Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Every problem in my life got worse

Before I got married, I had one of the crucial components to a happy life in abundance: the freedom to fix my problems and find my goal in life. Because I had the choice in how and when I dealt with my problems, I was in a position to find the best time and method to fix these issues. Sometimes I dealt with problems as they happened, sometimes I waited a bit to plan on how to work through them, and still other times I procrastinated and fixed them when I had the inclination to do so. Of course, I still had problems before I got married. I'd like to share a few examples, and how I dealt with them:

In my first few days abroad, I once met a happy drunk while traveling with my bud from America. The drunk first saw me when I was buying something at a convenience store, then followed me outside. At a bus stop, he shared his bottle of alcohol with me (it was some weird banana-flavored beer), and kept talking about how white women were so hot.

Then, his demeanor changed... I think it was because I was sick with the flu and I couldn't stop coughing, drinking his beer without touching the lip of the bottle. He switched the dialect he was speaking into one I didn't understand, and wouldn't stop staring at me. My bud then calmly took me by the arm and we walked away, then he translated later that the drunk said I was coughing on purpose. Apparently, the lush thought that I thought he smelled, then he threatened to beat me to death. My bud and I then went to go get coffee.

Another time, while I was staying at the hostel in the big city, I was at the subway/train/bus station and using one of the public computers to check my email. A few minutes into my reading, a local woman came up behind me and asked for my help to find a job abroad. She seemed nice enough, so I went on a few international job sites, and tried desperately to find something that met her incredibly narrow, and at times contradictory, requirements for a job. She wanted to work with people, but in the back of an office with a computer. She wanted to work with fixing machines, but didn't want to fix machines. Maybe she was messing with me, maybe her English wasn't that good, I don't know. But after I found her ten or so jobs following her input, I said I had to get ready for a tutoring session that I really had to go to.

She narrowed her eyes and raised her voice in anger immediately. She asked me how I felt when I first came to her country, and when I answered that I felt a bit confused, she condescendingly told me that that's what I would leave her to feel by not helping her more. At the time, I felt guilty (and suddenly understood why her foreign ex-boyfriend that she had mentioned had left her without warning), and I obliged to help her find another dozen jobs, because I still had time.

When that was done, I excused myself from her, only to have her follow me out the door towards my tutoring session. After a little persuasion (and giving her my phone number), she finally left me alone. A few days later, she called me asking what my sign was. I played dumb and said I didn't know her, then hung up and never talked to her again.

Sometimes, when I had a free day on the weekend to spend in the big city with friends, I didn't have enough hours in the day to meet with them all. At that point, I either had to reschedule a friend or two for the following day, or combine several meetings into one big mini-party.

Other times, I would meet up with someone annoying. Once or twice, a girl wanted to date me, but was irritating or flaky. When a chubby one started calling me after midnight, I asked her to stop, then never heard from her again. When another ditched me in the middle of a hang out time because I asked two other friends to come, I never heard from her again. Later, when I tried to date a cute girl who did nothing but criticize my hair, nails, temporary poverty, clothes, gentlemanly nature and so on, I put up with it for about two weeks before I just shrugged my shoulders and said goodbye, then I never heard from her again.

When I got my first job where I worked two hours for one hour of pay, I chafed under the constant, obvious suggestions my boss was throwing at me, the rude children I was teaching, the long hours, the free work I did, the excessive amounts of training I had to do and the advertisements I sometimes had to pass out on the weekends. As a result, I made it my mission to enjoy my free time as much as possible, and to be a lot more careful about the places I signed up to work for in the future.

Sometimes, some kind of money problem would pop up. Once, my girlfriend's dog needed medicine, so my bank account took a nearly thousand dollar hit to save her life. Sometimes I turned the A/C on too long, and my electrical bill was substantially higher the next month. But I just sucked up these costs as part of being a good (or comfortable) guy, and just spent less the next month.

I had to do the laundry once a week at my apartment. Usually, it was a load of two work shirts, two travel shirts, two pants, two shorts, four pairs of socks, my bedsheets and my bath towel. I did the laundry when I felt like it, usually Friday night between two close shifts at work, when I was just hours away from a fun weekend of adventure.

