If you’re like my wife, then after you’ve been married for about two years you probably realize your decision to get married was a serious mistake. Marriage is difficult, especially if your husband is a humor writer or if you have kids. If both of those conditions apply to you, then may God have mercy on your soul. 

My wife Michele (who prefers not to be mentioned by name in my columns, so will henceforth be referred to as “the woman who prefers not to be mentioned as Michele”) and I have been married for 26 years. Like any married couple, we’ve had our ups and downs. We’ve squabbled over trivial disagreements like why I always pull all the covers over to my side of the bed at night, what was I thinking the time I taught our 9- and 8-year-old daughters how to hitchhike, and my minor lapse of judgment when I hired a police officer stripper for a surprise party for my wife’s 40th birthday. Turns out my wife was not quite as impressed by Officer Cinnamon’s sexy pole dancing skills as my poker buddies and I were. 

So yes, we’ve endured our fair share of marital misunderstandings. But there is one issue which for years has caused more heartache and strife than any couple should have to endure. That’s right. I’m talking about the differences in how we load the dishwasher. It is still painful to talk about in public.

I’m an efficiency expert by profession, so I know a thing or two about the right way to load a dishwasher. My wife, on the other hand, is an artist, which apparently means that she thinks the inside of a dishwasher should resemble a Jackson Pollock painting.

Anyone who knows anything about the proper way to load a dishwasher knows that you load silverware with the handles down (except for sharp knives), like-sized plates go next to each other, facing the same direction, fatter items like bowls go around the edges, and you should hand-rinse any item that has a large amount of food on it, so as not to clog the drain – anybody, that is, except the woman who prefers not to be mentioned as Michele. 

My wife, for all her many great qualities, does not have a clue about how to properly load a dishwasher. She also has no idea how to record a TV show using TIVO (Hint: Press the red button labeled “RECORD”). Her idea of loading the dishwasher is to fill it to barely 25% of capacity by randomly dropping dishes and glasses wherever they just happen to land. She will also load dishes caked in three-day-old egg yolk or two inches of dried up pasta, blissfully unaware that there’s about as much chance of that crap being scraped off by the dishwasher as the chances the Seattle Mariners will win a World Series in my lifetime.

But perhaps the most annoying thing about my wife’s adversarial relationship with our dishwasher is that she believes the dishes, once clean, will magically put themselves away in their proper cabinets. We take turns putting the clean dishes away – by which I mean that on odd days I put the clean dishes away, and on even days my wife lets them sit there in the dishwasher until the calendar turns to an odd day. The result is that dirty dishes pile up on the kitchen counter like some grotesque modern art sculpture involving spatulas and cheese graters. Our three cats, licking their whiskers, seem impressed by her artistic presentations.

I tried to offer up compromises that were painful for me to accept.  I was even willing to let go of my insistence that silverware should go in handles down. It was a stormy period of our lives. In retrospect, I suspect it also deeply confused our kids, who to this very day are not really sure whether drinking glasses should be loaded with the opening facing down or lying sideways underneath a crusty salad bowl. How will they ever make it out in the real world if they believe the proper way to load a dishwasher is to put knives and spoons inside of coffee mugs? 

We’ve fought over this issue for years. Most of our debates begin by me saying, Honey, you’re not doing it right. You need to put all the plates in facing the same direction… and the woman who prefers not to be mentioned as Michele then presenting her cogent counter-argument, consisting of barking, Will you just shut the hell up about it already! 

Because I want to save our marriage, I’ve recently come to the conclusion that my wife suffers from DLIS (Dishwasher Loading Impairment Syndrome). So, in a way, it’s really not her fault. Unfortunately, there is no known cure. I have decided to give up my battle and show my wife patience and understanding about her impairment.

Besides, it’s just a dishwasher. As I think about it further, in the grand scheme of life there are much thornier and more serious issues that couples need to resolve, like how to raise their children, how to manage the household budget, and whether the toilet paper roll should go OVER or UNDER. 

Of course, the correct answer is the roll goes OVER. But my wife ALWAYS loads the toilet paper roll UNDER – I think mostly just to piss me off. Okay, so I caved about the proper way to load a dishwasher. But there are times when a husband needs to take a stand. When it comes to the proper direction of toilet paper rolls, I refuse to roll over – wait a minute. That’s not what I mean. That’s why as a matter of principle, from now on I’m leaving the toilet seat up until she converts to OVER. I can play this game as long as she can.

That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.

PS:  If you enjoyed this week’s post, please let me know by sharing it on Facebook, posting a comment or giving it a.  The person who shares this post with the most people may win a new DISHWASHER. [Offer not valid in any states containing the letters “a” or “n”.] 

© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2013

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