My first book has been released!

My first book has been released!
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Thursday, June 9, 2011

Couples Credit?

As someone who was once employed by my spouse, I had lots of experience with him getting credit for what was actually my work.  If I wrote a grant, newsletter, or article for him, inevitably, he read it, paused, contemplated, grabbed a pen, and made one tiny swipe of his huge hand to add a comma.  He smiled, sat back in his high, burgundy-upholstered office chair and said, “That’s better.”  He looked over his glasses at me on the other side of his mahogany desk, as if I were a peon and added, “That comma made all the difference.” 
Instantly, the unfairness of it all simmered in my chest and I came close to erupting into an explosive argument, but I held my tongue.  After all, I reasoned that his organization paid me for my words, so they were now his.  But does the same rule apply in our personal relationship?
For a few years, my husband and I drove every Sunday from our home in PA to NJ to visit his mother in a nursing home.  Each time, we had the same argument.  All the way down Route 78, until we exited into the suburban town, I instructed, “Pull over.  We’re going to a bakery.  We’re bringing your Mom some pastries.”
“She doesn’t need any damn, pastries!  She gets all the food she needs.”
“You pull over right now.  We’re not going there empty-handed.  Where are your manners?  A few baked goods really make her day.  She can share them with her friends.”
“I’m not pulling over. You’ll be in there for a freaking half hour.”
“Pull over, now!”
Inevitably, I won.  I rushed into the bakery and pointed to various display cases filling one box with Italian cookies, another with brownies, and still another with a cheese Danish ring.  I fumbled through my wallet to pay and tip the lady in white because she responded to my anxiety and got everything ready so quickly.
I felt content and proud of myself as I carried the tower of white bakery boxes, tied with string, to the automatic glass door of the nursing home.  But, since I was unable to navigate ice and snow with my hands so filled with delights, my husband said, “Here, let me take those for you.”
 I relinquished the boxes, so that I could ensure that my Sunday best outfit was not covered with powdered sugar.   I brushed off my skirt and did my final primping as we walked down a maze of hallways.  Then, just as we entered my mother- in-law's room, where she waited facing the door in her wheel chair, my husband inched in front of me like a thundering race horse, nose to nose, with another at the finish line.  He’d lift up the three boxes slightly, with just a barely noticeable shrug of his shoulders, as if to say, “Lookee, here!”  Then, the celebration started.
His mother’s arms lifted towards the ceiling, in a Baptist Halleluiah gesture, and came back down as if folded in a prayer of Thanksgiving.  She put her eyes down for a moment and shook her praying hands forward and back.
“My a son, My a son.  Look what he brings me.  He’s such a good boy!  I’m the luckiest Momma on earth.  Come give me a hug.  Oh by the way…Hello to you.”
So what’s wrong with letting my husband look good in his mother’s eye? But what about when he does it with my own family?
When we lived in PA and had a pool, deck, hot tub, and volleyball court, our place was the spot to gather for Fourth of July and Memorial Weekend events.  My husband pushed a stocked shopping cart through BJ’s while I selected baby back ribs, flank steaks, and sausages.  All the while, he tagged along behind me mumbling swear words --that cleaned up a bit amounted to, “Throw a freaking hot dog on the goddamn grill!  Why do you have to get all this crap?  Because they're your brothers?”
After an amazing day of drinks, volleyball, swimming and incredible food, my brothers and sisters and their spouses lined up at the front door to say their goodbyes.  Each one passed me by, grabbed my husband’s hand in a hearty handshake, then rethought it, and wrapped theirs arms around his big shoulders in a grateful bear hug, and said, “My man, Frank, you throw the best parties!”
It’s one thing to be recognized for fine backyard grilling, but now that my husband has retired, his credit- seeking ways have penetrated other areas-- like the kitchen.  He would have never dreamed of getting involved there before.  As I rush from the refrigerator to the stove, putting the final touches on pot roast, stuffed cabbage, loin of pork or filet mignon, he has been known to enter the kitchen from the other doorway.  He waits until I’m in the dining room setting the table, he looks left, then right, to make sure the coast is clear, and stealthily adds a dash of pepper to whatever I’m cooking.  That’s it.  One dash of pepper. 
After guests take their first bite and I straighten my posture in my dining room chair preparing to be garnished with accolades, my husband clears his throat.  Just in time to interrupt the first tidbit of praise, he states, “Ya know, she’s a good cook, but I put the finishing touches on this dish with my secret formula.”

Amidst the “Ohhs and Ahhs” and “Delicious, Frank!” I fume.  What?  You’ve got to be kidding me?  All you did was add pepper-- which it didn’t even need, I might add!
The thing that I find most upsetting about this credit stealing conduct is that my husband has so many of his own talents to be recognized.  He has a PhD.  He was a successful Superintendent of Schools.  He can do any home repair.  He recently added crown molding to our living room and raised panel molding to our dining room.  He installed hanging lights above our kitchen counter—demonstrating electrical skill.  He’s even a better golfer.  Why does he need to take credit for my only skills, writing and cooking?
When couples recently visited our condo in Florida for an indoor Memorial Day barbecue, they were so impressed with how beautiful our tile floor looked. My husband had purchased beige grout stain online.  He spent an entire weekend, on his knees, applying the grout stain with a toothbrush into every dark line of our 1800 square foot condo that has tile in every single room.
As each guest asked about our floors, since grout lines are a big topic of discussion in our neck of the woods, I stepped in front of my husband and said, “It took me hours.  I rolled up and down the rooms in my office chair, leaning way over and painting every single line by hand, myself, with a tooth brush.  It was backbreaking work!”  I put on my best martyr face.
My guests were interested for all of one second.  One wife turned fully away from me, rubbing her hands together in anticipation, and said,
“I can’t wait to see what Frank made for dinner tonight.”

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