Broken Vows

A man, his paper and juice.

It was an innocent question.

“Do you need anything at the grocery store?”

So I was a little taken aback when the Curmudgeon fired back with this response dripping in sarcasm:

“Orange juice. I mean, could we get some orange juice in this house?”

To be fair, my daughter drinks orange juice like water, and my son was home from college, putting an enormous strain on the food supply. But I’d never heard him complain about orange juice, and was surprised by his tone.

So I asked him about the orange juice, and here’s what I got:

“Orange juice is part of the trust,” he said. “It’s expected that you’re going to always have milk, juice, butter and eggs in the refrigerator. Why wouldn’t you buy orange juice if you’re at the store?”

This was the first time in 36 years of marriage that I’d ever heard the words OJ and trust in the same sentence. I had no idea specific food and beverages were part of the marriage contract. I had no idea I was breaking a sacred trust by failing to supply orange juice on a daily basis.

But that’s what great about marriage. You’re always learning something new, even when you least expect it.

It didn’t start out this way. At one point, the Curmudgeon was a prodigious grocery shopper, slipping into to the store after jogging at night, or bringing the kids to basketball games on Saturdays.

But the Curmudgeon has pretty much retired from grocery shopping, except for the occasional dash for doggie yogurt, fat-free chocolate milk, beer or butter and eggs, which we can’t keep around with a teen-age baker under our roof.

His retreat from the grocery store was subtle yet steady and deliberate, much like a woman extracting herself from a toxic friendship. It was clear that he was no longer interested in grocery runs, but no words were spoken. He just stopped going to the store and I picked up the slack.

This seems to be how most household chores are ultimately divided between spouses – the war of attrition. One day, you turn around and realize that you’re doing the grocery shopping, housework and bulk of the child-rearing, though that’s not exactly how you envisioned it at the pre-Cana conference.

I admire women who assign weekly grocery shopping to their husbands. They’re my heroes, and I’d like to talk to them about their power of persuasion someday. But the majority of American women – a whopping 70 percent – are still the primary grocery shoppers for their families, according to a survey by Progressive Shopper.

“Although women’s personal and professional advancements have grown significantly in recent decades, their time spent grocery shopping has not decreased,” the study states.

Women also are the “rulers of the kitchen” (no surprise here). According to the report, 84 percent of women are the sole preparer of meals in the household, with 61 percent of women stating that they prepare meals at least five times per week.

Aside from meal preparation and grocery shopping, women also are responsible for other important household areas: seven in 10 women said cleaning the house is their job, while three-fifths said they take on the majority of the laundry chores in the home.

Seriously? This isn’t fair. No wonder women are so stressed out, exhausted, angry and in need of self-care. We’re doing everything around the house except taking out the garbage and putting salt in the well. I think all of us need to stand up for ourselves a little more.

I had no idea how much I dread grocery shopping until I returned from vacation last summer. I was still in “re-entry mode” – that weird state when you just return from vacation but feel and want to be still away – and a major grocery shop loomed.

The thought of going to my regular supermarket was overwhelming, so I drove 15 minutes to another store in a different town. I associated grocery shopping with being home and back in my routine, and I wanted no part of it. And though I’ve returned to my regular store dozens of times since then, I dread it. Every. Single. Time.

My worst recent experience occurred on senior citizens’ Tuesday when I was nearly run down by an elderly woman in a riding shopping cart. As she cruised the aisles, she had her husband on speaker phone, barking orders from home for specific food items. They were too lazy to write out a list, so she decided to call him and inflict their conversation on the entire store.

I wouldn’t have minded, except that she wasn’t watching where she was going while she drove the cart. She was completely oblivious to everyone else, and nearly drove into me in the dairy section as I was headed to get – you guessed it – the orange juice.

16 thoughts on “Broken Vows

  1. If I send my husband to the grocery store I worry that I’ll end up with a whole bunch of things we don’t need…ie, the time he went and he bought like a 15 pound ham….which I made him eat till it was done…..but I also keep a very bare bones pantry and tend to mini shop almost every day

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I share much of the household chores with my wife, including doing my own laundry and ironing. I’m not a metrosexual (not young enough or skinny enough), but I do understand that domestic duties are to be shared. As for grocery shopping, we’re about 50/50 on that one, and I buy the OJ because I take medicine with it. Necessity is the mother of intention.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I go shopping once a week and specifically ask if he needs anything, if he doesn’t say he doesn’t get. Once I forgot to get orange juice as I do not drink it and I told him I didn’t know we were out and I got the response “Well, you need to open the door and look”. I will say he is still walking and talking but he knows now that if it is something he consumes and not me then he needs to ask. He has offered to go shopping with me to “help” or just keep me company, like I need either. He second guesses every decision, because there might be a cheaper option but when I remind him that he doesn’t like that option he doesn’t remember. If he goes by himself I have to write such a specific list that it would be easier to go myself which is what he wants to begin with. He doesn’t put the groceries away either.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Is there a flip side to these details ? You are describing a 50’s/60’s relationship where one spouse worked outside the home and the other worked inside it. Is that the situation ?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I feel your pain. I tell my husband if you can drive to get lawn tractor parts ( he fixes that stuff on the side) you can drive to the store to get what you need. That crap doesnt fly here anymore since menopause reared her ugly head. I’m a little bitchy at times but my time is valuable too and there are things that i.want to get done.

    Liked by 1 person

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