Tremendous Trifles ... commentary from Joan Carris

Nov 14, 2014

When I was a senior in college, I took a sociology course on marriage.  It was known as a gut course, dead easy.  You could even cut class, as I did that quarter in order to go bowling with a friend.  Yet the course was useful, particularly our discussions about the innumerable tremendous trifles that pop up in every marriage or close relationship.  You know…the person who leaves toothpaste in the sink…the one who always drops dirty clothes on the floor…the partner who never replaces a toilet paper roll.  (And these are just bathroom topics.)   What are we supposed to do with all of the behaviors that drive us nutsy?

I’m advocating laughter, okay?  Humor keeps us sane in a world gone crazy or a relationship with snags.  And all relationships have snags—those tremendous trifles.  Do all women turn into witches at the sight of a cluttered room, or is it just me?  I have yet to hear a man say, “The clutter in this family room is driving me crazy!”

Likewise, men don’t nag their children to make their beds every morning.  I don’t know even one man who cares whether the bed is made up or not.   Once an adult male in our family (who shall remain nameless) said to me, “Why do we have bedspreads anyway?”  I didn’t know whether I should go into defensive mode on behalf of my bedspread or not, so I just shrugged my shoulders.

Even the most lowly topic can become a minefield.  Laundry, for instance.  Once I have decided it is laundry day, I survey likely places in search of dirty clothes that did not put themselves into the hamper.  As I’m carrying a mud-streaked pair of jeans toward the washer, a man or boy in our family has been known to protest.  “Hey, don’t take those yet.  I still need them.  They aren’t near dirty enough to go in the wash!”  Hmmm.  Where exactly would I wear something that is clearly dirty, but not dirty enough?  Apparently I am obsessed with the Midwestern ideal of absolute cleanliness.

In the kitchen, all sorts of trivia become matters of intense debate.  Too much pepper, you say?  Tell me again why you like mushy pasta as opposed to pasta al dente?  What do you mean too much garlic?  There is no such thing.

One of our favorite stories is set in the kitchen of a close friend.  His father came home from work around 5:30 or so and he expected to eat dinner, every night of the world, at 6 o’clock.  One evening, when nothing encouraging had happened by 6 o’clock, he sat down at the table anyway.  His wife dashed in with a steaming casserole in only a few minutes.

“Hunh!” he sniffed.  “I was hungry five minutes ago!”

See there…you really do have to laugh.