Throwing my wife under the bus is the brightest line I won’t cross in this diary. I won’t curse complain about her online. Not until and unless we figure our stuff out first. Our “stuff.” Notice. This s-word is a car-washing of a much muddier noun.
I show my cards on almost all other matters. Willingly, and easily. But, even for a non-religious man like me, marital conflict is semi-sacred.
Which is dangerous. And damning. When I tell you that we “got into it” this afternoon, this morning, and yesterday afternoon. I’m telling you this from a place of, we’re good now. Which means, I suppose, I’m at liberty to say how the bedroom door slammed. And who slammed it. And whose voice took an elevator ride a few decibels higher. And whose finger webbing tightened or forehead vein bulged.
The details? “We got into it” is code for: my standard of cleanliness for dishwashing is significantly lower than Mouse’s.
For six months, I worked as a dishwasher at the Seward Coop on Franklin Avenue in Minneapolis. Mouse uses this against me. Perhaps rightfully so. I’m clean at work, messy (or messier) at home. The kitchen crew at the coop loved me. I soaked, scrubbed and rinsed the pots, pans, and plates spotless. What’s the difference, Mouse demands. She’s holding a bowl streaked with red crust—last night’s spaghetti sauce. Or was it the night before?
I do wash rather hastily. It’s not my priority. Cleanish is good enough. But yes, I will sanitize from now on.
I’m fine airing my own dirty laundry. But not our freshly soiled marital linens. I guess this is respect. Not self-respect, but Mouse-respect. A few months ago, it made me feel deeply satisfied when my sister-in-law told me of a recent spat with her lover. The details are irrelevant. These spats come on hot and furious, and fade almost immediately. Mid-argument, Mouse and I seem to lose track of the origin of our disagreement. The reason I felt so satisfied was partly because I think we humans enjoy others’ suffering. But it’s also because the narrative of normal is so pervading and omnipresent. To learn that all is not calm on the western front is relieving because it validates our own troubled lives. It says conflict is normal. Argument is normal. Disagreement and miscommunication are normal. Emotions outrunning reason is normal.
Botox-lifted smiling faces are not normal.
Ads are not normal.
The hard thing is that none of the general assertions above really help convince us. We need the gory details.
Mouse slammed the door. My finger-webbing stretched wildly tight. We need the juicy details. I may have said fuck. Multiple times. I may have said you can wash the dishes yourself. Multiple times.
I can think of two other lines I hesitate to cross. First. I won’t admit to using or possessing illegal drugs. For obvious reasons. I don’t want cops at my house. Or me behind bars. Second. I won’t write critically about in-laws. If they’re co-involved in salient conflict, I’ll discuss the conflict but bend over backwards to absorb the blame, lacerating myself. The reason for this should also be self-evident.
Censorship admitted, then. The Alt Dad is like 2% milk. 2% polish. 2% rounded edges. Otherwise, I’d have no wife. And no in-laws. And I’d be in prison, potentially.
If the benefits of censorship are my wife, in-laws and liberty, then the costs are a dash or two of bullshit on top of your Alt Dad Diary casserole. But it’s far less carcinogenic cover-up than the average American Dream story. Admittedly, not perfect.
This is the price of truth. So when someone confides in you, opens up, shows scars, they’re giving you themselves. There’s no greater gift, in my opinion. That’s why I’m so committed to the truth.