I have a friend, whom I love very much, that I haven’t seen much of lately, mostly because she doesn’t really like my husband, and that makes being friends a little difficult. NurseRatchet is fun and witty and super intelligent and just generally a great person to hang out with, but she misunderstands my relationship with Mr. JB and that often leads to tension.
You see, Ratchet was a woman of stunning beauty when she was younger. She still is a very fine looking woman, but in her youth, oh wow. She looked eerily like this:
And she had a great deal of attention from men as a result. She turned down two marriage proposals, one from a cardiologist and one from an airline pilot, thinking that the glory days would never end.
But they did.
She ended up married to a man who has a bit of a spotty employment history, had two children in quick succession and now finds that she must work fulltime to have any sort of decent standard of living. Ratchet bitterly regrets casting away the doctor and the pilot, and she hates working. She envies my life and I suppose that is the basis of our friendship. Ratchet understands completely what a wonderful luxury it is to be at home, dependent on a man, and wishes she could have the life I have.
She absolutely sees what I do as work, but that is where our perspectives diverge. Ratchet thinks that Mr. JB does not show enough appreciation for the things I do – that my work goes unnoted. Her own marriage is a little more, egalitarian, shall we say, in terms of how domestic labor gets done, although she generally ends up doing more than Mr.Ratchet, and that makes her unhappy and angry and she feels “taken for granted”.
That feeling is one that women seem to complain about much more frequently than men, and it can have a very devastating impact on marriage.
What does it mean to be “taken for granted”? Essentially, it means that the work and effort you put into your relationship and life together is not acknowledged with either verbal or romantic gestures, and that communication about your daily lives has broken down, and by that definition, yes, Ratchet is correct: I am absolutely taken for granted.
I am also smart enough to see that the traffic on that street goes both ways. No, Mr. JB doesn’t thank me after every meal, and he doesn’t stand around applauding when I fold the laundry or unload the dishwasher. Guess what? I don’t thank him for going to work every day or for paying the bills, and quite frankly, I really don’t know what he does at work all day, nor do I particularly give a fuck. I have a general sense of what his job his, but the details, to me, are mind-numbing and I don’t want to hear about them.
Sometimes Mr. JB will try to explain some technical aspect of his job to me and I will slowly slump down to the middle of the kitchen floor, pretending that I am in a coma. That kind of irritates him, but I think it’s hilarious. Like he wants to hear about all the issues I had clarifying with the spice store that Cimarron is actually a type of oregano and I NEED it to make barbacoa properly?
Nope. He doesn’t give a shit what spices I use, just as long as it tastes good.
Honestly, it’s kind of hard for me to imagine what our relationship would look like if we were constantly communicating with each other about what we do all day and if we had to stop and acknowledge each other for every little contribution. Jesus, that would be a full time job, not to mention the fact that I DON’T CARE what he does all day, nor does he care what I do all day. At the end of the day, he wants to come home to a warm, friendly, reasonably clean house and something fabulous to eat, and I want to hand him the bills and never give them another thought.
We absolutely take each other for granted.
I think that when Ratchet looks at our relationship, she completely forgets what Mr. JB contributes: all the money to pay for our life. Because she imagines herself in my role, she only sees the work that I do, and she notices that it doesn’t get acknowledged very often, ignoring the fact that I don’t acknowledge what Mr. JB does very often either. I mean, not explicitly. My whole life is an appreciation for him, as is his for me. That just seems….self-evident.
The Sparkly Princess Cupcake narrative is looking more and more to me like the single most destructive cultural story out there. I find it interesting that while we have all the Disney movies in our house, they have never been the favorites for any of my children. My kids have always preferred the teamwork stories. The go-to videos feature a group of people working together to solve problems: Bob the Builder, Power Rangers, The Wiggles, Thomas the Tank Engine, Go Diego Go – they’re all about a team pulling together. And that’s not because I’ve imposed it, or even given it much thought. Those are just the stories my children are drawn to, likely because they are a reflection of how their own lives work.
I think a great deal of women’s unhappiness stems from the notion that they should be the star of their own show. No matter what it is they actually do, the spotlight should always be on them. And the applause must be deafening! Adulation! Glory! Me! Me! Me!
