The Julia Roberts film, Sleeping with the Enemy (in theatres in the early 90s, coinciding with the early courtship days for my husband and me) is about a wife who plots to escape an abusive marriage. An early scene in the film depicts soup cans in the couple’s kitchen which are shown lined up perfectly in the cupboard, the labels all turned just so. Another scene has Julia’s character hurriedly straightening bath towels that are ever so slightly out of alignment, the implication being that this will anger her husband who insists on things being neat and orderly. The movie, predictably enough, concludes with Julia being able to get away from her brutal husband and, we assume, living happily ever after with the new man in her life who saves her from a homicidal attack by her husband shortly before the credits begin to roll.
The point of all this – somber and important social commentary aside – is that my husband, while certainly not brutal or abusive, was a bit of a stickler for things being tidy and organized and otherwise ship-shape when we first met. In perfect opposition to his fastidiousness, I was a bit of a slob. In my defense, I think the word ‘slob’ is an overstatement although I will admit that you would be more likely to see dishes stacked up next to the sink and beds unmade at my place than at his. I prefer to describe my domestic outlook while we were dating as ‘relaxed’ and ‘laid back’.
Anytime Bill displayed his penchant for order and structure, evidenced by an oh-so-neat arrangement of tools or household cleaning supplies or personal hygiene paraphernalia, Wesley and I would snort and giggle and one (or both) of us would exclaim ‘Sleeping with the enemy!’ It was always done in good fun and Bill would laugh along with us.
Fast forward to our present day marriage…
It’s funny how our roles have reversed over time or, rather, evened out. Perhaps we’ve both just been a good influence on each other. I am now known more for keeping a tidy (or in any case – tidier) house and am sometimes chided by some in my family for it. Once, while hosting a holiday dinner, my mother was standing next to the stove when I noticed a kitchen towel hanging on the door was out of kilter. When I reached over to straighten it, Mom said ‘Julie, you’re scaring me.’
In the meantime, Bill has become more lackadaisical about things such as directly carrying recyclables out to the garage (99% of the time that’s exactly what I do while he prefers to just lay them on the counter by the door that leads to the garage). Another example is a continuing nag of mine about his habit of leaving dirty socks laying on end tables or on the floor in the living room.
Over the years, thanks to my husband’s example, I’ve become a better (read: not perfect!) housekeeper. I crave structure and order and dislike clutter. And apparently I’ve succeeded in getting Bill to focus more on what’s important and timely instead of hard and fast rules about a place for everything and everything in its place. Shrug. In any case, it seems to work for us.
Oh, but I do still enjoy sleeping with the enemy!