I had to do the dishes every time I cooked and ate at home. It often took up to thirty minutes per meal to not only cook, but to scrub the dishes down as well. Oftentimes, I would simply eat out or buy something packaged from a store just to avoid having to do dishes.

Finally, I had to sweep up dust once a week, a scarcely two minute chore.

I hope you are beginning to notice two things at this point:

- My life was pretty free of challenges; these "problems" were nothing more than barely noticeable stains on an otherwise fun life.
- The solutions to these problems were entirely up to me.

In addition, I hope you don't take this post as me trying to complain about my old life. Mildly annoying as they were, chores made me feel like I was taking care of business and living the life of a responsible, clean and independent man, and the other issues were very easily solved by turning around and walking away from the buttheads who were bothering me.

In almost every case, my "problems" were not only free to be solved in multiple ways, but at my leisure. Eat a delicious home-cooked meal and do the dishes, or just hit up the supermarket or a restaurant? Wear my work clothes an extra day to avoid more laundry, or be clean and change once a day? Help the annoying lady at the station and feel like I accomplished a good deed, or blow her off and enjoy more time by myself?

Everything was up to me... but not so after I got married. Now, every problem is not only multiple times worse, but is treated as some kind of life-threatening issue that needs solving right now. If I delay on anything, one of two things happen:

- My wife takes care of the problem for me. This is added to her side of the "debt scale," and if that scale tips too far in her direction vs. the things I do for her, she has me do other chores or she starts up some drama on some unrelated issue. So, in the end, nothing changes.


- My wife just asks me to take care of the problem. If I refuse, I get the passive-aggressive silent treatment, and a fight within the next few hours about an unrelated issue. If I take care of it, then it's just more work. I usually do what I need to because it's my responsibility; even if I were an unreasonable man, I don't want to deal with angry people making my life hell after I come home from stressful, unsatisfying work that I see no personal benefit from.

When my wife and I have a fight, I have to shut her down and keep her in check every time like she's an out of control child, something I rarely had to do when we were dating. From personal experience, it's easier to train a dog, because at least the dog ends up learning what it's doing wrong instead of repeating the same mistakes and improprieties dozens or hundreds of times over.

If I hate my job, I have to stick with it, because my monthly expenses are literally five times higher than what they used to be. My finances take dents every single month because of this, and it's always something: my son needs more milk, somebody gets sick, somebody forgets to pay their taxes, somebody's out of work, etc... If I don't pay a single one of these sudden debts, then like an anchor strapped around my waist, I get pulled to the bottom of the ocean, too.

I used to do the laundry once a week. Now I do it almost every day, sometimes multiple times in a day. And as the cherry on the turd sundae, 80-90% of the clothes I wash are my wife or son's. For every shirt, shorts and socks of mine, there are two baby shirts, two pairs of baby pants, a jacket, two shirts, panties, pants, a dress, a bra and a pair of socks that belong to my wife or son.

I used to do the dishes once a week, if that; it was up to me when and whether I did them. Now, I do them nearly every day. There's always a dirty plate, used baby bottle or something similar in there for me to wash. If I don't want to have dishes in the sink so I don't have to do them, too bad. My wife cooked, and I'm washing them.

I used to sweep up once a week for two minutes. Now, I clean my son's toys, my wife's junk mail and newspaper stuff, dirty dishes on the coffee table and scads of other assorted things lying around every single night.

It's a common occurrence for me to come home after hours of work and making money I'll never use, only to see a washing machine full of wet laundry, a sink full of dirty dishes and a floor covered in toys and papers for me to take care of.

This isn't even close to the life I lived before. Before I got married, I had few angry people hanging around me (and all of whom could be left in a heartbeat if they didn't change their ways), few chores and even fewer debts to take care of, and I could choose how and when to fix all of these problems. Now, the troubles have piled into a huge mound of unending work and unfortunate surprises that require my immediate, daily attention every time, or I risk hurting someone, or getting passive-aggressive payback or fighting.

I'm a butler. An ATM machine. It's only a few, rare moments in my life where I actually feel like a man.

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