Not only is that a completely ridiculous way to live, it wouldn’t even be fun! Let’s say I took Ratchet’s advice to heart and gave Mr.JB the “we need to talk” look. I know my husband well enough to know exactly how he would respond. He would listen to me complain that he doesn’t say thank you enough and he doesn’t acknowledge me enough, and he needs to notice all the work I do in an explicit way (flowers!) and he needs to spend more time thinking about me and he would be having the following conversation with himself:
Oh fuck, here we go. Is this worth it? Do I really want to listen to this shit for the next twenty years? Is this worth fighting over? Should I tell her to go fuck herself and point out that she doesn’t exactly do cartwheels every time she turns on the tap and there’s hot water?
And he would reach the following conclusion:
Nope. Not worth it.
Then he would create a list of all the things I do every day, set up calendar alerts on his phone, write some sort of algorithm so that the alerts appear to be random, and text me little notes of acknowledgement when his phone reminds him to do so.
None of that would be because he truly, genuinely, deeply appreciates all those things. It would be because he doesn’t want to put up with any bitchy sulkiness and the whole thing would just be one giant pain in the ass. Maybe it’s just me, but my goal in life is not to be a whiny toddler my husband has to placate over and over again.
You see, Mr. JB DOES show his appreciation when he is truly moved to do so.
For those who don’t care to click through, the summary is that I pulled off a magnificent dinner party for 38 of Mr. JB’s colleagues and the senior administration including the President of the organization Mr. JB works for. It was a stunning, resounding success.
We got home from that party, and Mr.JB was absolutely overcome with gratitude and love and pride and he decided to show it. You should know that I am 5’6 and 130 lbs and Mr. JB is 6’2 and 200 lbs – so he’s quite a bit bigger than me.
He picked me up off my feet and gave me one of his Big Bear Hugs and ….
A little too much gratitude.
He broke my rib.
No seriously. He really did. He was, and is, completely wretched about it. It was a one in a million thing. And I recently had a bone density scan! Bones like concrete!
It really hurt, too. Took almost 6 weeks to heal! And of course, it took about two seconds for all the gallows humor to come out in our friends. I got lots of fridge magnets and flyers for domestic abuse hotlines, and lots of comments about how I should probably listen next time, blah blah blah.
And, as always, there is a silver lining in that cloud. Who thinks I played the “oh my poor broken rib!” card to win every little spat we had for months on end?
Of course I did! I used it yesterday, as a matter of fact. Mr.JB takes out the garbage in our house, and yesterday, he took care of that yucky little task on his way out the door to a meeting, but he FORGOT TO PUT A NEW BAG IN! So I texted him at work about it, knowing that when he is in a meeting, his phone will only go off if he gets a message or phone call from me.
You forgot to put the bag in the garbage can. Can you please come home and do it?
That irritates the hell out of him, and yes, this really is the kind of petty shit we argue about. When he got home he started to lecture me about abusing the fact that he never sets his phone to silent and always takes messages and calls from me no matter what, so naturally I responded by saying
What are you going to do? Break my other ribs?
Boom! Score one for JB! I win!
I never told Ratchet about the whole broken rib thing, because I really don’t think she would understand at all. It was an accident, and one that Mr. JB feels terrible about. In all fairness to Ratchet, she would feel that she was protecting me by taking sides against Mr. JB, but that is because she so deeply believes in the Princess story. She truly believes that women should be pampered and catered to and acknowledged and applauded and obviously, never, ever have their ribs snapped.
But that isn’t how life works. Accidents happen. Dealing with them with humor and fun and lightheatedness and genuine forgiveness and understanding leads to a much happier life. I go through life taking for granted that all the irritation and annoyance and frustration that comes along is secondary to the bigger picture.
I take a lot of my life for granted. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. It certainly helps me to understand that I am taken for granted in return, and that isn’t a problem that needs to be solved! It’s the basis for security and happiness and contentment. I take for granted that the members of Team JB are all working together, and I trust them to take for granted that I am, and always will be, pulling right beside them.
I don’t need daily acknowledgement of all the work I do. And I wouldn’t like having to live with somehow who wanted a constant stream of approval and back-patting. Gratitude, when genuine, is always appreciated and always nice, but it doesn’t have to be frequent.
I only have so many ribs!
Lots of love,