I was standing in our bathroom Monday night, angrily brushing my teeth next to J., who was angrily going at his own teeth with even more gusto than me.
We were in the middle of an argument that was paused only because our mouths were full of toothpaste. That’s the thing about marriage: You still fight like you did when you were dating, only the world doesn’t stop while you do so—breathless nights spent determining the state of your relationship. Instead you fight while you go about your life, barbs traded while cooking at the stove or unmaking the bed or standing at the sink.
“ErtsjistuHAT,” I said through a mouthful of Colgate.
J. spat. “It’s not just a HAT.” That’s another thing about marriage. You can understand one another’s toothpaste mumbles. “It’s the whole principle of the thing. You said you were done after the brocade jeans. And the sequin jacket. And those sandals. You promised. We made a deal.”
J. doesn’t understand that some things in life trump promises and deals. These things include but are not limited to: life-or-death hostage situations, impending childbirth, and lily-pad-like felt fascinators from London. Which is precisely what got me into this mess.
If I had to list 10 things J. and I argue about, it would probably look a whole lot like other people’s lists. At the top—and holding the first nine spots—would be money. Specifically, that I spend too much of it. (In case you’re wondering, number 10 would probably be how I insist J. buy me fruit and lettuce each week, even though it usually remains uneaten and we end up just chucking it.)
In any case, it got me wondering: What do very, very rich people fight about? This is what I’ve come up with:
1. Leaving the toilet seat up. I’m sure even Sir Richard Branson does that.*
2. Where to sail the yacht.
3. Whose name goes first on the museum wing named for them due to their huge monetary donation.
4. How much plastic surgery is too much. (I think this is what doomed the Maloof union.)
5. Who has to tell the private chef his gluten-free morning muffins suck.
6. Who has to tell the florist that the peonies need to be seashell pink, not blush.
7. Who gets the larger shoe room.
8. Who gets to sit next to Brad and Angie at the Vanity Fair Oscar after-party.
9. Whose turn it is to get up with the baby.*
10. Which home they’ll retire to for the winter.
I ticked these off in my head while I finished getting ready for bed. By the time I went to sleep, I hated all very, very rich people. They didn’t have fights with their husbands about $150 fascinators. Really, if you alleviate all financial stress, what else is left? (I knew I was grossly simplifying things, but I didn’t care.)
The more I think about it, though, I realize that most older couples I know—including my parents—recall fondly the days in the beginning, the hemming and hawing over whether or not to splurge on a wobbly wooden $50 kitchen table at a yard sale. Things were simple; they had to make do with what they had.
I think about our first Christmas, and our pitiful first Christmas tree, an anemic Charlie Brown-like shrub. Still, we loved it, and we didn’t have enough ornaments to fill a regular-sized tree anyway.
Maybe one day we’ll be very, very rich, and I’ll have a whole closet filled with fascinators that look like lily pads. (I doubt this, as J. and I are both English majors and it is a universal truth that English majors do not end up extremely wealthy.) We’ll probably continue to argue about money, and maybe some day we’ll figure it all out. But if we don’t, I guess there could be worse things to fight about. Like Vanity Fair Oscar party seating.
Do you ever wonder about what your relationship would be like if you removed the one thing that most causes trouble?
*On second thought, he probably has one of those fancy automatic toilets that does it for it. Scratch number 1.
*Though I bet they have nannies and wet-nurses for that…