The very first time I went to The Mister’s flat in Kalgoorlie, he had clearly prepared.
This Carrington Street townhouse, although beige and a little bit ‘breaky-in-y’, was so neat it was like I was giving his joint a rent inspection.
Nothing was out of place. Nothing.
I thought it was really sweet of him to clean up the hovel of a man cave.
I remember he had made chicken pasta, and in an unguarded moment, dropped a whole plate of it. He was mortified.
However, instead of pointlessly trying to ‘sweep’ up steaming pasta from the kitchen floor with a dustpan and brush like any normal guy, there he was with an arsenal of paper towels, multi-purpose spray and gloves.
It was as he made the finishing cleaning touches to the yellowed 1970s laminate floor, stepped back to get out of the way.
Behind me, I heard this low growling noise and I immediately shrieked, thinking it was some local wildlife specimen.
It was a bin.
Not just any bin, it was the most space-age receptacle I had ever seen.
What had happened was that my shadow from the fluorescent kitchen light (which made me look like I had cholera) spilled onto some sensor, causing the lid to open with a low growl.
It seemed this guy didn’t clean up for me. He was born this way.
I was not born that way.
Let’s just say when Carrie Bradshaw said she used her oven for storage, I just about fell off my chair. Along with a million other women, I thought I was the only one.
In the early months, I did really well at masquerading as a neat person.
It’s amazing how much your digs can look like it’s out of Vogue Living, especially when you have some very deep built-in robes – where, forget Mr Tumnus, Narnia’s door is wedged shut with handbags.
Then what happens when a straighty-one-eighty moves in with a packrat?
First it’s cute. You’re mad for each other. You don’t see anything past their adoring eyes. Not even the overflowing laundry basket. Besides, there is something satisfyingly smug about the amount of sheets you’re cleaning. Amirite? Wink, wink.
Then the masquerade starts to unravel. The Mister, looking for somewhere to hang his shirts, was nearly knocked out by shoes, handbags, several hats and a whole bunch of university readers that I couldn’t yet bear to part with.
Then, without realising it, you start getting used to having a neato in the house. You start to notice the laundry just seems to get done. Your makeup seems to magically put itself back on its proper shelf. You haven’t put the rubbish out for a couple of weeks as the bin is never full.
You start to think, well, maybe he likes doing it…? Should I say anything? Maybe it’s like living with a foot fetishist and I have just the right hoofs for him?
Then it blows up.
Then, speaking of Sex and the City, you turn into Miranda…
“I do love you, but I’ve never lived with anybody before, and I’m stubborn, and I like the remote, and I don’t do laundry sometimes for like two weeks, and my sponges smell, and you’re gonna see all that, and I’m scared, and I don’t know if I can move forward, but I really don’t wanna lose you.”
(There was a line in there about not being able to cook, but I took that out, turns out I can, and BTW, my sponges don’t smell, but you get the idea.)
Seriously. If I really wanted to, I wouldn’t have to tidy up for the rest of my life. We are ebony and ivory, yin and yang, neat and not-always-so.
We’re an Enjo match made in the detergent-aisle heaven.
You know those surveys that come out citing the uneven divisions of labour in the home, with women usually copping most of the work?
Yeah. That’s not our house.
But before you start thinking that I am a perfect candidate for Hoarders, his interest in tidiness is more than just being the perfect Stepford wife.
It’s more of an OCD tendency… and as we’ve moved on, walking the wash-and-fold tight rope of being considerate of my partner, I’ve discovered a new one.
It all started when we decided to do the food shop together, something that is usually a solo effort by whoever is paid that week. Yep, still no joint bank accounts.
We grabbed a trolley and we immediately went to turn in opposite directions.
‘Where are you going?’ we both said to the other.
Thinking I had made a silly mistake, I awkwardly went to follow him.
I realised I hadn’t done anything wrong, I just had a different routine to him, and my way was just hilariously misguided to him.
I think I am a supermarket designer’s dream. I’m the one that goes to get the milk then two hours later I have everything you could need for Christmas lunch (and dinner). I’ll think of something I want to cook on-the-fly and go find all the bits and pieces instead of a methodical approach to grocery selection. Some days I’ll go super-slow through every aisle, then have to go back as I was listening too intently to a podcast I was listening to on my headphones (yes I am one of those).
This is why I don’t like to do it.
The Mister and I do have fun while shopping together, but I know that an argument is just around the corner in aisle 5. It’s always when I go against the grain and am attracted by the shiny tin foil and he is uncontrollably compelled to go down the next aisle, as to not do so would actually make him visibly uncomfortable.
This is usually how things go down…
The Mister: A scan of the kitchen beforehand to work out what we need.
The Wry Bride: I don’t. I rarely write a list. I convince myself I need to give my brain a workout and I’ll remember. I don’t remember.
The Mister: creates a playlist based on his mood and syncs it on his iPhone.
The Wry Bride: listens to podcasts and I get so engrossed the shopping trip can stretch to 3 weeks.
The Mister: Starts with fruit and vegetables
The Wry Bride: Thinks ^ is ludicrous. Why would you start with ultra-perishables? You’re only going to put everything else on top of them anyway. I start with the most important things. Loo paper, moisturisers, hair lackeys and magazines.
The Mister: From fruits and vegetables, he works his way aisle-by-aisle, avoiding the dairy, freezer and meat sections.
The Wry Bride: Goes aisle-by-aisle mostly. Might go back a few times, or suddenly go the opposite way, especially when you get into that rhythm of crossing the same person’s path down every aisle.
The Mister: After the aisles, heads to the meat section. Has to quarantine an area in the trolley for meats.
The Wry Bride: reads magazines in the stationery aisle.
The Mister: Dairy then freezer next, as they are ‘best friends’ (ie, both cold)
The Wry Bride: Checks out all the pet stuff. We don’t have any pets.
The Mister: At the checkout, he generally puts everything on the conveyor belt backwards, starting from the freezer and dairy, working his way back to fruit and veg all while having a friendly conversation with the checkout person.
The Wry Bride: I try to do the same, but everything in the trolley is usually in no particular order.
The Mister: Arranges all product barcodes on conveyor to be at ‘optimum scan positioning level’ – facing towards the scanner with no obstructions.
The Wry Bride: I wonder if I forgot anything while flicking through Smash Hits magazine. Oh that’s right, there is no Smash Hits magazine anymore. OK it’s really Country Living magazine. I imagine living the country.
The Mister: Keeps a hawk eye on the checkout person that any chemicals go last and never mixed with anything else.
The Wry Bride: I trust that the register operator has been adequately trained to keep the Domestos from the frozen peas. If asked if the Pine-O-Cleen needs a separate bag, I sometimes say no, pleased with myself that I’m saving the environment by declining that one bag.
We don’t do the food shopping together very often, it causes too much stress for both of us, so we stick to each other doing it every other week – if we have to, I will bite my tongue and follow him around the shop, and just to mess with him off, I’ll beckon him to follow me over to another aisle, which he never does.
Whatever, the thing is, its one of our quirks, and I guess what makes it work is that whatever you’re looking for in the supermarket, you’re going to meet up together at the end anyway.
And lets be honest, as long as there is milk in the fridge and tinned tomatoes in the cupboard, it’s usually going to be OK.