This is 2,500 words so the button below will send it to your Kindle if you want to read it there.
(This has not been edited in any way so please just read and enjoy. Editing always comes after production and reflection.)
I wanted to write a profound marriage book. The kind of book that becomes a staple when you hear a friend has recently gotten engaged so you bring up the title as sort of a manual on marriage. Then I decided that was too much responsibility so I wrote what you’re reading now instead. Mrs. Ellis, Mrs. Mullin, Mrs. O’Brien, these were the women who tried to shape my writing. I’m afraid they may have failed. The only person who I really understand most days is me so I’m going to use the work “I” a lot in this book. I used it three times in that last sentence alone. Maybe I’m egotistical so I like to write about myself. Maybe I’m too prideful to go to a councilor so instead I’m writing this book. Maybe I genuinely want others to know that marriage is a lot of work. Maybe I don’t remember anyone fully explaining the real image of marriage when I was telling them I got engaged (which I’ve done twice). If you forget everything I write please remember THIS – Marriage is work, but it’s good work if you can get it.
I like long forks. As the youngest of four children by the time I could remember rifling around in the silverware drawer our forks were all the same size. Perhaps it was because we were more of a Hamburger Helper family than a salad, main course then dessert family. Whatever the reason, we only had one size of fork in our drawer. When I made it out on my own at college and had to stock my own kitchen I am sure that my more responsible roommate Dave supplied the silverware. It too had all the same size forks. After college Dave and I moved apart and I had to buy my own forks and so I went to the housewares store that goes “Beyond” and picked up a set. You guessed it, same sized forks.
It’s amazing the truly important moments in life that you somehow manage to forget but I cannot remember the moment when my wife and I picked out our silverware set. I know, astounding that I would forget such a pivotal moment in our relationship. So now we’re six years married and we’ve got this set of forks and they’re different sizes. There’s the obligatory serving fork that always throws off my search for the long fork I so desperately “long” for. Then there are these miniature, useless, baby forks. These are the problem. They’re not children’s utensils (but they’re small enough that my two year old daughter uses them with ease). These are fake forks. They are impostors. They are empty promises. They have the same number of prongs as a normal sized fork but their depth is deplorable. Perhaps they are called “salad forks” by those more refined than myself which is most of the adult population. Perhaps they are better for people with smaller hands like my wife. When I see them though all I can imagine is an umpa-lumpa from Willy Wonka sitting down on a lunch break chatting in the Wonka Kafeteria, chatting about the fat kid who fell in the chocolate river while eating whatever umpa-lumpa’s eat. Whatever they eat they use the same size forks that crowd out the adult sized forks in my silverware drawer to consume it. They beam with joy as they pick up their appropriately sized utensils from the chow line, feeling normal, like the whole world is 3 feet tall and burnt orange.
I hate those forks. It’s complicated. My home is very traditional now. I go to work and earn money. My wife stays at home and raises our three very, very, very young children ALL DAY LONG. My job is easy compared to hers. The President of the United States’ job is easy compared to hers. I digress. This arrangement is purposeful. I am an entrepreneur. I own my own business and make my own hours. My wife has always wanted to have and then raise children. We struggled for over a year to conceive our first child but with just a little help from some natural hormones Samuel was born in 2008. Back to the forks. Since my wife stays home and has lots of free time (that’s sarcasm, get used to it) she usually has started dinner by the time I walk through the front door. She loves me A LOT so before I am permitted to dig into whatever pasta or meat dish that will sustain my human hunger for substantive food she gives me a salad. This is where the fork comes in.
It would seem appropriate that a salad fork should be used for eating a salad wouldn’t it? It is not. If you believe salad forks are appropriate for eating a salad then let me ask you some very simple questions. Should anyone ever, under any circumstance, for any reason, at all, wear a shirt that allows their “roll” to protrude out the bottom? You’ve seen it. I’m not trying to be a jerk or insensitive to overweight people. I’m simply pointing out that there is a purpose for clothing and when someone’s stomach is protruding out of their shirt my mind begins to spin. The same feeling happens when a guy bends over to work on your sink and shows you that he his not a fan of belts. It does not crack me up to see this. I hope you got that pun, I really do.
Things are supposed to fit and salad forks don’t fit me, ever. They are a waste of my time. They frustrate me. I feel like I’m visiting my son’s preschool classroom, sitting in one of those tiny little chairs that fit him so perfectly but make me look like Manute Bol. Google him if you don’t know that name. Great guy, huge heart for his homeland and freakishly tall. May he rest in peace. Back to the sorry excuse for a utensil. Yes I can use a salad fork to eat pretty much anything. It does work, but it does not work as well as a normal fork does. Is the goal of a salad fork to slow me down while eating my salad? Did they make them smaller so we wouldn’t use the same fork for one meal item as the other? I find the existence of these forks purposeless, except for the oompa-loompas of course. They are empowered by these forks and I don’t want to take that away from them. They’ve endured enough already.
The conflict in my marriage is mostly internal. Sure my wife and I have external conflicts (also called yelling), but most of our conflict happens between our own two ears. That is where the fork issue existed until one day I broke the sacred seal of silence regarding my disdain for tiny forks. I did think before I spoke which should be applauded. Whatever I decided to say should have seen a few more drafts because whatever it was my wife didn’t receive it well. It was probably really thoughtful and sensitive though. I’m guessing I said something like “I hate these little forks. Can I get a real fork?” I know, poetic.
