Earlier tonight my fiancé accused me of sometimes “making a mountain out of a molehill.” I asked for an example and he was quick to reply with “the whole sponge thing.” Ugh, the sponge thing.
Yes, I have a sponge thing. I firmly believe with every fiber of my being that sponges should not be left at the bottom of the sink where they can collect all kinds of potentially fatal bacteria. When you are done with a sponge it must go into the sponge holder. Also, you may not clean raw chicken bits or raw meat juice off the counter with a sponge and then just return it to the holder to be used again. That’s a deal breaker. It MUST go in the dishwasher where it will get properly sanitized. If you have cleaned poop or puke with your sponge then of course it must be thrown away immediately. No exceptions.
“How do I make that into a mountain?” I asked, already knowing the answer.
“Well, you get mad about it,” he replied, looking away.
I took a breath. I wanted to choose my words carefully. “To be honest, it was a molehill the first 20 times I asked you nicely. Eventually I get mad because it feels like you don’t listen to me.”
“I can see that,” Loverboy responded.
I hate that. I really, really hate that. He gets to ignore my request for eons and then when the frustration finally boils over I’m the unreasonable one. Talk about the pinnacle of unfair. Am I missing something here?
After he left I sat and thought about this. Why is this so annoying? I know I have a slight issue with germs. It’s definitely not a phobia- I prefer to call it a germ “awareness.” Ok, maybe it’s more of a “gross” awareness. Icky things freak me out, and they have ever since the second grade when Charlie McLaughlin rubbed his wart on my thumb and a few days later I had one too.
The gross awareness does make it challenging to live with a boy. We have to use separate bathrooms because he has plantar warts on his feet and refuses to go to the doctor to get them removed. I’m terrified to share a shower with him because of it. Luckily he did go to the doctor to get the warts on his hands taken off but I think it was only because it was affecting our sex life (I still constantly check his hands but shhh don’t tell him). I got grossed out when I realized he wasn’t flossing every night (luckily he is now). I get irritated when he comes home after a long day expecting a sloppy make out kiss but yet he hasn’t popped a breath mint. The nerve!
After contemplating this for awhile some things became clear. When things like this happen I don’t feel honored. Heard. SEEN. That IS a mountain indeed.
This isn’t about the sponge. Or the warts. Or the gingivitis. This is about feeling seen and honored as a woman- his woman.
Growing up as a kid I never felt seen by my parents. I definitely wasn’t honored. My basic needs weren’t met. Mom never helped me get ready for school in the mornings. Typically my clothes were holey and didn’t fit properly. Our house was a disaster. My first real trip to the dentist at age 18 was long and painful in order to fill the cavities I had gotten from not brushing regularly as a kid. Luckily there were no root canals or extractions.
As a teenager and adult I went the other way. I became conscientious to a fault. My hair was always done. So were my nails. I was always squeaky clean. My houses have typically all been spotless. Every outfit was pressed. Every ill-placed hair on my body was plucked, waxed or shaved.
My toes were always painted. My roots were always dyed. My lips were always lined. My breath was always minty. My panties were always cute and almost always matched my bra. My car was always detailed. My purse was always organized.
My sheets were always clean. My plants were always watered. My pets were always groomed. My carpets were always steam-cleaned. My bathrooms were always bleached. My SPONGES were always sanitized.
I’m sure you’re getting the picture by now. Having things “just so” became a compulsion. I was trying to make up for what I never felt as a child. I’m sure in some way I also thought if I was perfectly put together I was somehow more lovable, especially to myself.
I’ve worked tirelessly over the years in therapy and reading self-help books to develop a healthy, genuine love for myself. Once I had this hippie boyfriend who convinced me to ditch my “toxic” deodorant for something natural. He didn’t care that I smelled like tomato soup. He tried to convince me to let my hair go gray because he loved me just the way I was. He was so accepting that I could relax and be me. Of course I picked him apart and made him change everything about himself and I once screamed at him for an hour for being a whole 15 minutes late. Clearly I wasn’t quite done with my therapy.
At 44 I’m still trying to find a balance of what are high standards versus compulsions. I’ve let a lot of things go. I can let a few dishes sit in the sink for a day or two without consequence. My sheets are going on 2 1/2 weeks now. There’s a distinct ring of some kind of mold in my toilet. My nails are way grown out and I’m up 5 lbs. And I’m just fine.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still conscientious. I still shave and pluck regularly. I always pop a mint when I pull up so I can kiss Loverboy without tasting like leftover lunch. My underwear is still cute (though it rarely matches my bra these days). I still curl my eyelashes daily and hardly ever leave the house sans lip gloss.
I’m going to have to have a talk with Loverboy. If I can curl my eyelashes he can get his warts frozen off. If we are going to be successful long-term I need for him to honor me. To understand my little girl’s care and feeding instructions. To honor and dare I say indulge some of my quirky compulsions just because he loves me. And I need to be able to do the same for him. I think it’s called adulting.