Subs of despair -- and other romantic discontents

This week in Salon's community Table Talk, members explain why bologna, a pig and a yellow Caddy threw some wrenches in their relationships.

Published February 16, 2007 11:01AM (EST)

Family Life

"I Have a Situation ...": The Advice Thread

Chris P - 11:09 am Pacific Time - Feb 13, 2007 - #5399 of 5507

So, some background: My husband and I knew each other as friends of friends for a long time, but didn't start dating until right before his pre-planned move 200 miles away to seek his fortune. So, we traveled back and forth for a year, and then he decided to give up on seeking his fortune and submit to the Man, which meant moving to the other side of the country. We stayed in touch and then decided, nope, this is meant to be and got engaged and then married, right before the Man sent him off to another continent. I quit my rather interesting, and certainly lucrative for a young thing who hadn't completed college, job and went with him. It is 1986.

Here we are on another continent, living in a tiny efficiency in the middle of Noplace with the contents of one large suitcase and two large duffel bags as the rest of our stuff and my (oops, I mean our) car floats toward us on a ship. He has his new, all-absorbing job. I have ... the efficiency and anything I can walk to, which is not a whole hell of a lot. We have not much money, and none of it is "mine" -- oh sure, it's ours now, but still, it bugs me and seems wrong to go buy fashion magazines or whatever with "his" money. I don't know anybody and don't have a job and can't see any prospects, certainly not while living here in Limbo, and for once in my life don't know what to do other than read books from the library, watch TV, and write letters home (this is pre-Internet) in our tiny little room (with shared kitchenette!).

One Friday about two weeks in, before he heads off to work, my husband says, "I'll bring something home for dinner tonight!" It's right before payday and we actually have some money left and so we can afford to be daring and get take-out. Oh yay! I have no idea at this point what I imagined he'd be bringing home (as I mentioned, we lived in the middle of Noplace and the dining choices were pretty damned limited even if you had a car -- I mean the nearest Pizza Hut was 40 miles away), but imagine my despair when I opened up the white bag that evening and it was subs. Subs with bologna on them. I believe I cried, "How could you bring me bologna?" He was bemused, to say the least. "When have you ever seen me eat bologna?" I believe I wailed. Note that we were not vegetarians at this point, so the despair was not actual horror. And yet I managed to work this into a screed about following him across the world -- giving up my family, my friends, my job, my glamorous avocation -- and he brings me bologna subs?!?!?

We managed to turn this into quite the little squabble, which was even more despairing considering this was the only person I knew in the country, and so "going home to Mother!" was pretty damn unlikely, especially since I would personally rather die than do such a clichéd thing. And yet, we overcame that. I do sometimes wonder, though, "Why is he so unwilling to suggest places to go out to eat?" I think the bologna subs of despair were at least as traumatic for him as for me.

Simone - 12:04 pm Pacific Time - Feb 13, 2007 - #5421 of 5507

I do love the concept of all these grand gestures and personal beliefs epitomized by bologna.

The Pig in question was my pet guinea pig, whom I adored. DH had never owned a pet in his life, having multiple allergies, and found the whole concept of them kind of foreign. His relations with The Pig were tense, at best. When we had been dating about 3 months, The Pig developed a problem with his teeth, which required a trimming, which the vet kind of screwed up, so he couldn't eat right, and required me to feed him baby food at all hours. So one night, the poor little guy just couldn't take anymore, and The Pig died in my arms around 10 PM. DH was over at the time. There was a flurry of phone calls ... my sister had called to talk about something else, and I told her I thought The Pig was dying, and she got off the phone to try and find a 24-hr. vet, even though I told her I thought it was no use, and in fact when she called back again The Pig had just expired. So there was much sniffling and sobbing on my part, and on hers, and the whole time, now-DH was just ... hiding in my room. I walked past the door several times, and each time he was just lying on my bed on his stomach, and he'd give me an odd little half-smile every time I went by, but said nothing. And I was getting more and more angry, because What The Hell? Can you not even tell me you're sorry that my beloved pet just died? What's with all the weird smirking? Can he just not handle difficult emotional situations? And does this bode ill for our relationship's future? And so I had worked myself up into quite a tizzy by the time I came in for bed, and then NDH made things worse. He just scooted over for me when I came in. Didn't say a word. So I was fuming, and then ... then ... a couple of minutes later ... he put the moves on me! Tryin' to get all sexiful and that! And I was just about to pull a full-metal Linda Blair-esque head-spinning screaming fit on him when he whispered in my ear ... "How's The Pig?" To which I hissed in response, "The Pig ... is ... dead!" Which is how I learned that DH is capable of sleeping with his eyes open. That is to say, he looks and acts like he's kind of awake, but ignoring you, but in fact, he is totally asleep. And so he had missed the whole drama of the evening, sleeping on my bed with a smirk on his face and his eyes open. So we ended up having a discussion about the fact that if he's really that tired, it's probably best that he say so and just go to sleep and not try to pull his "I'm not sleeping but really I am" thing because that has the potential to lead to him missing important facts and me resenting the hell out of it because I thought he was actually paying attention. He mostly doesn't do that anymore, and I'm better at recognizing the signs when he does, and so our relationship has flourished and grown fruitful. But alas, The Pig is still dead.

