Seamy Scenes From a Marriage

Every marriage, no matter how long or short, has its red-letter days.  Many of those days the two of you can agree on (e.g., anniversaries, buying your first house, birth of a child).  Others are days that only one of you finds memorable — usually at the other’s expense.  This is one of the many things that makes marriage a very special relationship — it shows you are always thinking of the other person.

My husband, for example, might hint that one of these red-letter days was a time he has referred over and over, ad nauseam, for ages.  Yeah, so I was cleaning up and throwing things out and very accidentally and understandably got rid of some thin pieces of paper that turned out to be an airline ticket.  The way he carried on and continues to bring it up to this day, you would have thought I did it out of spite.  He also ignores the fact that this was a single, very tiny failure out of decades of marriage and hundreds of airline tickets, many of them not even to places worth going to.  But whatever.  He can get his own blog if he wants to complain about it and carry a grudge.

Far more amusing and significant are my own picks for marital red-letter days.  Let me give you two examples:

1) Like his father, my husband suffers from occasional onslaughts of cheapskatism.  These moods, which I consider psychologically unhealthy, come out of nowhere.  For instance, I was perfectly happy with the bank we used in Dallas.  I suppose some people could take issue with my satisfaction, since a bank would have to rob me at gunpoint to get me to consider moving my money, but too bad.  I was content.

My husband, however, had begun to talk to other people at work who convinced him we were being robbed — robbed! — by the fees at our bank.  Here and there, a dollar or two was disappearing, never to return again.  It all added up, my husband told me urgently.  Big deal, I said.  I never met a fee I couldn’t ignore.  But that didn’t stop him.  A few days later, he’d moved our money to a credit union several miles away, where the people who worked didn’t rob you blind with fees, fees, fees.

When I think of our brief stay at that credit union, what do I think about?  A scene that’s still etched in my mind.  We were leaving town for the Fourth of July and stopped by our new “bank” to cash a check.  Which was kind of funny, since every other fee-phobic in town was trying to do the same thing.  The wait in line looked like a parking lot, filled with vehicles and families like us, with hot, screaming kids in the backseat.  An hour later — or was it two? — we finally got our money.  What’s interesting about an hour or two is how many times you can say “I told you so” if you talk quickly enough.

2) Then, around that same time, we bought a new car.  My husband got the heebie-jeebies about getting a stereo installed at the car company.  No, no, no, he kept insisting.  We’d look elsewhere for something cheaper.  I suppose it was cheaper — just like the credit union — but the company we went to had the innovative idea of installing speakers in the car doors.  Every time you shut the door, the speaker would pop out.  Annoying, to be sure, but also the opportunity for many playful, good-natured exchanges about how wonderful it was we’d saved all that money.  Who needed competence when you could save a few bucks?

3) OK, so this happened two days ago, but I can still remember it like it was yesterday.  The two of us are cleaning out our house before we go to New York.  I’d cleaned out my office, which was a gargantuan task, and was running our 2003 tax returns and documents through our cheap little paper-shredder.  Finally, it shuddered and died.

We went to Office Max to buy a new one — big and industrial-strength — and lugged it home.  My husband shook it out of the box and plugged it in.  Nothing.  We moved it to another electrical outlet and turned it on.  More nothing.  My husband shook his head morosely.  It was flawed, he said.  A piece of junk.  Had to be taken back.

I piped up that maybe we should call Office Max first and find out whether there was something we were doing wrong.

Forget it, my husband said.  He’d looked the paper-shredder over, had even read the directions, for God’s sake.  Don’t be silly.

So we loaded it up and took it back and the Office Max guys brought out another paper-shredder.  We insisted they start it while we were there to make sure it worked.  They did, flipping a small switch on the side we’d never seen before.

“I think our paper-shredder works,” my husband said in a low voice.  “I didn’t throw that switch.  I didn’t know it was there.”

“You should have called us!” one of the guys said.  “We could have told you where it was.”

“That’s what my wife said,” my husband said.  By this time, his voice was barely audible.

“Oh, man,” the other guy said, “I’m sorry for rubbing your face in it.”

We drove home silently, but one of us had a big grin on her face.  It was that kind of day, when more than paper got shredded.

(Copyright 2009 by Ruth Pennebaker)

13 comments… add one
  • Rachel Dickinson Link

    You really do lead an exciting life, Ruth.

  • ruthpennebaker Link

    Don’t I know it!  Not many people get to go out and buy a new paper shredder twice in one day.

  • LOL, that is one of the funniest things I’ve heard in a while.  That had to hurt his pride. I wander if the shredder is child-proof, if it gave him that much trouble? And I bet everything he use the <a href=””>paper shredder</a>  he is going to remember his embarrassment.  Poor guy!

  • Steve Link

    You and my spouse should never be allowed to compare notes.  I have blocked this internet address on the home computer.

  • Oh Ruth, such fun. Are all husbands the same? Is there some great cookie cutter in the sky (or, more likely, the basement) that just churns them out? If not, then I think the love of my life is somehow managing to find his way through a warp in the cosmos between Ontario and Texas, because we are definitely married to the same guy! 

  • ruthpennebaker Link

    Tessa, I’m sure being married to the same guy is just fine in Canada, but it’s probably a capital offense in Texas, along with believing in evolution.  Let’s keep this quiet.

    Steve, I think your wife needs her own blog.

    Toni, I assure you my husband can rise above this.  We’re talking about very, very healthy self-esteem here.

  • Winston Link

    What fun!  Are you sure Ingmar Bergman didn’t follow you two around with a Panaflex at some point?

    I am reminded of a visit with a friend who lives at Top of the World retirement community in Florida.  At the time of my visit, he had a maiden aunt residing with him.  Aunt Janie had suffered a stroke.  She had recovered admirably, it was just that she had lost her powers of concentration over any task save for one thing:  a card game called Spite & Malice.  She was always rounding us up “for a hand or two.”  Aunt Janie could play for hours— with a vengeance, always winning!  Had she so chosen, I am certain Marriage would have been a piece of cake for Aunt Janie.

  • Winston Link


    Don’t listen to Ruth.  Forget blogging.   Your wife needs to devote more time to the elevation of egg cookery.

  • ruthpennebaker Link

    No, Steve’s wife needs her own blog so she can smash eggs (perhaps in Winston’s direction), instead of cooking them.  I, for example, was a very oppressed, mousy little person till I was liberated by the Internet.

  • Winston Link

    On second thought, maybe Steve’s wife could have her own blog and toss eggs in my direction. Then I could use those eggs to elevate the art of egg cookery… yes… then I would have a topic on which to base a blog of my own.

    Ruth, it’s hard to imagine you as ever oppressed & mousy.
    You strike me as such an enthusiastic, energetic mover & shaker!

    BTW… the internet liberated me too— from dusting!
    I just don’t have time for that task any longer.

  • Funny. I *love* it when my hubs makes those little errors, though oddly, he never quite makes as many as I seem to.

  • I just want to say, I love your blog. Every time I read it, I love it.

    And I can’t believe your husband admitted his mistake to another guy. You have someone special there!

  • My husband has a PhD from Stanford in Engineering.  It’s the worst thing he ever did.  It’s the equivalent of man walking on the moon.  I can barely contain myself when I figure something technical or mechanical out before him and say, “wow.. that engineering doctorate sure did pay off for me… oh wait.. *I* am NOT an engineer… “

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