Once, early on in our marriage, I came home for lunch and there was a dirty glass on the counter with a note next to it:
“Might I gently suggest that your habit of drinking V-8 without rinsing out the vessel afterward might have a lot to do why so many of our glasses have taken on a permanent cloudy hue? If you could take care of this, it would be as good for the glass as it would be for our relationship.”
My response to him went something like:
“While I recognize the connection between the opacity of our glassware and the strength of our marriage, might I gently suggest in return if you run across some mess I carelessly made, it could be highly effective to just freaking clean it up first, and THEN remind me to not be such a pig next time?
“P.S. Your gym socks are much happier in the laundry basket than they are on the bathroom floor, in case you’re wondering where they’ve gotten to. They send their regards.”
There now, isn’t that the cutest? That was back when we had time to be polite even as we indulged our snarky senses of humor.
Today nobody has the bandwidth for polite notes to point out what a jerkwad someone is for leaving a big freaking mess for someone else. Instead, I personally resort to grumbling under my breath or outright losing my bananas and yelling.
“WHO thought it would be OKAY to dribble MONKEY FIGHTING cherry SNAPPLE on their way through the LIVING ROOM?”
That’s the kind of stuff that comes out of my mouth now (only substitute the language about dueling primates with the phrase from the version of Snakes on a Plane that was not dubbed for commercial television).
Then I feel bad because I just cussed like a sailor in front of my kid who shouldn’t have been given 20 ounces of artificially colored sugar water in the first place.
Usually when I feel bad we can’t keep anything nice, it’s because we’re expecting company, and I’ve started to clean and notice that all the baseboards have dings in them because nobody can run a vacuum without slamming it into the wall once in a while. Or I’ve just made a pass through the area downstairs that the boys have claimed as their own (making that a full two-thirds of our house that they think is theirs to mess up as they please) and discovered a bowl of melted strawberry ice cream with a spoon stuck in it. For God’s sake I can’t remember when we ever had strawberry ice cream. Maybe that wasn’t even ice cream. Maybe my kids have been eating Pepto-Bismol. All I know is now the spoon is stuck to the bottom of the bowl like a construction hard hat to a steel beam in one of those Crazy Glue commercials.
Once there was a woman in my book club who said something that comes back to me in moments like this.
“When I walk into a house where there are children, there’s always a distinct smell.”
She didn’t say whether this was a good smell or a bad smell, and she may not have even realized she was coming across like a judgmental old biddy. But the statement has always left me feeling … well first like I really still want to go find that woman and punch her right in the face for being such a prissy idiot.
Then of course I wonder what my house smells like.
I don’t have a very sensitive sniffer so people can get away with a whole bunch of stuff before I’m any the wiser. I have a ten year-old who probably hasn’t changed his underwear in three days. Unless someone is oozing around here they can pretty much get away without showering until they feel like it.
What I realize when I’m calm is that we live in this house, in these clothes, with this furniture. We don’t spend a fortune on anything because (and we do tell ourselves this when we notice how ratty the couch looks) we value experience over material goods. We like to travel, go to the theater or live concerts instead of replacing our living room furniture every five years. I don’t think that would change no matter how long we could keep our glassware sparkly.
My grandmother passed down a set of crystal goblets to my family. My sister and I were allowed to drink a half a glass of white wine from them at every holiday dinner growing up. My dad was proud of saying that his mom (whom my sister and I knew growing up as “Honey” because that’s what my granddad called her) believed there’s no use in keeping nice things unless you were going to use them. By the time my sister and I came along, those goblets had yellowed with age. They’re still gorgeous, but one is missing from the set. I think my mom broke it, and she probably felt really bad about it for years. Still, Honey knew the risks, and set those goblets out every holiday like my mom still does today.
I’m going to take the preemptive step of suggesting that if those goblets are coming my way someday, it would be better to wait until Mike and I have downsized into a perfect little condo, with a perfect little china cupboard to display our beautiful glassware. The boys will have moved out by that time and we’ll have given away any pets or plants we still have. We’ll lock the place up and return for intermittent visits in between trips to exotic lands …
… Where we can dirty other people’s glasses.