I don’t think I was being a lazy jerk. I was simply telling my wife that I prefer the larger forks. It’s unclear to me if she did get me a real fork on that day (she likely did not) but in the days since I have tried to politely remind her that I hate those little forks so when she drops one in my bowl of salad, pasta or whatever else I can spear, that I’d like the adult sized utensil. Here’s the climax, she doesn’t really care.
My wife cares about me. She cares about our children. She cares about the unborn, new moms, the kids we sponsor in Africa, her nephews and nieces, her mom, dad, step dad and lots and lots of other people, places and things (nouns). She is a very, very caring person. She does NOT care about my fork preference.
I have a wart on my left thumb. I don’t remember not having it. It sticks out of the inside of the thumb, about 1/4 of an inch from the thumb nail. When I was a kid I would stare at it all the time. I even remember picking at it until it was bloody back in the 6th grade. It bothered me because I focused on it. Kinda like my fork issue. Do you realize that you are bothered by what you focus on and what you don’t focus on doesn’t bother you? That might sound really simplistic, obvious or just plain dumb but stop and think about this. What do you care about? How often do you look at what you care about? Often. If you care about money then you check your bank account often. If you care about your kids’ safety then you check in on them more often. If you care about the weather you check the forecast more often. If you care about feeling wanted you check your email more often (that’s me). What we care about we focus on. In sixth grade it was my wart. Today it’s my fork size. There are two sides to this argument that I will very quickly summarize.
My perception if the world revolved around me and the size of a fork was truly important: My wife does not care about me. She knows without a shadow of a doubt that I do not like to use small forks. She knows it and yet she still gives me a small fork to eat with at almost every single meal. It takes .01 more seconds to find a large fork and in turn make me feel cared for, heard, appreciated and respected. Instead I feel ignored, unappreciated and disrespected. I feel like a second class family member. My son gets the specific color of bowl of his choosing, my daughter can eat whatever she wants because she puts up such a fit about food. I on the other hand am the orphaned family member, left at the stoop, discarded and dismissed. Some days she even gives me the small fork because she doesn’t like me. Forget the fact that she spent the last nine hours with our kids. Forget the fact that next to the oompa-loompa fork is a salad that she made by cutting up Romaine lettuce, sprinkling sunflower seeds, chopping up vegetable and putting a dressing I like on top. No, the salad was not thought through, the size of the fork was. She is insulting me. She is mocking me. She is say, “I don’t care what you want or what you need.”
What an unbelievable stupid thing to think. I think it to some degree several times a week.
Her perspective: I love my husband and I want him to live forever so I am making him a salad. Today started at 4:30am as our baby woke me up to nurse and then I never fell back asleep. Andy left for work at 7:15 and I had not showered. By the grace of God baby Lucy feel asleep for 15 minutes and I put the other two kids in front of a cartoon via Netflix while I got to take a shower. Before I could get dressed baby Lucy was screaming so I rushed to get her fed…again. The kids fought most of the day and I don’t remember feeding them lunch but they’re hungry again so whatever I did feed them is a distant memory for all interested parties. I wish he came home at 4 today but I started dinner at 4:30 because I want us to get the kids in bed by 8pm so he and I can have some actual adult conversation. When I am cutting this salad up and chopping these veggies I am thinking of what a lousy lunch he probably ate at work, where he has the freedom to go to lunch with whoever and wherever he wants to go. I fight off the feelings of jealousy and am simply grateful that the kids are screaming “Daddy! Daddy!”. He puts his bag and jacket in a pile instead of putting them where they belong but I’ll make him pick it up later. For now I want him to eat this salad so I can move on to finishing the pasta that I probably overcooked because I lost track of time after changing the 37th dirty diaper of the day. As he sits at the table I take the bowl of salad in my right hand and turn to my left. With my left hand I open the silverware drawer. I reach to the far left compartment and grab a fork. I put it in his bowl, walk to the dining room table and put it in front of him. I am exhausted but still find the energy to ask him how his day was. His response is, “What’s up with the tiny fork?” I hang my head in disgust and defeat. I walk back to the drawer while the pasta continues to overcook and grab a non-salad fork for his salad. I take him the fork and place it into his bowl. I am a good wife.
She is a good wife. In fact she’s amazing. I on the other hand am an idiot. I like big forks but on what basis and in what situation does my disdain for small forks justify making my wife work harder? How am I so selfish that I don’t see her hard work but instead choose to focus on the length of utensil? I am very happy as I eat my salad with the adequately sized fork. My wife on the other hand feels uncared for. She feels unappreciated and taken for granted. But hey, at least I have the right sized fork now. I am such an idiot.
There are hills worth dying on in marriage. There are issues worth fighting for. Keeping pornography out of your relationship is worth fighting for. Making sure you are investing in each other as a couple after you have children is worth fighting for. Giving your husband the respect he desires and your wife the love she needs is worth fighting for. The rest is details and you and I need to get over ourselves. Pick your battles and don’t make the size of your fork one of them. Major on the majors and minor on the minors. Focus on what matters and forget what doesn’t. Die a little to your desires so your marriage lives another day. Shut up and eat your salad. It’s delicious no matter what size fork you use.