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The Medicine Cabinet as a Proxy for Love

A careful perusal of Zazzy and my medicine cabinet reveals an interesting truth: there is a “Hers” shelf and a “His and Hers” shelf.  The top shelf is overflowing with makeup thingies and perfume and female products and hair doodads and things that look like medieval torture devices.  The next shelf is a hodgepodge of colognes, hair products, and facial hair grooming tools (all mine) alongside the Q-Tip holder, contact solution, and mouth wash (all shared).  Further investigation reveals the same holds true of the drawers under the sink, one of which is entirely filled with her things and another filled with things belonging to the both of us.  In fact, for a long time I thought they were both her drawers until she pointed out a gift set of toiletries I received several years ago buried in the bottom after our Minneapolis bathroom remodeling.

“That’s yours.”

“It is?”

“Yep.”

“Oh.”

There was a time this would have bothered me.  I mean, it would have really bothered me.  And despite much maturity and growth since that time, it is still something that caught my eye.  It felt wrong.  Unfair.  Indicative of a greater flaw in our relationship whereby I give and give and she takes and takes.  When I am in a particularly bad mood, I can look at things like this as evidence that affirms my persecution complex.  “See?  Look no further than the lowly bathroom to see just how monstrous you are in this sham we call a marriage!”  I don’t actually say that but curmudgeony, brooding Kazzy certainly things such dark things.

But for some reason, just the other day, it all clicked.  “Isn’t it obvious?  She simply has more stuff.  Of course she needs more space.”  How petty would it be of me to demand the same shelf space for an objectively smaller quantity of stuff in pursuit of an overly simplistic and ultimately immature idea of fairness?  Pretty damn petty, I realized.

Further thought on the matter revealed other areas of our home where the phenomenon existed in the inverse.  A perusal of our pantry reveals not one, not two, but five different varieties of salt.  Zazzy barely even salts her food.  I wonder if she’s ever looked at the spice shelf and said, “Why is a full quarter of our shelf dedicated to salt?  Do we really need Himalayan pink sea salt?”  I’m sure she hasn’t.  Bless her heart, she is a better person than I in this regard.  But much like she claims — rightfully! — more space in the bathroom because she needs more of it, I claim — rightfully! — more space in the pantry because I need more of it.

Rather than evidence of some deep flaw or great injustice in our relationship, these little imbalances demonstrate exactly why it works as well as it does: we’ve arrived at a certain equilibrium whereby both of our needs are being met.  Sure, the equilibrium gets upset from time to time and, if so motivated to do so, we can find evidence that these minor disruptions are actually major catastrophes (again, something I am far more prone to do than she).  Yet return we do to our equilibrium.  The bathroom shelving allotment remains what it is and any rearranging of the pantry is a result of my hyper organization/anal retentiveness.

I am proud of our medicine cabinet.  Well, maybe not the hemorrhoid cream tucked surreptiously into the back of our shelf  But definitely the rest of it.

 

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25 thoughts on “The Medicine Cabinet as a Proxy for Love

  1. My volume of stuff is far, far greater than my wife’s. Hunting is an equipment-intensive hobby. The only thing we ever argue about is the number of strikingly similar articles of clothing she has.

    “Really? You needed another black & white striped top?”

    “This one has wide stripes. The other one has thin stripes. Totally different.”

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    • She’s right about the clothes, as I’m sure you’re right about why you need another gun or fishing pole or whatever. How many hunting “gadgets” does one really need? The same number of shoes that I need.

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  2. I’m going to assume that you recognize the vast swaths of male privilege it takes to complain about the amount of toiletries a North American woman has, right?

    It’s also quite possible that you have, at some time, contributed to some of the causes as to why someone like Zazzy might own such things in such a quantity.

    Regardless, congrats on growing up. I just hope you haven’t grown up too much.

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    • I considered discussing the pressures that contribute to the abundance of stuff… both socially and from me. But I didn’t want to get lost in the weeds of that conversation (since I similarly feel some of those pressures… e.g., I only wear cologne because she wants me to and only shave because society says I can’t look like an unfrozen cave man all the time). But, yes, you are right.

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      • urrr society puts a lot of pressure on women, that is true. But on the other hand my wife hasn’t worn make up in years. I’m not actually sure if i’ve ever seen her in make up ever. But she doesn’t have any. She, of course, still manages to fill her bathroom drawers with all sorts of stuff though.

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      • My wife also doesn’t wear make-up except in very narrow circumstances like job interviews and the like. I don’t think she actually wore it for the one for the job she has now, though. She did wear it at her high school reunion, but that was only because she could find it after an hour or so of looking.

