June 5, 2017

I want to be that couple.

This weekend I was clothes shopping at one of my favorite local thrift stores. I prefer this particular one not only because it always has a wide selection of really high end brands and good quality items, but also because the store is organized so well. Instead of having to dig through towering piles and overflowing racks, you can shop for exactly what you’re looking for, by color, style and size.

I was flipping through a rack of blouses when I came to a sweater. At first I got excited because it was in my size, a beautiful Italian wool from Banana Republic. Upon further inspection, I realized it was so tiny, it would barely fit a child. Clearly somebody didn’t follow the care instructions because it had obviously been through a cycle of hot water with a side of dryer.

I wondered if some husband or boyfriend had been the culprit. I’m not trying to pick on the guys here, but as a woman who tries to take the best possible care of my clothes, chances are slim that I would make the mistake of shrinking a nice garment such as this.

I thought of my own husband, who washes everything together on hot. Just last night he washed our dogs’ foam beds, on hot, with our one and only set of bed sheets. The dog beds exploded in the dryer leaving piles of what looked like gray bird’s nests (or in my husband’s words “pube clippings”) everywhere.

But back to the sweater…

I wondered if this small shrunken garment had been the catalyst for a big blow-up fight. Maybe it was her favorite and he ruined it. Maybe she had been feeling like he never listened to her, or didn’t see her in some way and this small slight was just the icing on the cake.

Has that been you? I can relate. Years ago, early in my relationship with my then boyfriend/now husband, we were at a Chinese restaurant and overheard a couple at the next table having a heated conversation. We couldn’t help but get drawn into listening, curious about their situation. It all came to a head when the guy said to the girl, in an angry tone, “If you want to try the soup, JUST TRY THE SOUP.”

Of course without knowing all the context, we can’t say much about what was going on, but this phrase has stuck with us. For the next decade or so, we’ve said this to each other jokingly or sometimes to break the ice during a heated conversation of our own.

This morning at breakfast, my husband said (out of the blue), “I wonder whatever happened to that soup couple. Did they make it? Are they still together or was that argument the last straw?”

We’ve been that couple too. The one arguing about something stupid like popcorn or a spoon. And I’m sure there have been times when strangers have heard us and wondered, “what the heck?” Maybe there’s another couple out there quoting one of the more ridiculous things we’ve said.

Not too long ago, I was having breakfast at a diner. I looked over at the next table and saw a couple eating together. Except they were both reading magazines. Not talking. Just munching their food, and flipping the pages. His was Esquire, hers appeared to be something about antique furniture.

My first thought was: Jeez, I don’t want to be that couple. The one who goes out to eat and sits there silently. That couple who are both engrossed in their reading, completely oblivious of the other’s presence.

But as soon as this thought came and went, another one sprang into my mind.

What if they are totally happy? What if the thing they enjoy most each week is breakfast and magazines? Perhaps it’s their Netflix and chill.  

It’s easy to make sweeping statements about how we don’t want to be. Grand edicts etched in stone about what we are and are not. I’ve done it so many times.

I don’t want to be that couple seeing a marriage counselor during year two because year one was such a struggle. I don’t want to be that couple with debt. I don’t want to be that couple who has drama with our in-laws. I don’t want to be that couple screaming at each other over a bucket of popcorn.

Except I’ve been one half of this couple. Every single time.

And I’ve been part of that couple sitting there not talking at a restaurant. And sometimes it’s just all you can do.

Sweaters shrink. Dog beds disintegrate. Couples fight over silly things. I don’t want to be that couple who doesn’t make it. That couple who takes each other for granted and ends up breaking each other’s hearts. But beyond that, I’m all in.

Ultimately, I do want to be that couple. Full stop. Whatever comes after that is open to interpretation.