From 2020’s stifling malaise, an apology
Lunch decisions, laundry failures and dish issues. Anna Rawhiti-Connell experienced a series of minor rages during lockdown - of which her husband bore the brunt. She looks at how those domestic trials acted as a mask for the things she was truly angry about.
I always thought it would be a marker of success if someone decided my marriage was interesting enough to write about in such a way that it would require a grand title like ‘Portrait of a Marriage’. Two souls, living interesting lives, nurturing each other’s passions and creativity, drawing from each other’s eternal wells of strength and fortitude, fighting about politics and ideas, maybe hosting a literary salon or two, and flopping onto chaise lounges in silk kimonos after everyone had left.
After two lockdowns and one and a half years of marriage, the title of a book about my relationship, and I suspect many others, would be ‘Shit Macaroni Art Collage the Neighbour’s Kid Made of a Marriage’. A sequel might be called ‘Collage Got Eaten by the Dog and Now I’m Googling if He’ll Die for the Fifth Time This Week’.
In no particular order, and it is by no means exhaustive, this is a list of things I have been angry at my husband about during the latest lockdown.
- He doesn’t know where the measuring jugs go in the kitchen. "In the preparation cupboard!" We have a presentation cupboard, stacked high with platters we never use for parties we never throw, and a preparation cupboard overflowing with spiralizers, mandolins and food processor attachments no one knows how to use. ‘IN THE PREPARATION CUPBOARD!’
- He did not successfully intuit when I would need a particular pair of leggings and did not wash them. "I have exercise leggings and house leggings."
- As a human trying to cope with work, uncertainty and the stifling malaise of 2020, he often ate pies for lunch. This was especially annoying when we had Mediterranean chicken leftovers in the fridge. After I yelled at him about this, he ate the leftovers and vomited 20 minutes later.
- Though he does the washing, the shopping and the rubbish, he failed to see the leftovers in the fridge that were at risk of starting the next global pandemic and did not throw them out. This is unrelated to the Mediterranean chicken.
- He did not anticipate that, unlike most humans, I do not get a surge of happy-making endorphins after running but am, instead, very, very angry. Anna would leave the house and Hulk would return. This was often the genesis of being angry about leggings, angry about measuring jugs and angry about leftovers.
Our communal well of strength and fortitude had run dry this time round, necessarily drawn on throughout a year that has delivered sucker punch after sucker punch, depleted during the last lockdown.
We were often out of sync and out of sorts. On days where I was possessed with resilient, war-time spirit, making three broths and Mediterranean chicken like a survivalist possessed, my husband would emerge from the spare room at 6pm, after eight hours staring into the Zoom hole, wild eyed and woolly-haired, and randomly bellow "I HATE IT". When I was busy yelling about how I just absolutely refused to "unite against Covid for another fucking minute of this endless trash fire of a year", he would try and offer comfort.
Comfort was hard to offer and harder to accept. Sometimes the distance between us on the couch was akin to the vast frozen tundra of Siberia. Attempts at comfort also often ended in physical pain. Our dog, who we sometimes call Johnny, resembling both Jack Nicholson in The Shining and three-way handshake John Key when he inserts himself into these moments of marital tenderness, would accidentally punch me in the boob or my husband in the balls.
These minor domestic trials are indeed minor in the grand scheme of things, but they masked the things I was really angry about.
My apoplexy about the measuring jugs was just an attempt to exert control at a time when we feel as if we’ve got none. I don’t believe any humans are designed to live in each other’s pockets all the time and doing so puts our behaviour under a microscope. We nit-pick and draw up a mental list of offences, ready to unleash them on each other, often with no warning. I’d spend all day stewing about the rotting leftovers in the fridge and my husband would have no idea. The next minor offence would open the floodgates and I’d list every infringement. Tonally it landed somewhere between Abigail Williams listing all the Goodys she’d seen with the devil and a bad Drag Race library challenge.
I missed my friends and family. I missed doing things with my days that would distract me from all the disappointment this year has served up. He did too. We both missed the communal aspects of our lives that don’t involve each other. As these things slowly come back into our lives again, so too do the normal ebbs and flows of our relationship. He returned to the office this week and I have quietly thrown out the week-old macaroni cheese in the fridge.
Post lockdown 2.0, I’m much more attached to the idea of marriage or long-term partnership as a collage; less a grand work of art and more layers of repair and reconciliation. Portraits often lie.
To my husband, I offer this column as an apology. "Everybody", as a wise friend once told me in the midst of pre-wedding madness, "is doing their best". But also, the dog ate a lot of protein powder this morning after intercepting a delivery while I was out getting a smear test. He probably won’t die, I’ve googled it, but he may vomit. The dog clean-up towels are on the top shelf of the linen cupboard. Not those ones - those are the human towels - the other ones. Not those ones either, they are the human beach towels. Distinct from the human bath towels. The cupboard is organised. I’ve explained this several times.
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