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This past weekend, I took a trip to Austin, Texas, to visit family. Strange things happen when you visit family — most of the time ending in someone making fun of someone else, and everyone else laughing. So are the memories of my childhood (and adulthood, for that matter). This time, I was the one on the receiving end of the laughter… over something as little as a toothbrush.

While staying at my brother Steve’s house, I called him and his wife into the guest bathroom to tell them something. While we stood and chatted, they spotted my toothbrush propped up in the shower near the shampoo and conditioner bottles. His wife said, “You brush your teeth in the shower?”

I didn’t even flinch.

“Yeah. Don’t you?”

And that’s when the looks of sheer disgust were exchanged, followed by roaring laughter and a few rounds of “that’s so gross!”

Apparently, all this time I thought I was just being an efficient multi-tasker, I was actually being “gross.” All this time I thought I was conserving water and saving the earth, I was actually being “weird.” All this time I thought I was doing something everyone else was, they weren’t.

It got me thinking about all those little, gross, annoying, weird things that sometimes get in the way in relationships. The things that some might refer to as “deal breakers.” We’ve all got them, whether or not we admit to them.

For me, there are a few that stick out immediately.

  • Clipping your toenails on the living room couch. (That ticking sound might as well be nails on a chalkboard.)
  • Blowing your nose in the shower. (Need I say more?)
  • Spitting on the ground excessively. (Seriously, I don’t understand why men have so much more saliva than women! I never feel the urge to spit on the ground. Ever.)
  • Obsessive texting while in the presence of others. (I mean… I’m right in front of you! Put the phone down.)
  • Cursing. (I’m a writer. I need you to be more creative than that.)
  • Really long, nasty, sharp toenails. (Yes, I understand this contradicts my first point. Deal with it.)

I could go on, but I realize I’m starting to sound like a big diva. I wouldn’t say these are literal “deal breakers.” They’re simply things that really annoy me — little things that can fester, grow and eventually take over, building a wall that is often hard to tear down. You’re probably thinking I should take a chill pill. Maybe just relax a little. I say, easier said than done.

When you’re first dating, you are so in love, so on cloud nine that you seem to overlook the annoying habits of your mate. The way he blows his nose like a trumpet is actually cute. The way she talks incessantly about calorie counting is actually sweet. But as the relationship gets more serious and you inevitably spend more time together, you start to lower your rose colored glasses. The decibel level at which she slurps her soup literally begins to hurt your ears. The “you know” he adds to every single sentence burns another inch of your short fuse.

And pretty soon, those little things become the things you fight about and the things that could ultimately ruin your relationship. We all know we should rise above. We shouldn’t let the little things get to us. Relationships are about so much more. We should be mature!

But then you step into the shower and see her toothbrush just sitting there, staring at you and reminding you that you’re dating a complete weirdo.

What are your relationship “deal breakers?” What are the annoying things a partner can do that will just send you over the edge? And, most importantly, do you also brush your teeth in the shower?!

These are the important questions in life, folks. And I need your help to figure them out! For now, I will keep brushing my teeth in the shower. And I will laugh all the way to a cavity-free grave.

~Ruth