Who would’ve thought it would be so difficult?
Not me, that’s for sure.
It’ll be fine, I thought. J and Flatmate know I’m doing exams; they’ll cut me some slack, I reckoned. I’ve told them that I’m not doing housework, so someone else will do it, I assumed.
The washing built up. And built up some more. And some more. Flatmate went and bought new underwear, but didn’t think to wash the dirty underwear in the basket. J got down to his manky, I-need-to-do-my-washing underwear. I didn’t care. I always have at least two weeks’ worth of clothes. The floor remained grimy. I didn’t care. I walk around barefoot, but I just wiped my dirty feet on the huge pile of dirty washing accumulating on the floor of our bedroom.
J tried to cook new and exciting dinners. Even more excitingly, he tried to make up his own recipes. Those conversations went like this:
J: Can I talk to you about dinner?
Me: [pausing my revision] Sure. What were you thinking of making?
J: Roasted vegetables!
Me: What are you going to serve them with? You can’t have a whole meal made entirely of roasted veg.
J: Um. I don’t know. Paninis?
Me: Ok. Well, you’ll need to go and buy them, then.
J: Should I do something else?
Me: If you don’t want to go to the shops, yes. Why don’t you have a look in these cookery books?
…[some time passes]
J: What about rice?
Me: You could do. There’s some in the cupboard. What are you going to do for protein?
Me: Protein. You know – meat, fish, eggs, nuts, beans… protein.
J: Oh. I don’t know. Do you have to have it?
Me: [deciding that the nuances of this argument can wait] Yes. You have to have some protein. I know we don’t have any meat in, so how about you use a tin of kidney beans? You could cook them and mix them in with the rice.
I started to care. I had an exam that afternoon. The discussion about food, and what components you need to make a meal, took up a good couple of hours. True story. J had the right idea – that cooking dinner for me after my stressful exam would be a nice thing to do – but went about it badly; and, to be honest, the thought that I might come home to be presented with a plate full of roasted vegetables, and nothing else, was far more stressful than any exam. Actually, the really stressful bit was the thought that I’d have to appear grateful for it.
I mentioned this conversation to A, a female friend of mine who was also taking the exam that day. She looked at me in horror. “Didn’t anybody ever teach him basic nutrition?”, she responded, shocked.
“No,” I replied bitterly. “Why would anybody think he needed to know? He’s a man.”
These past weeks, I’ve been trying hard to set boundaries, to retain the vestiges of my sanity, or at least to save my emotional energy for fretting that I’ll never get that first that I want so badly. And yet – it feels like squishing a balloon. You can try to make a dent in one place, but all that seems to happen is that the problem pops up somewhere else.
I set a clear boundary that says “I refuse to come home and have to plan and make dinner for all three of us after an entire day of studying and sitting an exam. If you want to eat together, you’ll have to cook for all of us. If not, you’ll have to cook for yourself. And I’ll have a sandwich.” And I end up giving an improptu lesson on the different elements that make up a meal. I might not have done the cooking, but I’ve sure as hell done the thinking. I would’ve thought less if I’d just cooked the damned thing myself, in fact.
Yesterday, J had a day off. I did not, because revision is relentless. J had chosen to clean the floors as his big chore for the week. And he chose to do this in the middle of the day, which made sense, but while I was trying to revise at the kitchen table, which did not make sense. He hoovered around me, and I ignored that, although it isn’t a very sensible way to get the dirt up. But then he tried to mop around me as well. And around every other object in the room – guitar, chair, amp, tea chest – that he hadn’t bothered to move.
I cared. Oh, how I cared. But I had almost no emotional energy left to give. For the first time since he’d arrived five weeks ago, I shouted at him. I felt myself losing my temper. I saw him pouting. Taking it personally. I started losing it faster. When I felt tears of rage in the corners of my eyes, I tried to stop. Turned away. Took deep breaths. Tried to make my body language less aggressive. He didn’t stop being defensive. Didn’t try to listen. I tried to stomp on the rage, but only compounded it.
You’re the one who keeps talking about how high his standards are, I snarled. You’re the one who wanted to mop the floors every week. But you don’t know how to do it properly, do you? No wonder you keep talking about how easy it all is! You only do the easy bits! You’ve lived in a house with carpet your whole life. I’ve had a bedroom with wooden floors since I was ten. And my parents didn’t clean it for me! If you’re going to interrupt MY studying to clean the floors that YOU spilt compost over yesterday, then you will listen to me when I tell you that what you’re doing IS NOT MAKING THE FLOOR ANY FUCKING CLEANER!
In the end, I “helped” him. I refused to let him mop until we’d moved all the moveable furniture out of the room. I showed him how to mop effectively. I refused to move the furniture back in until the floor was clean. Start to finish, it was an hour and a half of prime revision time, gone. I point blank refused to eat dinner with J or Flatmate, even though Flatmate hadn’t done anything wrong, and made myself noodle soup, which took me ten minutes to cook and used only one pan and a wok. And I calmed down by reading the archives of Blue Milk, because there’s something very comforting about knowing that other people have these kinds of arguments too, albeit about different problems. And after they’d eaten and cleared the table, I caught up my lost hour and a half of revision. I stopped at 9 in the evening, when my brain turned to mush.
