was my point? (Clearly I am not the focused one). Oh right, my point was that I’m skeptical about the opposites attract thing. I’m starting to think that we drift into our opposite roles as a marriage goes on, finding our niches and then solidifying them in our self-concept. It’s how crap gets done. It’s how we don’t drown in a sea of outdated travel books. It’s how we don’t have kids who run wild like dingoes. Someone is the cook. Someone is the heavy. Someone is the neat-freak.

In the end, even though it’s a continuum and not a dichotomy, I’m kind of glad I’m the purger, because there’s no one to make me get rid of my shoes. Those things are totally gonna come back in style, I’m telling you. One day, they will be the height of retro-awesome.

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