It doesn’t look like the epicenter of frustration and tears, does it?
Alas, this spot marks the culmination of epic arguments between Aaron and me. Most have been borne from an off-hand remark and then spiraled off into a platform for unloading the real issue that had been simmering under the surface for hours, days, weeks, or months. (Note: if your panties have been in a wad for months over something a partner has done to you, you’re the only one experiencing that level of chaffage. Unpluck the wedgie by working through that concern pronto — nobody likes surprises or Desitin).
The kitchen should be a place reserved for the creation of comforting, creative dishes; for laughter and a few spills. It’s the siren’s song, drawing people into the home, whether a long-time resident or a random Tuesday dine-and-dash. This one space offers gifts for all five senses (but it can also be the place to get burned. Ouch).
Our kitchen does take on these positive qualities most of the time. But, every once in awhile, this room morphs into our own version of a WWE Raw event. And it most often begins when one of us is standing at the sink.
A few months ago, Aaron pointed out: 90% of our arguments start at our kitchen sink. (My husband loves him some percentages. Next time you see him, ask him if he is a vegan). Back to the kitchen: There’s nothing that sparks anger or annoyance than feeling the pulsing vibrations of a nearby garbage disposal, am I right? It’s true: the rectangular section between the island and washing station appears to channel dark energy that worms its way into a host and expels itself through the mouth in the form of a snarky comment, criticism, or passive aggressive non-verbal behavior.
Me watching Aaron load the dishwasher: “Instead of putting those on the bottom shelf because they could melt, can we shift those to the top rack?”
Me upon discovering a bowl crusted with dried food left on the counter: “In the future, would you mind soaking this dish in the sink?”
Me washing dishes after cooking dinner: “Can you DO SOMETHING, ANYTHING, I JUST COOKED DINNER AND WHY AM I WASHING DISHES? OH AM I YELLING AT YOU NOW? I AM TRYING TO SPEAK SOFTLY BUT PROBABLY DON’T PUT A STICK IN MY HAND RIGHT NOW, NO MATTER THE SIZE.”
What did those three scnarios have in common?
I am the instigator.
Am I always wrong in my instigation? Not from my perspective. I HAVE CONTROL ISSUES. This is when I force myself to reflect on my own experiences around the kitchen sink growing up. I was raised in a home (and mom, please correct me if I’m misconstruing any of this) where dishes were not to be left in the sink or on the counter overnight. There was a dishwasher. Use it. Put dishes in said dishwasher in a logical manner. Make sure they are rinsed first because the dishwasher isn’t magical. Wipe up excess water around the sink. Every once in awhile, wipe out the sink because it is a breeding ground for serious funk.
Perhaps I set the tone early on in our relationship when I instructed Aaron to get out of the kitchen as I was preparing a special dinner.
It was Aaron’s kitchen.
We all have idiosyncrasies. There are processes we prefer to see unfold, methods that soothe our spirits. None of them are inherently wrong. When it comes to merging your preferences with that of someone else’s, that’s when each of you might reach for your battle axes or boxing gloves.
It is not easy to live with someone else. Feel free to disagree. Feel free to throw the “you’re an only child” card in my face. I’ll eat it for breakfast. Because I firmly believe that maintaining your sense of self in shared space is harder than we assume — or how it can be portrayed in pop culture. Our baggage alone can crowd our closets. Remember all of those things you used to do as a single person that you would never do in front of a partner/roommate? (Future blog post for sure).
The kitchen, in particular, also screams to me the place to buck gendered household roles. I resent feeling as if I’m the sole cook and then the sole cleaner. I’m not good at asking for help; or, if I do ask for help, I struggle letting go of dictating how a process gets done. Would I have preferred that a larger colander was used rather than filling the brim of the small one? Sure. Does it really matter in the preparation of this meal?
No. It doesn’t.
In the same breath, I do want to engage in a real partnership, not just give lip-service to one. I have to be able and willing to speak up and express when I’m feeling like the balance of shared responsibilities is lopsided. I want my partner to understand that it’s not about me versus him; it’s about the “us”, this modern take on establishing a household where each of our parts plays an instrumental role in creating the atmosphere that fills us with satisfaction, connection, and joy.
Perhaps it’s best if such conversations start far away from the kitchen sink.