Marriage is a war. Within that war there are countless battles for high ground, Pickett’s Charge, the bluffs at Bougainville and Okinawa, numbered hilltops around Khe Sanh, yards between trenches at the Sommes, and incremental progressions over the mines and barbed wire on the sands of Iwo Jima.
Each foot of turf in these bloodless marital battles is gained only by dint of full commitment, where both combatants give it their all to gain an inch of ground that could prove pivotal in a war that will last a lifetime.
Our most recent pitched battle was over the butter dish.
In my family, when something breaks, you are what’s known as “shit out of luck.” It will never be replaced. Part laziness, mostly cheapness, he who breaks the butter dish will for many years hence live without one.
When Mrs. WM broke the butter dish, we therefore did without one. “How come you haven’t bought another butter dish?” I asked. For me, butter is the third pillar of the three B’s which constitute a perfect man diet: beer, butter, bread.
“I was onna Bed Bath and Beyond but they ain’t havin’ a good butter dish there now.”
“What’s a ‘good butter dish’?”
“Itsa butter dish where the butter ain’t onna squeezed when the butter dish top is clankin’ down.”
“Who cares if the butter is squeezed? It’s fuggin’ butter.”
“It looks onna smushed and nasty.”
“So? All I do is smush it on my bread anyway.”
“Yada,” she said. In Japanese this means “no,” but it is final, like the “no” your wife says when you ask if you can go to a strip bar. Not that I ever have.
So we were at an uneasy detente, using a saucer for the butter, which worked fine for me, but not for her. “That’s onna nasty,” she said.
“What’s nasty about putting the butter on a saucer?”
“It gets onna dust.”
“Dust? Our whole apartment is layered in dust. Dust on the computer. Dust on the top of the fridge. Dust on the empty beer bottles. When have we ever cared about dust?” Don’t ask why I save empty beer bottles.
“Yes, dust. There’s a dust onna air and itsa floating down onna butter.” So she started putting a piece of Saran wrap over the butter on the saucer.
“Can’t we just put the saucer in the fridge?”
So the butter always had this patch of Saran wrap on top of it, and every time I needed butter, which is all the time during every meal, I had to take off the wrapping, which smeared the butter. Usually, the Saran wrap would fall on the table and smear butter there, too. “Look,” I said one day, mustering my troops for the charge. “The fuggin’ butter gets smushed by the Saran wrap and makes a nasty mess. Plus, I eat the butter before the invisible dust which no one can see alights on the butter, so can we just leave off with the Saran wrap, or go ahead and get the butter dish? It won’t be any messier than this.”
Then we had a heat wave and the already mushy butter turned into butter soup, sloshing over the edge of the saucer. In a premeditated act of aggression I put the butter in the fridge. Caught between my pincer movement of tossing the Saran wrap and demanding a butter dish while putting the saucer in the fridge, she was temporarily unable to repel the assault.
But not for long.
The next week I had used all the butter but there were no new butter sticks. “Where’s the butter?” I hollered.
“There ain’t no more butter.”
“Hell, I can’t eat my cereal without butter.”
“Butter is bad onna your liver. We ain’t eating any more butter.”
“My liver? It is not. The only thing it’s bad for is my heart, and maybe my arteries. It’s the beer that’s bad for my liver.”
“Plus butter is makin’ you with a big tire tummy. When you goin’ to court in your suity pants itsa so tight your pockets is pokin’ out like a rabbit ear.”
She had completely devastated my charge. My strategy was in shambles. I know I looked forlorn and beaten, bereft of butter and rounded in chub. “Don’t look onna so sad,” she said.
“I am sad,” I said. “No butter? Ever?”
“You can have some butter next two weeks,” she said. “But first you gotta get out and ride more onna bicycle for skinnying down in your suity pants.”
“Oh,” I said. “Thanks, honey!”
Neither one of us understood the other, which is the most crucial ingredient for a lasting marriage or, perhaps, for any marriage at all.