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 Texas : Features : Columns : "The Girl Detective's Theory of Everything"

Subtext

by Elizabeth Bussey Sowdal
Elizabeth Bussey Sowdal
If you have siblings you might remember fussing with them once in a while, tattling on some misdeed, holding a hurt in your heart rather longer than you should have before making up again. Perhaps there was even the occasional pinch or slap. Perhaps you did as I did when I was a child and sometimes hated my sister. I would wait until she went to sleep and then I would very, very gently rub the mosquito bites she spent all day bravely ignoring. You know, to activate the venom. To make them itch. I was awful, I won't lie.

Perhaps you have lived with a roommate who you eventually grew to despise. You began to notice that your apartment had a funny smell. By funny I mean a smell that was not your smell and which started out as being just a little thing you noticed and ended up being a reason to move out. There might have been little things your roommate did which bothered you; things like keeping the peanut butter in the refrigerator, or dropping the handful of hair she pulled from her hairbrush near the wastepaper basket, but not in the wastepaper basket. When you live in close proximity to another person, an imperfect person, a person who is not you, there is bound to be sooner or later friction.

This holds true for marriages too. Even the most loving and civilized of marriages have some days which are better than other days. No two people can live together without these days and you can only hope that they are few and far between. I have been married twice. The first time doesn't even bear thinking about, let alone telling you about. This second time has been so much better. We have certainly had our little spells, our funny little tiffs, the odd moment when we might have, oh, you know, set each other on fire as soon as looked at each other. But over the years those times have become increasingly rare. We very seldom argue.

That is not to say that we are saints. Oh no! You cannot be married to a girl who used to feign sleep for hours in order to rub somebody else's mosquito bites and never get irritated. We have, however, evolved a different way of expressing our irritation. When we are stressed out by circumstances, tired, down-trodden and cranky we do not throw dishes or scream, "I hate you, ya big poo- head." We are adults. We are middle aged adults. We are above that type of behavior and even if we were not, we do not have the energy for it anymore. Instead we have subtexts.

I come home tired and he comes home tired. There is nothing thawed to cook for dinner. The kids are not home, so there is no outlet for our ire. We have only each other. We might have a conversation which, if it were being monitored and transcribed, would seem benign. But I know him and he knows me. We know what we are talking about.

"What would you like for dinner, dear (because I know that you're not going to be happy with a sandwich, not you, not ever!)?"

"I don't know, honey. What do you feel like (because I know you expect me to just walk through the door after working ten hours and pull something out of my hat)?"

"Well, let's just see what is in the fridge (besides cat food, though why not eat cat food, it's got to be better than what you fixed last night)."

"Okay, but I'm not sure there's much there (since I seem to be the only one of us who ever remembers that there are more tiers to the food pyramid than Snickers.)"

"Maybe I'll just have some toast and tea (and maybe then we can stop this horrible conversation because all I want to do is turn on the tube and be quiet!)"

"Sounds good to me (maybe the tea will keep your mouth busy for a while and I can just turn on the tube and be quiet!). Would you like some cream in your tea (or maybe just a couple of scoops of double fudge nut ripple, eh?)?"

"Yes, I'd like some cream please (because, if you're implying that I am fat, let me go get the bathroom scale and we can have a nice friendly little weigh in)."

"Weebles wobble but they don't fall down (did I say that out loud?) ."

"What was that, dear?"
Elizabeth Bussey Sowdal
"The Girl Detective's Theory of Everything" >
January 22, 2007 Column
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