Tag Archives: relationships

The "Loaded" Dishwasher

Part of this wonderful journey of being a published author, is the generosity from other writers.  Gail Maria Forrest is a clever, quick-witted, honesty-mongering, woman who writes the wildly entertaining and insightful blog gonepausal .  It’s my great pleasure to welcome her to THESE HERE HILLS, and to share her essay with you…about when to draw the line in a relationship that just ISN’T working.  Some relationships are meant to end, and this one clearly was one of them.  Thanks for writing from the trenches, Gail.  Please feel free to comment here.  Gail will be around to respond…yrs. Laura

p.s.  If you are no longer receiving my blog posts in your email in box, try re-subscribing.  Thanks!

The Dishwasher : This was not the story it was supposed to be.
I am not a domestic diva.  My Mother always thought my inability or refusal to learn how to set the table would prevent me from getting married.  She also mentioned my messy table manners. “Mom,” I would whine, leave me alone, that has nothing to do with a man liking me or not.”  Was Mom psychic?

I had two husbands, I showed Mom.  Neither one of them ever mentioned my lack of domestic skills.  They had better things to do than monitor my household acumen; we also had a cleaning woman which took the pressure off.  For reasons other than table setting and manners those marriages fizzled into divorce.  Call them bad timing for this girl who was still seeking independence and couldn’t figure out how to combine that with marriage.  In hindsight I would marry them both again.  Don’t tell my Mom or she would never stop saying “I told you so.”

When I met Jake I had been a private art dealer for 18 years.  The first 15 were very successful and I loved the freedom of working for myself along with making lots of money.  I could afford cleaning help so I never did have to fine tune my domestic skills.  It is important to know that I never turned on my dishwasher because I never loaded it.  After my son went off to college it was just me, my take-out food, and a few dishes.  I had zillions of them after two marriages but truthfully just used a plate, a coffee mug, and a wine glass.  I ate and washed them by hand.  It was quick and easy.  I never gave a dishwasher another thought.

I swear on a stack of bibles you do not really know about someone until you live with them.   Heed this advice or forever cease bitching and moaning about how he/she changed.  No one changes. Ha!  When I moved in my business had been dropping off due to 9/11 and the demise of the economy.  I was unfortunately  in a weakened financial position so living with him was certainly going to help me out.  I could save or at least not bleed money.  This was not a good plan.  If I had thought I could make the drinks at Starbucks I would have been better off saying “Welcome to Starbucks may I take your twisted and unnecessarily complicated order?”  I had every intention of making our relationship work however.  It was time and I was ready. Nothing could stand in my way.

“Gail,” Jake said sternly as we stood side by side in front of the dishwasher one afternoon. He had summoned me to the kitchen.  He opened the door and slowly pulled out the racks.  I had no idea what was on his mind but thought  the dishes looked  clean.  He pointed to the silverware.  Oh no, oh no I hoped he wasn’t going to ask me to set the table; I was doomed. The placement of the fork, spoon, knife and napkin raced through my head and I couldn’t remember which side was for which utensil.  Curses!

“Gail, he repeated as I stood there a little antsy and bored.  Do you know there is a correct way to load the dishes and silverware?”  Huh? is the bubble over my head   “ I wasn’t going to say anything to you, but time after time I go to unload the dishes and can’t believe what you’ve done.”  I wanted to burst out laughing but saw how serious he was.   “Do you know what happens when you haphazardly put  things in it?”  Uh oh, a pop quiz.  Damn, I hated those.

“No, I don’t know exactly what happens, but  I know I put the dishes in the dishwasher to clean them.”  That had to be the right answer.

“No, there happens to be a right way to place them.  Haven’t you noticed how I do it?”  I shook my head in response to his question and in disbelief that he actually asked the question.

“YOU, put all the silverware in the front, and when you do that it doesn’t get clean.  You have to spread it to the back holders, that way the machine works more efficiently.  And the wine glasses can’t just go in anywhere.  They need to be up here.”  As he continued to re-arrange the dishwasher I stopped listening.   What was this high school home ec class?   I wanted to yell “big fucking deal” but didn’t.  He had a bad temper and I had a failing business.  Against every voice in my head I kept quiet.

There are straws that break the backs of even the strongest camels.  I always thought of myself as a big brave Dromedary yet I was weakening with every chore and appliance.  Each lecture whether in front of the dryer where I was reprimanded for not cleaning the lint filter after each load.