Thryn - 01:20 pm Pacific Time - Feb 13, 2007 - #5429 of 5507

Setting: 1992. We're not married, but I'll say DH for simplicity. We've moved from New Mexico to Texas, and his family is mad they can't control him as much.

We go back to N.M. for a visit, I stay at my mom's & he goes to his (90 miles apart). Which is another problem altogether. The day before he's supposed to come pick me up to go back to Texas, he calls and tells me that his dad has bought us a Cadillac at auction, and is therefore taking away the car we came in. The one DH bought himself. The one that runs fine, even if it's ugly, etc. DH tells me that we have no choice, his parents have "decided."

I object, having a very sick feeling about this. I am overridden. He picks me up the next day in the Caddy (about 10 years old & yellow). We're not more than 100 miles down the road when various things (including the heat) start quitting.

We get back to Texas, DH calls his parents and says he would really like his black car back, this car is already falling apart. His mom has a screaming fit and says he's not allowed to do that or sell or get rid of the car ever. Under penalty of never speaking to her or his dad or brother or sister again. DH tells me that we're stuck with it. I object. However, it is our only car, my car having died the year before.

So ... time goes on. The Cadillac of Hate and Discontent falls apart worse and worse. We are spending far more per month (averaged out) keeping it running than if we just gave in & got a brand new car & made payments. More conversations w/ DH's parents, more screaming on his mom's part. We're out of savings. The car (deliberately, I think) quits every time DH decides he doesn't want to wait for me at work and leaves to run errands while I finish (I had a job that ended when we were done seeing the last patient, so he'd stop by & see how much longer that would be. I'd say please just wait, he'd swear the car would be fine, it would break & we'd both be "gestrandet," etc.).

Etc. Etc. Etc. Hate and Discontent. Fights about him being too quick to do what his family wanted & not caring enough about what was best for us. His parents repeatedly insisting the car was only breaking down because we were abusing it and/or otherwise not taking proper care of it.

Eventually, I persuaded him that his parents shouldn't be allowed to keep me from buying a car. So I'll buy one, we'll park the Cadillac of Hate and Discontent, and share the payments on "my" car. So we do, and don't tell his parents. Then, we are commanded to come to N.M. for our only break of the year. We take "my" new car, so his parents now have to know of it.

Naturally, 150 miles from their house, it breaks down. And has to be towed 50 miles back toward Texas. And his brother has to rescue us. And drop me at my mom's and take DH to theirs (and then come get me the day before we have to leave, driving me 90 miles to their house), and his family has to drive us to Clovis to pick up the car. During that week, they've been harping on DH that we obviously shouldn't be allowed to have cars, since can't take care of them. Blah blah guilt, blah blah stupidity.

Sigh. We get back home and a few months later his brother announces he's coming to get the Cadillac of Hate and Discontent, because DH "doesn't deserve a car that nice" (on orders from their mom & dad, not his own idea). He's taking it back to N.M., where he's going to keep it. Of course, it drives perfectly fine all the way back & for weeks afterwards.

However, the happy ending of the story is that it did break down eventually, in a spectacularly inappropriate way (nobody was hurt), and DH's brother had to admit it was the car all along. Now, nobody mentions it. Except DH & I, who will still to this day not park next to a yellow Caddy, lest it whisper to our current car.

And the real good ending is that this was how DH learned that he really truly didn't have to do what his parents said anymore & we could run our own life as we saw fit. It was a hard road for him, because he had to overcome the idea that he was a kid & that his parents really truly know what's best for him. And that to have an adult relationship, you both need to be adults and make your own decisions, parents' opinions be damned.

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