Standoff with spouses over dishes, lettuce

By Tammy Keith Published December 9, 2012 at 12:00 a.m.
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Sometimes when you’ve been married a while, things get to you.

One of my co-workers has a husband she adores, and he adores her, and life is good. Most of the time.

She came in one morning last week complaining about him, which is rare.

In fact, we sometimes one-up each other on the wonderfulness of our spouses.

(David does this; well, yeah, Bear does this and this.)

They’ve been married 28 years and have little nicknames for each other. Like my husband and me, they actually still like each other.

First, it helps to know that this woman is a clean freak. OK, maybe freak is too strong. No, no, I’m gonna stick with that.

Her husband had gotten home from work at 3:30 and hadn’t emptied the dishwasher.

There were glasses by the sink, too. She got home much later and was tired.

So, she started a silent boycott.

He asked her the next day where one of his favorite coffee mugs was. She said, pointedly, that it was in the dishwasher. Where the clean dishes were, hint, hint.

No hint taken.

The dishes continued to collect. He made tuna salad for supper one night, rinsed out the bowl and set it in the sink.

For her to let this happen showed a lot of willpower. In the office, we make sure we tell her things NOT to throw away, or she will go on a cleaning spree and put important stuff in the recycling bin. (When something is missing, we blame her anyway.)

She is not an in-your-face kind of woman, so she didn’t come right out and complain to him. (She said once when he didn’t pick up his dirty clothes off the bed, she just made up the bed with big lumps of clothes underneath.)

When I was telling my husband this story, he reminded me of our own little standoff.

It was when we were first married, 25 years ago. I was fixing something that involved lettuce (bizarre that I would have been in the kitchen), and I dropped a piece. A little later, my husband asked if I would pick it up, and apparently I said I would do it later. In his heart, my husband said, he knew I wouldn’t.

The next morning, there was the wilted piece of lettuce. He got a piece of paper, put it on the floor next to the lettuce, and used a marker to draw an arrow and write “I knew it, I knew it, I knew it.”

My co-worker came in this morning and said her husband called her as she was on her way home from work the day before and asked, “Are we having an issue with what’s going on in the sink?”

He told her he’d emptied the dishwasher and refilled it with the dirty dishes.

“I didn’t even think it was an issue, then I said, ‘Wow, she’s ticked off and hasn’t told me.’”

She said, “I wasn’t ticked off; I just wasn’t doing it.”

My husband fixed spaghetti one night last week. He asked if I would wash the dishes while he went to Walmart.

I jumped right up then and did it.

See, we can be trained, even after all these years.

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or

Niche Publications Senior Writer Tammy Keith can be reached at 501-327-0370 or

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