“Do you realize you could set the house on fire?”

To the utensil drawer,

“Why are you putting the shorter forks with the longer ones?  That’s not how they go.  Why can’t you care about this and pay attention when you put them away?”

Onward to the sink,

“There are two different  sponges to wipe off the counter Gail, you’re using the wrong one again!”

I had been re-defined and re-evaluated by appliances.  I failed “Dishwasher 101 and Intro to Chores.”  Ironically another relationship was down the drain.  He was right I didn’t care about the sponges, forks, lint filters, or ill placed wine glasses.  I’m proudly not a domestic diva and maybe Mom was prophetic- one man didn’t like me as a result.  I can’t set a table or load a dishwasher correctly but thankfully I remembered how to pack my clothes.  I am happily much more than the sum of my domestic skills.

Now where’s my plate?

About Gail:
I’m cheap, hate to shop (see above photo– that’s me being pushed into a store) and have anxiety about driving more than 100 miles alone. None of these traits are genetic; I developed them all by myself. I can’t order a $10 glass of wine without getting a small rash. Unfortunately it is becoming increasing difficult to find a nice Sauvignon Blanc for less, which makes me sad and I’m afraid I’ll have to switch to beer. I love to ride horses, except when the jumps get too big, but now in my older years I just burst into tears and beg my trainer to make them lower. I’m a runner but can’t take one step without music, so I always carry extra batteries for my walkman….no, I don’t have an iPod….remember I’m cheap. I love my beefy boy Yellow Lab “Elliot” aka “Potato” although this is slightly hard on my ego as he is far more attractive than I am and gets all the attention everywhere we go. I also complain a lot about the weather which is why every winter I leave freezing cold Chicago where I live and head for Palm Springs, CA to warm up and rip off my North Face Parka.
I started www.gonepausal.com four years ago as a way to rant and rave. I noticed all of my girlfriends were doing the same thing. We were “testy, snarky, and no longer took direction well. Our tolerance levels were dropping as fast as our hormone levels. No thoughts were sacred or private as we blurted out tales of our diminishing sex drive. Desiring sex came right after laundry, cleaning the bathroom and eating ice cream out of the container. I couldn’t resist the urge to write about our new peri and menopausal lives. I am also pleased to be a woman’s web-site that has allotted a section for men to bitch and moan about their menopausal women called “The Men’s Room.” Yes, I’m an equal opportunity pausal employer. Along with gonepausal I now am on a new internet radio show called “YAK” www.herewomentalk.com the Zeuss Radio Network. It’s a weekly show about “everything” that comes to mind which runs the gamut from stripping as exercise to my disastrous internet dates. In the end I want to thank my Mother for telling me I should write a blog when she didn’t even know what that meant. Thanks Mom for www.gonepausal.com !


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Looks and Long Term Fidelity

In the second of a five-part series on love and relationships, Tom Matlack and author Laura Munson debate the question: How important is physical appearance to long-term fidelity?

MUNSON: Many of us fear this question because many of us liked our 20-year-old bodies better than our current (44-year-old, in my case) bodies. The beer commercials tell us we’re supposed to. But I’d be willing to bet that even if we still had that bikini body (and some of us do, so power to you!), we’d still look in the mirror and find something wrong. I remember looking in the mirror and thinking my butt was big when I weighed 25 pounds less than I do now and I was in the prime of my physical life. I’d do anything to have that “big butt” back. But would I really? Is that what I need in order to feel attractive? My 44-year-old mind tells me that I know better. In longterm committed relationships, what perhaps was once about physical attraction morphs into a seasoned love that transcends physicality. Not always—but hopefully. Because our bodies will change and sag and even be riddled with sickness.

My husband used to say, “You’re beautiful and you’re going to get more beautiful with age.” That was his 20-year-old self being caught in the beauty myth. Life becomes about a lot more than what your butt looks like. We’ve been through death, near divorce, birth, career changes—the regular stresses and gifts of life. And I’ve learned that the most freedom I’ve felt is in letting go of that beauty myth. That’s not where your power lies. It lies in forgiveness, loving kindness, going easy on your partner in rough times, not taking things personally, being personally responsible, and re-creating yourself in every moment. It’s about having fun and waking up every day agreeing that you’re going to be the best married person you can be. If it’s my butt that keeps my husband around, then I don’t want that marriage. I think respect goes miles farther than any ass ever did—and that the definition of beauty changes as you grow.

