Friday, November 11, 2011

the anniversary debacle

This week the Sober Husband and I reached another milestone, our 13th wedding anniversary. I like the number 13 and it felt auspicious. Additionally, we've been getting along like gangbusters lately. My solo trip to Burning Man really sparked up our already-lively marriage, and overall the fall has been well-nigh unbearable for nearby onlookers, with the two of us likely to break out in a display of public affection at any moment. So you would expect this anniversary to have been pretty damn delightful.

The first problem came when I took Iris for a flu shot at the flu clinic so conveniently held at her school. I needed to drive down the peninsula and pick her up early that same day to take her to the upscale girl-boy dance classes she wanted to take and now bitches bitterly about, so nipping in for a flu shot was a no-brainer since I'd be on campus already. By bedtime, I was feverish, with an aching head and aching joints. By the next morning, I was miserably ill. A week later, I'm still feverish and achy and miserable.

The Sober Husband is handsome, brilliant, funny, brave, resourceful, industrious, and generous. However, he completely sucks as a caretaker for a grown-up (or at least for me). If I'm sick, he'll dote on the children, making them dinner every night (their choice: Ramen or spaghetti with Ragu sauce), but it does not occur to him that I might want a meal as well. Similarly it does not occur to him to buy anything for me to eat, although he will nip out to the store to get supplies for chocolate milk, Ramen, and spaghetti for the children. While I've had this miserable flu, I've survived off popcorn and lost five pounds.

As one can imagine, being hungry and tired of eating popcorn makes a sick person crabby. By the time our anniversary rolled around, I was in a foul mood. Meanwhile the Sober Husband had a crisis: he keeps a folder of gift ideas for me, and he left it on Caltrain. So, at the very last minute, without any ideas (and without asking me for any), he picked up some beige soup bowls at Pottery Barn as my anniversary present. Meanwhile I'd gotten him something way back in September, which I'd kept hidden.

The bowls irked me. They seemed to be sending me a message: "get in the kitchen and make me some soup." That wasn't a stretch, because I'd made a big pot of a very fussy, pain-in-the-ass-to-make soup a couple of times recently, and the Sober Husband wasn't shy about complaining that there hadn't been enough of it. The first batch I made for a friend who was conducting a deathbed vigil for a dying parent, and I kept out just a bowl's worth for my husband. He complained plentifully about not getting enough of this magical soup, and my response was, "You want me to go down there and take it back from the death vigil house? No way!" The second batch I made after hearing plenty of complaining that there hadn't been enough of the first batch. When I looked at the gift bowls, they seemed to be screaming, "Get outta yer sickbed and start roasting those four different kinds of peppers", and they annoyed me.

My reaction, which I tried to mute, pissed even me off. It led me into a spiral of shame and guilt. "What kind of a horrible person can't accept a gift gracefully?" I pondered. "God, I suck." I apologized to the Sober Husband for not being a more gracious recipient, but he was still upset that I hadn't liked his gift.

He ran out and got me a small bouquet of flowers as an afterthought, to compensate for those bowls, but the drama wasn't over. We scheduled a date night to celebrate, a couple's massage at the Nob Hill Spa, and I cancelled. I was running a fever, and I felt really horrible. On top of feeling awful, I felt it was inappropriate to expose a massage therapist to my germs. The Sober Husband was disappointed and leaned on me to go anyway, which made me feel guilty. We had to pay even though we didn't go due to the Nob Hill Spa's strict cancellation policy. This waste of money made me feel extra terrible.

Then, on top of that, a new level of hell broke out: I asked the Sober Husband if he had another gift for me, because I wanted to know whether to give him the second gift I had for him or not. He got quite angry, because of course he didn't have a damn thing and was still secretly pissed I hadn't liked the bowls. At this point, he said I'd done "emotional violence" to him over the bowls (I really tried to accept them nicely, and I apologized for being unenthusiastic). To make a point to me, he left work early, returned the bowls, and gave me a $600 handcrafted necklace I'd admired before, even though I'd said on the phone, "Don't spend that much. We can't afford it right now."

Of course I can't keep the $600 necklace; it's not in our budget this month (especially since we're paying for those expensive massages we didn't get), and I would never enjoy wearing it. It would forever remind me of my selfishness, inability to accept those stupid soup bowls, and profligacy. And, as Lola and Iris said, "It looks a lot like that other necklace you have." It's not that different from other pieces I already own. So it's turned into a pesky, unpleasant errand, returning the duplicative necklace.

Meanwhile the Sober Husband LOVED one of the presents I gave him (although he rejected the other one as "too scary"). "It's perfect!" he exclaimed, and he wasn't exaggerating. I knew months ago what to get him. "But you ended up without a gift," he said, "and your birthday is coming up. I can't get you a gift for your birthday. I can't." My displeasure with the damn bowls (which I explained weren't a present for me, they were a present for the people who'd be using them to eat soup they wanted me to make them) has given him a present-giving block.

It's a wonder two people, who are still very much in love after thirteen years of marriage, two children, and several mortgages can have such a horrible anniversary. Given that my birthday is traditionally a day of great unhappiness and depression, I can hardly wait for it, especially now I know that my husband plans on getting nothing for me.


J9 said...

Well, at least if you know you won't be getting anythiing, there won't be the spiral of dislike and guilt... Go get yourself something - like a girls night out with friends.

the Drunken Housewife said...

Yes, a normal person would go for a girls' night out, but I can't arrange anything like that due to a long-held neurosis over my birthday. My birthday triggers lifelong issues of feeling unloved and unlovable, and traditionally I spend it crying in bed (with the current significant other sitting on the couch in the living room swearing to himself).

Anonymous said...

Remember that this is the man who got in the shower fully dressed when you were feeling down. He'll find a way.

GodsKid said...

Make sure you take another shower, so he at least has that opportunity again!

Jen in VA said...

Your being disappointed in BOWLS is "emotional violence" but his rejecting a gift for being "too scary" is acceptable? He's a big baby!

You guys should quit with the gift-giving, it's just ruining an otherwise lovely occasion. We honor birthdays and anniversaries with things like "I'll get up with the kids, you sleep in." and "I told the children they have to be nice to you ALL DAY or they're grounded!" and the ever-popular "Dinner is in the crockpot. Go play xbox for as long as you want!" It's wonderful.

the Drunken Housewife said...

He wasn't an ass for buying me the expensive necklace, but I would have been an ass if I'd kept it. His willingness to spend far too much was hugely appreciated by me, but I couldn't accept it.

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