It was a Sunday afternoon. We’d just gotten home from church. I was in the kitchen, making Mac and Cheese for the kids. Mel was in the bedroom with the baby, changing out of her dress.
Mel cried out my name using her angry voice. It’s a tone that starts out soft, and then slowly turns into a growl. I’ve heard this tone a million times over the past ten years. It strikes fear in my heart, because I know that I have done one of two things: something really stupid, or something really embarrassing.
She uses the same tone on our children, and it scares the hell out of them, too. I have to assume my mother had the same power over my father when they were together. I know that she had the same power over me, anyway. I suppose I assumed as an adult that the angry mom tone was behind me, but it turns out I was wrong.
Perhaps this is where my wife is right in saying that I’m like a fourth child.
I heard her coming down the hall. Her steps were quick and strong. This was her angry walk. She wasn’t wearing her glasses, her short brown hair was pulled back with a clip, and she was till in the dark purple cotton skirt and white shirt she wore to church.
She looked at me, eyes narrow, lips drawn to a tight line, and said, “I need to show you something.” She didn’t tell me what that something was. She never does. She never gives me warning, or uses language that could lead to misinterpretation. Instead Mel likes to take me to the scene of the crime and rub my nose in it. And yet, I always want her to tell me what I did up front because I assume it will give me more time to formulate an excuse.
“What’s the problem?” I said.
She didn’t respond. She just grabbed my wrist and dragged me down the hall to the master bathroom. She pointed to just above the bathroom drawer where she keeps her hair drier and curling iron.
There, just below the counter, was a big green booger.
“What the hell is that?” she asked.
At this point it might be best for me to tell you that I’m a nose picker. It’s a compulsive thing. I don’t think about it much anymore because it’s so engrained into who I am. I could probably give you a million excuses as to why I pick my nose. Part of it was from growing up next to my grandfather’s farm. I spent a lot of time there, walking fence lines with the old man. He taught me how to blow a snot rocket, and how to hide a booger under the truck seat. My father, he was the same way. We’d be in his truck, and he’d start digging for gold. In fact, I have to assume that I come from a long line of nose pickers.
But honestly, there really is no excuse for picking my nose. I will be the first to admit that I have a problem. Many of you reading right now are thinking to yourselves, “Why don’t you just stop.” And you are right, I really should. And I will… tomorrow. I promise.
I looked at Mel. She was wearing her angry eyes. She was still pointing at the booger.
“That could be a lot of things,” I said.
She started moving her finger in a jabbing motion that seemed to say, ”You know exactly what that is!”
“A lot of things? Really? It’s a booger,” she said. Then she paused for a moment, collected her thoughts, and said, “Correction. Your booger!” Then she grunted in anger and frustration, and that grunt, more than anything she’d said up to that point, made me feel like a child.
I tried to formulate an excuse. We didn’t have a dog, so I couldn’t blame it on that. I suppose I assumed that once we had kids, I’d be able to blame some of the asinine things I do on them, but that has only been working about 50% of the time.
“How do you know it’s mine?” I said with a nervous sly grin. I thought that maybe, just maybe, I could charm my way out of this.
“It’s probably one of the kids’ boogers,” I said. “I’m not the only person in this house with a nose. How about we forget about all of this and make love?”
“No!” she said. “Look at the size of that thing!” And indeed, it was large. It was a very manly booger. Something I wanted to be proud of, but at the moment, I just couldn’t.
Mel went on. “It isn’t mine. I don’t do gross things like that. I’m not gross. Tristan eats his. Not real proud of that, either. He probably gets that from you. And there is no way Norah could produce something like that. This is your booger. I am trying really hard not to be disgusted by you right now. I’m trying to think about all the things I love about you. But the problem is, I reached for the drawer, and I touched it.” She closed her eyes, relived the moment, and gagged just a little.
“Clean. It. Up.” She slapped a tube of Lysol wipes on the counter. Then she left.
I pulled a wipe from the tube and took care of my mess.
I’ve got some nasty habits. Everyone does, including Mel. None of Mel’s are as outright gross as my booger problem. Hers are more of a combination of small irritations that add up to something substantial. She’s a mighty maker of clutter piles on counters and a leaver of dirty dishes in the sink. I’ve talked to her about this. We’ve fought about it a few times, but it just hasn’t changed. And frankly, it isn’t a deal breaker. None of this stuff is. A big part of what has made my marriage successful is that we are willing to overlook this crap and focus on the positive. Instead of focusing on Mel’s clutter piles, I think about how wonderful of a mom she is. And I have to assume that she follows the same logic when faced with one of my boogers.
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Clint Edwards was blessed with a charming and spitfire wife, a video game obsessed little boy, a snarky little girl in a Cinderella play dress, and an angry baby girl. When Clint was 9-years-old his father left. With no example of fatherhood, he had to learn how to be a father and husband through trial and error. His work has been featured in Good Morning America, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, The Good Men Project, Fast Company, and elsewhere. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.