MATLACK: I agree with you that appearance in marriage is filtered through the eyes of “seasoned love.” I have told my wife on numerous occasions that if she were to get plastic surgery, as many of the women in our circle of friends have, I would be enormously disappointed. To me, beauty isn’t about artificial perfection. It’s about the natural aging process. My wife is more beautiful to me now than the day I met her. At 46, she keeps herself in great shape and has the long lines, figure, blond hair, and startling blue eyes of a shooting star. But it’s not that she looks young, it’s that she’s mine, and we love each other. It’s the feeling of her body and all the little things that make her uniquely her that I adore, and that make her so beautiful.

I was at a Christmas party recently, talking to a group of guys I barely knew. My wife walked across the room behind me in a black dress and high heels. Every one of the guys’ eyes followed her from one doorway to the other. Finally, one guy, Jim, said, “Who is that?” Another guy laughed. “That’s Tom’s wife!” Jim high-fived me and then gave me a bear hug in congratulations.

None of this is meant to say that my wife is a model or is going to be on the front page of Glamour anytime soon (though I think she should be!). Objectively, she is a very beautiful woman. To me, she is the most beautiful woman on earth—because I adore her. I never think about other women because she is everything I’ve ever wanted.

There is an important distinction here: physical appearance is not the same thing as attraction. From a male perspective, many very beautiful women become immediately unattractive as soon as they open their mouths. Attraction has to do with the whole person, inside and out. And fidelity, in the long term, has to do with an enduring attraction built on passion that colors the way a husband looks at his wife. It is not about looking like a Victoria’s Secret model, but about a husband feeling a pounding in his chest when he sees the woman he has come to know over the course of years and—despite inevitable difficulties of marriage—still has an animal attraction that he can’t even fully explain. It simply is. She is the one. Not in a magazine cover kind of way, but an in-the-flesh, real, three-dimensional, human-connection kind of way.

That’s how I feel about my wife, and, I’d like to believe, why she can attract the glances she does at a party. She is not just hot—she’s loved.


MUNSON: Please tell me that you shared this response with your wife. What a love letter. I wonder if it’s a rare one though. I’m not sure most people would describe their spouses this way. Too many people dwell in the “what’s wrong” with their partner instead of “what’s right.” Often, it’s about outer appearance. And once you start doing that, you get off each other’s team. I have always felt that my husband and I are on the same team, even when we went through a significant marital crisis that almost led to separation. Couples meet in a place of oneness and co-creation. I don’t believe in the Jerry Maguire “you complete me” concept. I believe in Rilke’s notion of being guardians of each other’s solitude, or individuality. That kind of love brings longevity. That kind of love is not about the way a person looks.


Read the first of this series: “Great Sex or Fighting Fair?


Laura A. Munson, author of This Is Not the Story You Think It Is, wrote one of the most widely read and talked about New York Times Modern Love columns ever: “Those Aren’t Fighting Words, Dear.” She lives with her family in Montana. You can visit her website, and find her on Facebook and  Twitter.


Tom Matlack is just foolish enough to believe he is a decent man. He has a 16-year-old daughter and 14- and 5-year-old sons. His wife, Elena, is the love of his life.


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What’s More Important, Great Sex or Fighting Fair?

***Please note that THESE HERE HILLS will be moving on Saturday January 29th to http://www.lauramunson.com/blog ***

Tom Matlack, creator of the Good Men Project, and I recently took on some interesting questions to see just what “big girls and big boys are made of.” Our answers were illuminating for me. See what you think. We’ll publish them in a series on both of our blogs and you can also find a few featured on the Huffington Post. I’ll link those here too when they run.

What’s more important, great sex or fighting fair?

MATLACK: Fighting is a part of every marriage, but not necessarily a useful part. I’ve never seen the benefit. I grew up watching couples going at each other with venom. Too often, it seemed to me as a teenager, committed couples got all tangled up and didn’t have the common sense to fight in private. It was right there for the kids, and the rest of the world, to see: a couple who loved each other so much they felt compelled to scream in each other’s faces. What does that achieve? I still don’t know.

Great sex surpasses all conversation; it is the greatest, most intimate, most complete form of communication. There’s a reason that, in Biblical times, the verb “to know” was synonymous with sex. Fights are about the basic disconnect between men and women. We use a different language to describe the same thing. More important, we display emotion in very different ways, and that leads every couple I have ever known to fight. If they aren’t fighting, it’s because one or the other has tuned out and given up.