        Even so, while society doesn’t demand it, it does pressure it and I would say more important it conditions it. So that it feels “wrong” for a lot of women not to wear it, regardless of what her husband thinks.

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      • She frames it as a demand so I take her on her word. I agree that she could function fully in society without it (and did when she used to do bedside nursing). But she feels it is a requirement.

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      • If makeup makes a woman feel more confident or less self conscious, then good for her for wearing it. Just like you might wear swim trunks instead of a speedo at the pool. Or maybe you leave your shirt on at the pool, or always wear pants instead of shorts? Yes, ultimately you’re doing it because of societal pressures, but it’s about what makes you most comfortable when you’re moving through the world.

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    • You know, I’m a man (ba-dum, ba-dum), but I prefer leaving it down.

      It’s not just a courtesy, it means that in the middle of the night, exhausted and bleary-eyed and not feeling like opening my eyes enough to stand and aim, *I* can just sit down without fear of a rude, cold awakening.

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      • I know the bleary crusty eyed stumble towards the bathroom well. I actually prefer the seat up so i don’t have to try to manage the mechanics of lifting it up or the chance of forgetting it is down. The Wife and i have come to an excellent, although very middle class privileged, solution to this sticky( eww) problem. Separate bathrooms.

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    • I spent years cultivating a habit of leaving the lid down, because I knew that someday a woman would stay overnight in my place, and when she did, she’d find it endearing that I left the lid down.

      Then one night I heard “dammit!” from the bathroom. “What?” “You left the lid down!” WHA BUH FUH GUH “…uh, I thought that’s the way you’re supposed to…?” “No, it’s the SEAT, no the LID!”

      aggggghhhhhh

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  3. I don’t wear makeup. Having freckles, it just looks bad on me — makes me look unnatural.
    Some people need to wear makeup — they look naturally a bit freakish. Tip: if people ask “what the hell happened to you?” (as in “what kind of a fight did you get into”?) — you might consider a bit of makeup.

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  4. Being both academics, Mrs. Bath and I have labeled this phenomenon “maximizing joint benefit”. This takes priority over fairness. In fact, we would argue that fairness is there for people you aren’t really that close to. If she gets more out of something than I do, she gets all of it and vice versa.

    Maybe it all evens out at the end, but I think we would both be happy even if it didn’t.

    So, I would ask you, Kazzy, how would you feel about this if she took up more space in the bathroom and was the salt maven as well? Are you just applying your sense of fairness across a broader geography or are you unconcerned with it?

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    • Let’s not even use a hypothetical. Let’s use a real scenario: Beyond the salt hoarding, I have carefully arranged the kitchen according to my personal preferences. I’ve taken her feelings into account with things relating to aesthetics and baby gear, but otherwise, I have shouted her down whenever she tried to weigh in on where the gadgets go. “WHEN’S THE LAST TIME YOU COOKED ANYTHING?!?!” Well, shouting down is probably too strong a word. But I insisted that I should run point on kitchen organization because I do 95%+ of the cooking. So I was already on record elsewhere with a notion that not everything should be a perfect 50/50 split but rather we should look at individual situations and decide accordingly. At least when it suited my interests. What stood out about this recent situation was not only that I was able to apply this logic to a situation where it “benefitted” her, but that I was able to recognize it on my own. I’m a big boy now!

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      • This kitchen arrangement is exactly what Jason insists on, and I joyfully support whatever state of affairs keeps him happy about doing all the cooking. In our bathroom, there are two sinks, presumably a his and a hers. The hers is twice as big, and Jason has that side so he can do his ironing there. But my much smaller sink area (vanity? is that what it’s called) is always cluttered with all the stuff I need which does not fit into my medicine cabinet. I’m pretty much fine with this, though. Like you say, it’s all about equilibrium.

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      • Why’d you guys buy a house that clearly hates your lifestyle choices?

        For a brief while, we actually used separate bathrooms since we have a guest bath on the same floor and only a few feet farther than the master. But this simply proved impractical. Neither of us actually need a ton of time in the bathroom in the AM (if we’re both up by 6 we can take turns in the bathroom and still be out the door by 6:45), so we are fortunate in this regard. I grew up in a house with five other people and one and a half baths, so I learned to be quick when I had to. Plus, we’ve lived together for over 5 years and are well past the point of caring about one person using the toilet while the other brushes his/her teeth.

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      • #1 is acceptable, though it’s not the preferred solution.

        #2, never. Unless we are so sick that we are unable to care for ourselves. Some things were just meant to be solitary endeavors. Please don’t try to talk to me through the door either. That means you are too close to the door.

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