My siblings and I all come from a long and proud line of anal-retentive matriarchs. From a grandmother who would dust-bust under your chair while you’re eating in it to a mother who refused to put trash in our bathroom trash cans, we all inherited the trait honestly. In fact, until we had friends over and nearly yelled at them in shock, we didn’t realize other people were allowed to sit on beds – this was a cardinal sin akin to not refilling the toilet paper roll or failing to replace the shampoo bottle in its rightful spot. (And in case you’re wondering, we sat on the floor. Isn’t that where you sat in your bedroom?) I naturally assumed every household was run this way.
And then I got married …
And boy, was I in for a rude awakening. My husband had these annoying habits that presented quite the obstacle. For example, he had the audacity to kick his shoes off when he got home from work and LEAVE THEM IN THE MIDDLE OF THE FLOOR! Wherever he happened to stop, that’s where they landed. Didn’t he realize there’s a place for them? There’s a place for everything! It didn’t stop there. He also didn’t see the need to make the bed daily. He left mail out on the counter. And worst of all: he didn’t fold the towels correctly.
Anyone who shares this anal-retentive gene understands the grave importance of proper towel-folding. Each family passes down its chosen folding method from generation to generation, like a precious family heirloom. Ours starts with the double halfway fold (hamburger style), then the one-third fold from the right to the left, then the towel flip so the seam is on the bottom. The next natural step is the towel storage, where the folding meets its full potential. The newest, cleanest towels obviously go on the bottom to encourage rotational use, and the seams are always hidden. I mean, it looks like Bed, Bath, & Beyond in my bathroom cabinets, and I ain’t mad at it.
So imagine my distress when my husband volunteered to help me with the laundry, only to fold a towel THE WRONG. WAY. I’m not sure which was worse: that he did it all wrong or that he was oblivious to the fact that there could be a “wrong way.” I nearly yanked the thing right out of his incapable and disrespectful hands!
I told him he was doing it all wrong, at which point he looked at me with equal parts alarm and offense. Then he literally threw in the towel and said, “Ok, you do it.” To be fair, he was looking for an out from the chore anyway, and who could blame him? I didn’t want to be folding laundry any more than he did! I looked past him at the pile of clothing stacking up and came to a critical juncture in my anal-retentive journey … I apologized, told him that however he wanted to do it was fine, and accepted his help (I admit it was begrudging at first).
And from that point forward, I started to understand the idea that when a person marries, she leaves her father and mother and clings to her spouse because that’s when I left my anal-retentive family heritage and started clinging to a more laid-back home culture. No one is looking in your cabinets to judge how your towels look! And if someone is, that person shouldn’t be at your house, so…
I realized that if my husband is wanting to help me, why on earth would I insult how he’s doing it? If someone asked me to do something and then criticized the way I did it, I would not only be justifiably angry, but I certainly wouldn’t help with that task or any other!
And now, as much as it may inwardly aggravate me (honestly, it doesn’t anymore …), I have extended the same grace to my children, who sort, fold, and put away all of their own laundry. What I’ve realized, though, is that if the cost is my obsession with neatness, the reward is my sanity.