For us guys, words often fail. The source of so many fights is our inability to be vulnerable, to admit that we were wrong, to ask forgiveness. But when husband and wife have great sex, there is a connection beyond the cerebral, beyond the differences. There is a connection, a union—a knowing—that is beautiful and healing and joyful. The world stops and two people crawl into a cave all their own to experience each other in all their nakedness.

Great sex takes practice, focus, and time. But it keeps a relationship fresh. Fighting—even well—is a waste of time and energy.

MUNSON: I like what you’re saying about connection. Even though you say that fighting is a waste of time, you also admit that if a couple isn’t fighting at all, then there’s a strong chance they’ve given up. I think you learn how to fight as you learn how to have your unique physical connection in sex. It’s always growing and changing, but there are some baseline ways to have both ways of connecting work. The key is respect. If you’ve lost respect for your partner or vice versa, it’s going to come out in those raw, real, hot moments of fighting and sex. The other key is trust. If you trust and respect each other, you’ll have success in your disagreements and in your intimacy, but if those are lost, then the relationship can’t sustain either.


MUNSON: I consider myself an excellent “fighter.” I rarely lose my temper, and I am skilled at talking through my emotions with connective tissue made up of empathy, forgiveness, and surrender. Sometimes I think my husband would rather not have to be on the other end of that. In his mind, this is not necessarily “fair” fighting. After all, he was the quarterback on his high school football team. He’s a textbook “guy.” And to me that means he deals with his feelings by going outside and chopping firewood, or driving his dirt bike straight up a ridge as fast as possible. I’ve come to see that maybe he’d rather I blew up.

After almost 20 years in this relationship, I’ve learned that talking through hard issues is not easy for him. Here’s what is: bullet-pointing his feelings in an email. Quick statement of conflict. Direct and practical suggestion for resolution. The whole thing wrapped up in a cyber-second. And when I meet him in this manner, you’d think we were seasoned psychologists. Years ago I’d call this mode of “fighting fair” a massive cop-out. I’d think our marriage was in ruin if our arguments were reduced to bullet-pointed email exchanges. I pictured emotional health in across-a-table heart-in-the-hand eye-to-eye conversation that didn’t cease until a resolution was found. And sometimes, that’s the way we fly. But not usually. We have learned what works for us and what feels fair—and that’s what matters. We deal in reality. Leave the fantasy for the great sex.


MATLACK: My wife is Italian. She is used to dishes flying all over the place. It’s not that I wish she would blow up—she does blow up. But that doesn’t advance the ball of intimacy in my view. I’m with your husband on chopping fire wood and driving a dirt bike up a ridge, breaking a phone or punching out a wall (once I called my contractor sheepishly after putting a hole in a wall with my fist—to which he responded, “Oh, yeah we do those for free!”). Like I said, words often fail us, especially in the heat of an argument. And taking some time to get some distance—from each other and the issue at hand—to vent our anger, so we can think rationally, is a great idea. But I’m not sure I like the idea of bullet points—that seems a
little too distant.


About Tom Matlack

Tom Matlack is just foolish enough to believe he is a decent man. He has a 16-year-old daughter and 14- and 5-year-old sons. His wife, Elena, is the love of his life.


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New York Times "Lives" Column

On my side of the Rockies: (looking east)


This is a dream come true for me. I’ve been dreaming about getting in the back page of the NYT Mag since I was just out of college. I’m currently in a part of Montana which has never seen a NYT, and probably doesn’t care or know the difference, but I will be driving over this same “ribbon of a highway” depicted in my essay this Sunday publication day, and will be privately smiling…and so will provide some visuals. I took these on my way over. Lewis and Clark and me. yrs. Laura

On the other side of the Rockies:

This is what they saw in the distance looking west…can you imagine? And I just drive my Suburban over it, home in time for dinner?

Lots of squashed bugs. Lots of wonder beyond.


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Awesome Women Hub

What inspiring women showed up today at the Facebook:  Awesome Women’s Hub, hosted by Robin Rice.  Thanks for showing up.  If you didn’t catch it, you can go to this link and scroll down to July 16th, 2010.  yrs. Laura


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Filed under "Those Aren't Fighting Words, Dear", A Place For Writers To Share, My Posts