Now I’ve got nothing left. I’m more emotionally drained than I’ve been for weeks. The straw that broke the camel’s back turned out to be an argument about mopping the floors, of all things. Tonight I’m going to make sure I eat before J and Flatmate get home. I don’t care if I have to eat four meals today, just so long as none of those meals is for anybody except me. I’m home alone today, and even though I’ll do a solid day’s revision, it feels like a holiday. I’ll even commandeer my desk back. J’s been sprawled out there playing on his computer, but today he can’t get there before me. Where negotiation fails, unilateral decisions win. And today, I unilaterally decide that I am the most important person in the house, and this means that everybody else will just have to work around me. J and Flatmate can come home to a dirty kitchen, which I won’t have noticed because I’ll be at the desk, having moved J’s keyboard and mouse to the floor, playing angry girl music, singing to myself and revising.
This is the point at which I stop trying to negotiate for my sanity and start demanding it.
I am a grumpy bastard. Why?
- I’m bleeding.
- I’m trying to use more emotional energy than I actually have, resulting in tears before bedtime.
- My eating patterns are all out of sync, so I feel crap.
- Have you tried revising while hungry, grumpy and tearful? Not good.
- FOR THE LOVE OF CEILING CAT, J, I TRIED TO CARE ABOUT YOUR COMPUTER DYING, BUT YOU KNOW WHAT? WE HAVE BOOKS! READ A BOOK! (You also have models to make, and photographs to sort.)
- FLATMATE! CLEANING THE BATHROOM IS NOT SOMETHING FOR WHICH YOU SHOULD RECEIVE A COOKIE! (Also, I would have noticed it was clean all by myself. Because the dust was gone.)
- killed the new plants. They are herbs this time, so I have a vested interest in keeping them alive (at least until I eat them)
- knitted a pig for my brother. Yes, really. He asked me specially, and we picked out the wool together. I’ll probably crochet it, actually.
- finished knitting the tetris blanket. But it will be very cool (and also in fact very warm) when it’s done. Probably next year.
- finished my homework. Dear Ceiling Cat, the homework. I would like to pray that Ceiling Cat mangles my half-done homework in her claws, so that nobody notices. And also that I miraculously learn the stuff I haven’t done.
- avoided panicking about my upcoming exams. I have six weeks. SIX WEEKS! What the hell?! I only finish lectures in five weeks.
- avoided panicking about J moving in. He’s 10 months late, but moving fast. This is terrifying, as it means I no longer get to lie diagonally in bed, and also, I’m now fretting about everything from finances to housework. Incidentally, my mother (who was recently made redundant) is now looking for another job, primarily because that means she can’t get burdened with all of the housework. This does not fill me with confidence, because the summer break is fast approaching (after the EXAMS) and I haven’t looked for jobs yet because I’ve been thinking about the EXAMS!
- thought about anything sensible to blog about. So you know, with all these other things, I might just not care.
You know that your loved ones understand you when…
J: Hey, can I ask you a question that might make you go “grrrrrrrrrarrgh!!”?
Me: Yeah, go on then. It’ll do me good to have something to growl about.
J: Guess how much a bunch of roses is, two days before Valentine’s day?
Me: How many roses?
J: Probably twelve.
Me: Oh, at least £15.
J: Wow, not bad – they’re actually £19.50. But I could buy ten wooden ones for £1, if I wanted. Actually, I’m kind of tempted.
Me: Well, they’d last longer.
J: Shall I buy some?
Me: Sure, they can go with my fake sunflower.
J: What colours?
Me: What, they’ve got colours that aren’t red or pinkI?
Me: GAY PRIDE ROSES!!!!
J: *laughs* Ok.
Me: And lots of purple!
I think this can only improve the decor of my living room. And at least I can’t kill them like I killed the evil potplant.
A more substantial post will happen at some point, but in the meantime, have this snippet of wisdom from J:
J: You know how we were talking about stereotypes? Well, I went to get some things from Boots and the woman there was convinced I was getting them for my wife.
Me: Oh? And what were they?
J: Moisturiser and nail polish remover. I didn’t have the heart to tell her they were for Mum.
Me: *laughing* Well, they wouldn’t do me much good, would they?! [I bite my nails quite severely, and am allergic to most skin products]
J: You might use the nail polish remover.
Me: I don’t have nails to use them on!
J: Well, of course you wouldn’t use it on your nails! I just thought you might use it to destroy things with.
Because I am a wind-up merchant, occaisionally I have conversations with J that go something like this:
Me: Hey, I had a thought.
Me: Well, you don’t want to divorce me, right?
J: Um, no…
Me: Well, I’ve worked out a way to make sure that your odds of divorcing me are zero.
Me: Don’t marry me. As soon as you do, you’ve got a 45% chance of divorcing me by the time we’re 50.*
J: Bloody statisticians.
*This argument, admitedly, would work better if J didn’t like a pointless bet every once in a while.
On an entirely different note, today I roasted a whole chicken all by myself, and it is definitely cooked properly and smells yummy. (I got a bit enthusiastic with the lemon.) I am very proud though, as I’ve never done it before. I’m having some for dinner tonight and the remains will no doubt haunt the rest of my week as I try to work out how many reincarnations of the same meat you can actually eat.
Recently, in Rachland:
J: Well, to be honest, I’m still a bit disappointed that you’re not taking my name.
Me: Huh. To be honest, I’m still very disappointed that you’re not taking mine.
It is for reasons like this that I suspect we will just have to live in sin. Imagine trying to plan a wedding with those kinds of conversational snippets. Perhaps I shall have a housewarming instead. God knows there’s more to celebrate about owning your own home than there is to celebrate about rampant displays of heteronormativity. And besides, at the moment at least, home repossesion is less likely than divorce. Hurrah!
(One article in the Guardian from February says that “1 in 290 borrowers had their home repossessed in the fourth quarter of last year”, and another, from last year, says that “The Office for National Statistics (ONS) found 45% of marriages will end in divorce before a couple’s 50th anniversary if 2005 rates continue”.)